Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Monday, July 21, 2014

James Brown’s Estate Hopes for High Movie Sales

James BrownJames Brown’s estate has been through numerous court battles through the years and still faces unresolved legal issues, such as whether he was legally married to Tomi Rae Hynei. Over the years, the estate went from owing $14 million on a loan to having a $2 million cushion. Today, a movie about Brown titled “Get on Up” will premiere at The Apollo Theater and will be released nationally on August 1. The estate hopes to gain significant revenue from the movie, which would come in part from royalties for Brown’s recordings that are featured in the film.

See Joey Holleman, Take a Look Inside James Brown’s Mansion in Beech Island, S.C., Charlotte Observer, July 20, 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 21, 2014 in Estate Administration, Film, Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Avengers Could be in Trouble

AvengersA case that has high stakes for fans of Marvel’s Avengers series may go before the Supreme Court. The heirs of Jack Kirby are attempting to terminate the copyright grant on many Marvel characters. The lower courts have rejected the Kirby heirs’ arguments and now a cert petition is being considered by the Supreme Court. The Court has received many amici curiae briefs in support of granting cert.

See Eriq Gardner, Jack Kirby’s Heirs Get Huge Support in Quest to Bring Marvel Fight to Supreme Court, Hollywood Reporter, June 19, 2014.

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

June 23, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Film, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Houston Estate Considers Another Lawsuit

Whitney HoustonAs I have previously discussed, the estate of Whitney Houston recently sued CPMG Mendham LLC, who bought Houston’s home. Now, the Houston Estate may be filing another lawsuit, this time against the TV network Lifetime. Houston’s family is outraged that Lifetime is planning to produce a TV movie about the life of the late great Whitney Houston. They have big screen dreams for the telling of Houston’s life story and may attempt to block the TV movie with litigation.

See Whitney Houston Lifetime Movie, TMZ, May 26, 2014.

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

May 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Oz Actor’s Estate Quarrel

Wizard of oz

When “Wizard of Oz” actor Mickey Carroll passed away in 2009, Linda Dodge gained power of attorney over Carroll.  As Carroll’s caregiver, Dodge zealously defended her work as she faced claims by Carroll’s nieces and nephews that Dodge manipulated him to distance himself from relatives while she relished in meals, trips, and the benefits of bank withdrawals.  The family filed suit in 2011 and seeks return of up to $500,000. 

While Dodge’s lawyers called multiple witnesses to paint Carroll as a generous man, the plaintiffs’ lawyer told the court that Dodge “wormed her way into the life of Mickey Carroll and started to isolate him from other family members to prey upon his finances.”  Carroll’s friends and family allege that Dodge neglected Carroll and that Carroll was not of sound mind and body.  However, Dodge has insisted Carroll wanted to switch his accountants and insurance agents for convenience, and a $100,000 equity loan on Carroll’s home was his idea.

St. Louis County Circuit Court jurors are expected to begin deliberations today.

See Jennifer Mann, Caregiver’s Role Central in St. Louis County Court Fight Over Wizard of Oz Actor’s Estate, St. Louis Today, May 15, 2014. 

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

May 16, 2014 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Rooney's Widow Contesting Will


As I have previously discussed, Mickey Rooney left his modest $18,000 estate to his stepson/caretaker, Mark Rooney.  Jan Rooney, Mickey’s estranged wife, is now filing a challenge against the validity of the will, arguing the will contains “a blatant misstatement” about agreements between her and the actor.  A court filing says Jan signed an agreement waiving all claims to her husband’s estate after they separated in June 2012.

Rooney signed the will just weeks before his death at age 93.  He “intentionally omitted” and disinherited his eight surviving biological children, believing they were financially better off than he was.  Attorney Michael Augustine believes Rooney’s widow is merely seeking public attention with her challenge since there is not much money to fight over.

See Alan Duke, Mickey Rooney’s Widow Contests Late Actor’s Will, CNN, May 9, 2014.

May 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Film, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Jason Patric’s Uphill Battle for Sperm Donor Rights


As I have previously discussed, actor Jason Patric agreed in 2009 to help his then-ex-girlfriend Danielle Schreiber conceive, but the terms he set up at the beginning to protect his assets don’t leave much room for him to renegotiate his involvement in the child’s life.

Having the baby brought Patric and Schreiber back together for a few years.  After breaking up again, Patric decided he wanted joint custody.  Even though Patric is the biological father, that connection doesn’t grant him any natural rights in California.  Although Patric is lobbying for wider sperm donor rights, his efforts are unlikely to change the fact that he signed a contract relinquishing his parental rights.

The lesson here is that rights and responsibilities need to be put in writing, especially in an unorthodox family arrangement.  Once that arrangement changes, the documents need to be amended immediately to reflect new circumstances.

See Scott Martin, Jason Patric Sperm Donation/Custody Dispute Gets Ugly, The Trust Advisor, May 5, 2014. 

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

May 8, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Legacy Planning Options


Robert De Niro recently told Esquire magazine his biggest regret:

I always wanted to chronicle the family history with my mother. She was always interested in that. I wanted some researchers I’d worked with to talk to my mother, but my mother was a little antsy about it. I know she would’ve gotten into it . . . But I wasn’t forceful, and I didn’t make it happen. That’s one regret I have. I didn’t get as much of the family history as I could have for the kids.

Today, we have opportunities to preserve family histories that never existed before.  To capture a client’s legacy, advisers should suggest a few simple options such as an ethical will or legacy letter, some insightful questions for the client to answer, or a videotaped legacy interview or personal documentary.  Advisers should also suggest that a client digitize existing artifacts like photos, letters, and other family documents.

See Victoria Collins & Jane Shafron, Legacy Planning in the Digital Age, Wealth Management, Apr. 21, 2014.

April 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Revelations from Rooney's Will


Mickey Rooney’s passing is just as drama-filled as his life.  Here are six revelations we learned from his will:

  1. Rooney signed his will on March 11, 2014, which is less than a month before he died of natural causes.
  2. Rooney and his eighth wife, Jan, separated in 2012.  Rooney wrote in his will that Jan “forever waived the rights” to a stake in his estate by agreeing to remain as the beneficiary for his pension and Social Security distribution.
  3. Stepson Mark Rooney is the sole beneficiary of the $18,000 estate.
  4. Rooney blamed the small size of his estate on elder abuse and money mismanagement by his other stepson, Christopher Aber.  His steady stream of divorces also drained his funds.
  5. Rooney made sure to note that Jan, Aber, and any of his heirs were in no circumstances to serve as executor.
  6. Rooney had eight living children and one son who predeceased him.  He disinherited them all, believing they were all in better financial situations than himself.

See Suzy Byrne, 6 Revelations from Mickey Rooney’s Will, Yahoo Celebrity, Apr. 9, 2014.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 10, 2014 in Film, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rooney Leaves Family Out of Will


A few weeks before his death at age 93, Mickey Rooney signed his last will leaving his modest $18,000 estate to his stepson/caretaker while leaving out his eight surviving children and his estranged wife.

His family is now fighting over where to bury Rooney.  A judge has ruled that no one can claim Rooney’s body from the mortuary until the fight is resolved.   

See Mickey Rooney Cuts Family Out of Will, The Guardian, Apr. 8, 2014; see also Victoria Kim & Harriet Ryan, Rooney’s Death Stirs Dissension, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 8, 2014.

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

April 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Film, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Estate Planning Lessons from Philip Seymour Hoffman


As I have previously discussed, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death exposed some problems with his estate plan.

Because Hoffman failed to update his 2004 will, he left everything to the mother of his children, Marianne O’Donnell.  Because Hoffman and O’Donnell were unmarried, federal and state estate taxes will take an estimated $15 million chunk out of his estate.  Even if Hoffman did not want to get married to save estate taxes, there are still a number of beneficial techniques he could have used if he had decided to periodically review his estate plan.

Please see Steven J. Fromm’s blog post below for a more comprehensive look at the estate planning lessons we can learn from the estate of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

See Steven J. Fromm, J.D., L.L.M. (Taxation), Philip Seymour Hoffman: Estate Planning Lessons for Us and Especially Women, Philadelphia Estate and Tax Attorney Blog, March 4, 2014.

March 12, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Film | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)