Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Love And Hate Off The 18th Green

Weding RingsA battle between spouses is playing out along the manicured fairways and greens of the St. Louis Country Club as a wealthy family fights among themselves over a sizable inheritance. The trouble stems from a dispute over the use of separate funds brought into the marriage, along with children from previous marriages, with both families disputing how to allocate years of growth to each spouse. In addition, the step-siblings have fought among themselves as some worry that shares will be diluted by improperly assigning marital assets to each spouse. Furthermore, the grandchildren of one of the spouses has become an issue as the children of the wife worry that she will leave her estate to grandchildren instead.While reports state that the couple remain in love, the wife has threatened to file a divorce suit in order to get an estate accounting. No word on when a trial date will be set.

See Sarah Fenske, In Probate Court, a Wealthy St. Louis Family Becomes Bitterly Divided, River Front Times, February 8, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hartnett for bringing this article to my attention.

February 13, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Texas Prosecutor Sentenced For Illegally Taking Money From Estate

HanduffsIn the small south Texas county of Robertson, John Paschall was a staple in the local community while serving as district attorney for 20 years. But those halcyon days of old are now but a memory following the conviction and sentencing of Paschall for stealing from the estate of a long time resident. He had been placed in charge of the estate to manage the distribution of the corpus to a local charity and volunteer fire department but instead bilked the estate for over $200,000. The theft came to light in a civil suit and quickly lead to criminal charges which have netted a restitution order of $186,000 as well as 30 days in jail on top of 10 years probation. Some have question the light sentence but Paschall's lawyer defended the punishment as being in line of those given to first time offenders without a criminal record. He will serve his time in the Brazos County jail.

See Clay Falls, Former Robertson County DA must pay $186,518.07, spend month in jail for stealing money, KBTX, February 4, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hartnett for bringing this article to my attention.

February 9, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Wealthiest Investors Still Spooked By 2008 Financial Crash

Piggy BankThe 2008 financial crash shook the confidence of much of the developed world particularly the investor elite whose portfolios were exposed to the downturn. Since then, confidence has gradually been restored as a majority of investors in a recent poll reported they felt the comeback from the collapse was complete and that their financial position returned to normal. However, nearly 90 percent of respondents also stated that they now intend to hold larger cash stakes in order to protect themselves in the event of a liquidity crisis. This is in spite of the fact that the money will feel the effects of inflation and not be allowed to grow through investment. While this might be a sign of skittish caution, the recent economics woes of the BRIC's, Europe, and the Middle East may indicate that those with exposure to market downturns are preparing for the worst. But for the sake of the world's economy, let us hope that their caution proves to be unnecessary.

See, Emotional Scars, Wealth Management, February 5, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

February 8, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Redstone Media Empire In Turmoil As Succession Dispute Rages

Single CombatThe decline of the health of Sumner Redstone has a been a hot topic in the news due to his control of CBS and Viacom, two of the largest players in mass media. However, the aging billionaire recently began to pullback from his leadership roles with his resignation as chairman of the board of CBS. Now a full on battle for succession to lead the media empire has emerged between his daughter Shari, Les Moonves the CEO of CBS, and Philippe Dauman the CEO of Viacom. But this battle comes at a crucial moment as the landscape of the entertainment industry has rapidly changed as television ad revenues declines and more individuals opt for cable cutting which has sliced into the profit margins of many cable networks. In the end, the fight for primacy will come down to the choice of the trustees of National Amusements, which include Shari and Dauman, the holding company that controls the majority of shares of both Viacom and CBS. Only time will tell which party emerges as the dominant force in the Redstone empire and reveal if the eventual successor is able to navigate the treacherous waters of the modern media.

See Matthew Garrahan & Shannon Bond, Succession battle engulfs Sumner Redstone’s media empire, Financial Times, February 4, 2016.

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

February 7, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Notorious Earl Finally Declared Completely Dead

ArticlePictureGeorge Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, was one of the most notorious members of the British aristocracy in the 20th century following his disappearance while under suspicion of murdering his children's nanny. The last trace of the fugitive Earl was the discovery south of London of a car he had borrowed that was covered in blood. Since then, a number of theories have been floated concerning his whereabouts including flight to Africa or the United States although the commonly accepted theory is that he committed suicide somewhere along the coast of England. In 1999, he was declared dead for estate and inheritance purposes although the ruling did not apply to his title which remained vested in the Earl despite his presumed death. Now, the High Court has declared Bingham dead for all purposes which allows his son to claim the title and become the 8th Earl of Lucan. With this act, the sordid affairs of the dissipated nobleman's life can finally be brought to a complete close.

See Sewell Chan, Lord Lucan, Missing Since 1974 Murder, Is Declared Dead (Again), The New York Times, February 3, 2016.

February 5, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Failure To Take Communion Leads To Woman's Exclusion From Cemetery

FuneralEven the most optimistic 84 year old knows that their days are nearing an end and will often plan accordingly. But for one Minnesota woman these plans were threatened when she learned that the cemetery she intended to be buried in was being denied to her by the church that owns it. The reason given was that she had not taken communion with the congregation over the past year and was no longer considered a member in good standing. But there is a twist, she had already paid for the plot and her husband was already buried in the churchyard. However there might be some good news, the church said that the letter informing the woman she could not be buried there was simply about her leaving the congregation, with which she had been on tense terms, and that they were open to discussing the burial arrangements. Let us hope the two sides can reach an agreement.

See, Church reportedly tells 84-year-old she can't be buried next to husband, Fox News, February 2, 2016.

February 4, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Florida Might Be One Step Closer To Guardianship Reform With Senate Vote

FloridaGuardianship reform has been an issue growing in prominence due to the many abuses found in systems across the nation. Now Florida looks to join the reform movement and take a step in the right direction as the state Senate is set to have a final vote on a bill that would create a team to oversee the state guardianship system. Scandals have rocked Florida in recent years including one case where a judge was appointing his wife who would then initiate lawsuits on behalf of the ward which family members saw as unnecessary and intended as a vehicle to increase the fees paid to the supposed protector. However, this is not the first attempt at reformation after a bill was passed in recent years which supposedly ended judicial favoritism towards specific guardians although advocacy groups argue that it did little to deter judges. Let us hope this new bill does the trick since guardianship abuse undermines public confidence in the legal system and harms the most vulnerable members of our society.

See John Pacenti, Vote on Florida guardianship reform expected next week, The Palm Beach Post, February 2, 2016.

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

February 3, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Town Fights For Inheritance Intended For Needy Cats

ArticlePictureBarbara Thorpe was a noted lover of cats during her lifetime so it was little surprise when her will left the bulk of her estate to care for the stray cats of her hometown. However, in the 12 years since her death, almost no money has been distributed to a small group of volunteers that were the intended beneficiaries of the bequest and now the town is fighting back. A lawsuit alleges that the trustees of the estate have bilked it out of fees for themselves and lawyers to the tune of $38,000 while donating no more than few thousand dollars total, often no more than $300 a year, for the care of strays. While the town has no animal shelter, the lawsuit states the clear intent was to assist a pair of sisters who operate a mobile home as makeshift shelters for strays which house dozens of cats in addition to outdoor insulated shelters where food is provided. No word yet on when the case is set to go to trial although it might be added this would not be the first time the trustees have been brought to court over suspicious billing habits.

See Judith Meyer, 13 years later: Dixfield cats waiting for inheritance, River Valley Sun Journal, January 31, 2016.

February 3, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Judge Not Happy About Benson Family Settlement Plan

BensonThe battle between Tom and Renee Benson over control of the Shirley Benson Testamentary Trust has been well documented on this blog right up until the moment when the case was assumed over with the announcement of a settlement. But a new wrinkle has emerged in the form of the Bexar Country Probate judge that is overseeing the case. Judge Tom Rickhoff expressed concern about his lack of notice over the terms of the settlement which was reached before the February 12th deadline that was originally set. As a result, Judge Rickhoff told the parties that he would continue with his intention to appoint new receivers to the trust unless the terms were disclosed. The trust contains an estimated $1 billion in assets including a number of car dealerships and other properties. However, no settlement has yet been announced that would bring to an end a case in Louisiana over a trust that controls the majority of shares in the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans.

See David Hendricks, Judge chastises lawyers in Benson estate fight, San Antonio Express-News, February 1, 2016.

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

February 2, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legendary Radio Host Diane Rehm Outspoken Advocate For Right-To-Die Movement

ArticlePictureDiane Rehm is a legendary radio host whose show has aired on National Public Radio for decades and has hosted many of the leading figures in American society. However, her time on the air is nearing an end with 2016 being her last year broadcasting but she has a plan for retirement, to become an advocate for the right-to-die movement. Her passion for subject comes watching the slow death of her husband of over 50 years by his own choice while battling Parkinson's Disease. He was unable to have the assistance of a physician to make the process painless and dignified and required 10 days to pass as a result. This experience has lead to her to battle for those that are trapped between an uncaring government denying them their natural right to have final control over their own existence and the desire to protect family and friends from malicious prosecution for helping a loved one end their suffering. While it is unknown what affect she will have over this contentious debate, anyone that is familiar with her show knows she will pursue this end with the utmost vigor.

See Karen Heller, Diane Rehm’s next act: Using her famed voice to fight for the good death, The Washington Post, January 27, 2016.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.

February 2, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)