Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Estate Battle Continues

Martin luther king nobel prizeA judge refused to rule on the dispute over two items, a bible and Nobel Peace Prize, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s estate, putting the issue off until trial. Dr. King’s estate is not a probate estate but a for-profit estate where his three children control his name, image, likeness, and possessions. The current controversy revolves around an agreement that all of Dr. King’s personal property would be returned to the estate, but no personal property was ever listed. This confusion could have been muted with a well-planned estate that detailed all of the estate’s property and did not leave management of the estate in the hands of three different personalities.

See Ettinger Law Firm, Family Feud Forever: Dr. King’s Family Squabbles Continue, New York Estate Planning Attorney Blog, June 19, 2016.

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

July 7, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Absence of Marriage License Does Not Invalidate Marriage

Marriage licenseFollowing a divorce, a husband and wife reconciled in 2012 and married in late 2013 when the husband became hospitalized. The couple, however, did not obtain a marriage license, and the husband died intestate the day after the wedding. Shortly after his death, the wife’s surviving spouse claim to her husband’s estate was denied due to the absence of the marriage license. When the wife appealed this decision, the judge reviewed North Carolina and United States Supreme Court precedent, concluding that the lack of a marriage license did not invalidate the marriage. The only question left was whether the couple consented to be married, or rather, did they understand all the legal consequences of marriage. With no evidence to the contrary, their marriage was confirmed upon appeal, entitling the wife to her surviving spouse allowance.

See Julianne Tobin Wojay, Lack of License Didn’t Invalidate Marriage, Bloomberg BNA Family Law Reporter, June 22, 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.

June 29, 2016 in Estate Administration, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Woman Claims to be Prince's Half-Sister

Prince's siblingsAfter Monday’s court hearing to determine Prince’s heirs, a woman is claiming to be Prince’s half-sister, alleging that his father is not his biological father. Venita Jackson Leverette claims that her and Prince share the same father, a man that was previously in a relationship with Prince’s mother. A DNA test could be permitted, but the Minnesota judge has already determined that this process will be lengthy.

See Chris Spargo, New Woman Stakes Her Claim for Slice of Prince’s $300 Million Estate as she Claims to be His Half-Sister, Alleging the Singer Was Actually the Son of His Mother’s Ex-Boyfriend, Daily Mail, June 28, 2016.

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

June 29, 2016 in Current Events, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

No Rush to Determine Prince's Heirs

Prince5The Minnesota judge overseeing Prince’s estate is in no hurry to determine the heirs to Prince’s $300 million fortune. His sister, five half-siblings, and several others have laid claim to a cut of his fortune. On Monday, there was a hearing to decide the methodology for determining heirs, and the judge noted that this could be a long process with potential legal guidance being sought from a higher court.

See Judge in ‘No Hurry’ to Determine Prince’s Heir in $300 Million Estate Case, Fox News, June 27, 2016.

June 28, 2016 in Current Events, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Judge Rules No Media Allowed in Prince's Upcoming Probate Hearing

Prince19The judge overseeing Prince’s estate case will not allow media company attorneys to intervene in the upcoming hearing. He denied the media’s request for the Monday probate hearing to determine inheritance rights but left open the possibility for later access. With suspenseful paternity questions waiting to be addressed, several documents were filed under seal. The balance between the public’s right to access and confidentiality presents several legal questions for the rest of the battle over Prince’s $300 million estate.

See Prince Estate Judge: No Cameras at Monday Hearing, USA Today, June 25, 2016.

June 27, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Inmate Will Not Share in Prince's $300 Million Estate

Prince33The judge overseeing Prince’s estate is not allowing cameras in an upcoming hearing to determine possible heir claims. According to the law, the media and public may also be banned from the hearing if the court pursues specific paternity matters. We now know, however, that Carlin Williams, an inmate serving eight years for unlawful transportation of a firearm, is not a potential heir after a DNA test came back with a 0% chance of relation. The prisoner will not share in any of Prince’s $300 million estate as paternity questions continue to arise. 

See Prince Is Not the Father of Man Serving Time in Prison According to DNA Results that Bar the Convicted Felon from Inheriting Any Part of $300 Million Estate, Daily Mail, June 22, 2016.

June 23, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Academy Looks to Stop the Sale of Whitney Houston's Emmy Award

Whitney houston emmyEmmy executives are trying to block the sale of Whitney Houston’s 1986 Emmy award, claiming that all winners sign an agreement that requires heirs to release the award back to the Academy in memory of the recipient. Whitney’s estate is trying to sell the award through Heritage Auctions, who has demanded proof of Whitney’s signature on that agreement. Heritage expects to sell the award for upwards of $10,000.

See Whitney Houston Emmy Battle Heading for Court, TMZ, June 22, 2016.

June 22, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Court Finds No Informal Fiduciary Relationship

Caregiver beneficiaryIn Garrett v. First State Bank of Central Texas, a Texas court of appeals decided on a dispute over the ownership of a decedent’s account. The decedent’s estate and caregiver both claimed the account proceeds. The caregiver was a signatory on the decedent’s money market account, and she claimed that the decedent had expressed his wishes for the account to pass to her upon his death. The trial court, however, ruled that her signature did not make her the beneficiary of the account rather just a signatory to pay bills. The court of appeals affirmed the trials court’s finding because often Texas courts are hesitant to find informal fiduciary relationships.

See J. Michael Young, Garrett v. First State Bank of Central Texas: No Informal Fiduciary Relationship, Texas Probate Litigation, June 20, 2016.

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

June 22, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

NJ Court Rules Domestic Partnership Cannot Benefit from Estate Tax Break

Same-sex rulingSee Peter J. Reilly, NJ Domestic Partners Denied Estate Break of Married Couples, Forbes, June 9, 2016. Provided below is a summary of the Article:

A sad story is behind the recent New Jersey Tax Court decision—Rucksapol Jiwungkul, as Executor of the Estate of Maurice R. Connolly, Jr. v. Director, Division of Taxation.  The case also ends up being a something of a recap of the struggle over same-sex marriage and its tax implications.  At issue was $101,041 in estate tax that would be avoided if Mr. Connolly and Mr. Jiwungkul, who were registered domestic partners, were treated as spouses for purposes of the New Jersey estate tax.  The court ruled against the estate on a sort of “almost doesn’t count” theory.

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

June 16, 2016 in Estate Tax, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)