Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Texas Attorney General Asks For Same-Sex Marriage Voided

Law RingsAs I have previously discussed, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a stay on same-sex marriages in the state last Thursday per the request of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. On Friday Paxton made a request to the court to void the first same-sex marriage in Texas since the state passed its gay marriage ban, which was performed last Thursday. Paxton expressed that allowing the marriage license to  be valid would result in "legal chaos." Paxton's full filing to the Supreme Court of Texas can be seen here.

See Mark Berman, Texas Attorney General Asks State Supreme Court to Void Same-Sex Marriage License, The Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2015.

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

February 24, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bobbi Kristina's Life Support Battle Continues

Bobbi Kristina

Bobbi Kristina was found lifeless in the bathtub only a few months ago, and now her father Bobby Brown must decide when to terminate life support. 

On of the problems this situation presents is that Bobbi Kristina was already far removed from her family when she was found.  The absence of any kind of medical directive makes Brown the de facto next of kin when it comes to determining how long the doctors should keep her alive. 

Although Nick Gordon was Bobbi Kristina’s longtime boyfriend, fathers outrank boyfriends or even fiancés.  If Bobbi Kristina and Nick ever got married, he would have had the spousal right to make medical decisions on her behalf.  Instead, like many couples living together without a marriage license, their opinions can be overruled at any time once hospital administrators get in touch with the parents or other blood relatives.  Furthermore, a husband would have inherited the $20 million Bobbi Kristina’s mother left her; now Bobby Brown may end up with Whitney’s money after all. 

See Scott Martin, Would Whitney Have Let Bobbi Die? Life Support Fight Highlights Need for Multiple Levels of Advance Directive, Trust Advisor, Feb. 16, 2015.

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

February 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tom Benson: Treated Unfairly?

Tom Benson Family

On February 9, Bear County Probate Judge Tom Rickoff ordered that two receivers take control of Tom Benson’s Texas-based fortune—a move that has not occurred more than a dozen or so times in the past thirty years. 

This order sparked concern because it was based upon only a slight finding that Tom Benson is “stressed” by the pressures of sports fans and media scrutiny attendant to the probate proceedings, rather than probable cause or credible evidence of actual incompetence.  Neither the United States Constitution, nor the Texas Estates Code allow this kind of overreaching by the courts, which deprives citizens of liberty or property without due process of law.  Yet, Judge Rickoff cites a two-day hearing to justify the extraordinarily rare act of ordering a receivership over the 87-year-old’s fortune. 

The receivers confirm the premature nature of Judge Rickoff’s unprecedented decision, stating that their immediate plans include “deciding whether the assets are in any danger.”  Not only could this suggest that receivership was an abuse of discretion, but Benson’s attorneys characterize this move as a “fishing expedition.”

See Candice Schwager, Judge Rickoff’s Unprecedented Receivership Over 87-Year Old Tom Benson’s Fortune, Examiner, Feb. 22, 2015.

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

February 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Texas Supreme Court Blocks Gay Marriages

Texas Supreme CourtJust hours after Austin’s first same-sex marriage took place on Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order blocking other gay couples from obtaining marriage licenses. 

Although the high court did not specifically address the marriage license granted to the two women married yesterday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the high court’s orders meant their marriage license was void. 

“Texas law is clear on the definition of marriage, and I will fight to protect this sacred institution and uphold the will of Texans, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment defining the union as between one man and one woman,” Paxton said in a statement, adding that the probate judge’s “misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman.”

See Lauren Raab and Molly Hennessy-Fiske, After One Gay Marriage, Texas Supreme Court Issues Order Blocking More, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 19, 2015.

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

February 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

First Same-Sex Couple to Marry In Texas

Gay Marriage Texas

Today, a Travis County district judge ordered the county clerk to stop relying upon unconstitutional Texas laws to refuse a marriage license to a lesbian couple.  Just fifteen minutes later, Austin women Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant obtained their marriage license and became legally married.  “It’s the first same-sex couple married in the history of Texas.  They have been waiting 30 years to get married . . . It’s a big deal—a big deal for the family.  Great day,” said their attorney Chuck Herring. 

The two women sued Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who refused to issue them a marriage license based on concerns about the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.  DeBeauvoir said she would not issue the license unless a court ordered her to do so.  Goodfriend and Bryant asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop DeBeauvoir from refusing to issue their license. 

126th District Judge Davis Wahlberg ordered DeBeauvoir “to cease and desist relying on the unconstitutional Texas prohibition against same-sex marriage as a basis for not issuing a marriage license to plaintiffs Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant.”

See Angela Morris, First Same-Sex Couple Legally Marries in Texas, Texas Lawyer, Feb. 19, 2015.

February 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tom Benson to Appeal Decision Removing Him as Overseer of Trust

Tom Benson

Tom Benson intends to appeal the San Antonio court’s decision to oust him as agent of a Texas trust created for his now-estranged daughter.  Earlier this month, Bexar County Probate Court Judge Tom Rickhoff appointed a former mayor of San Antonio and a local attorney from that city to jointly take over a trust established for Renee Benson.  Not only did this move effectively remove Tom Benson as the trust’s overseer, but authorized the mayor and attorney to “take and have complete and exclusive control, possession and custody” of the trust and assets held within it. 

Attorneys for the owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans have filed a notice of appeal with the Bexar County Probate Court.  The appeals court will set a schedule for filing briefs as well as a hearing date later. 

See Jaquetta White and Ramon Antonio, Tom Benson to Appeal Judge’s Decision to Remove Him as Overseer of Texas Trust, The Advocate, Feb. 19, 2015.

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

February 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scaife Trustees Must Account for 20 Years of Trust Transactions

Gavel2As I have previously discussed, the children of late billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife allege that their father misused trust funds from a trust created by their grandmother that is now empty in their suit against the trustees. Per a consent decree filed last week, the trustees must file with the court a detailed accounting of the trust that covers a 20 year period by June 1.

See Rich Lord, Judge Orders Scaife Trust Fund Accounting by June 1, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 12, 2015.

February 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, New Cases, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Texas Attorney General Requests Review of Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Gay marriage 2

After Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman determined gay marriage ban unconstitutional, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is now asking the state Supreme Court to review the order. 

"Texas law is clear on the definition of marriage, and I will fight to protect this sacred institution and uphold the will of Texans, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment defining the union as between one man and one woman. The probate judge’s misguided ruling does not change Texas law or allow the issuance of a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman," Paxton said in a statement today. 

Paxton requested that the Supreme Court review Herman’s order and place on his ruling over the estate. 

See Eva Ruth Moravec, Texas Attorney General Requests Review of Same-Sex Marriage Ruling, NBC DFW, Feb. 18, 2015.

February 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Travis County Probate Judge Holds Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Gay marriage

Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman ruled yesterday that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional; however, the county will not yet issue marriage licenses to gay couples. 

Herman made the ruling as part of an estate fight where Austin resident Sonemaly Phrasavath sought to have her eight-year relationship to Stella Powell deemed as a common law marriage.  When Powell died intestate last summer, Travis County courts became involved in the battle over Powell’s estate between Phrasavath and two of Powell’s siblings.

Last year, a federal judge declared Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but stayed his own ruling.  The case is now being considered by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

 See Wire Reports, Travis County Won’t Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses After Austin Judge Rules Texas’ Ban Unconstitutional, The Dallas Morning News, Feb. 17, 2015.

February 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nepal Considering Same-Sex Marriage

Law RingsThe report released last week by Nepal's same-sex marriage committee is the result of research and discussion over the past four years. The government appointed national committee recommended legalizing same-sex marriage in the country and removing provisions from the Criminal and Civil Code that discriminate against same-sex individuals. If the Nepalese government follows the recommendations by changing the law on same-sex marriage, Nepal would be the first country in south Asia to legally recognize same-sex marriages.

See Francesca Washtell, Nepal Set to Become the First South Asian Country to Legalise Same-Sex Marriage, The Independent, Feb. 17, 2015.

February 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)