Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Prince's Estate Submits Asset Inventory

Prince5An inventory of Prince’s estate has recently been submitted to probate court, evincing that he acquired millions of dollars’ worth of real estate and other personal property before his death. Bremer Trust, the company overseeing his estate, listed several properties in Carver and Hennepin counties worth an estimated $25.4 million. Additionally, the inventory lists approximately $110,000 in bank accounts and $840,000 in gold bars. Prince’s companies—Paisley Park Enterprises Inc., NPG Records Inc., NPG Music Publishing, and LotusFlow3r—had more than $6 million in cash on hand. However, the late singer’s musical instruments, jewelry, household furnishings, car, custom motorcycles, trademarks, and copyrights have not been assigned a value. 

See Asset Inventory of Prince’s Estate Lists Cash, Property, Gold Bars, Fox News, January 8, 2017. 


January 9, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Wife Allowed to Let Minimally Conscious Husband Die

Minimally consciousA UK woman has won the right to let her husband die after he no longer recognizes or responds to her. Her husband was hit by a car on his motorcycle and suffered brain damage. She has expressed her husband’s wish of not being kept on life support. A British judge ruled that the life-preserving treatment should cease and the husband should be moved to hospice. This ruling is the first time the country has ruled for a clinically stable patient to stop receiving support. Experts argued that the husband was minimally conscious, showing sings of inconsistent awareness, so an appeal is possible. 

See Michael Harthorne, Wife Wins Right to Let ‘Minimally Conscious’ Husband Die, Fox News, December 21, 2016. 


December 26, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Equitable Distribution for a Couple's Irrevocable Trust?

Irrevocable trustIn Nelson v. Nelson, a husband established an irrevocable trust for the benefit of his wife and children. Eventually, the couple ended up getting a divorce. Under the law in most states, in the event of a divorce, marital property is equitably distributed among the couple. The trial court in this case ordered the trust assets to be distributed equitably. On appeal, the husband relied on Florida Trust Code § 736.04113, asserting that because the estate planning purpose of the trust was no longer necessary, the trial court was allowed to modify the trust and equitably distribute them. However, the appellate court concluded that this section of the code did not apply because neither the trustee nor a beneficiary petitioned for modification, which disallowed the court from ordering equitable distribution of the trust assets. The case illustrates a good lesson for the unintended consequences of estate planning and asset protection strategies relying on inter vivos transactions. 

See Jeffrey Skatoff, Is an Irrevocable Trust for Wife, Settled by the Husband, Subject to Equitable Distribution, Florida Probate Lawyers, December 20, 2016. 


December 23, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Case Summary on Suing Yourself as Personal Representative for Wrongful Death

Suing yourselfWRONGFUL DEATH: Personal representative may sue self for damages for wrongful death of the decedent. The decedent died from injuries suffered in a one-vehicle motor vehicle accident. The decedent’s common law spouse was the driver. The spouse was appointed as the personal representative. Then, as the sole heir and personal representative of the estate, she brought suit against herself as an individual under both Utah’s wrongful death and survival action statutes. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the actions on the ground that the statutes and public policy prevent a person from suing herself. On appeal the Utah Supreme Court reversed, holding that the plain language of the statutes permits a person acting as an heir or personal representative to sue him or herself as an individual for damages; that this reading of the statutes does not lead to an absurd result requiring judicial modification of the statutory text and that there is no gap in the statutory scheme requiring the court to rewrite the statutes based on public policy. Bagley v. Bagley, No. 20150182, 2016 WL 6299507 (Utah Oct. 27, 2016).

Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.


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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Prince's Divorce Lawyer Makes Claim Against His Estate for Legal Bill

Prince divorce lawyersPrince’s divorce lawyer is claiming that the late pop icon never paid is $600,000 tab. Cousins Law Firm in West Palm Beach filed a claim against Prince’s estate demanding payment of the bill. A lawyer from the firm says Prince racked up the legal bill in 2006 with his divorce from his second wife, Manuela Testolini. The lawyer further claims that him and Prince had an agreement that the singer would not have to pay the bill until all loose ends were tied up. Everything was allegedly wrapped up on April 1 of this year; Prince died on April 21. 

See Prince Died Without Paying Divorce Lawyer, TMZ, December 20, 2016. 


December 20, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Case Summary on Will Beneficiary's Cause of Action Against Drafting Attorney

Will contest prPROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY: Disappointed will beneficiary has a cause of action against the drafting attorney as a third-party beneficiary. The testator instructed her attorney to draft a will leaving her estate to her mother and if her mother predeceased, to a named charity. The mother predeceased but subsequent litigation determined that her will gave only tangible personal property to the charity and failed to dispose of her real property which therefore passed through intestacy to her heirs. The charity brought an action against the attorney on a third-party beneficiary theory and prevailed both at trial and on appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. In Thorsen v. Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 786 S.E.2d 453 (Va. 2016), the court held that under Virginia common law, third-party beneficiaries can sue on oral contracts; that the applicable three-year statute of limitations begins to run on the testator’s death, and that the evidence was sufficient to show the testator contracted with the lawyer to draft a will benefitting the testator’s mother and the charity. One justice dissented arguing that abolition of the common law privity requirement is a policy issue to be decided by the legislature and not by the court.

Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.


December 19, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Case Summary on Succession of Fiduciary

Succession fiduciaryPOWER OF ATTORNEY: A successor agent is not a fiduciary until succession is effective. An Illinois intermediate appellate court in In re Estate of Shelton, 60 N.E.3d 121 (Ill. App. Ct. 2016), affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of an action alleging that the successor agent under a power of attorney breached the agent’s fiduciary duties owed the principal because until the successor becomes the agent, no duties arise and the certification of the incompetency of the original agent which would trigger the succession was not made until after the alleged breach.

Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.


December 17, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trustee Citizenship Regulates Federal Diversity Jurisdiction

Trustee citizenship2For the purposes of the federal diversity requirement, trusts’ citizenship is determined by the citizenship of the trust’s trustees. In Yueh-Lan Wang v. New Mighty U.S. Trust, the surviving spouse of a Taiwanese billionaire was trying to reclaim billions from a trust in Washington D.C. set up by her husband in his late years. The court concluded that the trust was a “traditional trust,” which lacks juridical person status, disallowing it from suing or being sued. Accordingly, complete diversity existed in this case because the surviving spouse was a Taiwan citizen and the trustees were citizens of the District of Columbia, Delaware, and Virginia. In conclusion, the court held that the outcome-determinative of the trust’s citizenship was based on the citizenship of its trustees.  

See Brian Spiro, Citizenship of Trustees Controls for Federal Diversity Jurisdiction, Florida Probate Lawyers, December 13, 2016. 


December 14, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)