Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Federal Judge Reasserts Same Sex Marriage Right In Alabama

Gay Pride FlagThe battle in Alabama for same sex marriage took a new turn recently. A federal judge reiterated her earlier ruling that the same sex marriage ban was unconstitutional and ordered all probate courts, which had been told not to recognize the marriages by state officials, to ignore Alabama's ban. However, the judge placed a stay on the order until the United States Supreme Court rules on the matter which essentially allows the ban to continue for now. Still, gay rights groups claimed victory after this ruling though the Alabama Supreme remains stiffly opposed to the decision.

See Kim Chandler, Judge: Gay Couples Across Alabama Have Right To Marry, W.I.A.T., May 21, 2015.

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

May 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Battle Over Tom Benson Estate Takes New Turn

Tom BensonAs I have previously discussed, the saga of the Tom Benson estate battle between him and his daughter has taken another turn. Renee Benson, in an attempt to bring attention to the case, asked a federal court to open the trial to the public at least in part. However, the district judge ruled that it would violate the privacy of Mr. Benson and reveal confidential secrets on the two New Orleans sports franchises he owns. I will keep you updated on this story as it develops.

See Brett Martel, Judge Closes Trial Involving Pelicans Owner, Heirs, Associated Press, May 19, 2015.

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

May 21, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ireland Goes To The Polls On Same-Sex Marriage Amendment

Irish Flag OldIreland looks to break ground as one of the first western countries to enshrine marriage rights for same-sex couples in its constitution. Polls are showing a 10 point lead for the referendum with a large majority of under-30 individuals supporting but the over 65 crowd saying no by a similarly large margin. In this traditionally Roman Catholic country the Church has largely stayed out of the fray despite sticking to its official "no" stance. In 2015, the Irish parliament enacted a marriage equality bill but this vote would make the law unrepealable without another constitutional amendment. I will keep you updated on this story as it develops.

See Peter Foster, Ireland Gay Marriage Referendum: What You Need To Know, The Telegraph, May 19, 2015.

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

 

May 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Irish Voters Will Decide On Same Sex Marriage

Same-sex-unionsThis Friday, voters across Ireland will be deciding on whether to ratify The Marriage Equality Bill of 2015 which passed with overwhelming majorities in the Dail (Ireland's Parliament).  If the bill passes then Ireland will become the first country to legalize same sex marriage through a national referendum.  The polls currently show the “yes” campaign in the lead.  The Catholic Church, which opposes the bill, has avoided weighing in too heavily on the issue leaving most of the “no” campaign to lay Catholics and other outside groups.  Even though 85% of the Irish population still self-identify as Roman Catholic, polls are showing strong support for marriage equality among the public.

See Peter Foster, Ireland Gay Marriage Referendum: What You Need To Know, The Telegraph, May 19, 2015.

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

 

May 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Guggenheim Heir Seek Art Restored To Original Location

Venice Italy    Benjamin Guggenheim was one of the wealthiest men in the world when he dressed himself to the hilt and went down with the RMS Titanic. The result of his death was that his 13 year old daughter inherited his entire estate and later devoted her life to the collection of art. When she died, she left the collection, along with a Venetian palace, to serve as a public museum for the people of the city. However, her grandson seeks to have a large portion of the artwork returned to the Venice palace that housed the collection based on his claims that loaning pieces to other museums violates the wishes of his late grandmother. But a lower French court has already ruled against him so it looks as if the artwork will stay put for the forseeable future.

See Guggenheim vs Guggenheim In French Court Over Art Treasures Housed In VeniceArt Daily, May 19, 2015.

 

May 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Will Of Mother Of Former D.C. Mayor Goes To Court

Anthony Williams    Tony Williams was mayor of Washington D.C. for two terms and his mother was always by his side as a fixture of the Washington social circuit. When she died, many grieved and she left a modest estate to her 8 children and a handful of charities. Now some of her children have gone to court claiming that personal items of their mother were wrongly taken by other family members after death.

    The dispute appears to center on the name of one sibling being left out of the will, though indirectly referred to in the rest of the document, and that specific items were taken without the estate setting a process to fairly divide the possessions. This case goes to show that making a will is not the only step one must take to dispose of assets after death. Careful thought must go into making sure each beneficiary won’t make feel aggrieved enough to challenge the probate and safe guards put into place to prevent anyone from wanting to go to court.

See Keith L. Alexander, Family of Former Mayor Tony Williams in Probate Court Over Mother’s Will, Washington Post, May 17, 2015.

 

May 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Twist In Will Of Art Dealer Who Left Waitresses $100,000

WillsThe will of Robert Ellsworth, the art dealer who left two waitresses $50,000 each, is now being challenged by his live in boyfriend on the basis that Mr. Ellsworth lacked capacity to make a 2013 will that was ultimately admitted to probate. Court documents reveal Masahiro Hashiguchi, the boyfriend, claims that the estate planner of Mr. Ellsworth convinced his client to create a wide range of charitable trust so that he might be able to profit from being trustee. However, Mr. Hashiguchi was hardly left out of the will as he received $10 million outright as well as numerous other devises and bequest. As this story develops I will keep you up to date.

See Julia March, Big-tipping bar regular’s boyfriend fights for more than just $10M, New York Post, May 14, 2015.

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

May 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Slayer Statutes, A Rarely Used But Useful Tool

GavelThe concept of a family member killing a relative for a bumped up inheritance is the fodder of pulp dramas but, sadly, does occur in the real world. In a recent New York case, a women stabbed her mother in law to death in order to get a $4 million life insurance policy. Thankfully, she was apprehended then convicted and the court imposed, in addition to her sentence, that she take nothing from the estate. In this case, a New York common law doctrine was used but many states have statutes on point with the universal theme being that the wrongdoer shall not profit from a crime even if the legal procedure used to deny the gain varies. While it is unfortunate that society requires these laws, it is to our advantage that we see them propagated and used in any case necessary.

See David H. Lenok, Slayer Statutes In The Spotlight, Wealth Management, May 13, 2015.

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

May 16, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 15, 2015

New York Mogul Provides Tip From The Grave To Waitresses

WillsRobert Ellsworth was considered a titan in the NYC art world and was fondly remembered by many friends and family when he passed. It turns out there were two extra people to add to that list when he left two waitresses at his favorite restaurant $50,000 each in his will. Both of the beneficiaries expressed shock at the windfall and said they never expected anything from the long time customer. In his will, Mr. Ellsworth referred to both of the waitresses by their first names and workplace which just goes to show that even if someone cannot remember your whole name it does not mean you have not left a deep impression.
 
 
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

May 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IRS Allows Generation Skipping Trust To Use Settlement Agreement Without Losing Status

IRS LogoIn a series of private letter rulings, the IRS has establishes that using a family settlement agreement will not strip a generation skipping trust of it's tax protection. In this case, an irrevocable trust set up to provided for a spouse, children, and grand-children was subject to litigation by younger beneficiaries looking for an immediate payout. A court sponsored agreement was entered into which required a LLC controlled by the trust to make payments per the arrangement. The IRS also ruled on whether the distributions to the beneficiaries would be included in income.
 
See Dawn S. Markowitz, Settlement Agreement Distributions Retain GST Tax-Exempt Status, Wealth Management, May 12, 2015.
 
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

May 15, 2015 in Current Events, Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax, Income Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)