Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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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)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Problems Created by Hoffman’s Daughters Not Named in Will

HoffmanAs 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.

February 25, 2014 in Estate Tax, Film, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hoffman’s Will Ignores Hollywood


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.

February 19, 2014 in Film, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Article on "The Descendants"


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.”

February 18, 2014 in Articles, Film, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

@JamesDean Under Fire


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.

February 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lessons to Learn from the Estate of Paul Walker


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

February 11, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Estate of Julie Harris Embroiled in Drama


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.

November 29, 2013 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Return of Blofeld?


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.

November 27, 2013 in Current Affairs, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)