Many people, including myself, paused on learning of Michael Jackson’s death. While I have not searched out his music for several years, his death marks the end of an era.
Michael Jackson’s music is part of my memory of growing up. I attended his concert in October 1984 at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.
Of course, in my role as an estate litigator, other thoughts also come to mind. Namely, what issues will arise in untangling Michael Jackson’s estate?
Some of these issues are addressed in a New York Times article. One executive describes the singer’s estate as a "mess". There are clearly valuable assets, including a 50 percent share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing which owns the rights to more than 200 Beatles songs; this asset alone may be worth more than $500 million. Apparently these shares were not owned directly by the pop star, but rather by a trust controlled by his mother. The shares therefore may not fall to Michael Jackson’s estate but they would be part of his legacy.
The estate has debts too: Neverland cost many millions of dollars to operate annually and in recent years there was a $24.5 million debt against the property. Some commentators estimate Michael Jackson’s overall debt to be $400 million.
All of these issues – from copyright and real estate assets to Michael Jackson’s personal and business loans – will take many months, if not years, to sort out.
There were recent plans for a 50-concert comeback in London, England. Apparently fans had paid $90 million which will have to reimbursed and the concert preparations included payments for renovations to the venue as well as advance payments to Michael Jackson.
As the administration of Michael Jackson’s estate unfolds, I suspect there may be more related topics to be covered in our blog.
Of course, for us regular folks, estate issues that we encounter in our own lives will be simple in comparison to the challenges faced by the Jackson family. But there are some lessons: careful management of one’s affairs and good planning will lessen the load on named executors and estate trustees.
Enjoy your Monday.
It’s Hallow’s Eve – there will be candy all round tonight. Well, all weekend if we’re lucky.
And, fittingly, just in time for the sweet sound of “trick or treat” Mars, Inc. completed its purchase of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company earlier this month; the $23 billion transaction was initiated earlier this year by Mars. Two wealthy family dynasties reached a deal to secure for each giant a greater piece of the world’s confectionary market.
The privately-held Mars with its headquarters in Virginia controls information very tightly; three grandchildren of Franklin Mars apparently live on a vast ranch in Wyoming.
In 2002, after his father’s death in 1999, issues arose about Bill Wrigley Jr.’s right to vote the company shares held in a trust set up by his grandparents three decades earlier. The trusts sheltered nearly $3.2 billion, which was particularly important for him given his pending divorce. Presumably, shares held in trust are not part of the family assets to be divided at the time of divorce. The claimant insisted that the votes attached to the shares in trust were to be shared by other beneficiaries. The recent transaction seems to have smoothed over some family differences.
In Ontario, recently, Frye v. Frye Estate, 2008 ONCA 606 (CanLII) emerged with less fanfare but it is significant nonetheless. The Court of Appeal addressed the tension between a shareholders’ agreement and the rights of a beneficiary who received shares under a Will from a signatory of the agreement. The Justices seem to have neatly balanced competing estate and corporate principles.
Have a good night. Boo.
If you have recently gone on to your favourite charity’s website or received correspondence from a charity you donate to, you will likely notice an advertisement asking if you own BCE shares.
The privatization of BCE shares means that some shareholders are now looking for a way to minimize their tax liabilities from the sale of shares. Some financial advisors have advocated the direct transfer of the publically traded securities to registered charities as one way to minimize any capital gains.
Since 2006, charities seem to have benefitted from the elimination of capital gains for donated shares. In turn, charities have become more sophisticated and take a business-like approach to attracting potential donors of shares. By providing the contact information of a gift planner, easy to fill out share transfer forms with step-by-step instructions, and information about the advantages of share donation, charities are hoping shareholders donate their shares directly to them by presenting them with a win-win situation.
Additionally, charities are providing more information to potential donors about estate planning and the potential tax benefits of donations-in-kind, such as the transfer of shares. Charities and private foundations are sending the message to potential donors that donors can benefit on multiple levels through different types of donations and charities are there to assist them with their choices.
Enjoy your weekend,