Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Art and Intestate Estate of Estate of William M. V. Kingsland

Dan Berry, Pieces of Art Collection Were Someone Else’s, NY Times, Oct. 25, 2006, explains the fascinating case of William M. V. Kingsland who "died in early spring in his one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side [of New York City], surrounded by the hundreds of portraits, paintings and miniatures."

It turns out the Mr. Kingsland was really Melvyn Kohn and that some of the art work was stolen.

Now the Federal Bureau of Investigation is digging into the nature of his collection, two auction houses are cleaning up the artistic mess he left behind, and the Office of the Public Administrator for Manhattan is trying to sort out the increasingly muddy Estate of William M. V. Kingsland -- ne Melvyn Kohn.

A central question for everyone, of course, is Mr. Kingsland's role in all this. Was he a thief, a fence, or just an innocent collector of pretty things that happened to be hot?

Mr. Kingsland died without a will, at the age of either 58 or 62.

Special thanks to Prof. Joel C. Dobris of the University of California-Davis for bringing this article to my attention.

October 28, 2006 in Current Events, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Big Fight Looms Over Pryor's Estate

PryorAccording to report on ContactMusic.com entitled Pryor's Kids Fight Widow Over Last Will and Testament (Oct. 27, 2006), Richard Pryor's

children are ganging up on his widow Jennifer in a bid to get what they think is rightfully theirs. * * * Elizabeth Pryor * * * [his] six children - has filed suit against Jennifer, accusing her of forging his last will and testament. Elizabeth is hoping to have a will her father signed shortly before his death, when he was allegedly debilitated by multiple sclerosis, ruled illegal and an earlier one, in which he split his fortune between his kids, reinstated. In the 65-year-old comic's final will, he left the bulk of his estate to his widow, who nursed him through his final years as multiple sclerosis slowly robbed him of his life.

Special thanks to Neil E. Hendershot of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania law firm of Goldberg Katzman, P.C., who also authors the PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog, for bringing this development to my attention.

October 27, 2006 in Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Florida Bar Considering Rules for Attorneys Serving as Executors

Florida The following excerpt is from Daniel Ostrovsky, Fla. Bar Urged to Help Estate Lawyers Avoid Ethics Pitfall, Daily Bus. Rev., Oct. 27, 2006:

Some estate and trust lawyers are urging the Florida Bar to recommend tighter rules governing lawyers who draft a client's will or trust and also serve as the personal representative or trustee for the estate.

Florida Supreme Court rules prohibit lawyers from being named as beneficiaries in the wills they draft for clients. But nothing stops them from being designated as personal representative or trustee. As the personal representative or trustee, an attorney stands to earn significant fees. * * *

If lawyers place themselves in fiduciary roles in wills or trust documents they draft, it is imperative that they set up a legal mechanism that allows for their removal from such positions, said Christopher Boyett, Holland & Knight's South Florida private wealth team leader based in Miami. "It's absolutely awful to set up a situation where you cannot be removed," he said.

Kelley said, however, that resolving this ethical dilemma is not high on the Bar's priority list.

Special thanks to Prof. Paul Caron for bringing this bill to my attention.

October 27, 2006 in Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Who Controls When the Grim Reaper Appears?

Death_1Battles may rage regarding the person with authority to arrange your visit with the Grim Reaper as discussed in Diane E. Hoffmann (Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Director, Law and Health Care Program and Professor of Law, University of Maryland School of Law) & Jack Schwartz (Assistant Attorney General and director of health policy development with the Maryland Attorney General's Office), Who Decides Whether a Patient Lives or Dies?, Trial, Oct. 2006, at 30.

Here is the article's teaser:

Whether patients choose life-sustaining medical treatment or prefer to forgo it, they and their families sometimes clash with health care providers. In resolving these disputes, courts are facing tough questions of life and death.

October 27, 2006 in Articles, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Anatomical Gifts Beyond the Donor's Intent

Biotheft is on the rise as discussed in Lori Andrews (Distinguished Professor of Law; Director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology; and Associate Vice President, Chicago-Kent College of Law), The Battle Over the Body, Trial, Oct. 2006, at 22.

Here is the article's teaser:

Some uses of human tissue, donated before or after death, go beyond the donors’ consent. In the worst abuses, tissue marketers steal and sell body parts. Courts are being asked: Who owns the human body?

October 27, 2006 in Articles, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Anatomical Gifts -- Not Just from the Dead Anymore

The number of anatomical gifts being made by living donors is significant.  Last year, 24.5% of organs used for transplantation came from living donors.  The most commonly donated organs include a kidney (you can live with just one), a slice of liver (your liver will grow back), and a lung lobe (it doesn't regrow but you can still breathe without it).  Other donated organs include a piece of pancreas and a few inches of intestine.

For more information on living donation, see Sally Satel, A living donor let me live on, USA Today, Oct. 25, 2006, at 13A.

October 26, 2006 in Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lower Upper Class vs. Upper Upper Class

According to a recent article by Matt Miller, Revolt of the fairly rich, Fortune, Oct. 25, 2006:

* * * [Y]ou're on your way to seeing why America's income gap is arguably less likely to spark a retro fight between proletarians and capitalists than a war between what I call the "lower upper class" and the ultrarich.

Here's my outlandish theory: that economic resentment at the bottom of the top 1 percent of America's income distribution is the new wild card in public life. Ordinary workers won't rise up against ultras because they take it as given that "the rich get richer."

But the hopes and dreams of today's educated class are based on the idea that market capitalism is a meritocracy. The unreachable success of the superrich shreds those dreams. * * *

Lower uppers are professionals who by dint of schooling, hard work and luck are living better than 99 percent of the humans who have ever walked the planet. They're also people who can't help but notice how many folks with credentials like theirs are living in Gatsby-esque splendor they'll never enjoy.

This stings. If people no smarter or better than you are making ten or 50 or 100 million dollars in a single year while you're working yourself ragged to earn a million or two - or, God forbid, $400,000 - then something must be wrong.

Special thanks to Prof. Joel C. Dobris of the University of California-- Davis for bringing this article to my attention.

October 26, 2006 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bling-Bling and More for Pets

I frequently discuss estate planning for pets on this blog.  You may follow these links for a general article, state statutes, sample forms, and a comprehensive list of resources on how to provide for non-human family members.

The degree to which pet owners are pampering their pets is on the rise is demonstrated in Amanda Ernst, Platinum Pets, Forbes.com, Sept. 29, 2006:

According to the Greenwich, Conn.-based American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, spending on pets has increased by $10 billion in the past five years and will hit an estimated $38.4 billion this year. * * *

Like many pet accessory purveyors, Pittsburgh-based Bark Avenue Jewelers started out designing human items but then saw the potential for a broader market. Bark Avenue makes fine jewelry for pets, in particular, 14-karat gold and silver pendants and necklaces for dogs and cats. Their designs usually feature diamonds, and they sell for $110 to $4,900. Custom designs, which can include the dog's name, additional stones or engraving, cost even more. * * *

Emma Rose dog wedding gowns cost $1,500 and up (but include a veil and garter). Although Blanchette admits that some of her clients throw lavish weddings where their pets marry each other, usually her designs complement an owner's own wedding--particularly since pets sometimes serve as part of the bridal party.

October 26, 2006 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Lewis v. Harris (The NJ Same-Sex Marriage Case)

Yesterday, I reported on the landmark New Jersey case of Lewis v. Harris.

Below is some addition information about the decision and its ramifications from David W. Chen, New Jersey Court Backs Full Rights for Gay Couples, NY Times, Oct. 26, 2006:

All seven justices agreed that the state’s Constitution demands full legal rights for same-sex partners. But its ruling, 4 to 3, revealed a split in how to proceed. The majority said that lawmakers, not the court, should decide whether to call those arrangements a marriage, a civil union or something else. The three dissenters went further, asserting that gay couples, like their heterosexual counterparts, must be allowed to wed.

The New Jersey court did not go as far as Massachusetts, which in 2003 became the first state to permit gay marriage. Instead, it could be considered the new Vermont, which created civil unions for gay couples in 2000, in the politically, legally and culturally charged world of same-sex marriage. * * *

Within minutes of the court’s 3 p.m. announcement, three Democratic Assemblymen, working with Garden State Equality, a gay rights organization, said they would introduce a bill demanding marriage.

But reaction from their fellow legislators was guarded, with some saying privately that civil unions, not marriage, would be the likely result. In a joint statement, the Assembly speaker, Joseph J. Roberts Jr., and the Senate president, Richard J. Codey, both Democrats, called the 180-day deadline “unreasonable” and said, “The only remaining issues now confronting the Legislature are ones of terminology and clarification.”

October 26, 2006 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Jersey Authorizes Same-Sex Unions

Earlier today, October 25, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Here is an excerpt from Lewis v. Harris:

Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this State, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our State Constitution. With this State’s legislative and judicial commitment to eradicating sexual orientation discrimination as our backdrop, we now hold that denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1. To comply with this constitutional mandate, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure, which will provide for, on equal terms, the rights and benefits enjoyed and burdens and obligations borne by married couples. We will not presume that a separate statutory scheme, which uses a title other than marriage, contravenes equal protection principles, so long as the rights and benefits of civil marriage are made equally available to same-sex couples. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to samesex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.

To read about reactions to this opinion, see New Jersey court recognizes right to same-sex unions, CNN.com, Oct. 25, 2006.

October 25, 2006 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)