Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Priscilla Presley has strong case in dispute over control of daughter’s estate

LMPresleyLast week, Priscilla Presley challenged her daughter’s will, raising concerns of a family rift and messy legal battle over the estate. Priscilla released a statement denying a family rift. Legal experts have spoken out, saying that Priscilla has a strong claim.

Many factors have been cited, including the suggestion that Lisa Marie’s signature was forged and that her name is misspelled in the document. Additionally, the original trust set out the process for amendments, which include delivery of the amendment to be made to Priscilla, which was not carried out while Lisa Marie was alive.

At this time, it is unclear if Riley Keough, Lisa Marie’s eldest daughter, has an interest in serving as co-trustee on the estate with her grandmother.

For more information see Anousha Sakoui “Priscilla Presley has strong case in dispute over control of daughter’s estate”, The Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2023.

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

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

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Vermont man accused of shooting WWII hero grandfather, murdering mom at sea demands grand jury minutes

Marthas-vineyard-charter-fishing-menemshaNathan Carman, who is facing federal charges for allegedly killing his mother, Linda Carman, during a fishing trip to obtain the family fortune, is demanding grand jury minutes according to the latest court filing. Carman is also accused of killing his grandfather, John Chakalos, in 2013 as part of a scheme to claim money from the family trust. At this time, he has not been charged with any crimes related to his grandfather’s death.

A demand for grand jury minutes is rare due to the secret nature of grand jury proceedings. A federal judge has given prosecutors a week to respond to the request.

For more information see Michael Ruiz “Vernont man accused of shooting WWII hero grandfather, murdering mom at sea demands grand jury minutes”, Fox News, January 30, 2023.

Special thanks to Jery Martin Jr. (Student at University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 4, 2023 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2023

ESG Investing After the DOL Rule on “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights”

Estate planningLate last year, the Department of Labor under President Biden promulgated a new rule on “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights,” superseding the Department’s 2020 rule. Reporting on the matter has suggested that the new Biden Rule encourages ESG investing, in contrast to the previous Trump Rule, which was reported as hostile towards ESG investing. These reports are incorrect.

Max M. Schanzenbach (Northwestern Pritzker School of Law) and Robert H. Sitkoff (Harvard Law School) have published a Summary of the Rule to clarify the effect of the new Rule and what exactly has changed since 2020.

For more information see Max M. Schanzenbach and Robert H. Sitkoff “ESG Investing After the DOL Rule on 'Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights’”, Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, February 2, 2023.

February 3, 2023 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Murdoch family trust: how the scions could battle for control

MurdochRupert Murdoch, known as one of the most powerful men in the news, spent most of his career facing the threat to his control of News Corp in the form of his family. His sisters, three Australian women who have spent their lives away from the limelight, long could out-vote Murdoch. While they found a business arrangement that worked for the siblings, Murdoch eventually saw the advantage of buying them out in the 1990s. Now, a similar dilemma of succession faces the next generation of the family.  

Murdoch’s eldest son, Lachlan, is now chief executive of Fox Corporation and executive co-chair of News Corp and finds himself in the same position his father was in decades earlier. Younger brother, James Murdoch, was overlooked for the succession of Fox News and is now largely estranged from his brother. At this time, it is uncertain where the loyalties of their sisters, Prudence MacLeod and Elisabeth Murdoch, fall.

Sources close to the family have told reporters that after Rupert passes, his shares will be dispersed among the four adult children. They believe there could be a scenario where it becomes three against one, with Lachlan closing control over the family business. This could be largely due to differences in political opinions.

The Murdoch trusts have spanned nine decades and five generations. Patriarch, Keith Murdoch, established a high standard for complexity and tax efficiency by establishing eight inter vivid settlements for his children in the 1930s. Rupert had embraced this same structure with his own descendants. The core assets of the trust remain consistent, involving a family farm near Melbourne, Australia, Rupert’s art collection, and shares in Murdoch holding companies.

In Rupert’s 1999 divorce from his second wife, Anna, the divorce settlement established unbreakable terms to hand down Murdoch’s wealth as Anna fought for the assets to be put in a trust for Murdoch’s four eldest children. In 2006, Murdoch’s two youngest daughters were taken into the trust, but as beneficiaries, and carry no votes. 

For more information see Alex Barker “The Murdoch family trust: how the scions could battle for control”, Financial Times, January 8, 2023.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) and Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 2, 2023 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Article: A Survey of Preferences for Estate Distribution at Death Part 2: Children and Other Beneficiaries

Yair Listokin (Yale Law School) and John Morley (Yale Law School) recently published a paper, A Survey of Preference for Estate Distribution at Death Part 2: Children and Other Beneficiaries, 2023. Provided below is an abstract to the Paper:

This is the second of two papers presenting the results of a nationally representative survey of 9,000 American adults in which we asked people how they want to distribute their property when they die. In the first paper, we focused on gifts to spouses and partners. In this second paper, we focus on gifts to children, parents, siblings, and other beneficiaries. We offer several important findings. First, respondents depart to a surprising degree from the pattern of lineal familial descent favored by intestacy law. Respondents give much less to their parents than the law of intestacy currently provides and much more to siblings, extended relatives, and friends. Second, people are surprisingly generous to their stepchildren. Our respondents prefer stepchildren over every type of family member other than their spouses and their own children. This result starkly contrasts with state intestacy law, which almost never provides stepchildren anything. Taken together, our results suggest unexpectedly strong preferences for younger generations over older ones and for personal affinities over blood relationships. Our survey method improves upon prior empirical studies of probated wills by offering a less biased sample and by providing the first reliable data on unconventional families and less common beneficiaries.

February 1, 2023 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Pictures show empty, partially open casket thrown in north Houston ditch: 'I feel violated'

CoffinEarlier this month, residents of a north Houston neighborhood made a disturbing discovery: an open casket sitting in a ditch.

Lloyd Tucker Jr. reported the casket to the police, hoping that it would be removed as soon as possible. Mr. Tucker discovered the casket outside his home and noted that it had not been there the night before. He believed it appeared to be tampered with and feared that someone was missing their casket. 

Police investigated the casket, noted that it was empty, and left the scene. No cemeteries or funeral homes in the area reported any missing caskets or bodies.

For more information see Elizabeth Pritchett “Pictures show empty, partially open casket thrown in north Houston ditch: ‘I feel violated’”, Fox News, January 19, 2023.

January 31, 2023 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Woman fatally shoots dying husband at hospital, police say

Estate planningEarlier this month, Ellen Gilland shot and killed her terminally ill husband, Jerry, inside a Daytona Beach, Florida hospital. Mr. Gilland had been ill for quite a while, and the duo planned to carry out the shootingtogether.

Ms. Gilland refused to leave the room for over four hours after the shooting, but eventually negotiated an exit with police. Several members of the hospital staff were evacuated, however nobody else was harmed in the shooting.

For more information see The Associated Press “Woman fatally shoots dying husband at hospital, police say”, KWQC, January 21, 2023.

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

January 31, 2023 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 30, 2023

Priscilla Presley contests Lisa Marie Presley’s will, claims ‘invalid’ signature

LMPresleyPriscilla Presely filed documents in Los Angeles Superior Court late last week challenging the "purported 2016 amendment" to Lisa Marie Presley's will. She is claiming that the signature appears inconsistent with Lisa Marie's customary signature and was not properly notarized. The amendment ousted Priscilla as trustee of her daughter's estate in favor of Lisa Marie's eldest daughter, Riley Keough.

According to court documents, Priscilla and Lisa Marie's former business manager, Barry Siegel, were named co-trustees of the estate in 1993. Priscilla was unaware of the amendment made in 2016 until after her daughter's death earlier this month.

Lisa Marie previously claimed Siegel left her in "financial ruin" and Siegel countersued for $800,000 in unpaid bills.

For more information see Emily Selieck “Priscilla Presley contests Lisa Marie Presley's will, claims 'invalid' signature”, Page Six, January 29, 2023.

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

January 30, 2023 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Article: Grantor Trusts: The MVP of the IRC

Kelly M. Perez (J.P. Morgan) recently published an article, Grantor Trusts: The MVP of the IRC, 15 Est. Plan. & Comm. Prop. L.J. [91], 2023. Provided below is an introduction to the Article:

Since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), taxpayers have enjoyed the benefit of increased exclusion amounts for the combined gift and estate tax, and the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax (collectively referred to herein as transfer taxes). The terms "lifetime exclusion" or "exclusion amount" generally refer to the amount that an individual can give or pass on to others during one's lifetime or at death without triggering the payment of transfer tax, currently at a rate of 40%. This ever-changing exclusion amount has been a huge focus for wealthy families, tax and estate planning practitioners, and Congress over the last few decades.

We live in an era of heightened "bonus exclusion," where the current exclusion is at an all-time nominal high (since the introduction of the estate tax in 1916) of $12.06 million in 2022, going to $12.92 million per person for 2023. Like most of the individual tax benefits under the TCJA, this increased exclusion amount is scheduled to sunset after December 31, 2025, reverting to pre-TCJA amounts. When Joe Biden won the Presidency in 2020 and the Senate flipped to a very narrow Democratic majority in 2021, including any tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris, the planning community was upended. It was fully expected, based on then Candidate Biden's platform and comments made by the Biden-appointed Secretary of Treasury, Janey Yellen, that any tax package proposed by a Biden Administration would include some form of reduction of this bonus exclusion, or an earlier sunset. Exclusion reduction, as well as fear of the elimination of the "step-up" in basis at death rule under Section 1014 of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code), was fully anticipated by taxpayers and resulted in a flurry of anxious tax consulting and planning at the end of 2020.

While everyone was focused on the exclusion and basis planning, Democrats in Congress, with the support of the Biden Administration, also had plans to make substantial changes to the grantor trust rules under Subpart E or Part I of Subchapter J of the Code. Many of these proposed changes seemed to come out of left field. On September 13, 2021, the House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill known as the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), which threatened to effectively gut the efficacy of grantor trust planning. The bill itself was expected; it included some ideas from the Obama Administration's General Explanations of the Administration's Fiscal Year 2015 Revenue Proposals (the 2015 Green Book), as well as revenue-raising packages enacted in 2020 and 2021. What was not predicted by most were the proposed changes to the grantor trust rules.

These proposals were, without a doubt, more profound than a proposed rollback of the gift, estate, and GST tax exclusion amounts because of the sheer broad design of a grantor trust generates endless planning opportunities for families of wealth. Once a taxpayer uses all of his or her gift tax exclusion amount, planning techniques involving the use of grantor trusts can take wealth transfer into "extra innings," because they offer opportunities to shift additional wealth without the use of the exclusion. Arguably, there is no better estate planning tool than a properly structured irrevocable grantor trust to transfer wealth from grantor's taxable balance sheet to the non-taxable side of the family's balance sheet. This is why grantor trusts are the most valuable player of the Internal Revenue Code for purposes of wealth transfer. The possibilities are almost endless.

This Article briefly reviews the grantor trust rules contained in Subpart E of the Code, and specifically focuses on the current legislative standing of grantor trusts, as well as some of the more detailed nuances of grantor trust planning. Some of these special considerations are techniques such as: (1) terminating grantor trust status; (2) "toggling" grantor trust status on and off; (3) income tax consequences; (4) the efficacy of tax reimbursement clauses; and (5) other special considerations. 

January 29, 2023 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Pamela Anderson's ex-husband leaves her $10M in will despite 12-day marriage: 'Will always love Pamela'

Pamela AndersonHollywood Producer, Jon Peters, responsible for hits like “Star is Born,” plans to leave a generous amount to his ex-wife, Pamela Anderson. "I will always love Pamela, always in my heart," he said during an interview with Variety.

The pair first met at the Playboy Mansion and secretly married in Malibu, California in early 2020. The marriage lasted less than two weeks, with Ms. Anderson publicly stating "Life is a journey and love is a process… with that universal truth in mind, we have mutually decided to put off the formalization of our marriage certificate and put our faith in the process."

Peters told reporters that he left $10 million in his will for his ex, “whether she needs it or not.”

For more information see Stephanie Giang-Paunon “Pamela Anderson’s ex-husband leaves her $10M in will despite 12-day marriage: ‘Will always love Pamela’”, Fox Business, January 28, 2023.

January 28, 2023 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)