What Can We Learn From Jerry Garcia?

Martin Scorsese is directing a musical biopic about the Grateful Dead, with Jonah Hill as the iconic rock band’s front-man, Jerry Garcia.

Many of us remember Garcia’s passing on August 9, 1995 at the young age of 53. Because he found his way into this newsletter, we’re not surprised to learn that his estate was mired in messy litigations, lasting 13 long years. Garcia drafted his own last will and named his third wife as his executrix (side note, I love that word!)

Anyway, Garcia’s estate was worth around $15M and within months of his death, had $50M in claims!

3 large claims were filed in the probate Court against the estate (1) Garcia’s second wife, Carolyn Adams, claimed that Garcia agreed to pay her $5M for support at the rate of $ 250,000 per year based on a one-page agreement signed by her and Garcia (of course without legal advice); (2) one of Garcia’s daughters felt she wasn’t left enough in his last will; and (3) Garcia’s guitar maker wanted the 4 guitars left to him in Garcia’s last will and Garcia’s band members claimed that the guitars belonged to the band and not to Garcia personally. Regular readers of this newsletter know that you can’t give what you don’t own!

So, let’s break down these claims and see what would happen in Florida.

It’s true, creditor claims and divorce often intersect, and an ex-spouse and quite often, a surviving spouse may have to file a creditor claim to enforce their rights. The Florida courts held that a premarital or postnuptial agreement can be enforced after a prior spouse’s death, but the prior spouse must file a creditor claim to enforce this contract right. A spouse in the middle of a divorce does not have to file a creditor claim, but probably should.
The ex-wife’s claim would be valid in Florida.

Florida courts have held that child support arrearage can be pursued with a creditor claim by the parent owed the support, or by an emancipated child if the parent is unable or unwilling to pursue.
The daughter’s claim would be valid in Florida.

A beneficiary may in fact be a creditor of the estate. A creditor is a person or entity that the decedent owed money to, at the time of decedent’s death.
The beneficiary’s claim would be valid in Florida.

Garcia’s estate was in trouble, all claims were valid. It turns out that wife #3 was quite an astute executrix (love it!). She was able to pare down $50M dollars of claims to $700,000.

And we learn so much today! All about Florida creditor claims, that it’s important to get professional advice when making your estate plan, and if you get confused just listen to the music 😊

Portrait of Odelia Goldberg, Esq.

With over 50 years of combined experience, our probate, estate planning, real estate, elder law and asset protection attorneys provide peace of mind for our clients throughout South Florida.

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