Billionaire Ron Perelman is being accused of spending up to $30 million in legal fees from his daughter’s inheritance defending unsuccessful lawsuits against his former in-laws. After the death of Perelman’s second ex-wife, Claudia Cohen, he was appointed the “executor” of her estate, which in Florida, is referred to as the “personal representative” of an estate. Their daughter, Samantha, was named the beneficiary. Claudia Cohen was the daughter of Robert Cohen, who created the Hudson County News Company, which operates a chain of newspaper and magazine retail stores. Perelman claims that Claudia’s father and brother cheated Samantha out of a share of the family’s lucrative media business and filed at least four lawsuits after Claudia’s death. The Cohens claimed that Perelman just wanted to obtain part of the $80 million divorce settlement that he lost to Claudia and that Claudia had a great relationship with her family. As proof of that, the Cohens contended that Claudia’s will expressed her love for her parents, brother, and sister-in-law and her desire for her parents to have liberal visitation time with Samantha.
When a trust has been executed in a foreign jurisdiction by a settlor who subsequently becomes a resident of Florida, such a trust will often recite that the law of the foreign jurisdiction controls. The fact that a resident decedent leaves little or no property in the state is not necessarily a bar to administering the decedent’s estate in Florida. A domiciliary administration could be established in Florida, and the property could be administered where it is located under ancillary proceedings. However, section 736.0205, Florida Statutes, provides that if a party objects, the court shall not entertain trust proceedings under section 736.0201, Florida Statutes, for a trust registered, or having its principle place of administration, in another state, except under limited circumstances. These circumstances include situations in which all interested parties could not legally be bound by litigation in the courts of the foreign state where the trust is registered or has its principle place of administration. Fla. Stat. § 736.0205. Furthermore, the court may condition a stay or dismissal of a foreign trust proceeding on the consent of any party to jurisdiction of the state where the trust is registered or has its principle place of business. Id. The court may also grant a continuance or enter any other appropriate order. Id.
In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court took a historic step towards providing equality to all, regardless of sexual orientation. While a significant victory for same-sex couples across the nation, it must also be understood that this decision is somewhat limited in scope. As the Miami Herald noted, this Supreme Court “ruling leaves Florida same-sex couples in limbo,” due to the fact that same-sex marriages are still not permitted under the Florida Constitution. The Court’s decision affirmed the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that Section Three of The Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which stated “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” was unconstitutional. While a positive step for same-sex couple seeking equal treatment, this decision still leaves same-sex couples at the mercy of their state’s legislature. In Florida, for example, Governor “Rick Scott made clear  that he intends to enforce the same-sex marriage ban that voters approved in 2008.” . Additionally, the Supreme Court did not rule all of DOMA unconstitutional, meaning that, pursuant to Section Two of DOMA, states still do not have to respect same-sex marriages consummated in other states.
Different types of trusts offer varying levels of protection from creditors, and just because an individual is the beneficiary of a trust containing a significant amount of assets, does not mean that creditors of that individual will be able to go after those assets if the individual fails to pay his or her debts. Mr. and Mrs. Zlatkiss found this out the hard way when they loaned $350,000 to All American Team Concepts, LLC. Louis Steinmetz, the company’s principal, signed a personal guaranty on behalf of All American Team Concepts, which seemed like a safe bet to the Zlatkisses due to Steinmetz’s trust worth over $6 million. The trust, however, contained a spendthrift provision, which, if valid “prevents creditors or assignees of the beneficiary from reaching any of the trust funds until they are dispersed to the beneficiary.” Zlatkiss v. All American Team Concepts, LLC, 2013 WL 2359108 (Fla. 5th DCA May 31, 2013) (citing Miller v. Kresser, 34 So. 3d 172 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010)). Once Steinmetz defaulted on the loan, the trustee of Steinmetz’s trust, Wells Fargo, refused to make distributions to cover the debt. The Zlatkisses claimed that Florida Statute sections 736.0501-.0507, which recognize the enforceability of spendthrift trusts, violated the Florida Constitution by preventing access to the courts. Florida Statute § 736.0501 provides that “the court may authorize a creditor or assignee of the beneficiary to reach the beneficiary’s interest by attachment of present or future distributions to or for the benefit of the beneficiary or by other means.”
Recent drama in Florida courtrooms has led to mainstream news stories with headlines usually reserved for the likes of tabloids and gossip columns. From “Chad Johnson gets 30 days in jail, judge miffed after lawyer butt-slap” to “Bird-flipping girl makes nice with judge so she can get out of jail,” Florida judges are taking a stand to restore a certain level of professionalism and decorum to their courtrooms. Perhaps longing for a bygone era of courtroom etiquette, depicted in movies like To Kill a Mockingbird and 12 Angry Men, the judge in the latter case even acknowledged that times they are changing. After lifting the Xanax-influenced Penelope Soto’s 30-day contempt-of-court order, which was issued after the teen unleashed a profanity filled tirade and flipped the bird at her bond hearing, Judge Jorge Rodriguez mused “I should not even hold you totally responsible. We live in a society where if you listen to music, every other word is a profanity.” While the sentences doled out for Chad Johnson’s celebratory butt slap and Soto’s teen angst driven exhibit of vulgarity were ultimately reduced, one should not be fooled into thinking that such behavior is without consequence.
As ABC’s hit sitcom “Modern Family” becomes a reality for many American families, the estate planning industry must evolve as the number of same-sex marriages increases. A Gallup poll released on July 29, 2013, revealed that the majority of Americans, 52%, would vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states. A more recent poll by Civil Beat shows that 44% of voters in the state of Hawaii would vote to legalize gay marriage in the state, a rapid increase from the 37% favorability in an April 2012 poll on the same issue. Other recent reports reveal that New Jersey is poised to become the 14th state in the U.S. to recognize gay marriage, and Hawaii to become the 15th. Although support for gay marriage is growing, the current inconsistency in states’ recognition of gay marriage posits important estate considerations for legally married, same-sex couples.
August 5, 2013, will mark the 51st anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s tragic death due to a drug overdose in 1962. Marilyn was an extremely successful American actress, model, and singer, who became a major style icon for young women during the 1950s and early 1960s. After her death at the age of 36, Marilyn’s Will was filed in the New York Surrogate Court on August 17, 1962, with the largest slice of her assets bequeathed to one Mr. Lee Strasberg. Strasberg, Marilyn’s mentor and acting tutor, received the remainder of Marilyn’s Estate, as well as her personal effects and clothing, a financial and also sentimental gain. Accordingly, the Fourth provision of Marilyn’s Will reads in relevant part:
(d) I give and bequeath all of my personal effects and clothing to LEE STRASBERG, or if he should predecease me, then to my Executor hereinafter named, it being my desire that he distribute these, in his sole discretion, among my friends, colleagues and those to whom I am devoted.
Did a hospital coerce a reclusive copper heiress to give away part of her $300 million dollar estate?
Did a hospital coerce a reclusive copper heiress to give away part of her $300 million dollar estate? That is what relatives of Huguette Clark are claimed in a suit filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court. Ms. Clark was admitted to Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan in 1991 when she was 85 years old, after she was found in her Fifth Avenue apartment emaciated and in poor health. Despite recovering just a few months later, Ms. Clark remained in the hospital for the next 20 years until she died in May 2011 at the age of 104. During her time at the hospital, she paid over $800 per day and made numerous substantial donations to the hospital, including a Manet painting valued at $6 million, at least $4 million in cash donations, and another $1 million left to the hospital in her will.
It is still as true today as it was in 1789 when Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Despite his best efforts to avoid falling victim to this inviolable inevitability, Japanese supercentenarian Jiroemon Kimura, who was recognized by Guinness World Record as the oldest living man in the world, fell victim to the former of Franklin’s two certainties when he tragically died on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, at the age of 116. Before you shed any tears for Mr. Kimura, however, consider the fact that Mr. Kimura achieved something in life that should make him the envy of every inhabitant of the world he left behind. I am not talking about Mr. Kimura living until 116, despite the fact this was quite the accomplishment. No, what I am alluding to is worth far more than simply living to see the invention of both the automobile and the iPhone; Mr. Kimura was retired for 51 YEARS!
http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/JNJournal01.nsf/8c9f13012b96736985256aa900624829/e000e018d4b1357685257bd4006aa1bc!OpenDocumentThe law applying to LLCs in the state of Florida is about to undergo a number of changes that will affect every single LLC that is currently doing business in the state of Florida, as well as those LLCs that have yet to be created by enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
On Tuesday, June 4, 2013, a group of animal rights advocates spent their day at the Miami-Dade County Commission waiting for the final approval of the “Pets' Trust,” only to hear that the city had deferred the decision for two weeks. The “Pets’ Trust,” which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in a straw ballot last November, is aimed at protecting unwanted and stray animals from euthanasia. The Trust would be funded by an additional $10 per $100,000 property tax assessment, but commissioners said they were concerned that Miami-Dade voters did not understand that the “Pets’ Trust” would be paid for by a property tax increase.
This month the Supreme Court ruled that a widow was not entitled to the proceeds of her husband’s life insurance policy worth $125,558.03. The Court held that her husband’s ex-wife was entitled to the proceeds as the result of an all too common mistake—he forgot to change his life insurance beneficiary after he divorced his previous wife. This case originated in Virginia, where a statute provides addresses this very situation, i.e., where an individual with a life insurance policy divorces the beneficiary of that policy and, subsequently, forgets to amend the beneficiary. Specifically, “Section 20-111.1(D) of the Virginia Code renders a former spouse liable for insurance proceeds to whoever would have received them under applicable law, usually a widow or widower, but for the beneficiary designation.” Hillman v. Maretta, 2013 WL 2371463 (June 3, 2013) (citing Va. Code Ann. §20-111.1(D)(Lexis Supp. 2012)). So what was the problem?