Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Forbes Top-Earning Dead Celebrities of 2016

Michael jackson3While an unusual amount of celebrities have passed away this year, Michael Jackson tops Forbes list of top-earning dead celebrities in 2016 with the March sale of his half of Sony/ATV music publishing catalog for $750 million. Jackson’s pretax payday of $825 million is more money than any celebrity dead or alive made in 2016. In total, the sale gave Jackson’s estate a 30% annualized return on his investment. Coming in the number two spot is Peanuts creator Paul Schulz with $48 million. Schulz died sixteen years ago but still lives on through his franchise. Rounding out the top three is Arnold Palmer with $40 million. 

See Zack O’Malley Greenburg, The Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities of 2016, Forbes, October 12, 2016.

December 3, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Stricter State Action on Elder Abuse by Guardians

Guardian abuseOn Wednesday, a Senate committee called for stricter state action to cut down on elder financial abuse by guardians. The General Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, also noted a lack of state monitoring on elder abuse. To curb this abuse, the GAO insists on courts ensuring that a guardian is necessary before appointing one. The agency also suggests that the court continue to monitor the guardianship to ensure its effectiveness. In addition, courts should consider less restrictive means outside of guardianship, such as caregiving. With these efforts, the GAO notes, elder abuse by guardians should be sufficiently reduced.

See Ted Knutson, Senators, GAO, Decry Elder Financial Abuse by Guardians, Complicit Courts, Financial Advisor, December 1, 2016.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) & Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

December 3, 2016 in Current Events, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Little Girl Wakes Up from Coma Days Before Doctors Planned to End Life Support

MarwaIn September, doctors told the parents of a one-year-old girl that she was facing death due to a virus attack on her nervous system and that they would need to put her in an induced coma. The doctors predicted that the girl would never breathe on her own, walk on her own, or eat on her own again. A couple short months later on November 22, just as the doctors were prepping to end the girl’s life support, she awoke.

 See Baby Wakes from Coma Days After Doctors Wanted to Pull Life Support, Fox News, November 30, 2016.

December 2, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Happens When Your Husband Hides His $400 Million Fortune?

Hiding moneySarah Pursglove decided to take a deeper look into her husband’s finances when the Finnish entrepreneur left her. Robert Oesterlund swore in court that his fortune only totaled a few million dollars, but Pursglove could think of several family purchases that cost above and beyond that amount. She flew to the Bahamas to figure out what her husband was really worth. There she found an accounting statement that claimed Oesterlund was worth at least $300 million. As she packed her bags for the flight back home, her family’s fortune immediately began disappearing into various shell companies, bank accounts, and trusts under a worldwide financial system catering to the ultra rich. The system effectively offshores wealth and makes the richest people appear to own very little.

Over the next two years, Pursglove would rely on her wealth squad to untangle the defenses of the offshore financial world. It all started when Oesterlund created his businesses and was subsequently looking to avoid costly taxes. Eventually, he set up a Cook trust, suggested by his corporate counsel, who assured him he would be “untouchable.” As Pursglove’s lawyers began to figure out the scheme her husband was surmounting, they filed court documents for a divorce and to impose a sweeping asset injunction, which would prohibit Oesterlund from selling, merging, or borrowing against any of his assets and additional offshoring. The corporate fraud lawsuit proceeded in Florida, where the family’s companies were being run. It was eventually discovered that Oesterlund was using a Bahamas-based company to transfer all his assets and avoid all United States tax liability—a tactic referred to as “transfer pricing.” Pursglove’s attorneys claimed that Oesterlund began to shield assets from his wife as the divorce loomed near. Shortly after a judge ruled that Pursglove could see thousands of her husband’s documents, both sides’ lawyers met and discussed the possibility of Oesterlund going on the run if he had to fork the documents over. Consequently, this brought things to a head. Oesterlund would have to expose himself or threaten his fortune. Oesterlund’s one-time allies were now becoming his enemies to avoid fighting the greater good—the system. The wall of secrecy around Oesterlund’s accounts began to crumble. The case still remains open and the outcome is unknown, but it begs the question: is there justice in wealth battling wealth?

See Nicholas Confessore, How to Hide $400 Million, N.Y. Times, November 30, 2016.

December 2, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, New Cases, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Prince's Estate Estimate Made Public

Prince estat estimateA new court filing estimates Prince’s estate to be worth approximately $200 million. This is the first time a specific estimate has been brought to the public. Prince’s six siblings are in line to inherit equal shares of his estate after taxes. Bremer Trust originally estimated the estate to be in ballpark of $100–$200 million after placing values on his catalogue, unreleased music, Paisley Park mansion, and other valuable assets. Bremer Trust also put out a memo noting the company’s fee at $90,000 per month, using a fee schedule based on the value of an estate. It is possible that the company is slightly devaluing the estate due to the looming tax bill. Ultimately, the final total of the estate will not be revealed until after more appraisals and taxing authorities value the estate’s worth.

See Prince’s Estate Is Worth at Least $200 Million, Court Filing Shows, Thanks to His Extensive Catalogue, Unreleased Music and Paisley Park Mansion, Daily Mail, December 1, 2016.

December 1, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Much Are Prince's Lawyers Making?

Prince lawyersPrince’s lawyers are making millions handling his estate and legal issues. Bermer Trust, the special administrator of Prince’s estate, filed legal documents asking the court to approve a $2.3 million bill that accumulated between July 1 and September 30. The biggest expense was for the legal services of Stinson Leonard Street for $1.8 million—all for three months of work. Several law firms are handling aspects of the late singer’s estate from claims by potential heirs to Paisley Park Museum plans.

See Prince: Lawyers Haul in Millions Off Death, TMZ, December 1, 2016.

December 1, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fidel Castro's Ashes Begin Four-Day Journey

CastroFidel Castro’s ashes began their four-day journey across Cuba, starting in Havana to their final resting place in Santiago. The total funeral procession is more than 500 miles long. The procession will travel through rural communities that were significantly impacted by Castro’s social and economic reforms, allowing them to have access to health care and education. On Sunday, Castro’s ashes will be interred, ending the nine-day mourning period.

 See Thousands of Cubans Line the Streets as Fidel Castro’s Ashes Begin Final Four-Day Journey, Daily Mail, November 30, 2016.

December 1, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hundreds of Strangers Attend Homeless Veterans Funeral

Veteran funeralHundreds of strangers attended a homeless U.S. veteran’s funeral in Wyoming. Stephen Reiman died in a Wyoming hospital, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, after traveling from California with few possessions. Nobody visited Reiman in the hospital, but the coroner hoped that people from the community would attend his funeral to mark his passing. The funeral was a momentous occasion to bring awareness for homeless veterans.

See Emily Crane, A Hero’s Farewell: Hundreds of Strangers Attend the Funeral of a Homeless U.S. Navy Veteran They Had Never Met – After He Died Alone Suffering Post Traumatic Stress, Daily Mail, November 29, 2016.

November 30, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Delay Death

Racquet sportsA new study reports that swimming, racquet sports, and aerobics provide the best odds of delaying death, particularly dying from heart disease or stroke. The study looked at various types of exercise and their risk levels to determine which showed significant benefits for public health. The study further found that racquet sport players had a 56% lower risk, swimmers had a 41% lower risk, and those who engaged in aerobics had a 36% lower risk of dying from heart disease or stroke as opposed to those who did not participate in sports.

See Want to Delay Death? Then Swim, Dance, or Get on Court, Study Shows, Fox News, November 30, 2016.

November 30, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Netherlands Man Chooses Assisted Suicide

Euthenasia kitA man in the Netherlands was allowed to have assisted suicide due to his long battle with alcohol addiction. Sixteen years ago, the Netherlands implemented a euthanasia law for people living with “unbearable suffering” and no prospect of improvement. Last year, over 5,500 people ended their life using this law. After several stints in rehab, the man decided to end his suffering. Some have argued against these laws, contending that it undermines the treatment and help that those suffering should receive. Countering this argument is that not everyone is curable, and those people need a humane way out.

See Tom Embury-Dennis, Man in the Netherlands Euthanised Due to His Alcohol Addiction, Independent, November 29, 2016.

November 30, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)