The Last Will & Testament of Alfred Nobel

The esteemed Nobel Prize is awarded only to those who show excellence in academics, science and cultural studies. Some of the most famous recipients include Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Junior, Marie Curie & Co. and Mother Teresa. Additionally, the Red Cross has received more Nobel Prizes than any other person or organization. However, what you probably don’t know about the Nobel Prize is that it was created in Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament.

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist and inventor who invented dynamite in the mid-late 1800s. By creating an explosive that was safer and easier to handle than nitroglycerin, Nobel quickly amassed a sizable fortune. Additionally, Nobel made wise investments in oil businesses owned by his brothers and accumulated a total of 350 patents, further increasing is already substantial wealth.

When Alfred Nobel died in 1896 in Italy, his surviving family was shocked at his Will. Instead of leaving any assets to his nephews (he had no children of his own), Nobel stipulated that his fortune should be used to award prizes to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” As a result, approximately $265 million went towards the creation of the Nobel Foundation.

In Nobel’s will, he explains that the prizes are to be split into five equal parts in the following areas:

  1. “One part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics;
  2. One part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement;
  3. One part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine;
  4. One part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction;
  5. And one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Alfred Nobel’s last Will and testament is a perfect example of how a Will can affect lives after death — the world is constantly affected by his last wishes. It also shows that as a testator, you have a choice about how you want your estate and assets disposed of after your passing. If would like to discuss your estate plan with an experienced attorney in Union County or Hunterdon County of New Jersey, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

Have You Seen Prince’s Will?

Prince (Rogers Nelson) died last week (April 21, 2016). There have been endless articles about the music legend, ranging from his love of religion to how his eccentricities made him a global music phenomenon.

As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I was a Prince fan. He was such an odd character, and his music was so different, that it is hard not to feel a sense of loss from his passing.

But that’s the fan perspective. From the estate planning perspective, things are about to get very interesting. Prince’s younger sister, Tyka Nelson, said in a court filing on Tuesday (April 26, 2016), that Prince died without a Will. Ms. Nelson asked the court to appoint the St. Paul-based Bremer Bank temporary authorization over Prince’s affairs, calling the situation “an emergency.”

I personally have a hard time believing that Prince died without some Will or Trust. Prince was known to be a savvy businessperson, and the thought of his leaving his estate to the whims of Minnesota intestate law are unthinkable.

In 2015, Prince’s estate made $55 million. He owned properties in Minnesota estimated to be worth $27 million. Moreover, Prince has a massive collection of songs that he never released. Most estimates have Prince’s estate valued over $100 million, but those are early estimates. It could be worth MUCH more.

Who is going to handle all of this? Who is going to sift through all of Prince’s unreleased songs and decide which ones to release? Who is going to manage the royalties from his current songs on the radio? Who is going to manage the upkeep of his properties? How could he not have planned for this eventuality?

Under Minnesota intestate law (i.e., the default estate laws for Minnesota when there is no Will), all of Prince’s assets would be divided between his sister and his half-siblings, assuming he was not married and had no children. That’s a huge windfall for people who might not be used to vast sums of wealth, and a situation that is ripe for conflicts and lawsuits. I’ve seen people fight over $50,000 as much as they do over $500 million. And they will fight, assuming there was no plan in place for them. Prince should have created trusts for his family to protect them from themselves.

This same principle holds true for those who live in New Jersey and New York. Start asking yourself: do you have up-to-date estate documents? What will happen to your assets when you’re gone? What will happen to your intellectual property after you’re gone? Will your children inherit a windfall because you have no trusts in place to protect them from themselves?

Prince died at 57. He was young. I can’t believe he didn’t have a Will or Trust. But if the rumors and court papers are true, we could be in for a long fight ahead. Stay tuned.

If you have any estate planning questions, please feel free to call us at (908) 236-6457, or contact alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

David Bowie — Estate Planning Genius!

David-Bowie-Estate-Planning-Wills-Trusts-New-Jersey

On January 10, 2016, the world lost a music icon. David Robert Jones, also known as David Bowie, passed away from liver cancer just two days after his newest album, “Blackstar“, was released. Bowie’s legacy will always be remembered through his music, but what most people do not know, is that Bowie was also an estate planning genius.

In the 1970s & 80s, Bowie suffered hard financial times. It was even reported that Bowie was on the verge of Bankruptcy. In 1997, As Bowie was contemplating his financial options, he met with investment banker David Pullman who turned him on to an amazing idea.

Pullman convinced Bowie to sell a stake in his music, but only for a short time. Pullman helped Bowie create “Bowie Bonds,” whereby Bowie sold rights to his music for a 10-year period for $55 million, and Bowie promised a fixed-rate of return of 7.9%. The Bowie Bonds were secured though Bowie’s royalties and copyrights of his own music. Prudential Insurance Company purchased the bonds and was paid in full during the 10-year time frame. In 2007, Bowie retained the rights to all of his own music.

The amazing thing about Bowie’s revolutionary estate planning move related to Bowie’s motives. In a recent interview, Mr. Pullman emphasized the fact that Bowie created these bonds, not for his own benefit, but to ensure that his wife, Iman, and his two children would be set for the rest of their lives.

Bowie’s current estate is thought to be worth more than $200 million (although a recent estimate put it closer to $100 million), with almost half of his estate going to his wife Iman, almost half to his children, and a few specific bequests to friends. It appears Bowie used a Will and not a Revocable Living Trust in his estate plan, but this could change as we learn more about Bowie’s plan. Either way, Bowie used powerful planning strategies to save his family from the verge of financial ruin.

We should all follow Bowie’s lead and protect our own families with a thoughtful estate plan.
If you have any estate planning questions, please feel free to call us at (908) 236-6457, or email me at alec@bmcestateplanning.com.
Thanks for reading!

The Passing of an American Legend and the Fight for the Estate He Left Behind

Celebrity Estate Planning, Estate, Estate Planning, B.B. King, Family

Born and raised in the heart of Mississippi on a cotton plantation in the 1920s, B.B. King is more than a legendary musician – he is a legendary American. Over the decades, his emotional performances on his guitar “Lucille” have inspired millions to play the blues, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.

More than anything in the world, King loved to play the blues on his “Lucille,” and you can see it on his face during his performances. In fact, he played and toured well into his late 80s, up until his health prevented him from performing at the level he felt his fans deserved. On May 14, 2015, B.B. King passed away in his Las Vegas home as a result of a series of mini-strokes stemming from his type-2 diabetes.

Unlike some musicians and celebrities, King made wise financial decisions during his lifetime. While he didn’t die a billionaire, he did have a $5 million dollar nest egg saved up, in addition to various forms of revenue through royalty and licensing deals.

Days after the blues legend’s death, his daughters began fighting over King’s estate with the executor named in the will, LaVerne Toney. King’s daughters have alleged the following:

  • Family members were purposely kept away from King in his final days.
  • King was mistreated medically.
  • His funds were siphoned off shortly before his death on May 14, 2015.

Two of King’s daughters, Patty King and Karen Williams, have been especially outspoken and claim that LaVerne Toney and B.B. King’s personal assistant, Myron Johnson, were poisoning the blues legend to hasten his death.

Toney and Johnson have denied the allegations, yet an autopsy must be performed to rule out foul play. The two sisters have also enlisted the help of attorney Benjamin Crump, who previously was involved in the Trayvon Martin case.

When planning your estate, it is important that you only name an individual whom you trust with your life to be your power of attorney (POA). The music and entertainment business is rife with stories about artists and performers who give POA to their business managers only to watch their hard-earned fortunes get pilfered away.

While this does not appear to be the case with B.B. King and LaVerne Toney (in fact to the contrary as they appeared to have a great working relationship), by naming a non-family member as the executor of his will, B.B. King ensured hostility from his 11 daughters.

Questions about estate planning? For experienced estate planning guidance in Union or Hunterdon Counties of New Jersey, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

Only Fools Rush in to Estate Planning: Last Will and Testament of Elvis Presley

elvis, estate planning, will, union and hunterdon counties, new jersey

Is the king of rock and roll dead? That depends on who you ask. Many people will tell you he’s alive and well and living the good life on a deserted island with a drink in hand. Unfortunately, the king has, in fact, passed on. However, there are many lessons to be learned from the King’s estate plan.

In his prime, Elvis Presley was the highest earning celebrity. It is estimated that he earned around $1 billion during his lifetime. Why then, did his bank account contain only $5 million when he passed away in his Graceland home on August 16, 1977? It all goes back to Elvis’ manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker. Now, before we destroy Mr. Parker’s character, it’s important to note that Elvis’ manager was responsible for helping the King sign many lucrative deals. However, Parker also charged Presley a 50/50 manager’s fee — a far cry from the industry standard of 20 percent.

Additionally, Elvis lived a lavish lifestyle filled with expensive properties and automobiles. In fact, he even bought Cadillacs as gifts for members of his Memphis Mafia entourage. Parker also set up companies like Elvis Presley Enterprises in order to reduce Presley’s share to 22 percent of every dollar earned — even on merchandising. When Elvis Presley passed away, his will named his father Vernon Presley as the executor. Unfortunately for Elvis and his estate, Vernon was not financially savvy and thus turned to the ever helpful Parker for legal guidance. Parker managed to persuade Vernon that given his failing health, he should let him manage the Presley estate and receive 50 percent of all income it generated.

Fortunately, a probate investigation revealed Parker’s schemes and all agreements with Elvis’ former manager ended. Eventually, the Presley family turned Graceland into a tourist attraction that earned tens of millions of dollars every year.

Of course the major lesson to be learned from the Elvis Presley estate is choose your executor carefully. Ensure that the person you select is trustworthy and has your best interests at heart. Also, although Elvis Presley’s estate was dwindled through the scheming of Tom Parker, the King was smart enough to create a testamentary trust where his nine-old daughter Lisa Marie was named as the beneficiary.

Estate planning can be confusing, especially if you have substantial assets. With the help of a skilled attorney, you can navigate pitfalls and ensure your legacy is enjoyed by your intended heirs. For more information on estate planning in Hunterdon and Union Counties, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., by email at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

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