Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Redstone Media Empire In Turmoil As Succession Dispute Rages

Single CombatThe decline of the health of Sumner Redstone has a been a hot topic in the news due to his control of CBS and Viacom, two of the largest players in mass media. However, the aging billionaire recently began to pullback from his leadership roles with his resignation as chairman of the board of CBS. Now a full on battle for succession to lead the media empire has emerged between his daughter Shari, Les Moonves the CEO of CBS, and Philippe Dauman the CEO of Viacom. But this battle comes at a crucial moment as the landscape of the entertainment industry has rapidly changed as television ad revenues declines and more individuals opt for cable cutting which has sliced into the profit margins of many cable networks. In the end, the fight for primacy will come down to the choice of the trustees of National Amusements, which include Shari and Dauman, the holding company that controls the majority of shares of both Viacom and CBS. Only time will tell which party emerges as the dominant force in the Redstone empire and reveal if the eventual successor is able to navigate the treacherous waters of the modern media.

See Matthew Garrahan & Shannon Bond, Succession battle engulfs Sumner Redstone’s media empire, Financial Times, February 4, 2016.

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

February 7, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mice Are Living Much Longer Lives, And Humans Could Be Next

Research mouseScientists have been able to increase the lifespan of mice by as much as 35 percent, and many researchers believe that this type of advanced medical technology could potentially help humans live much longer and healthier lives. “They discovered that senescent cells – cells that no longer replicate as organisms get older – build up with age, and contribute to age-related illnesses including cancer.” When these cells were removed from the mice they lived much longer lives. This column describes some of the scientific principles behind what the researchers are studying. Longer lifespans that will be made possible because of continued advances in medical research and technology will have a major impact on estate and retirement planning in the future. If the average human is living a much longer lifespan society may need to rethink its whole attitude about aging.

See Matt Atherton, Mice have been made to live 35% longer – and it could be humans next, say researchers, International Business Times, February 4, 2016.

February 5, 2016 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Notorious Earl Finally Declared Completely Dead

ArticlePictureGeorge Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, was one of the most notorious members of the British aristocracy in the 20th century following his disappearance while under suspicion of murdering his children's nanny. The last trace of the fugitive Earl was the discovery south of London of a car he had borrowed that was covered in blood. Since then, a number of theories have been floated concerning his whereabouts including flight to Africa or the United States although the commonly accepted theory is that he committed suicide somewhere along the coast of England. In 1999, he was declared dead for estate and inheritance purposes although the ruling did not apply to his title which remained vested in the Earl despite his presumed death. Now, the High Court has declared Bingham dead for all purposes which allows his son to claim the title and become the 8th Earl of Lucan. With this act, the sordid affairs of the dissipated nobleman's life can finally be brought to a complete close.

See Sewell Chan, Lord Lucan, Missing Since 1974 Murder, Is Declared Dead (Again), The New York Times, February 3, 2016.

February 5, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Failure To Take Communion Leads To Woman's Exclusion From Cemetery

FuneralEven the most optimistic 84 year old knows that their days are nearing an end and will often plan accordingly. But for one Minnesota woman these plans were threatened when she learned that the cemetery she intended to be buried in was being denied to her by the church that owns it. The reason given was that she had not taken communion with the congregation over the past year and was no longer considered a member in good standing. But there is a twist, she had already paid for the plot and her husband was already buried in the churchyard. However there might be some good news, the church said that the letter informing the woman she could not be buried there was simply about her leaving the congregation, with which she had been on tense terms, and that they were open to discussing the burial arrangements. Let us hope the two sides can reach an agreement.

See, Church reportedly tells 84-year-old she can't be buried next to husband, Fox News, February 2, 2016.

February 4, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Group Claims To Own Share Of Michael Jackson’s Estate

JacksonA group of business people are claiming to have an ownership interest in a portion of Michael Jackson’s estate. A co-executor of the Jackson estate testified that “he thought it was strange that the group claiming to own part of the Michael Jackson Co. did not come forward until three years after his death.” The group claims that in accordance with a 3:00 a.m. deal that they made with Michael Jackson in Tokyo on June 1, 2006, that they should be entitled to 15 percent of the company. The Jackson estate is asking the Court to name them the sole owner of the entity in dispute. “Jackson died on June 25, 2009, at age 50 of a drug overdose while in Los Angeles preparing for a series of comeback concerts in London.”

See Group says they own a percentage of Michael Jackson’s estate, KFI AM 640, February 2, 2016.

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

February 3, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida Might Be One Step Closer To Guardianship Reform With Senate Vote

FloridaGuardianship reform has been an issue growing in prominence due to the many abuses found in systems across the nation. Now Florida looks to join the reform movement and take a step in the right direction as the state Senate is set to have a final vote on a bill that would create a team to oversee the state guardianship system. Scandals have rocked Florida in recent years including one case where a judge was appointing his wife who would then initiate lawsuits on behalf of the ward which family members saw as unnecessary and intended as a vehicle to increase the fees paid to the supposed protector. However, this is not the first attempt at reformation after a bill was passed in recent years which supposedly ended judicial favoritism towards specific guardians although advocacy groups argue that it did little to deter judges. Let us hope this new bill does the trick since guardianship abuse undermines public confidence in the legal system and harms the most vulnerable members of our society.

See John Pacenti, Vote on Florida guardianship reform expected next week, The Palm Beach Post, February 2, 2016.

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

February 3, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Town Fights For Inheritance Intended For Needy Cats

ArticlePictureBarbara Thorpe was a noted lover of cats during her lifetime so it was little surprise when her will left the bulk of her estate to care for the stray cats of her hometown. However, in the 12 years since her death, almost no money has been distributed to a small group of volunteers that were the intended beneficiaries of the bequest and now the town is fighting back. A lawsuit alleges that the trustees of the estate have bilked it out of fees for themselves and lawyers to the tune of $38,000 while donating no more than few thousand dollars total, often no more than $300 a year, for the care of strays. While the town has no animal shelter, the lawsuit states the clear intent was to assist a pair of sisters who operate a mobile home as makeshift shelters for strays which house dozens of cats in addition to outdoor insulated shelters where food is provided. No word yet on when the case is set to go to trial although it might be added this would not be the first time the trustees have been brought to court over suspicious billing habits.

See Judith Meyer, 13 years later: Dixfield cats waiting for inheritance, River Valley Sun Journal, January 31, 2016.

February 3, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Disgraced Art Dealer’s Highly Valued Collection Found In Geneva

Art collectionA disgraced British art dealer’s collection of priceless Roman and Etruscan antiquities has been found in a repository in Geneva. The priceless treasure trove has languished in boxes marked with the name of an offshore company for 15 years. “The haul includes two life-size Etruscan sarcophaguses, one depicting an elderly man and the other a young woman, both reclining on their sides.” The antiques were placed in the Swiss lock-up by Robin Symes, a disgraced high-profile art dealer who is now serving time in prison. Many of the items in the collection are believed to have been taken from archaeological sites by tomb raiders. This article discusses some of the background history of Robin Symes and his fall from grace.

See Nick Squires, Disgraced British art dealer’s priceless treasure trove discovered hidden in Geneva, The Telegraph, February 1, 2016.

February 2, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Not Happy About Benson Family Settlement Plan

BensonThe battle between Tom and Renee Benson over control of the Shirley Benson Testamentary Trust has been well documented on this blog right up until the moment when the case was assumed over with the announcement of a settlement. But a new wrinkle has emerged in the form of the Bexar Country Probate judge that is overseeing the case. Judge Tom Rickhoff expressed concern about his lack of notice over the terms of the settlement which was reached before the February 12th deadline that was originally set. As a result, Judge Rickhoff told the parties that he would continue with his intention to appoint new receivers to the trust unless the terms were disclosed. The trust contains an estimated $1 billion in assets including a number of car dealerships and other properties. However, no settlement has yet been announced that would bring to an end a case in Louisiana over a trust that controls the majority of shares in the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans.

See David Hendricks, Judge chastises lawyers in Benson estate fight, San Antonio Express-News, February 1, 2016.

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

February 2, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legendary Radio Host Diane Rehm Outspoken Advocate For Right-To-Die Movement

ArticlePictureDiane Rehm is a legendary radio host whose show has aired on National Public Radio for decades and has hosted many of the leading figures in American society. However, her time on the air is nearing an end with 2016 being her last year broadcasting but she has a plan for retirement, to become an advocate for the right-to-die movement. Her passion for subject comes watching the slow death of her husband of over 50 years by his own choice while battling Parkinson's Disease. He was unable to have the assistance of a physician to make the process painless and dignified and required 10 days to pass as a result. This experience has lead to her to battle for those that are trapped between an uncaring government denying them their natural right to have final control over their own existence and the desire to protect family and friends from malicious prosecution for helping a loved one end their suffering. While it is unknown what affect she will have over this contentious debate, anyone that is familiar with her show knows she will pursue this end with the utmost vigor.

See Karen Heller, Diane Rehm’s next act: Using her famed voice to fight for the good death, The Washington Post, January 27, 2016.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.

February 2, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)