Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Robin Williams Estate Dispute Comes To An End

ArticlePictureThe fight between the children of late actor Robin Williams and his widow Susan Schneider has come to end following a settlement. While the details of the terms of the agreement have not been released, some personal items such as a watch that Williams often wore and a bicycle bought on their honeymoon will go to Schneider. Representatives of the children stated that they are relieved to have the dispute resolved which has been ongoing since 2014.

See, Robin Williams’ widow settles suit against estate, late actor’s three kids, New York Daily News, October 2, 2015.

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

October 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Catholic Priest Accused Of Using Position To Get Money From Older Parishioners

Christian ChurchA priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey is being investigated by authorities for using his position in the church to receive gifts from older, wealthy parishioners. Father Orozco was assigned to his parish, one of the wealthiest, just after his ordination in 2012 and has reportedly accepted over $250,000 in gifts. The suspicion arose due to allegations that many of the donations to him were made due to his representations of need but, in reality, many of the purported expenses were already covered by the diocese including car rental and insurance. In addition, he took a gift of $25,000 to buy a vacation home, which was never purchased, and solicited $150,000 from another parishioner to supposedly buy a house for his impoverished family in Columbia. As of now, no criminal charges have been filed and Father Orozco has vigorously defended his innocence on the basis that all gifts were voluntary.

See Mark Mueller, Priest took more than $250K from 'grandmas' at wealthy church, authorities say, NJ.com, October 1st, 2015.


October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Caretaker Of Simpsons Creator Sam Simon's Dog In Dispute With Estate Over Expenses

ArticlePictureSam Simon was legendary in television circles as the co-creator of The Simpsons which lead to him amassing a fortune in excess of $100 million. Before his death, Simon, a well known animal lover, made arrangements with longtime friend animal trainer Tyson Kilmer for the ongoing care of his beloved dog Columbo. However, Kilmer is now engaged in a battle over funds to care for the dog with the estate as he claims that the funds that have been dispersed so far are insufficient to properly care for the animal. The estate fired back with accusations that Kilmer has been demanding huge sums of money, up to $1.7 million, for the care of the animal and that his demands are unreasonable. As of now, no lawsuit has been filed and the dog remains in the care of Kilmer who claims that he will never give him up even without the money.

See Khaleda Rahman, Estate of late Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon locked in a bitter battle with the new owner of his beloved dog who says he has not received $140,000 annual allowance to care for the canine, The Daily Mail, September 30, 2015.

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

October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Good, Bad, And Ugly Of Celebrity Estate Plans

ArticlePictureCelebrity estates are often used as examples of the good and bad when it comes to estate planning. The wealth they leave behind will almost certainly draw out any potential claim that can be made and test the strength of post death plans. The most newsworthy estates are usually those that provoke a legal battle between heirs such as in the case of Ernie Banks and Robin Williams. Then there are the poorly planned such as that of Phillip Seymour Hoffman who left his entire estate to a long time girlfriend that lead to a huge estate tax hit and no guarantees his children would ever receive support. But not all celebrities will have feuding heirs as in the case of Paul Walker whose estate was properly planned with his child protected and his fortune split in an equitable manner. In the end, let the lessons of the celebrity estates can lead to some good if they instruct on the dos and don'ts of planning and what problems might be encountered.

See Megan Elliot, 7 Estate Planning Lessons from Celebrities, Cheat Sheet, September 29, 2015.

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

October 1, 2015 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Battle Over Historic Jacket Ends Before Pennsylvania Appellate Court

ArticlePictureA battle between family members over the ownership of a fighter pilot jacket that was used in World War II appears to be over after an appellate court ruling. The jacket belonged Phillip Eppley who was a member of the legendary Flying Tigers, an American volunteer force fighting for China before Pearl Harbor, and ended up in the estate of his wife who died after Eppley. One of the widow's sons took the jacket before his mother's death and refused to return the jacket until he was hit with an estate tax bill. Since then he has been seeking to show that he never owned jacket, in order to avoid the tax, and was merely holding it on behalf Eppley's son who owned all other memorabilia. The appellate court ruled that the son owned the jacket and failed to show that he was merely holding the jacket due to his exclusive possession of the jacket for over a year after his mothers death.

See Matt Miller, Rare WWII 'Flying Tigers' flight jacket focus of Pa. court battle, Penn Live, September 29, 2015.


September 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals Rules That Herbalife Heir Lacks Standing

HerbalifeThe Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that the sole beneficiary of a multimillion dollar trust that was created by the founder of Herbalife lacked the standing to challenge a bankruptcy courts approval of a settlement agreement.  The Court ruled that a Trust beneficiary is not a “party in interest” and could only sue to enforce the terms of the Trust.  In the opinion Judge Jay Bybee wrote that "in general, a trust beneficiary is not the entity positioned to take legal recourse to protect the trust assets, unless the beneficiary is seeking only to enforce the terms of the trust."  The heir’s objection to the settlement agreement was not an action to enforce the terms of the Trust according to the court. 

See Jack Bouboushian, Ninth Circuit Sidelines Young Herbalife Heir, Courthouse News Service, September 29, 2015.

September 29, 2015 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Unexpected Bidding War Ensues Over Potential Rembrandt Painting

ArticlePictureA small New Jersey auction house found itself in the big time for one item after a bidding war erupted on a piece that is suspected to have been painted by Dutch master Rembrandt. The painting is thought by some experts to be from a series of paintings made while Rembrandt was a teenager and under the tutelage of a fellow Dutch painter. By the time bidding ended the piece was standing at just over $800,000 which blew past the pre-auction estimate of $500-$800 based on the then unknown nature of the painting. While the identity of the painting has not yet been confirmed, if it turns out to be genuine than the price tag will prove to be a bargain.

See Eileen Kinsella, Experts Believe Painting Valued at $800 at Auction Is a Real Rembrandt, Artnet News, September 23, 2015.


September 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trump Tax Plan Mostly Party Orthodoxy With Dash Of Unusual

ArticlePictureThe campaign of Donald Trump finally released its tax plan amid great pomp at the Trump Towers but offered little in the way of new policies. The plan calls for slashing the number of tax brackets and cutting the top rate to %25 while allowing those with incomes under $25,000 to live tax free. In addition, the plan calls for the end of the estate tax and alternative minimum tax while allowing companies to pay a onetime fee to repatriate funds from outside the United States that might otherwise be taxed. However, aside from one over the top requirement that requires non taxpayers to send “I win” forms to the IRS, the plan offers little in the realm of new policies although it firmly entrenches Trump’s rightward shift from his more liberal positions. Only time will tell if the policy proposals will help propel Trump to Washington.

See Russell Berman, Donald Trump’s Amazingly Conventional Tax Plan, The Atlantic, September 28, 2015.


September 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Tax, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Estate Of Pistons Owner Sues Deloitte Over Flawed Tax Plan

ArticleThe estate of late Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson is suing Deloitte Tax LLP over what it calls a risky and flawed estate plan. The suit claims that the tax planner intentionally used dubious planning techniques to create the perception of savings in order to draw in Davidson in as a high profile client they could use to lure other high net worth individuals. The estate seeks in excess of $500 million in damages to cover the increased tax the estate was forced to pay plus interest and penalties. As of now, no trial date has yet been set.

See Mark Hicks, Davidson estate sues Deloitte Tax over $2.7B IRS bill, The Detroit News, September 24, 2015.

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

September 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 25, 2015

The War Over The Estate Tax

Piggy BankThe battle over the estate tax has been growing in intensity over the years due to both parties seizing on the issue as a token of being on the "right" side of the political divide. Be it Bernie Sanders and his desire to increase the tax and enforcement to the myriad Republicans who near universally oppose the tax in any form, the issue has been put into the forefront. In response, a reform bill that would not repeal the tax but instead allow a person that will face the tax to pay a fee before death to substitute for the death duty. While he bill was introduced with sponsors from both parties, it is unlikely to see the light of day due to its compromise nature. The sad fact is that neither party is truly interested in creating sound policy because the tax's mere existence, in its current form, gives everyone an avenue of attack on the other side using whatever sophistry is popular at the moment. Let us hope that saner minds will eventually emerge to craft a sound policy that, while impossible to satisfy everyone, will at least bring the issue to a fair resolution for society as well as those burdened by the levy.

See David H. Lenok, Bi-Partisan Estate Tax Reform Bill Introduced, Wealth Management, September 24, 2015.

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

September 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)