Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Intent to Levy Sustained in Late-Filed Gift Tax Return Case

Gift tax irsIn United States v. Estate of Lillian Beckenfeld, the Tax Court sided with the IRS, upholding that a collection action against an estate was valid. In 2013, Beckenfeld’s estate filed a late gift tax return for the year 2007. Accordingly, the IRS assessed additions to the tax, which added up to $951,411.34. Upon sending in the check to pay additional payments and interest, Beckenfeld’s estate included instructions that the IRS followed but ultimately left the gift tax liability unpaid. After an appeal, the IRS issued a notice, sustaining its intent to levy.   

See Dawn S. Markowitz, Collection Action for Late-Filed Gift Tax Return Upheld, Wealth Management, February 6, 2017. 


February 7, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Atlanta Businesswoman's Estate in Limbo After Her Death

Diane mciverDiane McIver, a wealthy, prominent Atlanta businesswoman, was allegedly killed by her husband on September 25, 2016. McIver’s husband has been charged with involuntary manslaughter; he claims that his gun accidentally discharged in the car after he was startled by a bump in the road. Not only has the case made public headlines, but now, there is also a legal battle ensuing over McIver’s estate. U.S. Enterprises has filed a lawsuit, claiming that the $1 million loan they lent to one of McIver’s companies was personally guaranteed by her. This lawsuit will likely delay probate proceedings for some time. McIver’s situation should serve as a warning for everyone to ensure that their estates are properly planned.     

See Karen Demasters, Estate in Limbo After Atlanta Man Is Charged with Killing His Rich Wife, Private Wealth, February 2, 2017. 

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


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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Upcoming Court Decision May Decide if Employers Can Reject Older Job Seekers

Texas roadhouseTexas Roadhouse, a nationwide steakhouse chain, has a practice, according to officials, of discriminating against potential employees over forty and rejecting them for jobs where the customers will be in contact with them. This particular suit, which resides in a Boston federal district court, is the first its kind for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—which is responsible for enforcing job discrimination laws—because for the first time, it has conducted its own investigations and filed suit rather than waiting for individuals to complain and giving them permission to sue on their own. Age bias cases remain less clear, as the idea of pitting the young against the old has been notoriously unpopular with juries and society. The EEOC has presented several pieces of evidence in its directed investigation that show company officials have continuously discriminated on the basis of age in their hiring practices. On the other hand, the restaurant’s argument hinges on the 25-year-long reading of the ADEA that has shifted age discrimination from being categorically compared to race and gender to being of lesser consequence with a greater legal burden to prove. With closing arguments aside, a jury verdict will soon come down and, perhaps with it, new grounds for age discrimination or even new barriers.     

See Peter Gosselin, Federal Court May Decide if Employers Can Reject Older Job Seekers to Protect ‘Image’, Pro Publica, January 31, 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.


February 3, 2017 in Current Events, Elder Law, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Johnny Depp Spent $3 Million to Shoot Hunter S. Thompson's Ashes Out of a Cannon

Johnny depp2What price would you pay to send off a cherished friend? Johnny Depp paid $3 million to fire Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes out of a cannon in an absurd tribute to the late writer. Thompson’s funeral was attended by names like John Kerry, Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, and Sean Penn. This information was recently revealed in a lawsuit that Depp filed against his management group, alleging that they defrauded him by mismanaging his money, taking out loans without approval, and hiding the extent of his own spending from him. 

See Christopher Hooton, Johnny Depp Spent $3 Million Blasting Hunter S. Thompson’s Ashes Out of a Cannon, Ex-Managers Claim in Lawsuit, Independent, February 2, 2017. 


February 1, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Anna Nicole Smith Judge Finally Relieved from Billionaire's Estate Dispute

Judge mike woodOver the past twenty years, a legal battle has ensued over the estate of late billionaire J. Howard Marshall all on the docket of Judge Mike Wood, or as some might know him the “Anna Nicole Smith” judge. Anna Nicole was married to the elderly billionaire briefly before he passed and afterward sought a piece of his fortune. Judge Wood, however, awarded it all to Marshall’s son. Upon the death of his son, in 2015, Marshall’s grandson filed a separate action, requesting access to the family trusts. The litigation seemingly had no end. In fact, during a hearing, in which the grandson filed a last-minute restraining order against his mother, Judge Wood stated, “I beg you to rescue me. I don’t want to deal with you people anymore.” On January 24, Judge Wood relieved himself of the case by granting a mandamus relief, which voided the restraining order, and passed the case on to a new judge in probate court. The judge ultimately claimed that the case was holding himself and his staff hostage, not allowing them to accomplish anything else. 

See John Council, ‘I Beg You to Rescue Me’: Anna Nicole Smith Judge Finally Gets His Wish, Law.com, January 26, 2017. 


January 27, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kurt Cobain's Famous Guitar Is Hot Button in Daughter's Divorce

Kurt cobain guitarFrances Bean Cobain, the famous daughter of Kurt Cobain, has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to help get her father’s famous guitar back. She is requesting that her estranged husband return her father’s 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar, which is the legendary guitar Kurt played during Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged.” The estranged husband claims that Frances Bean gifted the guitar to him, and therefore, he gets to keep it. In her response, she fired back asserting that there is no way she would gift such a priceless family heirloom. Additionally, Frances Bean is demanding to inspect the guitar to make sure it is in pristine condition and to keep it in an art shipping company until the dispute is resolved.   

See Frances Bean Cobain: Gimme Back My Dad’s Guitar . . . I’ll Keep It Safe!!, TMZ, January 25, 2017. 


January 26, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bad Faith Claim Against Decedent's Estate Not Barred by Creditor Claim Period

Insurance bad faithA new Florida case concluded that a bad faith claim against a decedent’s insurance company can be maintained when the claimant has failed to file a timely creditor claim against the estate. In Estate of Arroyo v. Infinity Indemnity Insurance Co., an appeals court was elicited to determine the application of the law imposing a statute of limitations of two years for creditors seeking to file a claim against a decedent’s estate. Specifically in this case, however, the court was needed to determine the application of the law in a bad-faith claim against an insurance company. An individual was suing the insurance company as a victim of a car crash, which ultimately ended up killing the decedent, for not defending the Estate in the negligence action. Ultimately, the court found that the negligence lawsuit and subsequent bad-faith proceedings did not fall with the statute of limitations for creditor claims because the statute only applies to lawsuits against the estate and the victim was barred from enforcing the consent judgment against the Estate.  

See Bad Faith Claim Against Decedent’s Insurer Not Subject to Creditor Claim Period, Florida Probate Lawyers, January 24, 2017. 


January 25, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Legal Battle Continues over Peggy Guggenheim's Art Collection

GuggenheimPeggy Guggenheim became known as one of the most influential people of the art world, building one of the greatest collections of modern art—326 paintings and sculptures, known as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. When she died in 1979, her collection was donated to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, where the public could view the collection six days a week. However, her collection has been the focus of a bitter legal battle between the Foundation and some of Peggy’s descendants, who claim that the collection has been continuously mismanaged. The Foundation claims that it has faithfully carried out Peggy’s wishes, which is good evidence that the collection should remain right where she left it. The art battle has resulted in four court decisions, all of which were against the descendants. The first suit against the Foundation was filed in a Paris district court in 1992 by three of Peggy’s grandchildren. Since then, three more suits have been filed, with the most recent in 2014, and a later appeal in 2015, when Peggy’s descendants asked the court to revoke the gift of the art collection on the grounds of a breach of conditions. Peggy’s descendants continue to fight and pursue her legacy.   

See Milton Esterow, The Bitter Legal Battle over Peggy Guggenheim’s Blockbuster Art Collection, Vanity Fair, January 5, 2017. 

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


January 16, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Legal Battle Ensues over Prince's Music

Prince tidalSeveral unanswered questions still remain as to the management and distribution of Prince’s estate since his death in April 2016. Specifically, much is still unknown about the status of his valuable music catalog. Jay-Z’s companies, Tidal and Roc Nation, are in a legal battle with Bremer Trust, the administrator of Prince’s estate, over the late singer’s intellectual property, which includes a vault of unreleased music. Bremer Trust filed a copyright infringement suit, alleging that Tidal only had exclusive rights to stream Prince’s new music for ninety days but instead streamed all fifteen Prince albums. The defendant companies claim they had an oral and written agreement with Prince to exclusively stream his music, while Prince’s label NPG Records claims they terminated any agreement made before his death. Currently, representatives for the singer’s estate are nearing a deal to stream his music on Apple Music and Spotify. However, with Prince’s highly critical perspective of the music industry, it would come as no surprise that Prince struck a deal with Tidal because they have a reputation of being substantially more artist-friendly.  

See Michael Feispor, Jay-Z’s Tidal, Roc Nation and Bremer Trust Battle over Prince’s Music, Forbes, January 11, 2017. 

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


January 13, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ken Thompson's Mother Claims She Was Axed from Her Son's Will

Ken thompsonThe late Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s mother claims she was stiffed of a promised portion of her son’s estate when his wife coerced the ill prosecutor into signing a revised will on his deathbed. The family feud was brought to the public’s attention when a court filing alleged that an earlier version of the will was found, which gave Thompson’s mother a fair share of his seven-figure estate. The new will was executed approximately two weeks prior to his death, when Thompson was suffering from substantial mental and physical complications. A court hearing was set for January 19, where Thompson’s wife will surrender the original 2008 will. 

See Christina Carrega & Larry McShane, Ken Thompson’s Mother Says She Was Cut Out of Will by Late Brooklyn DA’s Wife, N.Y. Daily News, January 12, 2017. 

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


January 12, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)