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    ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ that Aretha Franklin’s children have ‘Respect’ and Are Not a ‘Chain of Fools’

    American singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16 at the age of 76 after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. In the days following her passing, her four sons filed documents with the Michigan Probate Court stating that Aretha passed without a will or trust, and claimed to be interested parties in her estate. Aretha’s niece, Sabrina Garrett Owens is the personal representative to administer the estate. When a person dies with a will, the probate court uses that and other documents (such as a trust), to guide them in determining the proper distribution of the deceased’s assets. However, when a person dies without a will, or “intestate,” their…

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    Elder Abuse: When Aging Relatives May Need Their Own Superhero

    Elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or associate of an elderly individual, which causes harm.[1] Financial elder abuse occurs when a trusted friend or family member obtains access to a senior’s financial accounts and uses the assets therein for personal gain. Unfortunately, this abuse is widespread in the United States and can happen to anyone, even the legendary creator of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee.   In December Stan Lee turned 95 years old. Although he remains in good physical health, Stan Lee, and his reported $50 million estate, became a prime target for elder abuse following the death of his wife, Joan Lee, last year.…

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    Four Legal Documents Dementia Patients Should Have in Place

          A diagnosis of dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s disease and other memory loss and/or cognitive reasoning disorders, is potentially devastating for both the patient and their family. Following a dementia diagnosis, it is important to execute these four essential planning documents to avoid further hardship in the form of costly court battles. (1) Durable Power of Attorney – A durable power of attorney allows the diagnosed person (the “principal”) to appoint another person (the “power of attorney”) to act on the principal’s behalf if and when the principal becomes incapacitated.  A power of attorney can have a wide range of authority and discretion, from paying bills to selling…

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    Caveat to a Caveat to a Will: North Carolina Court of Appeals Offers Non-Binding Opinion

              In October the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion addressing the circumstances under which it is appropriate to grant a motion to dismiss in the context of a will caveat.[1]  A caveat is a legal challenge to the probate of a will when there is confusion or disagreement as to the interpretation of the will.  The three issues addressed were: (1) can a caveat challenge only a part of a will; (2) can an executor who presents a will for probate later file a caveat; and (3) can one who accepts a benefit under a will later challenge its validity via caveat?…

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    N.C. Court of Appeals: Caveators Were Not Prejudiced By Dead Man’s Statute Since the Jury “heard the gist of caveators’ evidence.”

              In 1960 Charles Pickelsimer (“Charles”) inherited significant stock holdings in a family telecommunications company.[1]  Over the next 45 years, Charles gave his children and grandchildren stock certificates as gifts.  When he sold the company in 2008 for $65 million, Charles and his children received significant cash distributions.  In 2009, Charles and his wife executed an estate plan to protect their assets, and their children were the primary beneficiaries.  Charles was diagnosed with mild dementia and memory loss in January 2010, and his wife died in March of that year.  His condition continued to subsequently decline. Charles executed a new estate plan in August 2010 (“2010…

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    NC Court of Appeals: While decedent’s actions effectively bypassed will, “it was his prerogative to do so.”

                  On July 21, 2015, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a ruling emphasizing the importance of executing cohesive estate documents and appointing a trusted fiduciary to execute the testator’s wishes.[1]               Dwight Jordan died testate with four children, and his will instructed the estate to be divided between them in equal shares.  Mr. Jordan named one of his sons, Raymond Baxter Jordan (“Defendant”), as the executor, and designated him as his attorney-in-fact.  The same day he executed the will, Mr. Jordan and the Defendant converted Mr. Jordan’s bank account to a joint account with rights of survivorship.  The bank account comprised…