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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

BONANZA STAR’S SON SELLS MEMORABILIA TO SHARE WITH REST OF WORLD

Lorne Greene, best known for playing Ben Cartwright on the television show Bonanza, is considered to be one of the most iconic people of his era and was privy to have been on what is now considered to be the second-longest-running TV Western. But Greene likely didn’t know how popular he would really become once the show went into syndication the world over, creating an even larger fan base than he probably dreamed. That may not have been his thought when he decided to leave a treasure trove of Bonanza memorabilia behind for his son when he passed away in 1987.

Treasures ranged from commemorative belt buckles to the original branding iron that was used during the beginning sequence to every episode. It’s a collection that Greene’s son now says he wants to share with the world.

A few months ago, Greene’s family contacted Anchor Auctions and Appraisals and explained that they wanted to auction off a portion of Greene’s items. As the son’s assistant explains, Greene had owned a lot of stuff and, in the end, just wanted the public to have access to it. So they got to work putting together a collection of more than 500 artifacts, including 20 from the television show, to be put up for auction. It’s not clear whether the auction, which will be open to overseas investors, was stated in Greene’s will or if the idea was that of his son who knew what about his father’s final wishes of sharing these treasures with the rest of the world. Regardless though, many Texas residents may be getting ideas about their own estates from just such a situation.

As we’ve stated in past posts, providing a detailed description of what you want to happen to your belongings and monetary assets after you pass is an important part of any estate plan. It not only ensures that the people you designate get what you want them to get, but makes sure that your final wishes are carried out exactly how you wanted.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Son of ‘Bonanza star’ Lorne Greene to auction off memorabilia,” John M. Glionna, June 27, 2013

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TRAGEDIES AND THE IMPORTANCE OF DESIGNATING GUARDIANS IN WILLS

It’s 2012 and somewhere in Kansas City, a man and a woman are fighting over the paternity of their 9-month-old daughter. The mother claims the child is not his. The man becomes enraged, killing the mother then later turning the gun on himself. With both parents gone, estate attorneys turn to the couple’s wills to determine which family member will get custody of the daughter. But because nothing was stipulated in the documents, family members on both sides begin fighting for custody of the girl.

Many of our readers may recognize this as the story of young Zoey Perkins, daughter of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Hers is a cautionary tale that teaches us that while we may not think that the worst will ever happen to us, having the a safety net in a will is always a good idea.

In Zoey’s case, two family members wanted custody of the girl: her paternal grandmother and an aunt on her mother’s side. But because no guardianship had been established prior to the parent’s untimely deaths, child custody would be in limbo until a family law judge could determine who was better suited. While both women said that they would be comfortable sharing custody of the girl–in an effort to keep her connected with both sides of her family–but the nearly 1,400 mile difference between each woman’s residence presented a problem for a judge.

Ultimately, it was decided that the girl’s aunt, who lives here in Texas, would be a better guardian for the girl after attorneys pointed out that the grandmother had a smoking habit and had had a number of police calls to her home over the years.

An important part of any estate plan for new parents would be to designate custody of your children in the event that they suddenly die or become incapacitated. Because as this story demonstrated, the ensuing custody battle can often times take a considerable amount of time to work out in the end.

Source: The Daily Mail Online, “Judge grants custody of Jovan Belcher’s $3million baby to a cousin six months after NFL player shot dead his daughter’s mother and then himself,” Rachel Quigley et al, June 20, 2013

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LETTER FROM GEORGE WASHINGTON DONATED TO UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

Donations are possibly one of the best ways to avoid pesky estate taxes when you pass away. But what if what your donation has no price tag or could be viewed as priceless in nature? Dallas’ very own oil and gas businessman Barron U. Kidd now knows the answer to that question after his surprising donation to the University of Texas at Austin this month.

So what was Kidd’s donation? A one-of-a-kind, handwritten letter by George Washington himself. There’s no telling what the letter could have fetched at auction nor will anyone ever know since Kidd handed the letter over to the university’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. It’s a priceless memento that is giving academics a rare look into the past.

As Briscoe Center Executive Director Don Carleton explains, the letter “sheds light on Washington’s views on Indian relations” from that time. In the letter, the future president writes about his outrage at the murder of three members of the Mingo tribe by white settlers, calling their actions “villainy” in nature. According to some scholars, this letter could change many of the perceptions people had about the first president and how he felt about hot-button topics of the day.

As for how Kidd came to possess the letter before his donation, sources do not say, but it’s likely that the businessman will continue his streak of being one of the university’s major donors. Some would reguard his move as an effective form of estate planning because it equally protects his assets for the future while preserving knowledge and history today.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, “Dallas businessman donates 1769 George Washington letter to UT-Austin,” The Associated Press, June 5, 2013

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WHAT IS YOUR PLAN FOR YOUR FAMILY’S HEIRLOOMS?

Everyone in Texas knows that you can’t take it with you when you die. But what might have been important to one generation quickly turns into a dust-gathering memento for the inheritor. It’s a trend the nation has been seeing more frequently lately, especially when it comes to family heirlooms.

The question we pose to our readers this week is whether they themselves have a plan for their family heirlooms. While some families are meticulous about handing things down through the generations, a growing majority of younger generations fail to see the sentimental value or importance these treasures once held to previous generations. As a result, things that were once valued are being sold to second-hand stores, away from family members they may have been intended for.

While you can’t take these things with you, a person can ensure that a treasured memento, such as a hand-carved hope chest or a set of formal china, stays in the family. This can be done through estate planning documents such as wills. A person can specify not only an inheritor of an object but can leave instructions to that person about what should be done with that object down the road.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your family members about your belongs as well. Divvying them up before your passing can not only save you time when preparing your will but you can have those serious conversations with your loved ones about why certain objects are important to you. By conveying your sentimental attachment to something, your loved ones may be more inclined to keep it in their possession down the road.

One of the major problems inheritors say they run into is having the room to put the belongings they inherit. One way to remedy this problem is to discuss estate sales. This way, the person passing on items can decide which ones they would like to see sold instead of later inheritors trying to figure out if selling something is “really what they would have wanted.”

Having these discussions and making these decisions are all part of a solid estate plan. Because in the end, if you can’t take it with you, make sure you determine its future before it’s too late.

Source: Wicked Local, “No longer save for generations, family heirlooms are being shed,” Kim Palmer, June 4, 2013

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