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Estate Battle with Millions at Stake in New Orleans

Estate Battle with Millions at Stake in New Orleans

Jessica Fussell Brandt filed an eviction petition against her daughter, Julie Hartline, her son-in-law Darryl Hartline and two grandchildren, Alexis and Zachary Hartline. She is pitted against them in a legal fight over an estate valued at more than $300 million, reports nola.com in the article “In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound.”

Before auto magnate Ray Brandt died at age 72 from pancreatic cancer, the entire family shared a compound that includes two mansions located next to the Metairie Country Club. Brandt has been trying to sell the property which belongs to the estate, as its executrix. The family members living there don’t want to move, even taking down “For Sale” signs from the lawn.

Her attempt to evict them comes after she won a case in her attempt to maintain control of her late husband’s estate, which includes a large number of auto dealerships and collision centers across Louisiana and Mississippi.

On January 25, a Jefferson Parish judge invalidated the last will and testament that Ray Brandt signed just weeks before his death and another last will drafted in 2015. The district judge ruled that both last wills contained a flaw in how they were notarized: neither notarization specified that Ray Brandt, the witnesses, and the notary were together when it was signed.

The decision is being appealed, but it appears to leave the fate of Brandt’s empire to a last will he made in 2010. Unlike the others, this last will places Jessica Brandt in full control of his estate and trust, including the auto dealerships, until her death.

Ultimately, Ray Brandt directed that her grandchildren, who he legally adopted as adults before he died, would split the estate’s assets.

Despite issuing a statement saying that Jessica was “pleased with the prospect beginning the healing process,” after the Jefferson Parish decision, the eviction filing revealed that Jessica’s attorneys sent an email urging family members to leave the property by January 31, 2021.

Jessica made a statement that her wish to evict family members was a result of the multiple citations issued by Jefferson Parish for continuing violations at the compound. The latest one was for a trailer and mud buggy parked in a driveway on a vacant lot. She also said that the family members own two other homes, one in Metairie and one in Fort Beauregard.

The compound where the family settled seven years ago is estimated to be worth more than $8 million.

The heart of the dispute pits Jessica Brandt against Archbishop Rummel High School principal Marc Milano, who Ray Brandt named as a trustee to oversee the auto group and the rest of the estate until Jessica Brandt dies. Milano has accused Jessica of taking money from the estate and trying to claim an ownership interest in the dealership. She sued him for defamation.

Now the grandchildren have filed their own legal action, challenging a petition to put Ray Brandt’s last will into effect. Their argument is the trust that Ray Brandt set up in 2015 makes it clear that he meant for Milano to oversee the assets.

This estate battle will no doubt keep the Jefferson Parish courts and newspapers busy for some time. It’s a lesson to keep your family’s business private, by ensuring that your estate plan is properly prepared and up to date.

Reference: nola.com (Feb. 3, 2021) “In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound”

Read more related articles at:

Fate of Ray Brandt’s auto empire in doubt amid roiling family squabble over estate

‘Stop all of this!’ Ray Brandt’s widow bemoans the family battle over his massive estate

In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Celebrity Estates: Battle Over Inheritances

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Chadwick Boseman

What Does Entertainer Chadwick Boseman’s Estate Look Like?

What Does Entertainer Chadwick Boseman’s Estate Look Like?

What Does Entertainer Chadwick Boseman’s Estate Look Like? Chadwick Boseman passed away in late August after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He died without a will, and his estate is estimated at $938,500, according to papers filed in Los Angeles County probate court.

Boseman is best known for the movie “Black Panther,” as well as “42,” “Get on Up” and “Marshall.” He appeared earlier this year in Spike Lee’s “Da Five Bloods.”

USA Today’s recent article entitled “Chadwick Boseman’s wife seeks to administer estate of ‘Black Panther’ star, who died with no will” reports that in the court papers, Boseman’s wife, Simone Ledward (referred to in the documents by her legal name, Taylor Simone Ledward), asked to be appointed administrator with limited authority over the actor’s estate.

When there is no will to designate an executor, state law or a judge will make that determination. Most states say that the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner, if any, is the first choice. An adult child is then usually next on the list, followed by other family members.

If there’s no will, state law will direct what happens to property. If the deceased person was married, the surviving spouse typically gets the largest share.

Distant relatives inherit, only if there is no surviving spouse and if there are no children. If no relatives can be found, the state gets the assets.

In addition to Ledward, the actor is survived by his parents, Leroy and Carolyn Boseman, who are also named in the papers. Boseman’s family, including Ledward, were by his side when he died at his Los Angeles home.

According to People, Boseman and Ledward became engaged in 2019 and their last public appearance together was at the NBA All-Star Game in February in Chicago.

Boseman paid tribute to his wife during an acceptance speech at the 2019 NAACP Image Awards. “Simone, you’re with me every day. I have to acknowledge you right now. Love you.” Ledward blew him a kiss and mouthed back the words, “I love you.”

Reference: USA Today (Oct. 16, 2020) “Chadwick Boseman’s wife seeks to administer estate of ‘Black Panther’ star, who died with no will”

Read more related articles at :

‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman died without a will. Here’s why you should have an estate plan

What happens to Debt when you die

What Happens to Debt when You Die?

What Happens to Debt when You Die?

When a person dies, it’s not unusual for them to leave behind some unpaid debt. What happens to that debt depends upon how their estate was organized, says the article “This is how your unpaid debts are handled if you pass away” from CNBC.com. The estate consists of whatever is owned, whether the person was wealthy or not. It includes financial accounts, real estate and personal possessions.

For surviving spouses, this can be worrisome. In most instances, they are not responsible for their spouse’s debt, but there are some exceptions. Here’s how it works.

Paying off all debts and then distributing the remaining assets is part of the probate process. Every state has its own laws regarding how long creditors have to make a claim against the estate. In some states, it’s a few months, in others it can last a few years. An estate planning attorney in your state will know how long the estate is vulnerable to creditors.

In most states, funeral expenses take priority, then the cost of administering the estate, followed by taxes and hospital and medical bills. However, not all assets are necessarily part of the estate, and this is where estate planning is important.

Life insurance policies, qualified retirement accounts and other assets with named beneficiaries go directly to the beneficiaries and do not pass through probate. The same goes for assets placed in trusts, as does jointly owned property, as long as it has been properly titled.

With the right planning, it is possible that an entire estate, including one that is insolvent, could be passed on to heirs outside of probate, leaving creditors high and dry. However, there are a handful of states that have “community property laws” that make debt more complicated.

The law in these states views both assets and certain debt accumulated during the marriage as being owned by both spouses, even if it is only in the decedent’s name. That includes debt like medical expenses or a mortgage. However, that’s not the final word. A well-structured letter with a copy of the death certificate can sometimes lead to the debt being discharged. During the probate process, the company holding the debt should be advised that the estate has little or no assets to cover the debt and ask that it be forgiven.

This does not apply to co-signing on a loan. Although the request can be made, it is not likely to be honored. Federal student loans are forgiven if the student dies, which seems a matter of kindness. Parent PLUS loans, which are loans taken out by parents to help pay for education, are usually discharged, if the student or parent dies.

Your estate planning attorney can help structure your estate to protect your surviving spouse and family members from creditors.

Reference: CNBC.com (July 31, 2020) “This is how your unpaid debts are handled if you pass away”

Read more related articles at:

What Happens to Credit Card Debt When You Die?

Who Is Responsible for Your Debt After Your Death?

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

Does My Mom Have to Pay My Dad’s Credit Card Debt after He Dies?

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