DEAR MR. MYERS: I got freaked out by a jury’s decision this month that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, which I have used on my lawn and in my garden for years, can cause cancer. Is there some sort of class-action lawsuit planned? Also, how can I safely get rid of the two or three cans that I have in my garage?
ANSWER: Several law firms are already assembling massive class-action lawsuits against Monsanto, which has sold its popular Roundup weed killer for decades. A California jury awarded Dewayne Johnson $289 million earlier this month after deciding that the chemical was responsible for his cancer.
Many law firms are now soliciting clients for planned class-action suits. If you don’t see their ads on TV or in this newspaper, simply go to the internet and search “Monsanto Roundup” to find one.
Though the $289 million that the California jury awarded the afflicted man seems substantial, he will see just a fraction of that amount.
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In an analysis for Forbes magazine, noted tax attorney Robert Wood estimated that Johnson’s legal fees and other court-related expenses would likely gobble up about half of the award.
Because the tax-reform plan that was approved last December bans deductions for many types of legal expenses, he’ll also owe federal taxes on nearly the entire amount: That means a cool $92.5 million for the Internal Revenue Service.
On top of that, Johnson will have to pay another 10 percent or so from the jury award in California state taxes.
In the end, accountant Wood estimates, Johnson won’t actually collect more than $20 million – about one-eighth of the original award.
Like you, I have used Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer for years. I don’t have cancer, but I won’t use it anymore.
The Whatcom County Disposal of Toxics Facility accepts unwanted Roundup. Call 360-380-4640 for information about location and hours.
ABOUT REAL ESTATE: The average American produces about five pounds of trash each day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says. About half that could be recycled instead of being dumped into a garbage can and headed for the nearest landfill.
DEAR MR. MYERS: I heard on the radio that there’s a $1 billion house in Beverly Hills, California, that is for sale. Do you know what it’s like?
ANSWER: No, I don’t. That’s because it’s the last large parcel of land in swanky Beverly Hills and doesn’t have a single house or mansion on it.
Basically, it’s a multibillionaire’s versions of what you and I might consider a “vacant lot.”
Called “The Mountain,” the 157-acre plot is the highest point in the city’s vaunted 90210 ZIP code. It offers 360-degree views of all of the 4,751-square-mile Los Angeles County, when smog permits.
The plot contains 17 parcels of land, though only six are zoned for homes. The land also comes with permission to build 1.5 million square feet of living space.
Some experts suggest that it would cost an additional $4 billion to build a home of that size.
Aaron Kirman, the broker representing the property, said there are about 50 to 100 billionaires across the globe who might be looking for a property like “The Mountain.”
Though some might be willing to sell part of the property to someone else, Kirman said, “Our likely buyer is an individual who wants to build his or her own [personal] compound.”
DEAR MR. MYERS: I was interested in a recent column you wrote about living trusts, and how forming a trust can save money and time by allowing heirs to avoid probate court. I did some more research on the internet, and it sounds like a good idea to me. But is a “living trust” the same thing as an “inter vivos trust”?
ANSWER: Yes, they are the same. The English term “living trust” comes from the Latin term “inter vivos,” which roughly translates to “between living persons.”
By forming a basic living trust now and putting your home and other assets into it, you can help to ensure that your heirs will inherit your property quickly after you die instead of having them suffer through the additional emotional pain of the long and costly probate process.
David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.