Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Madonna Files Order to Stop Auction of Tupac Breakup Letter

Madonna1Madonna filed papers in court in an effort to prevent the auction house, Gotta Have It Collectibles, from placing a number of personal items up for sale. Madonna is alleging that a handful of items listed for auction are her personal property and were taken without authorization by her former art consultant, Darlene Lutz. Madonna claims that Lutz, "betrayed my trust in an outrageous effort to obtain my possessions without my knowledge or consent." Many of the personal items in dispute are fairly innocuous: underwear, a hairbrush, and some personal photos. A bit more controversial, and valuable, is a break-up letter written to Madonna from Tupac Shakur. Another missive included in the auction was written by Madonna and includes some disparaging comments regarding Whitney Houston and Sharon Stone. In a public statement, the auction house and Lutz characterized Madonna's claims as "a completely baseless and meritless action."

See Jon Blistein, Madonna Files Order to Stop Auction of Tupac Breakup Letter, Rolling Stone, July 19, 2017.

July 19, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prince Estate’s $31 Million Distribution Deal Is Rescinded

PrincePrince's estate had been working with Universal Studios to cement a deal that would give Universal distribution rights to a substantial portion of the music artist's vast catalog. The deal has been turbulent at best, with Universal accusing estate representatives of fraud and misrepresentation. Thursday, Judge Kevin W. Eide issued an order approving Universal's request to rescind a finalized deal filed by Commercial Bank & Trust, the bank acting as administrator of Prince's estate. The order leaves Prince's estate absent the $31 million agreement and also burdens it with a fair degree of uncertainty. Warner Bros. disputed Universal's claims to distribution rights and argued they were entitled to those rights based on a prior contract with Prince. Due to a confidentiality clause, Universal was not aware of the conflict until the final papers had been signed. Because it remains unclear as to who really owns what rights and until when, industry lawyers believe the estate may have a difficult time finding future buyers.

See Ben Sisario, Prince Estate’s $31 Million Distribution Deal Is Rescinded, The New York Times, July 13, 2017.

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

July 19, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Could a Text Become Your Will? The Plans to Revolutionise 'Outdated' Legacy System

HolographicLegal advisors to the government are proposing radical changes to inheritance laws. The Law Commission is encouraging the adoption of regulations that would allow individuals to use voicemail and text messages in lieu of traditional wills. Under current laws, which date back as far as 1839, wills must be written and signed by the testator as well as two witnesses. The commission has characterized this system as being outdated and in desperate need of modernization. Under these new proposals, judges would be able to balance the weight of digital evidence to determine if digital data offered should be allowed in court as evidence of a legally-binding representation of a decedent's last wishes.

See Olivia Rudgard, Could a Text Become Your Will? The Plans to Revolutionise 'Outdated' Legacy System, The Telegraph, July 13, 2017.

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

July 18, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (1)

Roger Ailes Leaves Legacy for Aides

AilesFox News may have unceremoniously jettisoned Roger Ailes as CEO after his alleged misconduct and sexual harassment allegations, but Ailes never turned his back on his closest aides. The majority of his estate has been left in trust to his wife and son. But, Ailes has also left over $1.78 million to be shared between extended family and some trusted ex-colleagues. Among these colleagues are James Gildea, Ailes's former bodyguard, and Judy Laterza, a long-time executive assistant. Gildea is a former New York City Police Department detective and was left a legacy of $100,000. Laterza, accused of acting as a recruiter of attractive women for her boss, will receive $30,000.

See Ben Ashford, EXCLUSIVE: Roger Ailes' Bequeathed Personal 'Items of Adornment' and $250k To His 17-Year-Old Son, His $36m Palm Beach Mansion To His Wife, $100k To His Bodyguard and $30k To Assistant Who Allegedly Scouted Beautiful Women for Her Boss, DailyMail.com, July 12, 2017.

July 18, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

American Pilot's Remains Found in Tree

Gray1st Lieutenant William J. Gray Jr., an American fighter pilot during WWII, lost his life while attempting to carry out a bombing mission near Lindau, Germany in 1945. The family he left behind endured their grief without Gray's body as nothing could be recovered after Gray's plane clipped a tree and crashed. Over seventy years later, investigators working on a separate recovery mission happened upon Gray's bones embedded in the roots of a tree in Lindau. The remains were flown to Seattle, Washington and are now buried next to Gray's best friend, Jim Louvier. After the war, Louvier married Gray's sister and fulfilled a pact the pair had made to care for the other's family if one did not make it home.

See Jessica Chia, Remains of WWII Fighter Pilot Who Died During a 1945 Mission over Germany Are Found Embedded in the Root of a TREE and Returned to His Family More than 70 Years Later, DailyMail.com, July 15, 2017.

Special thanks to Molly Neace for bringing this article to my attention. 

July 17, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Alan Thicke's Widow Asks Judge for Help with Thicke's Sons

0713-tanya-brennan-robin-thicke-tmz-getty-composite-3Tanya Callau, Alan Thicke's widow, is asking a judge to set Thicke's sons straight regarding their legal request to stop Callau from challenging her premarital agreement. Callau staunchly denies any effort or intent on her part to challenge the agreement and is claiming the legal action is simply an attempt by Thicke's sons to publicly humiliate her. She insists she is only seeking what is rightfully hers: a cut of Thicke's ranch, a right to live there, and a portion of Thicke's other assets.

See Alan Thicke's Widow: Please Judge, Throw Robin and His Bro out of Court, TMZ, July 13, 2017.

July 14, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fighting Over A Dynasty’s Soul

JohndJohn D. Rockefeller’s last surviving grandson, David Rockefeller, was laid to rest in April of this year. He died at age 101. Those that spoke about him painted an image of a philanthropist, world-traveler, and statesman. Despite an outpouring of warm words and his documented history of giving over $1.8 billion to charity, Rockefeller’s legacy is in turmoil.

The Rockefeller Family Fund, created by Rockefeller and his siblings, has brought allegations accusing ExxonMobil of having decades-old knowledge regarding a correlation between the consumption of fossil-fuel and climate change. This is somewhat historically ironic, as ExxonMobil is the largest direct descendant of Standard Oil, which was founded by John D. Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Family Fund announced last year that it would divest its investment portfolio of all fossil-fuel holdings; the culling began with shares of ExxonMobil. The family is not unanimously on board with actions of the fund and some have publicly questioned the intelligence of denouncing the Rockefeller legacy.

See Ian T. Shearn, Fighting Over A Dynasty’s Soul, Private Wealth Magazine, June 22, 2017.

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

July 12, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Carrie Fisher ‘Personal Property’ Auction Not All Her Stuff

FisherMany of Carrie Fisher’s most prized possessions are currently being prepared for auction. A number of items relating to Fisher’s role in Star Wars will be part of the general collection. While this has generated a great deal of excitement from fans, a recent complication has caused some concern. Appearing on a morning show last month to promote the sale, Fisher’s brother, Todd, led viewers on a tour of his sister’s home to showcase a few of the items appearing for auction. During the tour, Todd stopped at a Yoda statue and referred to it as “her Yoda.” This reference generated a quick response accusing Carrie’s brother of misleading the audience as the figure was actually purchased at an auction months after Fisher’s death. The company hosting the auction has pulled a number of the items originally slated for sale in order to verify their authenticity. The auction is scheduled to take place in September and a portion of the proceeds will go to charity.

See Carrie Fisher ‘Personal Property’ Auction Not All Her Stuff, TMZ, July 10, 2017.

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

July 11, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Carrie Fisher's Final Assets Revealed, Billie Lourd Named Beneficiary of the Estate

Carrie-Fisher-as-Princess-Leia-in-Star-Wars-Episode-IV-A-New-HopeBillie Lourd, daughter of Carrie Fisher, has been named the beneficiary of her mother’s estate. Fisher’s assets include several bank accounts, a 2016 Tesla S, and a life insurance policy. Fisher’s jewelry, artwork, and collectibles will go to her daughter as well. Lourd will also receive the rights to her mother’s likeness and image as well as her intellectual property rights. These include rights to ongoing earnings from Fisher’s books, specials, trademarks, and copyrights. Fisher died on December 27, 2016 after going into cardiac arrest during a flight from London to Los Angeles a week prior.

See Mike Miller, Carrie Fisher's Final Assets Revealed, Billie Lourd Named Beneficiary of the Estate, People Movies, July 7, 2017.

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

July 10, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tupac's Iconic Duke Jersey Hits Auction Block

0707-tupac-duke-jersey-golden-auctions-3Fans of Tupac should be excited for the opportunity to purchase the deceased rapper’s iconic Duke jersey. The jersey comes framed with a certificate of authentication signed by a former bodyguard. According to Goldin Auctions, Tupac frequently wore the jersey while relaxing in his home. No minimum price for the jersey has been set, but given the legendary status of its former owner, it is expected to garner a high price at auction.

See Tupac Iconic Duke Jersey Hits Auction Block, TMZ, July 8, 2017.

July 10, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)