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Probate and Trust Lessons from the Rich and Famous

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Celebrity Probate TrustThe old saying that celebrities are just like us with more money holds true in some cases, but it definitely holds true in the realm of probate, trust administration, and estate planning. Celebrities make mistakes in timing, selecting a plan, holding onto outdated plans, or just failing to put anything in writing. Handling an incomplete or unnecessarily complicated probate or trust administration can leave even the strongest families feeling confused and frustrated during a time of grief. Failing to plan can have devastating financial repercussions as well. We can all learn more by observing the way public figures plan and then handle their otherwise private family affairs. As spectators, however, we have the advantage of observing and learning from a safe distance.

What are some of these lessons, even when the financial lives of everyday people barely resemble those of the wealthy and famous? This article appearing in Forbes.com illustrates some examples of how different celebrities’ estates affected their families and how some practical changes could have improved most of these situations.

Here are a few of the lessons taken from the article:

  1. After Patrick Swayze died, members of his family questioned the validity of his will. Some family members questioned whether the will had been forged during Patrick Swayze’s final stay in a nursing home. This type of probate challenge is called a will contest. Will contests can include signing under undue influence (force or threats), when the person lacked mental capacity , or fraud. The article points out the problem the Swayze family encountered during the will contest: challenging a will in probate court requires following the statute of limitations. The timing of the challenge is always dictated by state law and varies from state to state. Seeking an experienced Arizona probate litigation attorney allows a family’s interests to be protected within the applicable deadlines.
  1. The untimely passing of fashion designer L’Wren Scott, Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, left the famous lead singer bereaved to the point of postponing his multi-national touring shows. While the average person may be able to take time off from work to mourn the death of a loved one, the contractual obligations for unique performers like the Rolling Stones can be non-negotiable. Unfortunately for Mick Jagger, the insurance carriers that cover performance venues demanded performance on the broken contract. The lesson here is that insurance disputes can cost grieving families. Wise planning and having a strong legal strategy makes the best defense.
  1. Author Tom Clancy’s trust was drafted in such a way as to leave ambiguity regarding payment of estate taxes. The resulting lawsuit has embroiled family members against one another instead of allowing space and time to grieve and honor the late author’s memory. The lesson here is that any family with assets exceeding the state and federal estate tax exemption needs clearly drafted estate planning documents. In the event of a dispute, a trust litigation attorney can assist in clarifying ambiguities.

There are several other key lessons included in the article, so by all means, continue to read more of the article Forbes.com. For additional questions or concerns about Arizona probate litigation, Arizona trust litigation, or Arizona will contests, Berk Law Group, P.C. is here to help.

Photo Credit: ♥ Xanda ♥ via Compfight cc

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Arizona Court of Appeals Finds Appraisers Not Liable in Real Estate Disputes

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Real Estate Dispute Lawyer | Berk & Moskowitz, PCIn Arizona and throughout the country, the recent Great Recession, which “began with the bursting of an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble,” created a significant dip in the once-booming Scottsdale real estate market.

It also created a steady stream of real estate disputes.

Some homeowners found themselves with overvalued properties and few buyers were willing to pay the asking price. Others found themselves stuck with “underwater mortgages”—where the “balance of the mortgage loan is higher than the fair market value of the property.”

Both kinds of potential sellers found that the real estate market had become a distinctly buyer’s market.

Sellers who recall negotiating real estate during the 2007-2009 period may relate to the consolidated case decided recently by the Arizona Court of Appeals.  The case, which can be found in full here, Southwest Non-Profit Housing Corp. v. Nowak, Et. Al., involves three appraisers who, at different times and with different buyers, appraised residential properties at least $10,000 below the contract price.

In each instance, the sale of the residential property was contingent on the buyer’s ability to secure loans. With each of the three appraisals, the sale predictably failed to materialize due to the lender rejecting loans to the buyers. [Read more…]

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Vacant Land Loan Not Protected by Anti-Deficiency Statute

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As the metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona real estate market continues to recover, we hear less and less about foreclosures, short sales and Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes.  But there are still many foreclosure cases still winding their way through the Court system.  We expect that the Arizona Court of Appeals and perhaps the Arizona Supreme Court will continue to issue decisions clarifying the anti-deficiency statutes.  One such case, BMO Harris v. Wildwood, was just decided on January 16, 2014.  The case is significant because it clarifies what type of property qualifies for protection under the anti-deficiency statute for trustee’s sales (non-judicial foreclosures). [Read more…]

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“SHOW THE NOTE” NOT REQUIRED FOR TRUSTEE SALE

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The Arizona Supreme Court has resolved a recurring question: does the trustee have to “show the promissory note” in order to be able to foreclose by non-judicial trustee sale.  No, said the Supreme Court in its May 18, 2012 decision in Hogan v. Washington Mutual Bank.

The case involved two properties purchased by the borrower, John Hogan.  When Hogan received loans from Long Beach Mortgage Company (“Long Beach”), the properties were encumbered with deeds of trust.  Hogan defaulted on the loans, so the trustee under the deeds of trust recorded notices of trustee sales, in which it named Washington Mutual Bank and Deutsche Bank as the beneficiaries. [Read more…]

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COURT EVALUATES STANDARDS FOR “FAIR MARKET VALUE” AFTER TRUSTEE SALE

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COURT CLARIFIES BORROWERS’ RIGHTS ON JUDICIAL FORECLOSURE

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DEFICIENCY ON INCOMPLETE HOME PROTECTED BY ANTI-DEFICIENCY LAW

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COURT CLARIFIES SCOPE OF ANTI-DEFICIENCY STATUTE

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Lenders and homeowner borrowers have been waiting for clarification of various questions arising under Arizona’s anti-deficiency laws.  Today, the Arizona Court of Appeals resolved three of the key issues involving Arizona’s anti-deficiency law applicable to judicial foreclosure actions, ARS § 33-729:  (1) whether the refinancing of a purchase money loan destroys the purchase money character of the loan and the borrower loses deficiency protection; (2) whether disbursements from a construction loan to construct a residence that otherwise qualifies for protection are considered purchase money; and (3) the treatment of a construction loan when part of the loan proceeds were disbursed for purposes other than the acquisition of the property or construction of a qualifying dwelling. [Read more…]

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ASSIGNMENT OF DEED OF TRUST NOT REQUIRED BEFORE TRUSTEE’S SALE

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Arizona’s law does not require the recording of an assignment of a deed of trust before recording a notice of trustee’s sale where the beneficiary holds a promissory note that was endorsed and payable to bearer.

In Vasquez v. Saxon Mortgage, Inc., the borrower, Julia Vasquez, refinanced her home loan by signing a promissory note and deed of trust in favor of Saxon Mortgage, Inc. (“Saxon”).  Later, Saxon transfered the Note to Deutsche Bank National Trust Company as Trustee for Saxon Asset Securities Trust 2005-3 (“Deutsche Bank”).  Saxon simply endorsed the Note in blank, but the assignment of the Note was not recorded, and an assignment of the Deed of Trust was not recorded.  After Vasquez defaulted on the loan, Deutsche Bank appointed a new trustee under the Deed of Trust.  The new trustee then recorded a notice of trustee’s sale.  Thereafter, Saxon recorded an assignment of the Deed of Trust to Deutsche Bank. [Read more…]

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JP MORGAN CHASE HALTS FORECLOSURES

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Various sources have reported that JP Morgan Chase has temporarily halted foreclosures because of potentially flawed paperwork.  One issue that has arisen is reports that the people responsible for reviewing the loan documents failed to do so, such that they were actually unable to truthfully verify that the loans were in default and the amount of the default.  Chase’s stay on foreclosures follows GMAC’s halting of certain foreclosures and evictions in 23 states last week based on procedural problems in its paperwork.

According to reports, the stoppages are just temporary and will not significantly affect the overall number of foreclosures.

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