Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Harvard Receives Donation for Gun Control


Harvard University’s School of Public Health will accept a $350 million donation to study gun violence and “other complex health threats challenging the U.S. and the world.”  Morningside Foundation is making the donation, and is the largest donation received by the university.

The anti-gun movement is one of the most significant new developments in our lifetime.  Last year, anti-gun activist Michael Bloomberg donated $350 million to Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health to help “build a national grass-roots movement that will pressure lawmakers to pass more restrictive gun laws.” 

Harvard was chosen to receive the donation because one of the descendants of the foundation attended the school previously.  However Harvard’s School of Public Health already had a long record of aggressive support for gun control, largely funded by the Joyce Foundation and other progressive donors.

See NRA ILA, Harvard: Millions of Dollars More For Gun Control, The Daily Caller, Sept. 15, 2014.

September 16, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Shocking Depositions Taken in Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ Lawsuit Against Marvin Gaye’s Estate

GavelAs I have previously discussed, after Marvin Gaye’s estate threatened legal action against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for intentional copyright infringement of Gaye’s song “Got to Give it Up”, Thicke and Williams replied with a preemptive lawsuit. Depositions for the lawsuit were taken from Thick and Williams in April. In Thicke’s deposition, he explains under oath that he had little to do with the creation of the song "Blurred Lines", but chose to take credit for the hit after the fact. Thicke blamed his behavior and comments made to the press regarding wanting to make a song like Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up,’ on heavy drug and alcohol use at the time.

See Sean O’Neal, Robin Thicke Says He Can’t be Blamed for “Blurred Lines” Because He Was High, AV Club, Sept. 15, 2014.

September 16, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Income Inequality Hinders State Revenue Growth


According to a report by Standard $ Poor’s, income inequality and the widening gap between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of the population has been matched by a decrease in state tax revenue.

Although income for the affluent has accelerated, it has yet to keep pace with inflation for most other people.  This trend can be devastating for states as the wealthy usually manage to shield much of their income taxes and tend to spend less of it than others, therefore limiting sales tax revenue. 

Because of this problem states face tensions over whether to raise taxes or cut spending to balance their budgets.  “Rising income inequality is not just a social issue . . . It presents a very significant set of challenges for the policymakers.”

Some states are now scrambling for new sources of revenue.  Pennsylvania has raised fees for vanity license plates and other auto expenses.  Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana, in part on the promise that the proceeds would be taxed. 

See Associated Press, U.S. Wealth Gap Putting the Squeeze on State Revenue, AZ Central, Sept. 14, 2014.

September 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Andrew Madoff Leaves Behind $15 Million to Family

Andrew madoff

Andrew Madoff, the son of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, left more than $15 million in property to his children, wife and fiancée in his will following his death from lymphoma. 

According to his will, Madoff left all of his tangible and personal property to his daughters, one-third of his estate to his estranged wife, and the rest to his fiancée. 

Madoff and his older brother, Mark, headed the trading desk at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, leading the market-making business of the firm while their father handled client investments.  The firm’s clients invested $17.5 billion in principal and were conned in believing, through falsified statements and trade confirmations, that they had a total of $64.8 billion in their accounts.

In December 2008 Andrew and Mark contacted the FBI to expose their father’s fraud scheme after he confessed to them because his investment business was being besieged by orders he could not fill.  Though sued for millions, the brothers were never charged with collusion in the fraud.

See Bloomberg News, Andrew Madoff Leaves More than $15 Million to Family, Fiancée, Private Wealth, Sept. 12, 2014.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

One Man’s Same-Sex Marriage Recognized in Arizona

RingsFred McQuire and his late husband George Martinez were married in California this past summer after 45 years together. Martinez, who passed away due to pancreatic cancer attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange while he was serving in the Vietnam War, wanted to marry his long time partner before he passed away. After Martinez’s death, McQuire ran into trouble when he tried to claim death benefits since Arizona does not recognize same-sex marriage.  U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled that McQuire should be allowed to be listed as Martinez’s spouse on his death certificate. However, McQuire will likely still not be able to collect death benefits due to unrelated regulations. The decision is limited to McQuire’s specific situation, but may signal the outcome of a pending case in Arizona challenging the constitutionality of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

See Jacques Billeaud, Man Wins Fight to Get Same-Sex Union Recognized, My San Antonio, Sept. 12, 2014.

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

September 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Questions Surrounding Joan Rivers' Net Worth

Joan rivers

The recent death of Joan Rivers has led to a multitude of questions regarding the iconic comedian’s net worth.  Yet, Rivers’ lavish funeral serves as indicator that her daughter Melissa and the rest of the family will be well cared for. 

Rivers’ extravagant funeral was no surprise.  In the years before her death, Rivers displayed no signs of a declining net worth.  She left behind a New York City penthouse that was once compared to Marie Antoinette’s castle.  The 5,000 square foot home could sell form more than $30 million.  Between this, her Fashion Police salary, and her reported $1 billion of merchandise sales on QVC, Rivers’ net worth may even be above the rumored $150 million.

Like all other wealthy individuals, some of Joan Rivers’ net worth will go back to the government in the form of taxes.  How much of the estate will go to her daughter is still unknown.

See Melissa Siegel, Joan Rivers’ Net Worth Inherited By Melissa? ‘Fashion Police’ and QVC Income, Opulent NYC Penthouse Part of Substantial Estate, Hollywood Take, Sept. 9, 2014. 

September 13, 2014 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Home Video Reveals Elder Abuse by Home Care Aides

Elder Care

Peter Mazza needed assistance with daily activities at the age of 99, but wanted to live out his days at his home in Staten Island, N.Y. To honor Mazza’s wishes, his family hired home-health aides through Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Partners in Care. The family had previously had a bad experience with home health aides so they installed video cameras in the home prior to hiring the new aides, and say that they informed both the company and the aides of the presence of the cameras.

Mazza sustained injuries due to a fall in April and died in a nursing home in June. Mazza's family claims that the cameras reveal multiple incidences of severe abuse and neglect, including an aide refusing to assist Mazza to reach his walker, which resulted in the fall that caused his injuries. The family is currently suing Partners in Care. The company has fired or suspended the aides involved.

See Frank Donnelly, Shocking Video at Center of Lawsuit Alleging Home Health Aides Abused 99-Year-Old Staten Island Man, SILive, Sept. 9, 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 13, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Body Donation Program Under Investigation

Crime scene tape

Authorities are investigating programs in at least three states that accumulate bodies donated for scientific research, medical training and other purposes. 

A Detroit FBI official confirmed that the bureau is looking at an Oregon research center, and investigators have stormed facilities in Michigan and Arizona.  Aside from confirming the existence of an investigation, authorities have been secretive regarding what they are examining and why. 

In February, Michigan suspended the mortuary license of Arthur Rathbum, alleging that he embalmed bodies at a Detroit address that does not have a funeral home license. 

Authorities subpoenaed records from Portland, Oregon-based Legacy Health, a hospital chain that also operates Legacy Research Institute in Portland.  The institute uses cadavers for research and to train doctors and nurses for surgery.  FBI officials will say little about their investigations.

See Associated Press, Feds Investigating Body Donation Programs in Three States, Fox News, Sept. 11, 2014.

September 12, 2014 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dead Man Blamed For Speeding Tickets

Speeding CarA dead man in the United Kingdom was accused of being the driver of a car caught on camera speeding. The man’s son Vasille Georgiou blamed three speeding tickets on his father to get out the tickets, two of which occurred after the man’s death. After Georgiou’s blame-the-dead-man scam was discovered, a court sentenced him to four months in jail for his dishonest conduct. Georgiou has also lost his driving privileges for eight months.

See Richard Smith, Driver Who Flicked V-Sign at Speed Camera Blamed His Dead Dad For Speeding Offenses, Mirror, Sept. 5, 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 12, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage Bans Struck Down by 7th Circuit

RingsAs I have previously discussed, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments the last week of August on the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s and Indiana’s same-sex marriage bans. Nine days after hearing oral arguments, the court held in Wolf v. Walker that the bans violate equal protection. The court’s ruling was written by Judge Richard Posner. The same outcome has been reached in cases regarding state same-sex marriage bans in the 4th and 10th Circuits.

See Martha Neil, With 'Eye-Popping Speed,' 7th Circuit Strikes 2 States' Same-Sex Marriage Bans 9 Days After Argument, ABA Journal, Sept. 4, 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 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)