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A Quick Guide to Living Trusts

A living trust can be a great option to ensure your assets are dispersed exactly as you want them to be in the event of your death.  While it does not exactly replace a will, it is a tool that can save you money in the long run.  There are several different types of living trusts.  While you do not need a lawyer to develop a trust, it may not be a bad idea to hire one.

The Benefits of a Living Trust

One of the greatest upsides to a living trust is the complete circumvention of probate court.  You do not have to worry about a court deciding what to do with your assets.  In addition, with other options such as a will, there is always the chance that a friend or family member will contest for your assets.  A living will can protect you from that.

Second, but not least, it can be cheaper.  The execution of a living trust upon death should not cost much because it does not require a court or attorneys.

Casey Kasem’s Family in Legal Battle Over Estate and Accusations of Murder

Casey Kasem was a legendary disc jockey and voice actor.  He brought us America’s Top 40 and the voice of Shaggy in Scooby Doo.  In June of 2014, he ultimately died from complications of Parkinson’s Disease, but the immediate cause of death was sepsis (a systemic infection of multiple organ systems) and his family is ruthlessly battling for his fortune because he did not have a will.

Jean Kasem’s Arguments

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem died with his wife and kids by his side.  Sounds like a fairy tale death, right?  Wrong.  Immediately after his passing, his wife and kids went to battle.  According to Jean Kasem (who is 20 years younger), Casey’s children were always against her.  She said they were against the marriage from the beginning. Jean Kasem also says:

  • The Kasem children treated her and Casey like a personal ATM machine.
  • She moved Casey to an assisted living center at 2:30am one night to hide from the kids because the kids wanted Casey dead.
  • The kids forced Jean to take Casey to the hospital where he ultimately died.
  • The kids ultimately murdered their father by forcing him to sign a document that gave them healthcare decision making rights and that those rights led to his death.

The Kasem Children’s Argument

The children of Casey Kasem would be the first to tell you there is no love lost between them and their step mom.  They claim:

  • Jean was only ever interested in money.
  • Her actions to control Casey toward the end of his life is proof that she was eager to get the money.
  • Casey once old them, “Don’t ever go up against Jean. You do not know what she is capable of.”
  • Jean’s reluctance to take Casey to the hospital led to his death and that she murdered him by inflicting elderly abuse upon a helpless dying man.

Payouts

Casey Kasem did not have a will, but he did take out an insurance policy for each of his kids.  Each Kasem kid received a $2 million payout from Metlife.  However, they are suing their step mother for wrongful death and that case is ongoing.

It is essential that you have a will made by a skilled licensed attorney.  You do not want there to be any questions surrounding the distribution of your assets.  If you do not have this critical document in place, contact Elias Dsouza of Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group.  He has the skills and experience you need.

3 of the Most Outlandish Estate Battles in History

You are probably aware that people should have a will which outlines the future of an individual’s assets.  Sometimes just having a will is not enough.  The quality of the will can make an enormous difference.  If a will is not “air-tight”, people can have success contesting it and that can lead to an estate battle.  Some estate battles can be ugly and have huge consequences.  Continue reading to learn about the largest, craziest, and weirdest estate battles in United States history.

The Estate of Fred Koch – The Largest

People of note – William Koch (plaintiff), Charles and David Koch (defendants)

Fred Koch founded Koch Industries which is an energy conglomerate.  He grew the company to a value estimated at $35 billion.  Upon Fred Koch’s death, his sons and some Koch cousins were given portions of the fortune.  In 1983, Charles and David fired William and bought his shares in the company for over $700 million.  After the sale, William found out that Charles and David misrepresented the oil output of one of the refineries which cheapened his shares.  Over the next 18 years, William battled the other two brothers in court claiming he was owed about $2.2 billion.  Eventually, a court found the, while Charles and David did present false statements at the time, it was not enough to enforce a $2.2 billion payout.

 Ted Williams – The Weirdest

People of note – Ted Williams, Ted William’s head, his three children (Ted’s, not the head’s)

Ted Williams remains one of the greatest baseball players that ever lived. He had .344 career batting average and 521 homeruns.  Unfortunately, as is the case too often, amazing people do not always make amazing children.  In Ted’s signed will, it states that he wished to be cremated, but he also signed a piece of scrap paper that states he wants to remain cryogenically frozen.  One of Ted’s sons is quoted saying “But wouldn’t it be neat to sell Dad’s DNA? There are lots of people who would pay big bucks to have little Ted Williams running around.”  Ted’s daughter and sons have been arguing for years and Ted’s headless body remains upside down in cryo tank in Arizona.

Leona Helmsley – The Furriest

People of note – Leona Helmsley’s dog, the grandchildren (Leona’s, not the dog’s)

Leona Helmsley was a real estate and hotel developer in New York City in the 70’s and 80’s.  When she died in 2007, she left a fortune totaling between $5 and $8 billion.  She had a will and left most of her fortune to charity.  However, she also left $12 million to her dog and left her grandchildren out of the will.  Her grandchildren took Sprinkles (not the dog’s real name) to court to try to get at least some of the money.  Sprinkles (not the dog’s real name) was amassing bills of over $100,000 per year for security because it was receiving death threats.  The court eventually awarded the grandchildren $6 million and left Sprinkles enough to keep it’s armed escort.

If you do not have a last will and testament, contact Elias Dsouza.  You need an air-tight will to ensure that your assets, remains (especially your head), and your family are taken care of.  Get a free consultation!

Estate Planning: A Summary of Probate

If you have a will, great job.  If you do not have a will, take a look at A Beginner’s Guide to Will and Testament Law to learn about what a will is and why you need one.

Choosing to create a will on your own is legal, but you should really consider enlisting the services of an experienced estate planning attorney in Florida because of two words: probate court.

What is Probate Court?

When it is time to execute a will, certain things must be done and verified before assets and liabilities can be dispersed and resolved respectively.  The responsibility of the court during the probate process is to:

  • Determine the validity of the will.
  • Determining what the assets are and their value.
  • Resolving liabilities.
  • Executing the distribution of remaining assets.

If the deceased did not have a will, the probate court will be appointed as executor by a judge.  This executor is responsible for proving which assets are yours, securing those assets, and presenting the court with a list of those assets.  If your liabilities exceed your available cash, the executor will be responsible for liquidating assets to resolve the liabilities.

Are All Assets Inaccessible During the Probate Process?

In short, no.  In Florida, exemptions (some temporary) to the probate process exist:

  • The homestead exemption allows people who lived with the decedent at the time of their death to stay in the home during the probate process.
  • The automobile exemption allows a family to maintain possession of up to two vehicles.
  • The household furnishing exemption allows family members to keep furniture, furnishings, and appliances up to $20,000 in value.
  • Certain college funds are protected.
  • Certain compensatory employee benefits, disability, and pensions can be exempt.

A more in depth description of these exemptions can be found here.

This list of assets is not comprehensive and you may be entitled to more exemptions.  If you are an executor, having the guidance of an experienced probate attorney can help you handle creditors and family members.  Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group has been guiding families through the probate process for over 15 years.  Contact us for a free consultation.

A Beginner’s Guide to Will and Testament Law

You may feel like you do not need a will at this point in your life.  Maybe you have not made one because you do not know what it is or how to have one created.  It is important to understand that you need a will if you are at least 20 years old because you do not want to leave your loved ones with a mess to sort through if something happens to you.

What Exactly is a Will?

A will is a legal document that tells the court exactly how you want certain things handled such as:

  • Naming the executor (a person or institution appointed to carry out instructions) of the will.
  • Naming the guardians of any children.
  • Assigning rights to assets.
  • Define instructions for paying debts.

If a will is not made, families can often have a difficult time handling the affairs of a deceased loved one.

What If You Do Not Have a Will?

In the state of Florida, if a will is not in place when someone dies, intestacy laws are used to determine who receives control of assets.  This is to say that the closest living relatives may get the assets.  In some cases, probate papers are filed.  Probate papers are usually filed by people who were supported by the assets of the deceased.  If these people can prove that they depend on any homes, personal property, or statutory allowance, they can ask the court for control of the assets.

How Do You Create a Will? 

In Florida, you can create a will without a lawyer.  However, if you think your wishes may be contested or you have specific instructions for how you want your assets and debt to be dispersed, you may want the services of an attorney.  For a will to be finalized in Florida, it has to be signed in front of two witnesses and the witnesses must sign the document.  Legally speaking, it does not have to be signed by a notary.  It is worth mentioning that Florida laws allow you to make a will “self-proving“.  A self-proving will must be signed by a notary.  The advantage to this type of execution is that the court does not have to contact the witnesses that signed the will before executing the wishes within it.

The creation of a will is extremely important.  If you have assets, children, or liabilities, you should leave instructions regarding their handling.  Situations that can occur after death can be difficult to anticipate.  Enlisting the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney in Florida can solidify your plans and relieve the anxiety that accompanies this complex topic.  Consider Elias Dsouza of Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup of Plantation, Florida to help you through this process.