Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Avicii's Family Hints at Suicide in New Statement

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-26/86e50483-5fa9-497d-b069-c9ba7b9ec85a.pngSuperstar DJ Avicii was apparently struggling with some serious mental issues at the time of his death. His family is now strongly indicating that it was a suicide. In a statement, the family said that he "could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace." Authorities have already ruled out foul-play as a cause of death. 

See Avicii's Family Hints at Suicide in New Statement, TMZ, April 26, 2018.

April 26, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prince's Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Hospital, Pharmacy Chain

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-26/7aceaaeb-a360-42f2-94c7-9130f737e7c6.pngPrince’s heirs have filed suit in Chicago’s Cook County against an Illinois hospital and the drugstore giant Walgreens. They are alleging that pharmacists in two of Walgreens’s Minnesota branches dispensed “prescription medications not valid for a legitimate medical purpose.” The heirs also claim that Prince received inadequate care while at Trinity Medical Center which directly resulted in his death. John Goetz, who filed the lawsuit at the behest of Prince’s family, said in a statement: “We will have much to say when the time is right. We have client interests to protect at the moment, including our theory of the case. What happened to Prince is happening to families across America. Prince's family wishes, through its investigation, to shed additional light on what happened to Prince. At the same time, further light on the opiate epidemic will hopefully help the fight to save lives. If Prince's death helps save lives, then all was not lost.”

See Scott Neuman, Prince's Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Hospital, Pharmacy Chain, NPR, April 24, 2018.

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

April 26, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Verne Troyer, ‘Mini-Me’ in Austin Powers  Films, Dies at 49

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-23/88116dc4-17dd-433c-92a8-f40559a66857.pngVerne Troyer, the actor who played Mini-Me, Dr. Evil’s miniature clone, in two of the Austin Power’s films, is dead at the age of 49. The cause of death is not publicly known, but he had been hospitalized after emergency responders were called to his home earlier this month. Troyer suffered from cartilage-hair hypoplasia, a rare type of dwarfism that limited his maximum height to two feet, eight inches tall. After gaining fame following his 2002 role as Mini-Me, he jokingly told Wolf Blizter that he tried to disguise himself in public with a hat and sunglasses, “but it just doesn't seem to work.” A statement posted to Troyer’s social media account said: “Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible. Verne hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message every day.”

See Steve Almasy, Verne Troyer, ‘Mini-Me’ in Austin Powers  Films, Dies at 49, CNN, April 23, 2018.

April 23, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Avicii Smiling with Fans in His Final Days

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-20/238fa12d-1fdd-4ac1-b572-5956b93e6ba5.png28-year-old superstar DJ, Avicii, was found dead Friday morning at a luxury resort in Muscat, Oman. A number of pictures have surfaced of Avicii with fans at the resort taken during his final days. Though the renowned artist had given up on touring in 2016, he still shared a reciprocal passion for his many fans. Neither Avicii’s reps nor law enforcement have issued a formal statement about the circumstances surrounding his death.

See Avicii Smiling with Fans in His Final Days, TMZ, April 20, 2018.

April 20, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prince’s Overdose Death Results in No Criminal Charges

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-20/9c02d950-c4f4-4437-9ca5-f6084e51fa2c.pngPrince Rogers Nelson was found dead in an elevator in Paisley Park at the age of 57. A toxicology report revealed high concentrations of fentanyl in the singer’s blood, stomach, and liver. Though fentanyl is a legal prescription, it is often used to manufacture knock-off pills, like oxycodone and other painkillers, that are sold on the black market. Minnesota law enforcement announced Thursday that no one would be charged for Prince’s death as they could not determine who actually provided the drug that killed him. Mark Metz, a Carver county attorney, said that they “ have no direct evidence that a specific person provided the fentanyl to Prince.” He also noted that the investigation found “no sinister motive, intent or conspiracy to murder Prince.”

See Joe Coscarelli & Sheila M. Eldred, Prince’s Overdose Death Results in No Criminal Charges, The New York Times, April 19, 2018.

April 20, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Is Stan Lee Being Held Prisoner by Real-life Villains?

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-19/eb0144c3-3b25-489c-8876-08d88818612e.pngStan Lee, one of the inspirational founts that gave birth to the modern Marvel Universe and characters such as Blank Panther, Spider Man, and the X-Men, has always lived in a world populated by all-power villains and valiant heroes. But, these characters are imaginary. Today though, Lee is rumored to have attracted a following of real-life villains set on siphoning his wealth while keeping him a prisoner in his own home. After the death of his wife, Joan Lee, suspicions arose concerning Lee’s dwindling bank accounts and there were even some reports that a former associate stole his blood to sell to fans. The Hollywood Reporter recently released an investigative report claiming Lee’s daughter was subjecting him to elder abuse. Despite these allegations, a recent interview found Lee in good spirits and with him saying that he is “the luckiest guy in the world. Nobody has more freedom.”

See Ben Widdicombe, Is Stan Lee Being Held Prisoner by Real-life Villains?, The New York Times, April 13, 2018.

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

April 19, 2018 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rise of ‘Grey’ Divorce Forces Financial Reckoning After Age 50

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-18/c638ea6a-4214-4c08-998f-f213aecc6cc0.pngAccording to a recent report released by UBS Global Wealth Management, 56% of married women leave the financial planning and investment decisions to their husbands. This trend carries through to millennials as well, with 61% of younger women abstaining from serious involvement in household finances. While this hand-off approach may work well in marriage, many women find themselves woefully unprepared to handle their own finances subsequent to a divorce or the death of their spouse. Some discover previously unknown debts, secret spending by their spouse, and hidden accounts. Most women who have suffered through such an event encourage other women to get involved and break the cycle of financial abdication. These women practice what they preach, as eight in ten women who have been widowed or divorced take a much more active role in the financial decisions in their current relationships.

See Suzanne Woolley, Rise of ‘Grey’ Divorce Forces Financial Reckoning After Age 50, Bloomberg, April 13, 2018.

April 18, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Divided States of America: Major Health Study Warns US Is at a Breaking Point As the Wealthy Coasts Thrive and the Poor South Is Crushed by Drugs, Heart Disease, Obesity and Cancer

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-16/d3dcfdb9-9484-4126-851d-7934171c77ac.pngHuge disparities in wellness as measured per state continue to exist in the United States. This trend persists in spite of massive amounts of spending by the US government on both medicine and healthcare. In 21 states, individuals were more likely to die an early death in 2016 as compared to 1990. Researchers at the University of Washington are concerned that this trend is pushing America’s health development behind less-developed nations.

See Natalie Rahhal, The Divided States of America: Major Health Study Warns US Is at a Breaking Point As the Wealthy Coasts Thrive and the Poor South Is Crushed by Drugs, Heart Disease, Obesity and Cancer, Daily Mail.com, April 10, 2018.

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

April 16, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Article on A Woman in Life, but a Man After Death: Protecting the Postmortem Identities of Transgender Individuals

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-13/888b9f5e-0248-4f5d-88f7-5a97662f4abe.pngDelaney Naumann published an Article entitled, A Woman in Life, but a Man After Death: Protecting the Postmortem Identities of Transgender Individuals, 10 Est. Plan. & Comm. Prop. L.J. 181 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Contemplating death is not a pleasant experience for most people. However, for the transgender community, it is becoming increasingly more important to consider from an estate planning perspective. Throughout their lives, transgender people face numerous challenges regarding their identities. These challenges can continue after a transgender individual's death if he or she is not buried according to their gender identity. Transgender individuals run the risk of having their surviving family members bury them in an undignified manner if the transgender individual passes away without specifically documenting instructions for their burial.

For instance, in 2014, a transgender woman named Jennifer Gable passed away suddenly from an aneurysm. She was thirty-two years old, otherwise in good health, and had not executed a formal document stating her wishes for her funeral arrangements. Consequently, under Idaho intestacy law, control of the disposition of Jennifer's body went to her father, who decided to bury her as a man.

Funeral guests were horrified when they looked into the open casket and saw that the funeral home had cut Jennifer's hair short, dressed her in a suit, and referred to her by male birth name, which Jennifer had legally changed well before her death. The funeral home stated that because Jennifer's death certificate registered her as “male,” it followed standard procedure of dressing the deceased in a suit. One of Jennifer's friends described the ordeal as an “erosion of her identity.”

While this tragedy could have possibly been avoided if Jennifer had a last will and testament, 55% of Americans die intestate each year. Whether it be due to cost, age, or pure laziness, people often pass away without creating any sort of estate plan. Dying intestate is particularly troubling for the transgender community, whom face the risk of having their family members not burying them according to gender identity. Nevertheless, there are two legal solutions that can simplify the task of planning for death and help ensure gender identity is respected after death: disposition of remains statutes and the Respect After Death Act (RADA).

This comment will discuss the distinct needs of a transgender client in planning for death. First, this comment will present a background and explanation of important transgender-related terms to promote a comprehensive understanding of the transgender experience. Second, this comment will provide a brief synopsis of the relevant estate planning laws as they currently stand. Third, an in-depth discussion of disposition statutes and the RADA will follow. Finally, this comment will address the need for uniform laws regarding disposition and identity recognition by proposing legislation to resolve the issue of transgender individuals being misgendered upon death.

April 13, 2018 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Making a Pipe Dream a Reality: The Legislation Estate Planners Need to Get Marijuana Based Assets out of Limbo

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-13/ebbd8fc8-dd4f-4186-877c-7bafac4adf2d.pngSergio Herrera published an Article entitled, Making a Pipe Dream a Reality: The Legislation Estate Planners Need to Get Marijuana Based Assets out of Limbo, 10 Est. Plan. & Comm. Prop. L.J. 157 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

“If you build it, [they] will come.” That seems to have been the mindset of the members of the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature who voted on the passage of Senate Bill 339, known as the Compassionate Use Act, which proposes to allow epilepsy patients to purchase and use low-THC cannabis. If S.B. 339 becomes law, then Texas will become the 30th state to legalize some form of marijuana over the course of the past twenty-years. However, even though over half of the United States allows for citizens to start and engage in businesses within this newly legalized industry, none of these states are enacting legislation that deals with the certainty that every person, in and affected by the marijuana industry, faces-- death.

Heavy regulations, specifically, the requirement that any persons involved in the marijuana industry be licensed, are creating serious obstacles for estate planners with clients who want to pass marijuana based assets to their heirs and devisees. Moreover, many states define ownership in such a way that people, not directly involved in the business, are considered to be owners in the business. For example, in Colorado, if you receive any benefit from the business, then you are considered an owner, and therefore need a license.

This comment will examine the nature of the legalized marijuana industry and how this industry is affecting estate planners. This comment aims to shine a light on what estate planners and legislators alike can do to make sure that estate planning legislation grows as the marijuana industry grows.

First, this comment will discuss how marijuana laws have, in contrast to stagnant federal laws, evolved amongst the different states This history will help show the direction, over the past two decades, that marijuana laws evolved at the state level

Second, this comment will discuss the threshold question of whether lawyers in Texas may advise clients engaged in the marijuana industry While the Federal Government has stated that the prosecution of state legalized marijuana operations is not a priority, the cultivation, sale, and possession of marijuana is still a federal crime in the United States It does not make sense for states to neglect to update and offer guidance in their respective rules of professional conduct, so that lawyers may know the extent to which they may advise their clients. Colorado's Comment 14 to their Rule 1.2(d) will be used as an example of how Texas can help its estate planning attorneys

Third, this comment will briefly examine the assets an estate planner can expect licensed members of the marijuana industry to want to include in their wills While this section of the comment will discuss operator's needs to purchase and invest in equipment such as lights, hydroponic growing machines, and planting equipment, it will also try to explain how the low-THC requirement will affect the cost of investment for licensed operators in Texas

Fourth, this comment will walk through different hypotheticals to illustrate common scenarios members of the marijuana industry might face and need legal assistance with. The first hypothetical will show how Colorado's Rules of Professional Conduct treat attorneys providing advice to clients in the marijuana industry Specifically, this hypothetical will examine how serving as a personal representative affects all parties involved. The second hypothetical will consist of two sub-hypotheticals concerning a decedent dispensary operator, who owns marijuana plant inventory, and who has setup his or her operation as an LLC. The first sub-hypothetical will discuss when the lawyer serves as a personal representative and the heir/devisee is an in-state resident. The second sub-hypothetical will discuss when the lawyer serves as the personal representative and the heir/devisee is an out-of-state resident. The second sub-hypothetical will also involve the dispensary operator/owner, who has a minor child and wants to pass down the business to the minor-child.

Last, this comment will offer proposed legislative language that will provide state representatives with some guidance on how to update the Texas Estates Code so that the Code reflects the effects of S.B. 339's proposals. Currently, the Texas Estates Code does not mention or deal with how marijuana-based assets, such as dispensing organizations, are to be handled upon the death of a licensee. The Texas Estates Code only references drugs in section 251.001; however, section 251.001 only deals with a testator's capacity during the will making process.

April 13, 2018 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)