Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Legal Parent May Still Virtually Adopt

Gavel2Shalanda Sanders brought a claim in a Georgia trial court arguing that she had a right to inherit from the man that she believed was her father until she was 14-years-old, Clifford Riley. Sanders was born while her mother and Riley were married, but found out at age 14 that her biological father was Roy Warren. The trial court granted summary judgment against Sanders and she appealed.

In Sanders v. Riley, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the trial court. The court reasoned that the fact that the legal presumption was that Riley was Sanders' father did not preclude her from making her virtual adoption claim. The court noted that for Riley to have prevented a future challenge to his presumptive status, he would have had to effectively publicly announce the private information that his wife had an affair. Further, the court found that Sanders reconnecting with her biological father later in life did not change or undue the virtual adoption.

See, Woman May Proceed With Claim of Virtual Adoption by Presumptive Legal Father, Bloomberg BNA, March 24, 2015.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 26, 2015 in Estate Administration, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Heirs' Copyright Termination Rights Challenged by Ray Charles Foundation

GavelA soon to be decided case heard by the 9th Circuit last month will decide an important issue regarding an author's heirs right to terminate copyright assignments to a third party. Ray Charles willed royalty rights to the Ray Charles Foundation, but his children are attempting to terminate those rights under Section 304(c) of the U.S. Copyright Act. The foundation is appealing a district court decision in favor of the Charles children and finding the foundation lacked standing to challenge the termination, and is asserting a defense of first impression that they have standing to challenge because Charles' compositions at issue were "works made for hire."

See Jonathan B. Altschul, Ray Charles Case to Set Important Copyright Termination Precedent, Pay or Play, March 20, 2015.

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

March 25, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Paul Walker's Estate Wants His Cars Back

Paul WalkerThe  estate of movie star Paul Walker is suing for return of 17 cars that the estate claims are in the possession of Roger W. Rodas' estate. Walker's estate alleges that Rodas' estate has sold some of the cars belonging to Walker that were in Rodas' possession when both men died in a car wreck in 2013. Walker's estate further alleges that Rodas' estate refuses to return the remaining cars and give the estate the equivalent value of the cars already sold.

See THR Staff, Paul Walker's Estate Sues for Return of Cars Possessed by Driver in Deadly Accident, The Hollywood Reporter, March 20, 2015.

 

March 23, 2015 in Estate Administration, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Undue Influence Ruling Upheld

Gavel2Patty Carlman successfully challenged her father's will in a Florida probate court, alleging that her father's surviving spouse, Demetra Blinn, asserted undue influence in having his will changed to leave all assets to Demetra. Demetra married Richard Blinn when he was 82 years old and suffering from dementia. Evidence was heard regarding Demetra giving the drafting lawyer for the new will proof of Richard's sound mental state that was nine-months old, and taking steps to isolate  Richard from his family. Demetra appealed the probate court's ruling.

In Blinn v. Carlman, a Florida appeals court found that there was "substantial competent evidence" of undue influence relied on by the probate court and affirmed the invalidation of the will.

See Anya Van Veen, Florida Will Overturned On Finding of Undue Influence By Surviving Spouse, Clark Skatoff, March 19th, 2015

March 23, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tom Benson Texas Case Moved to Federal Court

Tom BensonThe Texas case involving Tom Benson has been removed from Bexar County probate court to a San Antonio federal district court on Benson's motion.

See David Hendricks, Benson Case Moved Out Of Bexar Probate Court, My San Antonio, March 20, 2015.

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

 

March 23, 2015 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax Court Limits Charitable Deduction For Estate

GavelWhen Eileen Belmont died, the bulk of her estate was left to charity including a post-death cash distribution from her retirement plan. But a legal challenge by her brother caused the money to be used to defend the will but after the estate claimed a charitable tax deduction on the amount.

In Estate of Belmont v. Commissioner, the Tax Court denied the deduction because the amount had not been permanently set aside for future distribution to the charity. To be considered permanently set aside, the court stated, the possibility the money would not go to the charity must be “so remote as to be negligible.”  Since there were many indicators the money would be required to fend off the brother’s challenge the estate should have known the set aside would not be permanent and waited to make the deduction until a later taxable year.

See Jillian Merns, Estate Loses Out On Charitable Deduction, Wealth Management, March 16, 2015.

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

March 23, 2015 in Estate Administration, Income Tax, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Estate of Art Collector Sues Estate Planning Attorney

Gavel2The attorney that was hired to create a residual charitable trust for late art collector Robert Ellsworth has been sued by the executor of Ellsworth's estate.  The executor, Masahiro Hashiguchi alleges that attorney George L. Bischof was negligent in the creation of the trust and that the trust failed, which resulted in the estate facing over $25 million in estate taxes due to the trust not qualifying as a charitable remainder trust.

See Rozalia Jovanovic, Robert Ellsworth Estate Sues Attorney Over $25 Million Tax Blunder On Eve Of Christie's Sale, Artnet News, March 18, 2015.

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

March 19, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Virtual Adoption Not Severed By Reconnecting with Natural Father

AdoptionIn Sanders v. Riley, Ga. LEXIS 179 (Ga. March 16, 2015), the Georgia Supreme Court held that once a child has been virtually adopted by an adopted father, the subsequent relation between the adopted child and the natural father does not sever the previous virtual adoption. 

Here, the court was faced with a situation where a child was treated as having been virtually adopted by the father who raised her, and then reconnected to her biological father when the child was 14.  The father died intestate, setting up a dispute over his estate between the father’s biological son and the daughter.  In the opinion, the Georgia Supreme Court explained, “Just as children, once legally adopted, do not become unadopted by forming a relationship later in life with their biological parents—something that is occurring with increasing frequency—children, once virtually adopted, do not become unadopted by developing a relationship later on with their biological parents.” 

See Jeffrey Skatoff, Virtual Adoption Not Undone By Developing Relationship with Natural Father, Florida Probate Lawyers, March 17, 2015.

March 18, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Court Finds for Taxpayer in IRS Dispute Over Virgin Island Tax Credits

Beyer Blog IRS LogoThe estate of a taxpayer that had transferred his residency to the U.S. Virgin Islands has won a victory concerning claimed benefits under an economic development tax incentive program.  The case arose when the IRS issued a deficiency notice in 2010 for the returns of the taxpayer from 2002-2004.

In Estate of Sanders v. Commissioner, the Tax Court held that the Service failed to issue notice, settle the matter administratively, or file for an extension within the three year statutory period and was barred from reexamining the old returns. This decision could bring relief to many Virgin Islands residents who took advantage of tax breaks in the early 2000’s and did not have their returns reexamined with the limitation period. However, this respire might be brief as the IRS will likely litigate potentially fraudulent claims to island residence rather than any specific transaction.

See Josh Ungerman, IRS Expected To Issue Hundreds of Deficiency Notices TO USVI Residents, Forbes, Feb. 16, 2015.

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

March 17, 2015 in Current Affairs, Income Tax, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Court Holds Unnamed Beneficiaries Can Sue Attorney

Gavel2In Agnew v. Ross, a Pennsylvania appeals court held that beneficiaries who are not named in a trust still have standing to sue the attorney who prepared the trust as third-party beneficiaries if they can prove they were the intended beneficiaries.  The court explained that beneficiaries who are not named in a will or trust may still have standing to pursue a breach of contract action against the attorney who prepared the document if circumstances indicate the testator intended to name the beneficiaries. 

See Beneficiaries Not Named in Trust Have Standing to Sue Attorney, Elder Law Answers, March 15, 2015.

March 16, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)