Anna Nicole: A Model for Bad Estate Planning

Today's posting is courtesy of Ohio attorney Ted Gudorf, whose practice is limited to Estate Planning and his comments about Anna Nicole are remarkable for their timeliness and accuracy. It's a lesson worth learning. It is quite surprising how someone so rich and famous could foul things up so badly.

Anna Nicole Smith rose to fame as a model for Guess Jeans and Playboy magazine. Now, her death has given her newfound fame as a great model for terrible estate planning.

Forget the fact that you can’t visit a supermarket without seeing gossip about her life and death. When push comes to shove, Anna Nicole, the human being, was a single mother who was embroiled in a bitter legal battle over the estate of her ex-husband, and was suffering from the sudden and unexpected death of her son just three days after the birth of her daughter.

When you peel away the celebrity from the person, her legal situation becomes nearly as tragic as her life. She sadly didn’t take proper measures to protect her baby daughter from opportunists finagling to acquire custody in order to have access to her inheritance.

The teachings of Anna Nicole
What can we learn from Anna Nicole’s tragedy?

Lesson 1: Keep your estate plan current.
Anna Nicole’s will was prepared in 2001, before she ever conceived of daughter, Dannielynn, both figuratively and physically. The will leaves her entire estate to her son, Daniel, and specifically disinherits any offspring born after the will was signed. Because she never updated the will after her son died and her daughter was born, the document is invalid and needs to go to probate.

Lesson 2: Hire an experienced attorney.
A licensed attorney in the State of California prepared Smith’s will. But did he have extensive probate experience? A qualified and savvy attorney would have had the foresight to protect her in the event that she survived her son.

Lesson 3: Select a guardian.
It’s always a hard decision to make, because no one can raise your children as well as you can. But it’s imperative to select someone. You can always change it later. If Anna Nicole had named her daughter’s guardian, the lengthy legal battle for custody that is sure to ensue could have been avoided.

Lesson 4: Plan for death-related items.
Very few people enjoy planning for their deaths. Especially if they’re young and beautiful, like Anna Nicole. But if she had taken the time to prepare burial plans, the first phase of her legal battles could have been avoided. (Her mother wanted her buried in Texas, while Stern claimed that she wanted to be buried next to her son in the Bahamas, since she had purchased a double cemetery plot.)

Anna Nicole’s story is as chaotic in death as it was in her life. She leaves behind a rich legacy of what not to do when preparing an estate plan. Few lives are as complicated than the larger-than-life existence that she led. But by studying her mistakes, you can protect yourself from similar missteps by letting that model be a role model to avoid.

(C) 2007 by Gudorf Law Offices, LLC, (937) 898-5583

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We don't write wills. Wouldn't know how if we wanted to. That's what experts like Ted are for.
Us? We sue car dealers and car manufacturers every day over lemon cars and auto sales fraud. It's what we do.


1950's Car Commercials

Here's a group of classic vintage new car commercials from the 1950's and early 1960's. Note the emotional appeal and sexism that still exists in car ads today. Still, they just don't live up to the appeal of the full page print ads that graced America's magazines for decades!


GM Cars More Deadly Than Skydiving?

The award for "the car most likely to get killed in if you're the driver and you have a dangerous accident" goes to the Chevrolet Blazer for model years 2002 to 2005. Maybe that has something to do with GM's decision to stop building them?

Driver death rates in a GM were higher than any other brand during 2002 thru 2005. But for some GM vehicles, they were also lower than any other brand. Just goes to show you, GM can build the best, and they can also build the worst.

So what's the difference between a Chevy Blazer and a Chevy Astro? Well, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's findings, it looks like your chance of getting killed in a Blazer are 33 times higher than if you were in the same accident but riding in an Astro. Makes you want to run out and trade in that old Blazer, huh?

Not to be outdone by domestic US manufacturers, the two-door Acura RSX had the second-highest "kill the driver" death rate followed by the Nissan 350Z.

Meanwhile, down the street in Detroit, Ford wisely is trying to come up with a better (safety) idea and looks to be succeeding with its Edge and MKX line, which are both being applauded by safety experts at the Insurance Institute.

Not surprisingly, big vehicles fared better in the deadly accident study, with SUV and truck (and large car) drivers having a better chance of surviving than most compact and smaller cars. The study also says that average accident death rates declined since the last study. "This is a big improvement over time. The rates have gone down about 30 percent since the mid-1990s,'' said Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research.

The study covered 202 passenger vehicle models and included rates of driver deaths in all crashes plus the rates in multiple-vehicle, single-vehicle, and single-vehicle rollover crashes. You can find out more about rollover ratings, and check your car's rollover crash rating, by clicking here.

Are GM cars more deadly than skydiving? Well, one writer in Fort Lauderdale says that "You'd have to go skydiving 17 times in 1 year in order for your odds of death to be equivalent to your chances of dying in a car accident every year." Of course, he's not saying if he drives a Chevy...

If you've got a dangerous lemon, don't put up with it, and don't go it alone. Check out our list of US Lemon Lawyers and get professional help near you.


Foreclosures Skyrocket

It's getting scairy out there for homeowners ...

Foreclosures jumped up 47% from the number just a year ago, with a record 149,000 foreclosures filed in March 2007. That's one home out of every 775 nationwide according to RealtyTrac, the folks who count the numbers.

Winning top prize was was Nevada, which took first place for each of the last 3 months and was more than 4 times the national average. That state always was a gamble...

Roaring into second place, Colorado saw nearly triple the national average with almost 6,300 foreclosures filed in March. California had the largest number of new foreclosures with over 31,000.

Rounding out the nation's 10 highest foreclosure states in March were Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Folks, this is not a list you want your state to be on. Foreclosures drive down real estate values (and sales prices) for all nearby homeowners.

The 5 states with the most foreclosure filings in March were California, Florida, Texas, Michigan and Ohio. Together these 5 states accounted for half of all the foreclosures in the entire US.

Stockton, California had more foreclosures than any other city in the country, 1 for every 128 homes ... a frightening number and enough to make you either move or buy up all the land and become a very, very big landlord.

Some folks blame bankruptcy law changes that made it harder for ordinary folks to keep their homes and reorganize their debt under Chapter 13. Others say the feeding frenzy of sub prime predatory lenders has finally come home to roost. Some of it is likely the result of mortgage fraud schemes too. Whatever the cause, it's a national problem that your congress person ought to do something about before the roof caves in.

Want tips on how to complain? You can also write your congressional representative and ask what he or she is doing to help your neighbor keep his home.

Why should you care? Because when they board up the doors and windows on your neighbor's house, the value of your's goes down. It really is just that simple.


Time for a Break

Every once in awhile it's time to take a break. Okay, the "Bush Shoot Out Game" (below) may be silly. But at least it isn't really about politics and it is addictive to play. So just help Bush (you can pretend it's Kerry, Hillary or Osama if you want) and grab a gun and shoot 'em up! After all, the bad guys are still the bad guys. Good luck!


Long Car Loans Increasing

Car loans are getting longer and longer. It's a trend that took a sharp upturn in 2005 and went higher in 2006 and is even higher now.

The Consumer Bankers Association does a survey every year on Automobile Finance and their recently released findings show that the use of long vehicle loans is still rising sharply.

Long loans (more than 72 months long) now account for 17 percent of new vehicle loans. That number is up from only 9 percent last year and it was just 7 percent in 2005. To a degree this increase is probably driven by price increases. And a part of it may be the unwillingness of consumers to keep and drive their vehicles long enough to build up some equity before trading off an old vehicle for a newer one. Part of the problem that comes from that is the negative equity scam that some dishonest car dealers pull over on unsuspecting consumers.

Longer loans means that more Americans are adding to their debt load, and that is not only foolish but may end up putting them deeper into subprime lender debt at higher than average interest rates. That only increases the spiraling debt load. It's a vicious circle that may not end until consumers start tightening their belt and learn to resist Detroit's new car smell.

Of course, the problem with trying to keep a car long enough to get it paid off can sometimes be the fact that it's a lemon in the first place. Don't let a lemon car drive you down the road to a car dealer ripoff. We can help you fight back.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Fight Back Since 1978


Let's Buy Chrysler !

It's deja vu all over again, says Yogi.

At the New York auto show in 1995, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian (#53 of the world's richest people, according to Forbes in 2006) announced that he would make a $20 Billion dollar bid to buy Chyrsler Corporation. That didn't happen.

A few years later the folks who brought you the Mercedes Benz came along with a bigger checkbook ($36 Billion worth) and they bought Chrysler out, changing the name to DaimlerChyrsler Corporation. The Germans promptly ran Chrysler right into the ground, tossing long term employees out the front door, whittling away at quality, increasing prices, etc. Basically they did just about everything necessary to gut the company of its true value.

Now, Kerkorian is back again, knocking on Chrysler's door. Well, actually the door says DaimlerChrysler on it now, but that may not be for long. At least 3 companies (or conglomerates) are publicly talking about buying Chrysler from its German owners now.

And Kerkorian? You just can't keep a good man (or, to be more precise, a rich man) down.

Just like in 1995, here comes Kerkorian again at the New York auto show announcing that he'll make another bid to buy Chrysler --- but this time he's only offering $4 1/2 Billion. If nothing else, Kerkorian apparently knows a good deal when he sees one and maybe he can turn this limping giant around and make it the company that Chrysler was "once upon a time". At least with him, the company is back in American control again. That alone is a step in the right direction.