A Bitter Battle Over Guardianship. Who will be Emani’s Legal Guardian?

Nipsey Hussle was an American rapper, entrepreneur, community activist and father of two young kids. He was murdered in March 2019.  In the aftermath of his murder, his family and ex-girlfriend have been locked in a bitter battle for custody of one of his young children. And as this ugly drama plays out in the courtroom and tabloids, it highlights the single-most costly estate-planning mistake a parent can make.

Hussle, 34, whose given name was Ermias Ashgedom, was gunned down outside his South Los Angeles clothing store in March. His alleged killer, Eric Holder, was arrested and indicted for murder a few days later. The rapper’s death is particularly tragic, as his debut album, Victory Lap, was recently nominated for a Grammy Award.

Yet even more tragic is what’s happening to Hussle’s kids. Because Hussle never named legal guardians, the decision of who will raise his two children—daughter Emani, 10, and son Kross, 2—is now up to the court. And this mistake is already having terrible consequences.

In addition to not naming guardians for his kids, Hussle also failed to create a will, which makes their guardianship even more contentious. Hussle’s estate is estimated to be worth $2 million, and under California law, without a will, that money is to be split equally between his two kids.

Given that both children are minors, however, they’re ineligible to access their inheritance until they reach the age of majority. This means that whomever ultimately wins guardianship of the children will likely gain control over their money as well.

Caught in the middle

Guardianship of Hussle’s son Kross, while still undecided, is currently not a source of conflict. Kross’s mother is actress Lauren London, who was Hussle’s longtime girlfriend, and  Kross had been living with London at the time of his father’s death. She petitioned the court for her son’s guardianship, and there’s little doubt she’ll get it.

Who will be awarded guardianship of Hussle’s daughter Emani, however, is far less clear.

Since the day of the shooting, Hussle’s sister, Samantha Smith, has been caring for Emani, who was living with her father when he was killed. Following Hussle’s shooting, Smith petitioned the court to obtain Emani’s guardianship. But Emani’s mother, Tanisha Foster, an old girlfriend of Hussle’s, is also seeking guardianship.

Though Foster and Hussle shared custody of Emani, at the time of the rapper’s death, Hussle’s ex had reportedly not seen the child in months. Yet Foster claims that Emani was just visiting her dad on the day he was killed and that Smith and the rest of Hussle’s family are refusing to return her.

Smith and Hussle’s family contend that Foster is unfit to raise the child due to her criminal past. Foster has a criminal record dating back to 2006, and she currently has a warrant out for her arrest after skipping a court hearing for a DUI charge.

Yet Foster claims that her criminal history is irrelevant, and that as Emani’s mother, she’s the one who should be named as guardian. She’s also claiming that Smith unlawfully took custody of her daughter on the day of Hussle’s shooting.

For now, the court is siding with Smith, ruling in May that Hussle’s sister can retain temporary custody of Emani, pending a final decision on her guardianship. That decision will likely be made in a court hearing scheduled for October.

Don’t leave your child’s life in a judge’s hand

As Hussle’s case so dramatically demonstrates, your death can strike at any time, so if you’re the parent of minor children, it’s imperative that you select and legally document long-term guardians for your kids. In fact, naming guardians for your children should be your number-one planning priority.

The fact that Hussle didn’t create a will is obviously another terrible mistake. But when it comes to your children’s lives, all the money in the world is meaningless in comparison. For this reason, we’re going to focus solely on the consequences resulting from Hussle’s failure to name legal guardians, and how easily the whole ugly mess could have been avoided.

As we’re seeing with Hussle, leaving it up to the court to name guardians for your kids
can lead to conflict, as otherwise well-meaning family members fight one another over custody. This process is not only costly, but it can be terribly traumatizing for everyone involved, especially your kids.

Hussle’s case also shows how agonizingly slow this process often is. There have already been numerous court hearings related to Emani’s custody since her father’s death in March, and though the October hearing could finally decide her fate, it’s just as likely that the decision could be postponed again. Indeed, these custody battles often drag on for years, making the lawyers wealthy, while your kids are stuck in the middle.

But the most tragic consequence of Hussle’s failure to name legal guardians is that a judge will be the one who decides who’s best suited to care for his kids.

Though we can’t be sure exactly who Hussle would have wanted to raise Emani, it’s almost certain he wouldn’t have wanted a total stranger to make that decision for him. Yet, because he didn’t take the time to document legal guardians, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Kids Protection Plan®

We help parents choose and legally document long-term guardians for children. The founder of the Personal Family Lawyer® program, Alexis Katz, wrote a best-selling book on the subject titled Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents.

As a mother and one of the country’s leading estate-planning experts for families, Alexis was shocked to discover that the plan she created for her own daughter under the traditional planning model would have left her child at risk of being taken into the care of strangers, if anything happened to her and her husband. To address this gap in her plan, Alexis created a unique system known as the Kids Protection Plan®.

The system is a comprehensive methodology to guide you step-by step through the process of  legally documenting guardians for your kids, for the short-term, long-term, and so much more. Attorney Myrna Serrano Setty has trained to support you to put in place the Kids Protection Plan® for your minor children and/or children with special needs.

Get started immediately

Our law firm implements the Kids Protection Plan® to provide a broad array of protective measures and materials designed to provide for the well-being, care, and love of your kids no matter what happens. Meet with us to ensure that your children and family never fall victim to the same tragic circumstances as Hussle’s.

 

This article is a service of the law firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, Esq. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer an estate Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call us today to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to learn how to get this valuable session at no charge.

Call us at (813) 514-2946

Case Update: Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate

When the wealthy financier, Jeffrey Epstein, died under mysterious circumstances (the Medical Examiner determined that is a suicide, but many people are skeptical), he left behind a huge fortune close to $600 million, along with creditors and lawsuits. Just two days before his death, he signed his Will, which left his estate to his trust, the 1953 Trust. Because that Trust is not filed with the Court, its contents should remain private, barring litigation involving the Trust’s beneficiaries or trustee’s duties.

In the Will, Epstein is listed as a resident of the U.S. Virgin Islands. After his death, his Will was filed in the U.S. Virgin Islands, probably because his attorneys thought the probate process would be more private.

For regular people who are not rich or famous, privacy is still a huge deal. That is why many people opt for using trusts in their estate planning, instead of just relying on a Will.

Here are some important differences between a Will and a Trust:

Will characteristics:

  • A will goes into effect only after you die
  • A will only covers property that is in your name at your death
  • A will passes through a court process called Probate. In Probate, the court oversees the will’s administration and ensures the will is valid and the property gets distributed the way the deceased wanted.
  • Because a will passes through Probate, it’s a public record.
  • A will allows you to name a guardian for children (Note: Our firm recommends that in addition to this, you use a stand alone guardian nomination.)

Trust characteristics:

  • A trust can be used to begin distributing property before death, at death or afterwards.
  • A trust covers only property that has been transferred to the trust. In order for property to be included in a trust, it must be put in the name of the trust.
  • A trust passes property outside of probate, so a court does not need to oversee the process, which can save time and money.
  • A trust remains private Unlike a will, which becomes part of the public record, a trust can remain private.

Secure your wealth, your legacy, and your family’s future

Regardless of how much or how little wealth you plan to pass on—or stand to inherit—it’s vital that you take steps to make sure that wealth is protected and put to the best use possible. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we have unique processes and systems to help you put the proper planning tools in place to ensure the wealth that’s transferred is not only secure, but that it’s used by your loved ones in the very best way possible.

Moreover, every plan we create has built-in legacy planning services, which can greatly facilitate your ability to communicate your most treasured values, experiences, and stories with the ones you’re leaving behind. By working with us, you can rest assured that the coming wealth transfer offers the maximum benefit for those you love most.

This article is a service of the law firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a  Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.

Call our office today to schedule a  Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

To read more about Epstein’s estate and to view a copy of the Will, you can visit the article on the NY Post’s website here.

Learn from this Rock star’s mistakes

Do you have a “blended family”? Learn From Tom Petty’s Mistakes: His Daughters and Widow Are Now Locked In Bitter Battle Over His Estate

Recently, Tom Petty’s daughters escalated the battle over their late father’s estate by suing Petty’s second wife. They’re asking for $5 million in damages. In the lawsuit, Adria Petty and Annakim Violette, claim their father’s widow, Dana York Petty, mismanaged their father’s estate, depriving them of their rights to determine how Petty’s music should be released.

Petty died in 2017 of an accidental drug overdose at age 66. He named Dana as sole trustee of his trust, but the terms of the trust give the daughters “equal participation” in decisions about how Petty’s catalog is to be used. The daughters, who are from Petty’s first marriage, claim the terms should be interpreted to mean they get two votes out of three, which would give them majority control.

Alex Weingarten, an attorney for Petty’s daughters, issued a statement to Rolling Stone magazine, asserting that Perry’s widow is not abiding by Petty’s wishes for his two children.

“Tom Petty wanted his music and his legacy to be controlled equally by his daughters, Adria and Annakim, and his wife, Dana. Dana has refused Tom’s express wishes and insisted instead upon misappropriating Tom’s life’s work for her own selfish interests,” he said.

In April, Dana filed a petition in a Los Angeles court, seeking to put Petty’s catalog under control of a professional manager, who would assist the three women in managing the estate’s assets. Dana alleged that Adria had made it difficult to conduct business by acting abusive and erratic, including sending angry emails to various managers, record label reps, and even members of Petty’s band, the Heartbreakers.

Since Petty’s death, two compilations of his music have been released, including “An American Treasure” in 2018 and “The Best of Everything” in 2019. Both albums reportedly involved intense conflict between Petty’s widow and daughters, over “marketing, promotional, and artistic considerations.”

In reply to the new lawsuit, Dana’s attorney, Adam Streisand, issued a statement claiming the suit is without merit and could potentially harm Petty’s legacy.

“This misguided and meritless lawsuit sadly demonstrates exactly why Tom Petty designated his wife to be the sole trustee with authority to manage his estate,” he said. “Dana will not allow destructive nonsense like this to distract her from protecting her husband’s legacy.”

Destructive disputes, a sad truth

When famous artists leave behind extremely valuable—yet highly complex—assets like music rights, contentious court disputes often erupt among heirs, even with planning in place.

There is a greater chance of such disputes in blended families.  If you’re in a second (or more) marriage, with children from a prior marriage, there is always a risk for conflict, as your children and spouse’s interests often aren’t aligned. In such cases, it’s essential to plan well in advance to reduce the possibility for conflict and confusion.

Petty did the right thing by creating a trust to control his music catalog, but the lawsuit centers around the terms of his trust and how those terms divide control of his assets. While it’s unclear exactly what the trust stipulates, it appears the terms giving the daughters “equal participation” with his widow in decisions over Petty’s catalog are somewhat ambiguous. The daughters contend the terms amount to three equal votes, but his widow obviously disagrees.

Reduce conflict with clear terms and communication

It’s critical that your trust contain clear and unambiguous terms that spell out the beneficiaries’ exact rights, along with the exact rights and responsibilities of the trustee. Such precise terms help ensure all parties know exactly what you intended when setting up the trust.

You should also communicate your wishes to your loved ones while you’re still alive, rather than relying on a written document that only becomes operative when you die or should you become incapacitated.  Sharing your intentions and hopes for the future can go a long way in preventing disagreements over what you “really” wanted.

For your family’s sake

While such conflicts frequently erupt among families of the rich and famous like Petty, they can occur over anyone’s estate, regardless of its value. Attorney Myrna Serrano Setty can  help you draft clear terms for all of your planning documents. And because Myrna is a trained family mediator, she can help facilitate family meetings, where you can explain your wishes to your loved ones in person and answer any questions they may have.

Doing both of these things can dramatically reduce the chances of conflict over your estate and bring your family closer at the same time. And if you have a blended family (meaning children from a prior marriage), we have more ideas about how you can head off future conflict at the pass with proper planning now.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she ensures you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer an estate Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.

Call today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article and learn how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Update: Aretha Franklin’s Estate. 3 Handwritten Wills Found

In August 2018, music legend, Aretha Franklin, died of pancreatic cancer. At her death, her estate was worth over $80 million and it appeared that she died without a will or trust.  (We wrote about this in this article here.)

Recently, we learned that three handwritten wills were found in her home. The latest one is dated March 2014 and it was found inside a spiral notebook, under cushions. The document appears to give the famous singer’s assets to family members. However, the writing is difficult to decipher and there are words scratched out and notes scribbled in the margins.

It is unclear if this is a valid will under Michigan law.  A court hearing is scheduled next month to determine the validity of that document.

Even if the Court determines that the will is valid, there’s still the issue of federal taxes. The Internal Revenue Service is auditing many years of Franklin’s tax returns, according to the estate. It filed a claim in December for more than $6 million in taxes.

Ms. Franklin’s family remains hopeful that wise choices can be made on behalf of her rich legacy, her family and her estate.  Sadly, we may never know what her wishes were.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents. She ensures you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why Myrna offers a Planning Session, during which you’ll get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin  by calling our office today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Call us today at (813) 514-2946 to get started.

Robin Williams’ Family Fight Over Personal Property is NOT So Funny

In 2014, the famous actor and comedian Robin Williams died. In 2015, his wife of 3 years, Susan Williams, ended up in a bitter court battle with his children from prior marriages over personal items that belonged to him. Williams’ wife claimed that his children had taken personal items from the couples’ Tiburon, CA home without her permission.

According to the children, these items were part of the inventory of personal property conveyed by certain trusts that their father had established for their benefit. Williams’ trust granted his children his memorabilia and awards from the entertainment industry, along with other items.

Ambiguity? Or Theft?

His widow, Susan Williams, claimed that since they lived together in their own house in Tiburon, and there was a separate residence in Napa, it stands to reason he wanted the children to receive items from the Napa residence and she was to receive the property from the Tiburon home.

Attorneys for the two sides appeared to offer conflicting characterizations of the court case. Susan Williams’ attorney said she was just seeking a clarification from the court. But the attorney for the children said she had accused them of stealing items that belonged to her.

The Robin Williams’ estate underscores the need to specify exactly which personal items you are giving to family members by trust or will so there is no ambiguity once you pass.  It’s this ambiguity that causes family in-fighting and costs excessive amounts of time, money and energy, even (and maybe even especially) when the estate is of small value.

Blended Families Need to be Clear

Especially in a blended family situation, like with Robin Williams’ family, it’s important to be extremely clear about whether children from a prior marriage should receive any money or other assets at the time of your death or if they should wait for all inheritance until the death of your spouse.

This is one of the situations that is most likely to result in strife and complication after death, and it’s so straightforward and easy to deal with ahead of time.

The best way to learn about protecting your family is to talk with us about a Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Contact us at (813) 514-2946 to learn more about how you can get this valuable session for free.

Guardianship: Keeping Up With the Kardashians

You might not be a big fan of this famous family, but the Kardashians recently demonstrated impressive wisdom in protecting their minor children using estate planning.

During a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Khloé Kardashian was preparing to give birth to her first child, daughter True. Khloé was second-guessing her first choice to name her sister Kourtney as the child’s legal guardian in case anything ever happened to her or the baby’s father.

During her pregnancy, Khloé spent a lot of time with her other sister Kim and her family. Watching her interacting with her own kids, Khloé really connected with Kim’s mothering style and pondered if she might be a better choice as guardian.

“I always thought Kourtney would be the godparent of my child, but lately I’ve been watching Kim, and she’s been someone I really gravitate to as a mom,” Khloé said.

To make things more challenging, Kourtney always assumed she’d be named guardian and said as much. Over the years, Khloé had lots of fun times with Kourtney and her family. So Kourtney thought her own passion for motherhood would make her the natural choice.

For guidance, Khloé asked her mother, Kris Jenner, how she chose her kids’ guardians. Kris’ answer was to compare how her two sisters’ raised their own children.

“You just have to think,” Kris told her, “‘Where would I want my child raised, in which environment? Who would I feel like my baby is going to be most comfortable and most loved?’”

In the end, Khloé chose Kim over Kourtney. She explained her decision had nothing to do with her respect or love of Kourtney. But it was merely about which style of parenting she felt most comfortable with.

“Watching Kim be a mom, I really respect her parenting skills—not that I don’t respect Kourtney’s, I just relate to how Kim parents more,” said Khloé. “I just have to make the best decision for my daughter.”

Lessons learned

Khloé’s actions are admirable for several reasons. First off, far too many parents never get around to legally naming a guardian to care for their children in the event of their death or incapacity. Khloé not only made her choice, but she did so before the child was even born.

Khloé also took the time to speak and spend time with her sisters beforehand, so the family understood the rationale behind her decision. Khloé was lucky her choices were close family members, so she had ample opportunity to experience both of their parenting styles.

Depending on your life situation, you might not be able to spend that much time vetting your choice. But at the very least, you should sit down with each of your top candidates to openly and intimately discuss what you’d expect of them as your child’s new parents.

Avoid conflict and court

Furthermore, with multiple family members vying for the guardian role, Khloé’s quick action may have prevented a potential nightmare. If she’d delayed naming a guardian and something happened to her, Kourtney, Kim, and even other family members could’ve gone to court seeking guardianship of her daughter.

This could have led to years of contentious legal battles that not only cost the family huge sums of money, but the potential hardship imposed on the children can be incalculable. Even if you think something like this would never happen to your family, why take the risk, especially when it’s so easy to avoid?

Get started now

While the Kardashians are rich and famous, you too can provide the exact same level of protection for your kids, even with minimal financial resources. It’s important as soon as it’s physically possible to choose someone who will step in to raise your children if you cannot. You must also legally document your choice and make sure the individual you’ve selected knows what to do if they’re called upon.

Many parents have no idea how to go about making this critical decision, much less create a legally binding plan, so they never get around to doing it. And even parents who have legally named a guardian (even with a lawyer’s help) often make at least one of six common mistakes that leave their children at risk.

That’s because most lawyers aren’t aware of all that’s involved with planning for the well-being and care of minor children after their parents’ death or incapacity. But at Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A., we’re dedicated to legal planning for the unique needs of families with young children.

And if you’ve already named guardians on your own or with a lawyer, we can review your existing legal documents. We’ll determine whether you’ve made any of the six common mistakes that leave your kids vulnerable and help you fill those gaps.

Beyond naming legal guardians,  can create a comprehensive estate plan with all of the necessary legal documents to ensure the protection and well-being of your entire family and assets, no matter what happens. Contact us now.

 

How To Live Before You Die

In Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, he said: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

When Jobs was 17, he read a quote that made an impression on him, and everyday he asked himself:  “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And he said, “whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

So, I ask you now, to look in the mirror and ask yourself this same question: If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today, tonight, tomorrow, or the day after?

If not, what is it time to change? And when will you make the change?

Maybe, you are putting off change now because you are working toward what you hope is a better future.

But, how can you be sure that you are wisely considering all of your best options? And, how can you live the life you want now while simultaneously preparing for your future?

Start with planning.

Careful financial and estate planning can help you achieve your short-term and long-term financial goals, protect and preserve your personal wealth, and ensure your wishes for your end of life are respected and followed.

Jobs had an excellent point; facing death can help us have the best possible life now. Begin by coming in to meet with us for a Planning Session. Before the session, we’ll send you an Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you, and what you want to leave behind.

Just asking these questions will be a fantastic starting point for you to begin to help to clarify your big life choices.

 

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty.  We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a  Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Lessons Learned From Aretha Franklin’s Passing

Aretha Franklin, also known as the Queen of Soul, recently passed away at age 76. She had amassed a fortune estimated at over $80 million. (And experts agree that figure will continue to rise). Even though her long-time attorney had reportedly advised her for years to set up a trust, she never did.

Who Inherits

Because she had no will, her home state of Michigan will essentially write her will for her. Since at her death she wasn’t married, her children will likely inherit her assets outright. And they will inherit much less than they would have if Ms. Franklin had properly planned. And the charities or causes that Ms. Franklin supported over the years aren’t entitled to anything.

Without a will, Ms. Franklin didn’t get to choose who will be in charge of her estate, including who can control her music catalog. Her children, assuming they can agree, will decide who will be in control. And all of this is going to be played out in public view, including the valuation of her assets, her music catalog…. everything.

No Tax Planning

Because Ms. Franklin didn’t do any tax planning, by the time her estate gets settled, there’s going to be a lot less left of it. The federal estate tax emption is $11.18 million per person. Because the estate is worth over $11.18 million, the federal estate tax applies. (At least her home state of Michigan doesn’t have an estate tax). So assuming she didn’t use any of her exemption during her lifetime by making taxable gifts, there’s going to a big estate tax bill. The estate tax is calculated at a flat 40 percent rate!

Through proper estate planning, Ms. Franklin could have helped preserve the fortune that she worked so hard to build. For example, charitable planning could have helped reduce the estate taxes owed. Also, with proper planning, such as through life insurance, she could have created liquidity to pay any taxes due, so they wouldn’t have to come out of her estate.

Inheritance At Risk

Since her children are going to inherit her fortune out right, anything that goes to them will be included in their own estate for estate tax purposes. Also her children’s inheritance may be available to creditors or to their spouses if they get a divorce.

There’s a very high chance that this estate is going to take years to settle. Look at other famous celebrities like Prince who passed away without a will. Prince passed away over 2 years ago, and his heirs have still not received a penny of his estate.

There’s Hope

Hopefully, Ms. Franklin’s children will be able to focus on preserving their mother’s legacy, which is more than just the value of her estate. Not only was she a music and style icon, she impacted the civil rights and women’s movement. Even though Ms. Franklin herself didn’t implement an estate plan, her children have the chance to make it right for their own families. And now they have a chance to create proper legacy plans for themselves that will ensure that Aretha Franklin’s legacy will live on and continue to impact audiences over the world for many generations to come.

We Can Help

Not only can our firm help you ensure that your final wishes are honored, we can help preserve what you worked so hard for. And we can help keep your family out of conflict and out of court in the event of your death or incapacity.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents. She ensures you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why Myrna offers a Planning Session, during which you’ll get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin  by calling our office today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge. Call us today at (813) 514-2946 to get started.

Squabbles Between Alan Thicke’s Heirs Highlight the Importance of Properly Drafted and Updated Estate Planning

Image result for alan thicke

Do you remember the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains? The late actor Alan Thicke played the wise and fun dad and psychiatrist Dr. Jason Seaver. Ever since he died from a sudden heart attack, his children and his widow have been battling over his estate. Unlike some celebrities, he had a fairly comprehensive estate plan. But with three marriages, three sons from two of those marriages, and an estate worth an estimated $40 million, the planning is proving insufficient to stave off family feuding.

Stepmom vs. Stepchildren

Specifically, Alan’s two oldest sons—Robin and Brennan—have been fighting his third wife, Tanya Callau Thicke, for almost two years. The first petition filed in California Superior Court in May 2016 by Robin and Brennan—who are co-trustees of their late father’s estate—sought clarification of conflicting terms in Alan’s living trust and a prenuptial agreement he and Tanya signed before getting married in 2005.

At issue was the division of Alan’s $3.5 million ranch in Carpinteria, where he and Tanya lived. The prenup states that Tanya would get 25% of his net estate, including a five-acre parcel of the ranch property. But the trust doesn’t grant her any ownership of the ranch, only the right to live there as long as she pays all of the expenses.

Robin and Brennan’s case alleged that Tanya demanded a larger portion of Alan’s estate than she was allocated in the trust and that she planned to contest the validity of the prenuptial agreement.

Tanya claimed her stepsons’ legal claim was merely aimed at smearing her in the media, and she never had any intention of challenging the prenup. Other reports allege the petition was retaliation for Tanya’s refusal to allow the brothers to convert the ranch into a medical marijuana farm.

In September 2017, a judge rejected the sibling’s petition to block Tanya from challenging the prenup, finding there was no evidence she ever planned to take such action.

A Breach of Duties?

More recently in May 2018, Tanya filed papers accusing her step-sons of violating their fiduciary duties as co-trustees. She claims they’re spending the estate assets recklessly, failing to pay her share of the inheritance, unfairly saddling her with taxes and other expenses that are not her responsibility, and failing to keep her clearly informed about estate proceedings.

One of her specific complaints asserts that the step-sons refused to reimburse her for a monument she placed at Alan’s gravesite. This claim was exacerbated by reports that the older brother Robin was reimbursed $105,000 for an elaborate memorial party he threw the night before his father’s burial.

Tanya plans to file a lawsuit against the siblings if they don’t meet her demands. And her suit may have merit, as trustees owe a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of beneficiaries and account for all financial transactions related to the trust.

Lessons Learned

Though we’ll have to wait and see how Robin and Brennan react to Tanya’s latest claim and how the court rules, the case highlights several important estate planning issues.

First, second (or more) marriages with children from a prior marriage are always at risk of going down the road of conflict. If you are in such a marriage, it’s critical we plan in advance to ensure that your loved ones have the best chance at getting along after your incapacity or death.

It’s important that documents like a trust are regularly updated to ensure that they’re current and don’t conflict with other legal agreements, like a prenup.

Finally, this case shows that a trust won’t stay private if the heirs have a conflict that results in court proceedings. One of a trust’s key benefits is that it keeps the contents of the estate confidential. But if a dispute ends up in court, the estate documents can be made public, exposing not only your assets, but all of your family’s “dirty laundry” as well.

Proper estate planning can keep your family out of conflict, out of court, and out of the public eye. If you’re ready to create a comprehensive estate plan, contact attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. If you already have a plan in place, Myrna can review and update it to avoid similar conflicts.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she helps you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why she offers a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling Myrna’s office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Four Key Life Skills Your Children Need to Have Before They Inherit

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Years ago, the famous musician Sting explained in an interview why he’s not planning on leaving his vast fortune to his own kids. He wants his kids to be self-reliant…..and he’s planning on spending the money himself. You don’t have to be rich and famous to have strong opinions about your kids and money. While Sting’s children will not see much of his millions, not all parents (whether or not they are rich and famous) feel the way he does. Many family fortunes have been built (and lost) across generations. The difference is that over time, successful families develop skills for respecting, protecting and growing inherited wealth. So regardless of how much money your family has (or expects to accumulate over time), it’s important for all families to understand how to equip their children for the future.

Covie Edwards-Pitt, the author of a book called Raised Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise, says there are four critical skills children must develop before they receive an inheritance from parents or a trust. She interviewed scores of successful inheritors to identify theses four skills, which are:

The ability to earn their own money and live off what they make. Children raised with wealth feel they are the most successful when they earn enough on their own to support themselves without the family money.

The ability to set and pursue their own work goals. Children of wealth who are encouraged to find work they enjoy are much more likely to find satisfaction in that work if they are taught that it takes time and perseverance to reach this goal and that they should focus on learning from every job and give it their best.

The ability to develop self-worth that is separate from family wealth. Children who develop a core identity based on their own accomplishments and the choices they make in life are much happier and more successful.

The ability to be resilient and bounce back from adversity. Family wealth can cushion many blows, but the most successful inheritors are those who were allowed to experience and navigate failure on their own.

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. We strive to identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security. Attorney Myrna Serrano Setty doesn’t just draft documents, she helps families love and protect what matters most. Myrna may be reached at (813) 514-2946 or at info@www.tampaestateplan.com.