Destroy Old Wills

Aug 20, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Wills and Trusts

We have previously told you a couple of very basic, but important, estate planning tips. We have told you that when you make a new Will, you need to be sure that you destroy any old Wills. We have also told you that you need to make sure that your heirs can easily find your Will. A case in New York highlights why you need to listen to these tips.

Elmer H. Bobst was multi-millionaire who passed away over 30 years ago. At the time, his estate was Probated and distributed according to Letters Testamentary that he left behind. However, in recent years, it has been discovered that after writing the Letters, Bobst made out a Will. This Will distributes the estate much differently than it was originally distributed. This has caused the Court to reopen the estate and order that a trial be held to determine which document to use. This trial will no doubt be expensive and time-consuming.

Do not make the same mistakes as Bobst. Destroy any old Wills and make sure that the correct Will can be found. Do not leave your estate subject to being reopened years after you pass away.

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Texas History – Do You Know How the Town of Weslaco Got Its Name?

Aug 19, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Uncategorized

The town of Weslaco in the Rio Grande Valley was named for W.E. Stewart Land Company (WESLaCo), which promoted the land development when the Missouri-Pacific Railroad came through Hidalgo County.

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Famous Estates – Legacy Champ or Chump?

Aug 15, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning

John Seward Johnson, Sr. (1895-1983) – Businessman

John Seward Johnson, also known as Seward Johnson, was one of the sons of Robert Wood Johnson, Sr. (co-founder of Johnson & Johnson). He founded the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI). Johnson was married three times, and he had six children. While he was married to Esther Underwood, his second wife of 32 years, he engaged in extramarital affairs with his chambermaid, Barbara Piasecka. In 1971, they married and none of Johnson’s children were in attendance. He signed his final will on April 14, 1983, leaving the bulk of his fortune to Piasecka. In that year Johnson died of cancer at the age of 87. In accordance with the terms of the will, she received $402,824,971.59.

The exclusion of the rest his family from the Will led to at least three highly publicized legal battles. The three-year probate litigation generated $24 million in attorney’s fees. The six children from his first two marriages sued on grounds that he was not mentally competent at the time he signed the Will. It was settled out of court and the children were granted about 12% of his fortune. The second legal dispute was regarding eligibility of Mary Lea Johnson Richards’ husband’s share of the fortune, which lasted twelve years. The court ruled in favor of her husband. The third battle was regarding the eligibility of John Seward Johnson II’s daughter’s share of the fortune. The court ruled in favor of his daughter. In addition, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution contested the new Will, and eventually received $20 million in settlement.

J. Seward Johnson, Sr. was a notable businessman but even successful businessmen can fail to plan properly. If you want to minimize the consequences of failing to properly plan your estate, then contact The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. for a free initial consultation on estate planning, trust planning, and/or probate issues.

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Thought for the Day:

Aug 14, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Uncategorized

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Anne Frank

 

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Another Thing Families Can Fight About

Aug 13, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Wills and Trusts

Many times in this space we have told you that when there is money involved in an estate, families will fight over that estate if they have any basis for doing so. This is why you need an estate plan so that your wishes are known. It helps avoid family fights. The fights are often not even about who gets what. Families can fight over other things if you do not have an estate plan.

Consider the estate of rapper Nate Dogg who passed away without a Will. Someone still has to administer his estate to make sure that property gets to the people it is supposed to get to. However, his family did not agree about who that person should be. His mother and his wife wanted to handle everything themselves. They wanted to be in charge. His children by a different woman did not like this plan. They wanted the estate to use the services of a professional estate administrator.

Nate Dogg’s mother and wife have recently given up this particular fight. However, they could still choose to fight over who gets what. Take a lesson from Nate Dogg. Get an estate Plan.

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Texas History – Do You Know Who is the Father of the Grape Industry in Texas?

Aug 12, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Uncategorized

Thomas V. Munson of Denison is considered the father of the grape industry in Texas. In the 1890s he developed many new varieties of grapes and was responsible for many grapevine cuttings being shipped to France, where they were credited with saving the French vineyards from destruction by the grape phylloxera.

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Famous Estates – Legacy Champ or Chump?

Aug 08, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning

Michael Saul Dell (1965 – ) – Businessman & Philanthropist

Michael Dell is an American business magnate, philanthropist, and author. He is known as the founder and CEO of Dell, Inc., one of the world’s leading sellers of personal computers (PCs). He was ranked the 41ST richest person in the world on 2012 Forbes Billionaires list, with a net worth of $15.9 billion as of March 2012. In 2011, his 243.3 million shares of Dell stock were worth $3.5 billion, giving him 12% ownership of the company. His remaining wealth of roughly $10 billion is invested in other companies and is managed by a firm whose name, MSD Capital, incorporates Dell’s initials. On January 5, 2013, it was announced that Michael Dell had bid to take Dell Inc. private for $24.4 billion, in the biggest leveraged buyout since the Great Recession.

In 1999, Michael and Susan Dell established the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, which focuses on, among other causes, grants, urban education, childhood health, and family economic stability. The foundation has provided $65 million in grants to three health-related organizations associated with the University of Texas: the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, the Dell Pediatric Research Institute, and the Dell Children’s Medical Center, as well as funding for a new computer science building at the University of Texas at Austin campus. By 2010, the foundation had committed more than $650 million to children’s issues and community initiatives in the United States, India, and South Africa. Today the foundation has over $466 million assets under management. In 2012, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation committed $50 million for medical education. The Dell School of Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin will begin enrolling in 2016.

We honor Michael Dell because his philanthropic work makes him a Legacy Champ. If you want to be a Legacy Champ in your own special way, then contact The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. for a free initial consultation on estate planning, trust planning, and/or probate issues.

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Thought for the Day:

Aug 07, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Uncategorized

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Estate Plan Roles

Aug 06, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Estate Planning

A common problem in estate planning is choosing the wrong people to appoint to the various roles in the administration of your plan. The wrong choice of Executor, for example, can seriously complicate the Probate process. Similarly, appointing someone to be a Trustee who is not up to the task can also be disastrous.

A current example of this phenomenon comes from the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Her husband is her power of attorney as she is seriously ill and unable to manage her own affairs. It appears that rather than using Gabor’s money for her care, the husband has used it for his own benefit. That is a serious problem that a court has to address.

Think very carefully about the people who you appoint to the various roles in your estate plan. If you are not sure who to appoint, talk to an estate planning attorney about your options and about how to choose the right person. The attorney knows what to look out for and what makes for a good person to appoint to each role.

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Texas History – Do You Know When the Coat of Arms for the Republic of Texas Was Established?

Aug 05, 2014  /  By: Stephen A. Mendel, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Uncategorized

The Republic of Texas coat of arms was established by an Act of Congress on January 25, 1839. It was declared to be a five point star on an azure background encircled by olive and live oak branches. The national seal bore the arms encircled by the words “The Republic of Texas.” The Constitution of 1845 provided for the same seal with the words changed to “The State of Texas.”

The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.