Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Queen’s clothes and jewels: Who inherits her enormous collection?

QueenWhile many have been talking about Queen Elizabeth’s $447 million fortune and how it will be divided amongst members of the Royal family, many are curious what will happen to her large collection of clothing and jewelry. Royal experts believe her wardrobe will be split primarily between Kate Middleton and Queen Consort Camilla, with Middleton having first choice.

The late Queen had a famously colorful sense of style and many of her most memorable outfits will be taken by a royal trust for future display in museums. It is anticipated that her wedding gown, coronation gown, Jubilee ensembles, and coats and hats worn for royal weddings will join the Historic Royal Palaces Collection which also preserves pieces from Queen Victoria and Princess Diana. 

For more information see Andrew Court “The Queen’s clothes and jewels: Who inherits her enormous collection?” New York Post, September 23, 2022.

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

September 24, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company

Yvon ChouinardYvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, has given away the company. Rather than selling or taking it public, Chouinard and his family have transferred their ownership to a specially designed trust and nonprofit organization.

Valued around $3 billion, company’s voting stock was transferred into the Patagonia Purpose Trust, equivalent to two percent of the overall shares. It will be overseen by members of the family and their closest advisors with the intention of running a socially responsible business dedicated to giving away its profits.

The remaining 98 percent of Patagonia was donated to the nonprofit, Holdfast Collective, which will be the recipient of all profits to be put towards battling climate change. The family chose to do so with no charitable deduction, receiving no tax benefit from this move. They did so with the hope of influencing a new form of capitalism.

The company has given away 1 percent of sales to grass roots environmental activists for decades, but as sales have soared, the Chouinard family wanted to make a change. A small group of Patagonia lawyers and board members explored a range of options, which included selling the company, turning it into a cooperative with employees as owners, or becoming a nonprofit. However, none of these options could accomplish all of the Chouinard’s goals until they reached the current solution.

For Mr. Chouinard, it provides a peace of mind about what will happen to the company once he is gone. “I feel a big relief that I’ve put my life in order… For us, this was the ideal solution.”

For more information see David Gelles “Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company” The New York Times, September 14, 2022.

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

September 15, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Queen’s lying-in-state: The symbolism and ceremony

Queen CoffinEarlier today, the Queen’s coffin made the slow journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall in a ceremonial processional as thousands of mourners lined the streets to pay their respects. The Scots Guards and Grenadier Guards played the procession at a slow pace of 75 steps per minute, which is reserved for sombre occasions. The Queen’s family followed behind the coffin on foot. 

The Queen’s closed coffin is draped in the Royal Standard and Imperial State Crown where she will continue to lie ins state for the next five days. Each corner of the platform is guarded in continuous vigil by soldiers from the Royal Household. 

As the first in line to the British Throne, Prince William is now considered a much wealthier man. Because Royal wills are not made public, the public only has an estimation of the Queen’s estate, which is made up of her jewels, art collection, investments, and residences. Much of the family’s fortune is made up of the Crown Estate, which now belongs to King Charles as reigning monarch. A slice of the Crown Estate is returned to the government called the Sovereign Grant.

The Sovereign Grant can only be spent on royal duties, and King Charles nor his heirs are permitted to benefit from the sale of assets in their duchies. Any large sales must be approved by the UK Treasury and all profit must be reinvested back into the estate.

For more information see Anna Cooban  Prince William just inherited a 685-year-old estate worth $1 billion” CNN Business, September 14, 2022 and The Visual Journalism Team “Queen’s lying-in-state: The symbolism and ceremony” BBC, September 14, 2022.

September 14, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 12, 2022

King Charles to take control of royal estate estimated to be worth US$27-billion

Coronation-portait-2000-540a47c46444460e85cde2b175fff48dThe newly appointed King Charles is set to receive a massive inheritance following his mother’s death. However, it may not be as large as some people may think.

Her Majesty leaves behind over $500 million in personal assets to King Charles, however, there is much overlap between her personal assets and what belongs to the Royal Firm. The Queen received income from the taxpayers known as the Sovereign Grant, which originates from an agreement made by King George III to surrender his income from parliament in exchange for a fixed annual payment for the royal family. This covers expenses like official travel, property maintenance, and operating costs of Buckingham Palace.

The Firm also holds nearly $28 billion in real estate assets which cannot be sold. This includes The Crown Estate, Buckingham Palace, The Duchy of Cornwall, the Duchy of Lancaster, Kensington Palace,  and the Crown Estate of Scotland. 

The Queen’s personal assets include her art collection, jewelry, and real estate holdings like Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle. These personal assets will be passed down to King Charles. 

For more information see Kaitlyn Koterbski  Queen Elizabeth II just died. Here’s what will happen to her $500 million fortune” Fortune, September 8, 2022 and David Milstead “King Charles to take control over royal estate estimated to be worth US$27-billion” The Globe and Mail, September 9, 2022.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law) and Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 12, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's Steadfast Monarch, Dies

Coronation-portait-2000-540a47c46444460e85cde2b175fff48dQueen Elizabeth II, the world’s longest-serving head of state who has reigned as queen for more than seven decades, has passed away at age 96.

This means that “Operation London Bridge” is underway, Britain’s not-so-secret plan on how they will proceed with the Queen’s passing. From what is known publicly, the news was first delivered to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary, and Privy Council by the Queen’s private secretary. Next, the news was delivered to the leaders of all the countries that make up the British Commonwealth, while a newsflash was sent to the media. 

The most formal notice occurred at Buckingham Palace itself, where the official notification was pinned to the palace gates. 

The funeral is expected to take place 10 days from now at the Balmoral estate in Scotland, where her coffin will be transported to London by royal train or plane where it will be received by the Prime Minister and senior government officials.

As heir apparent, Charles has automatically inherited the throne and his wife Camilla has adopted the title Queen Consort. At 11 a.m. local time tomorrow, the Accession Council will be convened to formally proclaim him the new Sovereign. 

For more information see Yasmeen Serhan “What Happens When Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II Dies?” TIME, September 8, 2022.

September 8, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 2, 2022

Anne Heche died without will, son files to control estate


Actress Anne Heche, who was declared brain dead on August 11, died as the result of a car crash that had occurred a week prior. She died without a will. 

Her oldest son, Homer Heche Laffoon, has filed papers to control her estate in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday. Laffoon, 20, also lists his younger brother and his mother’s former partner, James Tupper, as heirs. In addition, he filed a petition asking that someone be appointed to represent his  brother’s interest in court. 

The document lists the value of the estate as unknown, which is not uncommon in initial filings.

For more information, seeAnne Heche died without will, son files to control estate,” AOL Entertainment, September 2, 2022.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law), David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney), and Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 2, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Mukesh Ambani prepares to hand a $220 billion empire to his children

Mekush AmbaniMukesh Ambani, Indian billionaire and the 11th richest man in the world, has laid out plans to hand off his business empire to his three children, Akash, Isha and Anant, despite insisting he has no intention to retire.

Ambani told shareholders in his Reliance Industries conglomerate that his three children are currently being mentored by senior leaders in the company. 

Since inheriting an oil business from his father, Ambani has spent the last few years diversifying into tech, renewable energy, and retail, making Reliance Industries worth 17.8 trillion rupees ($224 billion.) 

When the Ambani’s father passed away in 2002, he died intestate, which led to a fight for the control of the empire between Ambani and his younger brother. 

For more information, see Diksha Madhok “Mukesh Ambani prepares to hand a $220 billion empire to his children” CNN, August 30, 2022.

August 31, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2022

'Star Trek' legend's ashes will head to deep space on a Vulcan rocket

Nichelle NicholsLate actor Nichelle Nichols, who is best known for playing Lt. Nyota Uhura in “Star Trek,” will be laid to rest place aboard the Celestis Voyager Memorial Spaceflight where her ashes will be released into space.

The Vulcan Centaur rocket by United Launch Alliance will take flight later this year, launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida and will travel beyond NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into interplanetary deep space.

Other remains that will board the flight include “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, who played various roles in the franchise. James Doohan, who played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the films and Tv series as well. In addition to cremated remains, human genome DNA samples will also be aboard the flight.

The cost to have DNA or loved ones’ remains in a spaceflight container starts at $12,500. Reservations will close on August 31. Ahead of liftoff, Celestis will host a three-day event with astronauts, launch site tours, and an on-site memorial service. All events will be shown via webcast.

For more information:

See Kristen Rogers “‘Star Trek’ legends ashes will head to deep space on a Vulcan rocket” CNN, August 26, 2022.

August 28, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 7, 2022

What are the pros and cons of buying NFTs?

NFTNon-fungible tokens are a market that many are still weary about, or have a hard time understanding. A Financial Times reader wrote in asking about what the pros and cons are getting into the NFT market and how to protect themselves from fraud.

According to Financial Times, buyers are at risk due to the misconception that a NFT is about the artwork. Rather, the NFT is similar to a receipt, demonstrating that the buyer is now the “true” owner of the artwork, which is stored on a third-party server. 

Another issue that arises is whether the person creating and selling the NFT has the right to do so. There have been issues with copyright, along with concern about fraud. One piece of advice is to ask the seller or creator to explain the NFT’s functionality. If they refuse, that is a red flag and reason to walk away.

For more information:

See Lucy Warwich-Ching “Opinion- What are the Pros and Cons of buying NFTs? ” Financial Times, August 1, 2020.

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

August 7, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 5, 2022

Prince’s $156M estate finally settled after 6-year court battle

PrinceThe six year battle over Prince’s estate has now come to an end as a Minnesota judge signed off on a deal. The late singer did not leave behind a will, which required his $156 million estate go through probate, where some estate battles can last up to 10 years or more.

Billboard has reported that six half-siblings of the music icon were named as legal heirs, half of which will sell their shares to New York music company Primary Wave. The other three have hired former advisors to Prince to manage their shares of the estate.

Now that the deal has closed, there are exciting plans in the works, from music exhibitions, films, and Broadway shows. All of his heirs plan to honor Prince and continue to grow his purple legacy. Although he did not leave behind a will, he did leave behind notes and memos on what he would like to happen with his property. This includes a vault of unreleased songs. 

For more information:

See Adrienne Bankert “Prince’s $156M estate finally settled after 6-year court battle” Nextstar Media Wire, August 3, 2022.

August 5, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)