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    Joshua and Laura Meier Newport Beach Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys Focused on Helping Families with Young Kids
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    Category Archives: Disinheritance

    Casey Kasem’s Estate Planning Not in Anyone’s Top 40

    Casey Kasem, the celebrity radio host who counted down America’s Top 40 popular songs for years, died on June 15 at the age of 82 and left behind an estimated $80 million fortune.  He also left a family feud of biblical proportions between his surviving spouse and his three children from a prior marriage.  This is why we do what we do — to keep your family out of court and connected in love, not conflict.

    Kasem married his second wife, Jean, who is 22 years his junior, in 1980.  Together, they had one child, Liberty Kasem.  Casey also had three children from a prior marriage: Kerri, Mike and Julie.  The family was apparently in discord prior to Casey’s death; in mid-May, Mike and Julie filed a missing persons case with the Santa Monica police department saying they could not locate their father.  At that time, Kerri was fighting with Jean over control of his care.

    After Kasem died, news broke that his body had been taken from the Washington state funeral home and a judge awarded Kerri a temporary restraining order preventing Jean from removing his remains or having him cremated before an autopsy had been performed.  Kerri hired a private investigator who says the body has been moved to Montreal, the hometown of a man that Jean has allegedly been involved with for the past two years.

    A mess, right?  And they haven’t even gotten to the money yet!                lawyer confused

    A little advance estate planning could have helped prevent this scenario, which is not uncommon when an older man takes a second wife who is significantly younger and has children from a prior marriage.

    A recent WSJ article outlined four estate planning tools that could have helped to head off this disaster:

    Revocable trust.  Placing assets in a revocable trust can help protect the trust owner’s wealth transfer wishes, and provides the flexibility to make changes as long as the trust owner has the legal capacity to make those decisions.  Upon the owner’s death, the assets are dispersed as outlined in the trust without having to go through probate.  A trust is also more difficult to contest than a will.

    Life insurance.   A life insurance policy can be a good way to provide for a surviving spouse while leaving the rest of the estate to children from a previous marriage, or vice versa.

    QTIP trust.  A qualified terminal interest property (QTIP) trust is used to set aside assets for a surviving spouse’s benefit while that spouse is alive.  After the surviving spouse passes, the remaining assets in the trust are passed on according to the trust terms.

    Family meeting.  Having a family meeting so that everyone knows their beneficiary status and what will happen to the estate after the estate owner dies is a good way to head off conflict.  An estate planning attorney can mediate these meetings, which is usually advisable when there is a potential for conflict.

    One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation without conflict or concern.  Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.

    Disaster Looms Without an Estate Plan

    In Beckwith v. Dahl (May 3, 2012), the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, joined the majority of states in recognizing the tort of intentional interference with expected inheritance (IIEI).

    In the darker and more unfortunate corners of estate law, you don't need to look far to find family squabbles, double-crossing, and intrigue. Accordingly, in a majority of states the courts have a term to describe those who would throw a monkey wrench into an inheritance. It is the tort of “Intentional Interference with Expected Inheritance,” or IIEI for short.

    The tort of IIEI was recently recognized in California in the case Beckwith v. Dahl (May 3, 2012). In fact, of the 42 states to consider the tort, 25 states have adopted it. While that is a majority, vast stretches of the country still have no specific legal context for the types of unfortunate fights that cripple so many families and level so many estates.

    Still, it should be noted that the vast majority of estate difficulties giving rise to IIEI issues result from unplanned estates. I recommend reading the analysis of this California case in a recent Forbes article titled “California Joins Majority Of States In Recognizing Tort — Intentional Interference With Expected Inheritance.” The Beckwith case is yet one more example of a will never being committed to paper. In that case, the would-be planner had very specific concerns to address in the form of a same-sex relationship. Because he failed to do his estate planning, his partner was disinherited.

    In general, the teaching point here is the old saying that “failing to plans means planning to fail.”

    Contact Meier Law Firm to discuss how we can help you with your estate planning so you can avoid unintentionally disenheriting a loved one.

    Reference: Forbes (June 30, 2012) “California Joins Majority Of States In Recognizing Tort — Intentional Interference With Expected Inheritance

    The Disinheritance Dilemma

    The motives for cutting a relative out of an estate range from the most primal — hate, abandonment, regret — to the most rational.

    Planning what to leave behind to loved ones can be a difficult matter since, even with taxes out of the picture, it means explaining your choices and your hopes. On the other hand, planning to specifically disinherit someone can be even more difficult.

    Inheritance and disinheritance are emotionally charged concepts. The motivations that go into disinheritance are especially complex, as discussed in a recent article in The Trust Advisor titled Why Are Family Members Disinherited?.

    Teaching point: If you are considering disinheritance, then it also is important to think about what that means, both for yourself and the excluded heir. There are many reasons to disinherit, some more reasonable than others and some worth abandoning upon meditative reflection.

    Still, if you must disinherit, then consider explaining your basis for that decision. While it is your choice and right, your legal documents must be clear and withstand (oftentimes) inevitable legal challenge by the affected heir.

    Reference: The Trust Advisor (April 15, 2012) “Why Are Family Members Disinherited?

    Disinheriting Children Can Be Dicey

    Wealthy parents today face an inevitable choice: leaving boatloads of money to kids who aren’t good with money.

    They say that money is the root of all evil, but that’s not quite right since money can also be the product of much hard work, knowledge, and ability. What tends to be right more often than not, and also what happens to be more unfortunate, is that money is the “toxic soil” of crooked trees, unruly gardens, and those that don’t understand money and value itself. That’s a serious challenge to the wealthy estate planner and especially the planner with a business to leave behind.

    As pointed out recently, here, a possible, if difficult, option among wealthy parents is some form of disinheritance. That’s right, you may actually decide to simply not leave your wealth (or some form/amount of wealth) to your children. It need not be out of malice, but it likely will require every bit of planning that otherwise leaving a robust inheritance otherwise would.

    Your challenges aren’t in the political system, the tax court, or even arcane IRS challenges, but they are no less real. For one thing, you must decide what to do with those assets if not to let them transfer downstream. At the same time, you must protect your decision against entreaties and potential lawsuits from the disinherited.

    The poster-parent of this idea, and the source of much legal activity in the Australian Court system, is none other than Gina Reinhart the mining billionaire (and an heiress herself). It seems Ms. Reinhart came to the conclusion that her children weren’t fit to run the company and shut them out of the ownership stakes of the business (although they are already part of the family trust):

    Court documents cited in the Australian media show that Ms. Rinehart believed the kids weren’t fit to manage their fortune. She said none had ever held a real job, unless it was given to them by the family. “None of the plaintiffs (her children) has the requisite capacity or skill, nor the knowledge, experience, judgment or responsible work ethic to administer a trust in the nature of the trust in particular as part of the growing HPPL Group,” she claimed in court papers.

    It’s not a complete disinheritance, but it is a decided opinion, and a terse objection, to leaving certain things to those children. Indeed, a tough call.

    More information about the Reinharts and their trials can be found in the original article. Their specific situation and grievances aside, it goes to show that planning to give and planning to withhold are, usually, two sides of the same coin. They require the same decision making and authoritative execution.

    Reference: Forbes (March 13, 2012) “Billionaire Says Her Kids Aren’t Fit for Inheritance

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