Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Estate Planning Lessons From Sterling Lawsuit

SterlingAs I have previously discussed, Donald Sterling lost his attempt in probate court to stop the Clippers sale. The story of Donald Sterling serves as a reminder that estate planning is not just about what happens to assets after death, but should include careful planning of what happens in case of incapacity. The Sterling case came down to whether Donald Sterling’s diagnosis of mental incapacity and Shelly Sterling’s actions of taking over the trust were proper under the family trust provisions. When a clause is written for incapacity, it is important that the grantor pick their successor carefully and remember that the person closest to them, such as a spouse, may not always be the best person to take over their business. It is also important that various possibilities are considered and specifically planned for, such as intermittent or resumed capacity.

See Darla Mercado, Donald Sterling’s Battle Holds a Harsh Lesson for Advisors, Investment News, July 30, 2014.

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

August 1, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jesse Ventura Wins Lawsuit Against the Estate of a Navy SEAL

Jesse VenturaJesse Ventura has won his lawsuit against the estate of a Navy SEAL. Ventura says that the man wrote a book that included a false story that he punched out Ventura for making a negative comment about the Navy SEALs. Ventura won a $1.8 million verdict, and is now the target of criticism due to concerns of how the wife and children of the deceased man will be provided for after such a large hit to the estate. However, Ventura, also a former Navy SEAL, maintains that this suit was about the truth and clearing his name from the allegation of treason.

See, Jesse Ventura: No Regret Over Suing Widow of Navy SEAL, CBS News, July 30, 2014.

July 31, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Using Marriage as Deciding Factor for Death Benefits Ruled Unconstitutional in Alaska

GavelAfter the tragic death of Kerry Fadely, who was murdered while working a shift as a manager at Millennium Hotel, her same-sex partner Deborah Harris filed for workers compensation death benefits. Harris’s claim was denied because she wasn’t married to Fadely, which was based on the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board's interpretation of “widow” in the statute. The couple had been together for over ten years and shared responsibility for bills and raising their children.

In Harris v. Millennium Hotel, the Alaska Supreme Court overruled the denial of the death benefits. The court reasoned that using marriage as the test for awarding the death benefits was a violation of equal protection, and the case was remanded.

See Stephanie Goldberg, Same-Sex Partner of Murdered Woman Due Comp Death Benefits: Alaska High Court, Business Insurance, July 29, 2014.

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

July 31, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Midsummer’s Madness-2014: The Tragic Case of Casey Kasem

CrazyRobert L. Moshman, recently published an article entitled, Midsummer’s Madness-2014: The Tragic Case of Casey Kasem, The Estate Analyst, July 28, 2014. Provided below is the introduction to the article:

Once more into the breach as we embark on what has become our annual journey to Crazy Town in a quest to cover inexplicable developments that strain reason, challenge credulity, and burst free from the shackles of logic. Once again, there is an abundance of material fitting this description.

This collection reviews the recent developments in the estate of Casey Kasem, a 164% estate tax hazard inside New York’s new estate tax law, slayers successfully suing their victims, a lawsuit by the estate of John “Duke” Wayne against Duke University, and some surprising potential hazards of using a software program for writing a will.

July 31, 2014 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rochelle Sterling Victorious in Court

SterlingOn Monday, Judge Michael Levanas of Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that Rochelle Sterling had properly followed the directions of the family trust in removing Donald Sterling as co-trustee and that the sale of the team could be completed.  “This is a new day in Los Angeles and a new day for the Los Angeles Clippers . . . And we want to go forward understanding that it was one woman who stood up against her husband, who had the courage to go to court and prevailed.  So for the cynics out there, sometimes it works out O.K.  This is a Hollywood ending.” 

While the ruling itself was a victory, Ms. Sterling’s lawyers concede that this is not necessarily the end, given that Donald Sterling has two other lawsuits pending and can contest this ruling next month. 

Rochelle Sterling said that she would attend Clippers games and hopes her husband will be able to join her one day in courtside seats.  If the remaining obstacles are cleared, the sale to Ballmer could be approved by N.B.A. owners as soon as September 15th

See Billy Witz, Donald Sterling Loses Bid to Block Sale of Clippers, The New York Times, July 28, 2014.

July 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jackson Estate Center of Documentary

JacksonFilm Producer Edward Bass’s new project turns an investigative eye toward the executors of Michael Jackson’s estate. The documentary titled “Follow the Money” will likely cover the continuing legal battles by the estate, which have resulted in $17 million in legal fees. One such lawsuit the estate is currently involved in is with Bass over a previous movie about Jackson.


See Richard Johnson, Jackson Documentary Tangled in Lawsuit, Page Six, July 26, 2014.

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

July 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Florida Same-Sex Marriage Ban Struck Down

RingsA Florida State judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage Friday on equal protection and due process grounds. The ruling mirrored the reasoning of other state and federal courts to strike down similar state bans, including the reasoning that the only purpose for such a law is discrimination and thus not a legitimate governmental purpose. The ruling has been stayed pending an appeal by Florida Attorney General.

See, Same-Sex Marriage: Florida Ruling Adds to List of Defeats for State Ban, The Guardian, July 25, 2014.

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

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hoffman Refused to Leave Money for Children

Seymour hoffman

According to court documents, Phillip Seymour Hoffman rejected his accountant’s suggestion that he set aside money for his three children because he did not want them to be “trust fund kids.”

In a Manhattan Surrogate Court, Hoffman desired that his $35 million fortune to go to his longtime partner and the children’s mother, Mimi O’Donnell.  According to the filing, Hoffman’s accountant says O’Donnell was treated “in the same manner as if she were a spouse.”  A court-appointed attorney believes the actor’s will should be approved by the court.

See Associated Press, Hoffman Didn’t Want ‘Trust Fund’ Kids, USA Today, July 21, 2014.

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

July 23, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Paying vs. Playing

Texas a&mTexas A&M recently paid Cedric Ogbuehi more than $50,000.  The star offensive tackle said that he would have fled to the NFL had the school not come through with the money to pay for the costly insurance premium.  Ogbeuehi said he cannot afford the insurance that would cover a drop in draft position because of injury. 

Although no NCAA bylaws were violated and the money came from a Student Assistance Fund set up by the association, the problem becomes defining the fine line that between paying for playing.  “We can argue about the word ‘paid,’ but Ogbuehi was awarded that money because he’s an athlete.  It was given in good faith and ostensibly to keep the kid in school, but it was there because he’s a highly skilled player. 

This may be a recruiting advantage available to other schools, but for now it is an advantage that A&M has gained better than anyone.  As some onlookers have pointed out, a recruit could demand insurance coverage out of the Student Assistance Fund as a condition of signing.  It then becomes a case of how the school parcels out its recruiting promises. 

See Dennis Dodd, Texas A&M Paid Star Tackle $50k to Stay in School; What Could Go Wrong? CBS Sports, July 21, 2014.

July 22, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Where is Casey Kasem’s Body?

Casey KasemAs I have previously discussed, Casey Kasem’s body is yet to be buried. Kasem’s daughter was issued a restraining order that prevents Kasem’s wife from having his remains cremated, but it is unknown where his remains are and what has or will happen to them. The funeral home has declined to give any information to the attorney for Kasem’s daughter. The restraining order was issued so that an autopsy of the body could be done, but it is possible that the remains have already been cremated.

See Phuong Le & Gene Johnson, Associated Press, Lawyer: Unclear Where Casey Kasem’s Body Is, SF Gate, July 19, 2014.

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

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