Will Contest

Estate Battle Shifts into High Gear Between Truck Dealership Owner’s Widow and Sons

The company posted $172 million in profit on $4.7 billion in revenue in 2017.

Marvin Rush II founded, what is now the biggest commercial truck dealership chain in North America. Lawsuits are now flying, between his third wife and his son, who claims that his father was incapacitated when new wills were created.

Marvin-rush-chairman-emeritus*750xx760-428-0-46The dispute over the estate of W. Marvin Rush II, between his wife Barbara Rush and his son, W.M. “Rusty” Rush lll, has led to both parties filing lawsuits.

The San Antonio Express-News reports in its article, “Dueling wills filed over late truck dealer Marvin Rush’s estate,” that chief among the assets at stake is most of Marvin’s stock in Rush Enterprises. That’s the business he founded, grew, and later took public. There are now more than 100 Rush Truck Centers in 22 states, and shares in the company are worth about $74 million. The company posted $172 million in profit on $4.7 billion in revenue in 2017. It employs nearly 7,000 workers.

Rusty claims those shares belong to him, based on his father’s 2006 will. Barbara says her husband of 26 years revoked that will, when he made a new one in May 2013 and then another in November 2013. The 2013 wills don’t have any specific bequest of Marvin’s shares, so Barbara says they’re part of his residuary estate. She’s the sole beneficiary.

Rusty alleges that his dad suffered from dementia, when he signed the 2013 wills. Barbara disagrees.

Marvin’s obituary said that in “his last few years” he battled Lewy Body Dementia, which can have a range of symptoms. They include problems with thinking, memory, moving and changes in behaviors.

Rusty filed his opposition to probating either of the 2013 wills. He said that the onset of his father’s dementia was at least five to eight years prior to his death, “thus placing Mr. Rush’s mental capacity in doubt from May 2010 onward.”

Marvin completely disinherited Rusty in the 2013 wills. They will stated, “I do not wish to make any provision hereunder for my son William Maurice Rush, III, or any of his descendants.”

Barbara was named the executor of Marvin’s estate in the 2006 will and in each of the 2013 wills.

The two 2013 wills, which cut Rusty out of any inheritance, “represented a dramatic departure from (Marvin’s) long-standing estate plan of leaving his shares of Stock in Rush Enterprises to his son Rusty,” Rusty’s filing states.

“These wills were also executed shortly after Mr. Rush, apparently with the encouragement of his wife, Barbara, had formed an irrational belief that his son Rusty was somehow ‘at fault’ when the Board of Directors insisted that Mr. Rush step down as Chairman of the Board in May of 2013,” Rusty’s filing continues.

Barbara challenges Rusty’s argument, saying that the 2013 wills were prepared by a law firm and signed by two witnesses.

Barbara’s argument is that if Marvin truly lacked capacity or was being subjected to undue influence by her, when the will was made in May 2013, then how was it possible that Rusty, who was the CEO and president of Rush Enterprises could have entered into a “Retirement and Transition Agreement” with his father at that time?

Expect this to be a long, drawn out estate battle.

Reference: San Antonio Express-News (August 24, 2018) “Dueling wills filed over late truck dealer Marvin Rush’s estate”

A Whole Lot of Soul, But No Estate Plan

The Queen of Soul’s four sons have filed a document that lists themselves as “interested parties” in her estate…

The big buzz about Aretha Franklin is the gold-plated casket, the Christian Louboutin patent leather shoes and the fact that she died without a will.

Aretha 2018The Queen of Soul’s four sons have filed a document that lists themselves as “interested parties” in her estate, according to an article from cbs.com titled “Report: Aretha Franklin left no will.”

A document that was said to have been filed with the Oakland County Probate Court in Michigan and signed by her son Kecalf and her estate attorney David Bennett noted the absence of a will.

"The decedent died intestate and after exercising reasonable diligence, I am unaware of any unrevoked testamentary instrument relating to property located in this state as defined" under the law, the document said, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Because she died intestate or without a will, Franklin's finances will become public. Her niece, Sabrina Owens, has asked Judge Jennifer Callaghan to be the personal representative of the estate.

Don Wilson, Aretha's entertainment lawyer, commented to the Detroit Free Press that he repeatedly suggested that she create a trust.

"I was after her for a number of years to do a trust," he said. "It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate and kept things private."

The attorney said he would’ve helped Aretha manage her holdings in music publishing and copyright issues for estate planning. Wilson added that at this point, it's impossible to estimate the value on her song catalog. However, he also said that she retained ownership of her original compositions.

In her home state of Michigan, the assets of a deceased person who was unmarried are divided equally among children. However, creditors or extended family members could contest the estate.

Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit after a long battle with cancer. Fans went to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for a public visitation, where they paid their respects, while her gospel music recordings were played.

Reference: CBS.com (August 22, 2018) “Report: Aretha Franklin left no will”

What Happens When an Estranged Daughter Shows Up…After Her Father is Gone?

Kim, who goes by the name Viola La Valette, is after part of her father’s $900 million estate.

She says her father was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and that’s why he cut her out of the will. However, she also hadn’t seen or spoken to him for more than two decades.

GrundyregThere’s a big estate battle brewing in Britain, where the 61-year-old daughter of Reg Grundy, Kim Robin Grundy, is challenging her father’s second wife with a will contest. Kim, who goes by the name Viola La Valette, is after part of her father’s $900 million estate. The fact that she refused to see him, even while he was supporting her, is not making her a popular figure.

Starts at 60’s article, “Reg Grundy’s daughter says he had Alzheimer’s when he cut her from will,” says that the TV tycoon, who was responsible for Australian shows like Neighbours and Wheel of Fortune, died in May 2016 at the age of 92. He left the majority of his estate to his wife.

However, his daughter is now investigating his mental state and health before he died.

La Valette, who is Reg’s daughter from his first marriage to Patricia Lola Powell in 1954, appeared in court recently to formally contest the will.

Her attorney reportedly claimed that Grundy suffered from “Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment” before he died.

It was previously reported that La Valette refused to see her father and cut off all contact with him for more than 20 years before he died, which left him heartbroken. His wife said at the time that he had always supported his daughter and allowed her a glamorous lifestyle. Because of this, she never had to work and could live in luxurious hotels.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of more than 100 types of dementia. The disease presents differently in each individual. As a result, it’s difficult to definitely know when a person may lose his capacity to make important decisions.

The term “capacity” means that an individual has the ability to understand decisions about important personal matters, can voluntarily make those decisions and can communicate those decisions to others. Because of the unknowns with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, it’s crucial to make plans while a person still has capacity.

Having a will in place in the early stages of any type of dementia or before any issues of capacity arise is critical to the success of an estate plan.

It’s not yet known if Grundy really had Alzheimer’s disease or any kind of dementia.

Reference: Starts at 60 (August 6, 2018) “Reg Grundy’s daughter says he had Alzheimer’s when he cut her from will”

Cousin of George Michael Says His Partner is Going to Challenge His Will

George Michael didn’t leave anything to Fadi Fawaz, who was George’s on-again, off-again partner since 2012.

The wishes of former Wham! singer George Michael are bring carried out, just a few months shy of the two-year anniversary of his death.

George MichaelAmong the information being shared by Andros Georgiou, a cousin of George Michael, is that all of the organizations and individuals who were mentioned in the late singer’s will have been contacted. However, that wasn’t the only news from Andros.

MSNreports, in the article “George Michael's lover is challenging his will after being left nothing, says cousin,”that Andros told the British newspaper,The Sun, that George Michael didn’t leave anything to Fadi Fawaz, who was George’s on-again, off-again partner since 2012. Fawaz also was the one who found Michael dead in bed in his home in the English village of Goring in Oxfordshire on Christmas Day 2016.

Local authorities later announced that the 53-year-old pop star died from dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver.

Andros Georgiou says that Fawaz is challenging the will. Michael’s will stipulated that his enormous fortune of approximately $137 million should go to several charities, his sisters Yioda and Melanie and some members of his staff.

"People who worked for George and were loyal to him will be getting small amounts," his cousin Georgiou told The Sun. The newspaper reported that the housekeepers who worked at Michael’s North London and Goring homes are among those mentioned as beneficiaries in his will.

Andros told The Sunthat Fawaz received money regularly from George, while the pop star was alive. Fawaz has yet to move out of Michael's home in London's Regent's Park and is in the process of contesting his exclusion from the will.

"Fadi is threatening to go all the way to High Court, but I think the estate will have to settle with him," Andros explained to the British newspaper. "He's been offered £500,000 [roughly $655,000] and I think the estate should pay a couple of million to get rid of him."

It has also been reported that Kenny Goss, who was George’s partner for 13 years, is also contesting his exclusion from the will. This issue is related to funding for the Goss-Michael Foundation, a non-profit art gallery in Dallas that features British art collections. Kenny and George started the foundation in 2007.

George’s estate wants to sell his three homes quickly as well, reports The Sun.

Reference: MSN (July 29, 2018) “George Michael's lover is challenging his will after being left nothing, says cousin”

Battle Over Campbell’s Estate More Complicated with Probate Frozen

The estate of one of America’s best loved country singers is facing a struggle…

The estate of one of America’s best loved country singers is facing a struggle, since the interim administrator of the estate is asking the court for the legal muscle he needs to hire accountants and other professionals.

Glen Campbell 2Stanley B. Schneider, Glen Campbell’s publicist, has filed a motion in Davidson Probate Court in Nashville for additional legal powers, so he can move forward with the singer’s estate. According to The Tennessean’s article, “Glen Campbell estate 'paralyzed' as will contest looms, lawyers say,”while the estate was filed nine months ago, the court set strict limitations on his ability to act and that has hampered the probate process.

The petition alleges that Schneider's duties are now curtailed to only collecting money paid to the estate and making mandatory non-discretionary payments.  It asks Probate Judge David "Randy" Kennedy to schedule a hearing later this summer to rule on the expanded duties request.

Glen Campbell died on August 8, 2017 at age 81, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Schneider, the court-appointed administrator for his estate, recently arrived at a partial preliminary estimate.  However, it is only a small fraction of the previous estimates of its value.

He claims that the estimated estate assets are roughly $410,000. Earlier estimates of Campbell's total estate value were near $50 million.

The estimate excludes future income rights from royalties, and notes that an appraisal is required.

Three of Campbell's children have served notice that they are contesting the will, which specifically excludes them from any estate assets. His will names his wife Kimberly as executor. She and his five other children are listed as beneficiaries.

Without the power to properly value the estate and its assets, which is done by qualified professionals who have to be retained and paid, coupled with a looming federal tax deadline, this estate may take a long time to unwind, even without the will contests that are waiting in the wings.

Reference: The Tennessean (July 2, 2018) “Glen Campbell estate 'paralyzed' as will contest looms, lawyers say”

Have It Your Way, With a Will

Without a will, decisions about your life, property and children will be made by someone who does not know you or your family.

Without a will, decisions about your life, property and children will be made by someone who does not know you or your family. With a will, you have the ability to express your wishes. You need a will!

MP900430490Having a will is not just for wealthy folks, who need to pass large amounts of money across generations. It is a legal document that protects you while you are living, protects minor children if you die and also distributes property after you pass. Less than half of all adults in America have an estate plan, according to a 2017 survey by Caring.com, and what’s worse, only 36% with children under the age of 18 have a will.

Inside Indiana Business’ recent article,“With a Will, It's Done Your Way,”explained that if you die without a will (i.e., intestate), the law of the state where you reside determines how your property will be distributed. For example, in Indiana, here’s what happens:

  • If you’re married, your spouse gets half of your assets and your children/grandchildren get the other half.
  • If you’re married without children, your spouse gets three-quarters of your assets, and your parents will receive one-quarter.
  • If you’re single, 100% of your assets go to your children.
  • If you’re single without children, your parents get one-quarter of your property and your siblings, nieces, and nephews will receive the rest.

The court will also appoint some individual to take care of your children. That’s known as a guardian, and it’s usually a family member. While that may sound OK, a judge’s criteria may not be the same as yours. It’s better if you decide which family member or perhaps skip your family altogether and choose a friend to serve as guardian. Without a will, you give up your right to choose.

Talk to an experienced estate attorney who can prepare your will to be certain that your wishes are clearly articulated and minimize the potential for others to contest the terms.

An executor(also known as a personal representative) is the individual you name to carry out the wishes detailed in your will. He or she also is responsible for settling all your affairs. Consider carefully the person you select for this responsibility. You should also name a successor executor, in case your first choice is unable to act. An executor's job includes the following:

  • Determining your assets;
  • Contacting those you've named to receive property and distributing it to them;
  • Notifying the credit agencies of your death;
  • Canceling your credit cards;
  • Opening a bank account for your estate;
  • Ensuring debt payments, utilities, taxes and other outstanding expenses are paid, while your estate is open;
  • Paying debts;
  • Closing social media accounts;
  • Filing the will in the right probate court; and
  • Filing a final tax return and possibly an estate tax return.

Certain assets are distributed outside of the will, including property that is owned with another person (joint with rights of survivorship), life insurance policies, annuities, retirement accounts and other accounts with a named beneficiary. Be aware that anything with a beneficiary designation passes outside of the will, meaning that directions in the will about these types of assets will not matter: the beneficiary designation overrides the will.

Reference: Inside Indiana Business (June 11, 2018)“With a Will, It's Done Your Way”

George Michael’s Ex-Boyfriends Are Challenging his Estate

Not one, but two of the pop stars boyfriends are claiming that they should have been included in his will.

Not one, but two of the pop stars boyfriends are claiming that they should have been included in his will.

George MichaelPop legend George Michael’s multi-million dollar estate and properties were given to sisters Melanie and Yioda and no provisions were made for his ex-boyfriend Kenny Goss or Fadi Fawaz.

However, Trust Advisor’s recent article, “George Michael Exes in Legal Fight” reports that Kenny Goss, George’s former partner of 15 years, is claiming a large part of his estate on the grounds he helped the troubled singer through hard times, The Sunreports.

The American businessman has hired counsel He claims that George always told him he’d look after him, “see him right and that he would not want for anything,” a source said.

Due to the fact they were together for many years and Kenny really looked after George a great deal, he feels that George’s will doesn’t accurately reflect this.

Kenny joins Lebanese hairdresser Fadi Fawaz, who was with George for five years until his death on Christmas Day 2016, in challenging the will. Fawaz was instructed to move out of his ex-lover’s mansion.  Fadi also won’t inherit the three-bedroom home in London’s Regent’s Park, where he’s currently living. The Mirrorreports that his hopes of owning the property are “all but over.” An insider told the paper: “Fadi realizes his days there are likely to be numbered, as it’s been made clear he won’t be inheriting the place.”

“He’ll be sad to leave, as it’s where he and George shared so many happy moments.”

Fadi said earlier this year that he was forced to sell the car George gave him because of his debt. The Sunreported George’s possessions were being repossessed, after Fadi fell behind with payments on the singer’s North London home. He’s now selling off George’s possessions. In addition, the singer’s family also gave Fadi money, despite claims he’s broke.

Fadi was sleeping in his car on Christmas Eve 2016—the night of George’s death. He found George’s body in the morning and called the police.

Without a husband, children or obvious heirs, there’s been a lot of guessing about what will happen to George’s estate. He was godfather to two of Martin Kemp’s children, who might inherit some portion of the estate, as might Geri Halliwell’s daughter Bluebell—despite the fact that George’s ex-boyfriend Goss is her godfather.

George owned three high value properties in the United Kingdom–an $8.8 million house in Goring, Oxfordshire, a $19 million house in Highgate (North London) and a three-bedroom home in Regent’s Park in London. He bought and sold many luxurious properties around the world.

Reference: Trust Advisor (May 29, 2018) “George Michael Exes in Legal Fight”

End of Estate Battle May be Near for Purported Manson Sons

It’s possible that both sons will be out of the picture

With one filing papers to drop his claims and the other showing up after a hearing, it’s possible that both sons will be out of the picture, and only two will be left to battle it out in court.

MansonShowing up disheveled and frazzled and after the court hearing concluded in the probate case of the mass murderer, Matthew Lentz may be out of luck. Lentz, who claims to be Manson’s son, arrived late, with a plastic case stuffed with letters from Manson that he hoped would convince the court.

Another supposed son, Michael Brunner, has filed a motion to drop his claims as an alleged heir to the convicted murderer. WPXI News reports in the recent article, “Purported sons could be out of Charles Manson estate fight,”that if the two men drop out, it would leave a purported grandson to fight Manson’s pen pal, who filed a will that names him as sole beneficiary to the potentially lucrative estate.

This leaves at least three individuals who claim a relationship to Manson, along with two so-called “murderabilia” collectors, who befriended the criminal and who have emerged in the court battle. The 83-year-old Manson died in a hospital last November, while serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1969 killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight others in a Los Angeles Hills mansion.

Lentz is listed as sole beneficiary in a 2017 will that names memorabilia collector Ben Gurecki as executor. Lentz said he’s seeking the rights to a song Manson said he wrote for him. However, the judge said Lentz had until a July 13 hearing to show why he shouldn't be dismissed from the case.

Brunner's mother was a former Manson family member, and he’s widely believed to be Manson's son. Mary Brunner was in jail on credit card fraud case in August 1969, when Manson instructed his followers to carry out killings that he hoped would create a race war. Michael Brunner was one of those who also fought in court over the right to collect the body of Manson for burial.

However, Manson’s remains were granted to Jason Freeman, a purported grandson from Florida. He had the remains cremated and scattered the ashes after a brief private funeral in March. Brunner lost because he surrendered his right to be deemed an heir, when he was adopted by his maternal grandparents, a judge ruled. His quest for the estate is likely to meet a similar end. Lentz has the same problem. Unlike Brunner, he doesn't have a birth certificate naming Manson as his father.  However, he was also adopted and later pieced his paternity together after tracking down his biological mother.

A prison pen pal of Manson’s, Michael Channels, is fighting for the estate and filed a will that names him as the executor. The court says that the will he filed presents a possible conflict of interest, since he is also named as one of two witnesses and the only beneficiary. That same court had previously ruled against him in the battle over who would control Manson’s remains.

Reference: WPXI News (May 8, 2018)“Purported sons could be out of Charles Manson estate fight”

Rhinestone Cowboy’s Estate Surprisingly Small

When Glen Campbell passed away in August 2017, rumors about his will, debts and assets began to circulate.

When Glen Campbell passed away in August 2017, rumors about his will, debts and assets began to circulate. It may be a long while before the dust settles.

Glen CampbellSome of the stories circulating about famed country legend Glen Campbell, say that his widow Kimberly is suing the estate for more than $500,000 in medical bills. Others say that only five of his eight children were listed in the will. There’s also a big gap between what his assets were thought to be in the past—$50 million—and what they are considered to be now—less than half a million dollars.

Campbell, who suffered from Alzheimer's, died in Nashville at the age of 81.

Wide Open Countryrecently published an article, “Glen Campbell’s Estate Might Not Be Worth as Much as You’d Think,”that gives details about what Glen left behind for his family.

An Arkansas native, Glen started his professional career as a studio musician in Los Angeles, spending several years playing with a group of world class musicians known as "the Wrecking Crew." Campbell played guitar on hundreds of hit records, many without credit. When he went solo, he placed a total of 80 different songs on either the Billboard Country Chart, Billboard Hot 100, or Adult Contemporary Chart—29 made the top 10 and nine reached number one on at least one of those charts.

There were some reports that Campbell’s assets came to roughly $50 million. However, more recent estimates say it’s worth around $410K.

The Tennesseanreported that Campbell’s accountant and manager Stanley B. Schneider (who was appointed administrator ad litemby a judge earlier in 2018) filed paperwork that says Campbell’s combined assets reached a lower amount than many anticipated.

The claim says the stake in AZPB Limited Partnership holds the most value at $296,164, interest in AZ Baseball Broadcast Holdings totals $3,464, and the combined total of two bank accounts is just $959.

Funds from Glen Campbell Music, Inc. and Glen Campbell Enterprises total $109,634.

In addition, Schneider listed debts for state and federal taxes and legal fees totaling $118,200. He also reported that $43,448 of royalties were paid to the estate in the eight months after Campbell’s death. More than $76,000 is owed.

Campbell was one of the biggest stars in show business at one point, with a weekly television show, 45 million records sold and many hits on the pop and country charts.

Reference: Wide Open Country (April 26, 2018) “Glen Campbell’s Estate Might Not Be Worth as Much as You’d Think”

Can a Trial Court Intervene When the Matter Concerns a Nonintervention Estate?

Wordplay aside, the use of nonintervention clauses in an estate plan becomes an issue unto itself, when heirs disagree.

Wordplay aside, the use of nonintervention clauses in an estate plan becomes an issue unto itself, when heirs disagree.

GavelThe Washington Supreme Court ruled “In re Estate of Rathbone”that a trial court could not construe the nonintervention will independently of the personal representative, because the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA) or other state laws provided such authority.

Nonintervention powers are the authority of a personal representative to make decisions and act to facilitate the settlement of an estate in a probate proceeding, without the need for approval from the probate court.

Todd Rathbone was named personal representative of his mother's estate in her nonintervention will. Glen Rathbone, Todd's brother and beneficiary of the will, took issue with Todd's administration of the estate and filed a petition requesting an accountancy. He then filed an action asking the trial court to construe the will in his favor. The trial court held it had the authority to construe the will under section 11.68.070and, in the alternative,TEDRA itself gave the trial court authority to construe the will. The court ruled for Glen's version of the will and overrode the interpretation of Todd, the personal representative. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and Todd appealed.

Justice Johnson wrote in the decision of the Washington Supreme Court that because the case involved a nonintervention will, respect for Ms. Rathbone's wish that a court not be involved in the administration of her estate had to frame the Court’s analysis.

Ms. Rathbone gave Todd nonintervention powers and authority to construe the will and resolve all matters pertaining to disputed issues or controverted claims.

The will provision also gave Todd the option to purchase a piece of property from her estate for $350,000. Todd exercised his option and paid $350,000 to the estate as the will instructed. The trial court found that Ms. Rathbone's intent was that Glen would receive the $350,000, if Todd elected to purchase the property and ordered Todd to construe the will in accordance with its findings, thus disagreeing with his construction of the will.

The issue was whether a statute establishes authority for a trial court to interpret a will's language overruling a personal representative's interpretation, as the trial court did in this case.

Justice Johnson wrote that generally, a superior court's authority when dealing with nonintervention wills is statutorily limited. Once a court declares a nonintervention estate solvent, the court doesn’t have a role in the administration of the estate except under narrow, statutorily created exceptions that give courts limited authority to intervene. The judge explained that the court can regain this limited authority, only if the executor or another person with statutorily conferred authority properly invokes it.

Section 11.68.070plays a limited role in the estate administrative process. The Justice said that “it does not come into play, as in this case, until the estate administrative process is completed.”

Todd argued that the authority the law gives a superior court is narrow and limited to allowing the court to approve fees and order an accounting. The Washington Supreme Court agreed.

Justice Johnson held that the facts of this case, the provisions of the will, and the nonintervention statutes support a narrow statutory interpretation. The Court found that the testator's intent here was expressly and clearly evident. The will gave Todd, the personal representative, nonintervention powers. The will also gave him authority to construe, if necessary, the provisions of the will. The will expressed Ms. Rathbone’s intent that courts not be involved in the administration of her estate. The will directed that Todd's administration of the estate not be challenged, especially by Glen. The will also contained a disinheritance clause revoking any bequest granted to any challenger to Todd's administration decisions.

Todd was successful in the action, since the Supreme Court ruled that the testator’s expressed intent was violated by the trial court’s involvement in the case, its exercise of authority and its order construing the will. The decision of the Washington Court of Appeals was reversed. The trial court’s order construing the will was vacated. The case was remanded with directions to dismiss.

If an estate plan that includes a nonintervention clause is to withstand court challenges, it’s very important that the intentions of the person are very clear.

Reference: Justia (Feb. 9, 2017) “In re Estate of Rathbone”

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