Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Show About How Celebrity's Families Deal With Celebrity Estates

Unknown-2The Will: Family Secrets Revealed is a show on Investigation Discovery that details what happens to famous people's estates after they die.  The third season begins on Thursday, October 18 at 9 p.m. ET and it is set to feature stars such as Ritchie Valens, Jerry Garcia, Gary Coleman, and Tammy Wynette. For more details about each of these episodes, please click here.

See THE WILL: FAMILY SECRETS REVEALED Gets a Facelift For Season Three, Featuring Celebrity Stories and Famous Family Feuds, PR Newswire, Sept. 12, 2012.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.   

September 13, 2012 in Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jacksons Accuse Concert Promotor AEG of Being Involved With Michael Jackson's Death

Images-6Concert promoter AEG is in the spotlight after confidential emails revealed their involvement in Michael Jackson's final days. The emails generally indicate that AEG demanded that the show go on despite their knowledge of Michael Jackson's weak state.  

Katherine Jackson and other family members sued AEG, blaming them for controlling and failing to supervise Dr. Conrad Murray.  AEG denies both accusations and assert that Murray was Jackson's personal physician and the only one responsible.  

In response to the published emails, AEG claims that they do not paint a complete picture.  AEG has gone even further to attack the Jackson family for leaking those emails to the media in spite of court orders prohibiting them from publicizing those court documents. 

Katherine Jackson and her legal team deny publicizing the emails.  Businessman Howard Mann, Katherine's business partner, claimed responsibility for disclosing the emails to media.  

Ultimately, the judge who hears the case will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to a jury...if it even makes it that far.  

Just because AEG knew of Jackson's condition and encouraged him to perform anyways, they are not necessarily legally responsible.  Dr. Murray was the central figure, assuring managers of AEG that Michael was able to perform.  If the Jackson family can convince the judge that AEG was pushing Dr. Murray to get Jackson to perform at all costs, AEG could still be liable in part. 

While AEG may escape liability in this lawsuit, they are likely in serious legal trouble with a $17.5 million lawsuit by insurer Lloyds of London.  Lloyds of London issued an insurance policy to AEG to protect it in case Jackson could not perform and now they are claiming that AEG didn't fully disclose Jackson's medical condition when they took out the policy.  These emails that have been revealed indicate that AEG knew more than disclosed to Lloyds. 

See Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Is Promotor AEG Responsible For Michael Jackson's Death, Forbes, Sept. 10, 2012. 

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 13, 2012 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article Proposing Uniformity in Inheritance Rights of Adult Adoptees

Adoption_certificateJackie Messler (J.D. 2012, Marquette University Law School) recently published her article entitled The Inconsistent Inheritance Rights of Adult Adoptees and a Proposal For Uniformity, 95 Marq. L. Rev. 1043 (2012).  The introduction to the article is below: 

In the areas of trust and will interpretation, states vary on how to interpret class gifts that include language such as “issue,” “heirs,” and “children.” This variance is one motivation for people to undertake drastic measures such as adult adoption. For example, Father and Mother set up a trust to benefit their children, X, Y, & Z. Z dislikes his siblings but has no spouse or children. Z wants to make sure his share of his parents' trust does not go to his siblings. Z adopts a good friend of his, T, who is an adult. Jurisdictions vary on how to interpret T's interest and vary on T's ability to benefit from Z's parents' trust. Some statutes only restrict an adult adoptee's ability to inherit from a third party when the testamentary documents specifically prohibit such inheritance. Other statutes set a strict age limit, disallowing an adult adoptee to inherit from a third party when they are adopted after age eighteen. Although the example illustrates one motivation for adult adoption, most times an adoption is a result of a close and loving relationship. The goal of the adoption is to make the person a genuine member of the family. As it stands, states do not uniformly treat adult adoptees as genuine members of the family. A default rule that uniformly recognizes the adoptee's inheritance rights generally aligns with the adoptor's motivation for the adoption.

There are several different theories on how to remedy this inconsistency. One solution would change the current definition and meaning of “family” in the law. The so-called “functional” approach attempts to define the familial relationship by actually looking at the nature of the relationship between parties. Another solution would allow people to designate a beneficiary at law, eliminating the need to turn to drastic measures, such as adult adoption. A third solution would be to pass a uniform law giving an adult adoptee the status of a natural child. Uniformity would help to fulfill the goal of undertaking the adoption in the first place--to take in the person as a genuine member of the family.
In this Comment, Part II will discuss the history of adoption and give a background on how adult adoption differs from “regular” adoption. Part III will discuss the different motivations parties would have for adult adoption, ranging from inclusion in a class gift to denying standing to collateral relatives who seek to challenge a testamentary disposition. Part IV compares the current inheritance rights of adult adoptees in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. Part V outlines solutions and proposals for solving the inconsistency of adult adoptees' inheritance rights across jurisdictions. Finally, Part VI concludes with a summary of the main issues and the proposals to remedy those issues.

September 13, 2012 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Where To Store Your Personal Treasures

MoneyEvery person reading this probably has some form of treasure, a valuable personal item, whether it be jewelry or family photos. There a variety of options that a person can choose from when it comes to storing these valuable objects. Unfortunately, there is not a completely secure option to choose from. For example, if a person chooses to place his or her valuables in a safe-deposit box, there is always a risk that the bank's employees could misplace the owner's personal items or these items could vanish during bank mergers. In fact, this past year about $15 million in personal property went missing in safe-deposit boxes.

It is important to remember that unlike personal accounts, the contents of safe-deposit boxes are not insured by the FDIC. To prevent a loss that might occur, a person might want to consider purchasing home owner's insurance to cover the costs should the client's property go missing. On that note, a person might also want to consider getting his or her valuable items appraised, making an inventory of all of the items that a person places in the safe-deposit box, and taking photographs of items. A person might also want to consider placing items in waterproof containers before they place those items in a safe-deposit box. Finally, a person might want to continue paying his or her rent on time to prevent that person's items from reverting to the state.

In contrast to tangible items, some professionals think that home safes are perfect for important documents, such as wills. Experts strongly recommend that a person consider purchasing a safe and bolting it to the floor or wall for added security. 

See Rachel Emma Silverman, How to Make Safes Safer, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 10, 2012.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 13, 2012 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Declines to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Ashley Furniture

Humphrey BogartThe estate of Humphrey Bogart filed a suit against Ashley Furniture, claiming that the furniture store is using the late actor's name in the name "Bogart Blue," which infringes upon their rights to control the actor's namesake. Now, a federal judge has refused to dismiss the lawsuit against the furniture store meaning that this litigation will continue. The Vice President of Ashely Furniture, Lisa Adair, has argued that the company used the name Bogart in reference to the city of Bogart, Georgia, and not the famous actor. While the court has allowed the litigation to proceed, the attorney for Bogart's Estate has yet to provide any evidence to suggest that the furniture store's use of the late-actor's name "has caused consumers confusion, diluted trademarks or publicity rights, or was a deceptive trade practice but was moving the case along anyway."

See Furniture Today Staff, Lawsuit Continues Over Ashley's Use of 'Bogart' Name, Furniture Today, Aug. 30, 2012.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 13, 2012 in Current Events, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lawyer Accused of Using Forged Durable Power of Attorney to Murder Her Father

Court FightA lawyer from Missouri has been charged with First-Degree Murder of her father while he was staying at his vacation home. The lawyer has pleaded not guilty to the charge. What makes this case interesting is that the the state has accused of the attorney of murdering her father by forging her father's durable power of attorney so that the doctors would have no choice but "'to deny him life sustaining medical treatment.'" The attorney, Susan Elizabeth Van Note, owns a firm in Kansas City, Missouri.

See Martha Neil, Mo. Lawyer Charged in Dad's Murder Accused of Using Forged Health Care POA to Deny Him Treatment, ABAJournal, Sept. 10, 2012.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention. 

September 13, 2012 in Current Events, Malpractice, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Battle for Nate Dogg's Estate

WillsA year has passed and the estate of Nate Dogg is still engaged in a dispute between his children and his mother and widow. In dispute here is about $200,000 in real estate and much more in the royalities from his music catalog. The problems here have occurred because Nate Dogg did not leave a will instructing how his estate should be ministered. The lack of a will has given Calvin the opportunity to take control over the estate. Recently, Calvin filed some paperwork to have Holmes added as the co-administrator. Nate Dogg's children are opposed to having Nate Dogg's wife, Layota Calvin, and his mother, Ruth Holmes, control the estate. The children have tried to name an attorney to become the administrator but their attempt failed.One of his daughters, Auncrane Hale, stated that all his mother and widow want are the money from the estate. He claimed that if they control the estate, they will not give the children any money at all.

See Cyrus Langhorne, Nate Dogg's Family Ignite Messy Battle Over Estate, "Grandmother is Only Involved - For The Money", Sohh.com, Sept. 3, 2012.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention. 

September 13, 2012 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Article on Digital Asset Legislation

Images-5Tyler G. Tarney (Capital University Law School, J.D. 2012) recently published his article entitled A Call For Legislation to Permit The Transfer of Digital Assets at Death, 40 Cap. U. L. Rev. 773 (2012).  The introduction the article is below: 


“A quiet revolution is quickly coming to the probate and estate planning world.” The Internet has fundamentally changed the way society communicates and expresses itself, and there is now tremendous value lying in one's e-mails, social networking accounts, blogs, and other digital assets. Younger generations that embraced the Internet and created this value are getting older and confronting death. Unfortunately, the same technologies that are driving the digital age are creating new legal problems for estate planners. 
As society's online presence becomes increasingly complex, protection of online assets at death is an emerging concern. “[F]amily members, estate planning attorneys, and . . . service providers are increasingly grappling with what happens to [individuals'] digital information when [they] die.” “In one form or another, the right to pass on property to one's family . . . has been part of the Anglo-American legal system since feudal times.” Despite this growing value of digital assets, given the current state of the law, “[s]imply leaving cyber property in a will . . . is often going to be inadequate.”
The traditional understanding to keep unique, complex passwords for each account and to change them frequently becomes counterproductive and difficult to manage as the number of accounts rapidly increases. When heirs desire access but are not in possession of log-in information, service providers are “in exclusive control of the account content.” Without a remedy, heirs are forced to consult the provisions in the terms of use regarding the disposition of the account holder's account contents at death. However, the terms drafted by service providers are highly restrictive to maintain the privacy of their users.
Considering the current complexities in retrieving digital assets at death, legislation mandating transferability and timely compliance by service providers upon legally-recognized authorization of the decedent is necessary. Part II of this article underlines the value in digital assets and the policy concerns motivating service providers in drafting these restrictive terms, making the disposition of these assets at death so complex. Part III examines the solutions offered by state statutes, service providers, and the current market, and explains how these solutions are insufficient and shortsighted. Ultimately, Part IV explains why a uniform law permitting the transferability of digital assets upon legally-recognized intent is advantageous and how it resolves the competing concerns of account users and service providers.


September 12, 2012 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Settlement Ends Litigation Over "Thriller"

Images-4John Landis, director of "Thriller," and George Folsey Jr., producer of "Thriller," sued Michael Jackson and his company in January 2009.  They claimed that Jackson still owed them money for work they did on the 14-minute "Thriller" video.

Landis also claimed that he owned at least 50% of the "separated rights' to the video, reasoning that this entitled him to "dramatic rights" derivations, including stage adaptations.  Before Jackson's death, Jackson made a deal with the Nederlander Organization to produce a musical version of "Thriller."  Landis believed that he would be due a cut of such a musical.  The production that Nederlander was going to be a part of never launched, and instead, the estate launched the Cirque du SOleil show, "Immortal."  

On Friday, the estate released a statement indicating that the estate reached a settlement with Landis and Folsey Jr. on their claims, so litigation over "Thriller" should be concluded.

See Michael Jackson Estate Settles Lawsuit Over 'Thriller' Video, eurweb.com, Sept. 4, 2012.  

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention. 

September 12, 2012 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Convert Cash to A Life Insurance Policy

Images-3Many high net worth clients are more concerned with loss than gain when looking at asset protection and estate planning.  The focus is on loss due to the increased risk of litigation, decrease in earnings, stalled or negative investments, and the uncertainty surrounding estate taxes at the end of this year.  

To protect assets in this economic climate, it may pay to convert liquid assets into assets that are creditor-protected. In many states, including Texas, life-insurance is protected from creditors by statute.  These statutes allow an individual to convert exposed assets such as cash to assets protected by a death benefit.

There is more liquid wealth out there than there ever has been because people perceive the stock market and real estate market to be unstable.  Why convert the liquid wealth? A recent report on banks indicates that they remain at risk of imminent failure. Furthermore, in addition to being vulnerable to creditors, cash is producing next to zero returns.  

If individuals decide to convert cash to policies, the following are good policies to consider: "'full/high cash value in year one, No surrender charges or lagging cash value, a high death benefit to prove up the legitimate business purpose, ability to access cash value through policy loans and to collateralize, ability to allocate to a 'segregated account' that protects your client from real or perceived solvency risk of the carrier itself.'"

When looking to make this conversion, individuals should consider the timing, ensure that he or she is an insurable policy owner, and consult an attorney for details of his or her state's statute.  

See Ike Devji, Life Insurance as Asset Protection, LifeHealthPro, Sept. 1, 2012. 

September 12, 2012 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)