Tuesday, February 25, 2014
As I have previously discussed, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s will, which left his entire estate to the mother of his three children, Marianne O’Donnell, was signed when he only had his eldest son and prior to the birth of his two daughters. The two daughters being left out of the will could cause serious legal complications.
Since Hoffman and O’Donnell were not married the estate is not eligible for the marital deduction. Without the marital deduction the $35 million estate is facing $15.1 million in taxes. However, Hoffman’s will included the option for O’Donnell to disclaim part of her inheritance, which would go into a trust for their son Cooper. Since Hoffman’s two daughters are not mentioned in the will, it creates an “after born child” problem. Under New York law, unintentionally disinherited children are protected, and the three children may be able to inherit the trust in equal shares. However, if the two daughters were provided for outside of the will, then Copper may inherit considerably more than his sisters.
See, Deborah L. Jacobs, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will Raises Legal Problems, Forbes, Feb. 20, 2014.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s will left his entire estate to Mimi O’Donnell, his longtime partner, the mother of his three children, and now the preliminary executor of his estate.
Hoffman’s will was drawn up in 2004, back when he had only one son, Cooper. His will requested that Cooper be raised in Manhattan so he would be surrounded by the arts and culture of the city. If New York were to be impossible, he wanted Cooper raised in Chicago or San Francisco. And if those two cities were impossible, Hoffman wanted his son to visit the this list of cities at least twice every year. The will made no mention of Los Angeles, where Hoffman spent much of his time.
See Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will—Keep My Son Away from Hollywood, TMZ, Feb. 19, 2014.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Randall W. Roth (Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i) recently published an article entitled, Deconstructing The Descendants: How George Clooney Ennobled Hawaiian Trusts and Made the Rule Against Perpetuities Sexy, Real Property, Trust and Estate Law, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Fall 2013). Provided below is the editors’ synopsis of this article:
The Descendants, an award winning film, depicts real controversies involving old Hawaiian Trusts while highlighting the modern debate of whether Hawai’i is overdeveloped. This Article, using the film as its basis, gives further insight into the real stories echoed in the film in light of the legal issues that influenced the outcome of each story—that is, the Rule Against Perpetuities and a trustee’s duty to the trust and its beneficiaries. This Article artfully places the reader in the center of the disputes, begging the question of whether Hawai’i should continue “paving paradise.”
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The estate of James Dean is battling for ownership of @JamesDean.
The Twitter account is currently a fan account that tweets out inspirational quotes and pictures. The estate of the late actor wants to convert @JamesDean to an official account, like the estate-run Facebook page. The estate has taken this battle to federal court, but so far, Twitter isn’t budging.
The estate of James Dean alleges Twitter has damaged the estate by allowing the fan account to persist, pointing to Twitter’s own policy that fan accounts not take the exact name of the subject.
See Russell Brandom, The James Dean Estate Is Taking Twitter to Federal Court Over @JamesDean, The Verge, Feb. 8, 2014.
Paul Walker, star of the Fast & Furious movies, died in a high-speed car accident this past November. The 40-year-old father’s will highlights some valuable estate planning lessons. Walker’s will reveals he had about $25 million worth of assets and a revocable living trust with his daughter Meadow as the sole beneficiary. Also, Walker’s mother (Meadow’s grandmother) was named guardian and caretaker of his money. Here are five lessons we can draw from his estate planning:
- Use a trust. Walker’s will left all of his assets to a trust that he created, which will simplify the probate process. A trust also means his daughter will receive his money in a controlled fashion instead of all at once.
- Fully fund the trust. Walker could have kept his family’s affairs private, and avoided the probate process completely, if he had fully funded his trust by transferring all of his assets into the name of the trust during his lifetime. Instead, Walker relied on a pour-over will to pass everything along to his trust.
- Name a guardian. Walker had the foresight to name a guardian for his daughter. Even though the law still favors Meadow’s mother, the grandmother could take over guardianship if the mother agrees or is found to be unfit.
- Don’t procrastinate. Walker certainly didn’t plan to die so young. He should be commended for making the effort to prepare a will and trust at age 28.
- Update! Walker died more than 12 years after he signed his will. Too much can change over that span to rely on the same old documents.
See Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Five Estate Planning Lessons from the Paul Walker Estate, Forbes, Feb. 10, 2014.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Five-time Tony Award-winning Broadway star Julie Harris died in August at age 87. Friends and former employees are now stirring up some drama over her estate. They claim minor soap-opera actress Francesca Rubino “wormed” her way into Harris’ life, took control over Harris’ medical and business affairs, and kept Harris away from her son, Peter Gurian.
Harris named Rubino co-executor of her estimated $10 million estate. Rubino stands to make up to $200,000 in commissions in addition to the $50,000 she inherited outright and the ten items of Harris’ tangible personal property she is permitted to select. Although Harris left the bulk of her estate to Peter, she included an unusual codicil that says Peter will receive nothing if he were harass Harris or any of her friends. It just so happens that Rubino took out a harassment prevention order against Peter three years ago. Because of this order, Peter had no contact with his mother in the last three years of her life even though he lived right next to her.
Peter claims his mother’s will and codicil were the product of undue influence and that his mother lacked testamentary capacity to make them. Rubino claims these accusations are merely rumors circulated by disgruntled former employees.
See Michael Riedel, Battle of Wills After Julie Harris’ Death, New York Post, Nov. 22, 2013.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
A recent settlement with the estate of Kevin McClory could signal the return of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the 007 archvillain often seen stroking his white cat.
McClory was the creator of the iconic villain and his terrorist organization SPECTRE. He was also the co-writer for the 1965 movie “Thunderball,” which involved him in a fifty-year-long legal dispute over the movie rights. His estate settled with studio MGM and production company Danjaq, opening up the possibility that Blofeld will return to the big screen.
See 007 Settlement Hints at Evil Blofeld’s Return, NewsOK, Nov. 15, 2013.
Friday, October 25, 2013
As I have previously discussed, the children of Jack Kirby recently sued Marvel, claiming their father died without receiving proper payment for his work. A federal judge upheld Marvel’s copyright claims and the 2nd Circuit affirmed, finding Kirby was an “employee for hire” who worked within the scope of Marvel’s assignments.
The New York City federal Court of Appeals has denied the estate of Jack Kirby a panel rehearing or, in the alternative, a rehearing en banc.
See Hugh Armitage, Jack Kirby Estate Denied Marvel Copyright Appeal, Digital Spy, Oct. 23, 2013.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Bill Dedman, a NBC News investigative reporter and co-author of the Huguette Clark biography Empty Mansions, recently said he’s been having conversations about a feature film depicting the life story of the copper heiress.
Although nothing definite has been agreed upon, between her reclusive stay in a New York hospital, the heated battle over her estate, and the upkeep of her empty mansions, there may be enough drama and intrigue here to warrant a movie.See Barney Brantingham, Huguette Clark—the Movie?, Santa Barbara Independent, Oct. 7, 2013.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Late celebrity photographer Bert Stern is famous for snapping provocative photos of Marilyn Monroe shortly before her death as well as shots of Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, and Truman Capote. His three adult children and much-younger wife are now in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court fighting over his $10 million fortune.
The dispute centers around two wills: one signed in 1997 which divides his estate between his children and a foundation and the other signed in 2010 which pours all his assets into a private trust controlled by wife, Shannah Laumeister. Stern’s children are demanding to examine the attorney who wrote the 2010 will and its witnesses.
Stern died a few months ago at age 83. Laumeister, 44, secretly married Stern in 2009.
See Julia Marsh, Marilyn Photog’s Inheritance Fight, New York Post, Sept. 23, 2013.