Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Facebook's "Scrapbook" Gives Children Digital Identity

FacebookLast week, Facebook enabled a feature for U.S. users called “Scrapbook,” which allows parents to compile baby photos in one place and share them with friends. 

In order to use this feature, users must identify their relationships on their profile.  Scrapbooks can only be created for children that are listed under a user’s “Family and Relationships” section.  Parents have the ability to co-own a scrapbook with the partner identified in their relationship status. 

This new feature reflects an important decision that parents must make when it comes to their child’s digital footprints.  Children whose parents create digital scrapbooks not only inherit a digital identity, but they also inherit a digital identity within Facebook.

See Priya Kumar, Facebook’s New Baby-Photo Feature Lets Children Inherit a Digital Identity, Slate, Apr. 6, 2015. 

April 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gertrude Weaver Dies at 116

Gertrude WeaverDays after becoming the world’s oldest person, 116-year-old Gertrude Weaver passed away at Silver Oaks Rehabilitation Center in Camden, Arkansas. 

I have previously discussed that Weaver became the oldest person after 117-year-old Misao Okawa from Japan passed away.  Weaver’s age was verified using census records and a marriage certificate from 1915, indicating she was 17.  While the exact day of her birth is disputed, Weaver always celebrated on the 4th of July.  The nursing home and members of the community were in the midst of planning Weaver’s 117th birthday party. 

See Claudia Lauer, World’s Oldest Person Dies at Age 116 in Arkansas, Yahoo News, Apr. 6, 2015.

Special thanks to Adam Hirsch (University of San Diego School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 8, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Article on Reform of Female Inheritance Rights in India

S200_rahul.sapkalRahul Suresh Sapkal (PhD Fellow, University of Hamburg) recently published an article entitled, From Mother to Daughter: Do Equal Inheritance Property Laws Reform Improve Female Labour Supply, Educational Attainments in India?, Wills, Trusts, & Estates eJournal, Vol. 11, No. 11 (2015).  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

In 2005, India witnessed a constitutional amendment to the Hindu Succession Act of 1956. It gave daughters equal inheritance rights as sons. However, five states in India had earlier amended the same Act in favour of daughters. Using this exogenous variation created by legislation on inheritance property rights, I exploit a difference-in-difference estimation strategy to estimate the impact of reform on female education, labour force participation and their daughter’s educational attainment. The study finds that women who were exposed to the reform experience have greater average schooling years, and average months of labour force participation. It is interesting to note that this positive effect is also observed for their daughter’s educational attainment. Results obtained from this study are consistent with the complementary and equalising effects hypothesis.


April 6, 2015 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gayle Benson's Past May Come Under Scrutiny

Tom BensonI have previously discussed the ongoing battle between Tom Benson and his heirs over his decision to implement his wife, Gayle, as his successor. 

This choice could lead the court to put Gayle’s business background under the microscope.  As an interior designer, Gayle Benson spent several decades working in homes and big businesses.  Before she married Tom, Gayle was part of legal action in more than 30 different cases both professionally and personally.  “[W]hat’s striking about the litigation involved here is that it doesn’t just involve business disputes, it involves a diversity of judgments and litigation including car notes, condo fees, mortgage notes, and that to me is unusual,” says Loyola Law Professor Dan Ciolino. 

Attorney for Tom and Gayle Benson, Phil Whittmann, issued a statement about Gayle’s financial past explaining, “Gayle Benson is a woman who was born and raised in New Orleans and is a person of the highest integrity.  As someone that went through an unfortunate marriage, she overcame the issues that marriage presented to her as single woman and business owner . . . While she does not dispute her struggles, she should be saluted not vilified for her ability to deal with those issues that were brought upon her by others.”

See Katie Moore, Gayle Benson Had History of Legal Trouble Before Marriage, WWLTV, 2015.

April 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obama Criticizes Estate Tax Repeal

BarackI have previously discussed,  the bill to eliminate the estate tax that passed through the House Ways and Means Committee last month.  Now, President Obama is speaking out against the plans by Republicans to repeal the tax. 

Today Obama is traveling to Kentucky to visit a technology company and voice his concerns about the $300 billion cost of eliminating the tax.  White House spokesman Josh Earnest deems the GOP's approach as “fiscally irresponsible,” which will do nothing to benefit the country’s middle class. 

See Darlene Superville, Obama to Criticize GOP for Plan to Repeal Estate Tax, The Washington Post, Apr. 2, 2015. 

April 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Judge Rules Ernie Banks' Will Is Valid

Ernie BanksYesterday a Cook County Probate judge determined that the will signed by Ernie Banks is valid.  The judge confirmed the will that gave all of Banks’ assets to his caretaker after hearing testimony from two paralegals from the law firm that executed it.  The witnesses said that Banks was of sound mind and was not coerced at the time he signed his will. 

Attorneys for Banks’ wife said they would continue to fight, as the judge’s ruling was merely procedural.

See Associated Press, Judge: Ernie Banks’ Will Giving Estate to Caretaker is Valid, Independent Mail, March 31, 2015.

April 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First Baby Born Free of Inherited Disease

MeaguCarmen and Gabriel Meagu knew that if they were to have a child, he or she would be at high risk for inheriting a rare form of muscular dystrophy that would make day-to-day living very difficult. 

Fortunately, a groundbreaking technique pioneered by fertility doctors in London enabled the Meagu's to birth a child healthy and free of disease.  The latest technique, known as karyomapping, takes only a short amount of time and can pick up a range of diseases.  To isolate the genes responsible for the disease, doctors took DNA swabs from Mrs. Meagu, her mother, and Mr. Meagu.  They subsequently compared the gene sequences to see which section of the genetic code was defective and responsible for the abnormality.  The couple then underwent a normal IVF cycle, but the embryos created from the procedure were biopsied to find out which ones were free of the genetic disease.

This new procedure gives hope to parents who are concerned about passing on genetic diseases to their children.  “I would recommend it to any other mother who is worried about passing on an illness,” said Mrs. Meagu, “Lucas is absolutely perfect.  He is really big for his age, and healthy.  I have peace of mind now that he is going to be ok.”

See Sarah Knapton, First Baby Born From IVF Technique Which Eliminates Inherited Disease, The Telegaph, March 28, 2015.   

March 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Robin WIlliams' Widow Takes Stepchildren to Court

Robin and Susan

Robin Williams’ widow Susan Schneider and his children are entangled in a legal battle over the comedian’s personal items he kept in the house where he committed suicide last August. 

Susan seeks to prevent Zachary, Zelda and Cody from taking anything that was in their father’s Tiburon, California home, claiming that it belongs to her.  She also argues that some of Williams’ personal items were taken from his home without her permission. 

The children say that Susan is “adding insult to a terrible injury” in attempting to alter the trust and rob them of their father’s possessions. 

According to the late actor’s will, his three grown children will receive the bulk of his jewelry, memorabilia and other belongings.  However, Susan is asking a judge to exclude the belongings within their “marital home” from the list of things the children are allowed to take.  She says that because Williams wanted her to continue to reside at the Tiburon home, it follows his children should only have the specific personal items in another home he owned in Napa. 

See Michael Zennie, Robin Williams’ Widow Goes to Court to Stop His Children From Taking Their Father’s Things From the Home Where He Committed Suicide, Daily Mail, March 30, 2015. 

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

March 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

California Senate to Consider Death With Dignity

Brittany maynard 3

Many may recall 29-year-old Brittany Maynard’s decision to move from California to Oregon in order to end her own life, rather than suffer from brain cancer. 

Now, the California Senate is considering the “End of Life Option Act,” which would allow for terminally ill residents of California to voluntarily end their own lives by requesting “aid in dying” medicine prescribed by a physician and then self-administered by the patient.  At the core of the legislation is informed consent by the patient, verification of informed consent, and an opportunity for the patient to withdraw.  According to a poll last month, 70 percent of Californians support the legislation. 

See Dennis Fordham, Estate Planning: Death With Dignity, Lake County News, March 27, 2015.

March 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tom Benson Speaks Out

Tom Benson speaksFor the first time on Tuesday, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson talked about the difficult decisions he had to make by ousting his former heirs from the family business.  During the interview in Phoenix,  Benson explained his strong feelings regarding both the franchises. 

Benson said how his wife of ten years, Gayle, has been sitting in on more league meetings than ever before.  Although Benson’s heirs question Gayle’s lack of experience and success in her former interior design business, Tom Benson pointed to that history as a plus.  "We got married about 10 years ago and before that she was in business. So it's nothing new to her. It's not like somebody who was never in business. She knows the difference. You've got to make a profit against a loss."  Benson emphasized that the plan with Gayle in charge would keep things running the way they are now, with a mostly hands-off ownership allowing the bulk of decisions to be made by the vice president.

See Mike Triplett, Benson Defends Call to Shut Out Heirs, ABC News, March 24, 2015.

March 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)