Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was a feature (albeit not in color) of my Sunday evenings as a boy (although not as much as Wild Kingdom and Bonanza). This blog entry concerns the Disney fortune and the problems that frequently arise in the generations that follow the demise of the creator of the great wealth.

The first linked article below details the troubles plaguing the Disney family today. It makes for interesting reading and will be the subject of next week’s blog entry when we will dissect the article for inaccuracies, impossibilities, and legal errors. There are three other articles linked as well in order to give you a broader context.

Because of the sums involved, there is litigation. A lot of litigation involving trustees of a Disney family trust and one of its beneficiaries. If there is a trust officer reading this, then you can be sure that at least one reader who is already cringing. Why? Read on!

Trusts are almost unique to common law jurisdictions and countries that trace their origins back to the historical peculiarities of English common law and equity. In explaining a trust to a client it is frequently difficult to explain the difference between legal ownership of trust assets (the trustee), beneficial ownership of those assets (the present and future beneficiaries), and the fiduciary duties that connect the two. Many years ago, your writer was asked to attempt to settle a dispute when a trust beneficiary was outraged that her trustee would not distribute to her approximately $1 million from trust principle to open a clothing boutique on Rodeo Drive. The beneficiary could not understand the nature and limits of the discretion that prevented the bank-trustee from agreeing to any demand made upon it. The sums spent in the litigation were very large.

More on this topic next week when we attempt to parse the facts from the reporting.

Casper Star-Tribune

News and Crime New York State

Casper Star-Tribune

Ranch Dispute in Wyoming

Rocket Miner

Wyoming News: Jackson Hole property

Cowboy State Daily

Cowboys State.com

Most of us know the name “Britney Spears” from her long show business career, which began when she was a child.  By the time she was twelve years old, she starred in The Mickey Mouse Club.  She later catapulted to stardom as a “pop” star.  Most of us are equally aware that Ms.  Spears suffered the same ill-effects from which many child stars suffer.  In 2007, she had a very public meltdown, the most visible sign was when she shaved her head and exhibited other erratic behavior.  What we do not know is the mental anguish she endured that led up to it.  This led to the conservatorship that we have read about periodically since 2008, and more frequently in the last year or so, as she has pushed back against what she alleges are wanton abuses of her person and liberty interests.  For a complete discussion, I point you to an in-depth article from The New Yorker that I found online, titled, Britney Spears’s Conservatorship Nightmare,  by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino.

The allegations range from the financial abuse by her father, who oversees her large monetary estate, to allegations that she has not been allowed to have another child, despite her fervent desire for one.  These types of allegations should resonate with everyone, as they impinge on our basic liberty interests.  However, often there is a need for a conservatorship, or as it is denominated in New York’s Mental Hygiene Law Article 81, a guardianship.  Indeed, it appears that, in 2008, it was appropriate for the California court to place Ms. Spears in a conservatorship.  What is not appropriate are the seeming flagrant abuses practiced on her by, among others, her father, under the auspices of the court.

These types of public cases shed light on the potential for abuse, and often actual abuses, by conservators or guardians and can discourage a well-meaning person from commencing a legal proceeding to have someone adjudicated as incapacitated, so that, to use New York’s term, a guardian of the person or property will be appointed for someone who needs help and support.  What New Yorkers should know is that, despite the potential for abuse, Article 81 includes certain protections for an individual alleged to be incapacitated, often referred to as the “AIP,” or, later, declared incapacitated.  For example, when an Article 81 proceeding is commenced, the court generally appoints a Court Evaluator to essentially, be the “eyes and ears” of the court.  The Court Evaluator is usually an attorney or other professional who has taken the requisite training and is on a list approved by New York’s Office of Court Administration.  It is the Court Evaluator’s duty to interview the person who commenced the proceeding, the AIP, and those people, often family members, who can shed light on the situation.  Among other things, the Court Evaluator is tasked with looking into the AIP’s finances and whether the AIP has implemented other means by which he or she can be cared for, for example, having an agent under a Power of Attorney, who can handle that person’s financial affairs.  After the investigation is concluded, and prior to the hearing, the Court Evaluator renders a report to the court with his or her findings, recommendations, and conclusions.  Additionally, the court often appoints counsel for the AIP to represent him or her during the proceeding.  At the hearing, the petitioner must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, the allegation that the AIP is incapacitated and needs a guardian and, if the court declares the AIP to be incapacitated, it is the court’s duty to grant the least restrictive powers under the particular facts to the guardian appointed.  Often, the court requires the guardian to be bonded, particularly, if he or she will be responsible for an appreciable sum of the AIP’s money.

The court’s supervision of the guardianship process does not end with the appointment of a guardian.  Ninety days after the guardian has qualified, that person must render an initial report to the court and to a court examiner, who is usually an attorney with special training, showing what the guardian has done both with the incapacitated person’s (“IP”) finances and also how the IP is faring personally.   Then, the guardian must file an annual report every year in May.  Each report is reviewed by the court examiner and, if all is found to be in order, the court issues an order approving the report.  Guardians are subject to removal by the court for abuse of the IP’s person or property.  Further, the IP can petition the court to terminate the guardianship, assuming the IP has the mental status to do so.  One hopes these protections are sufficient to protect New Yorkers from what is alleged to have happened to Britney Spears.

But, as we know, abuses occur, and sometimes go undetected.  What then?  A Democratic Representative from Florida and a Republican Representative from South Carolina recently introduced their “Freedom and Right to Emancipation from Exploitation Act” (“FREE Act”).  If the FREE Act is passed, an individual would have the right to have his or her guardian replaced with an independent guardian without having to prove any abuse by the guardian.  The bill also would provide incapacitated persons with independent case workers and other safeguards, necessary when the IP cannot advocate for himself or herself.  Stay tuned.

A story is told about a conversation between two great writers on the nature of wealth. F. Scott Fitzgerald, very enamored of the leisure class, is reputed to have said to Ernest Hemingway: “The rich are different from you and me.” In reply, Hemingway said: “Yes, they have more money.” And then there is the old joke that I won’t repeat here other than to deliver the punch line, “It was either that or dip into principal.”

One of the major goals of estate planning is to make the lives of one’s descendants as pleasant as possible. Pleasant but not dissolute. In a similar vein, John Adams  wrote to his spouse Abigail, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy . . .commerce, and agriculture, . . in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, . . .”

In this blog entry, we cite to some useful resources that consider the ways the successful entrepreneur may see his or her grandchildren studying or responsibly enjoying the finer things of life rather than ending up on Page 6 of the New York Post. Obviously, there is no substitute for careful individualized planning that takes into account not just your assets but your family circumstances, the character of your children and grandchildren, etc.  Consider this entry as food for thought.

What the coming $68 trillion Great Wealth Transfer means for financial advisors

CNBC.com

Managing the Psychological Impact of Inherited Wealth

TheFBCG.com

Four reasons intergenerational wealth is destroyed in 3 generations

Advisor.com

How to Help Your Family Wealth Last for Generations

Kiplinger.com

 

 

 

I would rather have it said, ‘He lived usefully,’ than, ‘He died rich.’

  • Benjamin Franklin

Many people erroneously ascribe to Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, an ideological  hostility to taxation that he did not in fact espouse. In his time, he would have been known as a “moral philosopher,” and his first work of any consequence was called, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

The tax code has always recognized the multiple goals of taxation. Aside from revenue for the government, there is the intent to equalize the distribution of wealth, the desire to foster certain behaviors deemed ethically beneficial to society as a whole, etc. The charitable deduction provided by the Internal Revenue  Code is an illustration of the goal to foster a charitable attitude and behavior in those who have achieved a measure of wealth. As with any generalized goals, there are opportunities for abuse. President Biden’s administration is looking to curb what it considers to be abuse in the use of the charitable deduction. Here is a link to a recent article that is relevant.

How can one resist an article that begins as follows:

“Last December, two Atlanta tax professionals pled guilty to a scheme that defrauded the IRS of more than $250 million in taxes.

“The scam claimed more than $1.2 billion in fraudulent charitable deductions through so-called syndicated conservation easements, a strategy most taxpayers probably have never heard of. . .

“. . . In the case of the Atlanta tax professionals, they promised more than $4 in charitable tax deductions for every $1 invested with “no economic risk.”

“Congress May Curb Abuses of This Charitable Deduction Used by the Wealthy”

CNBC.com

Here is a potpourri (and you thought that was just a Jeopardy category) of recent articles touching on the world of Trusts and Estates. Hey, you can’t expect a musical entry every week.

From Forbes:

Estate Tax Nightmare: Three Weddings, Two Funerals, And A Mexican Divorce:

“. . .this week’s topic offers a critical observation on the IRS’s litigation position on the applicability of foreign and religious law for federal estate tax purposes. After reading the recent U.S. Tax Court memorandum opinion in Estate of Grossman, one reckons this is a case the government should not have brought.”
Forbes.com Tax Notes 2021

 

From Market Watch:

How Peter Thiel turned $2,000 in a Roth IRA into $5,000,000,000

“Roth individual retirement accounts were created to help middle-class earners set aside money for retirement with no taxes due upon withdrawal. But PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has used his Roth IRA to amass a $5 billion nest egg.”

Marketwatch.com

 

From the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils

Note: This is a terrific group of professionals. Each local council brings together professionals from the world of estate planning, from attorneys to accountants to insurance experts, to accredited financial planners to trust officers, etc. The organization’s national journal is open to the public and is frequently the source of informative and useful information.

The Journal of Estate and Tax Planning:

NAEPCJournal.org

 

From Above the Law and The New York Times

What the heck is going on with Brittany Spears and her guardianship?

“To watch superstar Britney Spears’s conservatorship publicly unfold, for more than a decade, is a unique experience. It is a peek into a courtroom that most people will otherwise never see. Unlike a personal injury case or a murder trial, in conservatorships the public does not hear the testimony or see the entirety of the evidence. We are not shown confidential medical reports or sensitive psychological notes. Simply put, we do not know the reasons why Spears has a conservatorship or why it is has subsisted for so long.”

Above the Law.com

New York Times Music and Arts

 

 

 

In this week’s New York Trusts and Estates blog entry, Sally M. Donahue discusses one of the many recent changes to the law regarding statutory short form Powers of Attorney, that change being the possible award of monetary damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs against a third party who is found to have acted unreasonably when it refused to honor the agent’s authority under a validly executed statutory Power of Attorney.

You did your estate planning.  As part of it, you executed a Power of Attorney appointing an agent or agents you trust to handle the financial and legal affairs you designate in a document that comports with all the requirements of New York General Obligations Law.  On June 12, 2021, your agent takes the document to your bank, so he or she can handle your banking transactions for you.  The bank officer tells your agent that it will not accept the form.  The proffered reason?  Your document was validly executed, but the bank requires its customers to use the bank’s form. What was your recourse against the bank?  Pretty much none.

Well, with the recent overhaul of Article 5, Title 15, of New York’s General Obligations Law, which governs short form Powers of Attorney, you are in luck.  As of June 13, 2021, the effective date of the changes, under New York General Obligations Law Section 5-1510[3], the principal (the person acting for himself or herself who signs the Power of Attorney), the agent or agents named in the Power of Attorney, “the spouse, child or parent of the principal, the principal’s successor in interest, or any third party who may be required to accept a power of attorney” can commence a special proceeding in court for a number of reasons, one of which is to compel a third party, here the bank, to accept your Power of Attorney and the agent’s authority to act in your stead.  Here comes the good part:  If the court determines that the bank (or other third party) “acted unreasonably” when it refused to honor your Power of Attorney and, hence, your agent’s authority under it, the court may award damages, including reasonable attorney’s fees and costs (NY GOL § 5-1504[4][b]).  Damages could be appreciable.  For example, perhaps, your agent had been unable to access funds with which to timely pay your income taxes, resulting in interest and penalties, or even a tax audit.  The remedy of damages, attorney’s fees and costs is available even if the Power of Attorney was executed prior to June 13, 2021, using an old form, so long as the form was proper and validly executed.

This change will give banks and other third parties something on which to chew.

 

 

 

 

The new Power of Attorney statute is in effect, as of June 13, 2021. Signed into law late last year, it has been the subject of intense study by trusts and estates attorneys (and many others as well). The new Power of Attorney law makes many substantial changes to the old law. The old law, in effect since only 2009, was cumbersome and difficult to understand, navigate, and execute. The execution of the old form was frequently more involved than the execution of the client’s Will.  Even if everything was done perfectly, one frequently found financial institutions balking at accepting the power of attorney unless their own in-house form was used. The new law seeks to remedy these and other problems created by its predecessor.

Here is a link to The National Law Review and its useful summary of the new law. There are many other resources available on the internet, but all should warn the reader of the need for experienced counsel when contemplating granting a power of attorney to someone.

Finally, what is a power of attorney?   It is the grant of authority that allows an agent to act on a principal’s behalf in a wide variety of legal transactions. The power of attorney is among the most powerful (and dangerous) documents one can sign – it gives powers over your personal and financial affairs that are sweeping. It can also be a great benefit to provide for a loved one’s disability and avoiding the expense and delays that can be associated with its alternative, a guardianship under the Mental Hygiene Law. Many times in the distant past I advised a soldier to refrain from giving the power of attorney to a significant other, against standard Army and National Guard mobilization doctrine. Why?  I have seen too many instances of the soldier returning from overseas only to find his or her significant other gone along with the soldier’s bank account.

The National Law Review:  National Law Review NY State POA Changes

The government just issued its “Green Book,” the summary of the President’s proposed changes to the tax laws. Perhaps the recent leaks from the IRS about the income taxes paid by some of our wealthiest citizens will have an impact on these proposals.

From Wealth Management, an article (see link below) that is a comprehensive and useful review:

“President Biden’s primary plan to tax HNW (High Net Worth) families’ estate-planning structures is by making death, lifetime gifts and exceeding maximum holding periods for assets in trust recognition events for income tax purposes. The resulting income tax would be in addition to the potential gift, estate and generation skipping transfer (GST) taxes that may be imposed. This proposal, while alarming for many, isn’t new.”

And now for something completely different and more enjoyable. Another kind of green book.

A close friend of mine, a retired artist no longer in the world, spent much of his career as a commercial artist in advertising. When he retired to the desert in southern New Mexico (perhaps to get away from the Mad Men and to pursue his art in peace).

Charlie and I kept in touch to share our loves of opera, European Classical Music, American Classical Music (i.e., Jazz),  Notre Dame sports, Bob Dylan, myth, etc. Charlie hated critics with a passion (“those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”) that only an artist can understand. When he retired he was able to make a living from his own art rather than the commercial work required of him by his job.

More than a decade ago, after arthritis had prevented Charlie from painting in oils, he took to digital art. I am proud to say that I suggested to him that he translate his images, both oils and digital, to Youtube videos accompanied by the music that he loved, especially from artists we both believed were under appreciated, like Dr. Don Shirley, Oliver Nelson, Gundula Janowitz, and Franco Corelli. His first effort was a selection from Dr. Shirley, the first time his music appeared on YouTube. It opened up a whole new world for my friend and he was thrilled when a relative of Dr. Shirley reached out to thank him for remembering his music. Now there are many YouTube videos of Don Shirley.

Lo and behold, they recently made a movie about Dr. Shirley called Green Book. This other  “green book” was a publication that some Americans had to use to determine where they could stay, where they could eat, how they could travel, even where they could go in the days of Jim Crow because other Americans refused them the right of free association.

For more on the green books, and in honor of my late friend Charlie and in honor of Dr. Don Shirley, here are three links:

The US Treasury’s Green Book.

Hometreasury.gov General Explanations

A review of the government’s Green Book’s impact on estate planning, from Wealth Management.

Wealthmanagement.com Estate Planning Implications

And finally, my late friend’s first venture on YouTube. Charlie was delighted with replies from some grateful listeners. RIP, Charlie. We’ll meet again, by the Sí Mór near Yeats’s Seven Woods or at one of the ancient pueblos of New Mexico where your dear wife’s  Anasazi ancestors lived. Perhaps we’ll meet Dr. Shirley there jamming with Mozart (although you would prefer Beethoven).

Youtube.com watch

As a trusts and estates practitioner, part of my practice is to help my clients formulate an estate plan.  The plan usually includes a Will, a Heath Care Proxy, a Living Will and a Power of Attorney.  Some people opt to place some or all of their assets in a Trust.  Assets also can be titled jointly with right of survivorship or with pay-on-death beneficiary designations.  After these documents are executed and the designations made, many people close the book on their estate planning and get on with their lives.  These people are ahead of the curve, unlike those people who do not plan for the inevitable.  However, estate planning is something that is fluid and should be reconsidered periodically, especially if a person’s marital status changes, if one becomes a parent or grandparent, as one’s wealth increases or decreases, and in respect to retirement plans and goals.

There is a nexus between estate planning and planning for one’s retirement.  The nexus gets stronger as we grow older and closer to retirement.  The lesson, though, is that it is never too soon to consider the tie-in between retirement and estate planning.  Both impact on how one’s assets will be used, both during one’s life, and after one passes.  Both impact not only on the person, but also on his or her family, including the next generations.  In that regard, there are two recent articles that address these topics, albeit from different angles.  The articles are food for thought, and I refer you to them.

The first article is from Investor’s Business Daily and is entitled, “Seven Retirement Myths Debunked.”  In the article, author, Donald Jay Korn, rethinks seven common retirement planning techniques, including the tenet that one should maximize one’s 401(k) contributions.

The second article is from Kiplinger and is entitled, “Planning for Retirement Assets in Your Estate Plan.”  Author Kathleen A. Stewart, an Accredited Investment Fiduciary and a Senior Wealth Strategist with BNY Mellon Wealth Management, examines the categories of assets that she recommends one should utilize planning for and during retirement versus the assets a person should pass down to maximize all of one’s assets, hence, the tie-in between retirement planning and estate planning,.

Both article are worth reading and may make you rethink your short-term and long-term planning.  The links to the articles are below.

Investors.com Retirement Planning Mistakes and Commom Myths Debunked

Kiplinger Planning for Retirement

 

 

The challenge of maintaining a law blog is to keep it fresh and to make it interesting to a broader audience than attorneys. One of our recent blog entries discussed the debts of a decedent and whether a decedent’s family would be personally responsible for those debts. (Short answer – no.) This entry will explore a somewhat related topic, the three A’s of estate administration: Apportionment, Abatement, and Ademption. It comes with a promise to make it interesting and even entertaining. ( For the attorneys who may be reading this, the statutory authorities for these concepts can be found in EPTL 2-1.8 (tax apportionment),  EPTL 13-1.3 (abatement), EPTL 3-4.2,  3-4.3 (ademption), and SCPA 1811 (order of decedent’s debts).

Let’s begin with a fictional Will that was admitted to probate. The names of the testator and beneficiaries are all geniuses of the Jazz piano[1] (except the two ringers for you to find).[2] The names are listed in order of their greatness, in your writer’s humble opinion. The values of the testamentary gifts are added in parentheses for later use in hypotheticals. The Will provide as follows:

I, Art Tatum, domiciled in the beautiful borough of Brooklyn in the City of New

York, being of sound mind and disposing disposition, do hereby declare and publish this my Last Will and Testament . . .

 Article FIRST. I give my 1969 ZL1 Camaro (value: $450,000.00)[3] to my dear friend, Oscar Peterson. Should he predecease me, then to my devoted fan Michael P. Ryan.

 Article SECOND.  I give my bank account and all its contents at the time of my death ($400,000.00) in the Alaska Savings and Loan Association, account number 1234567, to my dear friend, Thelonious Monk;

 Article THIRD

                           I give my dear friend McCoy Tyner the sum of $100,000.00;

                           I give my dear friend Bud Powell the sum of $100,000.00;

                           I give my dear friend Mary Lou Williams the sum of $100,000.00;

                           I give my dear friend Ahmad Jamal the sum of $100,000.00;

                           I give my dear friend Nat Cole the sum of $100,000.00;

                           I give my dear friend Eddie Palmieri the sum of $100,000.00;

 Article FOURTH.  I give and devise my home in East Hampton, New York (value: $1,700,000.00) to my dear friend, Herbie Hancock, should he predecease me then to my dear friend Johann Sebastian Bach; and

 Article FIFTH.   I give all the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate wherever situate equally to my two dear friends  Red Garland and Bill Evans (value: $1,850,000.00).

Total estate:

$ 450,000.00

   400,000.00

   100,000.00

   100,000.00

   100,000.00

   100,000.00

   100,000.00

   100,000.00

1,700,000.00

5,000,000.00            gross probate estate

Hypothetical 1:   The estate owes the IRS an estate tax of $300,000.00 , and the Will is silent as to how those taxes are to be paid. Who pays the tax?

Answer: Because the Will is silent on the payment of taxes, the tax is apportioned equally among the beneficiaries under EPTL 2-1.8. ($300,000 ÷ $5,000,000 = 0.06, or 6%). Therefore, each beneficiary must contribute 6% of his or her legacy to the taxes. If one or more balks? The relevant statute covers that situation and empowers the executor to bring suit to collect the share and to receive legal fees for the effort. But the IRS doesn’t care and holds the executor primarily liable for the payment, and requires the fiduciary to “chase” the beneficiary for reimbursement.

Hypothetical 2: What if the Will contained a provision that read, “All taxes of my estate are to be paid as administration expenses.”

Answer: The governing statute, EPTL 2-1.8, is a default statute and can be varied by the will. Here, the Will requires the taxes be paid from the residuary estate. Did the testator intend that result? Does an attorney ever discuss with a client the tax payment clause? Who knows? Here, the $300,000 comes out of the residuary bequest to Red Garland and Bill Evans.

Hypothetical 3:  If Art’s estate owes Louis Armstrong[4] the sum of $2,450.000.00, how is the debt discharged from estate assets?

Answer: Debts of the decedent, apart from taxes, are paid in an order established by statute, EPTL 12-1.2 (unless changed by the will). The order of payment is:  distributees; then residuary beneficiaries, then general or demonstrative beneficiaries, and then finally from specific beneficiaries. Therefore, the entire residuary gift to Red Garland and Bill Evans is wiped out and so too are all of the general legacies to McCoy Tyner, Bud Powell, Mary Lou Williams, Ahmad Jamal, Nat Cole, and Eddie Palmieri.($1,850,000 + $600,000 = $2,450,000)

Hypothetical 4:  If Art’s estate owes Miles Davis[5] the sum of $3,000.000.00, how is the debt discharged from estate assets?

Answer: Once the residuary estate and the general bequests are wiped out, the estate is left owing Mr. Davis the sum of $550,000. That sum must be paid from the specific bequest of the Camaro, the specific bequest of the bank account, and the specific devise of the beach house. Their value exceeds the amount owed ($2,550,000 vs. $550,000). The amount owed is app. 22% of the value of these testamentary gifts so each beneficiary should contribute that share to the remaining amount owed. If not, then there are remedies for the executor but we need not get into that.

Hypothetical 5:  If Art’s estate owes the IRS an estate tax of $3,000,000.00, and if Art’s estate owes Dizzy Gillespie a debt of $4,000,000.00, then how are these liabilities paid?

Answer: This one is easy, the obligations are more than the estate’s value. The IRS gets its $3,000,000. The IRS always gets its money The remaining $2,000,000 of assets in the estate are sold and the proceeds used to pay the debt to Mr. Gillespie. In other words, the creditor gets $0.50 on the dollar. Can Mr. Gillespie choose to take the assets in kind? Yes, and they may be excellent investments.(Especially that Camaro.)

Hypothetical 6:  If Art’s estate owes its attorneys and accountants $1,000,000.00, and if Art’s estate owes Clifford Brown a debt of $2,000,000.00, then how are these liabilities paid?

Answer: Administration expenses like attorneys’ fees, accountants’ fees, etc., are favored more than private debts, more then taxes in many respects. If they weren’t, then who would ever represent an estate? Here, the $1 million in fees reduces the residuary from $1.85 million to $850,000. Mr. Brown gets that $850,000 and the remaining $1,150,000 he is owed wipes out the general bequests totaling  $600,000, leaving an amount still owed of $550,000 that must be shared by the beneficiaries as calculated in Hypothetical 4.

Hypothetical 7:  If Art’s estate owes its attorneys and accountants $1,000,000.00, and if Art’s estate owes Wynton Marsalis a debt of $2,000,000.00, Arturo Sandoval a debt of $2,000,000.00, and Fats Navarro a debt of $2,000,000.00, then how are these liabilities apportioned?

Answer: Again, as in Hypothetical 6, administration expenses like attorneys’ fees, accountants’ fees, etc., are favored. Here, the $1 million in fees reduces the residuary from $1.85 million to $850,000.The remaining value of the estate ($4 million) is less than the debts owed of $6 million. Therefore, each creditor receives 2/3 of the amount owed ($4 million / $6 million).

Hypothetical 8: Before his demise, and through no fault of his own, Mr. Tatum’s Camaro was totaled in an accident. The insurance proceeds were paid to his executor a month after his death. Do the insurance proceeds belong to the specific legatee, Oscar Peterson?  If not, then how are they distributed?

Answer: Yes, but only because they were paid post-mortem. If they were paid to Mr. Tatum before he died, then they would be assets of the residuary estate (EPTL  3-4.5) and the bequest to Mr. Peterson would “adeem” (i.e., end, be ineffective) and he would be entitled to nothing from the estate.(Likewise, if Mr. Tatum no longer owned the beach house when he died, then Herbie Hancock is entitled to nothing from the estate.).

Thank you for coming this far. If anyone would care to dispute my ranking of these greats, please feel free to let me know and we can battle it out. Future efforts will next deal with the great drummers, bassists, saxophonists, etc. Consider yourself warned.

And last but not least, this blog entry is being published on the occasion of Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday, sir, many healthy and happy returns of the day to our most worthy Nobel Laureate.

[1]  Inspired by the music itself, and the opinions of Dr. Billy Taylor and Max Roach, your writer prefers the term “American Classical Music” as a companion to “European Classical Music.”  It was difficult to leave out  many other artists, but what can one do? Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Horace Silver, Bebo Valdéz, Chucho Valdéz, James P. Johnson, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Erroll Garner (who does not own a copy of his “Concert by the Sea”?), Eddie Palmieri, Ramsey Lewis, Joe Zawinul, Brad Mehldau, Albert Ammons, Keith Jarrett, Kenny Barron, Wynton Kelly, Cecil Taylor, Dr. Billy Taylor.   All great,  all worthy of your attention.   And then there is the “younger” generation of musical genius like Hiromi, Gerald Clayton, Vijay Iyer, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Renee Rosnes, Bill Charlap, Fabian Almazan, Ashley Henry, and many others.

[2]  Of the two ringers, one of them no more belongs on this list than does Fred Flintstone, the other is a Baroque genius who could swing with any of these artists. In fact, the Baroque period of the European Classical tradition shares many features with the America Classical tradition, i.e., Jazz –  the musical inventiveness, the love of improvisation,  origins in dance rhythms,  roots in religious music,  speed, experiments with harmony and melody, and  the “cutting” contests between masters.

[3]  Yes, $450,000. This Camaro was among the most beautiful and perhaps the rarest, meanest muscle car ever to come off the American assembly line. Few did, hence their current value.

[4]  The creditors are the immortals of the trumpet, again listed in order of importance, in your writer’s opinion. Feel free to mock, criticize, or change my order in the comments if you like. Who among us does not own an album by Louis Armstrong?

[5]  Who among us does not own the album Kind of Blue? You don’t? Shame on you.