Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Saturday, August 22, 2015

$25 Million Estate Of NYC Model Gigi Carrier Cowell In Dispute Over Adoption Issue

Model21n-1-webGigi Carrier Cowell was a Manhattan model who died intestate with a $25 million estate.  When Gigi Cowell passed away in 2009 her brother Leonard Carrier made a claim for the estate.  Since Leanard Carrier passed away last year his widow has staked a claim for herself and her two children.  One major issue is the fact that Gigi Carrier was adopted in 1979 by her lover, Shirley Cowell, because same-sex marriage was not legal at the time and Gigi Carrier wanted her partner to inherit the wealth she had.  Under New York State law family ties get severed with adoption and it would be difficult for a sibling to make a claim when there is no will. 

See Barbara Ross, NYC model’s family can’t touch $25M estate due to adoption, The New York Daily News, August 20, 2015.

August 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article On Intestate Succession in Quebec

Article PictureLionel Smith (McGill University - Faculty of Law) recently published an article entitled, Intestate Succession in Quebec, Comparative Succession Law, volume II: Intestate Succession (Oxford University Press, 2015. Provided below is an abstract of the article:

When Quebec became part of the British Empire, its private law was the Custom of Paris. By the Quebec Act 1774, this customary law was retained with the important exception that full freedom of testation was granted. The customary law continued to apply, including for intestate succession, until 1866, long after it had ceased to operate in France. In that year the Civil Code of Lower Canada came into force; for intestate succession, a system based on that of the French Civil Code was adopted. This system was modified only slightly with the coming into force in 1994 of the Civil Code of Québec.

This paper traces the evolution of the law of intestate succession in Quebec up to the modern day, touching also on the different intestacy rules that may apply to First Nations people living in the province.

August 22, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Article On A History Of Preferential Share In Ontario

ArticleLouise M Mimnagh (McNamara Pizzale) recently published an article entitled, A History of Preferential Share in Ontario: Intestacy Legislation and Conceptions of the Deserving or Undeserving Widow, 23 Dal J Leg Stud 1 (2014). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

Ontario’s current method for trying to ensure the fair distribution of an intestate’s estate, or the estate of an individual without a valid Last Will and Testament, is outlined in the Succession Law Reform Act. Specifically, section 45(1) outlines the foundational concept of a “preferential share,” which entitles the surviving spouse to a prescribed financial interest in the estate which is prioritized above all other heirs.

The concept of a preferential share stands in sharp contrast with historical English common law methods of devolving intestate estates in which legal entitlements were heavily influenced by an individual’s gender and marital status. In light of the historical influence of gender and marital status on intestacy legislation, this paper investigates the origins and development of the preferential share provision. This paper uses an analytical framework emphasizing the historically gendered experiences of widows and widowers, and how their gender informed the nature of their legal interests under intestacy. In addition, this essay frames its analysis within historical commentary that demonstrates a sharp conceptual dichotomy between the “good wife and deserving widow” or the “bad wife and undeserving widow,” and how such categorization impacted perceptions of what a fair and reasonable devolution entailed.

August 16, 2015 in Articles, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Settlement Reached In Jimi Hendrix Family Dispute

Jimi hendrix2The legal conflict between Jimi Hendrix’s brother, Leon Hendrix, and his adopted sister, Janie Hendrix, has been resolved.  Experience Hendrix, L.L.C., which is controlled by Janie Hendrix, has made a settlement agreement with HendrixLicensing.com, the company that Leon Hendrix is associated with.  Leon and Janie have both been fighting court battles since Jimi Hendrix passed away in 1970 without a Will.  This latest legal battle, which goes back to 2009, involved allegations of trademark infringement.  Janie Hendrix wanted damages from Leon Hendrix and his partner, Andrew Pitsicalis, for the unauthorized sale of merchandise that capitalized on the music legend’s fame. 

See Paul de Barros, Latest Jimi Hendrix family feud resolved in settlement, The Seattle Times, August 13, 2015.

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

August 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Making Plans For Out-Of-State Property

Big mansionA Florida Appeals Court has recently affirmed that a State Probate Court has no jurisdiction over out of state real property.  The Court held that if a Will devises land owned in two or more states “the courts in each state construe it as to the lands located therein as if devised by separate wills.” Wealthy Clients could face a significant amount of hassle dealing with multiple probates involving real property located in more than one state.  It is a good idea to try to avoid probate entirely by keeping titles to property in two or more names and including a right of survivorship.  Make sure to keep the estate documents updated if there is a sudden change of circumstances like a death or a divorce.  Be aware of the location of the domicile for tax purposes and also stay abreast of state inheritance and estate taxes. 

See Tom Nawrocki, Dealing with out-of-state property issues in estate plans, Lifehealthpro, August 11, 2015.

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

August 13, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Murderer’s Family Faces Court Battle Over Inheritance

Beautiful and twistedIt has been six years since businessman Ben Novack Jr. was found brutally murdered in his hotel room in Westchester New York.  The businessman’s wife, Narcy Novack, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for hiring hit men to murder both her husband and her husband’s 86-year-old mother.  The brutal killings were inspiration for the 2015 Lifetime movie “Beautiful & Twisted,” which starred both Rob Lowe and Candice Bergen.  The probate court had initially treated Narcy as having predeceased Ben as stipulated by Florida’s Slayer Statute.  According to Ben’s will the estate would then pass to Narcy’s daughter from a previous marriage as well as her two children.  The businessman’s cousins are now trying to challenge the will in court, alleging that Ben was coerced into altering the will so that her progeny could inherit the estate. 

See Izzy Kapnick, Murderer’s Family Faces Roadblock To Inheritance, Courthouse News Service, August 07, 2015.  

August 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bobby Brown Could Inherit Daughter’s Estate According To Georgia Law

Bobby-brownI have previously discussed the ongoing dispute over the estate of Bobby Christina Brown who is the late daughter of Whitney Houston.  According to Georgia law Bobby Brown might be able to claim his daughter’s $20 million estate that she inherited from her mother.  If Bobbi Kristina Brown died intestate then under Georgia law her father could be the sole heir.  Kristina Browns former boyfriend Nick Gordon is unlikely to have any claim to the estate even though the couple boasted on social media that they were married.  There are allegations that Gordon was abusive towards Kristina Brown and Bobby Brown has insisted that his daughter was never married. 

See Glenn Minnis, Bobbi Kristina Brown Death News: Bobby Brown Could Inherit Daughter’s Estate Based On Georgia Law, Latin Post, August 10, 2015. 

August 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Five Questions Estate Planners Should Ask Their Clients On An Annual Basis

Estate planningEstate planning is an ongoing process and estate planners should always be kept informed about their client’s situation.  Here are five questions estate planners should ask their clients each year:

  1. Has any new real property been acquired?  It is important to know if a client has obtained any new real property since the last meeting. 
  2. Has client created or purchased any accounts requiring beneficiary designations? Primary and contingent beneficiaries should be kept up to date.
  3. Has the client’s family dynamic changed? Has the client experienced any major family changes like a divorce? 
  4. Are client’s current wishes accurately reflected by estate planning documents? A good advisor should make sure that the estate planning documents reflect the current wishes of the client.
  5. Have there been changes to survivorship or the way the property is titled? A joint tenancy with the right of survivorship might be a way to help the client avoid the probate process.

See Bruce E. Fraser, 5 Estate Planning Questions To Ask Client Annually, Financial Planning, August 3, 2015. 

August 4, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Judge Retroactively Recognizes 2001 Common Law Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex-unionsA Pennsylvania Judge has recently recognized a common law same-sex marriage even though one of the spouses died before the State legalized same-sex marriage.  Thanks to Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr.’s decision Sabrina Maurer will be able to collect death benefits and have access to her spouse’s safety deposit box.   Kim Underwood died a year before a Federal Judge ordered Pennsylvania to recognize same-sex marriage and any marriage performed before the ruling.  This new decision extends that rule to validate common law marriages that existed before same-sex marriage was legalized.  This decision will likely have a major impact on a whole host of issues dealing with estate planning and distribution of probate and non-probate assets. 

See Maryclaire Dale, Judge deems gay couple as spouses after 1 partner’s death, New Jersey Herald, July 31, 2015. 

August 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

California Supreme Court Now Allows Unambiguous Wills To Be Reformed

GavelIrving Duke never intended for his estate to pass intestate and produced a holographic will and codicil to make sure of it. In the documents, he provided his estate was to pass to his wife and to a group of charities if they were to die at the same time. However, no contingency was in place if he survived his wife and, when he died, his heirs under intestacy challenged the executor granting the estate to the charities. The trial and appellate court found that the will was unambiguous and, as a result, could not be reformed using extrinsic evidence even though it appeared that Duke intended the alternative gift in the will to apply if he outlived his spouse.

In Radin v. Jewish National Fund, the California Supreme Court overturned the lower courts and ruled that an unambiguous will may be reformed in certain circumstances. If, by clear and convincing evidence, it can be established the testator made an error in in the will, and specific intent can be established, then the will may be reformed to comport with the testators true wishes.

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

July 30, 2015 in Intestate Succession, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)