Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Woman's Will Directs for Her Dog to Join Her

German ShepherdThe will of Connie Ley directs, among other possible options, that her German Shepherd be cremated so that their ashes may be together. However, this plan requires that the dog be euthanized. The fate of Ley's canine friend Bella is still unknown as the legal proceedings of the estate are ongoing. Outrage and disapproval have erupted on Twitter and some have offered to adopt or help care for the dog. Ley's attorney has responded to the public outcry by standing by Ley's right to direct what will happen to her property when she died, including her pet.

See Sarah Larimer, Indiana Woman Wants to be Laid to Rest With Her German Shepherd. One Problem: The Dog is Still Alive, The Washington Post, Dec. 17, 2014.

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

Please follow this link, Pet Destruction Instructions, to read a short article I prepared on how courts are very reluctant to enforce this type of provision.

December 18, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 15, 2014

More Questions Than Answers In Affairs of $2 Million Estate

Question1The questions continue to pile up and answers are few in the events surrounding the estate of John P. Sheridan, Cooper Health System's CEO, and Joyce Sheridan. The New Jersey couple died on September 28 after being pulled from their home, which was on fire, with stab wounds on both. Additional information on the events of that night have not been released and while Joyce's death has been determined to be the result of homicide, the determination for John's death is still pending and being investigated. A will for the couple is yet to be found, and the application by one of the couple's sons to be named administrator of his parents' $2 million estate has been removed without any reason given.

See Angelo Fichera, Sheridan Son No Longer Seeking to Handle Parent's Estate, The Inquirer, Dec. 11, 2014.

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

December 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charitable Extenders Bill Blocked in House

LawA bill that would have made permanent three charitable tax extenders fell short of the needed votes to allow a floor vote in the House last Thursday. The motion had the support of all Republican representatives, except the five that did not vote, and 47 Democratic representatives, falling short of the two-thirds vote in favor needed to pass the motion. Opponents of the bill expressed concern over how the costs would be balanced out if the bill was passed.

See, House Democrats Block Permanent Charitable Extenders Bill, Charitable Planning, Dec. 12, 2014.

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

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

Challenges to James Brown's Will Continue

James BrownEight years after James Brown's death, the charitable trust he created has yet to serve its intended purpose. Brown left $2 million to the I Feel Good Trust to provide scholarships to children in South Carolina and Georgia, and provide needy children in his home states with a chance at an education that he did not have. However, to date no scholarships have been issued and his will is still be being challenged. Despite the will stating that any challenges will result in disinheritance, some of Brown's children have alleged that his will is invalid due to undue influence by his lawyers and managers.

See Larry Rohter & Steve Knopper, Downbeat Legacy for James Brown, Godfather of Soul: A Will in Dispute, The New York Times, Dec. 13, 2014.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law), Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law), and Jenifer Santini (Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota) for bringing this article to my attention.

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Freezing Eggs Can Affect Your Estate Plan

Freezing eggs

Recently, Apple and Facebook made news for paying the expenses for their female employees to freeze their eggs.  While you probably did not think this is something that could have any effect on your estate plan, if you have a daughter or granddaughter, you may be mistaken. 

If someone in your family decides to use assisted reproductive technology and freeze eggs, you will need to consider whether to include unborn decedents in your estate plan.  Now that Apple and Facebook are offering egg-freezing coverage, other employers are likely to follow. 

In terms of estate planning, children, descendants, and heirs refer to people who are genetically, biologically or legally related to you.  However, egg freezing increases the probability that you will have a descendant who is neither genetically nor biologically related to you.  Thus, you must decide whether to include him or her in your estate. 

Ignoring how assisted reproductive technology could play a role in your estate plan can be detrimental.  Someone you may want to include as an heir could be wrongly excluded.  By specifying whom you do and do not want to include, you maintain control over your estate. 

See Next Avenue, How Freezing Eggs Can Affect Your Estate Plan, Forbes, Dec. 10, 2014. 

December 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ownership Decision Pending in Battle Over Lee Harvey Oswald's Casket

Gavel1As I have previously discussed, a battle over the true owner of a used casket is waging in Texas. The case began on Monday with Judge Don Cosby in the Tarrant County 67th District Court hearing both Robert Oswald, brother of infamous Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Baumgardner Funeral Home make their cases for why they each have the ownership rights to the casket that was used to bury Lee Harvey. Robert claims that he thought the casket was destroyed after it was found unfit to be used for his brother's reburial in 1981. Robert found out that the funeral home had the casket and was trying to sell it to an unknown buyer who won the auction bid for the casket at $87,468.  As of Wednesday morning the judge had not yet reached a decision on who owns the historic casket.

See Tyler White, Texas Judge to Decide Ownership of JFK Assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's Coffin, San Antonio Express-News, Dec. 10, 2014.

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

December 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Joan Rivers Will Leaves Assets to Trust

WillAs I have previously discussed, some details of Joan Rivers' will were released Tuesday after it was filed on December 5. However, many of the specific details including the exact amounts to be distributed were not made public due to the use of a living trust.

Rivers' died on September 4, after she suffered from cardiac arrest during a medical procedure on August 28. Reports from the New York State Health Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed that there may have been some problems with the clinic's care of Rivers, including that a staff member may have taken pictures of Rivers while she was under sedation, and that there were problems with the monitoring of Rivers' vital signs. It is unknown if Rivers' daughter will choose to file a lawsuit regarding her mother's care.

See Aaron Katersky & Lesley Messer, Joan Rivers' Will Revealed, Yahoo News, Dec. 9, 2014.

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

December 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Joan Rivers' Will Made Public Yesterday

Joan_RiversJoan Rivers' will was filed in Manhattan Surrogate's Court, revealing details of how her estimated $150 million estate will be divided. Rivers named her daughter Melissa Rivers executor of her estate and gave her broad authority. In addition to providing for family members, her publicist, and two assistants, Rivers also directed portions of her estate to go to numerous charities, including God's Love We Deliver, California's Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Jewish Guild for the Blind in Manhattan, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish Home and Hospital Federation of Manhattan, and The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

See Natalie Finn, Joan Rivers' Will: Melissa Rivers Named Executor of Estimated $150 Million Estate, Money Designated for Family and Multiple Charities, E Online, Dec. 9, 2014.

December 10, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Court to Hear Dispute Over $60 Million Bequest to Disgraced Church

Gavel2

The niece of a woman who gave more than $60 million to a now shamed Catholic order is requesting the Rhode Island Supreme Court to let her sue. 

The court will hear arguments today in lawsuits brought about by Mary Lou Dauray against the Legion of Christ, whose founder clandestinely molested seminarians and fathered three children.  Dauray’s aunt, Gabrielle Mee, died in 2008 and left everything in her possession to the order. 

See Associated Press, Rhode Island High Court to Consider Dispute Over $60M Bequest to Disgraced Catholic Order, Fox News, Dec. 7, 2014. 

December 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ownership Battle Over Casket of Lee Harvey Oswald

CasketWho owns a casket after it has served its intended purpose and been buried in the ground? That is the question fuelling a legal battle over ownership of the casket used in the original burial of Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was buried in 1963 in a casket bought by his brother Robert Oswald. After the 1981 exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald to confirm the identity of his remains, the casket was determined unfit to be used in the reburial and sat in storage at a funeral home until the funeral home attempted to sell it in 2010.

Robert Oswald brought suit claiming he is the owner of the casket because he purchased it. The Funeral home is arguing in the case being heard in Fort Worth, Texas, that the casket was a gift to the deceased and that only his estate has a claim to it, which is not a party in the case.

See Jason Whitley, Judge to Decide Fate of Oswald's Original Casket, USA Today, Dec. 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.

December 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)