Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Leonard Nimoy Passes Away

Leonard_NimoyAt 83 years  of age, beloved actor Leonard Nimoy has passed away. The actor well known for his role as Star Treks' Mr. Spock passed away Friday from lung disease. Nimoy is survived by his wife and two children. His estate is a estimated to be valued at $45 million.

See William Rameau, Leonard Nimoy Net Worth, Heirs: Star Trek's Mr. Spock Survived by Wife Susan, CHildren Julie and Adam, Breathe Cast, Feb. 27, 2015.

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


March 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Court Halts Proceedings in James Brown Estate

James Brown 2

I have previously discussed the ongoing estate battle between soul singer James Brown, and his alleged wife Tommie Rae Hynie.  The South Carolina Supreme Court has now ordered Aiken County court officials to stop all proceedings in the cases regarding Brown’s estate.  The order told the Aiken County Clerk to give the high court all orders issued in any action related to the James Brown estate and the marital status of Brown and Hynie. 

This order could indicate that the South Carolina Supreme Court wants to reevaluate the case, as there are many questions that need to be answered.  Yet, the lawyer for Brown’s family said the order “puts the whole case in limbo and stops everything in its tracks until the Supreme Court gives direction.”  The legal dispute has also put Brown’s foundation on hold, which was supposed to provide education to poor children in South Carolina and Georgia. 

See The Associated Press, SC Supreme Court Freezes James Brown Estate Case, The State, Feb. 26, 2015.

February 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rights and Obligations of Sperm Donors for Same-Sex Couples

BabyRecent case involving sperm donors for lesbian couples gaining visitation rights and being ordered by courts to pay child support raises important legal questions on the current law involving rights of donors and paternity presumptions.

It can be difficult for couples that acquire the help of a sperm donor to birth children to keep the donor out of the child's life if strict procedures, such as going through a sperm bank, are not followed, which can be very expensive. Even lesbian couple's in states that recognize their union, face additional difficulty than opposite-sex married couples due to the presumption of paternity not being applied to either female parent. However, California has interpreted its paternity presumption broadly and has allowed the presumption to attach to one member of a same-sex couple.

See John Culhane, Sperm Donors are Winning Visitation Rights, Slate, Feb. 20, 2015.

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

February 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tom Benson Denied Expedited Appeal

Tom Benson

The Texas Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio has rejected Tom Benson’s request for an expedited review of a lower court’s decision to temporarily oust the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner as steward of a trust created for his now-estranged daughter. 

In a motion filed Monday, Benson’s lawyers asked the court to speed up the usual 60-day briefing schedule, the reason being significant legal costs.  They wanted oral arguments set for seven days after his daughter, Renee Benson, files a brief in the appeal.  However, Court of Appeals denied the request on Wednesday without any explanation.

Benson is appealing the decision made by Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff, who put the trust under the oversight of ex-San Antonio mayor Phil Hardberger and Art Bayer, a local attorney.  Benson’s lawyers argue that Rickhoff’s decision was problematic because less “harsh” remedies were not considered.  Hardberger and Bayern are each charging the trust $600 an hour — or a total of $9,600 daily — to handle decision-making responsibilities, money the trust will never recover.  

See Ramon Antonio Vargas, Tom Benson’s Request for an Expedited Appeal is Denied in Legal Battle Over Texas Trust, The Advocate, Feb. 26, 2015.

February 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bobbi Kristina Taken Out of Medically Induced Coma

Bobbi Kristina

I have previously discussed Bobbi Kristina, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, who was found unconscious in her bathtub last month. 

As of today, Bobbi Kristina has been taken out of a medically induced coma.  However, the sole heir to Houston’s multimillion-dollar estate remains on live support, which includes a ventilator and feeding tube.  “We’re hoping for a significant change soon, but we know that it may not change anything,” reported a family member. 

Recently, Brown’s feud with his daughter’s boyfriend, Nick Gordon, has escalated.  Earlier this week, Gordon insinuated Brown’s concerns for Bobbi Kristina were disingenuous, tweeting: “Go check out the few pics he has with her.  Check out Kris and I pics.  Dude is a joke played out.  He is here fore publicity.”  The family is trying to ignore the drama with Gordon and focus their attention on Bobbi Kristina.

See Janelle Griffith, Bobbi Kristina Brown Taken Out of Coma Remains on Life Support, Relative Says, NJ.com, Feb. 25, 2015.

February 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Texas Attorney General Asks For Same-Sex Marriage Voided

Law RingsAs I have previously discussed, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a stay on same-sex marriages in the state last Thursday per the request of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. On Friday Paxton made a request to the court to void the first same-sex marriage in Texas since the state passed its gay marriage ban, which was performed last Thursday. Paxton expressed that allowing the marriage license to  be valid would result in "legal chaos." Paxton's full filing to the Supreme Court of Texas can be seen here.

See Mark Berman, Texas Attorney General Asks State Supreme Court to Void Same-Sex Marriage License, The Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2015.

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

February 24, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bobbi Kristina's Life Support Battle Continues

Bobbi Kristina

Bobbi Kristina was found lifeless in the bathtub only a few months ago, and now her father Bobby Brown must decide when to terminate life support. 

On of the problems this situation presents is that Bobbi Kristina was already far removed from her family when she was found.  The absence of any kind of medical directive makes Brown the de facto next of kin when it comes to determining how long the doctors should keep her alive. 

Although Nick Gordon was Bobbi Kristina’s longtime boyfriend, fathers outrank boyfriends or even fiancés.  If Bobbi Kristina and Nick ever got married, he would have had the spousal right to make medical decisions on her behalf.  Instead, like many couples living together without a marriage license, their opinions can be overruled at any time once hospital administrators get in touch with the parents or other blood relatives.  Furthermore, a husband would have inherited the $20 million Bobbi Kristina’s mother left her; now Bobby Brown may end up with Whitney’s money after all. 

See Scott Martin, Would Whitney Have Let Bobbi Die? Life Support Fight Highlights Need for Multiple Levels of Advance Directive, Trust Advisor, Feb. 16, 2015.

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

February 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tom Benson: Treated Unfairly?

Tom Benson Family

On February 9, Bear County Probate Judge Tom Rickoff ordered that two receivers take control of Tom Benson’s Texas-based fortune—a move that has not occurred more than a dozen or so times in the past thirty years. 

This order sparked concern because it was based upon only a slight finding that Tom Benson is “stressed” by the pressures of sports fans and media scrutiny attendant to the probate proceedings, rather than probable cause or credible evidence of actual incompetence.  Neither the United States Constitution, nor the Texas Estates Code allow this kind of overreaching by the courts, which deprives citizens of liberty or property without due process of law.  Yet, Judge Rickoff cites a two-day hearing to justify the extraordinarily rare act of ordering a receivership over the 87-year-old’s fortune. 

The receivers confirm the premature nature of Judge Rickoff’s unprecedented decision, stating that their immediate plans include “deciding whether the assets are in any danger.”  Not only could this suggest that receivership was an abuse of discretion, but Benson’s attorneys characterize this move as a “fishing expedition.”

See Candice Schwager, Judge Rickoff’s Unprecedented Receivership Over 87-Year Old Tom Benson’s Fortune, Examiner, Feb. 22, 2015.

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

February 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Texas Supreme Court Blocks Gay Marriages

Texas Supreme CourtJust hours after Austin’s first same-sex marriage took place on Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order blocking other gay couples from obtaining marriage licenses. 

Although the high court did not specifically address the marriage license granted to the two women married yesterday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the high court’s orders meant their marriage license was void. 

“Texas law is clear on the definition of marriage, and I will fight to protect this sacred institution and uphold the will of Texans, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment defining the union as between one man and one woman,” Paxton said in a statement, adding that the probate judge’s “misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman.”

See Lauren Raab and Molly Hennessy-Fiske, After One Gay Marriage, Texas Supreme Court Issues Order Blocking More, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 19, 2015.

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

February 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

First Same-Sex Couple to Marry In Texas

Gay Marriage Texas

Today, a Travis County district judge ordered the county clerk to stop relying upon unconstitutional Texas laws to refuse a marriage license to a lesbian couple.  Just fifteen minutes later, Austin women Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant obtained their marriage license and became legally married.  “It’s the first same-sex couple married in the history of Texas.  They have been waiting 30 years to get married . . . It’s a big deal—a big deal for the family.  Great day,” said their attorney Chuck Herring. 

The two women sued Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who refused to issue them a marriage license based on concerns about the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.  DeBeauvoir said she would not issue the license unless a court ordered her to do so.  Goodfriend and Bryant asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop DeBeauvoir from refusing to issue their license. 

126th District Judge Davis Wahlberg ordered DeBeauvoir “to cease and desist relying on the unconstitutional Texas prohibition against same-sex marriage as a basis for not issuing a marriage license to plaintiffs Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant.”

See Angela Morris, First Same-Sex Couple Legally Marries in Texas, Texas Lawyer, Feb. 19, 2015.

February 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)