Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Carrie Fisher's Death Triggers Biggest Insurance Payout Ever

Insurance payoutDisney is set to receive $50 million due to Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher’s untimely death after taking out an insurance policy that covered her fulfillment of a three-film contract. Fisher has a major role in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VIII, which she completed before her death. However, Fisher was also supposed to have a starring role in Star Wars Episode IX, which would be released in 2019. This film will now have to be substantially rewritten in the wake of the actress’s death. The insurance payout for Fisher’s inability to fulfill her role is expected to be the market’s largest single personal accident insurance claim. 

See Glen Keogh, Carrie Fisher’s Death Will Trigger Biggest EVER Personal Accident Insurance Claim After Disney Took Out $50MILLION Policy in Case She Couldn’t Finish Star Wars Films, Daily Mail, December 30, 2016. 


December 31, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Digital Assets Legislation

PeacMatthew W. Costello recently published an Article entitled, The “PEAC” of Digital Estate Legislation in the United States: Should State “Like” That?, 49 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 429 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This Note explores the legal implications of recent digital assets legislation, suggested model legislation, and the future for digital estate planning generally. First, this Note delineates the current state of federal law governing digital assets. Additionally, this Note considers the consequences of Terms of Service (TOS) contracts in relation to the preservation of and access to digital account contents. Next, this Note tracks the history and development of state legislation concerning postmortem digital assets. Further, this Note surveys the development and implementation of suggested model legislation.

This Note argues that federal and state law can coexist in this arena, as recent state law is complementary, not incompatible, with federal laws governing digital communications. Further, this Note emphasizes the unique privacy concerns relevant to digital asset management, arguing sweeping state legislation that categorically divulges private account contents neglects the important privacy interests associated with such digital property. Additionally, this Note highlights the importance of deferring to the decedent account holder's intent when determining whether fiduciary access or control over account content is appropriate after death. This Note discusses areas of strength in current model legislation, namely the Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act (PEAC), which provides a useful example for states seeking to adopt comprehensive legislation recognizing the intimate and private nature of online property, even after death. This Note concludes suggesting a court ruling is necessary to clarify the law concerning postmortem digital assets.


December 31, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Prince's Trust Sells Four of His Properties

Paisley park2The trust controlling Prince’s estate has sold four of his properties—one house and three plots of land. All four properties are located in his hometown of Chanhassen, Minnesota, where they have a combined value of $1.34 million. Two of his properties, Paisley Park and his Turks and Caicos home, are not currently for sale. While these properties are in the final stages of sale, potential heirs are still waiting on the judge to decide who will inherit the late singer’s $300 million estate.  

See Jennifer Smith, Four of Prince’s Houses Are Sold as His Relatives Continue to Fight Over Who Will Inherit His $300m Estate, Daily Mail, December 30, 2016. 


December 30, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Debbie Reynolds's Death Brings Huge Climbs in Movie Ranks

Amazon best sellerDebbie Reynolds’s movies are making their way back to the top of the chart after her death. On platforms like Amazon and iTunes, her best known flicks, such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” which is sitting at number one on Amazon’s best sellers list, are jumping in ranks. “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Tammy and the Bachelor” are both in the top four best selling DVDs on Amazon. On iTunes, Reynolds’s films, most of which are at least twenty years old, have been moved to the “New” and “Noteworthy” lists since her passing. Also, YouTube says that searches for clips from “Singin’ in the Rain” have increased by 1000% within one day of her death.    

See Debbie Reynolds Singin’ in the Gains: Death Causes Spike in Sales, Searches, TMZ, December 29, 2016. 


December 30, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

The First Family of Custom Coffins

Custom coffinsWhy should creative expression end when we have passed on? Anang Kwei of Ghana and his children are determined not to let it end because it is part of what makes us human. Kwei and his family are helping the families of the deceased celebrate their loved ones with custom-made, handcrafted coffins. The deceased’s family can choose whatever they want to represent an aspect of their loved one’s life, and the Kwei family will deliver a fantasy coffin. The family is making custom coffins all the way from colorful fish to cars or tools.  

See Great Big Story, Meet the First Family of Custom Coffins, YouTube, December 28, 2016. 


December 30, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can You Really Die from a Broken Heart?

Broken heartDebbie Reynolds died from a stroke one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, passed. Given the situation, is it possible to die from a broken heart? Indeed, broken heart syndrome is real. The condition is also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy. This condition can happen in response to acute major stressors in life and people who have never had heart disease. Broken heart syndrome occurs when a part of the heart becomes enlarged and cannot pump well, often leaving the rest of the heart to work harder. This enlargement can cause irregular heartbeat, or the heart can become too weak to pump blood throughout the body, ultimately leading to death. Additionally, a 2014 study reported that a person’s risk for heart attack or stroke increases in the following month after a loved one passes.   

See Debbie Reynolds’ Death: Can You Die of a Broken Heart?, Fox News, December 30, 2016. 


December 30, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Article on Strategies for Selling Your Business

Selling your businessMatthew S. Bart recently published an Article entitled, The Power of Preparation: Help Your Client Develop Strategies in Advance of Selling His Business, Tr. & Est. (Dec. 2016). Provided below is a summary of the Article:

A client’s decision to sell his business may be the single most important decision he makes in his lifetime and requires him to apply the same level of care that made him successful in business to planning for life after the sale is complete. The decision made in the immediate years before the sale is completed can have a tremendous impact on the wealth created and preserved for future generations. 

Selling a business results in unique challenges for the owners of privately held businesses. The sale of the business itself requires extensive and effective planning. Assembling the right team of advisors—attorneys, accountants and investment bankers—helps to ensure that the owners receive the most value for the business that they built. The sale of the business also converts wealth formerly held within the business to liquid assets, often to a level beyond the owner’s imagination. That “new” wealth needs to be structured and managed to meet the goals and needs of the owners for both their own lifetimes and for future generations. 

Here are some steps you can help your clients take to prepare for the sale of their business to maximize the value transferred to future generations, provide protection from creditors and minimize estate taxes. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this kind of planning, as each situation has different facts and circumstances. I’ve come up with the case study below to provide insight into the different tools you can discuss with your clients. 


December 29, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Princess Leia Is Worth Much More After Death

Princess leiaCarrie Fisher’s name and Princess Leia fame will be worth light years more after her death than during her life. Heritage Auctions reports that Fisher’s death has boosted Star Wars merchandise sales by as much as three times last week’s numbers. On the day Fisher died, for instance, a signed photo of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker sold for $1,500; in 2002, a signed picture of Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker sold for $156. Additionally, according to eBay, 1,280 Fisher memorabilia items have been sold since her Tuesday passing, which is a huge jump from the twenty-five or so that were selling before her death.  

See Carrie Fisher: Princess Leia’s Worth 3x More, TMZ, December 29, 2016. 


December 29, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Retain Your Clients' Heirs

Retain heirsGeneration shifting and wealth transferring can allow for major business building opportunities. Not only does expertise in this area help ensure your clients retain more wealth, but it also can help your firm retain your clients’ heirs. A study showed that attracting and retaining heirs is one of the most important means for advisors’ pursuit of greater profitability. With the baby boomers earmarking much of their wealth for future generations, it is important that these transfers of wealth are managed with care through an effective estate plan. Subsequently, a holistic approach that is successful for every family member will be a way for financial advisors to attract and retain these heirs. An estate plans that helps your clients accumulate more wealth and safeguards it for future generations will certainly be an important business strategy. 

See Laurence Greenberg, Inheriting Heirs Will Secure Your Firm’s Future, LifeHealthPro, December 28, 2016. 

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


December 29, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blogging discussion to be held at AALS annual meeting

AALSThe 2017 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools is being held next week in San Francisco. Among the hundreds of presentations will be a program on Building and Sustaining Academic Communities Through Blogging and Other Tools on Thursday, January 5, 2017 8:30 - 10:15 a.m.     

This panel focuses on the work that a number of scholars have done to build community in their respective fields. Such community building does not fit neatly into traditional scholarship, teaching, or service categories and therefore often is not explicitly rewarded as part of the tenure process. But for those willing to do the work, creating community can be both personally rewarding and a good fit for those seeking to be engaged scholars.

The participants all have different goals and methods when it comes to community building, but there are commonalities. Establishing a strong blog and web presence have been core parts of the community building work in a number of fields. Participants who have worked on building online communities will discuss everything from how they started and the choices they make as far as blogging coverage to what are the best and most challenging parts of blogging. In other fields, much of the community building work takes the form of conference organizing and participants will discuss their successes and failures when it comes to this form of public service. They will also discuss the amount of effort conferences require as well as ideas to lessen the planning burden.

  • Moderator: Louis J. Sirico, Jr., Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
  • Benjamin Barros, University of Toledo College of Law
  • Gerry W. Beyer, Texas Tech University School of Law
  • Megan Boyd, Georgia State University College of Law
  • Rashmi Dyal-Chand, Northeastern University School of Law
  • Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez, St. Thomas University School of Law
  • James B. Levy, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law
  • Ezra E.S. Rosser, American University, Washington College of Law
  • Nancy J. Soonpaa, Texas Tech University School of Law
  • Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School - Chicago

The presentation will be in the Continental Ballroom 6, Ballroom Level, Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

December 29, 2016 in Conferences & CLE | Permalink | Comments (0)