Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Man Accused of Poisoning His Fourth Wife To Be Re-tried for Poisoning His Third Wife

Images-5A 59-year-old former Vienna funeral director, Robert Girts, has been charged with murdering his third wife and is now in jail accused of poisoning his fourth wife.

His fourth wife claims that she started feeling ill after Girts began bringing coffee to her workplace. Girts's murder convictions were twice overturned in the death of his third wife, who died after potassium cyanide was sprinkled on her pasta salad.  Prosecutors are preparing to retry Girts for a third time and based on the claim of his fourth wife, his bond was recently revoked at an emergency hearing in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

See Tue., 9:58am: Former Vienna Funeral Director Back in Jail, TribToday.com, Jan. 29, 2013. 

January 31, 2013 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Art Critic's Daughter Wants Her Father's Art Work Returned to Her

Images-5Paul Westheim is a deceased art critic and his daughter is claiming that owners of a Manhattan gallery benefited from a deception involving German Expressionist works her father left in Berlin as he was fleeing Nazi persecution.  

Margit Frenk, his daughter, seeks the return of four paintings and $3.6 million for the fifth one ("The Violin") that the gallery sold.  She sued the Yris Rabenou Gallery, its owner and her husband, and their two sons in New York County Supreme Court.  

Yris Rabenou Soloman, the gallery owner, is executrix of the estate of Charlotte Weidler, an art dealer and one of Westheim's former friends.  Before Westheim fled to France, he gave his collection to Weidler for safekeeping.  After WWII concluded, Weidler led Westheim to believe that his collection was lost or destroyed in the war.  Weidler then took the works, that had in fact survived the war, to New York and fraudulently concealed them from Westheim until his death when she started selling the works.  When Weidler died, she bequeathed the Westheim works to Yris Rabenou Solomon and David Solomon.  Frenk is seeking a judgment declaring her the rightful owner of her father's collection and the proceeds from sale of "The Violin."

See Adam Klasfeld, Art Case Alleges WW II-Era Double-Cross, Courthouse News Service, Jan. 30, 2013. 

January 31, 2013 in Current Events, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kremen Fails to Prove Fraudulent Transfer

Images-5In Kremen v. Cohen, Kremen won a large judgment against Cohen for stealing Kremen's web domain sex.com.  Kremen then sued Stephen Cohen's cousin, Michael Cohen, for fraudulent transfers received from Stephen after Stephen fled to Mexico to avoid payment of Kremen's $65 million judgment against him.  

In that instance, Kremen loses to Michael Cohen on summary judgment.  In his quest to prove that Michael Cohen fraudulently transferred money to his cousin, the court says that he cannot get past summary judgment because he failed to prove the two Mexican companies were Michael Cohen's alter ego.

See Jay Adkisson, Kremen Failure to Prove Fraudulent Transfer, Forbes, Jan. 19, 2013.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 31, 2013 in Current Events, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

James Brown Trust Suit Dismissed

James BrownAs I have previously discussed, there has been a continued dispute over James Brown's estate. That legal battle is over. The parties have come to an agreement with 50% of Brown's estate going to his trust, 25% of the estate going to Tomi Rae Hynie, Brown's spouse, and the other 25% to his heirs. 

In 2011, Jacquelyne Hollander, a partner who worked for Brown, filed a civil suit in federal court claiming James Brown did not intend for his children to receive his assets after his death. The suit named both the "James Brown I Feel Good Irrevocable Trust", and Attorney General Alan Wilson. Hollander was seeking the authority to distribute the trust funds because of her involvement in the trust setup. Unfortunately for Hollander, a court dismissed the suit preventing the distribution of his trust assets. The claim Hollander brought against the Attorney General stems from her account of the negative interactions she had with the Attorney General's Office over the years. She claimed she was treated badly and eventually disregarded all together. Due to politics, many attorneys have refused to represent her in the matter.

See Mike Gellatly, Suit looking to halt distribution of James Brown's trust dismissed, Aiken Standard, Jan. 24, 2013.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 31, 2013 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Founder of Turkey's Children and their Mother Never Receive Their Inheritance

Mustafa AtaturkAs I have previously discussed, the sons of Ülkü Adatepe sent notarized letters to the Republican People's party (CHP) and Turkey's largest bank demanding that they deliver their grandfather's $1 million inheritance to them. The sons claimed that their mother's right were violated. The sons also claim that if the bank does not comply with their request then they will bring suit against the bank. The bank, through their CEO Ersin Özince, stated "the bank has so far acted in line with the will of Atatürk and made regular payments to Adatepe until her death." Özince further commented he believes the jurists will likely rule in favor with the bank. The CHP also stated that it was not sure about the demand the sons have made. The party's chairman, Adnan Keskin, stated that the party paid Adatepe regularly until her death.

See İş Bank Says Unable To Do Anything About Atatürk's Grandchildren's Demand, Today's Zaman, Jan. 2013.

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

January 31, 2013 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Talent Agency of Tony Scott Files Creditor's Claim Against the Estate

Tony ScottWhen Hollywood Producer Tony Scott died, he had yet to pay his talent agent more than $1 million in commissions. So, the Talent Agency, CCA, has filed a creditor's claim against Scott's estate looking to obtain that lost revenue. Scott apparently owed CCA a total of $1,040,522, which is divided in the following manner: "$70,426 for 'Unstoppable', $450,000 for 'Man on Fire,' $110,096 for 'The Taking of Pelham 123,' $400,000 for 'Deja Vu,' and $10,000 for some video game project." It should probably come as no surprise to anyone that Tony Scott earned a pretty penny for his work on those movies. Scott committed suicide in August 2012 by jumping off an L.A. bridge.

See TMZ Staff, Tony Scott--Talent Agency Files $1 Mil Claim Against Producer's Estate, TMZ, Jan. 30, 2013.

January 31, 2013 in Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Catch the Premiere of "Death: It's A Living" on CNBC

TrustsCNBC will premiere a documentary hosted by CNBC's Tyler Mathisen on the creation and the industry of drafting living wills. The show that will broadcast twice on January 31st. First 9:00 pm EST and then again at 12:00 AM EST. Provided below is a description on the event from CNBC:

Death isn't just a certainty -- it's an industry, where sympathy and profits go hand in hand. CNBC tells the fascinating story of the $17 billion-a-year "death care" business, which everyone confronts yet few understand. Did you know that casket sales rise during cold and flu season, or that a new breed of entrepreneurs can transport your cremated remains aboard a rocket ship? With a fast-paced and engaging approach, CNBC's Tyler Mathisen profiles the professionals who earn their living bringing people from here… to the hereafter. The documentary goes behind the scenes of the increasingly corporate-owned business of funeral homes, explaining a tradition critics say is commercially created and designed to pump up profits. It explores the huge rise in cremation and uncovers some unconventional ways to say goodbye, whether at sea or in space. CNBC follows a traveling salesman who peddles caskets, with new models that have been widened to keep pace with rising obesity rates. And it goes inside the strange business of cemeteries: real estate entities where the land, and new income, inevitably run out but the pricey promise to maintain every gravesite remains.

Can this industry, steeped in tradition and facing profound changes, reinvent itself for a generation that's demanding new ways to deal with the departed and celebrate their lives? Find out, in the CNBC original documentary, "Death: It's a Living," premiering on January 31 at 9PM ET/PT. 

January 31, 2013 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Article on "Material Conflict of Interest" Language Added to the Texas Probate Code

6a00d8341bfae553ef016302487689970d-100wiElizabeth R. Kopecki (St. Mary's University School of Law, J.D. expected May 2013) recently published her comment entitled Removal of Independent Executors: Examining the Standard in Texas After the Addition of "Material Conflict of Interest" To Section 149C of the Texas Probate Code, 44 St. Mary's L.J. 281 (2012).  The introduction to the comment is below: 

The State of Texas allows independent executors to operate with minimal court supervision so executors can administer an estate with as little cost and delay as possible. Executors, from time to time, abuse the limited court supervision and fail to manage estates appropriately. Fortunately, there are several particular circumstances enumerated in section 149C of the Texas Probate Code that allow courts to step in and remove executors who would otherwise cause injury to an estate and its beneficiaries. These enumerated grounds for removal facilitate the effective administration of estates in Texas by authorizing courts to remove executors who are not acting in the best interests of an estate. However, each additional ground for removal under section 149C increases a beneficiary's ability to challenge the actions of an executor and consequently delays settlement of an estate.
Since the adoption of section 149C to the Texas Probate Code in 1979, the grounds for removal have remained relatively specific. Recently, however, the legislature added another ground for removal: “material conflict of interest.” Arguably, this addition to section 149C will open the door to litigation because precisely what circumstances may give rise to a material conflict are not yet defined. Fortunately, courts outside of Texas have considered conflicts of interest in suits brought for the removal of executors and disqualification of administrators for several years now. Though no bright-line rule exists, there is precedent that Texas courts can rely on to determine the existence of a material conflict. However, the legislature can reduce the superfluous litigation this amendment will inevitably create by removing the material conflict of interest provision from section 149C. Alternatively, the legislature should add another section to the probate code that clearly defines the situations that give rise to a material conflict.
This Comment will address the issue as follows: Examined first will be section 149C safeguards prior to the material conflict of interest amendment. Next, the amendment will be considered along with the possible consequences and benefits of providing courts with another tool to remove an executor. This Comment will conclude with the proposal that the material conflict of interest provision be either removed from section 149C, or refined with a new section to fulfill the goals of the Texas probate system better.

January 30, 2013 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Two Men in Wexford Accused of Forging a Will

Images-1In 1998, Matthew Hayes died in Wexford on Christmas day. The Wexford circuit court is now hearing allegations that Noel Hayes and William O'Leary forged his will, which left his entire 162 acre estate and money to Noel Hayes.  

In 2009, Charlie O'Leary pleaded guilty to his part in the alleged forgery and he was the first witness in the trial of his brother William and Noel Hayes.  He said that Noel Hayes and William came to his office just before Christmas in 1998, telling him that a distant relation was close to death.  He also said that, on Christmas day, he decided to help his friend Noel write a false will. Charlie testified that Noel had a check with Matthew Hayes' signature on it and that Noel had been practicing that signature a lot.  He went on to admit to the court that he wrote out the will and backdated it, while Noel signed Matthew Hayes's name on it and he and William signed as witnesses. The case is still ongoing.

See Two Accused of 'Complete Deception' Over Man's Will, RTENews, Jan. 17, 2013. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 30, 2013 in Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Price of Quoting Winston Churchill

Unknown-7 The Churchill family has a long history of taking copyright law to the extreme to demand excessive payments for use of Churchill's quotes.  Despite the fact that biographer Barry Singer had a good relationship with Churchill's heirs, when he went to write a book on Churchill, the family declared that he couldn't incorporate quotations unless he paid.  The heirs' going rate is 50 cents per word. Singer cut back on what he quoted, but he still had to pay for 3,872 words he used that included direct quotations from Churchill.  Ultimately, he ended up getting a slight discount. The family charged him £950 for those words which came out to be 40 cents per word. 

See Mike Masnick, Churchill's Heirs Seek to Lose The Future By Charging Biographer To Quote His Words, techdirt, Jan. 22, 2013. 

January 30, 2013 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)