Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Alexandra Braun recently published an Article entitled, Exploring the Boundaries of Succession Law, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:
It is generally assumed that succession law is a distinct area of private law with its own rationale, and that it is possible to define with certainty what falls within its domain. This chapter seeks to question the latter of these assumptions and argues that the scope of this province of the law is not self-evident, especially in light of the proliferation of mechanisms that produce effects both during lifetime and on death, such as, for instance, life insurance, pension and retirement schemes, various forms of bank accounts or joint tenancies, trusts, foundations, clauses in partnership agreements etc.
The aim of this contribution is to explore arrangements that are neither wholly inter vivos nor wholly testamentary, and to consider some of the problems that arise when grappling with the question of whether conventional succession laws should apply. It will argue that difficulties of classification date back to Roman times, and that the question as to the scope of succession law continues to be an important one that warrants a systematic debate not only for reasons of doctrinal coherence, but also because of the practical implications.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Prince’s heirs have filed suit in Chicago’s Cook County against an Illinois hospital and the drugstore giant Walgreens. They are alleging that pharmacists in two of Walgreens’s Minnesota branches dispensed “prescription medications not valid for a legitimate medical purpose.” The heirs also claim that Prince received inadequate care while at Trinity Medical Center which directly resulted in his death. John Goetz, who filed the lawsuit at the behest of Prince’s family, said in a statement: “We will have much to say when the time is right. We have client interests to protect at the moment, including our theory of the case. What happened to Prince is happening to families across America. Prince's family wishes, through its investigation, to shed additional light on what happened to Prince. At the same time, further light on the opiate epidemic will hopefully help the fight to save lives. If Prince's death helps save lives, then all was not lost.”
See Scott Neuman, Prince's Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Hospital, Pharmacy Chain, NPR, April 24, 2018.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.
Saturday, April 7, 2018
JPMorgan Chase & Co. will likely face a judgement of no more than $90 million for their flubbed management of Max Hopper’s estate. While this remains a substantial sum of money, it is nowhere near the $8 billion a jury awarded to Hopper’s family and estate at trial. Hopper’s widow, Jo Hopper, along with Stephen Hopper and Laura Wassmer, recently sought court approval to lower their awarded damages. In spite of this, JPMorgan is seeking to have the judgement entirely reversed.
The issues with Hopper’s estate began when he died intestate. His family hired JPMorgan to administer the estate, where “the bank took years to release basic interests in art, home furnishings, jewelry, and notably, Mr. Hopper’s collection of 6,700 golf putters and 900 bottles of wine. Some of the interests in the assets were not released for more than five years.’’ At trial, a probate court jury awarded $2 billion to Stephen Hopper, Jo Hopper, Laura Wassmer, and the Hopper estate, which represents the ninth-largest jury verdict in U.S. history.
See Margaret Crown Fisk & Tom Korosec, JPMorgan's $8 Billion Jury Loss To Widow Faces Massive Reduction, Financial Advisor, March 30, 2018.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Prince’s heirs are growing concerned that they will be left with nothing once the estate is finally settled. Comerica is currently handling the estate's disposition and charges $125,000 per month for their services. Comerica has also hired a law firm, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., to advise on tax issues, coordinate with accountants, and to represent the estate in court. In the month of November alone, the law firm’s bill was in excess of $440,000 in expenses and fees. With these incredibly high costs, over $600,000 in some months, Prince’s heirs and beneficiaries are worried that the estate will be drained by the time any assets are distributed. Comerica has been diligent in their record-keeping though; the company has itemized the necessary expenses in a 600-page document that details how they are spending the money in Prince’s $250 million estate.
See Prince's Heirs Worried Estate's Burning Cash Will Leave Them with Nothing, TMZ, February 22, 2108.
Special thanks to Molly Neace for bringing this article to my attention.
Monday, January 29, 2018
Prince’s estate is claiming that it has triumphed in its legal battle against producer George Boxill. Boxill has claimed that he is in possession of a number of previously unreleased tracks that he and Prince worked on between 2006 and 2008. The estate was seeking court intervention to prevent the unauthorized release of these works. Boxill had until January 23 to respond to the estate’s motion, but they claim that he failed to do so. The estate is now asking the court to sign off on their victory. Unless Boxill can come up with a valid excuse for his failure to reply, the estate will likely receive an injunction preventing the release of Prince’s music.
See Prince Estate: We Win War Over Unreleased Tunes…Boxill’s Gone Ghost, TMZ, January 29, 2018.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
David Horton recently posted an Article entitled, Intestacy, Wills, and Intent: A Short Comment on Wright & Sterner, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:
This invited reply to Danaya C. Wright & Beth Sterner, Honoring Probable Intent in Intestacy: An Empirical Assessment of the Default Rules and the Modern Family, 42 ACTEC L.J. 341 (2017) recommends the article and offers three gentle criticisms.
Sunday, January 21, 2018
Adam J. Hirsch recently posted an Article entitled, Inheritance on the Fringes of Marriage, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:
This Article explores the inheritance rights of individuals situated at the fringes of marital relationships—fiancés, spouses who are in the process of divorcing, and permanently separated spouses. The Article examines whether these categories of individuals ought to enjoy rights to forced shares of an estate comparable to those that ordinary spouses can claim by assaying the rationales for a forced share in relation to these fringe categories. The Article also considers whether lawmakers should infer that the typical decedent would wish to provide at death for individuals falling into these categories. The Article conducts the first-ever empirical study of this question by recourse to an internet survey of fiancés, spouses in the midst of divorcing, and permanently separated spouses. The Article proposes changes in intestacy law, the law of implied bequests, and implied revocation of be-quests on the basis of this survey. Finally, the Article seeks to locate the issue of fringe categories of beneficiaries within the broader context of relationship theory.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Article on Honoring Probable Intent in Intestacy: An Empirical Assessment of the Default Rules and the Modern Family
Danaya C. Wright & Beth Sterner recently published an Article entitled, Honoring Probable Intent in Intestacy: An Empirical Assessment of the Default Rules and the Modern Family, 42 ACTEC Law Journal 341 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:
This article provides preliminary analysis of an empirical study of nearly 500 wills probated in Alachua and Escambia Counties in the State of Florida in 2013. The particular focus of the study is to determine if there are noticeable patterns of property distribution preferences among decedents based on their diverse family relationships. Earlier empirical studies of distribution preferences indicated that a majority of married decedents wanted to give all or most of their estates to their surviving spouses. As a result of these studies, most states amended their probate codes to give surviving spouses a sizable percentage of a decedent spouse's estate under their intestacy provisions. But with the explosive growth of nontraditional families, particularly blended families with stepchildren, the standard estate plan for these nontraditional decedents is actually a revocable trust with a QTIP provision to provide for the surviving second or third spouse, thus protecting a significant portion of the property for the children by a prior marriage. As family patterns have changed and the blended family has become more ubiquitous, there is a growing divergence between the estate plans of those who can afford to make them, and the default rules of intestacy.
In this article, we report our initial findings in a comprehensive study of testate estates through the lens of family relationship patterns. Focusing on distributions to second or subsequent spouses, and bequests to stepchildren, we show that intestacy laws still tend to fit most decedents' preferences regarding bequests to surviving spouses, though certainly the fit is less close than with first spouses, but that there is a significant gap in the intestacy law's treatment of step-children. Moreover, these are definite gender-based differences in treatment of surviving second-spouses that suggest our intestacy laws are not providing as close a fit as they could.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Max Hopper served as Senior Vice President of American Airlines, Chief Information Officer of Bank of America, and was chairman of the Sabre Group. The Texas native accumulated an extensive and impressive resume over the course of his working career. His unexpected death due to a stroke in 2010 left his family devastated. To make matters worse, Hopper passed with a $19 million estate and no will. The family, seeking professional help to distribute to the heirs, hired JP Morgan Chase to administer the fortune. Though the bank is usually associated with professionalism and responsibility, this was not quite the experience had by the Hopper family.
The administrators at JP Morgan took incredible amounts of time to release assets, refused to listen to the wishes of Hopper’s heirs, and consistently missed financial deadlines. Hopper’s family eventually took the case to court and succeeded on their claims of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract. The jury awarded them $4.7 million in compensatory damages along with $5 million in attorney’s fees. More spectacular though was the $4 billion in punitive damages. Prior to the verdict, Mrs. Hopper asked the jury to “send a message loud enough for JPMorgan to hear it all the way to Park Avenue in Manhattan.” They were apparently more than willing to accommodate the request.
Despite this resounding victory for the Hopper family, it is important to note that this process was extremely difficult for all involved. Mrs. Hopper claimed that “surviving stage 4 lymphoma cancer was easier than dealing with this bank and its estate administration.” Though this may be a bit of hyperbole, it highlights the additional stress created when a decedent passes without a will, and the great benefit of properly planning the distribution of an estate prior to death.
See Inna Fershteyn, An Estate Planning Nightmare: Hopper v. JP Morgan, Brooklyn Trust and Will.com, December 2, 2017.
Special thanks to Alexander Evelson for bringing this article to my attention.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
It is becoming more and more common for trustees and estate planners to have clients that have been through marriage multiple times. These clients may have children from a previous marriage, stepchildren, and adopted children, all having different sets of biological parents and grandparents. These blended families can be incredibly complex. To make matters more convoluted, assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have made it possible to add children to a marriage through a variety of technological measures. But, while state laws have kept pace with radical changes in American family dynamics over the past few decades, laws relating to ART kids are not well developed. There is substantial variation in how each state views surrogacy and gestational carrier agreements and whether a child born after the death of a parent should inherit under a trust or the decedent’s estate. However, through informed and careful decision-making, estate planners can their help clients reach a plan that accommodates these new and constantly changing reproductive advances.
See Judith Saxe, Yours, Mine, Ours, and ‘ART’, Financial Advisor, September 13, 2017.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.