Monday, January 14, 2019
It appears that the drama of the late soul diva is continuing, with police in Chicago stating that there is an active theft investigation involving Aretha Franklin's mansion, and that it began before her death in August. It is also reported that the investigation involves someone using her funds inappropriately, but was unclear of how much.
Franklin's son Edward, 61, is also in a court battle with the estate in an effort to attain a court order for the estate to hand over monthly financial documents to her heirs. The estate is withholding the statements because it could allegedly have a negative impact on the criminal investigation of the missing assets.
The estate is also being audited by the IRS, claiming that the diva owed the Service more than $6.3 million in back taxes and $1.5 million in penalties. The estate is contesting the claim, stating there is a dispute over what was and was not income for the singer.
See Leah McDonald, Police Investigating Theft of Assets from Aretha Franklin's Estate, Daily Mail, January 11, 2019.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Friday, December 28, 2018
The undisputed "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, passed away in August of this year, but according to court documents filed this week she was not up to date on her taxes at the time of her death. The documents say that the Internal Revenue Service claims that Franklin owes $6.3 million from the tax years 2012 to present, with another $1.5 million in penalties. The odd thing is, the tax year of 2018 is not quite over yet.
The attorney for the estate, David Bennett of Thav Gross P.C., issued a statement that the Estate disputes the tax claims, and that, "The Estate is diligently working to resolve any remaining issues."
A new lien has also been placed on the estate by a publishing company. The company claims that it is owed $136,000 for royalties in connection with the 1973 song Angel. Franklin's personal attorney has also placed a lien on the estate for $54,000 for unpaid bills from the last 6 years.
See Aretha Franklin Owes IRS Almost $8 Million in Back Taxes and Penalties, TMZ, December 27, 2018.
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
In a recent case in the European Court of Human Rights, the court found that Greece should not have allowed the two sisters a deceased Muslim man apply Sharia law to contesting the validity of their brothers will.
In Molla Sali v Greece, a Grand Chamber judgment held that Greece had violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits religious discrimination, when the country applied Sharia law to the inheritance of a wife's estate. The husband had a will written up and notarized 5 years before his death, bequeathing his wife all of his property. However, his two sisters contested the will. They claimed that their brother was part of the Thrace Muslim community and that any question of inheritance should be governed by Sharia law instead of Greek Civil Code. Under Sharia law, there is no testacy - inheritance is simply provided by intestacy rules, and wills are only meant to compliment those rules. Under the intestacy guidelines, the sisters were entitled to three-quarters of their brother's estate because they were close relatives.
After several layers of appeals, the European Court found for the wife, stating that she had been discriminated against because of her husband's religion. Because the husband went to a notary and had a will drawn up and publicly notarized, he was subjecting himself to the Greek Civil Code, just like a non-Muslim Greek national. "The fact is that if her husband, the testator, had not been of Muslim faith, Ms Molla Sali would have inherited the whole estate."
See Howard Friedman, European Court: Greece Should not Have Applied Sharia Law in Will Contest, Religion Clause Blog Spot, December 21, 2018; see also Molla Sali v Greece.
Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Friday, December 21, 2018
Charles Manson may have been a convicted serial killer, but that does not mean that his estate was not wanted by multiple people. In Los Angeles County Superior Court, Jason Freeman, Manson’s grandson, is battling Michael Channels, the decedent’s prison pen pal, for control and receipt of the estate. Manson passed away in November of last year from complications of colon cancer.
There were originally four men that were vying for control of Manson's estate. The other two included Matt Lentz, who claimed that he was a biological son of Manson that was given up for adoption, and that there existed a will naming him as sole beneficiary. Another was an actual son of Manson, Michael Brunner, but the courts deemed that he lost his bid for the estate because his maternal grandparents had adopted him.
In the current situation, Channels is claiming that there is a 2002 will signed by Manson naming him as sole beneficiary, disinheriting all of his sons and grandsons in favor of the pen pal. However, Channels is one of the two witnesses that signed the will, so the courts may see this as a conflict of interests.
See Cori A. Robinson, Who’s Your Daddy: Fighting For The Estate Of Charles Manson, Above the Law, December 20, 2018.
Special thanks to Carissa Peterson (Hrbacek Law Firm, Sugar Land, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
G. V. Mahesh Nath recently published an Article entitled, Latest Trends in Succession among Hindus, Wlls, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.
The presence of separate provisions for succession in case of Hindu men and Hindu women dying intestate is viewed as complicated feature of the Hindu Succession Act,1956 showing discrimination on basis of gender. The property of Hindu males devolves upon his heirs irrespective of the source of the income but the property of Hindu females devolves according to the source of the income. This provision under Section 15 of the Act dealing with rules of Succession of Hindu Female dilutes the effect of gender progressive provisions like Section 14 and show that the woman is a temporary occupier of the property and that the property must be reverted back from where it was inherited leaving that woman has no identity of her own. The 2005 Amendment Act is required to be seen as a step in the direction of reducing the existing gender inequalities, however the change in Indian societal perception on gender equity is still lacking.
Monday, December 17, 2018
Alexandra Popovici & Lionel Smith recently published an Article entitled, Freedom of Testation and Family Claims in Canada, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.
This paper explores the ways in which Canadian legal orders address the tension between freedom of testation and the claims of the family of the deceased.
The province of Quebec has a civilian law of succession, while the common law governs in the other provinces and in the territories. Under federal law, a different regime governs succession in relation to many members of First Nations.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, an unbridled freedom of testation prevailed in most of Canada. In the decades that followed, the law evolved to temper this principle in favour of protecting the family of a deceased person, so that obligations of support did not simply vanish upon death. The shape and structure of provision for the family is, however, diverse across the country. There is a great deal of variation even among the statutory regimes in the common law provinces; some require a claimant to show need, an inter vivos obligation of support, or both, while others allow claims even by adult independent children. Under those regimes, where a claimant has standing, the jurisdiction of the courts to intervene in the testator's chosen distribution is highly discretionary. In relation to those members of First Nations to whom it applies, federal law grants a wide power to intervene in the distribution of an estate, in this case not to the courts but to the relevant minister. In Quebec, by contrast, the courts and the Civil Code bear the imprint of a longstanding commitment to freedom of testation. Quebec law aims to convert legal obligations of support that existed at the moment of death into claims against the estate, rejecting any wide discretion and preserving freedom of testation as much as possible.
In a broadly comparative context, the unexpected conclusion is that in Canada, it is not the common law but the civil law of Quebec that offers the most freedom to a testator.
Thursday, November 1, 2018
Desmond Oriakhogba & Alero Fenemigho published an Article entitled, Statutory Limitations to Testamentary Freedom in Nigeria: A Comparative Analysis, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2013). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.
In Nigeria, a person when alive often has the freedom to dispose of his property to whomever he chooses. However, when he dies, limits have been put upon that freedom by legislation in some states of the country, when he has made a will concerning the disposition of his estate. These restrictions to testamentary freedom are often justified on cultural, religious, moral and social grounds. This paper appraises these limits to testamentary freedom in Nigeria, while comparing it with the positions in England, Ghana and South Africa. The question as to whether or not the limitations to testamentary freedom are justified is also considered in the paper. The paper finds that some limitations whilst worthy ideals and thus justified, could bring about unrealistic and impracticable results while some totally take away freedom from the testator. The paper recommends that a balance between the wishes of the testator and following the strict letter of the statutes as to the limitations be found so as to as much as possible, give effect to the desires of the deceased testator as stated in his will.
Friday, October 26, 2018
Article on Everybody Dies. Or, a Consideration of Simultaneous Death Statutes and the Struggles of the Self-Represented
Victoria J Haneman recently published an Article entitled, Everybody Dies. Or, a Consideration of Simultaneous Death Statutes and the Struggles of the Self-Represented, 32 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 221-250 (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.
The access to justice problem has been the cause célèbre of the social justice movement in the United States for many years, with calls for the legal community to support legal services programs and contribute pro bono hours. The stark reality is that while sixty-one million people are potentially eligible to receive legal aid, most will find themselves unassisted when need arises. Notably, however, the access to justice problem in this country reaches beyond the poorest and most disadvantaged. The working-class and middle-class are ineligible for legal services programs but often find themselves unable to afford standard attorney rates. While access to information through technology should allow basic legal issues to be resolved in an efficient and predictable manner, the reality is that the complexity of the system interferes. The business of dying is extremely lucrative for estate planning attorneys and probate practitioners, and the legal process has been designed to accommodate the represented. To that end, an overarching purpose of this Article is to explore the idea of revising probate statutes to protect the self-represented from an obvious pitfall, especially when and where it is clear that the underrepresented and unrepresented are going to blindly fall into the pit. This discussion is framed within the context of an obvious flaw that presently exists in states that allow holographic wills: protection of the layperson from simultaneous or closely proximate death scenarios.
Twenty-six states recognize the validity of holographic wills, which are wholly or partially handwritten wills commonly utilized by the self-represented testator. While the will of a competently represented testator contains survivorship language as a matter of course, the holographic will of the self-represented layperson is unlikely to include the legalese of survivorship language. Only ten of the twenty-six states authorizing holographic instruments have adopted language that protects the instruments with a default 120-hour rule in the absence of contrary language. The remaining sixteen states have chosen to implement incomplete language that does not apply the 120-hour rule to holographic instruments, or alternatively, to reject adoption of the 120-hour rule altogether. The consequence is that while twenty-six states have authorized holographic wills as a convenience for those unable to retain counsel, sixteen of these states have implicitly endorsed and enabled self-representation while also failing to make simple, nonconsequential adjustments to the probate codes that would ease the path of the self-represented. It is in this failure that something implicit and troubling can be found.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Dennis Hof was discovered unresponsive at the age of 72 on October 16 by his friend Ron Jeremy, at the Love Ranch South, a legal brothel Hof owned in Crystal, Nevada. Despite his death, the cause of which remains unknown, he is expected by many to win his election for state assembly in November as his name remains on the ballot. According to the State of Nevada’s Constitution, the 36th District of Nevada will appoint another Republican to serve in Hof’s place should he posthumously win the election.
Questions as to who would inherit his businesses are being asked because it is unclear if Hof had a will. There has been a report that he had a trust, and friend Heidi Fleiss claims that there is indeed a last will existing somewhere. Though Hof dealt in unconventional businesses, there is still a lesson to be learned from the brothel owner's death. Ownership interest in a business is an asset like any other, and sole proprietorships must be transferred by probate or the laws of intestacy.
As is often the case with estates, litigation may ensue. It is already reported that Hof’s two estranged daughters from his first wife have surfaced inquiring as to the succession plan for their father’s empire. Suzette Cole, who worked as a madame with Hof at his brothels, may manage the brothels as her name appears on many of the brothel licenses. Interestingly, her name does not appear on the license for Love Ranch South where died.
See Cori A. Robinson, Elections, Brothels, Family: Dennis Hof and Lessons in Estate and Succession Planning, Above the Law, October 23, 2018.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
Article on Farewell Downton Abbey, Adieu Primogeniture and Entail: Britain's Brief Encounter with Forced Heirship
Lloyd Bonfield recently published an Article entitled, Farewell Downton Abbey, Adieu Primogeniture and Entail: Britain's Brief Encounter with Forced Heirship, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:
This article observes a little-noted proposal (the Landed Property of Intestates Bill) introduced into the British Parliament in 1836. It considers the debate upon it that ensued, and the accompanying pamphlet literature. The Bill proposed to alter the inheritance custom of primogeniture that directed the pattern of descent of freehold land in the absence of directions by settlement or will, and the dialogue is used as a lens to view the nexus between inheritance customs and broader political, economic and social concerns. The intensity of the dispute over primogeniture suggests that more was at stake than simply the devolution of land. The controversy in the Commons over the proposed legislation encompassed a discussion on the variety of purposes that succession law should serve. Lurking in the background in the debate over the proposed bill was a more abstract conundrum: should succession laws primarily be crafted to serve political ends, the constitution; or was it more appropriate to calibrate them to foster desirable social, economic or familial goals? In short, the debate put into sharp focus the question of what interests drive inheritance law, and how attempts can be made to modify it, if and when such concerns alter over time. The bill failed, and it would be for another century for Parliament to abolish primogeniture.