Halloween…A Spooky Day

Ramon Navarro
Ramon Navarro 1899-1968

Halloween is the one day when we explore the eerie side of life . . . and death. Each year haunted houses and ghosts make October 31 a spooky, scary day. But it’s also a day on which many notable have died, from both natural and unnatural causes.

Ramon Novarro was as big of a Hollywood star as they come. Known as Ravishing Ramon, he was pegged as the logical successor to Rudolph Valentino. At the height of his acting fame, he earned $100,000 per film and starred in classics such as Scaramouche (1923), Ben-Hur (1925), and We Were Strangers (1949).

Believing Novarro kept bundles of cash at his house, brothers Paul and Tom Ferguson phoned the recluse actor one night. Novarro invited them over only to be tortured and ultimately killed by the siblings. They were caught and sentenced to long prison terms. Novarro’s body was discovered the next day, on Halloween of all days, and became one of Tinseltown’s greatest scandals.

Other noteables to die on Halloween were River Phoenix, Indira Gandhi, Harry Houdini, Studs Terkel and John Houseman.


Harry Houdini 1874-1926

Harry Houdini ‘s Last Will and Testament

Harry Houdini, born in 1874, was considered the greatest magician and escape artist of his era, and possibly of all time. When he died in 1926 from a ruptured appendix, Houdini left his magician’s equipment to his brother Theodore, his former partner who performed under the name Hardeen.

His library of books on magic and the occult was offered to the American Society for Psychical Research on the condition that J. Malcolm Bird, research officer and editor of the ASPR Journal, resign. Bird refused, and the collection went instead to the Library of Congress.  The rabbits he pulled out of his hat went to the children of friends. Houdini left his wife a secret code – ten words chosen at random – that he would use to contact her from the afterlife. His wife held annual séances on Halloween for ten years after his death, but Houdini never appeared.

If you have any questions on estate planning, please call Karen L. Stewart, Attorney and Counselor at (248) 735-0900. For more information, please see my website, www.customestateplans.com


What is a “Ladybird” Deed and should you have one?

The name “ladybird deed” allegedly comes from the type of deed used by President Lyndon Johnson to pass property to his wife “Lady Bird” Johnson. These are also often referred to as enhanced life estate deeds.

With a ladybird deed, the grantors (owners) give property to the grantees (beneficiaries) but retain for themselves a life estate (the right to use the property during their lifetime) coupled with the right to sell, gift or mortgage the property at any time. If the grantors still own the property at the time of their deaths, then the property passes to the grantees. In other words, the owners retain all rights to do anything they want with the property, even if it means that nothing passes to the beneficiaries.

Ladybird deeds are often used for Medicaid planning, i.e. to qualify an individual for Medicaid if he or she enters a nursing home. A residence is an exempt asset for Medicaid purposes, so the home does not have to be sold in order to spend down to the $2,000 in non-exempt assets needed to qualify for Medicaid. However, after the individual dies and the residence goes through probate, the State of Michigan will exercise its rights under the Medicaid estate recovery laws to force the property to be sold to reimburse the State for the amount of Medicaid benefits paid on behalf of the individual. With a ladybird deed, the home avoids probate administration, and thus, estate recovery.

Advantages of using ladybird deeds for estate planning is that they are relatively inexpensive, they avoid probate and they avoid some of the perils of joint ownership such as creditors of joint owners attaching liens on the property and joint owners exercising their rights over the property. In addition, the beneficiary can be changed at any time.

A disadvantage of using a ladybird deed to pass property to multiple beneficiaries is that it can cause disputes. In that case, naming a living trust as the beneficiary may work better because it puts one person in charge as trustee to sell the property and distribute the proceeds. If a person owns multiple properties and decides to change the plan of distribution, it is easier to amend the trust rather than multiple ladybird deeds.

If you are interested in discussing your situation and coming up with the plan that is right for you, please give me a call. I would be happy to assist you.

If you have any questions, please call Karen L. Stewart, Attorney and Counselor at (248) 735-0900.

For more information, please see my website, www.customestateplans.com.