Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Swiss Museum Accepts Gurlitt's Bequest

Swiss Museum

The trustees of the Kunstmuseum Bern announced that the museum would accept the bequest of the art collection of Cornelius Gurlitt.  Because the collection is believed to contain looted works and could expose the Swiss museum up to years of litigation, the institution has taken the full six months allowed by German probate law to make the decision to accept or reject the gift. 

As I have previously mentioned, the collection comprises of around 1,300 works by artists including Picasso, Chagall and Renoir found in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in 2012 during a routine tax investigation.  The majority of the collection is believed to have been accumulated by Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, a Nazi-era art dealer.

The president of the Jewish World Congress, Ronald Lauder, warned the Bern museum that accepting the bequest would “trigger an avalanche of lawsuits.” 

See Julia Michalska and Javier Pes, Swiss Museum Accepts Gurlitt’s Problematic Bequest, The Art Newspaper, Nov. 24, 2014. 

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

Goldsmith Estate Battle Heats Up

GlovesAs I have previously discussed, Deborah Karlstein has brought suit against her ex-husband's second wife, Debra Lee, in an estate battle over the death bed will revision that cut out her sons. Now, Karlstein is claiming that the international law firm that represents celebrity clients and her ex-husband Harry Goldsmith was a partner of, is threatening to sue her and cause her to rack up huge legal fees in retaliation for exposing the party boy ways of Goldsmith and the firm's inattention to his drug and alcohol addictions. The firm is providing pro-bono legal counsel for Lee. While the firm has not denied Karlstein's claim, they expressed disaproval of Karlstein tarnishing Goldsmith's reputation.

See Julia Marsh, Law Firm of My Coke-Addicted Ex Threatened Me, New York Post, Nov. 21, 2014.

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

November 25, 2014 in Current Affairs, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Proposed Changes to Canada's Income Tax Act Could Have Significant Estate Planning Effects

ChangeA bill that includes draft legislation from Canada's Department of Finance that proposes an addition to the Income Tax Act is currently being considered by Parliament. The changes will significantly impact estate planning for Canadian couples by treating the income from a spousal trust as income of the deceased spouse, which will be taxed to the spouse instead of the trust. Concerning implications of this change were addressed during the comment period for the draft legislation by The Joint Committee on Taxation of the Canadian Bar Association and Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, but the draft legislation was included in the bill without changes.

See Kim G. C Moody, Canada: New Draft Legislation Will Have A Great Impact On Traditional Estate Planning For Canadians, Mondaq, Nov. 11, 2014.

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

November 24, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate of Boris Berezovsky Valued at Zero

EmptyAs I have previously discussed, attempts to settle the estate Boris Berezovsky, who at one time was the second richest man in Russia, have been entangled in complexity and confusion over finding a willing executor of his estate and whether there were even any assets left. According to probate records, Berezovsky died intestate and his UK estate was valued at nothing, though it is still unknown whether overseas trusts or other assets of value may exist.

Opinions are divided on whether Berezovsky's death was a suicide or somehow connected with his public criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His family believes his death was not a suicide, but no evidence of murder was found by police, and the coroner's report includes an open verdict on cause of death.

See Stephanie Linning, Russian 'Billionaire' Boris Berezovsky Found Dead in Bath Last Year Left Nothing in His Will After Dying Penniless, Daily Mail, Nov. 22, 2014.

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

November 24, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Billionaire Spanish Duchess Leaves £2.2 Billion Estate to Children

WillThe funeral of the Duchess of Alba was attended by thousands including dignitaries, and members of the public filled the streets to watch her funeral procession. The Spanish Billionaire and direct royal descendent of King James II of England, died at 88-years-old due to pneumonia. The Duchess left her £2.2 billion estate to her six children. Each child is expected to receive a palace of their own. Her third husband Alfonso Diez, who is 24 years younger than the Duchess, was not included in her will and signed an agreement prior to the wedding that he would not receive any of her fortune. The agreement is believed to have been used to resolve a family feud over disapproval of the marriage.

See Ted Thornhill & Emma Glanfield, Duchess of Alba, Who Died Aged 88, Leaves Nothing to Her 64-Year-Old Toyboy While Her Six Children Get the £3 Billion Fortune, Daily Mail, Nov. 21, 2014.

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

November 22, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Paterno Estate Proceeds With Lawsuit

Joe Paterno

Potter County Judge, John B. Leete, has ordered former FBI Director Louis Freeh to start complying with former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno’s heirs’ requests for its raw materials.  The ruling comes in the Paterno estate’s lawsuit aginst the NCAA and Penn state, which seeks to invalidate the sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. 

On Thursday, Judge Leete rejected Freeh’s request for a stay of the subpoena while that appeal is pending, finding his successor Pepper Hamilton law firm has failed to make a strong showing that Penn State will win its appeal. 

Wick Sollers, an attorney for the Paternos, deemed the decision significant. “The court’s ruling opens the door to the production of materials relating to the Freeh investigation and report that we viewed as improperly withheld under the claim of privilege.” 

The estate is also seeking all communications or documents pertaining to the board of trustees’ November 2011 decision to fire Joe Paterno, and any documents that might show internal questions or concerns about the report’s findings.  The Paterno estate will additionally seek Freeh’s client file on Penn State, which would give them access to interview notes and other reports prepared in conjunction with the board commissioned investigation. 

The Paterno family has long believed that this suit is the best way to understand the truth of how the association, school leaders and Freeh collectively responded to the scandal.  The family is persuaded that these answers are the only way the larger university community can heal from the contentious scandal. 

See Charles Thompson, Paterno Estate Gets Green Light to Proceed With Subpoenas of Penn State Investigator Louis Freeh, PennLive, Nov. 20, 2014. 

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bob Marley's Estate To Launch Marijuana Products

Marley family

The late reggae artist Bob Marley famously spoke of “the herb.”  Now his family is creating a marijuana brand that will sell cannabis and similar products.

The cannabis-focused private equity firm Privateer Holdings, along with Marley’s estate, announced today the launch of Marley Natural, a company based in New York City.  By the end of 2015 the company will have three categories of products—heirloom cannabis, topicals and accessories. 

Marley Natural’s general manager, Tahira Rehmatullah, said the cannabis will be available in states where it is legal.  Today, 23 states, the District of Columbia and Guam allow public medical marijuana and cannabis programs.  Only Colorado and Washington permit recreational use.  “Laws are changing rapidly, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on them.”

Yet there are critics of the venture.  “This is ‘Big Marijuana’ at its worst,” said Kevin Sabet, professor at the University of Florida and former White House senior drug policy advisor.  “This is further evidence that legalizing marijuana isn’t about getting people out of jail or letting adults smoke in their home: it’s about today’s corporate CEOs making millions.  This is very troubling, but it confirms our biggest fears.” 

Rehmatulla, however, says that the product will come with strong packaging and an emphasis on responsibility.  “We want to offer a high quality product that’s safe for consumers.  We’re hoping this will add a new professional level to the cannabis industry.”

See Susanna Kim, Marijuana Products Under Bob Marley’s Estate To Launch Next Year, ABC News, Nov. 18, 2014.  

November 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Car Wreck Victim's Organs Removed Too Soon According to Family

HospitalThe family of 26-year-old Martha Perez is questioning the actions by doctors in connection with the removal of the woman's organs after she was involved in a car accident that occurred Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. Perez's family says her heart and lungs were still functioning when she was declared brain dead and her organs removed. The family is seeking legal advice on their options related to the incident.

See, Family Says Doctors Removed Deceased Girl's Organs Too Early, Fox News, Nov. 17, 2014.

Special thanks to Joshua Dietz (Dietz Law Firm, PLLC) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

University Addresses High Local Rates of Alzheimer's With Workshops for Children

SchoolThe University of Antioquia in Medellin, Columbia offers workshops to grade-schoolers to help them prepare for the devastating realty that they may be required to step into a caretaker role for their parents while still children. In the region, familial Alzheimer's rates are the highest in the world and is almost certain to pass to the younger generation even if only one parent has the genetic mutation that causes it. This devastatingly common form of Alzheimer's has an early onset and often begins to affect an individual slightly before they reach the age of 50, and the life expectancy for an individual that begins showing symptoms is roughly 10 years. The workshops are intended to prep children for what will happen if one of their parents begins to show symptoms, and prep the family as a whole on what to expect and how to handle the situation when it surfaces.

See Gary Stix, Learning About Your Family's Elevated Alzheimer's Risk--As Early as Age 8, Scientific American, Nov. 15, 2014.

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

November 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cornelius Gurlitt's Will May Be Invalid


Prior to his death, the son of art collector Hildebrand Gurlitt willed his massive art collection to a Swiss museum.  The hundreds of paintings and drawings, including Nazi-looted art once belonging to Jewish collectors, would be relocated to a legally neutral country. 

Yet when the artwork was uncovered in Gurlitt’s Munich residence and his Salzburg house in fall 2013, questions arose that renewed the debate of how Nazi-looted art should be legally dealt with. 

The Gurlitt case was resolved until a German newspaper reported Monday that Cornelius Gurlitt’s will may not be legally binding.  According to the newspaper, a psychiatric examination indicates that Gurlitt was not mentally stable enough to complete a valid will.  The physician conducting the examination reports Gurlitt allegedly suffered from “paranoia,” which voids his “freedom to decide” while creating his will. 

The Swiss museum plans to announce next week whether it will accept the inheritance of Cornelius Gurlitt, who passed away on May 6.  If the museum takes the collection, it is likely the psychiatric report may be forgotten. 

See Stefan Dege, Gurlitt’s Mental Illness Invalidates His Will, Says Report, DW, Nov. 18, 2014. 

November 18, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)