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An Unusual Clause in Robin Williams’ Trust

Bigstock-Robin-Williams-arriving-at-The-58299377Even though Robin Williams has passed away, it might still be possible to see his name, likeness or voice in movies or advertisements. However, do not expect to see that happen for at least 25 years.

Dead celebrities can make a lot of money. Technology is advanced enough to make it so the celebrities' image and likeness can be made to appear alive on film. Holograms can even be used to make it appear that a deceased person is performing on stage at a theater.

For the estates that hold the rights to the likenesses of celebrities this can earn millions of dollars a year. Such is the case with the likenesses of Michael Jackson, James Dean, Betty Page and many others.

Not every celebrity, however, is comfortable with the idea of their name and likeness being used after they pass away to make money.

That appears to have been the case for Robin Williams.

Forbes reports that a trust agreement bars Williams' name or likeness from being used for 25 years in an article entitled "Why Robin Williams Won't Be Making Millions Beyond The Grave."

As the article points out, many celebrities might consider doing the same thing as Williams to avoid complicated tax issues.

However, in Williams' case there was no need to limit the use of his name and likeness for tax purposes as the rights to use his name and likeness are held by a charitable foundation.

Apparently, Williams was uncomfortable with the idea of someone else deciding how his name and likeness could be used in the years shortly after his death. For example, he may not have wanted someone else deciding that he should endorse a product that he himself would not have.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Forbes (October 27, 2015) "Why Robin Williams Won't Be Making Millions Beyond The Grave."

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Why the Value of James Brown’s Estate Matters

Bigstock-NEW-YORK-CITY-USA--SEPTEMBER-99713237 (1)Litigation over the estate of James Brown has been ongoing for nearly a decade. The issue of whether Brown was married at the time of his death has been decided, but the very important issue over how much his estate is worth has yet to be determined.

Have you been following the strange tale that is the James Brown estate?

As you may recall, his estate plan called for his music empire to be put into a charitable trust and used to help needy students. Nevertheless, despite the fact that his will contained a no-contest clause that stated that anyone who contested the will could receive nothing, the will has been the source of ongoing challenges since the musician passed away in 2006.

At one point a settlement was brokered by none other than South Carolina’s Attorney General Henry McMaster. However, that settlement was ultimately rejected by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

One of the largest questions remaining is how much is the music empire worth? Documents filed by the current trustee with the IRS valued the estate at $4.7 million, while earlier trustees valued the estate at $100 million. The full details of the dispute were reported by the Herald Independent in “The $95 million question: What's at stake in Brown estate battle?

The dispute matters greatly because charitable foundations are required to distribute at least 5% of their value to charity every year per IRS rules. Thus, there is a very large discrepancy in the total number of students that would be helped each year by the trust depending upon which valuation of the music empire is ultimately accepted by the courts.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Herald Independent (September 4, 2015) “The $95 million question: What's at stake in Brown estate battle?

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