Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Monday, August 3, 2015

British Court Awards Women Part Of Estate After Being Disinherited

United KingdomA British court has awarded a women almost £170,000 after finding that she was entitled to a part of her mother's estate. The women brought the suit after her mother died and left the entire estate to various animal charities but provided nothing for daughter who lives on government assistance. The dispute arose decades before when the women eloped with her boyfriend against the wishes of her mother. The court stated that there was little reason to disinherit particularly since the estates value came from settlement money following the death of the women's father when she was an infant. This is the latest in a series of British cases that have reformed wills to provide for family members when no significant reasons exist to deny a legacy. 

See Owen Bowcott, Daughter wins £164,000 after decade-long legal battle over will with charities, The Guardian, July 27, 2015.

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

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

Feud Over Rinehart Family Fortune May May End With Gift to Charity

Gina-RinehartFollowing years of legal wrangling, Gina Rinehart and her children appear close to a settlement that has the potential to leave billions to charity. Her children have long urged their mother to leave the bulk of the family estate to philanthropic ventures and the efforts seem to finally have borne fruit after the children seized control of a $3 billion trust. The Rineharts, if a settlement is reached, would be following in the footsteps of tycoons such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who have pledged their fortunes to charity and actively court other super-wealthy to follow in their charitable footsteps.

See, Feud Over Mining Mogul's Fortune Could Yield Charity Bonanza, The Chronicle Of Philanthropy, July 30, 2015.

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

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

Friday, July 31, 2015

New York Doctor Allegedly Seduces Patient, Inherits Huge Estate

MedicalA New York doctor has been accused by the family of a former patient for seducing, then getting the patient to disinherit her family of a $7 million estate. Amy Blumenthal was a successful attorney but suffered from psychological troubles which prompted her to seek medical help. Blumenthal's brother alleges that the doctor, after multiple therapy sessions, gave his sister an ultimatum to enter into a sexual relationship or stop being a patient which quickly escalated into large gifts and, eventually, into the doctor being named the sole beneficiary in the will.

This case is an excellent example of how those with mental disorders might be taken advantage of by those they trust and depend upon. Every estate planner should be on the lookout for a client that starts making large, unexpected changes to an estate plan in favor of a party that has much power and influence. While this is not always a sign of undue influence, it can be warning signal that all might not on the up and up. If a planner sees a client in a potentially abusive situation, it is always a good idea to check up, that may be it all it takes to stop an evil actor from creating legal chaos down the line.

See Julia Marsh, Shrink convinced patient to be her lover, write her into $7M will: docs, New York Post, July 29, 2015.

Special thanks to Jay Brinker for bringing this article to my attention.

July 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Daughter Of Kirk Kerkorian Seeks Guardian For Will Contest

WillsThe daughter of the late casino magnate Kirk Kerkorian was in court recently seeking to have her mother appointed guardian so that a will contest may proceed. The judge in the case denied the request citing an alleged history of abandonment by her mother and a lack of truthfulness in court proceedings in the past. Attorneys for the daughter will now seek the appointment of an independent guardian and are expected to nominate the former conservator of Brittany Spear's estate. This case is further complicated by the fact that the daughter may not be the biological offspring of Kerkorian, which is supported by his denials of paternity, though he did help raise the child. A hearing on an alternative guardian is expected to be held soon.

See Debbie L. Skyler, Billionaire’s ex not ‘credible’ as advocate for daughter in probate battle, LA.com, July 28, 2015.

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

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

UK Residents May Now Name Heirs For Facebook Account

FacebookFacebook likes to be at the forefront of all things social media and has continued that trend with the introduction of the ability to name an heir to an account. This feature, currently available in the UK only, allows the named person to take limited control over the account, such as the ability to accept friend request, in order to keep the profile active. However, the caretaker will not be able to remove previous post by the deceased or use the private message feature of the account. This change builds on the memorial feature, around since 2007, which allowed users to request that a deceased persons page be frozen but kept alive. This move is likely the herald of a wave of change as the issue of digital heirs moves into the forefront of estate planning challenges.

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, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Houston Estate Could Be Contested By Multiple Claimants

Article PictureWhen Whitney Houston died, no one expected that a battle over her estate would emerge as everything had been left to the her daughter Bobbi Kristina. However, tragedy struck and with Bobbi Kristina's death there is likely to be a battle over the estimated $20 million estate that is currently held in trust. Under Whitney Houston's will, the estate passes to her mother and brothers in the event that her daughter dies but it will not likely be as simple as that. Any money already distributed to Bobbi Kristina will likely pass to her father, Bobby Brown, as her sole heir, although Brown is not likely to have a claim on the trust corpus. But the greatest threat for an estate fight comes from her boyfriend, Nick Gordon, who claims that he and Bobbi were married although he has yet to produce any documentation of the marriage. I will keep you updated as this story develops.

See  Maria Puente, Who will inherit Whitney Houston's millions?, USA Today, July 27, 2015.

July 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Florida Probate Court Has No Jurisdiction Over Real Property From Out-Of-State

Florida-state-flagA Florida appellate court has recently held that a Florida probate court cannot order the partition and sale of out-of-state real property.  The Court held that the Florida probate court has no jurisdiction over out of state real property.  In order to partition out-of-state property the personal representatives of the estate would have to open an ancillary action in the State of Georgia.  The decision of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals can be read here.

See Anya Van Veen, Florida Probate Court Has No Jurisdiction Over Out-Of-State Real Property, Clark Skatoff PA, July 24, 2015. 

July 27, 2015 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Study Shows Death Taxes Hurt States That Impose Them

TaxasThe Heritage Foundation has released a new report which shows that states that impose estate taxes have driven away many of the wealthy from their states. As of now, thirteen states have the tax with rates ranging from 9% to 20% although many states have recently repealed the levy or cut the rate. The result of this outflow on capital from death tax states has lead to lesser investment in state as families look to safer tax regimes to invest their money. In addition, the revenue generated from the duty has fallen short of projections which has lowed the incentive to enforce the tax administratively and politically. Ultimately, the future of the estate tax at the federal and state level is still in doubt as both political parties have candidates that have indicated the estate tax will be an issue in the campaign.

See Stephen Moore & Joel Griffith, State Death Tax Is a Killer, The Heritage Foundation, July 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.

July 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

California Hospital Sues Estate Over Withdrawn Donor Pledge

InheritanceThe St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California is suing the estate of a donor who rescinded a $5 million pledge before her death. In 2007, Paula Kent Meehan made the pledge to the hospital and was subsequently included on donor lists and had other honors bestowed upon her. However, she revoked the pledge in 2013 due to rumors the hospital was going to be sold. In the suit, the hospital alleges that Ms. Meehan signed a promise that bound her and her heirs from breaking the pledge which the hospital argues should be legally binding. Speculation around this unusual suit swirls with many conjecturing that the hospital would only take this step if it were in financial need based on its endowment which has lost much value in recent years. This case will be closely followed around the nation as a verdict in favor of the hospital could set off a wave of suits from charities that have been jilted by unfaithful donors.

See David H. Lenok, Foundation Brings Rare Suit Over Rescinded Pledge, Wealth Management, July 23, 2015.

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

July 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Banks Use Art To Keep Wealthy Young Heirs As Clients

Article PictureBanks have long grappled with the loss of managed assets when the next generation of a client's family takes possession of their inheritance. In the quest to reverse this fact, banks have turned to a variety of methods including teaching young millionaires to be how to buy art. The idea is that the skills required to successfully navigate the art world translate well when it comes to managing wealth since the collection of art requires the buyer to examine market conditions based on the profile of the piece. In addition, this training serves to ingratiate the banks with the young clients due to the perceived concern about the financial well being of the heirs while acting as a gateway into the prestigious world of high end art collecting. This is sure to represent only the latest move as financial institutions seek to keep control of the $30+ trillion that will be passed down as the Baby Boomers pass on.

See Margaret Collins, How Citigroup Courts Wealthy Young Heirs: Teach Them to Buy Art, Bloomberg, July 23, 2015.

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

July 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)