Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Heir-Location Firm Charged with Conspiring to Allocate Customers

AntitrustIn a federal antitrust complaint, an heir-location services firm and its co-owner were charged with conspiring to allocate customers with a competitor. The firm had a 15-year-long streak of allocating customers to co-conspirators “to suppress and eliminate competition.” Similar cases have included a criminal fine of $890,000.

See Jonny Bonner, Heir-Location Firm Charged in Antitrust Probe, Courthouse News Service, August 22, 2016.

Special thanks to Deborah Matthews (Attorney, Alexandria, Virginia) for bringing this Article to my attention.  

August 24, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Cemetery with Unidentified Bodies Causes Chaos

CemeteryA cemetery owner was given ten years of probation for stacking multiple caskets in single graves, which left behind disorganized burial records and unkempt graves with missing markers. The cemetery was closed and placed under receivership. Upon the closing, there were extensive efforts to identify the bodies buried, but some cases amounted to the “best guess approach.” Accordingly, the judge overseeing the case has agreed to wind down the state’s oversight of the cemetery. Laws regulating cemeteries are lax and inconsistent, increasing the possibility of reoccurrence.

See Cemetery Mess, Unidentified Bodies Stump Tennessee Officials, Fox News, August 18, 2016.

August 21, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wildenstein Mansion Relisted for $100 Million

WildensteinIn 2014, the Wildensteins, a billionaire art dealing family, decided to sell their 21,000-square-foot townhouse in New York, acting as their art gallery. They agreed to sell the townhouse for $90 million to the Qatar government, which would give them some liquidity for dealing with their $500 million tax case in France. Qatar ended up pulling out of the deal one day before closing, citing violation of money laundering laws by the Wildensteins. After suit was filed, the Wildensteins claimed that Qatar reneged on the deal due to being uncomfortable over the publicity of the record-breaking sale price. The case was settled out of court in May 2016, and the townhouse was taken off the market. Now, the townhouse is back of the market listed for $100 million or a long-term lease. This property is one of several that the Wildensteins are trying to unload; however, they are not selling any artwork for their pending tax case.

See James Tarmy, Scandal-Plagued Wildenstein Mansion Back on Market for $100 Million, Bloomberg, August 17, 2016.

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

August 20, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

New Jersey Allows Disinheritance Based on Religion

Religion confli tA New Jersey appeals court in In re Estate of Kenneth E. Jameson recently held that the law does not bar an individual from disinheriting their child for religiously discriminatory reasons. The case centered on a will contest by a woman who was disinherited from her Catholic father’s will after dating and later marrying a Jewish man.

See Howard Friedman, New Jersey Appeals Court OKs Religiously Discriminatory Disinheritance, Religion Clause, August 15, 2016.

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

August 18, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Court Rules Not to Include Spendthrift Trust in Divisible Marital Estate

Spendthrift trustProvided below is a summary of Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court (August 4, 2016):

In this appeal from a judgment of divorce, the court is asked to determine whether the present value of a husband’s beneficial interest in a discretionary spendthrift trust may be included in the parties’ divisible marital estate. As part of the judgment of divorce in 2012, a judge in the Probate and Family Court awarded the wife 60% of her husband’s interest in the present value of the trust. At the time, the trust was valued at $2,265,474.31. The husband appealed, arguing that the judge abused her discretion by including the trust in the marital estate. In a divided opinion, the Appeals Court affirmed. This court granted the husband’s application for further appellate review, limited to issues concerning the trust.

The court conclude that the husband’s interest in the trust is “so speculative as to constitute nothing more than [an] expectanc[y],” and thus that it is “not assignable to the marital estate.”

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

August 10, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Beneficiary's Pre-suit Discovery Not Estopped

Estoppel discoveryTexas Rule of Civil Procedure 202 allows a limited method of discovery before filing suit, proving useful for those who want to investigate a potential claim. There are, however, some requirements that make it more limited in probate litigation than a regular lawsuit.

In In re Meeker, a son filed a Rule 202 petition for pre-suit discovery to help aid him in a potential will contest; he sought to find out whether his father had capacity at the time of will execution. The executor challenged this allowance on the basis that the son had already accepted benefits and therefore had no standing to contest the will. Looking at precedent, there are some cases that hold a person is estopped from contesting a will after accepting benefits; however, there are some cases that say a beneficiary is not estopped, if they stand to gain more from a successful contest. The latter is what the son was trying to prove, and the court of appeals agreed with him, finding that the exception to the estoppel rule applied

See J. Michael Young, Estoppel Does Not Prevent Beneficiary from Pre-suit Discovery, Texas Probate Litigation, July 5, 2016.

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

August 6, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Federal Court Allows Hearing Over Inheritance Dispute

Inheritance disputeIn Life Insurance Company of North America v. Wagner, the surviving husband and the mother of the deceased found themselves in federal district court arguing the inheritance of life insurance death benefits. The surviving husband raised three defenses: the probate exception, the Younger Abstention Doctrine, and the Colorado River Abstention Doctrine.

The court rejected the probate exception argument, noting that the deceased’s mother could pursue probate litigation over the insurance proceeds in federal court. As for the Younger Abstention Doctrine, it precludes a federal court from hearing a case if it can be litigated by state authorities; however, the court rejected this argument because the state has no control over the insurance funds and there is no current litigation regarding the property. The court also struck down the husband’s Colorado River Abstention Doctrine defense due to the fact that there was no current parallel litigation over the issue.

See Jeffrey Skatoff, Federal Court Permitted to Hear Inheritance Dispute, Florida Probate Lawyers, August 1, 2016.

August 2, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Another Victory for Dauman in the Fight Over Redstone's Trust

Dauman v. redstoneA Massachusetts judge has agreed to continue to hear the lawsuit over Philippe Dauman’s removal from billionare Sumner Redstone’s trust. This comes as a victory for Dauman, who is fighting Redstone over claims that his daughter is manipulating her dad to gain control of his companies. The fight has led to unsettled and delayed deals along with litigation in several states.

See Bloomberg, Redstone Loses Home Court as Viacom Feud Stays in Massachusetts, Private Wealth, July 28, 2016.

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

July 31, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Judge Rules Prince's Possible Heirs to Six

Prince6On Friday, a judge dismissed the claims of twenty-nine people, alleging they were related to Prince. This narrowed the possible number of heirs down to six—his sister, three half siblings, a niece, and a grandniece, who will undergo genetic testing. Prince also had no known children, and eighteen claimants were ruled out as his children.

See Khushbu Shah, Prince’s Possible Heirs Narrowed Down to Six, CNN, July 29, 2016.

July 30, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 11, 2016

B.B King's Estate Sued for Album Cover Photo

Bb king estateA photographer is claiming in a new lawsuit that B.B. King and Universal Music Group used a series of photos he took for various album covers. The images were used on B.B. King’s albums, dating all the way back to 1971. The photographer is suing B.B. King’s estate and Universal for a portion of the profits they made off the albums.

See B.B. King Photog Tells Estate SNAP, YOU’RE SUED, TMZ, July 11, 2016.

July 11, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)