Posts by Stefanie J. Lipson
In celebration of Tax Day today, we here at Law Law Land offer tribute to our favorite celebrity/IRS run-ins. Now, lest you think this is just another list airing dirty celebrity tax laundry, think again. This is a classy publication, as you well know, so if you’re looking for dirt on which celebrities owe what, look elsewhere. . . like here, or here, or here. Instead, on this national day of tax collection, Law Law Land is pleased recognize five (or more) of our favorite celebrity tax stories of all time… so far.
Honorable Mention: Timothy Geithner
In our Honorable Mention category of “Really, Are You Kidding Me?,” we recognize former Treasury Secretary (i.e., head of the U.S. Treasury, the folks you make that tax check out to) Timothy Geithner, who underpaid his personal federal income taxes from 2001 to 2004 by failing to report and pay social security and self-employment tax on income received from the International Monetary Fund. Mr. Former Secretary subsequently amended his returns since he “should have been more careful.” We imagine he regretted his “unintentional” decision not to report that income when appearing before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearings to control the United States’ piggy bank.
Honorable Mention: Nick Diaz
In our Honorable Mention category of “How Dumb Can You Be?,” the award goes to MMA fighter Nick Diaz, who recently announced during a post-match press conference that he has “never paid taxes in his life” and “is probably going to jail.” Well, if Nick had only read about some of the other people on this list, then he definitely would have seen that coming! Continue reading the full story . . . »
A Lesson in Trust Law, or, What Happens When a Guy Makes His Girlfriend His Daughter to Avoid Paying the Parents of the Guy He Killed
Most days, this blog is all about analyzing entertainment news stories. Today, it’s just about analyzing an entertaining news story.
Forty-eight year old Florida billionaire John Goodman (owner of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, not Roseanne’s TV husband) recently shocked courts and bloggers alike with the headline-grabbing adoption of his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Hutchins, making Heather his eldest (and creepiest) of three children. But if the fact of a 48-year-old man adopting his adult girlfriend as his daughter doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, here’s betting the reason he did so will.
Goodman is currently facing both criminal DUI manslaughter charges and a wrongful death civil action for causing the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, who drowned when his car overturned and plunged into a canal after being struck by Goodman’s Bentley in February 2010. (Of course he was driving a Bentley.) Goodman could forfeit a significant portion of his net worth should the jury find against him and award punitive damages in the wrongful death case. But even if Wilson’s family wins a massive judgment against Goodman, they can’t take from what he doesn’t own — and “what he doesn’t own,” says Florida Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley (who is presiding over the wrongful death suit against Goodman), includes a $100-million irrevocable trust, created all the way back in 1991, for the benefit of Goodman’s “children.”
Observers have speculated that Goodman — knowing that his money may soon become the Wilsons’ money once their lawsuit is finished — adopted Hutchins as a way to indirectly access a fortune which the Wilsons cannot. In other words, Goodman’s maneuver seemingly isn’t so much about making Hutchins a wealthy woman as it is about keeping himself a wealthy man. The head-spinning development caused even Judge Kelley to observe that the court was entering a “legal twilight zone.” So what is really going on here? Continue reading the full story . . . »
Are Death and Taxes All That’s Left for Francis Ford Coppola After Winning the Lifetime Achievement Award?
[Ed. Note: Law Law Land's concludes its calendar-be-damned Oscar week with new contributor Stefanie Lipson, who takes on the plight of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner and his progeny.]
There is perhaps no greater culmination to a Hollywood film career than being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars (even if, these days, it doesn’t even come with a lousy on-air acceptance speech…maybe that Robert De Niro episode at the Golden Globes scared off the Academy once and for all). Just ask this year’s recipient, Francis Ford Coppola. But after all that hard work in Hollywood, all the false starts (One From the Heart, anyone?) as well as the successes (too many to name, but I’d have to go with Captain EO), the accolades and the press, and adaughter following in her father’s large footsteps, turns out Francis Ford Coppola might have been better off making his fortune another way — at least when it comes to paying estate taxes (good thing he has that winery).
As an estate planning lawyer, I can confirm that Benjamin Franklin was right about the only things certain in life being death and taxes. Inevitably, I must inform clients who start sentences with the phrase “if I die…” that it really ought to be “when I die.” (Apologies to those readers who are offended by my morbidity. You may replace the word “die” in the sentence above with the death-related euphemism of your choice. For celebrities, I suggest “go to that great Starwagon in the sky.”) And taxes are no less inevitable: as the law stands, even those lucky authors who come up with an immensely successful creative work (screenplay, television series, book, song, etc.) and have the good sense to transfer ownership of it during their lifetimes can still get hit with an estate tax bill on their copyrights when they die.
How does that make sense, and what can successful creative types do about it? Let’s discuss. Continue reading the full story . . . »