Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, May 24, 2019

Healthy Dog Euthanized for Burial with Owner in Virginia

SaddogAnita Callop-Thompson, 67, of Chesterfield County, Virginia, was found dead in her home on March 8, according to the police department. Her only remaining pet, a Shih Tzu mix by the name of Emma, was taken to the animal shelter to be held until the executor figured out what her owner had wanted.

Though Anita was "devoted to her four-legged friends," it appeared she did not wanted to be parted from them, even in death. Her will stipulated that her dog be interred with her. The executor of her estate picked Emma up on March 22, had her euthanized and then took the dog to a local pet cremation center. Under Virginia state law a pet cannot be "interred in the same grave, crypt, or niche" as a human, so an urn containing the dog's remains was given to the representative of Anita's estate.

Nothing the executor or the dog's owner did was illegal, though the public may see it as unethical. According to Matthew Liebman, director of litigation at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, pets are considered property, and, "As long as you're not violating cruelty law, you have a right to treat your property however you wish." However, Liebman noted that at four cases pertaining to this issue have ended up in the courts, and judges have decline to enforce such will provisions.

See N'dea Yancey-Bragg, Healthy Dog Euthanized for Burial with Owner in Virginia, USA Today, May 23, 2019.

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

May 24, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Doris Day Rejected Lifetime Achievement Award

DorisdayThe legendary actress and singer Doris Day passed away on May 13 at the age of 97, and it was no surprise to her longtime publicist Charley Cullen Walters that she did clearly stated in her will that she did not want a funeral, memorial, or even a grave marker.

Many around the country took to social media to remember the icon and mention their confusion with the odd situation of a Hollywood star not wanting any time spent memorializing her death. “[It] was something a lot of people were surprised [by] — some people were even upset by it,” Walters explained. “I personally completely understand that having worked with her.”

Walters said Day did not start acting to become famous. “There’s nobody like her anymore. She was truly an egoless person who did not crave the spotlight. In fact, she shied away from it. For her, her acting and her music career were her jobs." In fact, she left Hollywood in 1973 and had no intentions of returning. In fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reportedly offered Day a Lifetime Achievement Award about six times — and all six times she turned them down.

See Stephanie Nolasco & Julius Young, Doris Day Rejected Lifetime Achievement Award About Six Times, says Publicist: 'Our Job was to Protect Her,' Fox News, May 21, 2019.

May 23, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Washington Becomes the First State to Legalize Composting of Humans

DirtWashington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill this Tuesday that legalizes human composting, but the law will not go into effect until May of next year. Human composting speeds up the process in which dead bodies turn into soil. Human composting will be the third option for citizens, combined with traditional burials and cremations.

The bill's sponsor, Senator Jamie Pedersen, said it is an environmentally friendly way of disposing of human remains and that it gives citizens more "freedom to determine for themselves how they'd like their body to be disposed of." The option also will be cheaper, estimating that composting will cost $5,500 compared to burials at $8,000 to $25,000 and cremations ranging up to $6,000.

According to Katrina Spade, the CEO of the human composting company Recompose, a "body is covered in natural materials, like straw or woods chips, and over the process of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it breaks down into soil." The family of the deceased will then received the soil that remains, and will be up to them how they use the soil.

Recently, Luke Perry's family had his body undergo a similar process by burying him in a "mushroom suit."

See Faith Karimi & Amir Vera, Washington Becomes the First State to Legalize Composting of Humans, CNN, May 22, 2019.

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

May 23, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Terry Semel’s Alzheimer’s Battle: Inside the Family War Over the Hollywood Titan’s Care

SemelFormer Warner Brothers and Yahoo executive, Terry Semel, had been on the top of his game for over two decades as he revolutionized the movie business. But last year, at the age of 75, it became public knowledge how the movie titan's family were fighting amongst themselves as Terry could no longer handle his own finances or personal business due to Alzheimer's. His son, Eric Semel, filed a petition for the court to appoint a temporary conservator for his father. Eric claims that his stepmother, Jane, "was in serious breach of her fiduciary duties" after placing Terry in a nursing home two years prior.

Terry, his son claimed, had been reduced to living in a 500-square-foot bedroom at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement community in Woodland Hills, against his expressed wish to remain at his home, a 13,000-square-foot Bel-Air mansion. There were also accusations of Jane refusing to allow Terry to leave the facility, not taking him for regular physician visits, and ordering healthcare staff to change or eliminate certain medications. Jane disputes the claims, saying that Terry “is not the man he once was. He is sometimes confused and sometimes upset, but those are functions of his disease, not anything that anyone has done to him.”

How did a multi-millionaire Hollywood mogul with multiple sumptuous homes in all the posh neighborhoods end up in a two-room unit in a retirement home? Terry was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011, but according to Jane, he had wanted to keep it a secret from his friends and colleagues. Jane largely oversaw decisions about his treatment and care as he declined and after a fall, Jane moved Terry to the retirement home. Eric believes the Bel-Air home should have instead been made appropriate for his father to continue to reside in.

See Stacy Perman, Terry Semel’s Alzheimer’s Battle: Inside the Family War Over the Hollywood Titan’s Care, Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2019.

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

May 22, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Judge says Parents can use Frozen Sperm of Their Deceased West Point Cadet Son

Sbank21-year-old Peter Zhu died in February after suffering injuries from a skiing accident while attending West Point Academy. His parents received court permission to have his sperm retrieved and frozen at the same time he underwent organ donation surgery. It was stored at sperm bank. Last week, a judge finally ruled that Zhu's parents are allowed to use the sperm for reproduction.

Justice Colangelo said he found no restrictions in state or federal law. Few courts have ruled on the issue of posthumous reproduction, and usually it has been based upon the decedent's intent. “At this time, the court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes,” Colangelo wrote. Last year, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued ethical guidelines for fertility centers on posthumous collection of reproductive tissue. The organization said it is justifiable if authorized in writing by the deceased and should only consider requests from the surviving spouse or partner.

Typically, court cases involving posthumous reproduction are filed by surviving spouses, not parents. there have been a few other cases that did not involve the decedent's spouse, however. In 2007, a court in Iowa authorized recovery of a man’s sperm by his parents to donate to his fiancé for future procreative use. In 2009, a Texas woman got a judge’s permission to have her 21-year-old son’s sperm extracted after his death, with the intention of hiring a surrogate mother to bear her a grandchild.

See Associated Press, Judge says Parents can use Frozen Sperm of Their Deceased West Point Cadet Son, Fox News, May 20, 2019.

May 21, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

3 Handwritten Wills Found in Aretha Franklin’s Home

ArethaAretha Franklin died last August of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, and both her lawyer as well as her family stated that she had no will or any type of estate plan in place. However, months after her death, not one but three handwritten wills have been discovered at her home in suburban Detroit. And they were dated - two are from 2010, found in a locked cabinet, and the last is dated 2014, found in a spiral notebook under the seat cushions of a living room couch.

Her longtime attorney, Bennett, filed the wills on Monday and claimed that he was unsure if they were valid under Michigan law. A hearing has been scheduled for June 12. A statement from the estate said two of Franklin's four sons object to the wills. The statement also expressed that a neutral administrator from the University of Michigan, Sabrina Owens, will continue to serve as the administrator.

Kecalf Franklin has filed a separate petition, claiming that Aretha Franklin wanted him to serve as representative of the estate in the 2014 will. He is objecting to plans to sell a piece of land next to his mother’s Oakland County home for $325,000 to pay off a debt to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS filed a claim back in December, asserting that the diva's estate owed $6 million in back taxes.

See Ed White, 3 Handwritten Wills Found in Aretha Franklin’s Home, Associated Press, May 20, 2019.

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

Special thanks to Jim Hartnett, Jr. (Dallas, Texas Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

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

May 21, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Whitney Houston’s Estate Plans a Hologram Tour and a New Album

WhitPat Houston, the sister-in-law and former manager as well as executor of the estate of the late singer Whitney Houston,  has finally decided to allow the estate to engage in business endeavors. She has formed quite a list, too: a touring hologram, a possible Broadway musical, branding deals and an album of unreleased tracks. The estate signed a deal last week with Primary Wave Music Publishing, a boutique music and marketing company in New York. According to the agreement, Primary Wave will acquire 50% of the estate’s assets, which include the singer’s royalties from music and film, merchandising, and the rights to her name and likeness.

But it is not all about the Benjamins - it is also about reviving the star's once sparkling reputation. A documentary last year, “Whitney,” which was authorized by the estate, looked unflinchingly at her downfall, including her very public struggle with drugs. “Before she passed, there was so much negativity around the name; it wasn’t about the music anymore,” Pat Houston said. Larry Mestel, Primary Wave’s founder, put it, “Whitney was America’s sweetheart, and the idea now is to remind people that that is what her legacy is.”

Whitney Houston died in 2011 at the age of 48 in Beverly Hills, California. Pat Houston is the sole executor of her estate, whose beneficiaries include Whitney Houston’s mother, the gospel singer Cissy Houston, and her two brothers, Gary and Michael. Houston had 11 Number 1 hit songs and starred in the 1992 blockbuster movie "The Bodyguard."

See Ben Sisario, Whitney Houston’s Estate Plans a Hologram Tour and a New Album, New York Times, May 20, 2019.

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

May 20, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Obituary for George Taylor Bogert

BogertGeorge Taylor Bogert, originally of Bridgman, Michigan, passed away on May 13 at the age of 98. Bogert was a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School, specializing in estate planning. He became a partner in 1966 at Mayer, Brown and worked there until his retirement in 1988. He was an author on a multi-volume work, Trusts and Trustees, that his father, George G. Bogert, had first written in 1935.

Bogert was a reformer and an activist as a young lawyer, becoming president of Committee for a Greater Chicago in 1961-62, and co-chaired the Committee for Legislative Reform in 1974. He was also active in civic and cultural groups, serving on boards at the Newberry Library and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and was a founder of Music of the Baroque in 1976 and the Rembrandt Chamber Players in 1990.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Adelyn Russell, in 1993. Bogert is survived by his three children - Nicholas (Sally), Amy (Robert Baldwin), and Carroll - four grandchildren, and his former second wife, Rosamary Everard.

See George Taylor Bogert, Chicago Tribune, May 19, 2019.

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Texas Woman Taken Off Life Support Against Family's Wishes – Then a Pro-Life Group Stepped in

TexasDonald Jones and his daughter, Kina, were preparing their final goodbyes this week as their wife and mom, Carolyn Jones, 61, who suffered a stroke in 2017 and has been transferred between different rehabilitation facilities, was about to be taken off life support. She was denied life-saving care by the ethics committee at Memorial Hermann Southwest in Houston after the hospital invoked a law allowing it to deny further care called the Texas 10-day Rule, which is part of  the Texas Advance Directives Act.

Texas Right to Life and other pro-life groups in the state rallied together after the plug was pulled and the hospital refused to give Jones dialysis. The groups transported her Wednesday using a private ambulance to a new hospital, and the woman began receiving dialysis on Thursday. Her daughter said that her mom is in stable condition and looks like herself once again.

"It's kind of crazy that you try to get someone out of a hospital so their life could be saved," Mark Dickson, director and vice president of Right to Life East Texas, who was with Jones and helped to orchestrate her "escape," told Fox News." He believes that the decision by the ethics committee had more to do with the family's financial situation. The Jones' and the pro-life groups want to change the law so that no other family has to endure what they did at the hand of the Texas 10-Day Law.

See Caleb Parke, Texas Woman Taken Off Life Support Against Family's Wishes – Then a Pro-Life Group Stepped in, Fox News, May 17, 2019.

May 18, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 17, 2019

CLE on Estate Planning: New Laws That Make Old Tools Obsolete

CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a teleconference entitled, Estate Planning: New Laws That Make Old Tools Obsolete, on Friday, June 7, 2019, from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM Central. Provided below is a description of the event.

Program Description

Stay on the Cutting Edge of Your Practice

This timely update will review the latest changes in the rules and will offer new tools to adapt to the new regulatory environment. Make certain your clients get the most up-to-date representation - register today!

  • Get an incisive summary of the tax changes and their implications for existing planning tools.
  • Learn which deductions remain and how to obtain them.
  • Identify planning approaches that no longer help your clients.
  • Gain practical pointers for fixing old trusts.

Who Should Attend

This legal update is designed for attorneys. It will also benefit accountants and CPAs, trust and tax professionals, and paralegals.

Course Content

  • Leveraging and Reporting the Step Up in Basis (Recent IRS Guidance)
  • QPRT Replacements
  • Obsolete Small-to-Medium Size Estate Tools and How to Update Them
  • The Sky High Estate/Gift/GST Tax Exemption and the New Approaches it Dictates
  • Old Large Estate Techniques That No Longer Work and What to Replace Them With
  • Charitable Giving after TCJA
  • Using the QBI Deduction: New Opportunities
  • Fixing Other Old Trusts
  • What if? . . . How the Potential Clawback of the New Rules Affects Client Advice

May 17, 2019 in Conferences & CLE, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, New Legislation, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)