Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

No, stupid: A dog isn’t really selling Madonna’s former Florida mansion

A story has been spread by a plethora of newspapers including the Associated Press and Forbes about a German Shepard named Gunther who inherited Madonna's former mansion. The story proclaimed that the pooch was selling the Florida mansion for $31 million and had even met with real estate agents. 

We are here to tell you that the story is emphatically not true! According to a source close to the deal, "[t]here is no dog sleeping in Madonna’s former bedroom. . .This is a totally made up story. The broker is talking nonsense. There is no dog. There never was a dog. The owner thought it would be a fun way to score a reality TV show. That’s it.” 

The real story is this: The agents are listing the house for $31.75 million, but instead of a wealthy dog, their client is a Italian Entrepreneur from Tuscany named Maurizio Mian. Although the listing price was not a lie, a broker who has toured the property claimed that "it is only worth it if you can afford to tear it down and start again." 

For those who were also fooled, legal experts in the United States proclaimed that it is impossible to leave property to a pet, although you can leave money in trust for your fur babies. 

As it turns out, the Main thought it would be a good PR stunt to fool the press into believing that a dog was selling a mansion that once belonged to Madonna. Unfortunately for Mian, it appears that the plan may have backfired. 

See Jennifer Gould, No, stupid: A dog isn’t really selling Madonna’s former Florida mansion, N.Y. Post, November 18, 2021. 

November 23, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Millionaire pooch selling Miami villa once owned by Madonna


 DISCLAIMER: As it turns out the "Gunther" story is nothing more than a publicity stunt. Long story short, a dog is not selling Madonna's former mansion. 


See the real story here.


Gunther the German Shepard recently had a "meeting with the real estate agents selling his Miami mansion that his handlers bought from Madonna." 

According to the handlers who manage the estate, Gunther VI inherited a "vast fortune," which includes the eight-bedroom waterfront home that Madonna once owned, from his grandfather Gunther IV. 

The Tuscan-style villa comes with a view of Biscayne Bay, and went on sale Wednesday for $31 million, which is a major increase in purchase price as Madonna purchased the same home for $7.5 million. 

Gunther VI's lineage dates back "decades to when Gunther III inherited a multimillion-dollar trust from late owner German countess Karlotta Liebenstein when she died in 1992. . .Since then, a group of handlers have helped maintain a jet-setting lifestyle for a succession of dogs," which includes Gunther IV. 

Not only does Gunther get to enjoy trips to Milan and the Bahamas, the pooch also has a personal chef that cooks breakfast each morning made of the "finest meat, fresh vegetables, and rice." 

See Kelli Kennedy, Millionaire pooch selling Miami villa once owned by Madonna, My San Antonio, November 17, 2021. 

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

November 23, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

“I Care A Lot” – Could It Happen to Me?

Pike"If you're a probate attorney (or someone with a Netflix account), you've seen or heard about the somewhat disturbing film 'I Care a Lot.'" The film was released on Netflix in early 2021. 

The film illustrates "a legal guardian's ability to target and drain the assets of susceptible elderly individuals." The movie follows a "crooked guardian" named Maria, played by Rosamund Pike. In the movie, Maria obtains guardianship over Jennifer, played by Dianne Wiest. 

What starts as a seemingly predictable plot turns into a thrilling piece of art with "twists of violence, crime, and laughable moments." Unfortunately, the legal procedures depicted in the film are inaccurate at best. 

It is important to discuss these inaccuracies. First, when Maria meets with Dr. Amos to discuss Jennifer's "need" for a guardian. The encounter is filled with HIPAA violations, ethical concerns, and Dr. Amos fails to provide a medical certificate to the court, which is required with a petition for guardianship. 

In a startling scene, Maria shows up to Jennifer's front door and takes her to an assisted living home, while Jennifer has no idea what is going on and is completely unaware that there was a hearing to begin with. 

Also, Maria seemingly has a lot of powers that guardians in most states would not have. For instance, Maria began painting the walls in Jennifer's home and attempted to sale the home. In the real world, these powers must be provided by the court and are not automatic when someone becomes a guardian. 

If you watched or plan on watching "I Care A Lot" keep in mind that the movie is not completely accurate and portrays an exaggerated picture of the potential abuse of a guardianship and the authority that comes with it. 

See Noelle Lussier, “I Care A Lot” – Could It Happen to Me?, Burns & Levinson, June 24, 2021. 

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

June 29, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Humor, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Grave Error: A Man Attempting to Fake His Own Death Was Caught Because of a Typo

DeathcertificateAs it turns out, faking your own death isn't an easy feat. For this reason, and many others, faking your own death is never recommended, but if you are gonna do it, you should do it right. This means you should be thorough and proofread your fraudulent death certificate. 

Robert Berger, a 25-year-old from Long Island learned this lesson the hard way. Berger tried to convince authorities that he was dead by forging death documents. "According to CNN, Berger was charged with fourth-degree possession of stolen property in December 2018 as well as third-degree attempted grand larceny in June 2019. Entering a guilty plea for both, he was expected to be sentenced on October 22, 2019." 

Berger decided that he would fake his death, instead of showing up to court. Berger's attorney, Meir Moza, told them that Berger had died. Moza then gave the court Berger's alleged death certificate, which listed Berger's cause of death suicide by means of suffocation. 

Due to several misspellings of the word registry (the document spelled it as regsitry) and different font types throughout the document, officials were suspicious. 

After doing some research, Prosecutors found that the document was forged. Berger's attorney, Moza, claimed that he had nothing to do with the forgery and was not charged. Berger now faces 4 years in prison for offering a false instrument. 

Hopefully Berger has learned that, one way or another, if you do the crime you have to do the time—fake dead or alive. 

See Jake Rossen, Grave Error: A Man Attempting to Fake His Own Death Was Caught Because of a Typo, July 23, 2020. 

Special thanks to Deborah Matthews (Virginia Estate Planning Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 24, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 18, 2021

'I'm alive,' says Frenchwoman fighting official ruling that she died

Estate planningJeanne Pouchain, a Frenchwoman was sitting in her kitchen when she found out she was dead when she read an official letter from the court of appeal in a nearby city stating she died. The official letter was sent as an inquiry to her relatives seeking payment for money she allegedly owed. How the error came about is unknown. 

Pouchain stated, "My problem is that I've been declared dead. I'm alive for my husband, for my son, for my loved ones, for the people around me, but for the justice system, I'm dead." 

Pouchain was ruled dead in 2017, and has been trying to have it overturned but has not been successful. Due to the error, Pouchain does not have a social security number, cannot drive, and refrains from going to the grocery store because she fears that she may be asked to produce documents.

Pouchain's lawyers have petitioned a court to grant a hearing so they can present evidence that Pouchain is not dead. Pouchain stated, "The most important thing is to prove that I'm alive. To prove I exist." And finally adding, "I want the state to return my identity."

Lets wish Pouchain some luck as she fights to prove her existence.

See Christian Lowe, "'I'm alive,' says Frenchwoman fighting official ruling that she died, Aol.com, January 14, 2020. 

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

January 18, 2021 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Programmer who could lose hundreds of millions in bitcoin shares 'painful memory'

DigitalassetsStefan Thomas, a programmer, could lose $260 million worth of bitcoin because he cannot remember his password. Thomas lost the password for his IronKey hard drive, "which contains the keys to a digital wallet with 7,002 bitcoin.

Thomas said that there's "no chance he'll ever recoup his lost fortune." Thomas also called it a "painful memory." Thomas stated, "It's not like I barely don't remember it. It's there's no chance of remembering something that complicated from 10 years ago." 

Users have 10 guesses to remember their password before they are locked out forever. Thomas, has used 8 of those 10 attempts, and is still unsuccessful. 

Thomas also stated, "I tried to pick a very secure one because I was very concerned about losing those coins," Thomas added in the interview. "I'd just like lay in bed and come up with a new way to recover it and it wouldn't work and I would try another way and it wouldn't work either."

While many of us would be devastated if we lost access to so much money, Thomas has been making fun of the situation and remains in high spirits. 

See Chris Ciaccia, Programmer who could lose hundreds of millions in bitcoin shares 'painful memory', Fox News, January 14, 2021. 

January 17, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 21, 2020

George Clooney once gave 14 friends $1 million each in cash

ClooneyBefore George Clooney settled down and became a family man, he gifted 14 of his closest friends $1 million each—in cash. In an interview with GQ, Clooney shared the details of this generous gift. Before the interview, the story was more of a rumor and at the most an unconfirmed story. 

Clooney stated that he was working on the movie "Gravity" at the time and was being given percentages of the movies in place of a salary. The movie ended up being a big hit, making Clooney a few million dollars. At the time, Clooney wasn't married and had no family, so he gave the money away to his closest friends. 

Clooney stated, "And I thought, you know, without them I don't have any of this," he said of his friends. "And we're all really close, and I just thought, basically, if I get hit by a bus, they're all in the will. So why the f**k am I waiting to get hit by a bus?"

Clooney said that he drove an old van to a warehouse in Los Angeles where they have "giant pallets of cash", filled up bags with $14 million and then invited his friends over. 

Clooney added, "And I just held up a map and I just pointed to all the places I got to go in the world and all the things I've gotten to see because of them," he told GQ. "And I said, 'How do you repay people like that?' And I said, 'Oh, well: How about a million bucks?'"

It certainly pays to be a good friend to George Clooney. 

See, Scottie Andrew, George Clooney once gave 14 friends $1 million each in cash, CNN Entertainment, November 18, 2020. 

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

December 21, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 18, 2020

Woman Forced to Return Winning Lottery Ticket Worth Over $4 Million

Beverlie Seltzer, a woman who worked as a shop worker in and Acme store in Pennsylvania, has been forced to hand back a $4.15 million winning lottery ticket. A Pennsylvania court has ruled that it belonged to the supermarket where the ticket was printed. 

Seltzer claimed that the lottery slip was hers, but the court ruled that the ticket was printed by mistake and was the store's property. 

State Judge Mary Jane Bowers stated the Seltzer found the winning ticket after the lottery numbers had been announced. She also said that Seltzer "ran a new lottery ticket through the till, paying $10, but took the winning slip instead and claimed it as her own." 

"According to Penn Live, the disagreement centers on the system governing tickets printed accidentally. Stores must pay the lottery commission for each lottery slip mistakenly produced—but they are also allowed to keep any winnings."

The Judge also stated that there was CCTV footage that showed Seltzer taking the winning ticket instead of leaving it for the store to claim. 

In an earlier hearing, a county judge ruled that Acme was the true owner of the successful ticket, holding that "Acme became the owner of the mistake ticket as soon as it was printed," and that Seltzer was "devoid of merit." 

"Even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Ms Seltzer, no reasonable fact-finder could conclude that Ms Seltzer acted with the good faith belief that she was permitted by law or by Acme's policies to give Acme $10 in exchange for $4,150,000. "

Unfortunately for Seltzer, she will not get to enjoy the winnings of the lottery and even worse, must essentially give the winnings away. 

See Tom Batchelor, Woman Forced to Return Winning Lottery Ticket Worth Over $4 Million, News Week December 16, 2020. 

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

December 18, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 6, 2020

Sod Cemetery - Tallahassee, Florida

Sod cemeteryFlorida State University is known for its love of football and the tradition that it is rooted in. Like many other powerful college football teams, the fans of Florida State flaunt their team colors, tailgate on game day, scream the team chants at the top of their lungs, etc. However, there is one Florida State tradition that is a bit unusual: the Sod Cemetery. 

In preparation for a game against the University of Georgia in 1962, professor and athletic board member Dean Coyle Moore told the players to "bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia." 

"Team captain Gene McDowell took the statement literally: He pulled a handful of grass from the field after the 18-0 victory, and presented it to Moore at the next practice. Moore and FSU coach Bill Peterson buried the sod on the practice field. A monument was later put in place to commemorate the victory, and the tradition of the Sod Cemetery had begun." 

Now, when Florida State marks a win in a road game as the underdog, all games against their rival—the Florida Gators —and all ACC title and bowl games, the team captains are to collect a piece of the sod from the field. 

Moore wrote about the tradition and passed on instructions on how to remove the sod, the ceremonies that follow a proper burial (in tiny coffins), and how to place the "headstones." 

Visitors can take a look at the the cemetery, which is located outside the gates of the practice field at Doak Campbell Stadium. 

See Mom0ja, Sod Cemetery, Atlas Obscura, (last visited November 5, 2020). 

November 6, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Games, Humor, Sports, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Chicago woman's self-written obituary goes viral for her wise advice

EstateplanningA Chicago woman wrote her own obituary in which she provided timeless advice. Due to the good advice the obituary contains and the special fact that the woman wrote it herself, it has gone viral.

Stacy Lois Oliver, died on October 4. at the age of 52. Oliver died of multiple system atrophy, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Her death came only two years after her diagnosis/ 

Stacy's husband, Jeff Oliver, stated that she decided to write her own obituary after she found out that there was no cure for MSA. 

Jeff Oliver told Good Morning America, "She knew the disease was going to start taking more and more of her away," and "While she had it, she decided to get her thoughts out quickly."

Inspiring words from Stacy Oliver included, “I'm not telling you what to do, but I am telling you what to do,” and “Stop worrying about your weight, go live, be, do. Smile, people don't get to feel them enough.”

Stacy encouraged people to enjoy the moment and to laugh and love in abundance. 

See Ann W. Schmidt, Chicago woman's self-written obituary goes viral for her wise advice, Fox News, October 16, 2020. 

October 29, 2020 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)