Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Aretha Franklin Died with $1 Million in Uncashed Checks

ArethaAn inventory of Aretha Franklin's assets found almost $1 million in uncashed checked among her possessions.

Among the checks was a single one of $702,711.90 from Sound Exchange and the Screen Writers Guild and $285,944.27 in checks from her publishing company, Springtime Publishing, EMI, BMI, Carlin Music and Feel Good Films. The grand total was $988,656.17.

See Singer Died with $1 Million in Uncashed Checks, CNN, August 23, 2019, see also Brie Stimson, Aretha Franklin had Nearly $1M in Uncashed Checks When She Died 1 Year Ago, Fox News, August 24, 2019; see also Karu F. Daniels, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin Died With $1 Million in Uncashed Checks, August 22, 2019.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas), Adam J. Hirsch (Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law), and Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law for bringing these articles to my attention.

August 24, 2019 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Aretha Franklin’s Sons Squabble Over Handwritten Will

ArethaThe discovery of handwritten wills in Aretha Franklin's home has left the control of the estate in question. Two of the singer's sons both argue they should be named the co-executors of the will, though a judge will determine the legitimacy of the documents found.

Theodore White II's attorneys told a Michigan judge last week in a court filing that he should be named co-executor, or personal representative, along with Franklin's niece, Sabrina Owens. He has been managing his mother's estate since she died. But a 2014 handwritten document shows her son Kecalf Franklin was also named a representative, and a 2010 document has the names of White and Owens crossed out, but they appear again in the handwritten will.

Michigan state law allows handwritten will to be valid, though that is not the case in other jurisdictions.

See Rachel Tesler, Aretha Franklin’s Sons Squabble Over Handwritten Will, Fox Business, August 6, 2019.

August 6, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Aretha Franklin's Sons Fighting Each Other Over Control of Singer's Estate

ArethaThe estate of the late diva Aretha Franklin continues to get convoluted and complex, now with the sons duking it out in court. Kecalf Franklin petitioned the court to remove the current personal representative, Aretha's niece Sabrina Owens, claiming that she is not keeping the singer's family up to date with the current status of the estate, and appoint him. Theodore "Teddy" White II, Aretha's son with her first husband, has asked the court to deny his brother's request and instead appoint him as co-personal representative along with Sabrina.

Kecalf claims that his cousin is keeping the heirs in the dark by failing to provide them any accounting or inventory of his mother’s property and assets. He also alleges that Owens has not communicating about the new business deals being negotiated, including the MGM biopic about Aretha's life, and any investigation into the possible forgery of some checks. He is requested that the judge appoint him as the successor and allow him to completely manage all aspects of Franklin’s business.

Owens has denies that she has kept any of the heirs out of the loop, and revealed that since police did not press charges over the alleged forged checks of her aunt, the estate is preparing a civil lawsuit. 

Another son of the diva, Edward Franklin, also filed docs backing Kecalf in the move to remove the current personal representative of the estate and put himself in charge.

See Ryan Naumann, Aretha Franklin's Sons Fighting Each Other Over Control of Singer's Estate, Yahoo, July 19, 2019.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 23, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

These High-Profile Figures will not be Leaving a Lot of Their Fortunes to Their Children

BillgatesMany celebrities and members of the super-wealthy, especially those that are self-made, have been extremely public about their decisions to leave small inheritances to their children. Well, small relative to their net worth, at least. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett as well as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, founded the Giving Pledge, a campaign to get the ultra-wealthy to pledge half their fortunes to charitable causes. eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar signed onto the pledge in 2010, along with his wife. Another notable member of the Giving Pledge is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

After her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is finalized later this month, Mackenzie Bezos states that she will sign on to the campaign to give away half of what she is awarded. Warren Buffet, who has an estimated worth of $87.5 billion, says that he will be leaving his children $2 billion each. The rest, or more than 99% of his wealth, is going to philanthropic causes. His reasoning for his children getting such a small portion of his fortune? He wants them to receive “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.''

Bill Gates wills be doing the same thing for his children and for the same reason: as to not stunt their ambition and drive. The singer, Sting, as well as celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay have similar plans with their estates so they do not "spoil" their children.

See Kathleen Joyce, These High-Profile Figures will not be Leaving a Lot of Their Fortunes to Their Children, Fox Business, June 29, 2019.

July 3, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Television | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Discovery of Aretha Franklin's Handwritten Wills Throws Her Estate Into Turmoil

ArethaOriginally thought to have died intestate, two possible handwritten wills written by the musical diva Aretha Franklin have caused quite a commotion with her estate. The appointed representative is now asking the court to determine if either of the wills are valid under Michigan law.

The wills are seen as holographic, or handwritten, and must meet certain qualifications. They must be entirely in the testator's handwriting, must be dated, must be signed, and must have been intended to be a will. Two were dated 2010 and a third was dated 2014, and it unclear whether any of the documents will meet the other standards, being as they go off on tangents and are difficult to read. Two of Franklin's four sons are contesting the validity of the wills, and though a niece is acting as the representative, one of the documents appoints one of the sons to act as the representative.

All of this expense and turmoil could have been avoided if the diva had consulted with an estate planning attorney and put together a will and/or trust. With a good estate plan, she also may have been able to keep the details of her estate private through the trust instead of having the battle play out in public. 

See Discovery of Aretha Franklin's Handwritten Wills Throws Her Estate Into Turmoil, Elder Law Answers, May 31, 2019.

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

June 27, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Britney Spears' Father Sues Free Britney Blogger for Defamation Over Conservatorship Comments

BritneyA creator of a blog devoted to the theory that singer Britney Spears, 37, is being controlled by her father and appointed conservator, Jamie Spears, 66, has now been sued by Jamie. The singer's father became her conservator (referred to as guardian in other jurisdictions) after her highly public mental breakdown in 2008.

Anthony Elia, the man behind the Absolute Britney blog, may have to explain certain comments that he made about Jamie Spears. The lawsuit claims that Elia made false and malicious claims that Jamie and his conservatorship controlled Britney's Instagram account to make her seem less stable and more in need of psychiatric help than she actually is. The blog has also strongly influenced the #FreeBritney movement, which questions why Jamie still has a conservatorship over Britney, despite the progress she has made in her mental health over the last 11 years. A conservator is usually only appointed for the severally debilitated, whether mentally or physically, or a person in their minority.

The pop singer has not commented publicly on her conservatorship, but did request to speak to the judge in her case at a closed hearing in May. The judge subsequently ordered a court review of Britney's situation before another hearing, currently scheduled for September.

See Jessica Sager, Britney Spears' Father Sues Free Britney Blogger for Defamation Over Conservatorship Comments, Fox News, June 27, 2019.

June 27, 2019 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Casey Kasem’s Daughter Wants to Bring Star’s Body Back from Norway, Stepmother Denies Elder Abuse Allegations

CaseyCasey Kasem, the esteemed disk jockey, passed away in 2014 at the age of 82, but the drama swirling amongst his family has yet to settle down. His daughter, Kerri, wants to have his body returned to the United States even though he was buried in Norway 6 months after his death. She also alleges that her stepmother, Jean, abused her father while he was suffering from dementia and hindered Kerri and other friends and relatives from visiting him.

In 2013, Kerri and a dozen other individuals held signs outside of Casey's Los Angeles mansion, demanding Jean to allow them access to him as he suffered from failing health. Kerri said that her and her siblings had not been able to see their father in more than three months. Jean denied the claim, instead stating that she was simply giving her husband the privacy that he craved. There were many other allegations tossed back and forth between Kerri and Jean, resulting in Jean being stripped of control over Casey's healthcare decisions in 2014 after a Washington judge decided she had not acted in his best interests and awarded Kerri and conservatorship. 

Kerri claimed she is eager to confront her stepmother in court again and that once and for all, she will set the record straight.

See Stephanie Nolasco, Casey Kasem’s Daughter Wants to Bring Star’s Body Back from Norway, Stepmother Denies Elder Abuse Allegations, Fox News, June 18, 2019.

June 22, 2019 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Aretha Franklin's Youngest Son is Seeking to Gain Control Over Late Star's Multi-Million Dollar Estate

ArethaKecalf Franklin, 49, the youngest son of the later singer Aretha Franklin, has petitioned a court in Michigan to replace his cousin, Sabrina Owens, as the representative of his mother's estate. At the time of Owens' appointment, it was believed that the diva had died intestate. Now, an unverified and handwritten will of the singer, dated 2014, has been entered into probate and named Kecalf as administrator.

Attorneys for the estate are challenging his filing, claiming that the son lacks the ability and the knowledge to manage such a sizable estate. Franklin left an estimated $80 million, with debts totaling $5.3 million. Kecalf claims that Owens has not provided the heirs with an inventory of his mother's assets and property, nor kept them up to date on an investigation into her music catalog. Owens countered that she has been handling her aunt's estate properly.

See Rachel McGrath, Aretha Franklin's Youngest Son is Seeking to Gain Control Over Late Star's Multi-Million Dollar Estate, Daily Mail, June 18, 2019.

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

June 19, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tom Petty's Estate is in Chaos—and That's With a Will

TompettyThe late Tom Petty took the advice of any estate planning attorney and wrote a detailed estate plan, yet over a year-and-a-half after his sudden death in 2017, his family is still fighting over what those instructions truly mean. Amanda DiChello, a trusts and estates attorney in private client services at Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia, points out that even with the best of intentions, wills and estates are complicated.

The rock-and-roller instructed that the management of his estate (and sizable music catalog) would be left to his widow and two daughter from a prior marriage in "equal participation." But what did Petty intend by the word equal? Does that instruction mean that each of the three parties gets to participate equally in the decision making or that the widow and daughters split the decision making fifty-fifty? The daughters, Adria Petty and Annakim Violette, filed a suit in Los Angeles against their step-mother, Dana York Petty, claiming that they are entitled to more control and are asking for $5 million in damages plus attorney's fees.

A financial advisor should make sure his or her clients have a stable and unambiguous estate plan and if a fight is foreseeable, he or she should make sure all future entanglements are considered. “Many people feel they can trust their spouses and children. Often there is peace between first and second spouses and children before someone dies, but it may not stay that way after death," DiChello commented.

See Karen DeMasters, Tom Petty's Estate is in Chaos—and That's With a Will, Financial Advisor, June 5, 2019.

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

June 11, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Should You be Able to Disinherit Your Child?

EiffelIn most of America, the question is not whether you can disinherit your child, but whether you should. A parent has every right to decide to completely block their assets from transferring to a particular offspring. In France, that is not the case. Under French law, for an estate with three or more children - such is the case with Johnny Hallyday - at least 75% of the estate must be divided equally among the children. Hallyday took the American approach and named is widow as the sole heir of his estate, estimated in the tens of millions.

The children from Hallyday's previous marriage filed in France, and obviously want French law to prevail. So the question truly is: was Hallyday more French or American, so what was his domicile? He had a home in both countries and died in France. From his stage name to his musical choices, the lifestyle he portrayed was much more American, though he was known as the "French Elvis" and very few Americans knew of him. He married a French-born American as his second wife, and she claims that he had plans to become an American citizen when they moved to Los Angeles. When he died in 2017 from lung cancer, hundreds of thousands of mourners flooded the streets at his funeral.

Though the court has yet to answer the question of which country has jurisdiction, the case has brought forth many questions from French citizens. The idea of forced heirship is derived from the French Revolution, when the reformers wanted to break up the wealth of the aristocracy. Now, parents are curious if they are required to leave assets to children that "have given them nothing but misery."

See Pamela Druckerman, Should You be Able to Disinherit Your Child?, New York Times, May 28, 2019.

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

May 30, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)