Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

David Koch, Billionaire Who Fueled Right-Wing Movement, Dies at 79

KochDavid H. Koch, the billionaire that helped reshape American politics with a particular brand of libertarianism, has died at the age of 79 at him home in Manhattan. His death was announced by his younger brother and business partner Charles Koch, which noted that David Koch had been treated for prostate cancer in 27 years ago.

Koch was one of the word's richest men, with assets of $42.2 billion in 2019 and a 42% stake in the global family enterprise, Koch Industries. He was a known philanthropist with more than $1.2 billion in charitable gifts and the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president in 1980. David and Charles also helped give rise to the Tea Party movement and strengthened the far-right wing of a resurgent Republican Party, though he claimed to have never attended a Tea Party event. The Koch brothers also had personal and political differences with President Donald Trump, primarily restrictive trade and immigration policies as divisive. Charles threatened to withhold the family’s support for Republican candidates who opposed the free-trade, government-shrinking policies at the heart of the Koch political philosophy.

David had palatial homes on Park Avenue in Manhattan and in Southampton, N.Y., Aspen, Colorado, and Palm Beach, Florida. He also kept a yacht in the Mediterranean for summer getaways and rented it out for an astounding $500,000 a week. His friends and acquaintances included Bill and Melinda Gates, Prince Charles and Winston Churchill’s grandson Winston Spencer Churchill.

In his earlier days, his grandiose 6'5" height helped him earn the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's basketball team's single-game scoring record of 41 points. David Hamilton Koch was born in Wichita, Kansas on May 3, 1940, the third of four sons of Fred Chase Koch and the former Mary Clementine Robinson. His brothers are Frederick, seven years older; Charles, five years older, and David’s twin, William. His father died in 1967 and his sons inherited significant stakes in the oil company he had created.

See Robert D. McFadden, David Koch, Billionaire Who Fueled Right-Wing Movement, Dies at 79, New York Times, August 23, 2019.

August 23, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Jeffrey Epstein’s Last-Minute Will Means for Accusers Trying to Recover Money From His Estate

EpsteinThe death of Jeffrey Epstein, millionaire financier indicted on federal sex trafficking charges, stunned the country, especially after he had previously attempted suicide and had been in a special holding cell. But what raised more questions was the discovery that only two days prior to his demise, he had written a will leaving his entire estate - all $577 million of it - to a private pour-over trust. This development could mean that claims against the estate from lawsuits of sexual assault victims will take longer and be much more complex.

“It could take many, many years before anybody gets a penny of this, and it all depends, too, on how much the executors want to fight it,” says Gerry Beyer, a law professor at Texas Tech University and an expert in estate planning, wills and trusts. “The number of unanswered questions is beyond phenomenal.”

Two longtime employees of Epstein were named as executors, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn. The alternative executor is a biotech venture capitalist, Boris Nikolic, who said he was "shocked" to have been named and will forgo the responsibility if he should be called on. The executors will pursue any claims against the estate and ensure that the remaining assets are received by the trust beneficiary, which were not named in the will.

Bridget Crawford, a professor at Pace Law School teaching wills, trusts, and estates, said that, “The bottom line is a probate court in the Virgin Islands isn’t going to allow a dime to go out of that estate—to you, to me, to the trust—until the claims are settled, so this thing is going to be tied up for years. We may never know who the beneficiaries of that trust are, but it doesn’t matter from the perspective of the civil claimants.”

See Katie Reilly, What Jeffrey Epstein’s Last-Minute Will Means for Accusers Trying to Recover Money From His Estate, August 20, 2019.

August 23, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Epstein Probate Documents

EpsteinFor your reading pleasure, here is Jeffrey Epstein's will as well as all of the documents filed in the probate proceedings in the Virgin Islands.

August 21, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Drama Intensifies: Epstein Made a Will and a Trust Days Before He Died

EpsteinJeffrey Epstein, the 66-year-old former hedge-fund manager indicted for federal sex trafficking charges that killed himself this past week, signed a will a mere two days before he hung himself. The will was entered into court on August 15 in the US Virgin Islands where Epstein owned two isles, along with his death certificate from August 11, just a day after his death and before his death was ruled a suicide on August 16.

The will's executors  are two longtime Epstein employees: lawyer Darren Indyke and businessman Richard Kahn. The will both receive $250,000 plus "reasonable expensive" for their work executing the will, which also includes  "investigating potential debts and claims of the Estate and at this time they are unknown.’’ . The document was witnessed by Mariel Colon Miro, a criminal defense attorney who represented drug pin Joaquin “El Chapo’’ Guzman and allegedly gave his wife a cell phone to contact Guzman and Gulnora Tali, who is also an attorney with a private practice.

The tricky part is that Epstein also created a pour-over trust, called the 1953 Trust, that transferred all of his assets - all $578 million - also on August 8th. The trust is a private document that does not name the individual trustees, just saying that the trustees will receive his entire estate. The will names Epstein's only heir as his brother, Mark Epstein. The trust could make collecting damages for lawsuits by sexual assault victims more difficult.

The two documents values his estate similar to the unsuccessful bail request, except that it includes a list of “Aviation Assets, Automobiles and Boats,’’ a collection worth $18,551,700, and an art collection that needs to be appraised.

See Epstein Created Trust With $578 Million Days Before Suicide, MSN, August 20, 2019; see also Priscilla DeGregory & Kate Sheehy, Jeffrey Epstein Signed Will Just Two Days Before Suicide, New York Post, August 19, 2019.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) and Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing these articles to my attention.

August 20, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Man Found Wrapped in Christmas Lights with Dead Cat in Freezer Died of Natural Causes

XmaslightsA North Carolina man who was found dead tangled up in a string of Christmas lights at the bottom of a staircase died of a stroke, according to investigators. The Wake County Sheriff's Office concluded that Fred Oudshorn, 56, was taking down his Christmas lights when he tripped over his kitten, causing him to fall down the stairs and break his back.

The man's son found him alive of August 8th at the bottom of the stairs. He cut him loose and put the dead cat in a freezer to bury later, then gave his father a pillow and blanket as he requested. The following day the son returned and found that him dead in the same place. The son then called 911 and told emergency dispatchers that it appeared that his father had "bled out."

Charges were not expected. A final report from the medical examiner's office was pending.

See Louis Casiano, NC Man Found Wrapped in Christmas Lights with Dead Cat in Freezer Died of Natural Causes, Investigators Say, Fox News, August 19, 2019.

August 20, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein Signs Will 2 Days Before Death

EpsteinThe New York Post claims that it has obtained an amazing document: Jeffrey Epstein's will, signed a mere two days before he was found dead inside of his jail cell awaiting trial for federal sex trafficking charges. The New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Friday the Epstein's death was suicide by hanging.

Documents filed in court in preparation of the criminal trial assess Epstein's worth at $577 million. The will lists his brother, Mark Epstein, as the sole heir of his estate.

See Report: Jeffrey Epstein Signs Will 2 Days Before Death, CNN, August 19, 2019.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 19, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Funerals are now Being Livestreamed

LivestreamThe a person's death can often happen so suddenly, family and friends from different places cannot manage to be at their loved one's funeral. Natalie Levy's mother died tragically from suicide earlier this year, and following Jewish tradition, they had the funeral as soon as possible. But that made it nearly impossible for many to join in on mourning for her mother.

Fortunately, the chapel featured a new amenity: livestreaming the service so others could watch, and they even uploaded a recording of the funeral onto the online obituary. Levy some extended family members her mother had reconnected with late in life were extremely grateful they could participate remotely, as were the half-dozen or so other friends and family members she recalls tuning in live. But it was not only a saving grace for those that could not attend; the recording could be watched by her and her sister to remember all the sweet stories the well-wishers told them about their mother.

Bryant Hightower, president-elect of the National Funeral Directors Association, says that livestreaming funeral services has been around for more than a decade but has just now become more mainstream. The funeral industry is often hesitant to any change, but Hightower says that now approximately 20% of funeral homes now offer the service, much to the delight of clients that are becoming more integrated in the technological lifestyles. Gary Richards, founder of OneRoom, a company that offers livestreaming services to funeral directors in several countries, says that many clients are recent immigrants from countries such as India, Philippines, and Vietnam who want to have long distance family members feel connected to the service.

See Paris Martineau, Now Even Funerals are Being Livestreamed - and Families are Grateful, Wired, July 30, 2019.

Special thanks to Jim Gust (Senior Editor, Merrill Anderson Company) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 18, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 16, 2019

New Zealand Adopts Trust Arbitration in New Trusts Act 2019

NZNew Zealand joins the ranks of other trust-friendly jurisdictions by adopting trust arbitration clauses within their new Trusts Act of 2019. The country recently revised its Arbitration Act of 1996 in May of this year, and followed it up with extending it to trusts.

There are two provisions of the Act that bring about the most positive changes: Section 144 and Section 145. Section 144 deals with unborn or unascertained beneficiaries of a trust that is subject to ADR, and Section 145 allows a court to enforce an arbitration provision in a trust.

See here for more information.

Special thanks to Stacie I. Strong (Manley O. Hudson Professor of Law, University of Missouri) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 16, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Travel, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jeffrey Epstein Spent Time Alone with Young Woman in Prison's Attorney Room

EpsteinA visiting attorney who requested that his name not be mentioned said that he saw Jeffrey Epstein with a young, pretty woman in one of the prison's attorney rooms. The attorney said that he went to the prison on July 30th to visit with his own client, just one day after Epstein was taken off of suicide watch and transferred to the Special Housing Unit, or SHU, when he witnessed the two together.

The woman may have been, as NBC News has reported that Epstein paid members of his team to sit with him in a room for eight hours a day for attorney-client meetings, allowing him to avoid his cell. The prison has 12 attorney rooms, but only 2 for inmates housed in the SHU, meaning Epstein was monopolizing a scarce resource. The Manhattan Correctional Center has not returned calls about Epstein’s apparent access to the interview room. 

Whoever the woman was, it was not Epstein’s main lawyer, Reid Weingarten, nor any other named attorneys who had visited him in the past. The visiting attorney also claims that the mysterious guest did not have any files with her, nor was her attire formal, but rather like she was attending "Sunday brunch." He summed up that the situation made it appear that Epstein was receiving special treatment from the prison staff, saying “I think she was there just to babysit him, and keep him out of his cell, and just keep him company for eight hours a day. Which is not supposed to be the way it works."

See Richard Behar, Jeffrey Epstein Spent Time Alone with Young Woman in Prison's Attorney Room, Forbes, August 15, 2019.

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

August 16, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Jersey’s Medically Assisted Suicide Law Put on Hold

PillsDemocratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an act that allow physician assisted suicide back in April, but a judge has put the law on hold in response to a lawsuit filed by a doctor practicing in the state. Dr. Yosef Glassman’s lawsuit argues “that immediate and irreparable damage will probably result in view of the fact that if its enforcement," and says that the law is an affront to religious doctors. Dr. Glassman is an Orthodox Jew.

The law went into effect earlier this month, but Judge Paul Innes of Superior Court in Mercer County signed the temporary order Wednesday with a hearing set for October. The law requires two doctors to sign off on the request and for the terminally ill patient to be deemed an adult resident of New Jersey who has the mental capacity to make such a decision and voluntarily expresses a wish to die. They must request the medication twice, with one at least in writing and signed by two witnesses, and have a chance to rescind the request. One of the witnesses cannot be a relative nor a beneficiary of the patient's estate.

With the governor's signature, New Jersey joined Maine, Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia that all have similar legislation.

See Mike Catalini, New Jersey’s Medically Assisted Suicide Law Put on Hold, Lubbock Online, August 15, 2019.

August 15, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)