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Prince Died Without a Will. Business Owners: who are your advisors?

CNN just posted an update on the Prince Estate dispute: possible heirs narrowed down to six @CNN https://t.co/imje7PyaqR

A while back I posted about some lessons from Robin Williams’ Estate.

I wrote about Robin Williams’ Estate as “an example of the problems that can erupt after a loved one passes away – even if that loved one had a well thought out estate plan.”

In the case with Prince, it appears that he had absolutely no estate plan at all.

This is surprising given, as the ABAJournal put it Prince apparently “had a ‘revolving circle’ of lawyers and business advisers, according to the New York Times. He also handled many of his business affairs himself.”

I wonder where were the attorneys, accountants, financial advisers telling prince:put your affairs in order!

Maybe this happened. Maybe he had one or more lawyers over the years tell him, “by the way, Prince, you really need to prepare an estate plan so that your finances are in order when you die.”

Maybe estate planning was simply not important to him. According to the article Prince did not have a surviving spouse or parents… one can only speculate.

Prince is apparently survived by 5 siblings. It will be interesting to see if they can all agree on the estate administration or if there are any other apparent heirs that claim a part of the quarter of a billion dollar empire Prince left behind.

Two comments:

1. To business advisers: If we aren’t being proactive with our clients to push them to get their affairs in order, we are doing a disservice. This is especially true when we serve business owners or individuals whose finances might have a lot of moving parts.

2. To Business Owners: Who are your advisers? Maybe you are like Prince – you like to handle many of your business affairs yourself. That only works so well. You can’t be an expert in every area. Surround yourself with good counsel. You need advisers who can steer you in the right direction.

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

http://www.dwlawpc.com

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“Prince Died Without a Will.” Business Owners Should Ask the Question: Who Are My Advisers?

April 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Yesterday, the ABAJournal posted that Prince’s sister filed in court claiming Prince died without a will.

A year ago I posted about some lessons from Robin Williams’ Estate.

I wrote about Robin Williams’ Estate as “an example of the problems that can erupt after a loved one passes away – even if that loved one had a well thought out estate plan.”

In the case with Prince, it appears that he had absolutely no estate plan at all.

This is surprising given, as the ABAJournal put it Prince apparently “had a ‘revolving circle’ of lawyers and business advisers, according to the New York Times. He also handled many of his business affairs himself.

I wonder where were the attorneys, accountants, financial advisers telling prince:put your affairs in order!

Maybe this happened. Maybe he had one or more lawyers over the years tell him, “by the way, Prince, you really need to prepare an estate plan so that your finances are in order when you die.

Maybe estate planning was simply not important to him. According to the article Prince did not have a surviving spouse or parents… one can only speculate.

Prince is apparently survived by 5 siblings. It will be interesting to see if they can all agree on the estate administration or if there are any other apparent heirs that claim a part of the quarter of a billion dollar empire Prince left behind.

Two comments:

1. To business advisers: If we aren’t being proactive with our clients to push them to get their affairs in order, we are doing a disservice. This is especially true when we serve business owners or individuals whose finances might have a lot of moving parts.

2. To Business Owners: Who are your advisers? Maybe you are like Prince – you like to handle many of your business affairs yourself. That only works so well. You can’t be an expert in every area. Surround yourself with good counsel. You need advisers who can steer you in the right direction.

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

www.dwlawpc.com

Robin Williams’ Estate: Lessons to be learned from Estate Litigation.

June 2, 2015 2 comments

I previously wrote an article on the dispute between Robin Williams’ widow and his children, you can check out that post here

Today, the ABAJournal posted an update on this lawsuit – you can check that out here

This story is an example of the problems that can erupt after a loved one passes away – even if that loved one had a well thought out estate plan.

Here, a large part of the dispute centers around ownership of Robin Williams’ personal belongings.

Latest Development…

Per the ABAJournal’s article, It appears that the family members are making headway through mediation.

It is great news because, as I’ve indicated in prior posts

Mediation works.

Not every case that is mediated ends in a successful resolution. But more often than not, the cases that I have been involved in where both parties submit to mediation have been successfully resolved.

Mediation makes sense.

In estate litigation, such as the Robin Williams’ estate, mediation makes sense.

When I am representing a business in a business dispute, it can be much easier to avoid a lengthy drawn out court battle, given that business owners are much more inclined to make a good business decision and settle the case.

Not so with estate lawsuits. the issues are much more emotionally charged.

Locally, there are mediators who understand this dynamic – such as Anne Bachle Fifer

I wonder how much cost and emotional turmoil could have been avoided if the parties agreed to mediate the case prior to filing suit….

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Robin Williams’ Estate: Dispute between Widow and Children.

March 31, 2015 Leave a comment

The ABAJournal reported a story today: Who gets items from Robin Williams estate? Court has to decide between his widow and his children you can check that story out here

From all appearance, it looks like Robin Williams went through his attorney and put together a well thought out estate plan for the benefit of his wife and his children.

What the fight is about…

The dispute is over certain of Robin Williams’ personal belongings.

According to the article, Robin Williams’ children’s Trust gives them  “Williams’ memorabilia, awards and other relics

Robin Williams’ widow claims these items are located in her marital home and therefore belong to her.

It appears from the article there is a bit of “mudslinging” on both sides. Not a good sign for an early resolution to this dispute.

A Lawyer’s Role…

Lawyers look at scenarios from a liability standpoint. We are anticipating the worst case scenario (and other conceivable pitfalls) and how to avoid that worst case scenario.

Usually, things turn out the way you expect. A business contract is followed by both parties… a Trust Plan is administered according to the creator’s intentions.

Worst Case.

Worst case scenario  (or something like it) is what appears to have happened here. Even though Robin Williams created a thought out trust plan for his family members, his plan wasn’t enough to keep the bickering family members out of court.

Lessons to be gleaned.

After reviewing the article, and looking back at the experiences I have witnessed first hand – a few observations:

1. Blended Family? Estate Planning red flags.

Communication is key.  Even more so when your current spouse and you have different children. While still alive and healthy, members of a blended family  should communicate wishes in and open and honest setting. To the best that you can, leave no room for misinterpretation. 

2. Estate Litigation is costly because oftentimes money is not the motivating factor.

A Lawsuit is very rarely a cost-effective solution to any dispute. In business disputes, it is much easier to convince your client to make a “business decision” and not throw good money after bad.

Not quite so in estate litigation.

The hard part about dealing with these disputes is that there often times is not a “business decision” to be made.  Settlement decisions by and large are made on emotion and negative perception of the intent of the opposing family member.

Case in point – Robin Williams’ Estate. Read the comments being made, and the actual items being fought over.

Questions? Comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Lessons From Trial: Family Businesses and Disaster Prevention by a Proper Business Succession Plan.

February 19, 2015 Leave a comment

I just finished up a complex and messy trial that spanned over a few weeks centering on a family owned and operated business.

The case involved multiple family members over multiple generations, and differing levels of involvement in the family business, and, as it turned out, differing expectations of the business succession plan once the business owner (Grandmother) passed away.

This case had been in court for years, and was the rare exception that did not settle before trial.

Why Didn’t it Settle?

Although the legal issues involved were complex – spanning corporate law, real estate, and probate and trust law, and related fiduciary duties, I believe the reason the case did not settle was only minimally related to the parties’ legal duties.

It was primarily the emotional and personal aspects of the relationship between the estranged family members  – the ups and downs – that spanned over Grandmother’s (Owner’s) life time.

I suppose the better question is, why was the case in Court to begin with? Posed differently, what could have prevented the fight in the first place?

Proper Communication Could Have Prevented the Lawsuit 

I read a recent blog post by The Family Business Consultant Group, advisers to family owned businesses, titled  “Communication in family enterprises: The role of assumptions” – you can check that out here

As I reviewed the article, I couldn’t help but reflect on the various questions that could have been asked between the parties  at any given time over the decades of the business operation.

If those questions were properly communicated (and of course, in turn, memorialized in writing) it would have lead to a mutual understanding of the business succession after Grandmother’s death.

A Proper Business Succession Plan Could Have Prevented the Lawsuit

Family relationships are complicated. They get even more complicated when the family owns and operates a business.

Current owners would do well to engage professional advisers-, legal, tax, accounting, insurance, etc.. in order to make sure business succession is not only are properly communicated, but also properly memorialized in a written plan.

Even if not every family member agrees with the plan, at least it is in writing, and properly communicated to all. This would go along ways to avoid a messy family dispute.

Comments? Questions?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com