What Can We Learn From Lucille Ball?

Being the Ricardos is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, starring Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball…”Lucy! I’m home!”
Our lesson, however, is regarding Lucille Ball’s estate plan. Lucille Ball passed away on April 26, 1989, leaving a second husband (actor Gary Morton) and two children (Lucie and Desi Arnaz Jr.) from her marriage to Desi Arnaz. Ball had put an estate plan in place and created a trust naming her daughter (Lucie -that’s not confusing or anything) as her Trustee with the trust assets split three ways, to her husband (Morton) and two children. So far, so good.
Five years after Ball’s death, Morton remarried with professional golfer, Susan McAllister. The two remained married until Morton’s death in 1999. When he died, Morton left the personal items he inherited from Ball’s estate (including a Rolls-Royce, photographs and lifetime achievement awards) to McAllister. Allegedly, many of the items, including love letters between Ball and Arnaz, were first passed to Lucie, but after Lucie didn’t claim them from Ball’s estate, were inherited by Morton, who eventually passed them to McAllister after he died. Ay-yay-yay.
Several years later, in 2010, McAllister placed the Ball items for sale at an auction house and that’s where the trouble began. Despite a lawsuit by Lucie for an injunction to stop the sale, Ball’s love letters to Arnaz, family photographs and the Rolls-Royce were sold at auction. Lucie was able to negotiate the return of her mother’s lifetime achievement awards.
So, what can we learn from this legal war? This is a great time to talk about the Memorandum of Disposition!
According to Florida Statute 732.515, the memorandum is a separate document that is referenced in the last will and testament and disposes of any tangible personal property. If you take the house and garage, and flip them upside down, all that stuff can go into the memorandum. The only thing that cannot go into the memorandum is cash or real property. The best thing about this memorandum is that one can change it without the attorney. So, we would put the last will in place. The last will references a memorandum that the individual can amend and change at any time. If someone upsets you, you can cross them out of the memorandum; if they delight you, you can write them back in again. The memorandum is a working document of specific, tangible items.
“Lucy….you have some splainin’ to do!” Had Ball been a Florida resident and completed her memorandum, her daughter would not have had the auction house issue as some things may be meant to stay in the family.
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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