Celebrity Estate Battles Provide Valuable Lessons on Estate Planning

The biggest issues in inheritance battles stem from Alzheimer’s disease, widowed stepmothers and estate crime. Certain issues, like signs of dementia, questionable asset transfers and sudden changes in investment risk profiles are sure signals that something is going on, reports Think Advisor in the article What the Nastiest Celebrity Estate Battles Can Teach Advisors.”

If regular family fights feel like civil wars, then celebrity battles elevate the conflicts into global meltdowns. Showbiz legends like Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney and Jerry Lee Lewis serve as perfect examples.

Rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis’s seventh wife (yes, seventh) and his third wife’s daughter have been in court for nearly two years. The wife has charged her stepdaughter with financial and physically abusing the singer, who is now 83. The daughter countersued, alleging that her stepmother was drugging her father into an incoherent state. Lewis recently had a stroke, and he was admitted to a rehab facility.

What can families do about elder abuse, which the American Bar Association has called the “crime of the 21st century?”

Pay attention. Over the next 30 years, as much as $30 trillion in Baby Boomer assets will be transferred to the next generation. The number of people getting older is taking a huge leap and so will the number of people who suffer from cognitive-related diseases.

Know what an “estate crime” is. This is the term to describe the unauthorized, unlawful taking of someone’s assets, while they are alive. It’s what happens when a personal representative, such as a trustee, suppresses assets and takes them. It’s more likely to occur when an entrepreneur or business owner keeps a lot of cash in the safe. That money mysteriously vanishes at their death. Therefore, if anyone has a lot of cash around, they need to be able to prove it and give that documentation to someone they trust.

What happens when a person’s family is involved in litigation and they are incapacitated? Attorneys will look for transfers that occurred just prior to the time the person became incapacitated. Would they be the result of undue influence or pressure? What about their estate documents — were they changed near the time the person became seriously ill or when they were near to death? Medical records and doctors’ reports become important in these cases.

What happened to Tony Curtis, romantic and comic leading man? A year before he died, Tony Curtis wrote a new will and revised his trust. He disinherited his five surviving children and left his entire estate worth $46 million to his sixth wife. The children, who include actress Jamie Lee Curtis, filed a suit claiming that their father was mentally impaired, but the case was dropped. It’s possible that the suit was settled confidentially. Any time there’s such a big change before death, expect litigation.

Why do so many famous people seem to die without a will? People don’t like to think about death, so they procrastinate. It’s that way for celebrities and for regular people. However, we read more about celebrities. Estate planning attorneys are the ones who see what happens, every day, when people don’t have wills and the family is faced with estate battles.

What’s the solution? It’s not that complicated. Find an estate planning attorney that you are comfortable with and draw up an estate plan. Make sure you have a will, power of attorney and health care power of attorney. Talk with your family about your intentions for distribution of your property and make sure that every few years, when events occur in your life or when laws change, you update your estate plan. That would save many people, famous and otherwise, from devoting time and money to cleaning up after their loved ones.

Reference: Think Advisor (March 27, 2019) What the Nastiest Celebrity Estate Battles Can Teach Advisors”

How to Be Smart about an Inheritance

While there’s no one way that is right for everyone, there are some basic considerations about receiving a large inheritance that apply to almost anyone. According to the article “What should you do with an inheritance?” from The Rogersville Review, the size of the inheritance could make it possible for you to move up your retirement date. Just be mindful that it is very easy to spend large amounts of money very quickly, especially if this is a new experience.

Here are some ways to consider using an inheritance:

Get rid of your debt load. Car loans, credit cards and most school loans are at higher rates than you can get from any investments. Therefore, it makes sense to use at least some of your inheritance to get rid of this expensive debt. Some people believe that it’s best to not have a mortgage, since now there are limits to deductions. You may not want to pay off a mortgage, since you’ll have less flexibility if you need cash.

Contribute more to retirement accounts. If the inheritance gives you a little breathing room in your regular budget, it’s a good idea to increase your contributions to an employer-sponsored 401(k) or another plan, as well as to your personal IRA. Remember that this money grows tax-free and it is possible you’ll need it.

Start college funding. If your financial plan includes helping children or even grandchildren attend college, you could use an inheritance to open a 529 account. This gives you tax benefits and considerable flexibility in distributing the money. Every state has a 529 account program and it’s easy to open an account.

Create or reinforce an emergency fund. A recent survey found that most Americans don’t have emergency funds. Therefore, a bill for more than $400 would be difficult for them to pay. Use your inheritance to create an emergency fund, which should have six to 12 months’ worth of living expenses. Put the money into a liquid, low-risk account, so that you can access it easily if necessary. This way you don’t tap into long-term funds.

Review your estate plan. Anytime you have a large life event, like the death of a parent or an inheritance, it’s time to review your estate plan. Depending upon the size of the estate, there may be some tax liabilities you’ll need to deal with. You may also want to set some of the assets aside in trust for children or grandchildren. Your estate planning attorney will be able to provide you with experienced counsel on the use of the inheritance for you and future generations.

Reference: The Rogersville Review (March 21, 2019) “What should you do with an inheritance?”

Seniors Can Now Enroll in TSA PreCheck at Staples Stores

You have heard about the TSA’s PreCheck program that lets you breeze through security at the airport. Once you qualify, you can skip the long regular security line and go through the expedited security line. The PreCheck line is usually only about five minutes, compared to the hour or more that you could get stuck in the standard security line at a busy airport. The reason the TSA lets you do this, is that they have already prescreened you – with your permission, of course.

Unfortunately, for many people, there are no TSA PreCheck sites located nearby. Since the process of going through the prescreening is rather time-consuming, having to drive far to get to an enrollment center can be the final straw that causes some people to decide against it. Until recently, most of the enrollment centers were in airports, which are not convenient places to access. Good news – you can now enroll in TSA PreCheck at Staples stores.

TSA Enrollment Centers

IDEMIA is a security company that manages all the TSA PreCheck enrollment locations, called IdentoGo centers. IDEMIA already had about 1,200 IdentiGo centers across the United States. In addition to airports, IdentiGo sites are in some state motor vehicle department offices, business parks and H&R Block sites. There are IdentiGo centers in about 50 Staples stores.

The TSA PreCheck Program

You fill out an application and pay $85. Then you make an appointment to go to an IdentiGo center, where they will take your fingerprints and do a background check. You will have to take your passport to the appointment. If you do not have a passport, you can take a certified copy of your birth certificate and a government-issued form of identification, like a driver’s license or state identification card.

About 10 to 30 days after you complete the PreCheck prescreening, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) in the mail. You should provide this number whenever you make airline reservations, so that the airline will print it on your tickets and boarding passes. If your KTN is not on your ticket and boarding pass, you cannot use the TSA PreCheck expedited security line at the airport, even if you take along your TSA PreCheck letter that contains your Known Traveler Number.

The Known Traveler Number is good for five years. Most people can renew their KTN online within the six-month period before it expires. You can sign up for the TSA to send you an email to let you know when to renew your KTN.

Many retirees love to travel but do not venture as frequently as they would like, because of the inconvenience. One common complaint is having to stand in long lines at the airport. If you get a KTN through the TSA PreCheck system, you might find traveling more enjoyable. With IdentiGo centers now located in some Staples stores, applying for the Known Traveler Number is less inconvenient than before.

This article is about the general law, and your state’s law could be different. You should talk with an elder law attorney near you.


AARP. “Enrolling in TSA PreCheck Just Got Easier.” (accessed November 28, 2018) https://www.aarp.org/travel/travel-tips/transportation/info-2018/staples-tsa-precheck.html

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