Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: Personal Representative’s Power To Pay Claims Extinguished After Three Years

Estate planningIn In re Estate of Kendall, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided "whether the personal representative of the Estate of Jacqueline Kendall was required to pay a creditor claim for reimbursement from the Commonwealth's MassHealth Program when the estate proceeding was commenced more than three years after Kendall died. The short answer: no." 

Kendall received about $105,000 in Mass Health Benefits before her death (Kendall died intestate in 2014). 

When Kendall died, she had a fifty percent interest in a house in Massachusetts and a portion of it was recoverable by MassHealth under Massachusetts law. In 2018, one of Kendall's heirs filed a petition for late and limited formal testacy and notified MassHealth. MassHealth then informed petitioner's counsel that it would file a notice of claim in the estate. 

The personal representative of the estate informed MassHealth that she could not pay the claim since more than three years had passed since Kendall's death and MassHealth objected.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that although there are exceptions to ultimate time limitations on estates, no such exceptions apply to this particular claim. Massachusetts personal representative power to pay claims is extinguished after three years, with no exceptions. 

See Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: Personal Representative’s Power To Pay Claims Extinguished After Three Years, Probate Stars, January 4, 2021. 

January 12, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sorting Out Tony Hsieh’s Estate, From LLCs to Thousands of Sticky Notes

HsiehTony Hsieh, who recently passed away due to complications from smoke inhalation following a house fire, died intestate which has left his family scrambling. 

Apparently, inside Hsieh's mansion was found thousands of color-coded sticky notes plastered on the walls/ Some of them represented financial commitments that Hsieh had made to employees, friends, and local businesses. 

It appears that Hsieh wrote these notes himself in the months leading to his death and may function as informal contracts. This adds a complicating piece of the puzzle to his estate which was already complex and difficult due to the lack of a will. The estate is said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Within the estate plan is about $70 million worth of real estate he recently purchased, which are spread across about a dozen LLCs; some of Hsieh's friends continue to live in these houses and condos. Another asset is a $30 million "angel" fund planned for tech startups and other businesses in Park City.

According to Hsieh's friends and others that were close to him, Hsieh was struggling with alcohol and drug abuse in the months prior to his death, which only adds more complexity to handling the estate. With the many sticky notes and writings left around Hsieh's home. it is unclear whether or not he was of sound mind when he recorded these writings or when he made recent investment decisions or employment agreements. 

See Kristen Grind & Katherine Sayre, Sorting Out Tony Hsieh’s Estate, From LLCs to Thousands of Sticky Notes, Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2020. 

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

December 16, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Maradona's unknown children in battle over his millions

MaradonaDiego Maradona, Argentinian footballer, died last month was known for his complicated love life. The rumor mill contends that he slept with 8,000 women. Maradona's estate could possibly be up to $40 million and includes a Rolls Royce and the rights to some very profitable merchandising contracts. 

However, Maradona's relatives are beginning to realize that there may be a number of people fighting for the inheritance. 

Prior to his death, Maradona's lawyers acknowledged that he was the father of five children (four in Argentina and one in Italy. All of the children have made a claim in the the Buenos Aires courts. 

Since Maradona did not leave a will, there have been at least six others who say they are his children and have attempted to claim a share of the inheritance. 

Others trying to get involved include, three ex-lovers, four sisters, fellow players, past managers and business partners, and more. 

Maradona's former lawyer, Mauricio Dalessandro stated, "Those who have claims must present their case because the court has DNA and is charged with verifying (the claims) of any children and seeking proof of their claims,” he added. “They must present themselves quickly."

Also, with many of Maradona's assets scattered across this world, the fight won't be easy and locating assets will only be half the problem. 

See Colin Freeman, Maradona's unknown children in battle over his millions, Yahoo News, December 12, 2020

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

December 12, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Article: The Uniform Probate Code's New Intestacy and Class Gift Provisions

Mary Louise Fellows and Thomas P. Gallanis recently published an article entitled, The Uniform Probate Code's New Intestacy and Class Gift Provisions, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Estate planning

Law and society inextricably link family and wealth transmission. An individual’s right to inherit from an intestate decedent depends on whether the individual has a legally recognized familial relationship to the decedent. Similarly, when a class gift in a donative document uses a term of relationship to identify the class members, an individual’s right to share in the gift depends on the legal recognition of the relationship. The enactment of the 2017 Uniform Parentage Act required a revision of the intestacy and class gift provisions of the Uniform Probate Code.

We were the reporters, or principal drafters, of the UPC revisions, which were completed in 2019.

This article has three objectives. One is to describe each of the 2019 revisions to the UPC. A second is to explain how the statutory changes promote the UPC’s purposes and policies. A third is to encourage bar associations and legislative committees in each state to consider in tandem the 2017 Uniform Parentage Act and the 2019 UPC. The 2017 UPA provides the framework within which the 2019 UPC meets the wealth transfer needs of modern families. The 2019 UPC, in turn, supplements the 2017 UPA by determining inheritance rights and rules of construction based, in large part, on the UPA’s requirements for the establishment of parent-child relationships. The enactment of the 2017 UPA and the 2019 UPC, together, furthers a state’s obligation to provide clarity regarding parent-child relationships and to effectuate the lifetime and deathtime donative intent of its residents. Given the interstate mobility of state residents and their families, we encourage states across the U.S. to enact these uniform provisions.

December 9, 2020 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh Dies Intestate With Reported Net Worth Of $840 Million

HseihTony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, died on Friday after being found unconscious in a house fire in Connecticut. Hseih's family filed court documents in Nevada which revealed that Hseih died intestate and did not leave a will. Hseih's estate is reported to be worth an estimated $840 million. 

 

Hseih's father and brother have asked to be allowed access to Hseih's accounts and his mother and other brother were listed as next of kin. 

A recent report stated,

Documents filed in court in Nevada on Wednesday on behalf of his family said they are ‘unaware of the existence of a fully executed estate plan and have a good faith belief that the Decedent died intestate.’

Hsieh’s father Richard Hsieh and his brother Andrew Hsieh have asked for an order that would allow them to access his accounts and protect his assets. His mother Judy and other brother David were listed as next of kin.

The family’s lawyers wrote that they ‘seek authority to investigate the existence of an estate plan by accessing safe deposit boxes, speaking with the Decedent’s legal counsel and associates, and taking such other reasonable acts to ensure that Decedent’s properly executed testamentary directives are implemented.’

"When a person dies intestate, state law controls the distribution of their estate assets." Since Hseih was a resident of Nevada when he died, Nevada law will control the distribution of his estate. 

See Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh Dies Intestate With Reported Net Worth Of $840 Million, Probate Stars, December 4, 2020.

December 5, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 4, 2020

Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh died without a will, family says

HseihTony Hseih, founder of Zappos, died from complication of smoke inhalation in a Connecticut house fire. Apparently, Hseih did not have a will when he died.

Hseih's family filed court papers in Las Vegas asking a judge to make his father and brother special administrators to his estate. The family stated that they will need access to Hseih's financial and social media records and also to connect with his lawyers. 

Hseih died Friday after being found unconscious in a burning shed in New London, Connecticut. The cause of the fire is still unknown. 

Hseih retired as CEO in August after leading Zappos for 20 years. He had just recently purchased the home in Connecticut for a woman named Rachael Brown, who was believed to be Hseih's girlfriend. 

"A death certificate with the family’s filing says Hsieh died at 5 a.m. Friday and lists his occupation as entrepreneur and urban developer." 

See Lia Eustachewich, Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh died without a will, family says, NY Post, December 3, 2020. 

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

December 4, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A Per Stirpes Primer From The Connecticut Supreme Court

EstateplanningIn Schwerin v. Ratcliffe, the Connecticut Supreme Court analyzed the application of and rationale behind per stripes distribution. "The Court analyzed the terms of two family trusts and law from Connecticut and other jurisdictions to determine the correct generation to serve as the root for the per stirpes distribution in this case."

The plaintiffs, Francis and Brenda Schwerin sought a declaratory judgment regarding proper distribution of assets from two family trusts. The two trusts were (1) the Hubbell Trust and (2) the Roche Trust. Defendants were the trustees and potential beneficiaries of the trusts. 

The Hubbell Trust was to expire upon "the death of the last survivor of the grantor [Harvey Hubbell III], his wife Virginia W. Hubbell, his children Harvey Hubbell, Jr., William [Ham] Hubbell and Elizabeth H. Schwerin, and his grandchildren Lisa Lorraine Hubbell and Francis Timothy Schwerin …”

The Roche Trust was set to expire upon the death of the last survivor of the grantor [Roche], her son Harvey Hubbell, her grandchildren Harvey Hubbell, Jr., William [Ham] Hubbell and Elizabeth H. Schwerin, and her great-grandchildren Lisa [Lugovich] and Francis Timothy Schwerin …”

The people in quotations were defined as the measuring lives for the expiration of the Trusts. Therefore, the Trusts would expire upon the death of the last survivor of the measuring lives. 

When this case was brought, five of the measuring lives were deceased. 

In analyzing the rational behind Per Stirpes Distribution, the  Connecticut Supreme Court stated that when the testator has not "expressly provided otherwise" the law favors an equal distribution. 

The Court ultimately concluded that "the trial court properly determined that the per stirpes distribution began at the level of the children of the grantor, such that each child was the head of each stirpe." 

See A Per Stirpes Primer From The Connecticut Supreme Court, Probate Stars, October 20, 2020. 

October 27, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman Died Without A Will

BpAs you may be aware, Chadwick Boseman, the captivating actor that played the roles of Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Black Panther, and many more, passed away on August 28, 2020. This death was one of the many heart wrenching deaths we have seen in this tough year. Boseman passed away from colon cancer which he had been dealing with for a few years, unbeknownst to the world, and even his colleagues and producers. 

Chadwick Boseman died intestate, which has been a cause for concern. Boseman's widow has filed for probate in Los Angeles, California. It has been reported that the estimated worth of Boseman's estate is $938,500. As of now, California law will govern the distribution of the estate. 

Under California Law, Boseman's widow, as his surviving spouse, is entitled to inherit the estate. "When a California resident dies with a surviving spouse and no descendants, California law provides that the surviving spouse inherits all community property and separate property."

Boseman's surviving spouse also has priority to serve as administrator of the estate. Priority for this appointment is set out in the California Probate Code. 

See Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman Died Without A Will, Probate Stars, October 16, 2020.

 

 

October 19, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Parent With No Legal Duty To Support Deceased Child Does Not Forfeit Share of Intestate Estate

CashIn Estate of Small v. Small, the issue involved the alleged forfeiture of a parent's share in his child's estate where his child died without a will. The question before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was "whether an adult decedent, who became disabled after reaching the age of majority, was a dependent child for purposes of the Pennsylvania Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code's forfeiture statute."

The decedent was 18 when he was shot and became a paraplegic. The decedent died almost twenty years later at the age of 37, with no spouse and no children. Decedent's mother was granted letters of administration. The decedent's estate was made up of only a $90,000 wrongful-death award. 

Decedent's mother filed a forfeiture petition, arguing that decedent's father forfeited his share of the estate by failing to perform his duty of support.

The main issue was whether decedent was considered a "dependent child". The evidence presented showed that decedent was able to perform all of the ordinary life activities, except for walking. Witness testimony provided showed that decedent was mostly self-sufficient.

The Pennsylvania Orphan's Court denied decedent's mother's petition for forfeiture, finding that decedent was not a dependent child. Decedent's mother appealed arguing that the Orphan's Court "narrowed the scope of the phrase 'dependent child'." The Superior Court affirmed and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted further review. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the mother failed to demonstrate that the decedent was a dependent child and that the father had a duty of care. 

See, Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Parent With No Legal Duty To Support Deceased Child Does Not Forfeit Share of Intestate Estate, Probate Stars, July 31, 2020.

August 12, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Mystery of the Millionaire Hermit

EugeneHe spent years scrimping and saving. But without a will, where's his money going? 

On the afternoon of August 22, 2015, Dale Tisserand and Melani Rodrigue opened the front door to a small White House in Corning, California. 

The women, who'd been given the keys by local police, are investigators for the office of the Tehama County Public Administrator. They knew the owner had died in the house the previous week and that his name was Eugene Brown. 

The neighborhood mail carrier was the one who'd called the police. Every day Brown would wait for her in a chair by his door, and the two would exchange pleasantries. However, over the past five days, the mail carrier had not seen him. 

It was determined that Mr. Brown had died of a stroke, but not before breaking his nose in a nasty fall. Police searched the house for a will and contact information for family and friends, but had no luck and therefore reached out to Tisserand and Rodrigue.

Many counties in the U.S. have public administrators, though a lot of people don’t know they exist. Public administrators in California usually report to the district attorney’s office, the sheriff, or some other county agency. 

Eugene Brown's story could be anyones, as 56% of Americans don't have a will, according to a 2016 Gallup poll. Prince, Aretha Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., and even Abraham Lincoln all died intestate. 

Rodrigue and Tisserand may have never met Brown, but through their work they came to know him as a solitary, thoughtful man who counted his cousin and investment adviser as his only friends. And yet a different set of people, those with the highest concentration of his DNA coursing through their veins, are the ones who received his wealth.

See Claire Martin, The Mystery of the Millionaire Hermit, Bloomberg, April 27, 2019. 

July 16, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)