Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Judge Dismisses Sumner Redstone Competency Lawsuit

Sumner redstoneI have previously discussed the competency suit involving Sumner Redstone who is the head of Viacom. Today a Los Angeles Judge tentatively dismissed the mental competency lawsuit that was brought by Mr. Redstone’s former long-time companion Manuela Herzer. In his ruling Judge David J. Cowan said that "[H]ere there is no good cause for further judicial involvement where the Cour has now heard directly from Redstone that he has lost trust in Herzer, does not want her in his life and instead wants his daughter Sahri to look after him if necessary,"…” "[T]he court has no business interfering with his prerogatives." Today’s decision might bring this legal battle over Sumner Redstone’s mental competency to a close.

See Sumner Redstone Judge Tentatively Dismisses Competency Lawsuit, NBC, May 9, 2016.

May 9, 2016 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Captain Kirk Can Take Some Leave, Enterprise In Space-Dock For Repairs

ArticlePictureThe USS Enterprise is a name that evokes strong memories in the minds of many as it's TV adventures inspired generations of people to explore the universe through science and engineering. But the prop that was used for filming the original episodes of Star Trek is now in the caring hands of the restorations department of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum which has restored such historic planes as the Enola Gay and the Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis. The model is need of repairs after decades without proper maintenance combined with the fact that it was originally built to be a temporary model and was never expected to survive for more than a few years.  And there is good news, the team working on the model reports it is in great condition and will be ready to for the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode. Once the fix is complete, the model will reside alongside the Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 capsule; truly distinguished company for the most important fictional vessel of all time.

See Michael E. Ruane, The starship Enterprise is in the shop for repairs, The Chicago Tribune, January 31, 2016.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 4, 2016 in Science, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Blaster Used By Luke Skywalker In Star Wars Will Be Sold At Auction

Skywalker blasterThe blaster that was used by Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back will be sold at an auction with a minimum starting bid of $200,000. “Mark Hamill who plays Luke Skywalker in the ‘Star Wars’ saga, gave the gun away during an episode of ‘Jim'll Fix It,’ a BBC children's television show, and it was last auctioned by Sotheby's in 1998, according to the auction house.” Sotheby’s will be holding the auction, and if the past is any guide “Star Wars” items should be expected to bring in large sums of money for the auction house. There will probably be even more enthusiasm for this item because of all the current excitement surrounding the new Star Wars movie that was released by Disney.

See Alexandra Gibbs, Luke Skywalker’s ‘Star Wars’ Blaster Goes Up For Auction, NBC News, January 26, 2016.

January 26, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tax Court Rules Against Sumner Redstone In Decades Old Case

Sumner redstoneThe U.S. Tax Court has recently released a decision dealing with a four-decades old dispute. “The core question in Redstone's dispute with the Internal Revenue Service pertains to whether his 1972 transfer of stock to his children was a taxable "gift" or not.” The Tax Court decision can be read here. The Court lets him off the hook for fraud but affirms a tax deficiency of $737,625. This article discusses the history of the decades old case and some of the relations that it had with the Watergate scandal. Sumner Redstone is currently the majority stakeholder in CBS and Viacom.  There is ongoing speculation about what the future of Sumner Redstone's media empire will be.

See Eriq Gardner, Sumner Redstone Loses to IRS in Tax Case Four Decades in the Making, The Hollywood Reporter, December 15, 2015.

December 16, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Questions About Future Of Viacom And CBS After Sumner Redstone Health Lawsuit

Sumner redstoneI have previously discussed the lawsuit by Manuela Herzer questioning Sumner Redstone’s mental state and his ability to continue to serve as head of Viacom and CBS. Even if this lawsuit is dismissed Mr. Redstone is 92 and there are claims that his health is ailing. There are many questions being asked about what will happen to his $45 billion media empire if he passes away. Issues of succession can often have a tremendous impact on family-run enterprises. This column discusses what will happen to the family trust that controls National Amusements if Sumner Redstone passes away. The future of Viacom and CBS is very important because of the amount of influence that this media company has on society and culture.

See Brent Lang, Analysis: Sumner Redstone health lawsuit puts Viacom, CBS in awkward position, The Boston Herald, December 2, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lawsuit By Former Girlfriend Alleges That Sumner Redstone Is Unable To Make Decisions

Sumner redstoneA former girlfriend of billionaire Sumner Redstone has filed a lawsuit alleging that the 92-year-old media mogul is mentally impaired and unable to make decisions. The lawsuit questions his ability to continue to oversee Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., which are the two media companies that Mr. Redstone controls. An attorney for Sumner Redstone has called the lawsuit “meritless” and described it as an “invasion of privacy.” Mr. Redstone is currently estimated to be worth $5.5 billion and much of his wealth is tied up in Viacom and CBS stock. Manuela Herzer was in charge of Redstone's advance healthcare directive until his decision in October to expel her from his home and life. A preliminary hearing on the lawsuit was held Wednesday morning and the sitting judge has set a scheduling conference to be held on Monday.

See Meg James, Billionaire Sumner Redstone unable to make decisions, says lawsuit by ex-girlfriend, The Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2015.

November 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Guardianship, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Superman Case Returns To 9th Circuit

Superman-9The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is once again hearing a case dealing with the rights to the “Superman” franchise.  In 2004, Laura Siegel Larson filed a lawsuit over a rights agreement that her father and franchise co-creator Jerome Siegel had entered into with DC Comics and Warner Bros. in 1938.  The 9th circuit court had held in January 2013 that Warner Bros. owned the Superman character and that a letter from a Siegel family attorney was sufficient to show a valid contract.  The issue on the table at this current hearing concerns whether Larson was entitled to a rescission of the agreement.  The 9th Circuit Court panel that is hearing the case has not given any indication about how they intend to rule. 

See Katherine Proctor, ‘Superman’ Rights Fight Returns to 9th Circuit, Courthouse News Service, November 3, 2015.  

November 5, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Second Season Of Strange Inheritance Will Debut On November 11th

Strange inheritenceFOX Business Network (FBN) has recently announced that the second season of the popular reality series Strange Inheritance will debut on Wednesday, November 11, 2015, with a four episode marathon.  The hit reality series, hosted by Jamie Colby, chronicles unusual inheritance stories.  Strange Inheritance is the highest rated television series that FBN has ever launched.  Towers Productions is producing the popular television series and they are known for producing other programs like “The History Channel’s Gangland, National Geographic’s Inside 9/11, The Weather Channel’s Storm Stories and A&E’s American Justice.”  This new series with feature 26 episodes that will cover a wide range of interesting items. 

See FOX Business Network to Debut Second Season of Hit Primetime Series Strange Inheritance on Wednesday, November 11th, FOX Business, October 28, 2015.

October 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Netflix Being Sued Over ‘Bicycle Thief’

Bicycle thiefNetflix is now involved in an international lawsuit concerning the classic Italian film Bicycle Thief.  Director Vittorio De Sica’s work is considered by many film critics to be one of the greatest films of all time.  The movie has been in the public domain for over three decades because two parties that were involved in a dispute failed to renew the film’s copyright.  The lawsuit that Corinth Films has filed acknowledges the 1985 ruling, but it points out that the judge in that time left open the possibility that a dubbed or subtitled version of the film might still be under copyright.  The plaintiffs are seeking both an injunction and monetary damages from the defendants.

See Eriq Gardner, Netflix Hit With Copyright Lawsuit Over Classic Italian Film ‘Bicycle Thief,’ The Hollywood Reporter, October 22, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention. 

October 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Frank Gifford’s Will Leaves Widow Kathie Lee Gifford Majority Of Estate

GiffordThe majority of NFL legend Frank Gifford’s estate is being left to his widow and Today Show host Kathie Lee Gifford.  According to court papers that were filed in the State of Connecticut Gifford’s estate is estimated to be worth $10 million.  Kathie Lee Gifford was named executor of the estate that she and her two children will receive the majority of.  The late NFL star also left $500,000 to each of his two children from a previous marriage.  A $1 million trust fund was also set up for a third child that Frank Gifford had from a previous marriage that was badly injured in a car accident.  Kathie Lee Gifford continues to live in the couples Connecticut estate with her children. 

See NFL legend Frank Gifford leaves majority of his $10M estate to widow Kathie Lee and their two children and NOT his family from first marriage, The Daily Mail, September 23, 2015.

September 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)