Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Family Claims Patrick Swayze's Will Was Forged

Patrick swayze

A legal battle may be brewing between Patrick Swayze’s family members and his widow, Lisa Niemi, as questions regarding his estate remain.  Swayze’s family members are claiming that the second, updated will that surfaced shortly after the actor died from pancreatic cancer in September of 2009 was forged. 

The second will, which was filed in a New Mexico court shortly before the actor died, shocked family members.  According to the family, the will had several flaws; it was signed when he was very ill and in the hospital and when he was unable to understand or sign anything.  Furthermore, the entire family was excluded from the will, and did not receive any part of Swayze’s $40 million estate. 

The family had the documents reviewed by a handwriting expert, who revealed that the documents and signatures were likely to be forged.  The family will go to court to for a ruling on the alleged fraud, hauling with them Lisa and her brother, who was made co-executor of the estate. 

See Patrick Swayze Family Claims Will was Forged, Examiner, Oct. 29, 2014.

October 30, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Melissa Rivers Assembles Attorneys

Joan and Melissa Rivers

Melissa Rivers has recently taken steps towards what could be a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over her mother’s death. 

Melissa hired the New York firm of Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman, Mackauf, Bloom & Rubinowitz to initiate a wrongful death suit against the Upper East Side clinic, Yorkville Endoscopy.  Melissa’s mother, Joan Rivers, went into cardiac arrest during a procedure at this clinic.  Her cause of death was listed as “anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest,” which is brain damage from lack of oxygen.

“In order to fully determine all the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Joan Rivers, we confirm that our firm has been engaged by Melissa Rivers and her family,” remarked Ben Rubinowitz, a managing partner at the firm. 

Yet before any moves can be made in Melissa’s case, Rivers’ will must be filed in court.  Melissa is expected to be named as executor of Rivers’ estate, and prior to filing a lawsuit, a judge must empower her to act on behalf of the estate.

See Barbara Ross and Dareh Gregorian, Joan Rivers’ Daughter to File Lawsuit Against Yorkville Endoscopy, Clinic Where Comic Had Fateful Procedure, NY Daily News, Oct. 28, 2014.

October 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LegalZoom Estate Planning Services Coming to Sam’s Club

WillAs I have previously discussed, LegalZoom has begun to carry out the planned expansion of the legal services they offer. Through a recently announced partnership with Sam’s Club, LegalZoom is bringing discounted estate planning services to Sam’s Club members. Members will have the option to purchase a bundled will or trust package for $299, which will include a limited revision service for a year. If the members need services outside of the packages, then they can purchase them at a 25% discount.

See Debra Cassens Weiss, LegalZoom Products Will be Sold at a Discount Through Sam’s Club, ABA Journal, Oct. 27, 2014.

October 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage Views Around the World

Gavel-marriageAs I have previously discussed, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to review rulings that overturned multiple state bans on same-sex marriage. There are countries throughout the world that have already resolved this legal issue and have come to accept same-sex marriage in their culture. Some are more recent, such as Britain where same-sex marriage has only been legal since March of this year, but civil partnerships had been recognized for years prior. Other countries have had a longer history of legal recognition of same-sex marriage, such as The Netherlands, which became the first country in the world in 2001.

However, the change in marriage laws did not create a completely sweeping change of mindsets, and same-sex couples still face challenges in these countries. In Britain, a same-sex couple reported that while they did not have any major problems with the process of obtaining a fiancée’s visa, the forms included the terms “bride” and “groom” rather than an option for two brides or grooms or a gender neutral term like “spouse.” Despite the Netherlands history making legalization over a decade ago, it can still be difficult for same-sex couples in some areas of the country to find a venue for their marriage, and not all areas have accepted the practice of same-sex marriage.

See Gregory Katz, Associated Press, Before US, Gay Marriage Accepted in Parts of World, Yahoo News, Oct. 17, 2014

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 28, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cemeteries Moving Upward

CemeteryAround the world, in densely populated cities and countries, the availability of land is diminishing and cemeteries are reaching capacity. In Beirut, Lebanon, the unavailability of burial plots has resulted in multiple family members being buried in a single grave. In Mexico City, remains are cycled in graves and years after a burial the remains are exhume to make room. To address this land scarcity problem, a trend is being seen of cemeteries built up instead of out. The Memorial Necropole Ecumenica in Brazil stands 32 stories tall and is currently the tallest cemetery. In Israel, the country's government has implemented a plan to address land shortages and a recently built concrete vertical cemetery is intended to address the problem.

See Associated Press, Raising the Dead: Lack of Space Forces Cemeteries Skywards, NBC News, Oct. 17, 2014.

October 28, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 27, 2014

What is Next for Oscar de la Renta Empire?

Oscar de la renta

Many questions have surrounded Oscar de la Renta’s recent death, as de la Renta was essentially a one-man show who vowed he would never retire.  But now that he is gone, who will navigate the company’s age old legacy?

Unfortunately, the best time to test a succession process is when the founder is still alive to see the results, and make any necessary corrections.  However, de la Renta joked last year that he had no interest in training a replacement.  Now, his creative heir has less than a week to learn to run a thriving retail business. 

Although de la Renta left behind heirs, none are on the creative side and do not align well enough with his personal brand to let any of his family step into his shoes.  Unless the creative successor can make magic happen, the best business decision may be to find a buyer and sell.  “That’s a hard call, of course.  Family businesses are magnets for sentimentality.  But if the estate plan relies even a little on sentiment and lucky hiring, it probably needs a little more than bequests that line up in a way that satisfies the IRS.” 

See Scott Martin, Oscar de la Renta Leaves High Hole in $300 Million Family Empire, The Trust Advisor, Oct. 26, 2014.

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

October 27, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Workers Fear Running Out of Money

Retirement planning

New research shows that 22 percent of workers say they would rather die than run out of money.  However, 61 percent say they are not sacrificing a lot to save for their golden years. 

The Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement survey looked at the retirement planning of Americans with household incomes between $25,000 and $100,000 who held investable assets of less than $100,000.  One third contribute nothing to a 401(k) plan or IRA, and half say they have no confidence they will have enough to retire. 

Although middle-class Americans have a median retirement balance of just $20,000, those who have an retirement plan are doing better than those without one. 

Most people do understand the need to save for retirement, yet they do not see it as an urgent goal requiring spending cutbacks.  Still, many individuals have room in their budget to boost their savings rates. 

“Of course, the larger problem is that a sizeable percentage of middle-class Americans are struggling financially and simply don’t [have] enough money to stash away for long-term goals like retirement.  As economic data show, many workers haven’t has a real salary increase for 15 years, while the cost of essentials, such as health care and college tuition, continues to soar.”

See Dan Kadlec, 22% of Workers Would Rather Die Early Than Run Out of Money, Time, Oct. 22, 2014.

October 24, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Melissa Rivers to Inherit More than $100 Million

Joan and Melissa Rivers

Following the tragic death of iconic comedian Joan Rivers, her daughter will inherit more than $100 million in cash and property.  Melissa Rivers will receive $75 million in cash from her mother and the comedian’s $35 million Upper East Side New York condo. 

On October 16th, the New York City medical examiner released a statement saying that Joan Rivers died from throat surgery complications. 

In light of this report, Melissa Rivers continues to struggle with the loss of her mother and business partner.  “My mother would have been overwhelmed by the scope and depth of the love that people have expressed for her. It is certainly helping to lift our spirits during this time.  We are forever grateful for your kindness and support in continuing to honor my mother’s legacy, and for remembering the joy and laughter that she brought to so many.”

See Clyde Hughes, Melissa Rivers Inheriting $100M in Cash, Property From Mother, News Max, Oct. 23, 2014.

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

October 23, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Joan Rivers Leaves Over $125 Million to Daughter

Joan_RiversAs I have previously discussed, Comedian Joan Rivers passed away at 81-years-old early last month after complications arose from a routine outpatient surgery. A large portion of River's estate will pass to her daughter Melissa Rivers. Melissa is expected to receive over $85 million and River's condo valued at $40 million. In addition, Cooper, Melissa's son who is 13-years-old, will also likely receive an inheritance from his grandmother's estate.

See David K. Li, Melissa Rivers to Inherit Over $125 Million of Joan River's Estate, New York Post, Oct. 23, 2014.

October 23, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FATCA Enforcement Efforts Continue to Increase

OfficerAs I have previously discussed, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires financial institutions to report large accounts held by U.S. account holders to ensure compliance with U.S. tax laws. Commitment to enforcement has been demonstrated through the use of investigative resources to indict alleged violators. Enforcement actions continue to increase, and the IRS has begun using customs holds as another method of catching those attempting to avoid taxes through foreign accounts.

See Sean M. Golding, FBAR & FATCA Tax Attorney – IRS Will Use Customs Holds to Facilitate FATCA Compliance, PR Log, Oct. 14, 2014.

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

October 23, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)