Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Celebrities Should Be Careful When Planning Their Estates

Oscar-statueThis article discusses some of the unique financial situations that wealthy celebrities often find themselves in.  Often times drafting a simple will is not enough when there are vast amounts of assets that are at stake in a probate dispute.  This article provides a few examples of famous deceased celebrities that had bitter estate battles because they did not adequately plan for their death.  In many circumstance celebrities will fail to accurately measure the value of their name and likeness.  There are also many examples of young celebrities who make bad estate planning decisions because they came into wealth so suddenly.  Some of the estate planning tools that young newly rich celebrities should consider using include things like revocable trusts and having prenuptial agreements if they happen to get married.  

See Anthony Greco, Woe The Weak-Willed Celebrity, Private Wealth, September 11, 2015.

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

September 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Netflix Original Series: Bloodline

TVThe new Netflix original series Bloodline is a dramatic thriller that follows a deeply community rooted family in the Florida Keys, on the edge of the return of the black sheep son, which threatens to expose dark family secrets.  The show includes estate planning themes, such as plot themes revolving around the patriarch's will and questions of testamentary capacity. The trailer can be viewed here.

Special thanks to Eloisa C. Rodriguez-Dod (Florida International University College of Law) for bringing this to my attention.

April 9, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Hawkins Tractor Inheritance

TractorI have previously discussed Fox Business Network’s new show, “Strange Inheritance,” which shadows families and the strange heirlooms they collect and leave behind. 

Last week, the show featured a family from Le Mars, Iowa with a large tractor collection.  The Hawkins collection contains more than 100 tractors from a variety of makes and models, with only some having been restored.  Host of the show, Jamie Colby, found the story fascinating because, “this family tried so hard to make sure they did with the tractors what their loved one most likely would have wanted—selling some and keeping the rest for the next generation.  After Dave [Hawkins’] death, they found a list he had left, letting them know which tractors meant the most to him.  That gave them much needed peace of mind.”

See Jeff DeYoung, TV Show Explores Iowa Family Inheritance, Iowa Farmer Today, March 27, 2015. 

April 5, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)