Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lawyers Still Battling for Control over Prince's Estate

Prince lawyers2Two lawyers who have been battling for control over Prince’s estate were both denied official roles last month by a judge. Entertainment lawyer L. Londell McMillan and political commentator Van Jones were both close advisers of Prince at different times in his life. The two have managed to ignite a family feud between the late singer’s six known heirs, including issues about the singer’s legacy, a memorial concert, and the lawyers’ conflicts of interest. Prince’s catalog becoming available for the first time on major digital music-streaming services evidences McMillan’s vision for the late singer’s estate. 

See Hannah Karp, Lawyers Battle for Control of Late Pop Star Prince’s Estate, Market Watch, February 11, 2017. 


February 12, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Top Estate Disputes of 2016

Estate disputesThroughout 2016, the public witnessed several high-profile estate disputes, but which ones truly captivated our attention? First and foremost, Prince died in April 2016 without a will, which has left the probate judge fighting off several self-proclaimed heirs. Prince’s death highlights the most basic estate-planning lesson of all time—create an estate plan! Another interesting estate dispute was that of Frank Sinatra, Jr., who passed away in March 2016. At the time of his death, Sinatra, Jr. and his then-ex-wife were not married, but she was under the impression they were in a common law marriage; it was not until he stopped paying her alimony payments that she decided to file for divorce a second time. After appealing the lower court’s decision, Sinatra, Jr. passed away, which presents the next lesson—ensure careful planning to mitigate any frivolous claims. The passing of Jose Fernandez evinces another estate-planning misfortune. Fernandez’s girlfriend was pregnant at the time of his death but was not indicated as a beneficiary of his trust. Now, his girlfriend is left to rely on any hopes she has of the child being ruled as a pretermitted child under state law. And finally, Tom Clancy passed away in 2013, but 2016 saw significant litigation for his estate. Essentially, Clancy set up several trusts and signed a codicil that unintentionally shifted the entire tax burden to his four children’s trusts, as to maximize the estate tax amount under the marital exemption, leaving his children with an $11.8 million tax bill. Estate planners should beware of drafting language that can be construed as ambiguous. Hopefully, the planners of 2017 will learn from these public estate-planning blunders.    

See Will Sleeth, Top Four Estate Disputes of 2016, Wealth Management, January 31, 2017. 

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


February 3, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

58th Anniversary of "The Day the Music Died"

Day_music_diedWriting this blog from Lubbock, Texas, today is especially signficant as the 58th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly (a Lubbock native), Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.), and the plane's pilot.

Like most Americans, Buddy Holly died intestate.

February 3, 2017 in About This Blog, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Prince Will Lose the Control He Once Had over His Music

Prince estate tax billDuring Prince’s longstanding career, we saw him part with his record label, change his name, and yank his songs off popular streaming services all to prove a point—no one could tell him what to do. Although his desire to control his music inspired other artists, this limited exposure could hurt the value of the late singer’s music. Without a will, Prince’s wishes will take a backseat because his estate administrators are under a court mandate to get the most for his 1,000-song catalog. The estate administrators have a legal responsibility to maximize the return on his music, which most likely goes against his wishes, in order to pay the looming estate tax bill.  

See Lucas Shaw, With No Will, Prince Loses the Control He Zealously Guarded, Wealth Management, January 18, 2017. 


January 25, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Legal Battle Ensues over Prince's Music

Prince tidalSeveral unanswered questions still remain as to the management and distribution of Prince’s estate since his death in April 2016. Specifically, much is still unknown about the status of his valuable music catalog. Jay-Z’s companies, Tidal and Roc Nation, are in a legal battle with Bremer Trust, the administrator of Prince’s estate, over the late singer’s intellectual property, which includes a vault of unreleased music. Bremer Trust filed a copyright infringement suit, alleging that Tidal only had exclusive rights to stream Prince’s new music for ninety days but instead streamed all fifteen Prince albums. The defendant companies claim they had an oral and written agreement with Prince to exclusively stream his music, while Prince’s label NPG Records claims they terminated any agreement made before his death. Currently, representatives for the singer’s estate are nearing a deal to stream his music on Apple Music and Spotify. However, with Prince’s highly critical perspective of the music industry, it would come as no surprise that Prince struck a deal with Tidal because they have a reputation of being substantially more artist-friendly.  

See Michael Feispor, Jay-Z’s Tidal, Roc Nation and Bremer Trust Battle over Prince’s Music, Forbes, January 11, 2017. 

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


January 13, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Prince's Estate Submits Asset Inventory

Prince5An inventory of Prince’s estate has recently been submitted to probate court, evincing that he acquired millions of dollars’ worth of real estate and other personal property before his death. Bremer Trust, the company overseeing his estate, listed several properties in Carver and Hennepin counties worth an estimated $25.4 million. Additionally, the inventory lists approximately $110,000 in bank accounts and $840,000 in gold bars. Prince’s companies—Paisley Park Enterprises Inc., NPG Records Inc., NPG Music Publishing, and LotusFlow3r—had more than $6 million in cash on hand. However, the late singer’s musical instruments, jewelry, household furnishings, car, custom motorcycles, trademarks, and copyrights have not been assigned a value. 

See Asset Inventory of Prince’s Estate Lists Cash, Property, Gold Bars, Fox News, January 8, 2017. 


January 9, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Problem with the Chinese Not Having Wills

Chinese willsChina is the world’s most populous nation with the second-largest economy, but almost no one has a will to pass on their estate. Only 1% of Chinese seniors have created an inheritance plan. The reason is cultural—the subject of death is taboo, and writing a will is thought to put a curse on the testator. Now thirty years after communist China allowed individuals to accumulate wealth, that first generation to benefit is starting to die, creating inheritance disputes that are clogging up the court system. To remedy this problem, the government is requesting that local authorities establish free legal centers for seniors. 

See Hannah Gardner, Chinese Don’t Have Wills – and Now It’s a Big Problem, USA Today, January 2, 2017. 


January 4, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Prince's Trust Sells Four of His Properties

Paisley park2The trust controlling Prince’s estate has sold four of his properties—one house and three plots of land. All four properties are located in his hometown of Chanhassen, Minnesota, where they have a combined value of $1.34 million. Two of his properties, Paisley Park and his Turks and Caicos home, are not currently for sale. While these properties are in the final stages of sale, potential heirs are still waiting on the judge to decide who will inherit the late singer’s $300 million estate.  

See Jennifer Smith, Four of Prince’s Houses Are Sold as His Relatives Continue to Fight Over Who Will Inherit His $300m Estate, Daily Mail, December 30, 2016. 


December 30, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Prince's Divorce Lawyer Makes Claim Against His Estate for Legal Bill

Prince divorce lawyersPrince’s divorce lawyer is claiming that the late pop icon never paid is $600,000 tab. Cousins Law Firm in West Palm Beach filed a claim against Prince’s estate demanding payment of the bill. A lawyer from the firm says Prince racked up the legal bill in 2006 with his divorce from his second wife, Manuela Testolini. The lawyer further claims that him and Prince had an agreement that the singer would not have to pay the bill until all loose ends were tied up. Everything was allegedly wrapped up on April 1 of this year; Prince died on April 21. 

See Prince Died Without Paying Divorce Lawyer, TMZ, December 20, 2016. 


December 20, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)