Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Death Cafes Growing In Popularity As People Become More Willing To Discuss Dying

Death cafePublic attitudes about dying are starting to shift as a unique venue known as “Death Cafes” are rising in popularity.  This article explores the growing phenomenon of people meeting in casual groups to discuss many of the issues that surround death.  The intention is to create a warm thoughtful atmosphere where people can feel comfortable discussing these difficult topics.  The death café concept originated in London but has since spread to as many as 31 different countries.  Overcoming the fear of death is an important issue for many baby boomers who are facing the prospect of growing old.  This article also discusses some of the online services that are offered to give people a chance to discuss these issues. 

See Harriet Sherwood, Anyone for tea and sympathy?  Death cafes embrace last taboo, The Guardian, August 29, 2015.  

September 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Elderly Man’s Will Being Examined Amid Capital Murder Investigation

PattersonAccording to investigators elderly man Martin Knell’s murder on January 28 may have involved a dispute with one of the two suspects over decedents will.  Martin “Mark” Knell Jr., the son of the 96-year-old decedent, has filed a probate case after learning that his father had drafted a new will about a month before his passing.  Melissa Monica Patterson was named both the executor and a major beneficiary of Knell’s estate in the new will even though she only knew the decedent for 90 days.  The circumstances are suspicious because Patterson has ties to Palacios family which has influence in Hidalgo County.  The son is making the claim that his father may have lacked testamentary capacity when he drafted the new will. 

See Ashly Custer, Will of elderly man under review amid capital murder investigation, The Valley Central, August 28, 2015.

September 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seventh Circuit Court Holds That Estate Cannot Set Aside IRS Settlement

IrsThe Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recently held that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) did not abuse its discretion when it denied an estate’s motion to vacate a settlement.  In M. Billhartz, Exr., an estate wanted to set aside an agreement it reached with the IRS about the deductibility of assets that were paid to a decedent’s children.  The children alleged in their suit that the amount they were entitled to was greater than the “waiver agreement” from five years before.  The estate claimed it was entitled to deductions under Internal Revenue Code Section 2053(a)(3) for additional payments made to the children and moved for the case to be restored to the original docket.  The opinion of the Seventh Circuit Court can be read here

See Wolters Kluwer, Estate Could Not Set Aside Settlement, Resource Full Law, August 31, 2015.

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

September 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 31, 2015

First Wife Of Marlon Brando Denied Request To Be Buried Next To Son

Marlon brandoThe late wife of actor Marlon Brando has been denied her request to be buried in the plot next to her oldest son.  Instead Anna Kashfi ended up being buried in the plot above her son, which means that they will be “head to head.”  Kashfi passed away at the age of 80 after a battle with breast and colon cancer.  The reason that she could not be buried in the plot next to her son Christian was due to the fact that the plot had been previously purchased by Christian’s former wife Mary.  When representatives of Kashfi’s estate contacted Mary she refused to give up the plot.  This article goes into detail describing the tumultuous backstory that lead up to this recent dispute. 

See Daniel Bates, Marlon Brando’s first wife denied her dying wish to be buried next to their killer eldest child - by the son's first wife who has reserved the plot and refuses to give it up, The Daily Mail, August 31, 2015.

August 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Canada, Bequests In A Will May Be Voided If Against Public Policy

CanadaWhen Harry Robert McCorkill died, he left a bequest in his will to an organization that was devoted to the cause of white supremacy. As a result, his sister challenged the gift by invoking the Canadian rule that gifts in a will that are against public policy may be voided. In McCorkill v. Streed, the court held that the gift was against public policy and voided the gift. The court stated that "against public policy" was to be construed as embodying the morals of the time and may be read as prohibiting gifts against the interest of society. Based on the prevailing anti-discrimination attitude, embodied in Canadian law and constitution, the gift was void because it provided funds to an organization whose sole aim was discriminatory.

See Stan Rule, Gifts Void Against Public Policy: McCorkill Estate, Rule of Law Blog, August 23, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to me attention.

August 31, 2015 in New Cases, Weblogs, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article On The Mutual Wills Doctrine

WillsYing Khai Liew (University College London - Faculty of Laws) recently published an article entitled, Explaining the Mutual Wills Doctrine, Current Issues in Succession Law (April 2016, Forthcoming). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

Although the mutual wills doctrine has been part of English law since the 18th century, it remains difficult precisely to define its operation, the legal principles involved, and its underlying rationale(s). These difficulties have caused many to doubt the usefulness and coherency of the doctrine. Recently, the Law Commission announced its plan commence a review of the law concerning wills in late 2015, with one of the four key areas to be reviewed being mutual wills. The review is said to ‘aim to reduce the likelihood of wills being challenged after death, and the incidence of litigation. Such litigation is expensive, can divide families and is a cause of great stress for the bereaved.’ This is reminiscent of Mummery LJ’s comments in Olins v Walters that the doctrine ‘continues to be a source of contention for the families of those who have invoked it. The likelihood is that in future even fewer people will opt for such an arrangement and even more will be warned against the risks involved.’ It is therefore a real possibility that the Law Commission might suggest abolishing the mutual wills doctrine completely.

This chapter proposes a new way of understanding the mutual wills doctrine which is consistent with orthodox principles. It distinguishes between what will be labelled ‘qualified interest’ and ‘absolute interest’ situations, each applying to a different type of mutual wills agreement. From this renewed understanding, it will be seen that the doctrine is underpinned by two distinct rationales which also form the basis of equity’s intervention in other areas. This indicates that the appropriate way of understanding the mutual wills doctrine is not to treat it in isolation, but in view of its relationship with other doctrines which give rise to constructive trusts such as the doctrine in Rochefoucauld v Boustead, secret trusts, and proprietary estoppel.

August 31, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Robin Williams’ Bike Collection Currently An Issue In Estate Dispute

Robin williamsI have previously discussed the battle over Robin Williams’ estate.  There is currently a legal battle brewing over a large bicycle collection that the late actor owned.  William’s was an avid biker and used to frequent bike shops on a regular basis.  The two disputing sides are expected to meet next week over this issue and many other unresolved conflicts.  Another ongoing dispute involves a disagreement over how much money should be placed into a reserve fund to maintain Susan Williams in the Tiburon home that she shared with her late husband. 

See Robin Williams’ Bikes Are An Issue In Estate Fight, ABC News, August 28, 2015.

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

August 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Woman Convicted Of Stealing From Granddaughters Inheritance

MilwaukeeA Milwaukee woman has been convicted for stealing over $50,000 from her granddaughter’s inheritance.  Prosecutors say that Betty J. Coleman lied about her past criminal history in order to be named as her granddaughter’s legal guardian.  The young granddaughter had been the beneficiary of a $50,000 inheritance from Coleman’s deceased husband.  When Coleman was appointed guardian in April 2013 and later received the inheritance money in May she was told to invest $20,000 of it and to use the rest for her granddaughter’s benefit.  She ended up spending all of the money within five months of receiving it.  On Friday Betty J. Coleman was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison for misappropriating her granddaughters inheritance.

See Bruce Vielmetti, Woman sentenced after blowing granddaughter’s inheritance, Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, August 28, 2015.

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

August 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Estate Of Ernie Banks Faces New Challenge As Creditor Steps Forward

Article PictureAs I have previously discussed, the estate of Ernie Banks has been embroiled in legal challenges from his estranged wife who was left out of the will. Now, the estate faces more trouble as a long time friend of Banks has stepped forward claiming he owed her $80,000 from his time as an executive at her families moving company. Shirley Marx claims that she had loaned Banks the money over the years as the Hall of Famer faced cash flow problems, however, no documentation exist that proves the debt. Between this new claim and the potential for a long legal battle over the will, some worry that the estate will be exhausted of assets before a resolution is reached. Let us hope that this case does not end in Dickensian fashion

See Jason Meisner, Longtime friend of Ernie Banks wants his estate to repay $80,000 debt, Chicago Tribune, August 28, 2015.

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

August 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article On The Effect--And Non-Effect--Of Revocation On A Will Post-Divorce

Article PictureMolly Brimmer (J.D. Candidate, 2016, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law) recently published an article entitled, When an ex can take it all: the effect--and non-effect--of revocation on a will post-divorce, 74 Md. L. Rev. 969-1000 (2015). Provided below is an excerpt from the article:

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws’ (now known as the Uniform Law Commission) decision to promulgate the UPC’s revocation upon divorce statute resolved a systematic inconsistency in American estate jurisprudence. The inconsistent state court decisions regarding revocation upon divorce contrasted sharply with the Uniform Law Commission’s executive goal of uniformity. This Comment will delve into this inconsistency, with the hope that such an analysis will exemplify why state courts should adopt the UPC’s recommended revocation upon divorce statute.  Part I.A will discuss the general purpose and development of the UPC. Part I.B will then focus specifically on the rationale and objective principles underlying Section 2-804. The Comment then conducts a jurisdictional case study, with each subsequent section addressing a different type of statutory scheme.  Part I.C.1 will discuss jurisdictions whose revocation upon divorce statutes mirror that of the UPC. Part I.C.2 will examine jurisdictions that have failed to adopt a specific revocation upon divorce statute and instead rely on general revocation statutes and a couple’s property settlement agreements when probating the testator’s will. Part I.C.3 will evaluate jurisdictions that refuse to revoke any will without an explicit revocation statute. Part I.C.4 will discuss the rare occurrence in which a jurisdiction will totally and explicitly abolish revocation upon any change in marital status. Part I.D will conclude the Background Section with an edifying case study analysis of the Maryland Court of Appeals case, Nichols v. Suiter.

August 29, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)