Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Blaster Used By Luke Skywalker In Star Wars Will Be Sold At Auction

Skywalker blasterThe blaster that was used by Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back will be sold at an auction with a minimum starting bid of $200,000. “Mark Hamill who plays Luke Skywalker in the ‘Star Wars’ saga, gave the gun away during an episode of ‘Jim'll Fix It,’ a BBC children's television show, and it was last auctioned by Sotheby's in 1998, according to the auction house.” Sotheby’s will be holding the auction, and if the past is any guide “Star Wars” items should be expected to bring in large sums of money for the auction house. There will probably be even more enthusiasm for this item because of all the current excitement surrounding the new Star Wars movie that was released by Disney.

See Alexandra Gibbs, Luke Skywalker’s ‘Star Wars’ Blaster Goes Up For Auction, NBC News, January 26, 2016.

January 26, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Couple Having Trouble Selling Buffalo Bill Home From The Silence Of The Lambs.

Buffalo bill homeA couple in Pennsylvania is having difficulty selling the house that was featured in the movie The Silence of the Lambs as the home of psychotic killer Buffalo Bill. Scott and Barbara Lloyd put the house in Layton Pennsylvania on the market last summer, and have since dropped the asking price from $300,000 down to $250,000. The film depicted the foyer and the dining room, but there is no dungeon pit in the basement because those scenes were filmed on a sound-stage. The house has attracted a lot of attention from people wanting to gawk at it, but not many have expressed interest in purchasing it. Two things that work against the house are the fact that the house is located in a small village an hour away from Pittsburgh and that there is only one bathroom for its four bedrooms.

See No one wants to buy the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ house, The New York Post, January 11, 2016.

January 12, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Nicolas Cage Returns Dinosaur Skull That Was Smuggled Out Of Mongolia

Dinosaur skullActor Nicolas Cage has turned in a rare Tyrannosaurus bataar skull to U.S. authorities when it was discovered that the dinosaur skull was illegally smuggled out of Mongolia. Mr. Cage turned in the skull after Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara submitted a civil forfeiture complaint to initiate a repatriation process for the fossil. The Hollywood actor had purchased the skull in 2007 at an auction from the Las Angeles gallery I.M. Chait for $276,000. Nicolas Cage outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for the pleasure of purchasing the illegally smuggled Tyrannosaurus skull. “Bharara's office has beee involved in the repatriation of more than 12 dinosaur fossils in the last three years, including a similar Tyrannosaurus skull which was seized by US agents in September 2014.”

See Henri Neuendorf, Nicolas Cage Returns $276,000 Stolen Skull to Mongolia, artnet news, December 22, 2015.

December 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tax Court Rules Against Sumner Redstone In Decades Old Case

Sumner redstoneThe U.S. Tax Court has recently released a decision dealing with a four-decades old dispute. “The core question in Redstone's dispute with the Internal Revenue Service pertains to whether his 1972 transfer of stock to his children was a taxable "gift" or not.” The Tax Court decision can be read here. The Court lets him off the hook for fraud but affirms a tax deficiency of $737,625. This article discusses the history of the decades old case and some of the relations that it had with the Watergate scandal. Sumner Redstone is currently the majority stakeholder in CBS and Viacom.  There is ongoing speculation about what the future of Sumner Redstone's media empire will be.

See Eriq Gardner, Sumner Redstone Loses to IRS in Tax Case Four Decades in the Making, The Hollywood Reporter, December 15, 2015.

December 16, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lawsuit By Former Girlfriend Alleges That Sumner Redstone Is Unable To Make Decisions

Sumner redstoneA former girlfriend of billionaire Sumner Redstone has filed a lawsuit alleging that the 92-year-old media mogul is mentally impaired and unable to make decisions. The lawsuit questions his ability to continue to oversee Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., which are the two media companies that Mr. Redstone controls. An attorney for Sumner Redstone has called the lawsuit “meritless” and described it as an “invasion of privacy.” Mr. Redstone is currently estimated to be worth $5.5 billion and much of his wealth is tied up in Viacom and CBS stock. Manuela Herzer was in charge of Redstone's advance healthcare directive until his decision in October to expel her from his home and life. A preliminary hearing on the lawsuit was held Wednesday morning and the sitting judge has set a scheduling conference to be held on Monday.

See Meg James, Billionaire Sumner Redstone unable to make decisions, says lawsuit by ex-girlfriend, The Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2015.

November 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Guardianship, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Superman Case Returns To 9th Circuit

Superman-9The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is once again hearing a case dealing with the rights to the “Superman” franchise.  In 2004, Laura Siegel Larson filed a lawsuit over a rights agreement that her father and franchise co-creator Jerome Siegel had entered into with DC Comics and Warner Bros. in 1938.  The 9th circuit court had held in January 2013 that Warner Bros. owned the Superman character and that a letter from a Siegel family attorney was sufficient to show a valid contract.  The issue on the table at this current hearing concerns whether Larson was entitled to a rescission of the agreement.  The 9th Circuit Court panel that is hearing the case has not given any indication about how they intend to rule. 

See Katherine Proctor, ‘Superman’ Rights Fight Returns to 9th Circuit, Courthouse News Service, November 3, 2015.  

November 5, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How To Deal With Intellectual Property In Estate Planning

CopyrightIntellectual property is an umbrella term that can include different aspects of law dealing with things like trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets.  The United States Constitution gives the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over patent and copyright laws to "promote the progress of science and useful arts."  Any copyright created after the year 1978 is generally good for the life of the author plus 70 years.  It is important to remember that when passing a copyright or patent to an heir the testator should specifically mention it.  Possessing a copyright can give a person the means to control how a work is used.  Owning a patent or copyright can be lucrative and it is essential to make sure the the estate planning for these tools are done right so that the heir can receive the full benefit. 

See Intellectual Property in Estate Planning, Wealth Management, October 29, 2015.

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

November 1, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Tolkien Estate Involved In Copyright Dispute With Warner Brothers

Peter jacksonA recent judicial memorandum filed Wednesday leaves the door open for Warner Brothers and the estate of legendary author J.R.R. Tolkien to continue a legal dispute over the marketing of products associated with ‘The Lord of The Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit.’  The Tolkien estate filed a lawsuit in 2012 against Warner Bros. claiming that the company exceeded the limits of the licensing agreement.  When Warner Bros. counter sued the Tolkien estate tried to get the claim dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute.  In 2013, a U.S. District Court denied the Estate’s request for dismissal and the 9th Circuit Court has recently upheld the district court decision. 

See Mark Sommer, Appeals court decision reopens Warner Bros. and Tolkien Estate battle, Examiner, October 29, 2015.

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

October 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Trust Agreement Places Restrictions On Robin Williams' Likeness For 25 Years After His Death

Robin williamsWhen Robin Williams tragically passed away in 2014 the actor left behind an estate that was worth $100 million.  A trust agreement that was recently made public contains a clause that stipulates Robin William’s likeness will not be used to make money for 25 years after his death.  This restriction prevents his name, photograph, voice or signature from being used in any films, advertisements, or endorsements.  Hollywood celebrities are becoming increasingly conscientious about how their image will be used after they die.  Because of advancements in digital technology filmmakers are now able to find creative ways to use a deceased person’s voice or image.  It will become more important in the future for high profile celebrities to consider how their likeness will be used when creating an estate plan.  Planning ahead can give a person more control over how their likeness will be used.

See Natalie Robehmed, Why Robin Williams Won’t Be Making Millions Beyond The Grave, Forbes, October 27, 2015.

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

October 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Technology, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Netflix Being Sued Over ‘Bicycle Thief’

Bicycle thiefNetflix is now involved in an international lawsuit concerning the classic Italian film Bicycle Thief.  Director Vittorio De Sica’s work is considered by many film critics to be one of the greatest films of all time.  The movie has been in the public domain for over three decades because two parties that were involved in a dispute failed to renew the film’s copyright.  The lawsuit that Corinth Films has filed acknowledges the 1985 ruling, but it points out that the judge in that time left open the possibility that a dubbed or subtitled version of the film might still be under copyright.  The plaintiffs are seeking both an injunction and monetary damages from the defendants.

See Eriq Gardner, Netflix Hit With Copyright Lawsuit Over Classic Italian Film ‘Bicycle Thief,’ The Hollywood Reporter, October 22, 2015.

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

October 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)