Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Estate of Rick Nelson Settles Over Digital Downloads


The estate of Rick Nelson recently settled with Capitol Records.  The heirs filed suit in 2011, alleging that the record company was not paying all royalties owed, including those for digital downloads.  The estate’s attorney said all issues have been amicably resolved and that this case could be precedent-setting in the area of digital downloads and streaming.

Nelson is best known for his songs “Travelin’ Man” and “Poor Little Fool” and his role in the television series “Ozzie and Harriet.”  He died in a plane crash in 1985 at the age of 45.

See Ricky Nelson Heirs Reach Settlement with Capitol Records, Beverly Hills Courier, Apr. 8, 2014.

April 11, 2014 in Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Is Brandon Howard the Son of Michael Jackson?


Last month, DNA results seemingly confirmed that musician Brandon Howard is the biological son of the late Michael Jackson.  With the legitimacy and accuracy of the results being challenged, new DNA tests are being run that will hopefully produce more conclusive results. 

Brandon Howard (who goes by B Howard) is the son of singer Miki Howard, who was managed by Joe Jackson and was nicknamed “Billie.”  Brandon Howard says that regardless of the results of the DNA tests, he wants to continue his own musical career and will not pursue any portion of the Jackson estate.

See Audrey Palmer, Brandon Howard and Michael Jackson DNA Retested in Public, TV Mix, Apr. 2, 2014.

April 3, 2014 in Current Affairs, Music | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

"The Organ Donor Song" (The Greatest Gift Of Love)

YoutubeDavid Kawika Crowley, a Hawaiian musician and advocate of increasing organ donor membership, created a beautiful song that expresses the love and life that is shared when a person benefits from an organ donation. Some of the hauntingly beautiful lyrics include,

The greatest gift of love is to leave a part of you behind
As I go I leave you life and a little gift to remember me by
So take this part of me and never forget the reason to live is only to give
It’s time for me to leave so take a part of me and live

Crowley's anthem for the organ donor movement, "The Organ Donor Song" (The Greatest Gift Of Love), is available on YouTube.

April 3, 2014 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

L'Wren Scott Leaves Entire Estate to Mick Jagger


According to L’Wren Scott’s will, Sir Mick Jagger will be inheriting her entire $9 million estate.

Scott, a famous fashion designer, committed suicide last week without leaving a note.  Because the liabilities of her estate are still unknown, it remains to be seen whether Jagger, who is worth over $300 million, will ever see any of Scott’s $9 million.

Scott made it clear in her will that she did not want her family to receive anything from her estate.

See Philip Sherwell, L’Wren Scott ‘Leaves Entire $9 Million Estate’ to Sir Mick Jagger, The Telegraph, March 26, 2014.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 27, 2014 in Current Affairs, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Article on Digital Music and E-book Libraries

LexisEmily Stutts (SMU Science & Technology Law Review) has recently published an article entitled, Will Your Digital Music and E-book Libraries "Die Hard" With You?: Transferring Digital Music and E-books Upon Death16 SMU Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 371. Provided below is the introduction to the article:

If anyone should be concerned about his music collection after death, Bruce Willis should. The famous action film hero is one "Die Hard stunt-gone-wrong" from his demise, so it is unsurprising recent tabloids reported (perhaps falsely) Mr. Willis is concerned about what will happen to his vast digital music collection (reportedly valued at over $ 64,000) upon his death. 1 True or not, Mr. Willis and the rest of the world's digital purchasers have every right to be concerned.

Digital music sales soared in 2011. Consumers spent $ 5.2 billion on digital music downloads, an 8% increase from 2010. 2 iTunes, one of the world's most popular digital music mediums, led all music retailers in the second quarter of 2012 with 29 % share of the retail music market. 3 Amazon ranked second with 16% of the retail music market; Wal-Mart was third with an 11% market share. 4 iTunes now boasts a total of 28 million songs available for download, further indicating digital music's foothold on the market. 5

In addition to the digitization of music, retailers are increasingly selling books in digital form. In fact, electronic book (hereinafter "e-book") sales recently surpassed hardcover sales: "The Association of American Publishers... reported that in the first quarter of 2012, adult e-book sales were up to $ 282.3 million while adult hardcover sales came to only $ 229.6 million." 6 This finding was up from the first quarter of 2011, when hardcover sales ...



February 18, 2014 in Articles, Books, Music, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Will the Estate of Michael Jackson Have to Pay Estate Taxes?


As I have previously discussed, the IRS claims the estate of Michael Jackson owes $505.1 million in estate taxes as well as $196.9 million in penalties.

The core of this tax dispute is the valuation of the King of Pop’s image and likeness.  The IRS says it’s $434 million while the estate claims it’s a mere $2,105.  These drastically different figures were determined by different appraisers, and the true value of Jackson’s image and likeness probably lies somewhere in the middle.  However, the estate may have the advantage in this case due to the unforeseen rise in Jackson’s fortunes following his death.  For federal estate tax purposes, future payments made to the estate are valued by the projected future worth discounted to present value.  Jackson’s debt at the time of his death as well as the controversies surrounding his sexual abuse charges, physical appearance, and public gaffes may allow for his estate to compromise much less than the IRS.

See Robert Wood, Trust Me, Michael Jackson Is Still Paying Taxes, Wealth Management, Dec. 30, 2013.

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

January 6, 2014 in Estate Tax, Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Storm Brewing Over Thunders Estate


The children of New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders are currently batting over his estate.

After Thunders’ death in 1991, he left a paltry $4,000 inheritance.  However, savvy investments by his sister and estate administrator Mariann Bracken grew the inheritance to at least several hundred thousand dollars.  Bracken was making twice yearly payments to his two sons and half-Swedish daughter.  The payments ceased in 2009 when Bracken died.  His daughter Jamie Michelle Susanne Genzale, 26, was set to take over as administrator but could not afford the $75,000 bond required to oversee the payments of the remaining $160,000.

Genzale wants to team up with the band’s manager to collect royalties on the hit song “Personality Crisis,” which recently landed at No. 271 on Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs of all time.  But now, Thunders’ sons, Vito, 36, and Dino, 34, who both have long rap sheets, are suing to bar her from controlling the estate funds. 

See Julia Marsh, New York Dolls Estate Fight, New York Post, Dec. 9, 2013.

December 14, 2013 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Russia May Reclaim Rachmaninoff Estate


In an effort to reclaim and repatriate Russia’s cultural legacy, President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to consider buying the archive and Swiss estate of composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff at a price of about $20 million.

After fleeing Russia amidst the Bolshevik Revolution, Rachmaninoff summered at his Swiss estate Villa Senar.  Grandson Alexandre, who died last year, offered little access to the villa and its “unique manuscripts and unique musical scores, unique letters and grand piano.”

If Russia were to acquire the estate, it could serve to promote Rachmaninoff as a Russian classic, rather than an international superstar virtuoso.  But it should also free up his materials to researchers.

See Sophia Kishkovsky, Russia May Seek to Reclaim Rachmaninoff Estate, The New York Times, Nov. 25, 2013.

December 11, 2013 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Marvin Gaye III Enters Fray


As I have previously discussed, Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris, Jr. (T.I.) filed a preemptive lawsuit against Marvin Gaye’s children on August 19 in order to stop any claims the children may have for intentional copyright infringement of the Gaye song “Got to Give It Up.”  Frankie Christian Gaye and Nona Gaye filed a countersuit in October claiming copyright infringement on two songs.

Gaye’s adopted eldest son, Marvin Gaye III, has now hired his own attorney and filed his own counterclaim.  Like his siblings, he’s only bringing copyright claims on “Blurred Lines” and “Love After War” (allegedly copied from Gaye’s “After the Dance”).  Gaye III’s separate lawsuit could muddle up settlement discussions as well as the disbursement of damages if the counterclaims were to be successful.

See Eriq Gardner, Marvin Gaye’s Oldest Son Claims Robin Thicke Copied Four Songs, The Hollywood Reporter, Nov. 26, 2013.

December 5, 2013 in Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Court Battle over Pendergrass Estate

Teddy Pendergrass 2

The son and second wife of late singer Teddy Pendergrass are currently battling over the rights to his estate.

His son, Teddy Pendergrass II, claims a 2009 will names him executor and beneficiary of the estate.  Second wife Joan Pendergrass, who married the hit singer in 2008, has the burden to prove this will is invalid and that Teddy intended for Joan to take over his estate.

The first witness called in the trial was private-duty nurse, Gordon Nicholson.  Pendergrass was left a quadriplegic following a car crash in 1982.  Nicholson testified that Pendergrass was always under round-the-clock care, making it difficult for Pendergrass to leave the house undetected to sign any will.  Nicholson also testified Pendergrass did not have the motor skills to sign his name.  The trial is expected to last several days.

See Carl Hessler Jr., Son and Second Wife of Singer Teddy Pendergrass Battle in Court over Late Singer’s Estate, Times-Standard, Nov. 20, 2013.

November 21, 2013 in Current Affairs, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)