Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Michael Jackson Estate Settles Dispute Over Alleged $1M Stolen Property

Michael-jacksonMichael Jackson’s Estate has been in dispute with Jeffré Phillips over alleged property theft from the King of Pop's Carolwood estate after he died in 2009. 

Mr. Phillips was engaged to one of Jackson’s siblings in 2009 and was accused of swiping items during the chaos surrounding Mr. Jackson’s death. He was accused of taking framed record awards, a doll, laptops, iPods, hard drives, DVDs, and CDs containing non-public performances and concert footage, a photo album, and handwritten notes with song lyrics.

Mr. Phillips has voluntarily returned the property to the Estate, and all outstanding disputes between the parties have been settled confidentially. 

For more information see TMZ Editor “Michael Jackson Estate Settles Dispute Over Alleged $1M Stolen Property” TMZ, October 4, 2023.

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

October 5, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 29, 2023

Dianne Feinstein: 'Pioneering' Senator dies aged 90

Feinstein-DianneDianne Feinstein, the California Senator who served for more than three decades and was the oldest member of Congress, has died at age 90. Her office released a statement that she passed away overnight at her home in Washington, DC.

Feinstein had recently faced questions of alleged cognitive issues and was admitted to the hospital in April after a “minor fall.” The Senator also made headlines recently for mounting family tensions over her late husband’s estate.

Born in 1933, Feinstein grew up in San Francisco and graduated from Stanford University. Her first public role was being elected to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors in 1969. She later became San Francisco’s first female mayor and was elected to the Senate in 1992. She was the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee, the first woman to sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the first female chair of the Senate Rules Committee. President Biden released a statement earlier this morning calling Feinstein a “pioneering American,” “a true trailblazer,” and “a cherished friend.”

Feinstein is survived by a daughter, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Katherine Feinstein.

For more information see Bernd Debusmann Jr “Dianne Feinstein: ‘Pioneering’ Senator dies aged 90” BBC, September 29, 2023.

September 29, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 28, 2023

A Tale of Family Intrigue and Inheritance

CardinDespite Pierre Cardin's extensive accomplishments and brand success, the fashion designer never discussed the future of his company before he died in 2020, leaving the situation uncertain. His failure to plan for his company's future has resulted in a complex legal battle involving 22 of his grandnieces and grandnephews. Cardin has no direct heirs. His longtime partner, André Oliver, passed away in 1993.

On one side of the legal battle is Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin, a 52-year-old Italian who is the grandson of Cardin's older brother, Erminio. Rodrigo adopted the Cardin name in 2018 and has worked for Cardin for over two decades. He insists that he is the rightful heir. Since 2020, he has held the position of general manager of the holding company Pierre Cardin Evolution and serves as the artistic director of the Pierre Cardin brand. 

Meanwhile, on the other side, 19 cousins from six family branches aim to sell the company and receive financial gains. Among them, four cousins, namely Patricia, Laurence, Régine, and Marie-Christine, the granddaughters of Pierre Cardin's sister, Giovanna Cardin, have taken legal action by filing civil lawsuits and criminal complaints against Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin. They have accused him of various crimes, including elder abuse and forgery, although Basilicati-Cardin denies these allegations.

For more information see Dana Thomas “A Tale of Family Intrigue and Inheritance” The New York Times, September 25, 2023.

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

September 28, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 22, 2023

Lachlan Murdoch will be fully in charge of Fox. Will viewers notice?

MurdochRupert Murdoch will hand over control of his media empire to his son Lachlan in November. Fox News viewers can expect little change. Lachlan has been in charge of the parent company since 2019, and his leadership style appears to align closely with his father's. 

Despite some speculation about a new direction, it seems that the next generation of Murdochs will maintain the network's conservative stance, according to former Fox executive Preston Padden. Rupert Murdoch has described his son Lachlan as a passionate and principled leader in a note to Fox employees, emphasizing that Lachlan shares the same commitment to freedom as his late grandfather, Keith Murdoch, who initiated the family's media business.

For more information see Jeremy Barr “Lachlan Murdoch will be fully in charge of Fox. Will viewerers notice?” The Washington Post, September 22, 2023.

September 22, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 18, 2023

Hunter Biden Sues IRS for Unauthorized Disclosure of Taxpayer Information

Estate planningHunter Biden has filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming that the agency unlawfully violated his taxpayer information. In the lawsuit, Biden alleges that I.R.S. whistleblowers disclosed his confidential taxpayer details in media interviews and congressional testimony. 

The lawsuit highlights the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of taxpayer information, a significant responsibility for IRS and Department of Justice Tax Division employees. Title 26, U.S.C. § 6103 establishes the confidentiality of tax returns and return information, prohibiting their disclosure and inspection by authorized individuals only. The IRS emphasizes this confidentiality right in its "The Taxpayer Bill of Rights." 

For more information see Jeffrey H. Skatoff “Hunter Biden Sues IRS for Unauthorized Disclosure of Taxpayer Information” Probate Stars, September 18, 2023.

Special thanks to Jeffrey Skatoff (Attorney, Florida) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 18, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Microsoft Publishes Garbled AI Article Calling Tragically Deceased NBA Player "Useless"

Estate planningFormer NBA player Brandon Hunter, who played for the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, unexpectedly passed away earlier this week. He had a brief NBA career spanning two seasons, during which he participated in 67 games. Following his basketball career, he pursued coaching, real estate, and sports management roles. When the news broke earlier this week, a seemingly AI-generated article called Hunter “useless” in its headline. 

The article had many issues, including telling readers that Hunter “handed away” and “performed in 67 video games.” Condemnation for the piece was swift. “AI should not be writing obituaries… pay your damn writers,” wrote one reader. This is not the first time Microsoft has posted AI-generated content on MSN, previously making headlines for a travel guide to Ottowa, Canada, which was deleted after criticism was posted.

For more information see Victor Tangermann “Microsoft Pulishes Garbled AI Article Calling Tragically Deceased NBA Player ‘Useless’” Futurism, September 14, 2023.

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

September 17, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Feinstein Battle Over Her Late Husband’s Fortune Heads to Mediation

Dianne feinsteinSenator Dianne Feinstein and her daughter are in a legal dispute with her late husband's family over managing his extensive estate. A San Francisco judge has ordered both sides to attempt mediation to resolve the case, following a series of contentious legal exchanges over the summer. 

Senator Feinstein and her daughter are involved in three separate lawsuits: one to sell a valuable vacation home, another to secure funds from the estate for medical expenses, and the third to appoint Katherine Feinstein as a trustee of the estate.

For more information see Tim Arango “Feinstein Battle Over Her Late Husband’s Fortune Heads to Mediation” The New York Times, September 11, 2023.

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

September 14, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

What happens if a presidential candidate cannot take office due to death or incapacitation before January 2025?

I_Voted_Sticker_1The top candidates in the upcoming United States Presidential Election are President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, making them the oldest presidential candidates the U.S. has seen since Ronald Reagan ran for his second term, leaving many to wonder what happens if a presidential candidate cannot take office due to death or incapacitation before inauguration day?

If such event occurs before the election, state election officials, typically led by the secretary of state, have the discretion to modify filing deadlines in cases of significant events like death or complete incapacitation. This allows new candidates to enter the ballot for spring primaries if necessary. 

If the candidate dies between the party convention and election day, the national parties have the authority, and procedures in place, to select an alternative nominee if the original nominee becomes unable to run.

If a candidate dies or becomes incapacitated after Election Day, the electoral college process outlined in the Constitution comes into play. While electors typically remain behind the scenes, they become noteworthy if they choose to vote for someone not on their slate. Some states have laws requiring electors to vote for the election winner, while others do not. If the winning candidate passes away or becomes unable to serve, it's likely that state legislatures would swiftly amend laws to ensure the electors' votes are counted.

For more information see Elaine Kamarck “What happens if a presidential candidate cannot take office due to death or incapacitation before January 2025?” Brookings, September 7, 2023.

Special thanks to Deborah Matthews (Virginia Estate Planning Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 12, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Legendary musician Jimmy Buffett dead at 76: 'Lived his life like a song til the very last breath'

JBuffettLegendary singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffet died peacefully on Friday at age 76. He has been suffering from an undisclosed health issue since 2022 and was surrounded by his family, friends, music, and dogs, according to the statement posted on his website and social media accounts. "He lived his life like a song till the very last breath and will be missed beyond measure by so many," the statement read. Buffet's health issues were made public after he began struggling last year and was forced to cancel several shows. 

Buffet earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern Mississippi before moving to Nashville to release his first country album in 1970. After a trip to Key West in 1971, Buffet's musical focus changed from outlaw country to Calypso folk-pop. 

In addition to his musical pursuits, Buffet opened the first Margaritaville store in Key West in 1985, which grew into a Margaritaville Cafe two years later. Margaritaville grew into a business empire that included apparel, resorts, restaurants, beer, casinos, a radio station, and retirement communities. In 2017, Forbes estimated that the Margaritaville global lifestyle brand had more than $4.8 billion in development and $1.5 billion in annual sales. Buffet's net worth is listed as $1 billion as of this summer.

Buffet is survived by his wife, Jane Slagsvol, and his three children, Savannah, Sarah, and Cameron.

For more information see Landon Mion “Legendary musician Jimmy Buffet dead at 76: ‘Lived his life like a song til the very last breath’” Fox News, September 2, 2023.

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

September 2, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 1, 2023

'The Blind Side' lawsuit spotlights tricky areas of family law

OherThe high-profile legal drama between Michael Oher and the Tuohy family continues to unfold after Oher claimed he believed to be Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy’s adopted son, only to find out he was under a court-imposed conservatorship instead. Oher further alleges that the Tuohy’s gained financial advantage due to the setup.

This week, in a piece for The Conversation, Professor Naomi Cahn, a trust and estates and family law professor at the University of Virginia, breaks down the difference between a conservatorship and adoption and Oher’s options moving forward.

For more information see Naomi Cahn “‘The Blind Side’ lawsuit spotlights tricky areas of family law” The Conversation, September 1, 2023.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (University of Virginia) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 1, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)