Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Federal Court Sustains Vivian Maier Copyright Claim

11111A federal court in Chicago held that the estate of Vivian Maier may pursue various claims, copyright infringement among them, against Jeffrey Goldstein. Maier died intestate in 2009 with no known heirs. At the time, she had gained no recognition for her photographic works. Goldstein was one of a number of buyers who purchased a number of her prints, negatives, and undeveloped film from a storage locker after her death. He started peddling these works through a website in 2010 and began selling them to galleries by 2012. Goldstein attempted to persuade the court that his purchase of Maier’s works occurred prior to her death, thereby removing it from her estate and providing him a “rightful claim of ownership.” The court did not buy Goldstein’s pre-death-purchase argument and said that the timing of his acquisition of the works was irrelevant anyway. The date for trial has not yet been set.

See David Walker, Federal Court Sustains Vivian Maier Copyright Claim, PDN Pulse, November 21, 2017.

Special thanks to Victor Salas for bringing this article to my attention.

November 23, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Suit Alleges Artist Illegally Profited off Vivian Maier’s World-famous Photos

0000Vivian Maier worked for most of her life as a nanny to affluent families in Chicago’s northern suburbs. As she took care of children, running them around on errands and shopping excursions, she passed some of her time by photographing the day-to-day Chicago street life. Over the years, Maier accumulated over 150,000 negatives and prints. Despite her obvious affinity for photography, she rarely viewed her own work or showed it to others. When she passed away at age 83, a locker was discovered with a massive cache of her prints, negatives, home movies, letters, and newspaper clippings. Because Maier had no will and no heirs, the locker was auctioned off to willing buyers. When these buyers examined her work, they recognized the incredible quality contained within.

The ensuing popularity of Maier’s works led to inevitable court battles, as the appointed administrator of her estate attempted to reclaim the previously sold works. While some original buyers have made deals with the county, Jeffrey Goldstein has adamantly refused to acquiesce. In the midst of negotiating with the public administrator, Goldstein suddenly sold his remaining Maier negatives to an art dealer in Canada. He was quoted as saying that he would “rather cut my wrists” than work with county officials. Goldstein’s part in this saga is far from over, as he is currently being sued in federal court for copyright infringement.

See Jason Meisner, Suit Alleges Artist Illegally Profited off Vivian Maier’s World-famous Photos, Chicago Tribune, May 1, 2017.

Special thanks to Victor Salas for bringing this article to my attention.

November 23, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Estate Planning Is Not Just for the Ultra-Rich Anymore

Wealthyfamilyjetmi600-resize-600x338Scenes from television and movies portray the distribution of estates as a stuffy, formal affair reserved to the most affluent sectors of society. This misconception can be terribly detrimental, as many decedents who die intestate leave their families to squabble over their assets. This scenario, though unfortunate, is a strikingly common occurrence. Many pass away believing that their assets will be inherited by their spouse or children. Depending on the state in which they die, this may not always be the case. In some jurisdictions, assets may pass to siblings who were never intended to be beneficiaries of the estate. Regardless of wealth, it is important to at least draft a will, possibly a trust, and assign someone power of attorney in case of incapacity.

See Ernie Burns, Estate Planning Is Not Just for the Ultra-Rich Anymore, Financial Advisor, August 3, 2017.

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

November 16, 2017 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Why Common Law Couples Need an Estate Plan (New York)

Marriage-relationships-attorney-common_law_marriage-partners-break_ups-break_up-rmo0270_lowCommon-law marriage has become an increasingly prevalent practice as states have begun recognizing these relationships. Despite this increase, nearly three-quarters of US states, including New York, do not legally recognize common-law marriages. New York intestacy laws dictate the manner in which a decedent’s estate is distributed among his heirs: $50,000 and one-half of the remainder goes to the spouse and the rest is passed pro rata to the surviving children. If the spouses were not legally married, the spouse inherits nothing from the estate. Even worse, the distribution can become considerably more complex for the children as they must provide evidence of their relationship to the deceased.

See Inna Fershteyn, Why Common Law Couples Need an Estate Plan, Law Office of Inna Fershteyn, October 14, 2017.

Special thanks to Alexander Evelson for bringing this article to my attention.

 

October 25, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Article on Wills & Trusts

Beyer_TeachingGerry W. Beyer recently posted an Article entitled, Wills & Trusts, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This article discusses judicial developments relating to the Texas law of intestacy, wills, estate administration, trusts, and other estate planning matters during the Survey period of December 1, 2015 through November 30, 2016. The discussion of most cases includes a moral, that is, the important lesson to be learned from the case. By recognizing situations that resulted in time-consuming and costly litigation in the past, the reader may be able to reduce the likelihood of the same situations arising with his or her clients.

October 19, 2017 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

CLE on Estate Administration Boot Camp

0000000 CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a conference entitled, Estate Administration Boot Camp, which will take place on Tuesday, October 10, 2017, at the Courtyard by Marriott San Luis Obispo in San Luis Obispo, CA. Provided below is a description of the event:

Program Description

Everything You Need to Know About Effectively Administering an Estate

Are you fully confident in your knowledge of the latest court and tax rules and the most effective transfer tools to ensure each client's estate is laid to rest according to the decedent's wishes, with minimal tax burden? This comprehensive 2-day instruction will give you all the skills you need to administer estates that include trusts and/or business interests without a hitch. Register today!

  • Don't miss any crucial notice and filing requirements when opening the estate - learn what must be done right away.
  • Get helpful forms and checklists that will help you in administration.
  • Understand how income and estate tax deductions interact and find the most advantageous way to structure the tax returns
  • Learn how to use disclaimers more effectively.
  • Clarify what must be done when the trust becomes irrevocable.
  • Protect your professional reputation with a practical legal ethics guide focused on trusts and estates practice.
  • Prevent mistakes in final petition and ensure each estate is closed quickly and without disputes.

Who Should Attend

This two-day, basic level seminar is designed for:

  • Attorneys
  • Accountants/CPAs
  • Certified Financial Planners
  • Trust Officers/Administrators/Managers
  • Paralegals

Course Content

DAY 1

  • Forms of Administration and When They are Used
  • First Steps and Notices, Executor Duties, Opening the Estate
  • Marshalling the Assets
  • Handling Debts and Claims Against the Estate
  • Spouse Elective Share and Disclaimers
  • Key Intestacy Laws You Must Know
  • Trusts That Affect Estate Administration

DAY 2

  • Income Tax Returns
  • Handling Distributions
  • Legal Ethics in Estate Administration
  • Estate and Trust Contests, Disputes, Challenges
  • Business Interests in Estate Administration
  • Portability and Estate, Gift, GST Taxes
  • Closing the Estate and Final Accounting

Continuing Education Credit

Continuing Legal Education – CLE: 12.00 *

International Association for Continuing Education Training – IACET: 1.20

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – CPE for Accountants/NASBA: 14.00 *

* denotes specialty credits

October 7, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Intestate Succession, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

California Woman Claims She Is Only Living Heir To $15 million Fortune of Writer Who 'Served As Inspiration for J. D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield Character in Catcher in the Rye

Rye_catcherBarbara Sinclair Benson, 80, is claiming that she is the last remaining biological relative of Lamont Buchanan. Buchanan, who died two years ago at the age of 96, was a writer who passed away with no will and a $15.4 million fortune. It is unknown exactly how he amassed his wealth, but acquaintances have surmised that is was from very frugal living and intelligent investing. What is more, Buchanan may have been the source of J.D. Salinger’s inspiration for his iconic Holden Caulfield character from The Catcher in the Rye. The writers were acquainted and a series of interviews revealed that Salinger acknowledged that Buchanan served as part of the inspiration for Caulfield. The City of New York is currently holding the multi-million dollar fortune and Benson is coming forward because she does not “want the state of New York to get the money. My children and grandkids can enjoy it a lot more and put it to better use.”

See California Woman Claims She Is Only Living Heir To $15 million Fortune of Writer Who 'Served As Inspiration for J. D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield Character in Catcher in the Rye', DailyMail.com, September 30, 2017.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 7, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Article on 'Deadbeat Dads': Should Support and Inheritance Be Linked?

Married_with_children_Luck_of_the_Bundys_Al_bundyPaula A. Monopoli recently posted an Article entitled, 'Deadbeat Dads': Should Support and Inheritance Be Linked?, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

American inheritance law is based predominantly on status within the family—individuals inherit from relatives simply because they are linked by blood or adoption. Children do not have to be "well-behaved" to take from their parents under intestacy statutes and generally, unworthy heirs are not punished by forfeiture of their inheritance. In other words, American inheritance law is a status-based system rather than a behavior-based system. Most states do not require good behavior to inherit; nor, absent murder, do they prevent anyone from taking from an intestate relative. Should a parent who abandons a child forfeit his or her inheritance? Should we use the law of succession to achieve a goal other than the simple reallocation of a decedent's property at death? In other words, should we adopt a behavior-based model of succession rather than the status-based model which prevails in most states? This article explores those normative questions and evaluates the costs and benefits of shifting from a status-based model to a behavior-based model of inheritance.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 8, 2017 in Articles, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Article on Recent Texas Cases Impacting the Wills, Probate, and Trust Practice

Intestate-Succession-212x300Gerry W. Beyer recently published an Article entitled, Recent Texas Cases Impacting the Wills, Probate, and Trust Practice, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This article discusses recent judicial developments relating to the Texas law of intestacy, wills, estate administration, trusts, and other estate planning matters. The discussion of each case concludes with a moral, i.e., the important lesson to be learned from the case. By recognizing situations that have led to time consuming and costly litigation in the past, estate planners can reduce the likelihood of the same situations arising with their clients.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 21, 2017 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Malpractice, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 22, 2017

New Mexico 2017 Legislative Report

Land splitThe 2017 New Mexico Legislature considered over 1000 bills and 43 Constitutional Amendments during its sixty-day session. Two bills of some interest that were approved by both Houses were the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADA) and the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA).

UFADA is designed to extend the traditional power of a fiduciary to manage tangible property to include management of an individual’s digital assets. The act would allow fiduciaries to manage web domains, computer files, and virtual currency. It still restricts access to texts, email, and social accounts without prior consent from the client.

UPHPA is designed to protect family wealth from real estate speculators. A devise of property that creates tenants-in-common leaves each tenant with the power to force a partition of the property. Occasionally, speculators will purchase a small amount of an heir’s property in order to file a partition action and force a sale. The speculator will then purchase the property at a severe discount, depleting the family’s wealth in the process. UPHPA provides beneficiaries with certain rights in order to prevent this practice.

The Governor has a limited time period to act on most of the legislation approved during the recent session.

See John W. Anderson & Mark Anderson, NMBA Legislative Report, New Mexico Bankers Association, March 20, 2017.

May 22, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Legislation, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)