Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, May 2, 2014

Game of Thrones Estate Planning Lessons


A common saying on Game of Thrones is “Valar Morghulis, “ or “All men must die.”  And the deaths on Game of Thrones are abundant.  All of these sudden deaths provide a practical guide to estate planning do’s and don’ts.  Here are eight estate planning lessons (SPOILER ALERT: proceed at your own risk): 

  1. Take inventory of assets.  Daenerys Targaryen has collected some very valuable assets while conquering the East, including her dragons.  Her assets are worth an estimated $227 million.
  2. Say no to DIY wills.  It’s too easy to make a big, costly mistake when attempting to write your own will as evidenced by King Robert Baratheon.
  3. Don’t just write a will.  Consider developing and funding trusts for children to ensure they are taken care of.  Sansa and Arya Stark may have been better off.
  4. Assign successor trustees.  Following Ned Stark’s death, his wife Catelyn was in charge of the children.  But her death means no one is watching out for the children.
  5. Talk about the future.   Ned Stark made sure his children knew where they stood while he was alive.  Because Jon Snow knew what was in store, he now has a place within the ranks of the Night’s Watch.
  6. Customize your plan.  Forcing someone down a predesigned planning path that doesn’t fit their individual circumstances can have disastrous results.  Lord Tywin Lannister’s refusal to acknowledge his son Tyrion as the rightful heir to Casterly Rock could result in utter chaos.
  7. Keep plans up to date.  Estate plans should be constantly updated in case laws change or people unexpectedly die.  Just ask Joffrey.
  8. Listen to experts.  Estate planning can get complicated and you should know when to contact a specialist.  Joffrey and Robert Baratheon probably wished they had listened to their small councils.

See Megan Leonhardt & David H. Lenok, Eight Estate Planning Lessons from Game of Thrones, Wealth Management, Apr. 28, 2014. 

May 2, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Revelations from Rooney's Will


Mickey Rooney’s passing is just as drama-filled as his life.  Here are six revelations we learned from his will:

  1. Rooney signed his will on March 11, 2014, which is less than a month before he died of natural causes.
  2. Rooney and his eighth wife, Jan, separated in 2012.  Rooney wrote in his will that Jan “forever waived the rights” to a stake in his estate by agreeing to remain as the beneficiary for his pension and Social Security distribution.
  3. Stepson Mark Rooney is the sole beneficiary of the $18,000 estate.
  4. Rooney blamed the small size of his estate on elder abuse and money mismanagement by his other stepson, Christopher Aber.  His steady stream of divorces also drained his funds.
  5. Rooney made sure to note that Jan, Aber, and any of his heirs were in no circumstances to serve as executor.
  6. Rooney had eight living children and one son who predeceased him.  He disinherited them all, believing they were all in better financial situations than himself.

See Suzy Byrne, 6 Revelations from Mickey Rooney’s Will, Yahoo Celebrity, Apr. 9, 2014.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 10, 2014 in Film, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rooney Leaves Family Out of Will


A few weeks before his death at age 93, Mickey Rooney signed his last will leaving his modest $18,000 estate to his stepson/caretaker while leaving out his eight surviving children and his estranged wife.

His family is now fighting over where to bury Rooney.  A judge has ruled that no one can claim Rooney’s body from the mortuary until the fight is resolved.   

See Mickey Rooney Cuts Family Out of Will, The Guardian, Apr. 8, 2014; see also Victoria Kim & Harriet Ryan, Rooney’s Death Stirs Dissension, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 8, 2014.

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

April 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Film, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 4, 2014

No Inheritance for Anderson Cooper


Anderson Cooper will not be receiving an inheritance from his 90-year-old mother Gloria Vanderbilt, a railroad heiress-turned-successful jeans designer worth a reported $200 million.  And Cooper is okay with this, saying “I don't believe in inheriting money. I think it's an initiative sucker. I think it's a curse."  Not that Cooper is in need of the money.  He makes a reported $11 million a year with his CNN contract.

See Aly Weisman, Anderson Cooper Won’t Inherit a Dime from Mom Gloria Vanderbilt’s $200 Million Fortune, Business Insider, Apr. 1, 2014.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 4, 2014 in Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Estate of “Hawaii Five-O” Creator Settles $100 Million Lawsuit


The estate of Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman has come to a settlement with Freeman’s former talent agent George Litto.

No details of the settlement have been provided, but Litto was seeking $10 million in punitive damages as well as a chunk of profits from the 2010 reboot version of the Hawaii cop show.  Litto says he and Freeman's widow came to an agreement giving him significant rights in connection with future versions of Hawaii Five-O.  Litto claimed CBS and Leonard’s heirs wrongly excluded him from the negotiations for the reboot. 

See Dominic Patten, CBS & ‘Hawaii Five-O’ Creator’s Estate Settle $100M Lawsuit with Talent Agent, Deadline, March 12, 2014.

March 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscar Winners Teach Us 5 Estate Planning Tips

OscarsOscar winners Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Taylor, Heath Ledger, Frank Sinatra, and Marlon Brando have taught us some important estate planning lessons.

  1. Philip Seymour Hoffman's estate highlights the fact that estate planning is not "one-size fits all". Hoffman used creativity in his will to fulfill his goals. Hoffman included a provision in his will that indicated his preference that his son be raised in Manhattan, Chicago, or San Francisco. 
  2. Elizabeth Taylor's estate was an example of a well thought out comprehensive estate plan. There has been no probate filing, and no court battles.
  3. Heath Ledger should have updated his will. It is important for everyone to update their wills and trusts after significant events like marriage, divorce, new business ventures, and the birth of a child.
  4. Frank Sinatra's estate taught people one strategy to prevent future potential conflict. Sinatra’s will included an "in terrorem clause" which was effective in preventing will challenges.
  5. Marlon Brando made many verbal promises during his lifetime, but did not reflect those promises in his will. Keep in that clearer estate planning documents could have avoided these legal battles.


See Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Oscar Winners Teach Five Lessons on Estate Planning, Forbes, Mar. 2, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) and Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.))  for bringing this article to my attention.

March 3, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Show Called “Strange Inheritance”


Fox Business Network is currently developing a new program set to debut this summer.

Hosted by Tracy Byrnes, Strange Inheritance will explore “real-life stories of unconventional inheritances.”  Fox Business hopes this eccentric premise will present a compelling option for a business audience after hours.

See Dunstan Prial, Fox Business to Air New Primetime Program, ‘Strange Inheritance’, Fox Business, Feb. 12, 2014.

February 15, 2014 in Intestate Succession, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Legal Eagles Have Downton Abbey On Their Radar

DowntonIt is not often that a television series delves into the intricacies of property and inheritance rights, but that is exactly what the fourth season of Downton Abbey has begun to do. The PBS series has millions of viewers, which have recently been introduced to medieval property concepts like fee tail. A "Recent Developments" session at the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning gave the television drama a shout out.

See Deborah L. Jacobs, Downton Abbey's Plot Twists Spur Lawyers' Debates, Forbes, Jan. 23, 2014.

January 28, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Global TV Show Highlights the Difficulty with Old British Inheritance Law


AbbeyFor hundreds of years, the British had passed down estates and titles from father to son. This precedent was changed when the royal pregnancy was announced last year before knowing the sex of the child. Because of the change to British law, a group of female aristocrats began advocating to apply the principle more broadly. The global TV show Downtown Abbey highlights the old British law and the problems with it when the lord of the estate only has female heirs.

See Ari Shapirio The 'Downton Abbey Law' Would Let British Women Inherit Titles, Jan. 15, 2014.

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

January 17, 2014 in Television, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Documentary About Last Days of the Dying

ShowtimeShowtime is producing a documentary series called 'Time of Death' that chronicles the last days of a group of Americans with terminal diseases. Death is all over television shows, but the shows do not cover the process of dying or how it impacts loved ones. The series is produced by Magical Elves and claims the show  "unflinching, intimate look at remarkable people facing their own mortality.". Magical Elves also produced "Top Chef" and "Project Runway".  The co- executive producer explains the show will not only impact viewers but also individuals suffering from terminal illness. "It turns out when you put a camera on someone who is dying, they keep going. It keeps them looking forward, it gives them a distraction from the inevitable," Miggi Hood, a co-executive producer, explains.

See 'Time of Death, ' Showtime Documentary Series, Peers Into The Last Days of the Dying, Huffington Post, Nov. 1, 2013.

Special thanks to Rania Combs (Attorney at Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 8, 2013 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)