Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

California's Earthquake Spikes Outreach for Insurance

Earthquake effect

Last weekend’s earthquake in California has spiked an interest in homeowners to get, or improve, their existing insurance coverage.  There is much room for improvement in California when it comes to earthquake insurance as some of the costliest earthquakes have occurred in the state.  Surprisingly, only ten percent of California homes with homeowners insurance have earthquake coverage, which must be obtained on top of the standard homeowners policy. 

While earthquake insurance seems like a must in California, there is a caveat: some important limits on earthquake policies apply to aftershocks.  For policies obtained through the California program, coverage goes into effect for aftershocks as of the 16th day a policy is in effect.  If a new earthquake occurs just after the policy has been taken out, coverage is not available.  “You can’t insure a burning building.”

In California, major insurers through their participation in the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) program typically sell earthquake coverage.  The CEA describes itself as a “publicly managed, privately funded, not-for-profit organization.”  The authority was established to keep annual premiums as low as possible while also allowing financial stability for the program.  Yet this insurance has been a tough sale because many people think it is too expensive and they count on state and federal governments to step in with aid packages.  In some cases, this could be a “false hope.” 

It is recommended that those who are looking into earthquake insurance should not forgo buying it because of the high deductible.  “No earthquake insurance means you’re carrying a 100% deductible!”

See Leslie Scism, Insurance Coverage Likely to Get More Respect After the California Earthquake, The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 25, 2014. 

August 26, 2014 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Judge’s Ruling Results in Loss of Millions for Daughter of Anna Nicole Smith

Smith's DaughterAs I have previously discussed, the will contest brought by Anna Nicole Smith nearly 20 years ago has come to an end. One outcome of U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s decision to deny sanctions against E. Pierce Marshall’s estate is the lost opportunity of Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn Birkhead, to receive millions. Judge Carter noted that during the lawsuit false testimony was given, there was attempted judge manipulation, and destruction of documents. However, even though he expressed that he regretted this outcome, actual damages were not sufficiently proven to award sanctions.

See Daniel Fisher, Anna Nicole Smith’s Daughter Loses Fight for Marshall Millions, Forbes, Aug. 19, 2014.

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

August 22, 2014 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Widow of Casey Kasem Planning Burial in Norway

NorwayAs I have previously discussed, news that Casey Kasem’s body may be headed to Norway was released last week. Now, an article in a Norwegian newspaper and the private investigator for Kerri Kasem, Casey Kasem’s daughter, have confirmed that Kasem will be buried in Norway despite his wishes to be buried in Forest Lawn. It is unknown where in Oslo, Norway Kasem will be buried or why Jean Kasem, Kasem’s widow, chose the location. Kerri has alleged that Jean abused Kasem, but the foreign burial may create jurisdictional issues for building an elder abuse case.

See Tim Appelo, Casey Kasem to be Buried in Norway, Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 14, 2014.

Special thanks to Shaneesa Ashford for bringing this article to my attention.

August 16, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Assessing Robin Williams' Estate Plan

Robin williams

Millions of Americans are mourning the sudden death of Robin Williams—a world-class comedic genius who made millions in order to care for his children.  Despite his efforts, Williams’ estate planning abilities may not have matched his gift to entertain.

Experts say that it is possible Williams may not have left a will, although this may not have been a bad thing.  “It’s very likely he used a revocable trust.  A lot of our California clients take that approach,” explained Daniel Rubin, a partner at Moses & Singer.  Because probate tends to be a lengthy process in California, wealthy people often opt to create a revocable living trust instead of a will.  They make themselves the trustee, and in the trust documents indicate how they want to allocate their assets.  Upon their death, the assets are distributed without public review. 

Williams did leave money in a trust for his three children, yet the trusts could have been structured more effectively.  Reports indicated the trust assets were to be distributed to Williams’ children in three increments: at age 21, 25, and 30.  However, those may not be the best times for children to receive large sums of money.  The more modern way of structuring a trust is to give children responsibility for appointing the trustee at a certain age.

See Kelley Holland, Robin Williams’ Estate Plan: Good, But Not Great, CNBC, Aug. 12, 2014.

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

August 14, 2014 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Clippers Have New Owner

BasketballAs I have previously discussed, the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers has gone anything but smoothly. However, after Donald Sterling’s failed attempts to block the sale, the agreement made back in May between Shelly Sterling and Steve Ballmer has gone through. The former CEO of Microsoft is now the new and proud owner of the NBA franchise.

See Dana Farrington, LA Clippers Sold to Former Microsoft CEO Ballmer, NPR, Aug. 12, 2014.

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

August 14, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Oklahoma & Utah Appeal Same-Sex Marriage Ban Cases to Supreme Court

Marriage CaseAs I have previously discussed, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld decisions by federal judges that struck down the same-sex marriage bans in Oklahoma and Utah. Now the two states are appealing their cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to have a chance to defend their overturned same-sex marriage bans. The appeal for the Oklahoma case was filed on Wednesday.

See, Oklahoma Gay Marriage Case Appealed to High Court, Seattlepi, August 6, 2014.

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

August 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Using Marriage as Deciding Factor for Death Benefits Ruled Unconstitutional in Alaska

GavelAfter the tragic death of Kerry Fadely, who was murdered while working a shift as a manager at Millennium Hotel, her same-sex partner Deborah Harris filed for workers compensation death benefits. Harris’s claim was denied because she wasn’t married to Fadely, which was based on the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board's interpretation of “widow” in the statute. The couple had been together for over ten years and shared responsibility for bills and raising their children.

In Harris v. Millennium Hotel, the Alaska Supreme Court overruled the denial of the death benefits. The court reasoned that using marriage as the test for awarding the death benefits was a violation of equal protection, and the case was remanded.

See Stephanie Goldberg, Same-Sex Partner of Murdered Woman Due Comp Death Benefits: Alaska High Court, Business Insurance, July 29, 2014.

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

July 31, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Midsummer’s Madness-2014: The Tragic Case of Casey Kasem

CrazyRobert L. Moshman, recently published an article entitled, Midsummer’s Madness-2014: The Tragic Case of Casey Kasem, The Estate Analyst, July 28, 2014. Provided below is the introduction to the article:

Once more into the breach as we embark on what has become our annual journey to Crazy Town in a quest to cover inexplicable developments that strain reason, challenge credulity, and burst free from the shackles of logic. Once again, there is an abundance of material fitting this description.

This collection reviews the recent developments in the estate of Casey Kasem, a 164% estate tax hazard inside New York’s new estate tax law, slayers successfully suing their victims, a lawsuit by the estate of John “Duke” Wayne against Duke University, and some surprising potential hazards of using a software program for writing a will.

July 31, 2014 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Florida Same-Sex Marriage Ban Struck Down

RingsA Florida State judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage Friday on equal protection and due process grounds. The ruling mirrored the reasoning of other state and federal courts to strike down similar state bans, including the reasoning that the only purpose for such a law is discrimination and thus not a legitimate governmental purpose. The ruling has been stayed pending an appeal by Florida Attorney General.

See, Same-Sex Marriage: Florida Ruling Adds to List of Defeats for State Ban, The Guardian, July 25, 2014.

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

July 28, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Assisted Dying Bill Being Debated by House of Lords

Health LawAs I have previously discussed, the House of Lords is currently considering legislation to change assisted dying laws, which if passed would allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients to die. Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill is being carefully debated, and nearly 130 speakers shared their thoughts and stories on the topic. The debate is split by those that believe this bill is a compassionate response to individuals near death dealing with serious and painful illnesses, and those that have concerns about abuse of the practice or religious beliefs that oppose the practice.

See John Bingham & Matthew Holehouse, Assisted Dying: The Day the House of Lords Bared Its Soul, The Telegraph, July 18, 2014.

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

July 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)