Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ludicrous Last Wishes

Will2 Drafting a will for the following individuals would have been an interesting challenge.

  • Mary Kuhery: Left her husband $2 as long as he promised to spend half on a rope for hanging himself.
  • Samual Bratt: Left $30,000 to his wife who hated smoking on the condition that she smoke five cigars a day.
  • Juan Potoachi: Left 200,000 pesos to a Buenos Aires theater provided his skull be used in Hamlet productions.
  • John Bowman: Ordered that house be maintained and dinner be served daily for his reincarnated family.
  • Donal Russell: Requested that his skin be used for the cover of his poetry books, an unhonored request because it violated rules on disposal of human remains.
  • Harold West: Instructed doctor to drive a stake through his heart to make sure he did not turn into a vampire.

See The 10 strangest will bequests ever, Money Central, July 2, 2009.

Special thanks to Stacy Stockard (JD, Texas Tech, 2009) for bringing these interesting last wishes to my attention.

July 31, 2009 in Estate Administration, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cancer Survivors Can Donate Organs and Blood

Medicine Cancer survivors may elect to be an organ donor.  Upon death, organs will be tested to determine which ones are useable.  Additionally, survivors of cancer, other than leukemia and lymphoma, may also donate blood after remaining cancer-free for one year.  

SeeBob Riter, Cancer Connections: Can we donate blood and organs after cancer?, Ithaca Journal, July 25, 2009. 

July 31, 2009 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jackson's Doctor Under Investigation

Jacksonthree Michael Jackson's autopsy report is expected within the next week.  In the meantime, authorities are focusing their investigations on Jackson's doctor regarding fraudulent prescriptions.  It is alleged that Jackson received prescriptions under multiple aliases.

There's no doubt that AEG, the producer of Jackson's "This Is It" tour, is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the investigations and the autopsy report, as these could directly affect their ability to recover for money they invested in Jackson's canceled tour.  For more information on AEG's stakes, see my previous blog here.

See Steve Friess, Focus on Jackson Doctor Leads to Raids, NY Times, July 28, 2009.

July 30, 2009 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CLE on Medicaid Eligibility in Estate Planning

Cle The National Constitution Center is sponsoring an audio conference CLE entitled Medicaid Eligibility Nuts & Bolts: Strategies in Estate Planning on August 4, 2009.

Here is a summary of the CLE:

Failure to properly secure Medicaid during the estate planning process can result in the loss of crucial benefits for your client. What are the current Medicaid eligibility requirements & how can you protect the long-term needs of your clients? Join us for a 60-minute live audio conference, where you and your colleagues will discover:

  • Keys for Meeting Medicaid Eligibility & Application Requirements
  • Medicaid Planning for the Long-term Care of Your Client
  • What are the Penalty Period Calculations for Gifts under Medicaid?
  • Strategies to Meet the Deficit Reduction Act Requirements

July 30, 2009 in Conferences & CLE, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Astor Update

Astor_brooke I previously blogged about the Astor estate here, here, and here

Recent testimony in the trial of Mrs. Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, suggests that Mr. Marshall instructed the woman in charge of paying Mrs. Astor's bills not to give Mrs. Astor any information about her own finances.  The evidence also suggests that Mr. Marshall was responsible for limiting Mrs. Astor's promised charitable contributions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art while he spent large sums on his own projects.   

Mr. Marshall is accused of taking advantage of his mother's mental condition during her final years of life.

SeeA.G. Sulzberger, Son Limited Brooke Astor's Donations to Charity, Trial Evidence Shows, NY Times, July 27, 2009.

July 30, 2009 in Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wash. Domestic Partnership Law Stalled

Washington A law that would expand the rights of domestic partnerships in Washington state was supposed to take effect this past Sunday but did not because opponents of the law submitted a petition with over 135,000 signatures, hoping to force a public referendum vote on the law in November.

The law would grant domestic partnerships all rights that married couples enjoy, including adoption, child support, and pension rights.  The state already grants inheritance, community property, probate, and trust rights to registered domestic partnerships.

See Rachel La Corte, Wash. gay partnership foes turn in signatures, Fort Worth Star Telegram, July 25, 2009.

July 29, 2009 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Details on Farrah's Will

Faucet Farrah Fawcett's will leaves her million-dollar estate to her son who is currently in prison for drug offenses.  The will instructs her executor to establish a trust with two trustees to make sure that the money is used to help her son recover from a life-long battle with drug addiction. 

See Caroline Graham, Farrah leaves her 3 million pound estate to drug shame son ... but there's nothing for long-term lover Ryan, Mail Online, July 27, 2009.

July 29, 2009 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Will containing "Beat" Author's Estate Challenged 20 Years Later

Kerouac The Sixth Circuit recently ruled that the will of the mother of Jack Kerouac, a Beat generation author, is fake, relying on the mother's lack of mental capacity to write a will and the fact that her signature appears to be forged.

Kerouac predeceased his mother and left his estate to her.  When his mother died in 1973, her will left the estate to Kerouac's third wife and not Kerouac's daughter. In 1994, Kerouac's family first challenged the will as a forgery.  All parties alive when the will was drafted are now dead.

Kerouac's estate should now pass to his surviving nephew.

See Christine Armario, Fla. judge rules will on Kerouac's estate a fake, AP, July 28, 2009. 

Special thanks to Raymond Sheffield (attorney, Sheffield Law Office, San Jose, CA) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 29, 2009 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hidcote Manor Garden Has a Colorful History

Hidcote The famous Hidcote Gardens in England were created and owned by an American man named Lawrence Johnston.  At an elderly age and with a failing mind, he transferred the gardens to the country's National Trust.

The National Trust’s unofficial secretary, James Lees-Milne, recalls the tense moment of transfer in his diaries. In a downstairs room at Hidcote the “conspirators”, Sybil Colefax and himself, held their breath as Johnston held the pen poised and a shadow crossed his face. They felt unable to rely on Johnston’s failing memory and so they told him that the crucial document before him was one of lesser importance. He signed and the trust acquired its first garden.

Robin Lane Fox, A Living Legacy, Financial Times, July 24, 2009.

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

July 28, 2009 in Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Maine Supreme Court Rules Lesbian Partner Adoption Valid

Maine Maine's Supreme Court recently held that a woman's adoption of her lesbian partner is valid and thus, the adopted woman is family for inheritance purposes.  Adoption of Patricia S., 2009 ME 76 (Maine July 23, 2009).  The adoptee, Patricia Spado, was the partner of Olive Watson, the daughter of the late Thomas Watson, Jr., an IBM tycoon. 

The history of the case is as follows:

  • In 1991, Olive Watson adopted her same-sex partner, Patricia Spado.  By doing so, Olive made Patricia her "child" so that she would be able to inherit from her upon Olive's death.
  • In 2004, Olive's father's widow died triggering trusts which provide distributions to Olive's father's grandchildren.  Patricia, as an adopted grandchild, is claiming that she is entitled to a share of the trust.
  • However, the relationship between Olive and Patricia is no longer harmonious and Olive's family is attempting to set aside the adoption by claiming that the proceeding was somehow fraudulent, e.g., that Patricia lied about her state of residence or that she deceived the court about the adoption by not telling the court about her sexual relationship with Olive.
  • This case is receiving national attention because the family consists of the descendants of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of I.B.M.
  • On April 24, 2008, a probate judge granted the family's request to annul the adoption on the residency issue.
  • On appeal, the Maine Supreme Court ruled that residency is not an issue and that the adoption is valid.
  • A Connecticut court will now have to determine if Spade is entitled to any inheritance.

Terry L. Turnipseed (associate professor, Syracuse University) offered the following commentary on the issue:

Yesterday, in a long-running inheritance dispute, the Maine Supreme Court ruled that an adult adoption of a same-sex partner was legitimate.  The dispute mostly surrounded a very large trust set up by one of the founders of IBM for the benefit of his descendants and whether the adoptee-lover of a descendant could gain a share of the trust (worth huge bucks).  The Court said she was indeed part of the trust beneficiary class.

This adoption was one of two case studies I used in my latest article to show why someone might wish to adopt one’s lover or spouse.  States go both ways in allowing the adoption of an adult lover or spouse.  Despite its liberal leanings, for example, New York State, by common law, currently does NOT allow adult adoption of lovers or spouses, though the cases have flip-flopped over time.  Most states do, however

If anyone is interested in knowing more about this quite fascinating subject, please feel free to download my article on SSRN.  The article looks at multiple angles on this story, including the distinct possibility that in about half of the states, the adoptor could be prosecuted for incest resulting in serious jail time (which has occurred on many occasions in many states in the past) and whether Lawrence now protects this behavior.

Terry Turnipseed's article is entitled Scalia's Ship of Revulsion has Sailed: Will Lawrence Protect Adults Who Adopt Lovers to Help Ensure their Inheritance from Incest Prosecution?, 32 Hamline J. Pub. L. & Pol'y 95 (2009).

See also AP, Maine Court Upholds IBM Heir's Adoption of Lesbian Lover, Fox News, July 23, 2009.

July 28, 2009 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)