Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Princess Leia Will Not Be Digitally Recreated Posthumous

Princess leiaRest assured Star Wars fans, Lucasfilm, the movie’s production company, claims it has no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s character, Princess Leia, in upcoming films. This announcement comes shortly after several celebrities became worried about their posthumous portrayals. Further, the company insists that it will always strive to honor Fisher’s legacy and in doing so will not use digital effects.   

See Carrie Fisher: Princess Leia Will Not Go Digital . . . Lucasfilm Promises, TMZ, January 13, 2017. 


January 15, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds Were Split over Cremation

Fisher and reynoldsIt appears that Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds had different ideas for their burial. Their family has already carried out Fisher’s wishes by cremating her, which she specified in her will. Reynolds, on the other hand, wished to be buried and specifically stated that she did not want to be cremated. However, as a compromise, a portion of Fisher’s ashes will be placed in a coffin and buried alongside her mother at Forest Law in Burbank. 

See Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds Split over Cremation, TMZ, January 4, 2017. 


January 5, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Digital Resurrection Has Stars Trying to Control Their Posthumous Portrayal

Posthumous portrayalAfter Carrie Fisher’s death, much speculation remains over how her character will be portrayed in future, unproduced Star Wars films. Today, filmmakers are using digital technology to resurrect characters after that have passed, but this is leaving actors eager to gain control over how their characters and images are posthumously portrayed. Understanding that their legacy will continue beyond life, stars are making plans to protect their intellectual property rights. Currently, California law gives heirs control over a famous family member’s posthumous profits by requiring their permission for the use of their likeness. As technology improves, however, more actors are concerned with stipulating their legacy. For example, Robin Williams banned the use of his image for commercials until 2039 and prevented anyone from digitally inserting his image into a film or show. Obviously, the use of performers’ likeness has economic value, so it is a matter of how these films and actors can agree on posthumous portrayal.  

See Reuters, Actors Rush to Protect Their Image from ‘Digital Resurrection’ After They Have Died Following Eerie Star Wars: Rogue One Reanimation of Carrie Fisher, Daily Mail, December 31, 2016. 


January 1, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Carrie Fisher's Death Triggers Biggest Insurance Payout Ever

Insurance payoutDisney is set to receive $50 million due to Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher’s untimely death after taking out an insurance policy that covered her fulfillment of a three-film contract. Fisher has a major role in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VIII, which she completed before her death. However, Fisher was also supposed to have a starring role in Star Wars Episode IX, which would be released in 2019. This film will now have to be substantially rewritten in the wake of the actress’s death. The insurance payout for Fisher’s inability to fulfill her role is expected to be the market’s largest single personal accident insurance claim. 

See Glen Keogh, Carrie Fisher’s Death Will Trigger Biggest EVER Personal Accident Insurance Claim After Disney Took Out $50MILLION Policy in Case She Couldn’t Finish Star Wars Films, Daily Mail, December 30, 2016. 


December 31, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Debbie Reynolds's Death Brings Huge Climbs in Movie Ranks

Amazon best sellerDebbie Reynolds’s movies are making their way back to the top of the chart after her death. On platforms like Amazon and iTunes, her best known flicks, such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” which is sitting at number one on Amazon’s best sellers list, are jumping in ranks. “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Tammy and the Bachelor” are both in the top four best selling DVDs on Amazon. On iTunes, Reynolds’s films, most of which are at least twenty years old, have been moved to the “New” and “Noteworthy” lists since her passing. Also, YouTube says that searches for clips from “Singin’ in the Rain” have increased by 1000% within one day of her death.    

See Debbie Reynolds Singin’ in the Gains: Death Causes Spike in Sales, Searches, TMZ, December 29, 2016. 


December 30, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Princess Leia Is Worth Much More After Death

Princess leiaCarrie Fisher’s name and Princess Leia fame will be worth light years more after her death than during her life. Heritage Auctions reports that Fisher’s death has boosted Star Wars merchandise sales by as much as three times last week’s numbers. On the day Fisher died, for instance, a signed photo of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker sold for $1,500; in 2002, a signed picture of Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker sold for $156. Additionally, according to eBay, 1,280 Fisher memorabilia items have been sold since her Tuesday passing, which is a huge jump from the twenty-five or so that were selling before her death.  

See Carrie Fisher: Princess Leia’s Worth 3x More, TMZ, December 29, 2016. 


December 29, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Learn from These Celebrities' Estate-Planning Mistakes

Celebrity deathsAverage Americans make estate-planning mistakes all the time, but when a celebrity makes them, we are sure to hear about it, and each story can leave us with some estate-planning wisdom. The biggest lesson of 2016 is one that we can all learn from Prince—you must have an estate plan! The singer died without his own estate plan, which gave large sums of money to attorneys, banks, and the government. Further, it is important to update your estate plan to account for your beneficiaries’ life situation. Whitney Houston never updated her estate plan after her daughter was born, which left her daughter with large sums of money at an early age, and she died shortly after. Another lesson for your estate plan is that when you create a trust, you must retitle the assets in the name of the trust. Michael Jackson’s estate dealt with this issue for many years because he did not properly “fund” his trust. Also, you must plan for the possibility of new heirs in your estate plan. Heath Ledger had an estate plan, but after his sudden death, all of his fortune went to his parents and sister, not his daughter. Finally, you must keep your estate plan in a safe place and communicate to your family where that is. Florence Joyner had a will but never told anyone where it was located, so her family spent the next four years in litigation before coming to a settlement. These are just some of the many estate-planning lessons we can learn from celebrities. 

See Matthew Talbot, Avoid These Celebrity Mistakes with Your Estate Plan, Lamorinda Weekly, December 28, 2016. 

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


December 29, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Zsa Zsa Gabor's Lifestyle Creates an Intriguing Estate

Zsa zsaZsa Zsa Gabor was easily considered the first “professional celebrity,” and after her recent passing from a heart attack, her lifestyle could make for an interesting estate. Gabor’s nine marriages in her ninety-nine years with seven divorces and one annulment certainly insight great intrigue. Some value her fortune at around $40 million due to her likeness and divorces. Gabor was married when she passed and her only child died in 2015, so her estate will most likely pass to her widowed husband; however, there is much to be uncovered.    

See David H. Lenok, Zsa Zsa Gabor Always Kept the House, Wealth Management, December 19, 2016. 


December 19, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Marilyn Monroe's Script with Handwritten Notes Sells for $25k

Monroe scriptOn Thursday, Marilyn Monroe’s script for her final movie, “Something’s Got to Give,” sold for $25,000. The script contained Monroe’s handwritten notes on how to nail her lines for the role. Eventually, in 1962, she was famously fired from the romantic comedy, which co-starred Dean Martin, for being disruptive. Monroe died two months later. After her death, the film was never completed because Martin refused to finish the film without his original leading lady.  

See Marilyn Monroe Final Script Sold with Her Notes . . . Spelling Doesn’t Count, TMZ, December 16, 2016. 


December 17, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sofia Vergara Embryo Case Takes a New Turn

SofiaA legal battle between Sofia Vergara and her ex-fiancé Nick Loeb over their frozen embryos has perpetuated for quite some time and has now taken on another twist. A new lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the embryos, giving the embryos the rights of people. This new lawsuit comes at the heels of Loeb dropping his 2015 case, which sought to bring the embryos to term. However, Loeb seems to have nothing to do with this new lawsuit as the documents reference a trust suing on behalf of the embryos. The lawsuit finds its grounds under Louisiana law, which designates two types of persons: natural and juridical—natural are obviously human beings, and juridical are entities which the law attributes personality. This law grants embryos the right to sue, prohibits their ownership or destruction, and requires disputes to be resolved in their “best interest.” In Louisiana, these juridical persons have the right to life itself. This new lawsuit has the potential to open the floodgates for future cases, but as of right now, the lawsuit is just seeking to gain Louisiana jurisdiction.   

See Brandy Zadrozny, Sofia Vergara Embryo Case Could Open Floodgates, Daily Beast, December 8, 2016. 

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


December 13, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)