Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, March 2, 2015

Court Upholds Finding that Herman Hemsley Had Testamentary Capacity

HemsleyActor Herman Alexander Hemsley passed away in 2011, and named his business manager Flora Isela Enchinton Bernal as independent executrix and his sole beneficiary. A Texas appeals court recently heard a challenge to the probate court's admittance of his will and authorizing issuance of letters testamentary to Bernal.

In In re Estate of Sherman Alexander Hemsley, the El Paso Court of Appeals upheld the probate court's orders, finding that the evidence heard on Hemsley's testamentary capacity was legally sufficient. The court further found that the appellant's right to challenge the disposition of Hemsley's remains by Bernal was extinguished when she acted on the order and had him buried.

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

March 2, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Leonard Nimoy Passes Away

Leonard_NimoyAt 83 years  of age, beloved actor Leonard Nimoy has passed away. The actor well known for his role as Star Treks' Mr. Spock passed away Friday from lung disease. Nimoy is survived by his wife and two children. His estate is a estimated to be valued at $45 million.

See William Rameau, Leonard Nimoy Net Worth, Heirs: Star Trek's Mr. Spock Survived by Wife Susan, CHildren Julie and Adam, Breathe Cast, Feb. 27, 2015.

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

March 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Financial Troubles for Alzheimer's Patients

Still alice

The film “Still Alice” portrays a happily married woman with three children and who is a renowned linguistics professor. When Alice begins to forget words, a devastating diagnosis reveals she has Alzheimer’s.  Alice, played by Julianne Moore, struggles with the disease as she never knows what will vanish from her memory and when.

This movie is a great vessel to explore many of the financial issues that families must address when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other disease that causes cognitive impairment.  Fortunately for Alice, both she and her husband are affluent and can afford specialized treatments.  Yet, many other families are not so lucky. 

With a client who seems to be slipping but lives alone and sees family members infrequently, financial advisors suggest arranging family meetings.  Other times, just asking how a client is doing brings the problem out in the open.  “Sometimes when you bring this up with clients, it’s a relief to them.” 

Once the family enters the picture, legal documents can be tended to and the family’s ability to manage Alzheimer’s care can be assessed.  Furthermore, it is important to have an up-to-date estate plan with a durable power of attorney and relevant health care documents.

See Paul Sullivan, In Alzheimer’s Cases, Financial Ruin and Abuse Are Always Lurking, The New York Times, Jan. 30, 2015.

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

February 1, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

'Strange Inheritance' TV Show to Air This Month

TVA new show is coming to the Fox Business Network called Strange Inheritance. The show will premiere Jan. 26, 2015 and air Mondays through Thursdays with two 30-minute episodes airing back to back and new episodes on Mondays and Thursdays. Host Jamie Colby will explore the emotional and financial circumstances of families after receiving unusual inheritances, including one family's 900-acre bug museum.

See, FBN to Debut New Show 'Strange Inheritance' in January, Fox Business, Dec. 18, 2014.

Special thanks to Frank Urbanic (Candidate for Doctor of Jurisprudence 2015, Texas Tech University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 11, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lessons Learned From James Gandolfini’s Will

James GandolfiniJames Gandolfini’s  will made headlines for the tax implications that his estate planning decisions created. The Soprano’s star left gifts to his sister and daughter totaling 80% of his estate, which was then taxed at 55% in “death taxes.” Here are six lessons learned from Gandolfini’s will:

  1. Without the public nature of probate, the media craze could not have happened.
  2. A revocable trust would have been an inexpensive way to keep the process private
  3. It is not the end of the world if Gandolfini did pay the reportedly high amount of taxes, if his estate went to who he wanted it to.
  4. There are ways to limit the tax bill, including how Gandolfini left his son $7 million through a life insurance trust.
  5. It is important to adjust provisions for the age that children will recieve inherited funds based on how responsible and mature they are over time.
  6. It is important to remember that foreign property may be subject to foreign laws, such as Gandolfini’s Italian property.

See Robert Wood, 6 Estate Planning Lessons from James Gandolfini’s Will, Forbes, July 20, 2014.

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

July 23, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Non-Probate Assets, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Political Commentary on the Estate Tax With a Dash of Humor

John OliverJohn Oliver addressed the politically hot topic of income inequality through his combination of news, commentary, and comedy on ‘Last Week Tonight’ on Sunday. At about minute seven of the segment he directly addressed the estate tax.

See Patrick Kevin Day, John Oliver Tackles Income Inequality on ‘Last Week Tonight’, Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2014.

Special thanks to Michael Booth (Chicago Estate Planning Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 18, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Tax, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Leonard Freeman’s Estate Wins Court Battle

Hawaii 5-OAs I have previously discussed, George Litto, the former talent agent for Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman, sued Freeman’s estate and CBS for excluding him from negotiations for the television reboot of the series. In March, a settlement agreement seemed to have been reached, but subsequently fell through. Now, the matter has been resolved in favor of CBS and Freeman’s estate. A judge granted judgment for CBS and the family earlier this month.

See  Dominic Patten, CBS Says “Mahalo” After Network & ‘Hawaii Five-O’ Creator’s Estate Win in $100M Suit, Deadline, May 22, 2014.

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

May 26, 2014 in Current Affairs, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Retirement Advice From “House of Cards”

House of cards

While “House of Cards” may be a fictional television show, it provides sound advice for real-life retirement planning.  Frank Underwood, a power hungry House Majority Whip, and his ambitious wife, Claire Underwood, demonstrate some lessons that everyone can learn from:

  • Hire Someone to Investigate Your Background. Dig deep to find areas where you could be vulnerable.  Uncover your “financial blind spots” that could hurt your retirement such as increased medical costs and poor market returns. 
  • Move Quickly. Procrastination can be a problem when it comes to retirement planning.  Ask yourself what financial steps you need to take that you have not yet made.  Consider the missing pieces of your estate plan, and get started on them before tomorrow.
  • Teamwork. Everyone can learn from Frank and Claire’s partnership.  They are honest with each other, appreciate each other’s strength’s and weaknesses, and work as a team.  Start by setting goals as a couple and set up regular financial meetings.
  • Meet the Right People. Watch for conflicts of interest.  Ensure your financial advisor is making recommendations based on what is best for you.   
  • Make Smart Decisions. As you near retirement, the financial decisions you make become increasingly important.  Any misstep could seriously harm you.  This does not mean you should not make any move, just get a second opinion from an unbiased source.

See Nancy Anderson, 5 Ruthless Retirement Tips From House of Cards, Forbes, May 21, 2014.

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

May 22, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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)