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Attorneys Danielle and Andy Mayoras appear in the REELZChannel’s national TV series, “Celebrity Legacies.”

Photo by Lisa Dunlap

Estate attorneys discuss ‘Celebrity Legacies’ on national TV series

By Sheila Pursglove

Estate planning and probate litigation attorneys Danielle and Andy Mayoras, principal shareholders at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras in Troy, star in the REELZChannel’s national TV series, “Celebrity Legacies,” where they discuss the estate planning errors, legal wrangling and probate dramas surrounding James Gandolfini, Whitney Houston, John Lennon, Anna Nicole Smith, JFK Jr., Farrah Fawcett, Jim Morrison, Heath Ledger, Elvis Presley, Aaron Spelling, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Marley, Ray Charles, and many others.
Co-authors of the best-selling book, “Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!,” and co-hosts of the national TV special “Trial & Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune!”, the University of Michigan Law School alumni have been regular contributors to Forbes for three years, and are contributors for Crain’s Wealth, a website for high-net-worth individuals and entrepreneurs. The couple has appeared on “Access Hollywood,” “Rachael Ray Show,” “The Insider,” The Hallmark Channel and many other national TV programs, and provides legal perspective to hundreds of media sources, including The Associated Press, ABC News, Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, Kiplinger, and The Washington Post.
The Legal News caught up to the couple between show tapings. The show is on hiatus and will return in November.
Explain the origins of “Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!” and how it launched your media career.
 
Danielle: Our book started off as a means to motivate people to do their estate planning. After many years of families and professionals asking how to get a spouse/parent/client to talk about estate planning, we wanted to have an answer. Since the book came out in 2009, we’ve had a second edition and we’ve been on an adventure ever since! 

What happened after the book came out in print? 

Danielle: Before we even had the book in hand, we received a call from a producer at the Rachael Ray show — and a couple of days later, flew to New York to tape our first media appearance. Since then, we’ve been contacted by many celebrities and celebrity heirs and have been blessed to consult and travel around the country to educate and help families of all different means and demographics. 

Andy: Our TV appearances have been so much more than we originally could have imagined. And flying back and forth to Montreal to film “Celebrity Legacies” for REELZ has been a phenomenal experience. We’ve filmed 18 episodes and head back this month to film the last eight episodes for the first season.

What sort of estate/probate mistakes do celebrities make?

Andy: Celebrities can make the same sort of errors as our clients at BRMM — not doing any estate planning at all; not having a trust; working with a general attorney instead of a specialist for their estate planning; questions of competency; and undue influence. It’s just the dollar figures that differ.

Danielle: We’ve been contacted by family members or representatives for major pop stars, Hollywood legends, and a variety of musicians — celebrities have the same issues as clients in our practice, but perhaps on a larger scale. No amount of wealth can insulate someone from the pain that results from an estate battle or bad estate planning. 

What do you enjoy about appearing before the cameras?

Andy: TV is a wonderful platform to reach more people around the country, and along the way we’ve had the chance to travel to many wonderful places and work with some amazing people. 

Do any funny moments happen during TV tapings?

Danielle: Andy likes to embarrass me a lot and hopefully, most of his jokes end up on the cutting room floor — but not all of them do! There are some that will air in “Celebrity Legacies” that make me cringe or occasionally blush. The good news is, he definitely can lighten the mood on set when we’re filming with the production company, and everyone laughs.

What sort of issues face baby boomers, whether celebrities or regular folks?

Andy: With the current population, we’re going to be prone to more estate battles in second marriages — or sixth marriages as the case sometimes may — as well as questions of competency that can arise with the population living longer.

How has the digital era changed the face of estate planning? 

Danielle: Estate planning is definitely more complex than it used to be. It’s critical that estate planning involve the passing down of passwords, and social media information. Sometimes families think they’re doing everything right then forget to take care of basic information their family members or trustees will need.

What’s the secret to successfully working together as husband and wife?

Andy: People ask us all the time what it’s like to work with your spouse. It’s definitely a juggling act with three kids, our law practice, and everything else we do, but there’s no one we’d rather be on this adventure with! We met at Michigan Law School, and always wanted to practice law together. We’re very lucky to have such supportive partners at BRMM who allow us to maintain our law practice in Michigan while taking advantage of opportunities beyond the law firm.
 
Danielle: Because we work together, we have the advantage of being able to discuss cases with each other without breaching attorney-client privilege. It’s great to be able to debrief with your spouse and best friend. 

What drew you to law?

Danielle: This may sound corny, but I genuinely wanted to help people through the law. I fell into estate planning and it’s been a great fit for me. Through the years my clients have trusted me with their family secrets . . . and have given me lots of “thank yous” and hug . . . all of which has been extremely rewarding.

Andy: I was drawn by the thought of being a trial lawyer — the strategy, gamesmanship, and analysis appealed to me. That’s one of the many reasons we enjoy working with each other — because we have different backgrounds and expertise. When we’re analyzing a case or an article, we draw on both of our legal perspectives. I recently received a letter from a client’s 30-year-old son that really touched us; he wrote, “If I ever was a lawyer, I’d want to be just like you.” Our work is very meaningful to us when we receive kind words from clients and their families and know we were able to help them.