Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Britney Spears Set to Speak in Court on Her Conservatorship

SpearsIt seems like there is a new development in Britney Spears' conservatorship case nearly every day, which at this rate may be true. 

In the most recent development, Britney Spears has asked to address the court "to talk about the conservatorship that has controlled her life and finances for 13 years. . ." 

Spears' court-appointed attorney, Samuel Ingham III, said that Spears asked to speak to the court "soon" and agreed with Judge Brenda Penny on a date, June 23. 

Neither Spears nor Ingham III have stated what Spears plans to say or would like to say. 

Spears has not spoked in court in over two years, the last time being on May 10, 2019. What Spears said in the court in 2019 has not been made public. 

It is not clear whether the hearing in June will be open to the media or the public, but the Judge has the discretion to close the hearing to both. 

However, Spears and Ingham III have been pushing for more transparency in the proceedings, although Spears rarely attends the hearings. 

As has been the norm, more news regarding the June 23 hearing will likely reach the surface as the hearing gets closer. 

See Britney Spears Set to Speak in Court on Her Conservatorship, NewsMax, April 27, 2021. 

April 29, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Trump Attacks Niece Mary's Estate-Fraud Claims As Out Of Date

TrumpDonald Trump claimed that his niece Mary's fraud claims against him are "pre-textual." Mary has argued that her lawsuit claiming she was defrauded of "much of her in hesitance decades ago wasn't barred by a two-year statute of limitations. 

Mary Trump recently wrote a tell-all book about her family, in which she claimed her aunt and two uncles "conspired for decades to skim tens of millions of dollars off her inheritance. . ."

Mary claims she did not learn of the alleged fraud until she saw an October 2018 New York Times report on Donald Trump's finances, despite the dispute being settled in 2001. Mary argues that the statute of limitations should run from the article's publication date. 

In a March 25 filing, Donald Trump stated, “A simple reading of the Times article, however, proves this is to be a hollow argument since the vast majority of it has nothing to do with any claim of fraud Plaintiff now posits.” 

Trump also noted that Mary was a source for the Times story and that she provided documents that she received in the 2011 dispute. 

According to Financial Advisor Magazine, "[a] judge may set arguments on the matter before deciding on the motion to dismiss the suit, which names Donald Trump, his late brother Robert and sister Maryanne Trump Barry as defendants." 

See Erik Larson, Trump Attacks Niece Mary's Estate-Fraud Claims As Out Of Date, Financial Advisor, March 29, 2021. 

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

April 6, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 2, 2021

Britney Spears' dad requests pop star to pay nearly $2 million of his legal fees

SpearsBritney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, has requested that the pop star cover his legal fees out of her estate. Jamie Spears has requested nearly $2 million dollars to cover these fees. 

Jamie is also requesting to be paid for the time he spent as Britney's conservator from November 1, 2019 to February 28, 2021. In the court document filing Jamie stated, "I am authorized and allowed to receive compensation through my personal services corporation Spears Management, Inc., for services performed as Conservator of the Estate of Britney Jean Spears, in the amount of $16,000 monthly plus $2,000 monthly for the cost of an office space in a secure location that is dedicated to Ms. Spears' activities."

These requests come after Britney Spears' attorney officially requested that Jodi Montgomery be made her permanent conservator. Britney also asked for her father to resign from his position as conservator. 

See Melissa Roberto, Britney Spears' dad requests pop star to pay nearly $2 million of his legal fees, Fox News, April 1, 2021. 

 

April 2, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Iowa Supreme Court: You Can’t Adjudicate Validity Of a Will Before a Testator’s Death

Estate planningIn In Re Guardianship and Conservatorship of Radda, the Iowa Supreme Court addressed "whether a prospective heir can bring an action to determine the validity of a will before the death of the testator." 

Vernon Radda suffers from schizoaffective disorder and severe autism spectrum disorder. in 1989, Vernon agreed for his sister to be appointed as his guardian, and Washington State Bank to be appointed as his conservator. After Julie's death, her husband and son became Vernon's guardians. 

In 2017, Vernon's sister, Barbara, discovered that Vernon had executed a will in 1992 and another will in 2015. However, Vernon told Barbara he was not sure whether or not he signed a will, even though he remembered signing some documents. 

Barbara and her husband subsequently filed a petition for declaratory judgement to determine whether Vernon had testamentary capacity to execute either will. 

Vernon's conservator argued that the motion should be dismissed because the claim was ripe since Vernon was still alive. The conservator also argued that Barbara and her husband lacked standing because no interest had vested.

Under the Iowa Probate Code, "[p]roceedings to determine the validity of a will and will contests must await a testator's death. . ." 

The Iowa Supreme Court stated, “we see nothing in the text of this statute that creates rights in a putative beneficiary or other third party to challenge the validity of a ward’s will before the ward dies, and we have never construed this statute to allow such a challenge.”

See Iowa Supreme Court: You Can’t Adjudicate Validity Of a Will Before a Testator’s Death, Probate Stars, March 2, 2021. 

March 20, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Netflix's “I Care A Lot” Isn’t The Movie It Thinks It Is

PikeNetflix's new movie, I Care a Lot, has gained a lot of popularity since its release and even made Netflix's top 10 list.  And Rosamund Pike won a Golden Globe for her wonderful performance in the movie. 

In the film, Pike's character, Marla Grayson, "bribes medical professionals to declare older people legally unfit to look after themselves and then fools gullible judges into appointing her as their legal guardian. Once she becomes their guardian, she places them in nursing homes, often against their will, and immediately sets about liquidating their assets to pay herself." 

The court room scenes are very dramatic and compelling as they show that Marla is allowed to do these things she is doing and receives undying support from the courts and the police. She is even being thanked and assisted with her work. 

One of Marla's "victims" ends up being connected to the Russian mafia, which turns out to be a problem for Marla. Marla eventually has to take on the Russian mafia, which turns out to be very dramatic. This conflict is emotional as you find yourself rooting for criminals. 

Apparently, the idea of the film came from news reports of predatory guardians. 

As it turns out, given all of the abrupt changes and different levels in the movie, the movie may not really be about what the movie thinks it's about. 

See Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Netflix's “I Care A Lot” Isn’t The Movie It Thinks It Is, Buzz Feed News, February 26, 2021. 

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 9, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Article: Legislating Supported Decision-Making

Nina A. Kohn recently published an article entitled, Legislating Supported Decision-Making, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Estate planning

Supported decision-making is a process by which individuals who might otherwise be unable to make their own decisions do so with help from others. It has the potential to transform the lives of individuals with cognitive and intellectual disabilities by enabling them to function as legal actors, and not merely legal subjects. Fueled by this promise, by mounting concerns about guardianship, and by rhetoric surrounding the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, states are rapidly adopting statutes that purport to enable and promote supported decision-making and advance the rights of persons with disabilities. This article shows how these statutes typically do neither. Rather, the statutes limit the rights of individuals with disabilities and place them at increased risk of exploitation. The article further shows that the wide gap between the concept of supported decision-making and its actual implementation in state legislation is the result of a confluence of political agendas, but that an alternative, person-centered approach is essential if supported decision-making is actually to empower individuals with disabilities. Finally, it outlines five concrete legislative approaches states could adopt—separately or in combination—to encourage supported decision-making that will actually advance the rights of persons with disabilities and reduce restrictive guardianships.

March 6, 2021 in Articles, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Donald Trump's niece blasts his 'chutzpah' toward her fraud lawsuit

TrumpMary Trump, Donald Trump's estranged niece, has accused the former president of "trying to dodge accountability for defrauding her out of a multimillion dollar inheritance by claiming she took too long to sue." 

Mary Trump's lawyers brought the allegation in a New York State court. Mary Trump is suing the former president along with his sister Maryanne Trump Barry and his late brother Robert's estate. 

Mary Trump's lawyers wrote, The offensiveness of defendants' past conduct — stealing tens of millions of dollars from their own niece — is perhaps surpassed only by the chutzpah of their current arguments for dismissal." 

Mary's father, Fred Trump Jr., Donald Trump's older brother, died in 1981 and left Mary, who was 16 at the time a profitable real estate portfolio. 

Mary alleges that her aunt and uncles "siphoned" money away and "squeezed" her out of the family fortune. Mary Trump brought suit in September, close to two years after she says she learned of her families' actions, which she claims to have learned through an investigation into Donald Trump's finances. 

Mary Trump's lawyers claim that "[r]easonable diligence would not have uncovered the fraud [more than a decade earlier as the defendants contended]." 

Mary Trump has also written a tell-all entitled, "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man" in which she delves further into her allegations against Donald Trump and other family members. 

Donald Trump's lawyers claim that Mary Trump is simply attempting to "cash in on the family name, and consume [Donald Trump] with lawsuits." 

See Jonathan Stempel, Donald Trump's niece blasts his 'chutzpah' toward her fraud lawsuit, Yahoo News, February 26, 2021. 

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

March 3, 2021 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Britney Spears' father loses his attempt to keep sole control of her investments as documentary stokes fans 'free Britney' campaign

FreebritBritney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, has come up empty in his attempt to keep sole control of her investments. "A California judge denied Jamie Spears' objections to establishing wealth management company Bessemer Trust Co as a co-conservator over her estate." Jamie has had control over Britney's finances since 2008. The conservatorship came after Britney had a number of public breakdowns, which included shaving her head and attacking paparazzi with an umbrella. 

Although the fight over conservatorship has been going on for a while, even inciting a movement coined the "Free Britney Movement," a new documentary has made the discussion relevant all over again. The documentary, 'Framing Britney Spears,' released last week. The documentary sheds light on Britney's mental health issues and "her struggle to regain autonomy in her career." 

The #FreeBritney movement has brought on a slew of sympathy and support for Britney. This support ranges from your average Joe and average Jane fans to celebrities like Miley Cyrus. 

Britney recently posted a video of one of her previous performances with the following caption on Twitter and Instagram, "I´ll always love being on stage .... But I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ..... I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life !!!!"

See Megan Sheets, Britney Spears' father loses his attempt to keep sole control of her investments as documentary stokes fans 'free Britney' campaign, Daily Mail (U.K.), February 11, 2021. 

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

February 17, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Britney Spears’ father Jamie and Bessemer Trust Co. to continue co-conservatorship, judge says

SpearsA judge has ruled to keep Bessemer Trust Co. as a co-conservator over Britney Spears' estate. Further, Spears' father's objects to sharing conservatorship duties were thrown out. 

Britney Spears' attorney stated on Thursday that "he originally proposed the co-conservatorship between Bessemer and Jamie to give both parties 'an equal division of responsibility, in the hopes that they would sit down and figure out together the best way to handle this complex estate for the benefit of my client.'" He also added, "It’s no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator, but we recognize that removal is a separate issue." The attorney further recommended that Bessemer and Jamie Spears meet to discuss a budget and investment plan for Britney's estate. 

According to Vivian Lee Thoreen, Jamie's attorney, Britney asked for and agreed to her father's role early in the conservatorship. Thoreen stated, "Ms. Spears reflected in court papers that she wanted her father to be the sole conservator of her estate."

Britney Spears did not appear in the proceedings that took place last week. Additional hearings are expected to take place on March 17 and April 27.

See Nate Day,  Britney Spears’ father Jamie and Bessemer Trust Co. to continue co-conservatorship, judge says, Fox News, February 12, 2021.  

February 16, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 15, 2021

Article: Disinheritance, Discrimination and the Case for Including Adult Independent Children in Dependants’ Relief Schemes: Lawen Estate v Nova Scotia

Jane Thompson recently published an article entitled, Disinheritance, Discrimination and the Case for Including Adult Independent Children in Dependants’ Relief Schemes: Lawen Estate v Nova Scotia, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Estate planning

In 2019 a Superior Court in Nova Scotia struck out adult independent children as dependants under Nova Scotia's Testator's Family Maintenance Act. The decision was based on a finding that testamentary autonomy was a constitutional right protected by s.7 of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This paper demonstrates why the constitutional decision in Lawen Estate v. Nova Scotia was flawed. It also explains why including of adult independent children in dependants' relief schemes is not only benign in most instances, but may play a role in preventing the perpetuation of discrimination in the private law.

February 15, 2021 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)