Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tax Judge Rules Appraiser Placed Lowball Valuation on Estate's Painting

The youngerA Sotheby’s official appraised a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Younger back in 2005 at $500,000, but when the owner of the piece went to sell the painting, it drew more than four times that amount, selling for $2.1 million. So why such a wide gap between the estimated and actual value? The appraiser claimed that artwork prices spiked due to a large influx of Russian buyers who were eager to obtain old masters. However, the United States Tax Court took issue with this matter in a recent decision, ruling that the appraiser had most likely placed a lowball estimate on the piece to “curry favor” with the owner, an estate likely facing a substantial tax bill. With the IRS viewing valuations for artworks in income, estate, and gift tax returns as a potential area for abuse, it comes at no surprise that the IRS challenged the low value placed on the painting, seeking an additional $781,488 in taxes from the estate.

See Colin Moynihan, Don’t Blame the Russians, Tax Judge Tells Sotheby’s Expert, N.Y. Times, April 23, 2017.

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

April 28, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Second Circuit Declines to Reconsider Estate's Title VII Claim

Title viiThe Second Circuit declined to reconsider a Title VII claim from the estate of a deceased skydiver, Donald Zarda, against his former employer. Zarda originally filed the suit claiming that his employment was terminated because of his sexual orientation. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer, noting that Title VII does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.

See Douglas M. Oldham, Court Tells Skydiver’s Estate It Won’t Reconsider Title VII Claim, National Law Review, April 19, 2017.

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

April 24, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Court Determines that Slayer Statute Is Not Applicable in Self-Defense Case

Slayer statute In Prudential Insurance Co. of America v. Harding, a Florida court refused to apply the state’s Slayer Statute to the partner of a decedent after a fight resulted in the decedent’s death. Maurice McGriff and Terry Rigby were involved in a physical altercation, in which Rigby passed away from his injuries. McGriff claimed self-defense but gave two conflicting statements when reporting the incident. After his death, McGriff, as the sole beneficiary of Rigby’s life insurance policy, and Rigby’s sister made claims to the $466,000 life insurance death benefit. However, Rigby’s sister claimed McGriff was ineligible to receive the benefit under Florida’s Slayer Statute because he was responsible for Rigby’s death. The statute provides that a final conviction of murder is conclusive evidence, but in the absence of such a conviction, the court can weigh the evidence to determine whether the killing was unlawful and intentional. Subsequently, there was no murder conviction, and the parties disputed about whether the killing was unlawful. Ultimately, the court concluded that McGriff did not act unlawfully and his claim of self-defense could have merit, preventing the use of the Slayer Statute and awarding McGriff’s estate the life insurance proceeds.

See Jonathan A. Galler, Slayer Statute Not Applicable, Says Florida Court, Wealth Management, April 10, 2017.

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

April 11, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Can a Divorce Filing Prevent a Wife from Receiving a Widow's Allowance?

Post nuptial agreementThe Georgia Court of Appeals is helping to decide whether a post-nuptial agreement will defeat a wife’s claim for a “widow’s allowance” because her husband filed for divorce only hours before he died. Although the divorce filing died with him, the filing triggered the release clause of the post-nuptial agreement’s divorce provision, which could mean that the wife waived her right to support from his estate. Additionally, the provisions for support and property division were made null at his death, so the question is whether the wife has the right to file a “further claim,” according to the agreement. Because the wife was unaware that she may have signed away her right to a widow’s allowance, the court of appeals remanded the case back to the trial court for further findings.

See Julianne Tobin Wojay, Dead Man’s Wife, Son Clash over Divorce, Bloomberg BNA, April 4, 2017.

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

April 6, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Billionaire Businessman Hires Hit Man to Kill Eldest Son

FoisieFollowing a family dispute, Robert Foisie, a billionaire businessman, reportedly paid a hit man $200,000 to kill his eldest son, Michael. Supposedly, Foisie’s children had decided to remove him from his managing position in the family’s investment company, and Foisie sought revenge. In addition to this newest legal drama, Foisie faces multiply lawsuits across the country from Massachusetts to Nevada as well as allegations of wire fraud and tax evasion. Additionally, Foisie’s ex-wife filed a lawsuit in March, alleging that the billionaire concealed $4.5 million from her during their divorce proceedings.

See Anna Hopkins, Billionaire University Benefactor ‘Hired a Hit Man to Kill His Eldest Son After He Was Kicked Out of the Family’s Investment Company’, Daily Mail, April 2, 2017.

Special thanks to Jim Hartnett (Attorney, Dallas, Texas, The Hartnett Law Firm) for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 4, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Canadian Court Orders Interim Distribution Pending Wills Variation Claim

Interim distributionIn Davis v. Burns Estate, pending a wills variation claim, the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted an interim distribution to be made to a will beneficiary under § 155 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act. Section 155 prohibits an executor from making a distribution after someone has commenced a wills variation claim unless the executor gets permission from the court. In the facts of this case, Patricia Burns died, leaving behind a significant other, Brent Dale, but disinheriting her daughter, Leslie Davis. Davis instantly filed a claims seeking to vary her mother’s will, as the will provisions did not adequately provide for her. Accordingly, Dale asked the court for an interim distribution, and Davis quickly followed suit. The court granted Dale’s application for interim distribution but denied Davis’s because she was not a beneficiary under the will.

See Stan Rule, Court Orders Interim Distribution Under Section 155 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, Rule of Law Blog, March 24, 2017.

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

April 4, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Auction House Still Selling Tupac Memorabilia Despite Lawsuit

Tupac lawsuitDespite a lawsuit raised by the estate of Tupac Shakur’s late mother, a Brooklyn auction house is till moving forward with selling some of the rapper’s most prized possessions. Tupac’s handwritten lyrics and jewelry will be sold at Black Heritage Auction on the same day he posthumously gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More specifically, there are thirty-nine items up for sale, and the bidding starts at $480,000; however, the auction house expects to bring in seven figures. Further, the auction house did not reach out to the estate, as they felt the memorabilia was obtained lawfully. This lawsuit comes at the heels of another lawsuit fired off by the estate of Tupac’s mother against another auction house that was selling the rapper’s passport and driver’s license, claiming it was not the dealer’s to sell.

See Tupac Shakur Memorabilia Auction Still a Go Despite Lawsuit Threats, TMZ, April 3, 2017.

April 3, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Estate of Tupac's Mom Is Suing over the Rapper's Possessions

Tupac passportTupac Shakur is about to be posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making his personal items more valuable than ever. This attention has triggered several recent lawsuits. The estate of Tupac’s mom is suing an auction house and two individuals who have possession of the items in order to regain the rapper’s passport, driver’s license, clothing, jewelry, and handwritten scripts and lyrics. The lawsuits claims that the individuals who now own the items bought them from third parties who had no ownership rights and therefore no right to sell the possessions.

See Tupac Shakur Lawsuits over Passport, Handwritten Song Lyrics, TMZ, March 29, 2017.

March 30, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Judge Forces Michael Jackson's Ex-Business Partners to Stay Out of His Estate

Michael jackson2A recent ruling has left Michael Jackson’s former business partners without a multi-million dollar slice of Jackson’s estate. Three of the four plaintiffs in the case claim that, in 2006, they met Jackson in a hotel room, where he promised them shares of his company for their loyalty. Because it was only an oral agreement and not a written contract, the plaintiffs ran into huge problems, leaving the judge to ultimately decide that they lacked credibility.

See Michael Jackson Victory for Estate . . . Judge Tells Ex-Biz Partners to Beat It, TMZ, March 27, 2017.

March 28, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Florida Judge Rules that Same Sex Spouses Must Be Added to Death Certificates

Florida judgeAfter the 2015 Obergefell decision, people were asking Florida to change the death certificates that indicated a partner in a same-sex relationship died unmarried without a surviving spouse. Florida refused and stated that they would not do so unless compelled to by an individual court order. Eventually, several widowers filed a lawsuit on behalf of all Floridians whose deceased same-sex spouses’ death certificates recorded them unmarried. The judge ruled in their favor, ordering the state to correct the death certificates and give way to Obergefell’s constitutional command.

See Mark Joseph Stern, Federal Judge Rules Florida Must Add Same Sex Spouses to Death Certificates, Slate, March 24, 2017.

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 27, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)