Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, April 22, 2024

Meghan Trainor's will ensures her voice can't be used by 'spooky' technology after her death

Meghan-trainor-tout-032124-fbf0aa6905584dde9701d91420c4fffdWith the rise of AI technology, Meghan Trainor found a solution to control the use of her voice and likeness after her death. After voicing her concern about what AI can create, she told Fox News Digital that she added a clause in her will stating that no one can use her voice after her death.

Other celebrities, like Robin Williams, have included clauses in their wills that prevent the use of their likeness for a certain number of years in their will. Paul McCartney told BBC Radio 4 that another Beatles song is in the works thanks to an AI generation of John Lennon’s voice. Even though Lennon passed over 40 years ago, AI technology can use a demo of Lennon’s voice and “get it pure” so the band can mix the record as they normally would.  

Though some celebrities are embracing the new advancements of AI and what it can do to bring artists' vocals back to life, others are afraid of their voices being used without their knowledge. Addressing this concern by putting a clause in their will is a definite way to ensure they are in control of their sound and what is created of them after they die.

For more information see Larry Finks “Meghan Trainor's will ensures her voice can't be used by 'spooky' technology after her death”, Fox News, April 19, 2024.

April 22, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Article: A New Look at Old Money

Miranda Perry Fleischer (University of San Diego School of Law) recently published, A New Look at Old Money, 2024. Provided below is an Abstract:

Taxing wealth—including inherited wealth—is a hot topic, making headlines and generating heated debate. Should millionaires and billionaires face an annual wealth tax, as championed by Senators and former Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders? Should we strengthen the existing estate tax, as President Biden contends? Or, as opponents argue, are both annual wealth and once-a-generation wealth transfer taxes unfair and impractical? What makes this debate so intractable is not only that the public as a whole is divided on these issues, but many individual Americans hold simultaneous beliefs about wealth, opportunity, fairness, desert, and family that seemingly contradict each other. This Article cuts through that debate by proposing a novel solution for inheritance taxation that reconciles these deeply held beliefs with the benefits of wealth transfer taxation.

Our current estate tax treats the self-made millionaire the same as an heiress who has not earned a cent when they pass their fortunes on to their heirs. But this is misguided. Drawing on recent work on the psychology of taxation, this Article makes the case for an innovative inheritance tax system that taxes old money more heavily than new. This approach would allow individuals to bequeath wealth that they have earned—but not wealth that they have inherited—free of tax. Known as a Rignano tax, this proposal harnesses the finding that many Americans “silo” beliefs about wealth, holding seemingly contradictory beliefs that differ in part based on whether wealth is earned or inherited. By leveraging these findings and building on experience with the existing transfer tax system, this Article elaborates and advances a set of specific and concrete design recommendations for a Rignano tax.

This comprehensive analysis of a Rignano tax—the first in the law review literature—complements philosophical work that advocates for such a tax but does not address key design and policy questions. Further, it contributes to tax scholarship by advancing our understanding of the relationship between a tax’s normative goals and structural design choices. And for both advocates and opponents of the estate tax, it offers a nuanced and fair exploration of the debate surrounding inheritance taxation as well as a potential resolution of the enduring stalemate over taxing wealth.

April 21, 2024 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Article: Beyond Privity of Blood: Intestacy and Charity

Adam J. Hirsch (University of San Diego School of Law) recently published, Beyond Privity of Blood: Intestacy and Charity, 2024. Provided below is an Abstract:

When individuals die without leaving a will, the law of intestacy functions to distribute their estates to a surviving spouse and/or close blood relatives. Yet, this default regime fails to account for the possibility that some individuals wish to allocate part of their estates to charity. Drawing on empirical evidence, including original data presented here for the first time, this Article advocates building a charitable component into intestacy in those cases where majorities of decedents prefer to establish estate plans transcending traditional heirs. Evidence suggests that this majority preference arises in four situations: (1) where the decedent was extremely wealthy, (2) where the decedent was less wealthy but died without descendants, (3) where the decedent died without descendants and had made charitable donations, irrespective of wealth, and (4) where the decedent died without any known relatives. The Article proposes personalizing the process of intestacy further by granting charitable shares, when called for, to those causes which decedents had individually supported during their lifetimes. The Article assesses the structural costs and benefits of these innovations and concludes that they would not prove excessively complex or administratively burdensome.

April 20, 2024 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 19, 2024

When an Artist Dies, Who Owns Her Story?

Estate planningAna Mendieta was a renowned Cuban-born performance artist known for her "Silueta Series" and other provocative works exploring the relationship between nature and the human body. Her life was cut tragically short when she fell from the 34th-floor apartment in 1985. The circumstances surrounding her death have remained a contentious topic, with many believing her husband Andre was responsible. In recent years, Ana Mendieta's story has been revisited by writers and filmmakers, much to the chagrin of Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, the administrator of Ana Mendieta's estate and her maternal niece. 

Despite legal battles over the use of Ana Mendieta's imagery in films like "Suspiria," creators are not legally obligated to consult with Ms. Mendieta or the estate when creating works based on Ana's life. This lack of control has frustrated Ms. Mendieta, who wishes to protect her aunt's story and ensure it is portrayed accurately and respectfully. While Ana Mendieta's work continues to gain attention and admiration for its profound exploration of human connection to nature, the debate over who has the right to interpret and present her life story remains a complex and contentious issue.

For more information see Kate Dwyer “When an Artist Dies, Who Owns Her Story?”, The New York Times, March 2, 2024.

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

April 19, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Article: The Nexus between Marriage & Succession Laws: Dissecting Estate Allocation and Governance in Botswana

Godknows Theko (University of Botswana - Department of Law) recently published, The Nexus between Marriage & Succession Laws: Dissecting Estate Allocation and Governance in Botswana, 2024. Provided below is an Abstract:

Navigating the intricate web of estate administration and distribution post-mortem is a critical discourse in the ever-expanding realm of jurisprudence. The Republic of Botswana has witnessed a significant development in case law pertaining to this matter. At the heart of these discussions is the crucial question of identifying the rightful heirs—a topic that gains an added layer of complexity when the lineage of children is scrutinized, sparking debates over their rightful inheritance. This issue has not only piqued the interest of legal scholars but has also become a touchstone of deliberation within the august courtrooms, where justice has been meticulously weighed and dispensed.

The courts pronouncements have shed light on the intricate dance between the intertwined strands of customary and common law in matters of succession and inheritance, all set against the context of marital unions and the commanding presence of the renowned Form B.

The aim of this article is to capture and convey the judicial acumen that has emerged from Botswana's courts, embarking on a jurisprudential voyage through the complexities of succession and inheritance. It endeavours to do so with a narrative enriched by the storied language of legal aphorisms and maxims, echoing the timeless edict 'Fiat justitia ruat caelum'—let justice be done though the heavens fall.

April 18, 2024 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Article: When Helping Hurts: Issues With Texas' New Statutory Fill-In-The-Blank Wills

Craig Woody (Texas Tech University School of Law)  recently published, When Helping Hurts: Issues With Texas’ New Statutory Fill-In-The-Blank Wills, 2024. Provided below is an Abstract:

Societies that promote testamentary freedom have always sought to address the challenge of providing access to estate planning for impoverished individuals. One solution that many states began implementing in the latter part of the twentieth century was statutory form wills. However, the trend quickly fizzled out as legislatures weighed the benefits with the realization that statutory forms are not necessarily user friendly. Studies found that most of the form wills are filled out incorrectly which results in probate issues and estates being resolved through intestacy laws. After a long hiatus, Texas renewed the focus on statutory form wills when it passed legislation in 2015 which directed the Supreme Court of Texas to draft fill-in-the-blank wills. This comment aims to demonstrate that the push for form wills in Texas causes more issues for indigent Texans than it solves. The solution is to either repeal the legislation, amend the implementation to an online format, or loosen parole evidence laws to facilitate the probate of incorrect form wills.

April 17, 2024 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 15, 2024

O.J.’s executor says he wants Goldmans to get ‘zero, nothing’ from estate


Malcolm LaVergne, O.J. Simpson's longtime lawyer and executor of his estate, declared his intention to contest the payout of a $33.5 million judgment awarded to the families of Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. LaVergne stated his opposition to the Goldman family receiving money from Simpson's estate. 

All of Simpson's property will go into a trust established in January, with the estate's total value yet to be determined. LaVergne's animosity towards the Goldman family partly stems from their acquisition and renaming of Simpson's controversial book manuscript, "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer." Simpson's funeral arrangements are pending, with cremation expected in the coming days.

For more information see Katelyn Newberg “O.J.’s executor says he wants Goldmans to get ‘zero, nothing’ from estate”, Las Vegas Review-Journal April 12, 2024.

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

April 15, 2024 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Nun carries suitcase later discovered to contain remains of deceased friend

Estate planningIn Chile, a nun was captured on video wheeling a suitcase containing the body of her deceased down the street. The nun, Lorenza Ramirez, 80, had kept the body of her friend, Erica Fernandez, 58, in the suitcase for a year following Fernandez's death from an illness in April 2023. 


According to police, Ramirez suffered from some disorder and had maintained a friendship pact with Fernandez, agreeing not to report each other's deaths. When the police investigated a report of a suitcase full of bones, initially believed to be linked to drug cartel activity, they discovered the nun with the suitcase. 


The police autopsy found no foul play, but Ramirez faces potential fines for failing to notify authorities of Fernandez's death and for breaching public health regulations. After discovering the situation, Ramirez's daughter eventually persuaded her to lay her friend to rest.


For more information see Peter Aitken “Nun carries suitcase later discovered to contain remains of deceased friend”, Fox News, April 13, 2024.

April 14, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 13, 2024

O.J. Simpson's brain will not be donated to CTE research: report

OJO.J. Simpson will be cremated according to his wishes, with no plans to donate his brain for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research. Malcolm LaVergne, Simpson's long-term attorney and executor, confirmed that the family has declined multiple requests for brain donation for CTE research. 

The Boston University CTE Center previously revealed that 92% of the 376 former NFL players they studied had CTE, highlighting the ongoing debate about the connection between football and the brain disease. CTE is a degenerative brain condition likely caused by repeated head injuries, with symptoms often including anger.

Simpson, a former NFL player known for his controversial life both on and off the field, had a career overshadowed by the 1994 killings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, for which he was acquitted. LaVergne indicated that Simpson's remains will likely be cremated on Tuesday with the possibility of a later "celebration of life-type service" for close friends and family.

For more information see Paulina Dedaj “O.J. Simpson’s brain will not be donated to CTE research: report”, Fox News Sports, April 13, 2024.

April 13, 2024 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 12, 2024

Jay Leno granted conservatorship of wife Mavis Leno’s estate

Jay leno mavis

A Los Angeles judge granted Jay Leno's request for conservatorship of his wife, Mavis Leno's estate. The judge found Jay Leno suitable and qualified for the role, citing Mavis Leno's inability to manage her finances independently due to dementia. The conservatorship was deemed necessary and the least restrictive option for her protection.

Jay Leno filed for the conservatorship in January to execute an estate plan on his wife's behalf, as he believes she would do if she were capable. The couple, married for over 43 years, have not commented on the matter.

For more information see Alli Rosenbloom “Jay Leno granted conservatorship of wife Mavis Leno’s estate”, CNN Entertainment, April 10, 2024.

April 12, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)