Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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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)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Parks and Recreation Episode Estate Planning Focus

Parks and recA recent episode of NBC's Parks & Recreation featured a storyline about several characters writing wills. Check it out and spot the many legal issues. Click here to watch the full episode.

See Parks and Recreation, NBC, 2013.

Special thanks to Elizabeth R. Carter (Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center) for bringing this to my attention.

November 6, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Estate of Jack Kirby Denied Appeal


As I have previously discussed, the children of Jack Kirby recently sued Marvel, claiming their father died without receiving proper payment for his work.  A federal judge upheld Marvel’s copyright claims and the 2nd Circuit affirmed, finding Kirby was an “employee for hire” who worked within the scope of Marvel’s assignments.

The New York City federal Court of Appeals has denied the estate of Jack Kirby a panel rehearing or, in the alternative, a rehearing en banc.

See Hugh Armitage, Jack Kirby Estate Denied Marvel Copyright Appeal, Digital Spy, Oct. 23, 2013.

October 25, 2013 in Film, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Estate Planning Lessons From Breaking Bad

BreakingbadFor those who have yet to see the Breaking Bad finale stop reading here. During the show, Walter White is trying to protect his assets. He tries to accomplish this goal by breaking into his former partner's home to give him money to create a trust for Walter's son. David Gair authored an article entitled "Breaking Bad and Tax Planning" that delves into the creation of the trust. He points out that the cash's source is illegal, had it not been illegal then White and his wife could have provided their child more than $10 million in tax free and even more with other estate planning tools.  

See Kelly Humke, Estate Planning Featured in the Series Finale of Breaking Bad, Wealth Strategies, Oct. 4, 2013. 

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

October 6, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Casey Kasem's Family, Friends Stage Protest


A group of family and friends held a protest outside of Casey Kasem’s Holmby Hills estate in an effort to see the ailing radio legend.

Kasem is 81 and deteriorating due to Parkinson’s disease.  His kids, brother, and friends say his wife, Jean, has been preventing them from seeing Kasem for many months.  They say she won’t answer phone calls and tells them to go away when they show up at her door.  They hope this protest gets the word out so they might say goodbye to a loved one.

See George Pennacchio, Casey Kasem’s Family Feud: Wife Won’t Let Kids, Friends See Him?, KABC, Oct. 1, 2013.

October 3, 2013 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

BBC’s Heir Hunters


For those interested in how missing or unknown heirs are discovered, check out Heir Hunters on BBC One. 

This program, already in its seventh series, follows the work of heir hunters, who are “probate detectives looking for distant relatives of people who have died without making a will.”

Special thanks to Dee Wallander (J.D./M.B.A. Candidate, Texas Tech University School of Law, Class of 2015) for bringing this program to my attention.

September 4, 2013 in Intestate Succession, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)