50 Years and 90 Million

Fifty years ago in 1973, over 90 million Americans placed their lives on pause to take in a major event.  Were they recognizing the Paris Peace Accords bringing an end to the participation of the United States in Vietnam?  No.  Were they celebrating or protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade?  Not even close.  Did they gather to figure out how to address OPEC’s 200% increase in the price of oil?  Nah.  Perhaps they joyously cheered on Secretariat becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years?  Nope, but getting closer.

September 20 represents the fifty year anniversary of the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.  Before 30,472 fans in attendance at the Houston Astrodome and 90 million television viewers, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) in this captivating, cultural exhibition tennis match.

Foremost, consider the viewership of 90 million in 1973.  Those figures rival current Super Bowl numbers.  In 1973, merely 50 million people watched the Super Bowl with the 90 million mark in viewership for the Super Bowl not achieved until the 1990s.  1973 television, quite simply, had not developed into the mega-entertainment medium which we take for granted today.  Across the country, television markets consisted of CBS, NBC and ABC national networks with some local stations in the mix.  Cable television remained an infant.  Many Americans received their news and sports over transistor radios or through newspaper accounts.  The King-Riggs match represented so much more than tennis for America in 1973 America.

1973 witnessed the Equal Rights movement in full swing.  Congress would not pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution with a state-by-state battle then set to determine if the ERA would be adopted.  The Battle of the Sexes tennis match hit at the heart of the cultural hot buttons of the time.

Billie Jean King, then 29 years old already with ten Grand Slam titles under her belt, played the determined underdog, well-focused on the task of defeating Bobby Riggs.  But every good tale needs a villain – enter Bobby Riggs.  Riggs, then 55 years old and well past his prime, had defeated tennis star Margaret Court earlier in 1973.  He viewed this new tennis match with King with disdain.

Leading up to the match, the outspoken Riggs embraced the male chauvinist role with quotes to the Press such as: “she’s a woman and they don’t have the emotional stability.”  Riggs added this gem: “women belong in the bedroom and the kitchen, in that order.”  Riggs channeled his inner P.T. Barnum to drum up interest in the tennis match.

Riggs’ showmanship continued during the match itself.  Riggs entered the tennis court via rickshaw surrounded by statuesque women.  He wore a warm up jacket with “Sugar Daddy” emblazoned across the back.  To show his contempt, Riggs wore the warm up jacket for the first three games of the first set of the match.  However, unlike his match against Margaret Court earlier that year, Riggs clearly appeared out of shape for the battle with King.  Billie Jean King rather easily volleyed shots past Riggs en route to her straight sets victory.

Billie Jean King used this new, larger than life, podium to help create the Women’s Tennis Association.  She threatened to boycott the U.S. Open Tennis Championship unless male and female athletes received equal pay.  The U.S. Open became the first major tennis tournament, and perhaps first major professional athletic championship, to offer equal prize money among the sexes.  King continued as a staunch advocate for equal rights, ultimately retiring in 1984 with 39 Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles championships.

As for Bobby Riggs, he made a lifelong friend in Billie Jean King until his death in 1993.  Many believed that this genuine, respectful friendship confirmed the extreme chauvinism as an act by Riggs leading up to the Battle of the Sexes.  But was there more?

Almost as quickly as the 1973 tennis match concluded, the rumors of Riggs throwing the match began to circulate.  Do not mistake, Billie Jean King outplayed Riggs in every manner possible.  Riggs simply did not appear as himself and completely out of shape for a match of this caliber.  Even before the historic encounter on the court, Riggs was a well-known gambler in Las Vegas.  He placed wagers on all sports, including events in which he participated.  Indeed, given his reputation as a gambler, the London sports parlors refused to offer wagering on the King-Riggs tennis match.

Vegas had no problem offering odds on the big match.  The oddsmakers installed Riggs as a heavy favorite.  The male oddsmakers figured that Riggs was a man battling a woman.  More seriously, Riggs had beaten then tennis number 1, Margaret Court, rather handily but a few months earlier.  Riggs could certainly handle a “lesser” opponent in tennis number 2, Billie Jean King.

The training regimen for Riggs leading up to that September included meeting with reporters and bad-mouthing women in general.  Announcer Howard Cowell quickly commented how Riggs appeared out of shape.  Riggs could not run down shots which he easily had done a few months earlier.  The heavily favored Riggs was in trouble from the first serve.  Who could gain with such an embarrassing loss by Riggs?

Of course, the group who bet heavily on “the girl” with favorable odds could clean up — the Mafia.  The Mob would need Riggs to throw the match.  Motive supposedly existed for Riggs.  Allegedly, Riggs owed the mob $100,000 in gambling debts.  To pay off the debt, Riggs had to beat up on Margaret Court which would drive up interest for a bigger match with Billie Jean King.  Riggs would then lose spectacularly to the underdog King with significant Mafia money bet on the underdog.  Such conspiracies easily come to mind after events have passed and all the pieces nicely fit in place.

Enter Hal Shaw.  Shaw worked as an assistant golf pro at a Tampa, Florida country club frequented by Mafia types.  Naming names, Shaw detailed meetings he witnessed and heard among these esteemed country club members.  Riggs’ $100,000 debt would be forgiven if he could defeat Court and lose to King.  Shaw waited until 2013 when he was on death’s doorstep to reveal these events he witnessed 40 years earlier.

Shaw’s account remains plausible when viewed in a certain light.  Riggs, a professional athlete his entire adult life, understood that preparing for any tennis match against any other professional player – male or female – required training.  In fact, even at age 55, Riggs seriously dedicated himself in preparation for his match with Margaret Court.    Thereafter, for the next four months, Riggs did not train for the over-hyped Battle of the Sexes.  Perhaps Riggs’ ego got the better of him.  However, this same ego did not get in the way in all the decades leading up to this event.  Seems unlikely.

After the Battle of the Sexes, Bobby Riggs spent most of his days tied in some manner to the gambling industry.  He served as a casino greeter and functioned as a resident celebrity at casinos.  The gambling and gaming bug never left him.  These facts in no manner establish or suggest that Riggs intentionally failed to prepare for his tennis match with Billie Jean King.  They do, nonetheless, confirm that Riggs operated comfortably within this Mafia-influenced environment.

Mob-influenced or otherwise, the King-Riggs tennis match in 1973 placed front and center equal rights issues among genders.  King nicely parlayed the event to achieve a degree of equality for the sexes at least in the world of tennis.  Fifty years later, we find the inequality of wages, inequality of opportunities, and inequality of promotions among the  sexes merely a footnote in the history books having achieved complete equality.  Oh.  Wait.  Perhaps we need another tennis match.

Honorable Mention in the Sports World for September 20.

In Baltimore, Maryland, in the final home game in the 1998 baseball season, on September 20, 1998, Cal Ripken, Jr., removes his name from the starting lineup of the Baltimore Orioles.  This step concluded The Streak of 2,632 consecutive baseball games in which Cal Ripken, Jr., started.  Ripken, humbly, always claimed that whether he started remained the Manager’s decision.  As his Manager noted with a healthy sense of history: “Only Cal or God can end the streak.”

In Estate Planning, we rarely address culturally altering events such as the Battle of the Sexes.  We do, nonetheless, address life altering or life changing circumstances.  Those leaving bequests and distributions appreciate that these gifts could alter life trajectories of others and may influence the paths of many others.  Whether through Statements of Intent, Distribution Guidelines, or Guidance to Trustees, messaging may accompany such gifts.

Perhaps we do not have – and do not want – an audience of 90 million.  Our work remains focused on more limited audiences of a few loved ones or charities.  I am OK with that dynamic and the critical differences we can achieve for others. 

Naked Commitment

Dateline: Coventry, England in the year 1045, give or take ten years.  Leofric, Earl of Mercia, possesses two distinct reputations.  First, the Earl and his wife continued as generous benefactors to religious houses.   In 1043, Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine monastery in Coventry on a site of former nunnery.  The Danes destroyed the nunnery during an invasion in 1016 with Leofric determined to restore a religious purpose to the site.  Leofric’s wife “encouraged” him to grant land to the monastery of St. Mary and create an endowment for that monastery.  The power couple donated jewelry and commissioned works of art to be donated to these monasteries and other religious sites.

Second, the Earl possessed a well-earned reputation as a landowner who highly taxed those on his lands under this feudal system.  These taxes satisfied tribute the Earl owed to the King and supported Leofric’s own lifestyle, including the generous donations to monasteries and religious sites.  It is good to be in favor with the King!

In or about 1050, these reputations collided with Leofric insisting that his charitable generosity continue to be funded through his extensive land holdings.  That approach translated to even higher taxes on those who occupied the lands.  In Coventry, the new and excessive taxes hit so hard that residents confronted the choice of satisfying the new, additional tax or have their families go without food.  The Earl made clear that the only choice available would be to pay the taxes.

Enter Leofric’s wife who took pity on the people of Coventry.  The Earl’s wife interceded on behalf of the villagers begging the Earl to abandon the new taxes.  The historical accounts politely suggest that these requests were so frequent and so fervent that they amounted to marital nagging by Leofric’s spouse.  Exasperated, Leofric exclaimed that he would grant his Lady’s request if she would strip naked and ride a horse through the streets of Coventry.  Lady Godiva accepted the challenge.

Lady Godiva stood much to lose in bargaining for the town people.  While recognized in her own right as a Lady of the King’s court, she knew that her status deeply depended on the fortunes of her husband, the Earl.  She could not embarrass or cross Leofric to the point where he would relegate her to some non-relevant status.  Lady Godiva’s own riches and lifestyle were directly tied to the funds raised through taxes.  Her ability to direct charitable offerings to religious orders derived from collecting taxes on the residents of these lands.  Lady Godiva’s own reputation would certainly be an issue among the elite if she were to ride naked through the town.

Yet, Lady Godiva threw caution and her clothes to the wind in an effort to assist those in Coventry.  Lady Godiva, in a nod to her own modesty, issued a proclamation “commanding all Persons to keep within Doors and from their Windows, on pain of Death” during the ride.  She then rode her horse clothed only in her lengthy hair through Coventry and circled the marketplace before returning to the homestead.  Note that historical accounts differ on whether such a proclamation to remain indoors had been issued and whether an audience witnessed the naked parade of one.  Regardless, the Earl relented after Lady Godiva’s ride and eliminated the new tax.

The directive to remain inside during Lady Godiva’s ride ultimately lead to another legend which historians cannot readily accept: Peeping Tom.  The earliest published accounts of Peeping Tom date back to the 17th Century, hundreds of years following the naked journey.  The story of Peeping Tom had been part of the local lore in telling the story in Coventry for hundreds of years.

Peeping Tom, a local tailor in Coventry, could not resist spying on Lady Godiva as she processed through town in all her glory and only her hair.  Legends differ with Tom either killed or blinded for his peeping.  In one iteration, Lady Godiva’s beauty struck Tom blind.  Alternatively, God killed Tom for ignoring the command to remain inside.  God would so act to protect Lady Godiva as Godiva meant “beloved by God”.  In other tellings of the tale, the people of Coventry beat Tom half to death and blinded him for his transgression.  In any event, by 1796, a dictionary defined Peeping Tom as “A nick name for a curious prying fellow.”  

Whichever account of Lady Godiva may be accurate, one item remains certain.  Lady Godiva possessed commitment to her cause.  She bought into the protest at the risk of losing her social status, her spouse, her pride, her wealth, and her future income.  She stood up to the one in power knowing that the consequences could be catastrophic for herself and the people of Coventry.  

It strikes me that today, especially in this day of the 24 hour news cycle and immediate reporting of anything we can call “news”, we have many protests on almost any issue.  But Lady Godiva’s commitment appears absent.  We protest so that the voices are heard on the news cycle for today and then almost forgotten. 

Take, for example, the Kid Rock Bud Light protests from earlier this year.  Please note, I take no position on either side of the Bud Light protests.  I am not a fan of Bud Light simply because I do not like the taste of the beer.  I otherwise find nothing wrong with Bud Light.  I also have no problem with Kid Rock.  I do not own Kid Rock albums or CDs, but have no issue with his music.  I further understand that Bud Light wants and needs to market to all potential beer drinkers as part of its business model in our capitalistic system.  I appreciate that these marketing decisions may not sit well with some of the existing Bud Light consumers and they may rightfully protest.  No judgments.  No positions.  No questions.  No dog in the hunt for me.  

My point relates to commitment in any protest.  Quite vocally and splashed all over social media, Kid Rock famously fought a case of Bud Light.  The Kid took aim with his semi-automatic assault rifle at a case of unarmed Bud Light. The semi-automatic won, hands down, with the case of Bud Light blown away beyond recognition.  Take that Anheusser-Busch.  Kid Rock used that incident to bring voice to the protest against Bud Light’s marketing decisions which alienated Bud Light drinkers.  No more Bud Light at concerts, tailgate parties, floating around the lake or at backyard barbecues!

Except . . .  Kid Rock forgot about something.  Two months after the video of the battle between Kid Rock and the case of Bud Light went viral and Kid Rock declared that Bud Light is beer non-grata, the media dutifully travelled to Kid Rock’s Nashville bar.  Entering Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock ’n Roll Steakhouse, reporters were greeted with two bottles of Bud Light on the bar.  The reporters inquired if Bud Light was still being served at Kid Rock’s bar.  The bartender confirmed that Bud Light was never taken off the menu or offerings.  In fact, the bartender pointed out the two Bud Lights sitting on the bar.  The barkeep further confirmed that patrons still regularly ordered Bud Light.  Oops.

Apparently, Kid Rock drew the line for his own protest at his wallet.  His bar still served the very offending beer and Kid Rock still made money off those sales.  Kid Rock demonstrated commitment by taking down the case of Bud Light and then voicing opposition from his platform.  But Kid Rock’s commitment did not equate with the naked commitment of Lady Godiva.  Kid Rock placed his own potential income in a position superior to the underlying protest.  His commitment possessed limits and he would not risk it all as did Lady Godiva.

Do not misunderstand, Kid Rock pushed the protest against Bud Light father down the road.  It could be claimed that Kid Rock’s efforts gave oxygen to the fire against Bud Light.  Bud Light’s sales have taken a hit.  The protest worked, in part, due to Kid Rock and his actions.  However, Kid Rock cannot legitimately claim to have been “all in” with his commitment so limited protecting his own interests.

I do not suggest that Kid Rock should ride his Harley buck naked down Broadway outside his Nashville bar to bring further attention to this protest.  Hopefully, none of us wish that approach.  When a protester, especially a high profile person, stages such a public demonstration as protest, then commitment must be genuine and across the board.  You need naked commitment as with Lady Godiva.  Kid Rock did not achieve that level with still looking out for himself.

In Estate Planning, it is often difficult for clients to achieve naked commitment when evaluating who should serve in agency positions in the plan.  I have candid and sometimes challenging discussions with clients to recognize who would best protect their interests if and when they can no longer act for themselves.  After discussing how one child cannot handle financial affairs and evaluating trust protections necessary for that child for any distribution, the same parents then want to name that child as their Attorney in Fact under their financial powers of attorney.  I scratch my head and ask why the parents want this financially irresponsible child to handle their financial affairs.  I receive response that the child is the oldest and that the oldest child should have this responsibility.  I gently suggest that others may be better suited, even if not the eldest.

Commitment to a child is not a bad thing, but Estate Planning demands naked commitment.  Honest, candid and complete analysis of strengths and weaknesses of those who will serve as your agents must be mandatory to protect your interests and ensure that your wishes are followed.  Commitment light will not do.  Lady Godiva commitment is needed.

Unexpected Encounters

I admit that I am not a big social media participant.  I worry not about the number of my “friends”.  I “follow” others only if I personally know them.  I do not tweet (or X-tweet now).  I do not check my social media accounts hourly, daily, or many times even weekly.

Despite this lack of attention, a recent post from an actual friend caught my eye.  The entire post consisted of: “I am looking for a Roy Orbison article.”  That’s it.  Nothing more.  No context.  No reference to an article about Roy Orbison’s life, music, career, or otherwise.  Responses to this post by others included comments about Roy Orbison’s unique voice, hit songs, and his musical abilities, but no one inquired about the nature of the article sought by my friend.

Without more, I will rise to the challenge.  Here is a Blog article about Roy Orbison for my friend Dave.  With minimum digging, Roy Orbison’s life offers a tapestry of riches for any writer.  Roy’s gift of a guitar from his father at age 6 and confirmation that he would pursue a life in music by age 7 could be a good article.  Roy’s early Texas influences including Country music star Lefty Fazzell, who later served as the namesake for Roy’s character as Lefty Wilbury, could be grist for a good story.  Orbison’s personal tragedies of loss of his wife and two of his children in horrible accidents remains prime canon fodder for any tail.  Hanging out with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash for three years at Sun Studios, including Elvis loaning Roy his purple Cadillac to impress Roy’s date, represents writer’s gold.

Instead, our story about Roy Orbison begins in the pubs and wedding halls in northwest England in the late 1950s.  Sixteen year old guitarist John Lennon plays with the Quarrymen when fifteen year old Paul McCartney joins the band for a few numbers during each gig.  Paul’s guitar playing improves to the point where he gets a solo on “Guitar Boogie”.  However, the fifteen year old proved too nervous to perform well on stage on his solo forcing the band to reach out for fellow fifteen yer old guitarist George Harrison to join them.  The core of the Beatles became cast by late 1957.

The Quarrymen played local parties, wedding receptions and at pubs in Liverpool and Manchester during 1958 and 1959.  Trying to gain traction, they also performed as Johnny and the Moon Dogs, the Silver Beetles, and the Silver Beats at this time.  John Lennon and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe coined the term “Beatles” by combining the Silver Beetles and Silver Beats.

During this period, the band, under whatever name they used, could not keep a drummer.  Paul McCartney even played drums for a few shows considering himself pretty good at it.  Apparently, the rest of the band disagreed with a search continuing for a drummer.  In August 1960, the band’s manager and booking agent, Allen Williams, convinced the band to travel to Hamburg, Germany to play for a while as Williams previously had success with sending other bands abroad.  One problem:  the band still lacked a drummer.  Williams recruited drummer Pete Best from a different band and sent him along to Hamburg as the Beatles’ new drummer.

Between 1960 and 1962, the Beatles split their time between Liverpool and Hamburg.  John Lennon credits the young German audiences with pushing the band’s development.  The Germans demanded that these bands play lengthy sets and play loud.  That dynamic forced Lennon-McCartney to create more music to feed the demand.  As Lennon put it: “We really had to hammer.”

Of course, the Beatles big break came in January 1962 when record store owner Brian Epstein “discovered” the Beatles in Liverpool signing them to a five year management contract.  1962 became the year of change for the Beatles.  In April, bass player Stuart Sutcliffe died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.  In June, the band got a shot at recording, being teamed up with producer George Martin.  The Beatles recorded various singles including “Love Me Do” and “PS I Love You”.  In August, Martin let Epstein know that drummer Pete Best was holding back the band.  Epstein immediately fired Pete Best thereby relegating him to an answer to trivia questions for generations to come.  Epstein turned to the son of a local confectioner, Ringo Starr as the new drummer.  August 1962 – the Beatles as we know them.

January 1963, the Beatles release “Please Please Me” which shot up to No. 1 on the U.K. charts.  The Beatles followed a string of Top Ten hits in the U.K. during 1963 and became a touring sensation in Great Britain.

While the Beatles evolved and started to find their groove, back in the States, in 1960, Roy Orbison — you remember Roy Orbison — this article is about Roy Orbison — wrote and pitched “Only the Lonely” to Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers.  After they each rejected the song, Orbison recorded it himself.  “Only the Lonely” charted out as No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 1 in the U.K. and Australia.  Between 1960 and 1963, Roy Orbison pumped out a series of hits including “Running Scared”, “Crying”, and “Dream Baby” which each raced up the charts in the U.S. and the U.K.  “Pretty Woman” was added to the mix.  By 1963, Roy Orbison was established both in the States and across the pond.

With their own freshly minted No. 1 songs now in hand in 1963, the Beatles planned a U.K. tour with Duane Eddy billed as the top performer.  Eddy was pulled from the tour with Roy Orbison asked to take on the top billing spot to tour with this new group, the Beatles.  Orbison arrived in England having never heard of the Beatles or their songs.  Roy and the Beatles met for the first time backstage before their first scheduled performance.

Orbison asked “What’s a Beatle, anyway?”  John Lennon tapped him on the shoulder and responded “I am”.  This interaction began the unlikely friendship between Roy Orbison and the Beatles.

The Beatles and Orbison discussed the order of performance for the show with Orbison stating that he would gladly play first and give “top billing” to the up and coming Beatles.  The Beatles watched in awe as Orbison, dressed in his trademark performance black clothes, strode to the center of the stage with his guitar and simply played and sang.  He did not move from the center stage position.  He did not dance around.  He just performed.  This approach was the antithesis from what the Beatles learned in Hamburg which demanded high energy and high volume songs.  After the tour, the Beatles remained amazed that Roy Orbison so captivated the crowd while simply standing still in one spot on the stage.

The audience roared with applause for Roy Orbison.  Orbison played encore after encore with the crowd chanting “We want Roy” every time he exited the stage.  After the fourteenth encore, John Lennon and George Harrison grabbed Orbison by the shoulders and told him that they would not let him go back out for a fifteenth encore as the Beatles had to get on the stage.  

During this tour, before one show, Orbison lost his black framed glasses.  He grabbed his dark prescription sunglasses, also set in large black frames, for his set and realized he liked using the sunglasses better with the spotlights.  Thereafter, Roy always performed with his dark sunglasses regardless of venue.

Bruce Springsteen inducted Roy Orbison into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.  In tribute, Springsteen concluded his speech as follows:  “I wanted a record with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector – but, most of all, I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison.  Now, everyone knows that no one sings like Roy Orbison.”  We all knew the incredible range of Roy Orbison’s voice.  Now we can better appreciate how Roy Orbison and George Harrison so easily teamed up in the Traveling Wilburys in the late 1980s.

I have learned with Estate Planning clients that everyone has their own story with unique and unexpected interactions during the journey of their lives.  Perhaps we do not have chart topping musical hits or perhaps we do not meet the Beatles.  Yet, these interactions and relationships remain important to us.  Some clients wish to utilize their estate plans to recognize special events or relationships in their lives.  Clients may memorialize such events with a modest distribution or donation to a deserving cause in the name of a special person.  The Will or Living Trust could simply include a statement of the importance of the underlying event.  For these clients, when we prepare to sign the myriad of documents in their Estate Plan, without failure inquire if these token or special gestures are properly included in their documents.  Events along the journey for each of us matter as does an article about Roy Orbison for my friend Dave.

Happy 4th and Unhappy Relatives

Happy July 4th Week!  Many are on vacation this week or at least taking it easier with a mid-week 4th of July.  The Blog decided to kick back a little as well with reflections on the Silver Screen – Estate Planning Edition.  OK.  Very few, if any, movies follow that ever-exciting plot device of estate planning: “Ooh, will they choose a Will or Revocable Living Trust — or maybe even a Domestic Asset Protection Trust.  Oh, boy!”  Instead, the dynamic conflict and drama flows more naturally after someone dies with all left to fight for the spoils of the deceased.

With focus on the post-death battles for the riches, then, what can Hollywood teach us about estate planning and ourselves?

Secrets, Secrets, Secrets

Charlie Babbit spent life as an only child, rather spoiled, and growing more distant from his parents each year until they passed.  Expecting an oversized inheritance to match his oversized ego, Charlie instead learned through his parents’ trust that he had a brother; the brother had autism; the parents institutionalized his brother; AND everything except a vintage car was left in trust exclusively for the benefit of his brother — Raymond Babbit or Rain Man.

Charlie’s frustrations in not securing the expected death windfall from the estate is taken out in the form of anger directed against the trustee who refuses Charlie’s demands for money.  The trustee simply fulfills his duties to protect Rain Man.  Charlie’s ire should be focused on his parents who refused and failed to even mention the special needs sibling. The parents took their secret to their graves.

Of course, after kidnapping Rain Man and a cross-country adventure worthy of Thelma and Louise, Charlie slowly discovers brotherly love and a desire to provide and care for his long lost brother.  Charlie decides not to use Rain Man as bait for ransom payments.

The saddest part of Rain Man remains the parents’ secret which denied Charlie and Rain Man the opportunity of a lifelong relationship.  Perhaps Charlie would have steadfastly continued in his self-centered existence even if he knew of Rain Man.  We do not know.

Quite often, clients question whether they should disclose details of their estate plan to their children.  I counsel that, at a minimum, the children should be made aware that an estate plan exists with the plan containing directions and wishes of the parents.  I further encourage some level of discussion among family members especially if ultimate distributions and perceived expectations of the children may not align.  If an unknown sibling exists whose identity will become known only after death and that sibling stands to inherit everything, I can only suggest a different type of family counseling requiring advanced degrees beyond my law degree.

Words Are Important

I try my best to avoid crafting any part of a Will or Trust leaving anything to the “closest relative”.  My practice became validated in A Series of Unfortunate Events.  These novelettes, combined to form the basis for the movie, follow the misfortunes of the orphaned Baudelaire children; Violet, Klaus and Sunny.  The dastardly Count Olaf continues to plot the orphans’ demise in an on-going effort to gain their fortune.  The insane plots and crazy characters are not of interest here although they abound in the movie.  Instead, the origins triggering this series of misfortunes matter.

The Baudelaire tragedy begins with a day at the beach for the three children interrupted by the family banker and trustee, Mr. Poe.  Mr. Poe delivers the horrible news that the Baudelaire parents just perished in a fire which consumed the family mansion.  Rather than grieving the loss or addressing the myriad of emotions the children must be confronting, Mr. Poe swoops up the children to deliver them to their new legal guardian, care taker, and very distant relative, Count Olaf.  

However, Violet, Klaus and Sunny had never even heard the name of Count Olaf mentioned in their family and do not know him.  The children protest that their parents surely would have selected others as guardians such as closer relatives well-known to the children.  Aunts and uncles who were part of the fabric of the lives of the children could serve as guardians for the newly minted orphans.

Yet, Mr. Poe will not hear of such protests as the parents’ trust clearly states that the “closest” relative of the Baudelaire parents becomes guardian if one is ever needed.  Mr. Poe conducted extensive research to determine that the previously unknown Count Olaf resided merely cross-town from the Baudelaire family while all other relatives resided farther away.  Accordingly, Count Olaf, although a very distant and heretofore unknown relative of the Baudelaire orphans, indeed, constituted the geographically “closest” relative.  To Mr. Poe, the trust language could not be more clear with the orphans placed with the evil Count Olaf.  Let the fun begin!

The parents’ use of ambiguous language set in motion the Series of Unfortunate Events for the Baudelaire children.  Avoid your own Mr. Poe interpreting your Will or Trust after you are gone.  Provide specific and clear direction and instruction.  At times, descriptions in a Will or Trust may appear complex or cumbersome.  I can live with that approach if it ensures that the Count Olafs are avoided.

The Slayer Rule Has Been Slain

The recent hit film, Knives Out, combines a classic tale of greedy relatives fighting over the bounty with a “whodunit” murder mystery.  Successful novelist and ultra-wealthy head of the family, Harlan Trombey, is discovered murdered on his palatial estate.  As the movie unfolds, each character lays claim to the riches providing the rationale and basis for the position superior to the other seekers of the riches.  Certain characters form alliances to bolster their claims and undercut the efforts of the others.  Everyone believes themselves fully entitled to the inheritance.

This pit of vipers truly has their Knives Out prepared to stab each other in the back in order to advance.  And yet, each character possesses motive and opportunity to have murdered Ol’ Trombey.  Every character is flawed and equally unlikeable.  The plot twists and misdirections are classic.

Overlooked with all the drama in Knives Out is the Slayer Rule.  If you meet your demise at the hands, or due to the actions, of another, those who caused your death cannot gain from your death.  The Slayer cannot benefit in the slaying and cannot collect any inheritance.  Well-drafted Wills and Trusts expressly disinherit the Slayer.  Many states have now enacted their own statutory version of the Slayer Rule.

The entire storyline for Knives Out will not be revealed here nor will it reveal “whodunit”. The plot makes for an enjoyable movie even if the writers slew the Slayer Rule.

Blinded By Greed

Courtesy of the streaming services. The Estate hit the Little Screen in 2022.  The wealthy spinster aunt, played by a curmudgeonly Kathleen Turner, confronts her final battles with illness as her misogynistic, self-centered nieces and nephews appear out of nowhere seeking to position themselves to inherit the aunt’s fortunes.  Each niece and nephew believe a few acts of kindness at death’s door will place them in the best stead after a lifetime of neglect of the aunt.  Alliances are made and disregarded.  Backstabbing is the norm.

One niece convinces her husband to seduce the failing aunt in an effort to court favor.  The creepy nephew keeps attempting to seduce his cousin including directions to internet sites which encourage “love” among cousins.  Yuck!  Each niece and nephew is throughly unlikeable.  You either root for the least unlikeable niece or root for “none of the above”.

Even if these characters would otherwise be normal and act with some degree of moral propriety, the greed and potential to inherit everything drives each cousin to act without regard for their aunt, for each other, or for anyone else in their lives.  Of course, the surprise ending leaves the cousins with nothing except the ugly painting cast off to the ugly niece at the reading of the Will.  A final plot twist after the reading of the Will helps, but these characters remain fatally flawed.  

Unfortunately, in estate administration, such characters or their characteristics come to life all too often.  In planning out your estate, you may not be able to determine who may cause disruption and chaos among your family and loved ones.  In some instances, when clients are candid, such characters can be identified.  In those instances, the Will or Trust can include guardrails and protections to better ensure that wishes are followed and some level of peace remains among those left behind.

So, enjoy your own July 4th Week and even take in a movie if you wish.  Perhaps the cinema could replay a classic movie where the action is more civil and more polite than these rabid families bent on destroying one another.  You know, a movie like Jaws.

Flag Day Stinks!

Happy Flag Day to you.  June 14 is never a happy day for me.  My own lot really has nothing to do with Flag Day, but rather the date.  Flag Day stands as the annual reminder of certain past events I wish could just stay in the past.  

First, let’s tackle Flag Day itself.  Flag Day is relegated to one of the lesser “holidays” of the year.  Many simply forget about Flag Day completely and wonder why a number of American flags pop up in June until someone declares: “Oh yeah.  It is Flag Day.”  I am not aware of anyone who gets the day off from work for Flag Day.  I am not aware of folks who throw Flag Day parties.  I would wager that if Americans listed their Top Ten Holidays, Flag Day would rarely make the cut.

In fact, Flag Day is technically not a holiday.  In 1916, President Wilson issued a proclamation officially establishing June 14 as Flag Day.  In 1949, Congress established June 14 as National Flag Day, but failed to recognize this patriotic 24 hours as a holiday.

Great dispute exists regarding the origins of Flag Day.  Despite uncertainty as to who initiated Flag Day or where it began, June 14 clearly recognizes the June 14, 1777 Flag Resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress.  That Congress declared:

“Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

Two early references for a national Flag Day date back to to the 1800s.  In 1861, George Morris of Hartford, Connecticut proposed June 14 as Flag Day to honor the original adoption of the American flag.  The City of Hartford observed Flag Day in 1861 as a patriotic day with prayers for preservation of the Union.  Yet, that 1861 event appears as a “one and done” day with no further annual Flag Day celebration or tradition.

The 1880s witnessed the efforts of the “Father of Flag Day”, Bernard Cigrand.  Cigrand, a school teacher from Wisconsin, proposed an annual observance of the U.S. flag on June 14 to promote patriotism and respect for the flag.  He traveled the region gaining support in newspapers with his proposal.  Cigrand organized his efforts through establishment of the American Flag Day Association and National Flag Day Society, serving as president of both organizations he founded.  Cigrand claimed to have given well over 2,100 speeches in favor of establishing Flag Day.

Others pushed for June 14 a Flag Day, but credit rests with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks who made Flag Day official.  In 1907, the Elks decreed June 14 as Flag Day with every Elks Lodge obligated to observe Flag Day.  President Wilson took note and saw an easy political score with the Presidential Proclamation of Flag Day in 1916.

OK.  So why does Flag Day bother me?  It is another anniversary of sorts in our house.  Actually, it is the anniversary of us moving into this house years ago.  For the record, we love our house.  It is comfortable.  The layout is ideal for us.  It provides all the feelings of warmth and security desired in a house.  Even with the house now way too large as we enter the empty nester phase, moving is not seriously in the cards for consideration.

The June 14 move date itself remains the day of which should not be spoken – but somehow is annually reminded to me.

As with Flag Day history, there exists a marital history regarding moving into this house.  Years and years ago now, when our three boys were ages 9, 7 and 2, we closed on this newly constructed house and arranged to move across town to our new home.  Moving date became set on June 14 which fit perfectly for exiting our former house.  Pre-packing went on for days in anticipation of the arrival of the movers on June 14.  Simply moving across town may not be quite as traumatic as moving across country, but not by much.  The stress and logistical problems apply to each such move.  Managing three boys below age 10 with one still not potty trained just added to the chaos.  But, we were excited and determined, at least until late in the afternoon of June 12.

At that time, I worked as the in-house counsel for a global manufacturing company with responsibilities extending to all litigation matters around the world – with 90% of all litigation in the United States.  Among the myriad of litigation cases pending at that time was a “wage and hour” class action case in Puerto Rico.  The company operated four factories on the island with the class action seeking in excess of $50 million for alleged improper calculation of work time for employees.

Puerto Rico was then, and remains today, a worker-friendly venue for claims against U.S. companies doing business on the island.  As one trade off for the amazing tax breaks for the corporations, the Puerto Rico legislature took care of the Puerto Rico employees through these worker-friendly laws.  That fact, combined with amazingly complex Puerto Rico wage and hour laws, provided many “gotcha” traps even for those employers who genuinely sought to comply with all laws and regulations.  Oh, and plaintiffs’ lawyers would be awarded substantial attorneys’ fees if even a single violation could be established in a wage and hour dispute.  These cases were free money for the plaintiffs’ bar.

The ultimate exposure for the company would not be the $50 million as demanded, but a realistic exposure range extended well into 8 figures.  Prior settlement efforts through mediation proved fruitless.  Ultimate case outlook appeared rather poor for the company.

Late on the afternoon of June 12, I received a call from the court-assigned mediator “instructing” that mediation would resume the morning of June 14.  Now, the mediator was a retired federal judge so he felt it well within his rights to “instruct” (i.e., order) the mediation to resume in less than 48 hours.  I explained my moving conflict and gently and carefully reminded the mediator the he cannot compel us to proceed, especially on such impossibly short notice.  The mediator tolerated no such pushback and bluntly told me I had to be in Puerto Rico the day after next.

I actually liked the mediator.  While he was on the island for decades, we shared a strong Boston connection.  Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. 1st Circuit federal court system which includes Massachusetts.  The mediator began his days as a federal judge in Boston and was later transferred to Puerto Rico.  Our professional circles intersected in Boston where we found quite a number of common friends and interests.  The mediator looked as tough as a Boston “Southie” and acted as a gruff Ernest Borgnine.  He cared not about our personal connection or conflict and told me to be there, on time, as there arose a substantial breakthrough.

I promptly informed my boss, the General Counsel (GC), of this dilemma.  The GC called out for his assistant to immediately make travel plans for us both to Puerto Rico.  The GC saw opportunity in the mediator’s vague assurance of a breakthrough and wanted to be involved to place this risk behind us.  He met my suggestion that he fly solo on this settlement mission with laughter noting that only I knew the facts and I possess at least some understanding and appreciation of the bizarre Puerto Rico laws.  Also, the GC reminded me that I was a licensed mediator myself and I know how to resolve cases.  Oh, great, to be so needed.

The news of my valued legal expertise and skills to settle cases did not go over so well at home.  Sorry, Honey.  Instead of packing to get ready to move, I will leave you with three young children to fly off to a tropical island.  Oh, and I cannot be here for the big move day we planned for weeks.  Do you think you can give me a ride to the airport?

June 14 arrived with me in Puerto Rico at mediation in the old courthouse.  The mediator was correct in estimating the appetite of the plaintiffs’ counsel to settle.  The week before, the plaintiffs’ firm rather surprisingly lost a significant case it had on contingency fee.  The law firm lost millions of dollars in expenses it put up in that case.  Local legal gossip had this firm disbanding due to that loss.  These lawyers desperately and quickly needed something in the “win” column.  Enter our wage and hour case.

The mediator used 100% of his Ernest Borgnine charm in beating down the plaintiffs’ lawyers.  They caved fairly quickly but advised that the lead plaintiffs possessed expectations which could preclude agreement.  The mediator “ordered” those plaintiffs to appear at the mediation after lunch.  They complied.

The mediator explained that the plaintiff lawyers did a great job in securing the best offer and advised the plaintiffs to accept the offer.  A few holdouts remained.  In a surreal scene out of a Quinton Tarantino movie, the mediator instructed the holdouts to carefully consider the offer without interference.  The mediator knew of the spot for careful consideration – the former jail cells in the basement of the old courthouse.  As he placed the plaintiffs in the jail cells, the mediator instructed them that when they were ready to accept the offer, they can call back upstairs to us.  Surprise!  We reached full agreement for pennies on the dollar.

We wrapped up settlement details fairly well into the evening and returned to the hotel.  The GC inquired where we could get some food at this late time with the desk clerk advising that only the rooftop Mexican bar and restaurant was still open.  To the rooftop to celebrate our victory!

We each had a margarita to celebrate stealing a settlement and dodging a litigation bullet.  The tequila provided enough courage to allow me to call home to see how the big June 14 move progressed.  Despite sitting in 80 degrees with a tropical breeze, it felt quite chilly when the phone was answered.  I sounded genuinely sorry and recognized the thin ice I needed to traverse.  As the chill began to defrost ever so slightly, a strolling Mariachi band struck up a tune at the next table.  The GC then shouted over the music to the bartender instructing him to bring us two more margaritas.

Click.  The call ended and June 14 became a day of infamy in our house.

Each year since then, I make no mention of Flag Day or June 14.  Each year since then, I am reminded of my spousal shortcomings associated with our move into our house.  The good news is that after all these years and all the blessings in this house, our own little Flag Day is met with slightly more humor each year.  This year, I was reminded that the anniversary of moving into the house is Flag Day, but I cannot celebrate until June 15 as I did not arrive at our house until that date.  We are making progress!

In estate planning, every client brings their own Flag Day.  Everyone has their own circumstance they made special or unique for themselves over time.  You can celebrate such events through a memorial or remembrance gesture in your estate plan.  Or, as in my case, you can simply hope that instead of raising Flag Day to a federal holiday, your own Flag Day gets forgotten and its name should never be spoken. 

She’s Really, Most Sincerely Dead

Estate Planning Memphis TN

“As Coroner, I must aver,

I thoroughly examined her.

And she’s not only merely dead,

She’s really, most sincerely dead.”

With those lines, the Coroner of Munchkinland declared the death of the Wicked Witch of the East.  Even in Oz, home of flying monkeys, good and bad witches, live scarecrows, animals who can speak and travel on journeys, as well as horses of different colors, medicine and science still retain their footings.  The Munchkinland Coroner opined on the Witch’s demise only after thorough examination.  The “most sincerely” finding of death could probably be attributed to dramatic effect or showmanship.  Yet, only examination of the physical proof allowed the Coroner to reach firm conclusions.

Apparently, in a world away in Australia, coroners need not follow this Ozian requirement of proof or evidence to reach a determination that someone is dead.  On May 23, 2023, after Coronial Inquest, New South Wales Coroner, Elizabeth Ryan, concluded that Melissa Louise Caddick is dead.

Last seen on November 12, 2020, Melissa Caddick left her house in the early morning without her purse, cell phone, car keys or any other possessions except the workout clothes and sneakers she was wearing at that time.  Known to exercise in her Sydney suburban neighborhood of Dover Heights, these circumstances, standing alone, may not appear alarming.

No one has heard from Melissa Caddick since that November morning.  Nearby closed circuit monitoring systems and video camera systems on neighborhood houses provided no leads.  No witnesses could be located who saw Melissa jogging or even in the area.  Melissa Caddick most sincerely disappeared.

Melissa Caddick’s husband, part-time DJ and part-time hairdresser, Anthony Koletti, waited over thirty hours to report his wife’s disappearance to the authorities.  While his story changed repeatedly over time concerning his actions during this 30 hour window, Tony clearly remained so unconcerned that he went to a friend’s house the night of the disappearance to smoke pot.  Tony failed to mention to his buddy that Tony’s wife never returned from her early morning workout.

Days passed.  Weeks passed.  Weeks turned into months with no word from, or sighting of, Melissa Caddick.  The big break for authorities came in February 2021 when a rotting foot still inside a sneaker washed up on a beach over a hundred miles away from Sydney.  The sneaker matched the description of those last worn by Melissa with DNA testing proving the foot also belonging to her.  At the recent Coronial Inquest, experts testified that prominent currents and tides could carry the foot south from Sydney toward the beach where it washed ashore.  Nothing else, clothes or other dislodged body parts, have ever been found of Melissa Caddick.

Absent foul play, how could Melissa Caddick vanish with no trace except, of course, her foot?  By all accounts, 49 year old Melissa and Tony enjoyed a happy second marriage to each other.  Melissa doted on and adored her 20 year old son.  Melissa traveled in high society circles enjoying an extravagant lifestyle funded by her ultra-successful personal wealth investment company.  Apparently, the DJ and hair dressing business of her hubby did not offer much to the fiscal bottom line of their blessed union.

Of course, there was the little matter of the investigation by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC).  The day before her Houdini disappearing act, ASIC raided Melissa Caddick’s suburban home on suspicion that Melissa misappropriated 23 million USD from investors with ASIC pointing out that Caddick operated without any necessary financial license.  Oops.

Melissa Caddick held herself out as having advanced degrees in finance from the University of Technology Sydney.  She operated her investment firm for years.  Among her numerous clients who contributed significant sums were family members and close friends.  Her firm provided monthly statements to clients confirming trades and gains in their accounts.  Melissa was a fixture in the investment community.  She hobnobbed with the wealthy and elite, partaking in all charitable causes du jour.

However, the prestigious University later confirmed it possessed no record of Melissa Caddick ever attending classes and no record of her attaining any degree in finance or any field of study.  Caddick did, nonetheless, enroll in secretarial classes and a business administration course at Patrick’s College Australia, Sydney.  Prior to opening her investment firm, Melissa worked in a branch office of an investment bank as an office administrator.  Six months into that position, the bank let her go after Melissa forged the signature of her boss to misappropriate $2,000.

Melissa Caddick did land a position as financial advisor with Wise Financial Services, a subsidiary of ING, in 2003.  Caddick’s success as an advisor served as her springboard to a 25% stake in the Wise firm and appearances on the cover of an Australian financial trade magazine.  Her investments for clients at Wise fell afoul of investing compliance rules.  The training Caddick received in secretarial classes did not prepare her for the complex compliance rules for financial investments.  Caddick and Wise parted ways with Wise buying out her 25% stake.

Melissa Caddick used these funds to establish her own investment firm.  This money funded her marketing efforts to solicit more funds from family and friends.  Returns well outpaced the markets and other investment firms.  Word traveled quickly of the financial rewards of investing with Melissa which appeared without downside risk.

Sound familiar?  Recently, we encountered another who modestly exaggerated about his educational background.  Instead of finance degrees from the University of Alabama, he secured a BA in Political Science from Hofstra.  He started his investment firm trading over the counter penny stocks mostly for family and friends.  He never properly registered himself or his firm with the SEC.  He issued fake statements every month to his clients showing investments and returns which continuously beat the market and other investment outfits.  He freely duped family and friends for more investment dollars.  His lifestyle grew to be lavish as he spent his free time with the upper crust of society.

This fraudster, Bernie Maddoff, and Melissa Caddick shared one more thing in common: each operated a pure Ponzi scheme where no money of their clients was ever invested, but rather funneled to Maddoff and Caddick to fuel their personal excesses.  In fairness, there were also distinctions.  Maddoff swindled about $64 billion while Caddick played in the minor leagues stealing only $23 million.  Maddof also served as Chairman of NASDAQ while Caddick explained away her lavish lifestyle as being funded by a sexual harassment lawsuit settlement.

Back to the Coronial Inquest and declaration of death of Melissa Caddick. . . .  The physical evidence consisted of one foot.  No security video or closed circuit images of Melissa Caddick on the morning she disappeared or after could be located.  An expert testified that Caddick could survive without her foot.

After the Coronial Inquest, Coroner Ryan concluded that Caddick was dead, but that the Coroner could not determine how Caddick died.  In Oz, the Munchkinland Coroner connected the dots between a house falling from Kansas and the demise of a witch.  The New South Wales Coroner expressly stated that no determination of death could be assigned to Caddick.  No body has been recovered.  Life could continue sans foot.  How could this determination be reached?

Clearly, Melissa Caddick possessed incentive to disappear in November 2020.  Her Ponzi scheme unraveled the day prior.  She faced life in prison.  She would have to face all those from whom she stole.  She still possessed substantial assets at that time and could afford a getaway.  She possessed the greatest impetus to run, even running on one foot.

Melissa’s husband, Tony, would also benefit with Melissa’s disappearance.  The extravagant lifestyle could not continue on a hair dresser’s income, but it could if secretly financed by the vanished Melissa.  Or worse, Tony could have been involved in Melissa’s missing status due to his nefarious actions.  As the widowed spouse, Tony could gain financially.

There also remains the Melissa Caddick suicide theory.  Disgraced, Caddick could have thrown herself off the Dover Heights cliffs into the ocean with her foot remaining after she became shark bait.  While not expressly ruling out suicide, the Coroner discounted the theory as videos monitored the areas and Caddick’s images should have ben captured.

As to loving husband Tony, the Inquest focused much attention on him.  Tony inconsistently explained what he did for the the 30 hours before he reported Melissa missing.  The Inquest concluded that Tony possessed vital information and “awareness” regarding Melissa during this 30 hour window, “but chose not to disclose it” as he presented as an “unreliable witness.”  Tony’s lawyer claimed that Tony was simply too stupid to understand questions asked of him with this stupidity causing inconsistency in responses.  The Inquest determined that Tony’s obvious “lack of intellectual sophistication” did not impede his ability to be candid.  At least the tribunal could make that ruling based on actual evidence.

What leap of faith existed between the possibility that the resourceful and resource rich Melissa Caddick faked her own demise and a legal declaration of death absent physical evidence?  Caddick possessed personal jeopardy and certain financial disaster providing her great incentive to arrange for her own disappearance.  Lose a foot to gain freedom and live off anything still hidden from authorities?  A missing foot?  Come on.  That guy competed in the Olympics running on those blades and he has no feet.  Who cares that he is now serving jail time.  His crime was murder.  Melissa only “borrowed” some funds from friends and clients.

Coroner Ryan pointed to the following as a critical factor in concluding that Caddick is deceased: there have been no known attempted communications by Melissa Caddick with her son since November 2020.  That’s it.  The woman who could avoid jail for life, avoid restitution, avoid the shame and humiliation of the criminal process, and financially prosper all with her disappearance must be dead as she has not sought to speak with her son.  Melissa Caddick, the woman who stole $1.2 million from her own parents in this Ponzi scheme, has not reached out for her boy.  Therefore, she must be really, most seriously, dead.

Wow.  My Mom passed away 21 years ago.  I wish she were still with us.  However, in those two plus decades, never once did my mother speak to me.  I was her favorite so it is I with whom she would seek to communicate.  But, nothing.  I must therefore admit, based on the reasoning of the New South Wales Coroner, that my own mother is officially deceased.  That kangaroo logic supports the death determination for Melissa Caddick.

I do not espouse or support whacky conspiracy theories about Melissa Caddick and her whereabouts.  More likely than not, she committed suicide or her husband arranged for her demise.  The ultimate conclusions of the Coroner are most probably correct.  I take exception with the manner of reaching the conclusions.  For each considered avenue, the Coroner found that evidence fails to support the hypothesis, with the unstated alternative that Melissa Caddick remains among the living.  Yet, the Coroner only then ironically and officially opined that Melissa Caddick is deceased.

In proper and comprehensive estate planning, we address the Melissa Caddick conundrum.  If a person disappears for 30 days or more, certain documents take effect to authorize trustees or attorneys-in-fact to address your affairs.  Your loved ones need not wait years for a formal Inquest in order to be able to follow your instructions and wishes.  Your own circumstances may not be as complex as Melissa Caddick, but you might suffer an illness or accident which renders you unable to manage your affairs.  These agents can promptly step in without any further action or court proceeding to address issues for you and your estate. 

Further, these same documents should include “slayer” provisions to ensure that in the event you meet unfortunate circumstances due to your own hairdresser, DJ spouse, that spouse can never benefit from your estate.

However you proceed, do not leave your fate to the New South Wales Coroner:

“The foot washed up out of the ocean blue.

As Coroner, after Inquest, I still had no clue.

Hubby is suspicious, but dumb in the head.

I give up, so I just declare her dead.”