Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Article: Representing a Trustee

Eric P. Hayes and Frederick D. Royal recently published an article entitled, Representing a Trustee, Wills, Trusts, & Estates law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Estate planning

The Author's chapter 22, Representing a Trustee, in UNDERSTANDING AND USING TRUSTS, covers the essential issues in Massachusetts trust law and practice. Two critical areas of trust-related law practice are explored in detail: lawyers acting as trustees and lawyers representing trustees. A number of difficult regulatory and ethical issues for these types of practice are raised and covered in depth.

December 20, 2020 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Electronic Wills Act: Facing the Inevitable

Estate planningSusan N. Gary recently published an article entitled, The Electronic Wills Act: Facing the Inevitable, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. 

In response to increasing legislative activity involving electronic wills, in 2017 the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) appointed the Drafting Committee on Uniform Electronic Wills Act to develop a uniform act providing rules governing the execution of electronic wills. The committee strove to create a statute that would be consistent with existing wills laws but would address differences for wills executed electronically. The committee sought to create rules that would protect the testator from manipulation by others but also from unwanted intestacy.

This article describes, from the perspective of the Reporter, the committee’s process in developing the Electronic Wills Act. The article explains each provision of the Act and describes reasons for decisions made in developing the Act, including decisions to exclude certain ideas from the Act. The article also compares the Act’s provisions with provisions of electronic wills statutes enacted in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Nevada. The article concludes with a few recommendations for enactment.

Given the increasing use of electronic documents and electronic signatures, testators will attempt to execute wills electronically. Although lawyers may prefer wills executed on paper, and paper wills will likely be the norm for many years to come, legislatures should consider enacting statutes that can guide and protect testators who prefer to execute their wills electronically. The Electronic Wills Act provides a thoughtfully developed model for states to use.

December 19, 2020 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 18, 2020

Woman Forced to Return Winning Lottery Ticket Worth Over $4 Million

Beverlie Seltzer, a woman who worked as a shop worker in and Acme store in Pennsylvania, has been forced to hand back a $4.15 million winning lottery ticket. A Pennsylvania court has ruled that it belonged to the supermarket where the ticket was printed. 

Seltzer claimed that the lottery slip was hers, but the court ruled that the ticket was printed by mistake and was the store's property. 

State Judge Mary Jane Bowers stated the Seltzer found the winning ticket after the lottery numbers had been announced. She also said that Seltzer "ran a new lottery ticket through the till, paying $10, but took the winning slip instead and claimed it as her own." 

"According to Penn Live, the disagreement centers on the system governing tickets printed accidentally. Stores must pay the lottery commission for each lottery slip mistakenly produced—but they are also allowed to keep any winnings."

The Judge also stated that there was CCTV footage that showed Seltzer taking the winning ticket instead of leaving it for the store to claim. 

In an earlier hearing, a county judge ruled that Acme was the true owner of the successful ticket, holding that "Acme became the owner of the mistake ticket as soon as it was printed," and that Seltzer was "devoid of merit." 

"Even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Ms Seltzer, no reasonable fact-finder could conclude that Ms Seltzer acted with the good faith belief that she was permitted by law or by Acme's policies to give Acme $10 in exchange for $4,150,000. "

Unfortunately for Seltzer, she will not get to enjoy the winnings of the lottery and even worse, must essentially give the winnings away. 

See Tom Batchelor, Woman Forced to Return Winning Lottery Ticket Worth Over $4 Million, News Week December 16, 2020. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 18, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

5 reasons musicians like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks are selling their song catalogs right now

MusicA trend involving musicians selling their "beloved and extensive song catalogs" has begun to make its stride in the music industry. Bob Dylan recently sold the rights to his entire catalog for an estimated $300 million to $400 million. This has been coined as possibly the biggest acquisition of music publishing rights from a single songwriter. The catalog consists of more than 600 songs and a Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Unlikely many artists, Bob Dylan owned most of his own songwriting copyrights. According to Marketwatch, the only likely competitor in value and influence would be the Beatles. Bob Dylan was nor the first nor the last artist to sell his catalog. 

Last month, Stevie Nicks sold 80% of her rights to her songwriting catalog for a reported $100 million. Also, in August, Imagine Dragons sold their back catalog for over $100 million. 

Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British company that buys hit catalogs spent around $670 million in the months between March 2020 and September 2020 on multiple different catalogs consisting of more than 44,000 songs. 

It appears Dolly Parton is thinking about jumping on the train as well. 

Why the sudden surge? Many believe that "the Spotify effect" has a lot to do with it. Not only are older catalogs being played a lot more due to the easy access, it is not much easier to value music due to streaming revenues. Which also inherently makes these catalogs more profitable.  

Also, under the current tax plan and low interest rates, now may be the best time for artists and musicians to sell their catalogs and maximize profit. The low interest rates are good for investors that may want to invest in catalogs to receive royalties. Further, many musicians are not making as much money as they normally would because COVID-19 has essentially cancelled touring. 

One other great benefit is that musicians will not have to deal with their catalogs being fought over in court. With these clear transfers, it is clear who owns the rights and it is a great weight of their shoulders. 

As an artist, songwriter, or musician, now may be the best time and possibly the only time for awhile in which it is more beneficial than a detriment to sell the rights to the catalogs that lead to such great fame and success. 

See Nicole Lyn Pesce, 5 reasons musicians like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks are selling their song catalogs right now, Market Watch, December 16, 2020. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 18, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Non-Probate Assets, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Britney Spears' father speaks out as she requests to remove him as conservator of her estate

SpearsBritney Spears' conservatorship battle continues as the legal proceedings continue to become more public. At the beginning, the legal proceedings were fairly private, but after a dramatic hearing last month, the topic caught the attention of the public's wandering eye. 

Apparently, Spears was afraid of her father, Jamie Spears, and accused him of making business decisions behind her back. "According to court documents obtained by CNN, Ingham said the pop star would not perform again as long as her father remains in control of her estimated $60 million estate." 

Jamie Spears has claimed that anything he has done has been to protect his daughter from "those with self-serving interests." Jamie Spears was court-appointed in 2008 after a series of personal issues came to light. Most of his decisions have been confined to health and medical decisions. 

In January of 2019, Britney Spears decided to take a break from work and entered into a 30-day voluntary residential treatment facility. 

After Jamie Spears began to experience some health issues of his own, Jodie Montgomery was appointed by the court to oversee the estate. In August of this year, Spears and her attorney filed to remove Jamie Spears as conservator. According to Jamie Spears, he was on good terms with his daughter until then. 

Ingham, Spears' attorney, claimed that Jamie Spears lacked transparency. However, Jamie Spears believes that Ingham is the reason he has not spoken to his daughter since August and many things are being exaggerated as Jamie says he only has his daughter's best interest in mind. 

Tensions continue to rise as litigation is pending. 

See Chloe Melas, Britney Spears' father speaks out as she requests to remove him as conservator of her estate, CNN Entertainment, December 15, 2020. 

December 17, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

MacKenzie Scott gives away $4.2 billion in four months

ScottMacKenzie Scott has been giving away money at an "unprecedented pace" as she has donated more than $4 billion in the last four months after giving away $1.7 billion in gifts in July. 

Scott is the world's 18th richest person and has been outlining her contributions in blog posts. On Tuesday she stated in a blog post that she has been working with her team to "figure out how to give away her fortune faster." This year alone, Scott's wealth grew from $23.6 billion to $60.7 billion as Amazon.com Inc., has surged. 

“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” she wrote in the post on Medium. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

Scott donations and gifts this year are close to $6 billion, which is one one of the highest annual contributions by a living individual, according to Melissa Berman, CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. 

See Sophie Alexander and Ben Steverman, MacKenzie Scott gives away $4.2 billion in four months, Bloomberg Wealth, December 15, 2020. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

December 17, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

More Than 100 Accusers Seek Restitution From Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate

"A victim compensation fund has already paid out millions of dollars, with more claims expected to be approved in the coming weeks." 

The victim compensation fund was set up to compensate victims of Jeffrey Epstein's sexual exploitation. The fund has already received more than 100 claims and paid out tens of millions of dollars. 

Apparently, this high number of claims has already exceeded the expectations. However, the fund is still continuing to accept requests until the end of March. Jordana Feldman, administrator for the fund, did not say how many claims have been paid out, but someone familiar with the fund stated that over $30 million has been paid to accusers thus far. 

The fund has been taking claims since July, a little less than a year after Epstein was found dead in his jail cell following his arrest on federal sex-trafficking charges. Epstein had put nearly $600 million into a trust, which caused many to fear that his victims would not see just compensation for years to come. 

However, the estate's executors agreed to establish the fund, opening a door for accuser's to seek compensation, even though whom had already settled with Epstein following his 2008 conviction. 

See Matthew Goldstein, More Than 100 Accusers Seek Restitution From Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate, N.Y. Times, December 8, 2020. 

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

December 16, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sorting Out Tony Hsieh’s Estate, From LLCs to Thousands of Sticky Notes

HsiehTony Hsieh, who recently passed away due to complications from smoke inhalation following a house fire, died intestate which has left his family scrambling. 

Apparently, inside Hsieh's mansion was found thousands of color-coded sticky notes plastered on the walls/ Some of them represented financial commitments that Hsieh had made to employees, friends, and local businesses. 

It appears that Hsieh wrote these notes himself in the months leading to his death and may function as informal contracts. This adds a complicating piece of the puzzle to his estate which was already complex and difficult due to the lack of a will. The estate is said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Within the estate plan is about $70 million worth of real estate he recently purchased, which are spread across about a dozen LLCs; some of Hsieh's friends continue to live in these houses and condos. Another asset is a $30 million "angel" fund planned for tech startups and other businesses in Park City.

According to Hsieh's friends and others that were close to him, Hsieh was struggling with alcohol and drug abuse in the months prior to his death, which only adds more complexity to handling the estate. With the many sticky notes and writings left around Hsieh's home. it is unclear whether or not he was of sound mind when he recorded these writings or when he made recent investment decisions or employment agreements. 

See Kristen Grind & Katherine Sayre, Sorting Out Tony Hsieh’s Estate, From LLCs to Thousands of Sticky Notes, Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2020. 

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

December 16, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Suffolk seeks visitors to teach Trusts & Estates and Property


Suffolk University Law School in Boston invites applications for two visiting faculty positions for the upcoming 2021-2022 academic school year.  We are seeking full-year coverage for the following courses: (i) first-year Property and (ii) Trusts and Estates, though candidates seeking one-semester visits are also welcome to apply.  Applications should be received by Friday, January 29, 2021 (although applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled) and must include a letter detailing desire and qualifications to teach Property and/or Trusts and Estates, as well as a curriculum vitae.  Applications should be addressed to Professor Christopher Gibson (cgibson@suffolk.edu) and uploaded to the Suffolk University website via Jobvite. https://jobs.jobvite.com/suffolkuniversity/job/o3H9efwR

Suffolk University is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer. The University is dedicated to the goal of building a diverse and inclusive faculty and staff that reflect who contribute to the robust exchange of ideas on campus, and who are committed to teaching and working in a diverse environment. We strongly encourage applications from groups historically marginalized or underrepresented because of race/color, gender, religious creed, disability, national origin, veteran status or LGBTQ status. The search committee is especially interested in candidates who, through their research, teaching, service and/or experience, will contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community.  Candidates are encouraged to describe previous activities mentoring members of underrepresented groups, describe how diversity issues have been or will be brought into courses, or how their scholarship contributes to building and supporting inclusive communities.

Suffolk University does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religious creed, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, age, genetic information, or status as a veteran in admission to, access to, treatment in, or employment in its programs, activities, or employment.

December 16, 2020 in Faculty Positions -- Visiting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Florida woman stored dead man's body in trash can to collect Social Security: sheriff

Estate planningA 49-year-old Florida woman, known as Michelle Haney has been charged with storing a dead man's body in a trash can in order to collect his Social Security benefits. 

Sheriff Rick Wells stated, "It's a sad day when you treat someone like a piece of trash when he deserved a proper burial and deserved to have his family with him to mourn." 

Haney said that she found Leonard dead in her home in July, but she never contacted the authorities. An arrest affidavit says that Haney retrieved the body from a closet and stuffed it in a trash can weeks after the death. Haney then transported the body to a neighbor's when she moved out. 

The neighbor alerted authorities when he found Leonard's body while emptying his trash. The affidavit also alleges that Haney admitted to cashing in Leonard's $1,200 monthly Social Security benefits following his death. 

See Robert Gearty, Florida woman stored dead man's body in trash can to collect Social Security: sheriff, Fox News, December 12, 2020. 


December 15, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)