Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Penny Marshall Dead at 75

PennyPenny Marshall, who was the star in ABC's Laverne and Shirley and later became one of the most successful female directors in history, has died at the age of 75. Her publicist stated that she died peacefully at her home from complications of diabetes.

She made her name as Laverne DeFazio on the TV sitcom Laverne and Shirley (1976–1983), earning three Golden Globe nominations, and turned her sights to directing. She directed Tom Hanks in his breakout role in 1988's Big, the first film made by a woman to gross more than $100 million at the domestic box office. She also directed A League of Their Own, starring Geena Davis and Madonna, in 1992.

The family statement described Marshall as "a comedic natural with a photographic memory and an instinct for slapstick."

See 'Big' Director Penny Marshall Dead at 75, Yahoo News, December 18, 2018.

December 18, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Man Who Claimed Howard Hughes Inheritance Dies in Nevada

HughesMelvin Dummar, whose tale of rescuing eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes on a desert road was portrayed in the 1980 movie, "Melvin and Howard," died Sunday under hospice care in rural Nevada at the age of 74. His brother, Ray, said that Melvin had battled with cancer for years, and had not mentioned the story or the will in 10 years.

Dummar claimed that he found the billionaire in 1967 on a dusty road outside of Las Vegas near a brothel, bloody, unshaven, and face-down. He did not believe Hughes when said who he was as Dummar gave him a ride into the city. Eight years later, a handwritten document was delivered to the gas station Dummar owned, addressed to the president of the Mormon church.

The so-called "Mormon will" allegedly also named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as beneficiary of $156 million, the same amount Dummar claimed Hughes bequeathed him when he died in 1976. A U.S. appeals court in 2008 disagreed when it affirmed a Nevada state court jury's decision 30 years earlier that found the will was a fake.

See Ken Ritter, Man Who Claimed Howard Hughes Inheritance Dies in Nevada, Yahoo News, December 10, 2018.

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

Special thanks to Logan Underwood for bringing this article to my attention.

December 12, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Marvel Comics Creator Stan Lee's Cause of Death Revealed

Stan2Stan Lee, the beloved creator of several of pop culture's icons and super heroes, passed away on November 12 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 95. He had suffered from numerous health conditions in his last few years including pneumonia, an irregular heartbeat, and vision issues. His wife of 70 years, Joan, had passed away last year.

On his death certificate, Lee's primary causes of death was heart and respiratory failure. His remains were cremated and given to his daughter, J.C. In accordance with Stan's wishes, there was a small, private funeral earlier this month. There was a video issued posthumously that expressed his admiration and love for his fans.

   "There’s something if you think about it, that is wonderful about somebody caring about you, as I care about them, whom you’ve never met, who may live in another part of the world," he said. "But they care, you have something in common and occasionally you contact each other. This business of fans, I think is terrific. And I love 'em all."

See Jessica Sager, Marvel Comics Creator Stan Lee's Cause of Death Revealed, Fox News, November 27, 2018.

November 27, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Stan Lee Estate Tangled by ‘Magic’ of Valuing Stolen-Blood Claim

StanStan Lee, the comic genius behind such heroes as Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, passed away on November 12 at the age of 95. One of the many issues with his estate is valuing the lawsuits Lee was a part of at the time of his death, including one suit involving a claim that his blood was stolen and sold without his consent.

His former publicist, Jerardo “Jerry” Olivarez, is accused of transferring millions of dollars from Lee’s bank accounts and  engaging in a scheme to sell Lee’s blood as a collectible. The estate must place a value on the suit so that it can calculate the amount of taxes owed, which must be paid within 9 months of the person's death.

“If the lawsuit has not been resolved prior to the filing of the estate tax return there’s a big, difficult problem in how do you value that possible recovery that you might get some time in the future,” said Donald Perry, chairman of the trusts and estates department at Phillips Nizer LLP. The charges in the lawsuit are now more difficult to prove as the main witness was Stan Lee himself.

Lee’s estate will likely have to deal with other hard-to-value assets such as his postmortem image and likeness rights, especially as it was such a thrill to fans to find Lee's cameos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. New technology creates the possibility that those cameos may just continue.

See Allyson Versprille, Stan Lee Estate Tangled by ‘Magic’ of Valuing Stolen-Blood Claim, BNA.com, November 14, 2018.

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

November 22, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Film, New Cases, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Stratford Actor Douglas Rain, Who Supplied HAL’s Voice, Dies at 90

HALCanadian actor Douglas Rain, one of the co-founders of the Stratford Festival, passed away of natural causes at the age of 90 at St. Marys Memorial Hospital, just outside of Stratford, Ontario. He spent 32 years playing several Shakespearean characters on stage at the festival until 1998. His roles included Claudio in "Measure for Measure" in 1954, Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" in 1957, Edgar in "King Lear" in 1964 and Prince Hal in "Henry IV, Part 1" in 1958. Rain is survived by his two sons, David and Adam, daughter Emma, granddaughter, Salima, and a daughter-in-law, Asira.

It was the aloof and frightening voice of the artificially intelligent HAL 9000 in 1968's film 2001: A Space Odyssey that brought Rain into the public sphere. HAL is the onboard master computer on the spaceship Discovery 1 but goes rogue, at one pointing balking to an astronaut tells it to open the pod doors, "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that. This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it." When the spaceship occupants manage to shut the computer down, HAL sings Daisy Bell and utters, "I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it."

The American Film Institute named HAL the 13th greatest movie villain of all time, joining a list that includes Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader.

See Mark Kennedy, Actor Douglas Rain, Who Supplied HAL's Voice, Dies at 90, ABC News, November 12, 2018.

November 15, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Murdoch Children May Get up to $2bn Each in 21st Century Fox Sale

MurdochRupert Murdoch’s six children could each receive as much as $2 billion from the sale of his 21st Century Fox global entertainment empire to Disney. Murdoch's family trust owns a 17% interest in Fox, and that totals to a $12 billion to be split among the beneficiaries: Prudence, James, Lachlan, Elisabeth, Grace and Chloe. The last two children are from his ex-wife that he divorced five years ago and they are beneficiaries but have not voting power.

The $12 billion is the maximum the trust could receive, as there is still a hefty tax implication with the sale of the empire. Tax experts believe Murdoch would end up having to accept a “roughly”50/50 mix between cash and Disney shares for the family trust’s holding. This would mean a bill of up to $2 billion and more like a $10bn windfall for the trust and its beneficiaries.

Murdoch and his eldest son, Lachlan, are to continue to work side by side following the Fox sell-off, with the son being the chairman and chief executive of New Fox and Murdoch co-chairman. The youngest son, James, currently 21st Century Fox’s chief executive, had been set for a potential role at Disney following completion of the deal but is instead striking out on his own. It has been rumored that he might take over at Tesla as chairman after Elon Musk steps down next month.

See Mark Sweney, Murdoch Children May Get up to $2bn Each in 21st Century Fox Sale, The Guardian, October 18, 2018.

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

October 19, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Stan Lee and Marvel May Both Venture Into Estate Planning Litigation

ThanosMarvel Comics rebooted its popular series Guardians of the Galaxy, and like many comic books, the authors have taken readers on a wild ride. Writer Donny Cates has teased that the series’ first story continues the plot from Infinity Wars’ Thanos Legacy, which closed as Eros, brother of the Mad Titan, cuts a last will and testament out of Thanos’s dead body. Comic book (and trusts and estates) fans cannot wait for the reading of the document.

Thanos is not the first person to have relatives and others show up near the end of the life and start trouble. Eerily, the father of Marvel, Stan Lee, has mirrored issues in his own life at 95 years old. Lee's estate is estimated to be worth anywhere from $50 million to $70 million and is at the center of litigation between himself, family, lawyers, and other advisors.

Despite Stan Lee’s genius, success, and wealth, he is another example of an aging individual susceptible to the undue influence of others. The issues did not come to a head until after the passing of his wife of almost 70 years, Joan, which may have left him emotionally and physically vulnerable to others. The outcome so far has been legal wedges between Lee's former attorney, Thomas Lallas and a restraining order against a former manager, Keya Morgan. Lee has even recorded himself placing his personal allegiances and uploading the video to social media.

See Cori A. Robinson, Parallel Universes: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and Stan Lee Venture Into Estates-and-Trusts Litigation, Above the Law, October 2, 2018.

Special thanks to Carissa Peterson (Hrbacek Law Firm, Sugar Land, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 2, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Burt Reynolds Left His Only Son Out of His Will and Created a Trust for Him Instead

BurtquinnBurt Reynolds included a statement in his will stating that his son, Quinn, will not be receiving anything from his will. It read that, when it came to his son, “I intentionally omit him from this, my Last Will and Testament, as I have provided for him during my lifetime in my Declaration of Trust.”

Reynolds died earlier this month at age 82. Quinton, born in 1988, was the adopted son of Reynolds and his ex-wife Loni Anderson. At the time of his death, Reynolds was reportedly worth $5 million.

The will, which was signed in 2011, appoints Reynolds’ niece Nancy Lee Brown Hess as the personal representative of Reynolds’ estate. Hess said in a statement, “My uncle was not just a movie icon; he was a generous, passionate and sensitive man who was dedicated to his family, friends, fans and acting students.” She said that his death was highly unexpected, and that Reynolds "was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino (in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and the amazing cast that was assembled.”

See Emily Zauzmer, Burt Reynolds Left His Only Son Out of His Will and Created a Trust for Him Instead, People, September 18, 2018.

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

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

September 21, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)