Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Documents Faked to Steal from Dead Woman

TheftPhiladelphia resident Dorothy Kennedy died at age 79 without any heirs in 2010. Her property, including her house and car, were going to pass to the state, but instead her neighbor, Romanoff Quarlas, concocted an elaborate scheme with the help of his attorney to become the administrator of Kennedy's estate and inherit the property, according to police. The alleged plan involved the assistance of two funeral directors, a real estate agent, and a car salesman to fake documents that resulted in Quarlas becoming administrator and receiving the house and car. After four years, the police discovered the scheme and plan to charge the men with multiple criminal charges including conspiracy and theft.

See Meg Wagner, Band of 6 Philadelphia Crooks Concoct Elaborate Plot to Steal Dead Woman's House, Car: Police, New York Daily News, Oct. 18, 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 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Buffalo Bills Sale to Buffalo Sabres Owner

Buffalo Bills As I have previously discussed, the death of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson left many wondering who the new team owner would be. Terry Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabres, has been approved as the new owner. The sale is for the record making amount of $1.4 billion.

See Eben Novy- Williams & Mason Levinson, NFL Owners Approve Record $1.4 Billion Bills Sale to Pegulas, Bloomberg, Oct. 8, 2014.

October 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Las Vegas Ready for Same-Sex Weddings

CoupleAs I have previously discussed, the 9th circuit struck down the same-sex marriage bans of Nevada and Idaho earlier this month. Leading up to the decision, Las Vegas was gearing up for same-sex weddings. The city known for high wedding volumes and large variety of wedding options, including of course an Elvis impersonator officiant, was ready to facilitate legal same-sex marriages even before the ruling. The county had already changed their marriage licenses to be gender neutral, and individual chapels made sure their photographers knew how to take to perfect wedding day photos when both members of the couple are wearing white wedding dresses.

See Kimberly Pierceall, Land of Chapels Ready for Gay Weddings, The Fresno Bee, Oct. 8, 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 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 17, 2014

John Wayne Trademark Case Dismissed

John_WayneAs I have previously discussed, the family of movie legend John Wayne is in a trademark battle over the word “Duke.” The family's attempts to market a line of bourbon under the brand name “Duke,” have received backlash from Duke University. The family's attempt to have the trademark issue resolved in a Santa Ana, California federal district court resulted in the judge dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. However, the family is viewing this as just one battle in a larger fight for the rights to the name “Duke.”

See Emily Foxhall, John Wayne Family Loses Round 1 to Duke University in Trademark Fight, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 2, 2014.

October 17, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Attempt to Terminate Superman Rights Ends With Supreme Court Cert Denial

GAVELThe rights to superhero character Superman remain with Warner Bros. after the Supreme Court of the United States denied cert earlier this month in a case challenging their rights. The estate of Joseph Shuster, co-creator of Superman, attempted to reclaim their rights to the character. The decision from the 9th Circuit found that a 1992 contractual agreement blocked the estate's attempt to terminate Warner's rights. The agreement was between Shuster's sister, Jean Peavy, and Warner, and gave the rights to Warner in exchange for payment that covered Shuster's debts and expenses shortly after his death.

See Eriq Gardner, Supreme Court Denies Review of Superman Rights, The Hollywood Reporter, Oct. 6, 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 17, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Death with Dignity: Brittany Maynard's Story

Brittany maynard 2

After months of suffering from debilitating headaches, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard learned she had brain cancer. 

Brittany’s life evolved into one consisting of hospital stays, doctor consultations, and medical research.  Only nine days after her initial diagnoses, she had a partial craniotomy and partial resection of her temporal lobe in order to halt the growth of her tumor. 

Not long thereafter, Brittany learned that her tumor returned in a more aggressive form.  Doctors gave her a prognosis of six months to live.  After researching treatments and talking to family members, Brittany concluded that there was no treatment that would save her life. 

Although Brittany considered passing away in hospice care, she would have suffered for weeks or months.  Upon researching death with dignity, an end of life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six or less months to live, Brittany decided using medical practice to aid in dying was the best option for her and her family. 

Brittany and her family moved to Oregon, where death with dignity is legal.  After obtaining the medicine, Brittany states, “I have experienced a tremendous sense of relief . . . Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important.  It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty, and pain.  Now I’m able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love.  And I know that I have a safety net.”

See Brittany Maynard, My Right to Death with Dignity at 29, CNN, Oct. 10, 2014.

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

CLE on Advising Your Clients on Social Security and Medicare Elections

CLE The American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education (ALI CLE) is presenting a CLE entitled, Advising Your Clients on Social Security and Medicare Elections, Friday, October 24, 2014, 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Eastern, online and by phone. Here is why you should attend:

Comprehensive knowledge of Medicare and Social Security benefits is crucial to attending to the needs of clients facing retirement. Beginning at age 62, those who have paid into Social Security face the choice as to when to begin to receive Social Security retirement benefits. At age 65 most individuals qualify for Medicare and must decide whether to elect to receive it then or to defer.

Our expert faculty will demonstrate the variables that should be considered before applying for Social Security retirement benefits at age 62 or beyond, and strategies that their clients can employ when claiming Social Security retirement benefits including:

  • how to maximize benefits in light of possibly competing personal and financial considerations
  • how Medicare operates and what it will and will not pay for
  • which option to select based upon the couple’s circumstances
  • when and how to claim Medicare benefits

October 12, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Changes in Charitable Giving

Charity

A recent study shows that between 2006 and 2012, the wealthiest Americans became less generous with charitable donations, while lower and middle-income Americans donated more. 

The Chronicle of Philanthropy examined $180 billion in donations to charity in 2012 by taxpayers who itemized their deductions and discovered that the share of income donated to charity by Americans who earned $200,000 or more decreased by 4.6 percent since 2006.  Those earning less than $100,000 gave 4.5 percent more of their income to charity.  “The wealthiest aren’t being persuaded to up their share of giving in the same kind of way the poor are.”

Rates of giving fell in many of the biggest cities; however, there were noticeable increases.  For example, in Las Vegas, the share of income donated grew by 14.9 percent, which the study’s authors attributed in part to a rise in smaller donations from people concerned about the economic downturn. 

See Jess Bidgood, Study Finds Shifts in Charitable Giving After Recession, The New York Times, Oct. 6, 2014.

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

October 10, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Status of Same-Sex Marriage

Gay marriage

This week the United States Supreme Court turned away appeals that effectively raised the number of states allowing same-sex marriage from 19 to 30.  On Tuesday, a federal appeals court rejected bans in Idaho and Nevada, which would become the 31st and 32nd states with same-sex marriage if the ruling is not put on hold.  Below is the status of gay marriage in all 50 states:

  • States Where Gay Marriage is Still Not Legal and Cases Are Pending: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas
  • States Where Gay Marriage is Legal: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington D.C., Washington State, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

See The Associated Press, Here’s The Status of Gay Marriage in All 50 States, My San Antonio, Oct. 7, 2014. 

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

October 8, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Idaho and Nevada Same-Sex Marriage Bans Lifted

Gay marriage 2

On Tuesday, three judges from the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in California decided that the gay marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho violated the equal protection rights of same-sex couples to legally marry. 

The judges stated, “The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions.  When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all.” 

This decision comes after the United States Supreme Court let stand rulings that eradicated bans in five states, which affect laws in six other states.  That means that in the near future, 32 states could allow same-sex marriage.  A potential “circuit split” may finally propel the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately decide on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.  By refusing to get involved, the justices let stand appeals court rulings that opened up the right to those in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Since neighboring states are covered by the appeals court’s jurisdiction, same-sex marriage could be extended in coming weeks to Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.   

See Bill Mears, Same-Sex Marriage Bans Lifted in Idaho, Nevada, CNN, Oct. 7, 2014. 

October 8, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)