Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Monday, December 22, 2014

Oscar Auction Canceled

OscarThe auction of late actress Joan Fontaine's 1941 Oscar has been withdrawn after threats of a lawsuit from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, according to Fontaine's estate. The $200,000 to $300,000 expected selling price for the Oscar was intended to be donated to the Monterey, California SPCA, which her estate believes is consistent with Fontaine's wishes. The requirement that Oscars must first be offered to the Academy at a sales price of $1 came into effect after Fontaine won her Oscar. The Academy has not confirmed the estate's claims that they blocked the sale with threats of legal action.

See Chris Michaud, Joan Fontaine Estate Pulls Oscar Sale Under Threat of Lawsuit, Reuters, Dec. 11, 2014.

December 22, 2014 in Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Breakthrough In Treating Strokes

Stroke

Researchers in the Netherlands have discovered a treatment that improves the prognosis for people who have the most severe and disabling strokes.  By directly removing large blood clots blocking blood vessels in the brain, they are able to save brain tissue that would otherwise have died, in turn enabling many to return to an independent life. 

The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, and is being met with an inundation of exhilaration after three decades of failure.  One reason the treatment is thought to have worked this time, is that doctors used a new type of snare to grab the clots.  It is a stent, which is basically a wire cage, on the end of a catheter that is inserted in the groin and threaded through an artery to the brain.

Each year, about 630,000 Americans have strokes caused by clots blocking blood vessels in the brain.  In almost half of these cases, the clot is a large vessel, which can have devastating consequences. 

See Gina Kolata, Breakthrough Helps Treat Worst of Strokes, The New York Times, Dec. 18, 2014.

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

December 18, 2014 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Woman's Will Directs for Her Dog to Join Her

German ShepherdThe will of Connie Ley directs, among other possible options, that her German Shepherd be cremated so that their ashes may be together. However, this plan requires that the dog be euthanized. The fate of Ley's canine friend Bella is still unknown as the legal proceedings of the estate are ongoing. Outrage and disapproval have erupted on Twitter and some have offered to adopt or help care for the dog. Ley's attorney has responded to the public outcry by standing by Ley's right to direct what will happen to her property when she died, including her pet.

See Sarah Larimer, Indiana Woman Wants to be Laid to Rest With Her German Shepherd. One Problem: The Dog is Still Alive, The Washington Post, Dec. 17, 2014.

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

Please follow this link, Pet Destruction Instructions, to read a short article I prepared on how courts are very reluctant to enforce this type of provision.

December 18, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Existence of Private Trust Companies on the Rise

ChartA trend is emerging of wealthy families creating private trusts companies in order to have more investment control than they would have by continuing to rely on bank run trust companies. Some states are embracing this trend with favorable legislation to encourage these companies in their states.  Private family trust companies are allowed in Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming, and Florida.

See Liz Moyer, Private Trusts for the Very Rich, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 14, 2014.

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

December 16, 2014 in Current Events, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 15, 2014

More Questions Than Answers In Affairs of $2 Million Estate

Question1The questions continue to pile up and answers are few in the events surrounding the estate of John P. Sheridan, Cooper Health System's CEO, and Joyce Sheridan. The New Jersey couple died on September 28 after being pulled from their home, which was on fire, with stab wounds on both. Additional information on the events of that night have not been released and while Joyce's death has been determined to be the result of homicide, the determination for John's death is still pending and being investigated. A will for the couple is yet to be found, and the application by one of the couple's sons to be named administrator of his parents' $2 million estate has been removed without any reason given.

See Angelo Fichera, Sheridan Son No Longer Seeking to Handle Parent's Estate, The Inquirer, Dec. 11, 2014.

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

December 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charitable Extenders Bill Blocked in House

LawA bill that would have made permanent three charitable tax extenders fell short of the needed votes to allow a floor vote in the House last Thursday. The motion had the support of all Republican representatives, except the five that did not vote, and 47 Democratic representatives, falling short of the two-thirds vote in favor needed to pass the motion. Opponents of the bill expressed concern over how the costs would be balanced out if the bill was passed.

See, House Democrats Block Permanent Charitable Extenders Bill, Charitable Planning, Dec. 12, 2014.

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

December 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Challenges to James Brown's Will Continue

James BrownEight years after James Brown's death, the charitable trust he created has yet to serve its intended purpose. Brown left $2 million to the I Feel Good Trust to provide scholarships to children in South Carolina and Georgia, and provide needy children in his home states with a chance at an education that he did not have. However, to date no scholarships have been issued and his will is still be being challenged. Despite the will stating that any challenges will result in disinheritance, some of Brown's children have alleged that his will is invalid due to undue influence by his lawyers and managers.

See Larry Rohter & Steve Knopper, Downbeat Legacy for James Brown, Godfather of Soul: A Will in Dispute, The New York Times, Dec. 13, 2014.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law), Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law), and Jenifer Santini (Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Children Sue Estate of Fugitive That Murdered Their Father Over 40 Years Ago

Gavel2In 1971, the children of Gerald Wall loss their father after he was shot by 19-year-old Thaddeus Cydzik during a robbery of a Wisconsin club where Wall  was a patron and had just completed a business meeting. Wall's wife and children lived in fear of retaliation after Cydzik escaped from prison and disappeared. Cydzik's location remained a mystery to the authorizes, including the FBI, until he committed suicide in 2011. After his death, it became known to local authorities and his wife that he had evaded detection by moving to Florida and living out his life under the assumed identity of Harold Qualls. No notice was published in Wisconsin of Cydzik's death and probate closed on his estate in December 2013.

Wall's children found out about Cydzik's assumed identity and death this past March through a friend that read about the story through a link on a face book post. The now adult children filed last month to have Qualls' estate reopened and allege his widow intentionally failedg to notify them and other potential creditors of Cydzik of his death.

See Bruce Vielmetti, Wisconsin Fugitive's Secret Life Has Victim's Family Seeking Answers, Journal Sentinel, Dec. 10, 2014.

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

December 14, 2014 in Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ownership Decision Pending in Battle Over Lee Harvey Oswald's Casket

Gavel1As I have previously discussed, a battle over the true owner of a used casket is waging in Texas. The case began on Monday with Judge Don Cosby in the Tarrant County 67th District Court hearing both Robert Oswald, brother of infamous Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Baumgardner Funeral Home make their cases for why they each have the ownership rights to the casket that was used to bury Lee Harvey. Robert claims that he thought the casket was destroyed after it was found unfit to be used for his brother's reburial in 1981. Robert found out that the funeral home had the casket and was trying to sell it to an unknown buyer who won the auction bid for the casket at $87,468.  As of Wednesday morning the judge had not yet reached a decision on who owns the historic casket.

See Tyler White, Texas Judge to Decide Ownership of JFK Assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's Coffin, San Antonio Express-News, Dec. 10, 2014.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Joan Rivers Will Leaves Assets to Trust

WillAs I have previously discussed, some details of Joan Rivers' will were released Tuesday after it was filed on December 5. However, many of the specific details including the exact amounts to be distributed were not made public due to the use of a living trust.

Rivers' died on September 4, after she suffered from cardiac arrest during a medical procedure on August 28. Reports from the New York State Health Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed that there may have been some problems with the clinic's care of Rivers, including that a staff member may have taken pictures of Rivers while she was under sedation, and that there were problems with the monitoring of Rivers' vital signs. It is unknown if Rivers' daughter will choose to file a lawsuit regarding her mother's care.

See Aaron Katersky & Lesley Messer, Joan Rivers' Will Revealed, Yahoo News, Dec. 9, 2014.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)