Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Indiana and Wisconsin Same-Sex Marriage Cases to be Appealed Together

Marriage CaseWisconsin’s general has filed to appeal the decision by a federal judge that struck down Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban. The case has been combined with a similar case from Indiana, and the United States Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit has ordered that briefs be filed for the combined case by August 4, 2014 and has not yet scheduled oral arguments.

See Associated Press, Appeals Court Joins Indiana, Wisconsin Gay Marriage Cases, WSBT, July 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.

July 13, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Issued in Denver & Boulder

FlagAfter the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban in June, Boulder's County Clerk, Hillary Hall, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Colorado’s Attorney General brought suit to stop Hall from issueing licenses and claiming that they are invalid under state law. A Boulder district judge denied the AG’s request since Hall, while engaging in civil disobediance, is not causing the state any harm. Now, the Denver County Clerk has begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as well.

See Sunnivie Brydum, Denver Now Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses, Advocate, July 10, 2014.

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

July 12, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Judge Postpones Ruling on Powell Estate


On Tuesday, the family of Josh Powell again asked a 3rd District judge to reinstate them as trustees of Josh and Susan Powell’s estate. 

The families of Josh Powell and his missing wife Susan are arguing over who should be selected as trustees and beneficiaries of two legal entities containing the couple’s assets: a conservatorship and a trust.  Together, the trust and conservatorship hold around $2.3 million and continues to accumulate interest.  Chuck Cox is the conservator for his daughter, Susan, and used that authority to change the terms of the trust.  Terrica and Alina Powell, Josh’s mother and sister, allege the terms of those agencies were illegally changed to remove them as trustees or beneficiaries. 

Judge L.A. Dever denied a motion from the Powell family attorney requiring the Coxes to post a surety bond to safeguard against mismanagement.  The judge said there was no evidence Chuck Cox had mishandled any holdings.   

See Nate Carlisle, Utah Judge Postpones Ruling on Susan Powell Estate Dispute, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 10, 2014.

July 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Battle Branding Bourbon

John wayne

Last week John Wayne’s heirs filed a lawsuit against Duke University over the family’s right to market bottles of bourbon branded with the late movie star’s nickname, Duke.  Lawyers for the university contend that allowing the Wayne estate to use the name could cause confusion and “diminish, dilute, and tarnish” the value of the name, for which both parties hold trademarks. 

In the lawsuit, the family’s lawyers make various arguments including the fact that “Duke University does not own the word ‘Duke’ in all contests and purposes.  Duke is a common word that has been used for centuries in a wide array of commercial and other applications wholly independent of Duke University.  Yet by the actions alleged herein, Duke University seems to think it owns the word ‘Duke’ for all purposes and applications.” 

The proposed bourbon label would feature an image of Wayne holding a rifle with “Duke” ornamented over it in bold letters with the phrase, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

See Associated Press, John Wayne’s Heirs Sue Duke University for Right to Market ‘Duke’ Bourbon, Daily News, July 9, 2014.

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

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Donald Sterling’s Emotional Trial Testimony

SterlingAs I have previously discussed, Donald and Shelly Sterling are currently in court battling over the sale of the Clippers and the decision by doctors on Donald’s mental fitness. When Donald took the stand on Tuesday, he was anything but a cooperate witness for opposing counsel. He berated the 85-year-old attorney, asking him about is legal experience and criticizing his questions. He also went after the doctors involved in him being declared mentally unfit and the NBA. His angry outbursts were interrupted at least once with crying, but after regaining his composer he continued his angry rant, which lasted nearly an hour.

See Nathan Fenno, Donald Sterling Verbally Attacks NBA, Lawyer in Trial Testimony, Los Angeles Times, July 8, 2014.

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

July 10, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New Bill Replaces 'Husband' and 'Wife' With 'Spouse'

Gay protest

“Husband” and “wife” have been deleted from California’s marriage law under a bill signed into law Monday by Governor Jerry Brown.  The terms will be replaced with “spouse” in an effort to accommodate same-sex marriage, which became legal in the state last year.  The bill takes effect January 1st and reflects the legality of gay marriage after a decade of litigation.  The law further removes limits on recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state. 

See California Governor Signs Bill Replacing Words ‘Husband’ and ‘Wife’ in State Law, Fox News, July 7, 2014. 

July 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Idaho Cemetery Prohibits Gay Partners Burial

CemeteryMadelynn Taylor, 74, filed a civil rights lawsuit Monday after the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery refused to allow her to bury the ashes of her late wife.  Mrs. Taylor filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise after she tried to make advance arrangements last year to have her ashes buried with Jean Mixner, whom she married in California in 2008 when gay marriage was legal. 

While federal veterans cemeteries allow the spouses of gay veterans to be interred, the Idaho cemetery (owned and operated by the state) does not.  Mrs. Taylor’s situation is “among the most extreme examples of the harm caused by state laws that deny respect to the marriages of same-sex couples. . . Denying these important protections to committed couples is not simply unjust, it is needlessly cruel.”

See Rebecca Boone, Vet Sues After Burial With Gay Partner is Denied, Associated Press, July 8, 2014.

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

July 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

End of Life Planning Lessons from Casey Kasem


Many Americans know Casey Kasem as the subject of a acrimonious dispute between his widow Jean and his children from his first marriage.  In the wake of Mr. Kasem’s devastating dementia, Mrs. Kasem wanted to continue medical care while his three children believed care should be withdrawn.  In a California court, Mr. Kasem’s children prevailed based on a document signed in 2007.  Life support was withdrawn and Mr. Kasem died shortly thereafter. 

One important lesson surfacing from the Kasem’s experiences is that spouses are not automatically made medical decision makers for each other. Spouses should formally designate each other as medical decision makers if they so desire.  Another lesson is that even if all documents have been signed, terminating medical treatment at the end of someone’s life is a difficult and painful decision.  Determining when a condition is “terminal” is not an easy feat, and is debated among medical professionals. 

Through documents denoted as living wills, health care proxies, medical powers of attorney, and health care instructions, an individual while mentally competent can plan for the end of his life.  Central to such planning is the designation of a medical decision maker and the specification of the criteria to be applied by such decision maker if an individual becomes unable of making medical decisions. 

See Edward Zelinsky, Casey Kasem and End-of-Life Planning, OUP Blog, July 7, 2014.

July 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Schwartz Estate Settles With Ponzi Scheme Victims

BagFamily members and the estate of Richard Schwartz have settled with ponzi scheme victims for an undisclosed amount. Schwartz claimed to be a wealth manager to steal up to $25 million from victims over the span of 15 years. The settlement will partially compensate the victims involved in the suit, and they plan to continue their lawsuit against additional defendants not involved in the settlement.

See Pat Munsey, Settlements Reached in Schwartz Case, Kokomoperspective.com, July 8, 2014.

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

July 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

IRS Help Line Needs Help

Help lineIf you have questions regarding your IRA, the IRS help line may not be the first place to go. 

Taxpayer advocate Nina Olson reports that every year, very few taxpayer calls are answered by the IRS.  In 2012, only 61 percent of calls were answered.  Yet, this is likely to be unsurprising as the IRS lacks the funds to do everything Congress demands of it and therefore, customer service has suffered as a consequence. 

Last week, Commissioner John Koskinen warned the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum that without additional funding, the level of phone service next year will drop to 53 percent.  While President Obama has done his part in asking Congress to raise the agency’s $11 billion budget, there will not be any additional funding. 

See Roberton Williams, IRS Help Line Is Out Of Service, Forbes, July 7, 2014. 

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