Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Condolence Letter by Prince William to Nurse's Family Revealed

Write1Prince William wrote a handwritten note of condolences to the family of the nurse who committed suicide that worked at the hospital that William's wife was being treated at in 2012. The nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, had transferred a call that came into the hospital from a radio DJ claiming to be the Queen. The transferred call resulted in information being shared regarding the Duchess of Cambridge's medical condition. The nurse committed suicide three days later, which is attributed to the guilt she felt over the incident. Her family recently spoke publically about the events and their grief, and revealed the letter's existence.

See Press Association, Prince William Wrote to Jacintha Saldanha's Family After Nurse's Suicide, The Guardian, Dec. 7, 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 8, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Year's Review of Celebrity Estate Planning Lessons

Movie Star2014 was another year full of headlines describing the scandal and controversy surrounding the estates of celebrities. Here is a review of 10 celebrity estates that started discussions and taught important estate planning lessons this past year:

  1. Patrick Swayze: Five years after Swayze's death, the recent allegations of forgery of his will reminds us of the importance of timely filing any challenges to wills before the window closes for probate claims.
  2. L’Wren Scott: The scandal and resulting lawsuits over the cancelation of Rolling Stones tour performances by Scott's grief-stricken boyfriend Mick Jagger reminds us that litigation after the loss of a loved one can often become very public, and emotionally and financially draining, and effective estate planning can help prevent such an outcome.
  3. Tom Clancy: The feud over Clancy's estate is an example of how ambiguities in estate planning documents can result in bitter family battles.
  4. Lou Reed: The sole reliance on a will rather than using a trust by Reed resulted in private financial details becoming very public.
  5. Paul Walker: The will used to probate Walker's estate predated his death by 12 years and showed the importance of updating estate planning documents after major life events.
  6. Mickey Rooney: In addition to sparking serious discussions about the problem of elder abuse, the resulting family battle over burial plans for Rooney after he died will very little financially, showed that even an estate does not hold significant financial wealth needs effective estate planning to ensure the decedent's wishes are followed.
  7. Philip Seymour Hoffman: The huge tax consequences that resulted from Hoffman's choice to not create a trust for his children out of fear of spoiling them, sparked discussions of how to create trusts without creating lazy or irresponsible children.
  8. Robin Williams: A positive example was set by Williams through his choice to rely on trusts for his estate planning to keep his financial affairs private, and to create his estate planning documents early before any illness arose that could cause disputes over validity later.
  9. Joan Rivers: Another positive example was set by Rivers' effective use of end-of-life documents as part of her estate plan, which allowed her daughter to know and honor her wishes by terminating life support without the need for court involvement.
  10. Casey Kasem: The bitter family battle that ensued prior to Kasem's death and continues today exemplifies the heightened emotions involved when a family member is nearing and reaches the last stage of life.

See Danielle Mayoras & Andy Mayoras, The 10 Biggest Celebrity Estate Stories of 2014 and What You Can Learn, Forbes, Dec. 4, 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 7, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

China Announces an End to Organ Harvesting From Executed Prisoners

HeartIt was announced yesterday that China will stop the practice of harvesting the organs of executed prisoners for use in organ donations. Many are skeptical that the practice will actually stop due to corruption and how profitable the sale of organs is. Additionally, there are concerns that there will not be enough organ donations to meet the need for organ transplants, due to cultural norms and concerns over the organs being sold on the black market. Only 1,448 individuals donated organs through China's voluntary donation scheme between 2010 and 2013. The annual need for organ donations is roughly 300,000 individuals.

See Katie Hunt, Why China Will Struggle to End Organ Harvesting From Executed Prisoners, CNN, Dec. 5, 2014.

December 6, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kerouac and Cassady Estates In Conflcit

Kerouac and cassady

Jack Kerouac’s estate has claimed a share of the proceeds from the planned sale of a long-lost letter that is considered a central document in the history of the Beats—the renowned literary and cultural movement that sprung from San Francisco in the 1950s.

The letter from Beat exemplar Neal Cassady to author Jack Kerouac was showcased for one day at the Beat Museum in North Beach.  The letter is currently in possession of Jean Spinosa, who found it in the effects of her late father, a San Francisco record producer.  She has scheduled its auction for December 17th, however, the Kerouac estate says she has no right to do this.  

“We want the return of the letter.  The letter belongs to the estate,” explained John Sampas, brother of Kerouac’s third wife and literary executor of the estate. 

Cassady’s heirs also claim ownership to the letter under copyright law.  “The Cassady estate is in the process of stopping the auction until its authenticity and copyright have been verified by all parties . . . We never call it a ‘letter.’  It is a ‘manuscript’ always meant for publication.  To call it a letter is like calling ‘Naked Lunch’ a lunch.” 

There is a lot of money at stake, as the original scroll of Kerouac’s “On the Road” sold for $2.4 million in 2001, and now comes the letter that inspired the classic.  “There is an enormous market for Cassady and Kerouac which goes beyond the normal market for signed first editions.” 

See Sam Whiting, Beat Letter Triggers Cash Conflict With Kerouac, Cassady Estates, SF Gate, Dec. 4, 2014.

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

December 5, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Where Do The Things Go In Sendak's Estate?

Maurice sendak

Maurice Sendak passed away in 2012 but his red cardigan remains draped over the chair in his home art studio.  Lynn Caponera, his housekeeper and caretaker for more than thirty years said, “I still put water in his paints every week, to keep them from drying out.”  For the last two years, Ms. Caponera has vigilantly overseen the legacy, private collection, and rarely viewed home of Mr. Sendak, author of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Ms. Caponera is now an executor of Mr. Sendak’s estate and president of his foundation.  Recently, she and the estate’s other two executors decided to withdraw more than 10,000 original artworks Mr. Sendak lent to the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, where many assumed the bulk of his work would remain.  The works will return to the house where a museum is being planned by the foundation, a decision some are questioning.  Furthermore, Ms. Caponera’s ability as executor is facing scrutiny as she did not attend college, and has no formal business training to shepherd a complex philanthropic foundation worth millions of dollars. 

The Rosenbach has sued the estate, claiming some of Mr. Sendak’s promised rare books are being withheld.  Yet, in an interview Ms. Caponera defended her decisions and those of the estate in carrying out the wishes of Mr. Sendak, who specified in his will that the house become a study center and museum.  She said she believed he would have wanted most of his drawings and manuscripts at the house rather than the Rosenbach. 

See Randy Kennedy, Sendak’s Estate: Debating Where the Things Go, The New York Times, Dec. 1, 2014.

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

December 3, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Anthony Marshall Dies at Age 90

Anthony MarshallAs I have previously discussed, Anthony Marshall, who was convicted in 2009 of stealing from his elderly philanthropist mother Brooke Astor, died on Sunday. Marshall had been suffering from health problems for years, including a heart condition and a medical condition that resulted in his medical release from prison after serving two months of his one to three years sentence. Marshall's widow used the nicest of words to describe her late husband in a death notice she wrote. However, the continued strain on the relationship between Marshall and his son Phillip Marshall, who reported in 2006 that he believed his father was neglecting Astor, is evidenced by Phillip's statement that he found out his father had died through the media.

See Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press, Son Convicted of Looting Brooke Astor's Money Dies, SF Gate, Dec. 1, 2014.

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

December 2, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 1, 2014

UK Bank Using Technology to Offer 24-Hour Face-to-Face Customer Service

CellphoneBarclays is making history as the first bank in the UK to offer 24-hour face-to-face banking service to customers through their smartphones. The service will allow Barclays customers to use their smartphones to speak face-to-face with a bank employee beginning December 8 for those with Barclay Premier accounts. The service will become available to other bank customers next year.

See Simon Watkins, Barclays to Launch UK's First Ever Video Banking Service Allowing Customers to Speak Face-to-Face With Staff on Smartphone, This is Money, Nov. 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.

December 1, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Swiss Museum Releases List of Artwork in Cornelius Gurlitt's Possession

Swiss Museum

As I have previously mentioned, the Kunstmuseum Bern has accepted the legacy of Cornelius Gurlitt.  As promised by the museum, the artworks discovered in Gurlitt’s possession are being made public in the interests of transparency. 

“We have promised transparency and are now acting accordingly.  We are therefore happy to be able to release, only three days after deciding to sign the agreement, the information we currently have at our disposal. The ongoing categorization has not been completed in full yet.  Additionally, we will further endeavor to emend the lists, step by step, for example, in regard to attributing the works to artists or improving the quality of the photos of the pictures and ensuring that all of them are photographed.  Any new, validated information will be made known the public immediately.”

On November 21st, a legal heiress to Gurlitt applied for a certificate of inheritance at a probate court in Munich.  Thus, the current executor will stay responsible for the administration of the legacy.  As a result, the Kunstmuseum Bern will have only restricted access to the works of art. 

See Kunstmuseum Bern Releases the Lists of the Artworks That Were Discovered in Cornelius Gurlitt’s Homes, Art Daily, Nov. 28, 2014.

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

White House Veto Threat Ends Tax Breaks Talks

Divide1With the tax breaks deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp nearing conclusion, the White House announcement that the deal would be vetoed by President Obama ended the talks. Statements from White House spokespersons expressed that the deal would not be approved due to concerns that the deal would not adequately provide for middle-class families and provide too many tax breaks for corporations.

See Bernie Becker, Veto Threat Derails Reid Tax Deal, The Hill, Nov. 25, 2014.

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Battle Over Officer's Estate

Dave Monrogio

A battle is brewing over the estate of a Naples police officer who killed himself during a domestic violence double shooting. 

The Board of Trustees of the Naples Police Officers’ Retirement Trust Fund filed a complaint this month, asking a judge to determine who should receive Officer Luis “Dave” Monroig’s $100,000 lifetime pension: his ex-wife or his mother. 

Although Monroig’s sixteen-year marriage ended in divorce in August 2013, he never changed the primary beneficiary of his city pension benefits before shooting both himself and his girlfriend in her Estero home. 

The complaint states, “The Board of Trustees cannot determine which defendant is entitled to the death benefit under the terms of the (pension) plan, the marital settlement agreement, the beneficiary designation and (a new state law) without running the risk of double payment.” 

Under the law, which went into effect July 1, 2012, if the policy holder designated an ex-spouse as a primary beneficiary before their marriage legally ended and the policy holder dies on or after July 1, 2012, that beneficiary is considered predeceased and benefits would then go to the contingency beneficiary. The law affects life insurance policies, annuities, IRAs, 401Ks and other employee benefit plans.

Monroig’s father is also challenging his daughter-in-law’s right to his estate, which involves a car worth $5,000 and other personal effects, clothing, and furniture. 

See Aisling Swift, Battle Heats Up Over Dead Officer’s Pension, Estate, Naples News, Nov. 23, 2014.

November 26, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)