Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Friday, September 11, 2020

I'm a Coffin Confessor. I Tell People's Secrets From Beyond the Grave.

BillBill Edgar, a private investigator based in Queensland, Australia, has built a successful business of going into big businesses undercover to uncover thieves stealing from businesses. 

About three years ago, one of Edgar's clients was "being ripped off by someone within his business, but he was also terminally ill." 

Edgar made a joke to his client stating that he would crash his funeral and do the eulogy. Although it was a joke, his client called him a few weeks later to take him up on the offer. 

The client offered to pay him to do "exactly what he asked." He told Edgar to "interrupt the funeral when his best friend was reading the eulogy and to tell his best friend to sit down and shut up." Edgar was then to explain to everyone that he had something to say on the behalf of the deceased.

At the funeral, Edgar outed his client's best friend for trying to sleep with his client's wife and also asked three of the attendees to stand up and make themselves known and tell them to "get lost."

Edgar received emails from his deceased clients wife as well as his daughter. The daughter explained that her dad told her that someone was going to do something at the funeral, but he did not tell her what. 

Edgar explained that he felt good doing something for his client that made his client, who didn't have the strength to do these things himself, feel empowered. 

Edgar has now been coined the "Coffin Confessor" and has now done 22 funerals. Although Edgar still continues to say yes to funeral confessions, there are some requests he will and has said no too.  

Edgar stated, "I've actually had funeral directors tell me I have to leave, and I've told them that this is my client and if they don't let me do my job, I will take my client with me. Before they pass, I set my clients up with a separate funeral director in case, so we are ready to take the coffin and bury them elsewhere if their final wishes are not respected."

You can find Bill Edgars business at coffinconfessions.com.au

See Bill Edgar,  I'm a Coffin Confessor. I Tell People's Secrets From Beyond the Grave., Newsweek, September 5th, 2020. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 11, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

World War II veteran's wish granted: casket to be painted like pack of Juicy Fruit

GettyImages-Juicy-Fruit-gumSuttie Economy, a World War II veteran, will have his casket painted like a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. Mr. Economy has been handing out packs of Juicy Fruit gum in his Virginia Community for decades. "Economy served in the Navy on the USS English in the Pacific during the war."

Mr. Economy, 94, has been dealing with some health problems the last year and has been moved from the VA Hospital to the Virginia Veterans Care Center next door, although his health has slightly improved. 

“For decades, Suttie has been known as the guy who takes packs of Juicy Fruit to restaurants, doctors' offices, funeral homes, firehouses, etcetera, and gives them out to everyone he sees,” Oakey said. “He has probably purchased tens of thousands of packs of the gum over the years.”

In the beginning, Wrigley was not too fond of having their trademark on a casket. However, Oakey posted the request on social media, bringing in a lot of buzz. Wrigley has now decided that it will make an exception for the Veteran. 

Oakey said the casket will either be painted to look like a pack of Juicy Fruit or a pall with the logo will be laid over the casket

See Stephen Sorace, World War II veteran's wish granted: casket to be painted like pack of Juicy Fruit, Fox News, September 6, 2020. 

September 9, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (1)