Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Who will get killer producer Phil Spector’s $50m fortune? Reclusive adopted children from his abusive marriage to Ronnie Spector and his writer daughter are in line for share of ‘the world’s most valuable song catalogue’

SpectorMurderer Phil Spector died in prison from coronavirus last week and his four children are in line to receive a portion of Spector's fortune. Spector's net worth is estimated to be in the ballpark of $50 million which is largely made up of royalties from hits. 

Spector was the father to three adopted sons, Donte and twins Gray and Lewis, which were sons of his second wife, Ronnie Spector. According to Ronnie, Phil adopted Gary and Lewis without her knowledge and "surprised her with them as a 'Christmas present.'" 

The twins are now in their fifties, and have recently accused Spector of abuse and Donte stated that Spector used to lock them in their rooms. 

Spector later had his own set of twins with Janis Zavala. Spector's son Phillip Spector Jr. died in 1991 after losing a battle to leukemia and his daughter, Nicole, is a 34-year-old writer and journalist. 

Ronnie recently described Spector has a "brilliant producer, but a lousy husband." Apparently, Spector essentially locked Ronnie in the home and even went as far as hiding her shoes so she couldn't run away. 

Those close to him say he had a hard time functioning outside of the recording studio. 

Experts say that Spector's net worth may be higher "depending on how much he owns of 'one of the most valuable song royalty catalogues in the world.'" 

See Sam Baker, Who will get killer producer Phil Spector’s $50m fortune? Reclusive adopted children from his abusive marriage to Ronnie Spector and his writer daughter are in line for share of ‘the world’s most valuable song catalogue’, Daily Mail (U.K.), January 18, 2021. 

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

January 19, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

David Bowie's estate launches a new TikTok account with his iconic hits and music videos to celebrate the late rocker's 74th birthday

BowieDavid Bowie's estate launched a TikTok account on what would have been his 74th birthday. TikTok announced that David Bowie, who died in 2016 at the age of 69, would be celebrated with a new account that will share his back catalog.

Also, Bowie's music will be available to the TikTok community as Bowie's dedicated page will include iconic videos from over five decades in the industry. On January 10th, TikTok launched the Starman challenge to mark the pass of five years since Bowie's death. 

"The hashtag challenges users to celebrate Bowie's life and work by recreating his iconic looks over the years to the track Starman, the lead single from his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders." 

Paul Hourican, Head of UK Music Operations at TikTok stated, "He remains one of the most influential and acclaimed artists of all time and his music has defined multiple generations and cultural moments. We know the excitement our community will find discovering his music and creating using the indisputable Bowie sound." 

See Roxy Simons, David Bowie's estate launches a new TikTok account with his iconic hits and music videos to celebrate the late rocker's 74th birthday, Daily Mail (U.K.), January 8, 2021. 

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

January 13, 2021 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Neil Young has sold a big stake in his 1,180 songs

NeilyoungFolk-rock superstar Neil Young has joined the trend and sold a stake to his music catalog. Young reportedly sold a 50% stake in his catalog to investment company Hipgnosis for an estimated $150 million. The deal covers 1,180 songs. 

Young is only the latest in a number in a number of artists that have decided to sell their rights or at least a portion of them to the highest bidder. 

Neil Young, an influential songwriter, rose to fame in the 1960s and has remained an icon ever since. Young has released to studio albums and is a two-time member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (one as a solo artist and one as a member of Buffalo Springfield). 

Founder of Hipgnosis, Merck Mercuriadis stated, "This is a deal that changes Hipgnosis forever." Mercuriadis is understandably excited for the deal and what is to come of it.

Mercuriadis has been a longtime fan of Neil Young stating, "I bought my first Neil Young album aged 7. 'Harvest' was my companion and I know every note, every word, every pause and silence intimately. Neil Young, or at least his music, has been my friend and constant ever since."

Sounds like the deal was mutually beneficial for all parties!

See Jack Guy, Neil Young has sold a big stake in his 1,180 songs, CNN Business, January 6, 2021. 

Special thanks to Mark J. Bade (CPA, GCMA, St. Louis, Missouri) for bringing this article to my attention. 

January 13, 2021 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 18, 2020

5 reasons musicians like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks are selling their song catalogs right now

MusicA trend involving musicians selling their "beloved and extensive song catalogs" has begun to make its stride in the music industry. Bob Dylan recently sold the rights to his entire catalog for an estimated $300 million to $400 million. This has been coined as possibly the biggest acquisition of music publishing rights from a single songwriter. The catalog consists of more than 600 songs and a Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Unlikely many artists, Bob Dylan owned most of his own songwriting copyrights. According to Marketwatch, the only likely competitor in value and influence would be the Beatles. Bob Dylan was nor the first nor the last artist to sell his catalog. 

Last month, Stevie Nicks sold 80% of her rights to her songwriting catalog for a reported $100 million. Also, in August, Imagine Dragons sold their back catalog for over $100 million. 

Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British company that buys hit catalogs spent around $670 million in the months between March 2020 and September 2020 on multiple different catalogs consisting of more than 44,000 songs. 

It appears Dolly Parton is thinking about jumping on the train as well. 

Why the sudden surge? Many believe that "the Spotify effect" has a lot to do with it. Not only are older catalogs being played a lot more due to the easy access, it is not much easier to value music due to streaming revenues. Which also inherently makes these catalogs more profitable.  

Also, under the current tax plan and low interest rates, now may be the best time for artists and musicians to sell their catalogs and maximize profit. The low interest rates are good for investors that may want to invest in catalogs to receive royalties. Further, many musicians are not making as much money as they normally would because COVID-19 has essentially cancelled touring. 

One other great benefit is that musicians will not have to deal with their catalogs being fought over in court. With these clear transfers, it is clear who owns the rights and it is a great weight of their shoulders. 

As an artist, songwriter, or musician, now may be the best time and possibly the only time for awhile in which it is more beneficial than a detriment to sell the rights to the catalogs that lead to such great fame and success. 

See Nicole Lyn Pesce, 5 reasons musicians like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks are selling their song catalogs right now, Market Watch, 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 Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Non-Probate Assets, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Appeals court sends ‘Leaving Neverland’ fight to arbitration

HboA federal appeals court in California ruled that a lawsuit filed bye Michael Jackson's estate can go forward in private arbitration. Michael Jackson's estate filed the lawsuit over the HBO documentary about two of MJ's sex abuse accusers. 

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decisions of two lower  courts, ruling in favor of Michael Jackson's estate. 

Without further appeals, the case will go to a private arbitrator, which is required by the 1992 contract that the estate's lawsuit sought to enforce. 

In the event of private arbitration, the proceedings will be kept out of public view. MJ's attorneys said that they would like for the proceedings to be as open as possible.

The agreement between Jackson and HBO, prohibited the latter from disparaging Jackson in any way, which the estate felt was done by airing the molestation allegations of Wade Robson and James Safechuck in "Leaving Neverland."

“In the court’s own words, HBO ‘agreed that it would not make any disparaging remarks concerning Jackson,’” estate attorneys Howard Weitzman and Jonathan Steinsapir said in a statement. “It’s time for HBO to answer for its violation of its obligations to Michael Jackson.”

HBO argued that the provisions was no longer valid since both sides had performed their parts of the agreement. Jackson's family has alleged that the documentary's allegations are false and came from two men "who previously told authorities they were not molested." 

See Andrew Dalton, Appeals court sends ‘Leaving Neverland’ fight to arbitration, Associated Press, December 14, 2020. 

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

December 15, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, New Legislation, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 14, 2020

Eddie Van Halen was cremated, ashes went to son Wolf, who will scatter them in the Pacific Ocean: report

WolfgangvanhalenEddie Van Halen was reportedly cremated and his ashes have been passed on to his son, Wolf. Eddie Van Halen died in October after a trying battle with Cancer. His son Wolf, who is 29, broke the news to the world on Twitter. 

Wolf stated, "He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I've shared with him on stage and off stage was a gift," Wolf continued. "My heart is broken and I don't think I'll ever fully recover from this loss."

Eddie Van Halen was cremated 22 days after his death. Wolf has been very open about the difficulties he has had in dealing with his father's death. He told Howard Stern in an interview that when his father was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, the doctors told him he had six weeks, however, they ended top up having another three years with each other. 

Wolfgang has stated that he will scatter his father's ashes in the Pacific Ocean. On social media he stated, "1 month. Not a second goes by where you’re not on my mind," he wrote. "I miss talking with you. I miss laughing with you. I miss listening to music with you. I miss making music with you. I just miss everything." And concluded with, "I love you so much, Pop. It’s really hard being here without you."

See Tyler McCarthy, Eddie Van Halen was cremated, ashes went to son Wolf, who will scatter them in the Pacific Ocean: report, Fox News, December 12, 2020. 

December 14, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 11, 2020

Was Bob Dylan’s sale of his massive music catalog a tax maneuver?

BobdylanOn December 7, Universal Music Group announced that it purchased Bob Dylan's catalog of around 600 songs. The announcement did not include the purchase price, the estimation is around $300 million. 

This type of deal—a windfall—would generally be subject to a capital gain tax rate of 20% under current law. However, with President-elect Biden's proposed tax proposal regarding capital gains looming in the balance, this type of deal would be subject to a higher tax rate. This type of increase is an incentive to get deals like this one done quickly, preferably by New Years Eve. 

If Bob Dylan and UMG do not get this deal complete by New Years Eve, the tax could double. Josh Escovedo, a lawyer for the Weintraub law firm, stated that he has dealt with multiple clients that were pushing to have deals completed before the end of the year because they fear the new administrations proposed tax agenda. 

Also, the value of music catalogs have increased dramatically over the last few years, providing another incentive for Bob Dylan to sell now rather than later. There are also reports that Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac sold an 80% interest in her catalog for $100 million. It appears that this has become a trend in the music industry and musical talent groups are not the only investors buying in. 

According to Escovedo, Spotify has allowed artists and companies to figure out the value of artists' income streams, making it easier to quantify musical value. Further, with the ability to stream, the income stream is long lasting. 

According to Dotan Oliar, an intellectual property professor, "Dylan's copyrights on his work before 1978 expire 95 years after publication." Further, copyrights on songs on or after January 1, 1978, "will expire 70 years after his death." 

It appears that the Universal Music Group has made quite the long-term investment.

See Geoff Colvin, Was Bob Dylan’s sale of his massive music catalog a tax maneuver?, Fortune, December 8, 2020. 

Special thanks to Mark J. Bade (CPA, GCMA, St. Louis, Missouri) for bringing this article to my attention. 

December 11, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Article on An Estate Plan for Kanye West

Thomas Simmons recently published an an article entitled, An Estate Plan for Kanye West, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Kanye

One inventory item in megastar Kanye West’s vast portfolio merits particular care – his right of publicity. The right of publicity, a property interest, represents the commercial value of a celebrity’s name, image, and likeness. In some states, the right survives the celebrity’s death and is freely alienable. Postmortem use and transferability restrictions on property with particular importance to the testator are often pursued by means of a trust. A noncharitable purpose trust as a means by which West’s right of publicity can be safeguarded and utilized appropriately is proposed here. After framing hypothetical estate planning objectives for Kanye West, and disposing of several alternative possibilities, a noncharitable purpose trust which accomplishes those objectives is described.

November 11, 2020 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 26, 2020

Britney Spears' conservatorship keeps her from marrying, having a baby, makeup artist says

BritWhat has become a quite popular topic in the tabloids, is Britney Spears' conservatorship and the lack of control Spears appears to have due to said conservatorship. 

Following her public meltdown over a decade ago, Britney Spears has been under a legal guardianship, in which her father Jamie has been in charge of her finances and everyday life. 

Spears' makeup artist, Maxi, stated that it is quite possible that Spears would have married an even had children with her boyfriend Sam Asghari if not for the conservatorship forbidding her from doing so.

Maxi stated, "I can tell you what they’re still controlling to this day is whether she has a baby or not, whether she gets married or not, who her friends are, and those are some big things.” Maxi also added, "We're talking about some 'Handmaid's Tale'-type things to keep her from having a baby. Like we're talking... I can't detail and I'm not gonna specifically say, but I will say for sure, she would've had a baby by now. She would've probably been married to Sam by now. She would have groups of friends around her." 

Spears has made it quite clear that she is not in favor of her father being her conservator as she has filed court documents fighting the conservatorship.

One thing that fans of Britney Spears have noticed is that she has gained more control over her social media, which she has used to post a couple of questionable videos of her dancing.

October 26, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Whitney Houston estate considering legal action over late singer's scrapped hologram after it debuts in variety show without permission

WhitneyWhitney Houston's new hologram surfaced last month and the people behind it may be facing legal action. The hologram was originally set to debut on the 2016 finale of the Voice, but Whitney's estate cancelled reasoning that "the quality didn't meet her high standards." 

The variety show in which Whitney's hologram was debuted included "live performances and appearances from iconic deceased celebrities."

After "perfecting" Whitney Houston's likeness, the producers entered the hologram into the performance. However, Houston's estate claims that they "had no legal standing to re-build or re-brand the hologram."

The estate originally backed the creation of the hologram when it was first announced and the original plan was to have Whitney Houston's hologram perform its own headlining show. 

However, the estate decided to cancel when they saw the hologram because they "didn't like the hologram's look."

It is not clear where this potential litigation is heading, but its likely that the fans were excited to see Whitney Houston's music come to life. 

See Kevin Kayhart, Whitney Houston estate considering legal action over late singer's scrapped hologram after it debuts in variety show without permission, Daily Mail (U.K.), October 4, 2020.

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

October 6, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)