Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Doris Day: The Tragic Last Days of a ‘Manipulated’ Hollywood Icon

DorisdayAmerica's sweetheart of the 1950s and 60s, Doris Day, passed away on May 13 at the age of 97. But those around her paint the picture of a lonely and manipulated woman that did not spend much time outside of her home, isolating herself to her bedroom and kitchen. Her only grandchild, Ryan Melcher, said that he only learned of his grandmother's death from social media. Ryan's father, Terry, had been her only child and had been adopted by her third husband, producer Marty Melcher. Doris found out that Marty had squandered her $20 million fortune after his death, forcing her to begin The Doris Day Show on CBS.

Ryan has claimed on Facebook that veterinarian-turned-manager Bob Bashara blocked him from seeing his aging grandmother and even replaced board members on her animal-rescue foundation with Bashara's direct family members. Day's representative has denied these allegations. The longtime manager has stated that the actress's will specified that she wanted no funeral service or grave marker, and that she wanted her fortune to go to the Doris Day Animal Foundation. No will has yet been probated or filed.

See Sara Nathan and Chris White, Doris Day: The Tragic Last Days of a ‘Manipulated’ Hollywood Icon, Fox News, June 9, 2019.

 

June 13, 2019 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

John Singleton's Daughter Files for Restraining Order Against his Pal

SingletonThe drama just keeps coming after the death of Boyz N The Hood filmmaker, John Singleton. His daughter and eldest child, Justice, 26, filed for a restraining order on Friday against Avance Smith, a close friend of Singleton's. Justice is claiming that Smith broke into the locked office of her father and stole valuables and also threatened her via texts and in person. A judge has denied the initial request and a hearing has been set for the end of June.

Justice's filing comes only a day after John's mother, Shelia Ward, made an emergency request to the courts to control his assets, estimated to be worth about $35 million at the time of his death. Supposedly the emergency request was prompted by the break-in at Singleton's office. 

Another big family drama in this epic is that the director's will was written in 1993 when Justice was an only child and was named the sole beneficiary of his estate. However, she ended up being the eldest of seven children. Under California law, children born after the execution have a legal claim to inherit, as long as there is not a provision that expressly disinherits future children. Also, some of Singleton's exes and children have hired an investigator to map out the hours leading up to his arrival at the Los Angeles hospital. There are no Uber or Lyft receipts, and he reportedly did not drive himself.

See Kevin Kayhart, John Singleton's Daughter Files for Restraining Order Against his Pal, Daily Mail, June 7, 2019.

June 9, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Claus von Bülow, Society Figure in High-Profile Case, Dies at 92

BulowThe man at the center of a sensational murder plot that was convicted and acquitted twice has died at the age of 92. Claus von Bülow was charged with attempting to induce the death of his wife by injecting her with insulin and causing her to fall into a coma until her death in 2008. His death was confirmed by his son-in-law.

His wife, Martha von Bülow, also known as Sunny, was the heiress to a $75 million utilities fortune before her unrecoverable coma in December of 1980. Her first husband was the Prince of Austria and she was the mother of royalty: Prince Alexander von Auersperg and Princess Annie Laurie von Auersperg Kneissl. After being found guilty at the initial trial in 1982, Mr. von Bülow hired Harvard Law professor Alan M. Dershowitz to work on his appeal. Dershowitz was successful, and then Thomas Puccio, a former United States attorney, represented him for his second trial - that found him not guilty that time in 1985.

The von Bülow case became one of the most publicized legal contests in the second half of the 20th century due to Dershowitz profiting off the notoriety by writing a book based on the case, Reversal of Fortune. The book was later turned into a movie of the same title starring Jeremy Irons, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the protagonist husband, and Glenn Close as his heiress wife.

After his acquittal, his stepchildren filed a $56 million civil suit against him. It was settled in 1987 with the stipulation that Mr. von Bülow agree to a divorce and that he not discuss the case publicly. Their palatial Fifth Avenue apartment was handed over to the Prince and Princess, and Mr. von Bülow returned to London until his death.

See Enid Nemy, Claus von Bülow, Society Figure in High-Profile Case, Dies at 92, New York Times, May 30, 2019.

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

May 31, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, 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)

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)

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)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Steve Bing and Elizabeth Hurley Rip Into his Father Over Inheritance

HurleysDr. Peter S. Bing, the father of millionaire businessman Steve Bing, has asked a judge to rule that Steve's two children not be considered beneficiaries of his trust because they were born out of wedlock. Steve has filed petitions for both of his children, and actress Elizabeth Hurley has also filed a petition as the mother of his 17-year-old son, Damian Hurley. His daughter, Kira, is from former tennis player Lisa Bonder.

Steve Bing claims that his father has been influenced by his sister Mary Bing to "orchestrate a massive money-grab to deprive" Kira and Damian of their inheritance and "thereby increasing—perhaps even doubling—her own children's share of the available fund," according to court papers. Steve also claims that a stipulation in the trust calls for Mary to be penalized for attempting to attain more money for her children, Anton and Lucy. If this claim is successful, Mary's children will forfeit their interest of the trust.

The trust, created by Peter Bing in 1980, was to "benefit future grandchildren," either born or adopted at a young age by Steve or Mary. The new motion attempts to clarify the definition of grandchild. Peter said that it was not his intention for children born out of wedlock and did not live in Steve or Mary's home for a significant amount of time as minors to be considered beneficiaries. Steve insists that this move to change the definition is "all of a sudden" and has more to do with the fact that the trust is to terminate October 2020.

See Cheyanne Roundtree, Steve Bing and Elizabeth Hurley Rip Into his Father Over Inheritance, Daily Mail, 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 7, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Article on Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous II

JamesgandolfiniJessica Gilligan Goldsmith, David Y. Choi, Shaina S. Kamen, Gerry Joyce, Christina M. Lazo, Alison Silverman, and Bruce D. Steiner recently published an Article entitled, Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous II, Probate & Property Magazine, Vol. 33 No. 3, May/June 2019. Provided below is the introduction to the Article.

In many ways, celebrities are no different than other people. Even though they often have access to the best managers, agents, and attorneys, celebrities often have non-existent or outdated estate plans. Sometimes changes in family circumstances or in the tax laws can create unexpected results, and sometimes no tax planning has been contemplated. The estate plans of the celebrities discussed in this article, which is a sequel to an article in the July/August 2018 issue, can provide useful lessons to estate planners and individuals.

May 2, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The £40m Freddie Mercury Prize

FreddieThe former fiancé of Freddie Mercury, Mary Austin, inherited 50% of the Queen front man when he passed away from AIDS in 1991, increasing to 75% when his parents passed away. The other 25% went to Mercury's sister. Austin also inherited his 28-room mansion in west London and his enviable art and Louis XV furniture collections. Though the pair never married due to Mercury coming out as gay, the two remained extremely close for the rest of his life.

Future earnings of Queen are split four ways between the Freddie Mercury estate and his three surviving bandmates – guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon. Therefore Austin, 67, will receive roughly 19% of the profits of the recent Bohemian Rhapsody movie, or £40 million. She did not participate in the production of the movie and appears to have no dealings with the remaining members of the band.

A film insider said "This film was created and managed by Queen, which means they can protect their share. I would expect the studio to get around 50 per cent and the rest to go to the surviving Queen members and the Freddie Mercury estate."

See Arthur Martin & Adam Luck, The £40m Freddie Mercury Prize, Daily Mail, January 11, 2019.

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

January 19, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Summer Redstone Ordered to Have a Court-Appointed Guardian

RedstoneSummer Redstone, the 95-year-old controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, has been placed under a guardian, presumably because of a speech impediment. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan said he was appointing a guardian because of Redstone's extreme difficulty in speaking. It is reported that Samuel Ingram, III has been offered the position, who was the court-appointed of Britney Spears after her unfortunate public mental health breakdown in 2008. In this instance, it does not appear that Redstone's mental capacity is at issue.

The court’s decision on Monday will have no effect on Redstone’s control of his trust, which owns almost 80% of voting stake in the two American media companies. His ownership and control will remain valid until he either dies or is incapacitated. If the latter occurs, the trust would then be overseen by seven trustees, including his daughter, Shari Redstone, and his grandson, Tyler Korff. Redstone has communicated that he approves of the appointment, which is family requested during his court battle with a former girlfriend.

Redstone amended his trust in 2015, removing his former girlfriend as a beneficiary. The ex, Manuela Herzer, claims Redstone’s mental abilities were diminished, which would thus invalidate the amended trust.

See Ariel Zilber, Summer Redstone Ordered to Have a Court-Appointed Guardian Because of a Speech Impediment, Weeks Before Ex-Girlfriend Take him to Court for Cutting her out of his Trust, Daily Mail, December 17, 2018.

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

December 19, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Guardianship, New Cases, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)