Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Longtime Minnesota School Bus Driver Gets Special Casket

Schoolbuscasket1Glen "Glennie" Davis, 88, of Green Meadow, Minnesota received quite a special send-off at his funeral this week. Davis was a farmer, but he had also been a school bus driver for 55 years, from 1949 to 2005. After retiring from the school district with a proudly held accident-free record, he continued to volunteer to drive for Meals-on-Wheels.

Jim Hindt, the owner of Hindt Funeral Home, gifted the man a school bus-themed casket. “Everybody loved him,” Davis' daughter, Lisa Hodge of Rochester said, adding that, "He was a big supporter of the school and the football team."

See Caleb Parke, Longtime Minnesota School Bus Driver Gets Special Casket, Fox News, February 19, 2020.

February 20, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

What Happened to Choupette?

ChoupetteChanel designer Karl Lagerfeld died last February at age 85 and the internet was abuzz with the idea that the eccentric man left the majority of his earthly goods as well as .his fortune to his beloved Birman cat, Choupette. The estate administration is still ongoing, so the next question out of fans mouths is "WHERE is Choupette?"

Caroline Lebar, the longtime head of communications for the Karl Lagerfeld brand in Paris, says that the cat is also in Paris with "her nanny," the designer's former housekeeper Françoise Caçote. The fluffy kitty has her own Instagram account, started by the nanny and the cat's agent, Lucas Bérullier, of My Pet Agency. The feline has become a highly marketable asset, even before her owners death, bringing in $3 million in 2015. Chanel collections suddenly included a new shade dubbed “Choupette blue,” and the Karl Lagerfeld brand put out a range of Choupette face handbags.

Lagerfeld and Choupette's last excursion before his death was in December 2018 December 2018 to New York for Chanel’s Métiers d’Art show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, flying there in a private plane and lodging at the Mercer hotel. Choupette was said to have changed the designer's life, making him happy in a way no one thought possible.

See Dana Thomas, What Happened to Choupette?, The New York Times, January 21, 2020.

Special thanks to Andrew Starr (Wayside Waifs, Kansas City, MO) for bringing this article to my attention

January 22, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Avid Fisherman's Family Honors his Memory by Bringing Boat into Funeral Home

Boatfuneral37-year-old Nathaniel Frey of Hellertown, Pennsylvania passed away on New Year's Eve at a local hospital. His family made sure that his most passionate hobby - fishing - was made aware to the funeral director, David Heintzelman. 

For the viewing on January 3, Frey’s casket was placed inside Frey’s own 16-foot aluminum fishing boat, which had been passed down from his grandfather and father. His casket was then transported from the church to the cemetery in his brother Jeremy's fishing boat. Joshuah Thompson, Frey's cousin, believed that he would be highly pleased with the service, claiming that Nathaniel had once texted him, "When It’s My Time, Take Me In My Fishing Boat."

Frey's family and friends are now planning to continue his annual fishing trip up to the Salmon River in Oswego County, a tradition he had been leading for the past 15 years. He was survived by his wife and two children.

See Alexandra Deabler, Avid Fisherman's Family Honors his Memory by Bringing Boat into Funeral Home, Fox News, January 16, 2020.

January 17, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

What The Movie ‘Knives Out’ Gets Right (And Wrong) About Estate Planning

KnivesoutThe murder mystery Knives Out appears to be the surprise hit of the 2019 holiday season, racking up $70 million at the box office and numerous award nominations. The patriarch of a wealthy family, Harlan Thrombey played by Christopher Plummer, is found dead. It is soon discovered that just prior to his demise, the patriarch had changed his estate plan. During the plot's twists and turns, several concepts of estate planning our mentioned, including undue influence, slayer statutes, and will contestation.

Par for the course for Hollywood, one dramatic scene in particular in the movie is the titular will reading of the recently deceased. In a wood paneled library, the estate attorney sits behind the patriarch’s desk and reads the document. Many movie goers might be surprised that this is not an actual event. Paula Leibovitz Goodwin, partner in the Personal Planning Group at Perkins Coie in San Francisco, says that, “In the past there have been some that I have disappointed when I told them that there is no will reading in real life.”

Other concepts brought up by the movie are closer to reality. Christopher J. Burns, partner in Estate and Tax at Henson & Efron in Minneapolis, Minnesota, comments that due to increased longevity and failure to keep estate plans updated, “Contesting wills is becoming increasingly common." Undue influence is a common red flag, especially when a will is dramatically changed such as what occurs in the movie: natural heirs are disinherited and suddenly a caretaker is the sole beneficiary.

Though the term slayer statute seem farfetched and created from the mind of a Hollywood producer, it is a real premise in estate law. Under a state that has such a statute, an individual cannot inherit if they intentionally killed the deceased for the purpose of inheriting. “Some states apply the rule only to those convicted of homicide, others apply it to manslaughter, with some allowing the 'slayer’s' descendants to receive what the 'slayer' would have inherited, and others cutting off the slayer’s family line,” explains Caitlin Carey, an estate planning attorney in the Personal Planning Group at Perkins Coie.

See Megan Gorman, What The Movie ‘Knives Out’ Gets Right (And Wrong) About Estate Planning, Forbes, December 18, 2019.

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

December 21, 2019 in Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Humor, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Some Extra Planning for Thanksgiving


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

November 25, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Inventor of 'Sourtoe Cocktail' Passes Away at 89, Leaves his Toes to the Bar

SourtoeDick Stevenson, the man behind the infamous drink the "Sourtoe Cocktail," passed away at the age of 89. His will stipulated that all 10 of his toes are to be left to the Dawson City Downtown Hotel's bar in Canada's Yukon Territory. Stevenson's daughter, Dixie, said “It brought him the most fame of anything he’s ever done.”

Stevenson, or Captain Dick, came up with the odd drink in 1973: a shot of whiskey garnished with an amputated, mummified human toe. The idea occurred to him after buying a cabin and finding that the previous owners had left behind a jar containing a preserved toe. The toe garnishment is not to be consumed, or the patron will have to cough up $500. When the toes are not in use on the rim of drinks, they are kept packed in salt behind the bar. So far, the bar has served the cocktail to over $93,000 customers.

A representative for the hotel released a statement, saying "The Downtown Hotel mourns the loss and celebrates the life of Captain Dick Stevenson, the originator of the Sourtoe Cocktail. He certainly was one of the Yukon’s most colourful characters and a tremendous ambassador for Dawson City. His passion, creativity and energy will be missed and we are grateful for the legacy he left behind. The Sourtoe Cocktail continues to make headlines around the world and puts Dawson City on the map. Rest in Peace Captain Dick!"

His ashes will also be on display at the hotel in a toe-shaped urn that he commissioned before his death.

See Michael Bartiromo, Inventor of 'Sourtoe Cocktail' Passes Away at 89, Leaves his Toes to the Bar, Fox News, November 18, 2019.

November 19, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Woman Celebrates 'Death' of $102G in Student Loans with Graveyard Photo Shoot

102KMandy Velez of New York recently killed off her student debt - all $102,000 of it. She was so ecstatic that she in fact celebrated the feat with a spooky funeral themed photo shoot in Manhattan’s Trinity Church Cemetery.

Velez accrued $75,000 in debt from California University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh by the time she graduated in 2013. After moving to the Big Apple, she likened her $1,000 a month loan premium as another rent payment. She made a goal that she would be debt-free before she turned 30 so that she could start saving up for a home and a future. So when she accomplished that lofty goal at only 27 by taking odd jobs such as babysitting and dog-walking, she wanted to show the world.

"I hope that if [others with student debt] are able, they’re inspired to tackle their student loans in the best ways that they can," Velez told GMA. "Or if people don’t have student loans, I hope that they understand the burden that it is on people who have them and the ridiculous things that it takes to finally kill them."

Outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1.6 trillion in the U.S. - double what it was just a decade ago.

See Janine Puhak, Woman Celebrates 'Death' of $102G in Student Loans with Graveyard Photo Shoot, Fox News, October 15, 2019.

October 17, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh

LaughingA father from Dublin, Ireland had his family play a pre-recorded message at his funeral to lighten the mood and make a number of the attendees laugh. Shay Bradley, a Defense Forces veteran, can be heard knocking and calling out - presumably from the coffin - before jokingly calling for the priest, saying he’s stuck in the box.

His daughter, Andrea Bradley, shared the message on social media where it has gone viral, writing that this was her dad’s dying wish. The short clip has now gone viral and the family has received many heart-felt messages.

“Myself and my Family are overwhelmed with the Amazing response and comments we have received regarding my dad's funeral, he truly is a legend and was the most amazing man!!! He would be overjoyed to know how many smiles and laughs he has given to every one. Thank you all,” Andrea wrote.

See Alexandra Deabler, Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh, Fox News, October 14, 2019.

October 17, 2019 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 30, 2019

Safeguarding Estate Planning Documents

HurricaneIn cases of severe weather such as hurricane and tornadoes, people can focus just on the moment. When evacuations are issued, people often leave their homes with a handful of possessions and the clothes on their backs. They may not think to grab their physical estate planning documents. All drama aside, it may be a good idea to back up the paper originals with electronically stored copies in a secure cloud.

However, if you can produce a signed copy of the will, there is usually statutory authority providing a means to prove a copy of a lost or destroyed will.

See Carol Warnick, Safeguarding Estate Planning Documents, Fiduciary Law Blog, September 9, 2019.

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

September 30, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 8, 2019

Friends Make a Pact To Retire and Die Together

ChampagneA band of seven women in China are living out an agreement made many years prior: to retire and live out their lives under the same roof after they all turned 60. The women have known each other for 20 years and just last year they pooled their money together to buy and renovate a large brick house in a village roughly an hour away from the city of Guangzhou.

Now featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows with views of paddy fields, a tea room, a pool, and separate bedrooms upstairs, the house is the perfect place for the women to retreat to during their retirement. The women spend their time cooking, barbecuing, singing, and drinking tea under the moon. With each woman putting in work and mastering a different skill, the chances of fighting are diminished. 

See Marie Lodi, Friends Make a Pact To Retire and Die Together, The Cut, July 2, 2019.

Special thanks to Molly Neace for bringing this article to my attention.

July 8, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (1)