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*A Book Review*

Trial & Heirs

By Andrew W. Mayoras & Danielle B. Mayoras

by Michael C. Gray

June 30, 2010

Americans love gossip and hate planning for death. We like to think we’re immortal.

Andrew and Danielle Mayoras – a married couple who are both estate lawyers, use our love of gossip to teach us about estate planning and administration mistakes. Society’s "immortals," our celebrities, become examples that we can learn from.

Some of the examples are recent enough, like Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Ted Kennedy and Anna Nicole Smith, that the public remembers them and many of their cases aren’t settled yet. Have no fear, there is a web site with update information to satisfy your curiosity.

The one-year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death recently passed. When Michael passed away, his mother petitioned to be named administrator of his estate, and claimed he was intestate (didn’t have a will). It turned out Michael did have a will in which he named attorney John Branca and two others as co-executors. The court approved the three to temporarily act as Michael’s executors. Michael also had a trust that wasn’t funded. (He didn’t transfer his assets to it.) So his estate became subject to probate. Instead of the smooth private administration Michael sought, his estate ended up in a nasty, public fight.

There are also some examples of unusual stories that are included, like the farmer who was crushed by his tractor but left a valid will "In case I die in this mess, I leave all to the wife" on the fender!

To help you feel a little better if you have neglected your estate planning, Supreme Chief Justice Warren Burger left a will of only 176 words for an estate worth more than $1.8 million. His poor estate planning resulted in his family incurring thousands of dollars in legal fees that would have been unnecessary with a good estate plan.

Summaries of legal concepts and tips to "Avoid a family fight!" are included throughout the book.

One thing that becomes clear is that in many cases it can pay to contest a will or trust. In most of the cases cited where there were contests, a settlement was reached to eliminate the nuisance and get assets to the other beneficiaries. Probate courts often approve these agreements.

Trial & Heirs can be a great tool for families to initiate conversations about estate planning and what the wishes of family members are. I recommend it for families trying to learn about estate planning and for professionals trying to educate their clients.

Buy it on Amazon: Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!: ... And what you can learn from celebrity errors (2nd edition).

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Trial and Heirs, by Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, teaches estate planning and administration through the errors of the rich and famous... and the farmer who wrote his will on a tractor.


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Michael Gray, CPA
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