Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, January 29, 2018

Prince Estate: We Win War Over Unreleased Tunes…Boxill’s Gone Ghost

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-01-29/330bfa68-4855-457a-9980-87bb1c19c89f.pngPrince’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.

January 29, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Article on Intestacy, Wills, and Intent: A Short Comment on Wright & Sterner

"Congratulations! You've won the bid."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.

January 27, 2018 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Article on Inheritance on the Fringes of Marriage

Always a pleasure to supply your wedding cakes, Mabel, the usual is it?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.

January 21, 2018 in Articles, Estate Administration, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Article on Honoring Probable Intent in Intestacy: An Empirical Assessment of the Default Rules and the Modern Family

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-01-16/7f0a999c-b514-4b26-a954-8f537fa0f20b.pngDanaya 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. 

 

January 16, 2018 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Estate Planning Nightmare: Hopper v. JP Morgan

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-14/dd0be8a3-1732-4d0e-a082-2e97617bd68d.pngMax 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.

December 14, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Yours, Mine, Ours, and ‘ART’

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-06/d6a8b6cd-62e4-4b4b-af2b-f2e45cc1d1a0.pngIt 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.

December 6, 2017 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Science, Technology, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)