Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lou Reed’s Executors Request Surprisingly Low Payment

Lou ReedAs I have previously discussed, the estate of Velvet Underground singer Lou Reed has increased to $20 million since his death last year and is now worth $30 million. Compared to executors of other famous estates, Reed’s executors will be paid a small sum for fees, as they are requesting a total of $220,000. In contrast, the executors for Michael Jackson’s estate are being paid 10 percent, which results in a huge sum considering just one business deal of the estate with Sony was for $250 million.

See Bonnie Kraham, Trusts Can Keep an Estate Private, Times-Herald-Record, Aug. 28. 2014.

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

September 2, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Man Pronounced Dead Found Breathing

MistakeTwo hours after the family of Valdelucio de Oliveira Goncalves, a 54-year-old terminally ill cancer patient, was told that he had died of respiratory and organ failure, the family discovered the doctors had made a mistake. The family found Goncalves in a body bag, tied up, with cotton wool in his nose and ears, and breathing.  The family wants answers to how their family member was mispronounced as dead, and hospital directors plan to check with those involved to find out how this mistake occurred.

See Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, ‘Dead’ Man Rescued 2 Hours Later When Family Notices Body Bag Moving, Fox News, Aug. 26, 2014.

September 2, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Defense of Wisconsin and Indiana Same-Sex Marriage Bans Gets Heated

RingsAs I have previously discussed, the rulings that struck down Wisconsin’s and Indiana’s same-sex marriage bans are being jointly appealed to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court heard oral arguments earlier this week from both sides, and over 200 people waited in line in hopes to hear the arguments. Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson argued that the ban was supported by tradition, which prompted Judge Richard Posner to liken the argument to that of previous bans on marriage between interracial couples. Attorneys for the ACLU and national gay rights advocate group Lambda Legal argued that the bans violate equal protection because same-sex couples are denied legal benefits, which are available to straight couples.

See  Associated Press, Judges Blast Ind., Wis. Gay Marriage Bans, USA Today, Aug. 26, 2014.

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

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Anna Nicole Smith's Twenty Year Battle Finally Ends

Anna nicole

After nearly twenty years of contentious debate in the courtroom, a federal judge recently ruled Anna Nicole Smith’s estate would not receive millions of dollars from the estate of E. Pierce Marshall, the son of Anna Nicole’s late husband, J. Howard Marshall II.

Judge Carter ruled that there was “just no evidence before the court that justifies awarding sanctions against Pierce Marshall’s estate.”  The judge further added it is time for this suit to no longer “drag its weary length before the court.”

After Howard Marshall II died in 1995, he left his $1.6 billion estate to his son and nothing to Smith.  According to NBC news, Smith asserted her husband vowed to leave her more than $300 million; yet, a Houston jury ruled that Marshall was mentally fit when he wrote the will.  Over the course of twenty years, local and federal courts have rejected Smith’s attempts to overturn Marshall’s will and trust in order to obtain money from his estate. 

See Mike Vulpo and Claudia Rosenbaum, Anna Nicole Smith’s Estate Denied Again: Judge Says Dannielynn Birkhead Won’t Receive $44 Million, E News, Aug. 20, 2014. 

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Excise Tax Falls Short


Funding for the Affordable Care Act rests in part on a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device sales.  The tax applies to cardiac defibrillators, imaging equipment and an assortment of other equipment sold to medical providers. 

Internal Revenue Service assemblage of the tax began in 2013.  Last Tuesday, a Treasury Department’s Inspector General report noted that taxpayer reporting on the IRS excise tax form does not account for all applicable medical device sales.  Furthermore, the tax agency is struggling to merge data afforded by taxpayers and cannot precisely identify all of the medical device makers that are required to file the form and pay the tax.  Treasury auditors estimate that the tax levy should have collected $1.2 billion in excise taxes; however, the IRS has only received $913 million. 

See Paul Jenks, IRS Struggles to Collect the Medical Device Excise Tax, Healthopolis, Aug. 20, 2014.

August 25, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Hampshire Law Untangles Probate Process

Last will and testament

Everyday there is a new headline regarding wills, inheritances, and disinheritances that have gone badly.  Recently, the estate of late city resident Geraldine Webber is in dispute to the point that it involves the Portsmouth Police Commission.  During a recent hearing, the situation was described as “a disgusting mess.” 

A new state law in New Hampshire involving the active role of Portsmouth lawyer Sally Mulhem at Mulhem & Scott PLLC, is designed to prevent future messes of this type.  It allows a will to be probated, therefore legal and binding, before a person passes away.  “I saw an alarming increase in the number of probate and trust litigation cases.  It was just devastating families, and the attorneys’ fees were just consuming whatever estate was there.  I didn’t want to see this trend continue.  I wanted to do something to get this under control.” said Ms. Mulhem.

Five years ago, Ms. Mulhem began working with the New Hampshire Trust Council to address the situation regarding wills, estates and trusts, and how to address the legal ramifications of trust law.  Their efforts produced SB 289, with passage of the measure by the Senate and House.  The bill was signed into law on July 11, with a start date of July 1, 2014. 

With the new law, a person with what is likely to be a controversial will can opt to hold a hearing before a probate court judge to determine the validity of what they have done.  “It allows the person to have a definitive say while they’re still here.”

See Paul Briand, New Granite State Estate Law Designed to End Shenanigans, Seacoast Online, Aug. 25, 2014. 

August 25, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Delaware Sets Stage for Answering Digital Assets Questions

LaptopAs I have previously discussed, Delaware recently passed legislation that allows families in Delaware the ability to access digital assets and accounts of deceased family members the same way they would be given access to physical documents.  This new law makes Delaware the first state to give an answer to what happens to digital assets after death. For those in other states, the burden is on the individual to plan for what is to come of their online accounts. For assets to be available to family members after death, account passwords must be shared, though this is against the policies of most online account providers. If nothing is done, then many accounts just disappear, taking with them family photos, access to bank accounts, e-book collections, music libraries, and important medical information.

See Caitlin Dewey, What Happens to Your Online Life After You Die? Delaware Has Some Suggestions, The Washington Post, Aug. 20, 2014.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 24, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friends and Family Said Goodbye to Robin Williams in Private Ceremony

Robin_WilliamsRobin Williams, who died early last week, was reportedly put to rest through a private ceremony near his home in California. Williams was cremated and his ashes scattered in the San Francisco Bay.

See Jackie Willis, Robin Williams’ Ashes Reportedly Scattered in San Francisco Bay Last Week, Fox News, Aug. 21, 2014.


August 22, 2014 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Same-Sex Marriages Delayed by Supreme Court

Gay marriage 2

On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court granted a request to delay the enforcement of an appeals court ruling that overturned Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.  For gay and lesbian couples, this means they are currently unable to legally wed. 

Last month the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s voter-approved gay marriage ban, following what other state and federal judges have done in the past year.  In successive weeks, the Supreme Court will have the final say, and accept petitions from one or more various states to review the ban on same-sex marriage.  A binding ruling from the High Court could apply to all 31 current states that forbid same-sex marriage.

Gay right activists are urging swift action from the justices, “This Supreme Court’s stay of yet another freedom to marry ruling underscores the urgency of the court’s granting a full review and bringing the court to national resolution by next year . . . It is time for the Supreme Court to affirm what more than thirty courts have held in the past year: marriage discrimination violates the Constitution, harms families, and is unworthy of America.”

See Bill Mears, Supreme Court: No Same-Sex Marriage In Virginia, Yet, CNN, Aug. 20, 2014.

August 21, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Twitter's New Policy Removes Images of Deceased


Late Tuesday Twitter indicated it would be removing images and videos of deceased people at the request of family members; however, it put conditions on the policy. 

Twitter made this announcement a week after the daughter of the late comedian Robin Williams said she would quit Twitter after she received repugnant images of her father from online trolls.  The policy also comes after Twitter attempted to delete images and video depicting the gruesome death of U.S. photojournalist James Foley, who was killed by the militant group Islamic State (ISIS).  “In order to respect the wishes of loved ones, Twitter will remove imagery of deceased individuals in certain circumstances . . . When reviewing such media removal requests, Twitter considers public interest factors such as the newsworthiness of the content and may not be able to honor every request.”

The policy compels the estate or a person’s family member provides documents, such as a copy of a death certificate and government issued identification.  Yet Twitter continues to refuse to afford account access to anyone, even if they are related to the person who has died.

See Tim Hornyak, Twitter to Remove Images of Deceased Upon Request, IT News, Aug. 20, 2014.

Special thanks to Joseph Jacobson (Texas attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 21, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)