Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Forbes Top-Earning Dead Celebrities of 2016

Michael jackson3While an unusual amount of celebrities have passed away this year, Michael Jackson tops Forbes list of top-earning dead celebrities in 2016 with the March sale of his half of Sony/ATV music publishing catalog for $750 million. Jackson’s pretax payday of $825 million is more money than any celebrity dead or alive made in 2016. In total, the sale gave Jackson’s estate a 30% annualized return on his investment. Coming in the number two spot is Peanuts creator Paul Schulz with $48 million. Schulz died sixteen years ago but still lives on through his franchise. Rounding out the top three is Arnold Palmer with $40 million. 

See Zack O’Malley Greenburg, The Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities of 2016, Forbes, October 12, 2016.

December 3, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Prince's Estate Estimate Made Public

Prince estat estimateA new court filing estimates Prince’s estate to be worth approximately $200 million. This is the first time a specific estimate has been brought to the public. Prince’s six siblings are in line to inherit equal shares of his estate after taxes. Bremer Trust originally estimated the estate to be in ballpark of $100–$200 million after placing values on his catalogue, unreleased music, Paisley Park mansion, and other valuable assets. Bremer Trust also put out a memo noting the company’s fee at $90,000 per month, using a fee schedule based on the value of an estate. It is possible that the company is slightly devaluing the estate due to the looming tax bill. Ultimately, the final total of the estate will not be revealed until after more appraisals and taxing authorities value the estate’s worth.

See Prince’s Estate Is Worth at Least $200 Million, Court Filing Shows, Thanks to His Extensive Catalogue, Unreleased Music and Paisley Park Mansion, Daily Mail, December 1, 2016.

December 1, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Much Are Prince's Lawyers Making?

Prince lawyersPrince’s lawyers are making millions handling his estate and legal issues. Bermer Trust, the special administrator of Prince’s estate, filed legal documents asking the court to approve a $2.3 million bill that accumulated between July 1 and September 30. The biggest expense was for the legal services of Stinson Leonard Street for $1.8 million—all for three months of work. Several law firms are handling aspects of the late singer’s estate from claims by potential heirs to Paisley Park Museum plans.

See Prince: Lawyers Haul in Millions Off Death, TMZ, December 1, 2016.

December 1, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Prince Now Has an Alleged Wife?

Prince8Prince now has an alleged wife, Claire Elisabeth Elliott, who is warning his estate that when he died all of his money was to go exclusively to her. The woman filed a request to remove Bremer Trust bank as the administrator of Prince’s estate, believing she should be making all the decisions for his estate as its sole heir. She claims to have a marriage certificate as proof. The singer’s alleged wife’s claims are looking quite bleak.

See Prince: Woman Warns Estate . . . Step Aside, I’m His Wife!, TMZ, November 28, 2016.

November 29, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Prince's Record Label Officially Sues Jay Z's Roc Nation

Jay z2Prince’s NPG Records has officially sued Jay Z’s Roc Nation for illegally streaming all of the late singer’s hit songs. According to the legal documents, Prince made a deal with Roc Nation before he passed to stream his last album, “Hit N Run: Phase 1.” Allegedly, Roc Nation thought this meant they had the green light to stream all of Prince’s music. NPG is now suing for copyright infringement and to block any continued streaming outside of the final album.

See Prince to Jay Z: No Free Rides in My Little Red Corvette . . . Record Label Sues, TMZ, November 15, 2016.

November 16, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Prince's Estate Says No Deal with Jay Z for Recordings

Jay zPrince’s estate does not want to make a deal with Jay Z to acquire the late singer’s music catalog. His estate fired off a letter to Jay’s team, stating that it had no interest in signing a deal for “Roc Nation to exploit any of the intellectual property assets of the Estate.” Jay originally offered approximately $40 million for Prince’s unreleased tracks. Additionally, Prince’s estate is accusing Tidal, Jay’s music app, of making fifteen of Prince’s albums available for streaming without authorization, which surely hints that there is potential for an upcoming lawsuit. 

See Prince Estate to Jay Z: No Deal for His Recordings . . . Issues with Tidal Deal Too, TMZ, November 13, 2016.

November 14, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 7, 2016

What Is a Singing Will?

End of life playlistHave you ever heard of a singing will? Most people choose the music they want played at their funerals, but what about the moment just before your funeral when you want to experience music but cannot manage to choose it yourself? Music has expressive qualities that are unique and precious to us, so it is important when we near the end of life that we find the comfort that music brings. A singing will allows you to detail the music you would like to hear near the end of your life, a “life soundtrack,” if you will, helping to distract from the experience and deepen it. Like an actual will, you must find the time to update your singing will as each memory passes.

See Mark Vanhoenacker, My Deathbed Playlist (and Yours), N.Y. Times, November 5, 2016.

November 7, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Update: Man Apologizes for Spreading Ashes at New York Opera

MetThe opera lover who sparked panic by scattering his mentor’s ashes at New York’s Metropolitan Opera has apologized. The man pinned a letter to the Met general manager and the entire opera community, stating that he promised his cancer-stricken friend he would scatter his ashes at various opera houses upon his death. He also acknowledged that his “sweet gesture” went completely wrong.

See Man Apologizes for Pouring Ashes at New York Opera Which Sparked Panic, Fox News, November 3, 2016.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

November 4, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tupac's Estate Threatens Suit Over Sale of Bullet-Dented Pendant

Tupac pendantTupac’s gold and diamond pendant that he was wearing when he was shot in 1994—two years before his death—is up for sale. Moments in Time, a memorabilia dealer, is selling the bullet-dented pendant for $125,000. A Tupac family member gave the company the item to sell in exchange for a majority of the profits. Tupac’s estate, however, is strongly against the sale, stating that no one has authority to sell Tupac’s memorabilia, not even a family member. They are determined to file suit against anyone forking over a Tupac item for sale and anyone purchasing one.  

See Tupac Bullet-Dented Pendant . . . Up for Grabs for $125k!, TMZ, October 16, 2016. 


October 18, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Heirs May Not Have to be Blood Related to Inherit Some of Prince's Estate

Prince estateIn recent legal developments, potential heirs are finding out that you may not have to be a blood relative to inherit some of Prince’s estate. Because Prince died intestate, his sister and five half-siblings will soon likely be declared as his rightful heirs. A legal wrinkle, however, will force the judge to decide whether a purported niece, grandniece, and nephew should be considered heirs. In Minnesota, there are incidents when someone can be viewed as a parent based on their familial relationship with the child. These potential descendants claim that Prince’s father treated one of Prince’s half-brothers as his son even though he was not his biological father, allowing them to inherit some of Prince’s estate. 

See Steve Karnowski, In Prince Estate Case, Blood Relation Might Be Unnecessary, Twin Cities Pioneer Press, September 29, 2016. 

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



October 1, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)