Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Aretha Franklin’s Estate Signs Tentative Deal Over Back Taxes Owed

ArethaSince Aretha Franklin's death in 2018, there has been a looming debt ganging over her estate. After three years, Franklin's estate is moving toward an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to repay this debt which is comprised of "thousands and thousands of [dollars] in federal revenue taxes that the singer owed throughout her life. . ." 

The settlement requires the estate to put aside 45% of all income it receives to repay the tax responsibility that Franklin accrued from 2010 to 2017. Also, $800,000 is to be paid to the IRS within 5 days of the deal's approval. 

A document submitted in court on February 19, states that the IRS has declared that the state owes $7.8 million, but apparently, this determination did not include about $3 million that the estate alleged it paid at the end of 2018. 

Under the deal, 40% of the estate's revenues will be put toward ongoing taxes and funds to Franklin's heirs. This 40% will be generated by music royalties and licensing and is allowed to be held in escrow. 

If a deal is reached, the estate will have room to breathe and bring in revenue. 

The worth of Franklin's estate has not been fully determined but it has been estimated to be around $80 million. 

There were also multiple wills found, which has lead to a stark divide between Franklin's alleged heirs as members of Franklin's family have been battling to prove which documents should be probated. 

See Ben Sisario, Aretha Franklin’s Estate Signs Tentative Deal Over Back Taxes Owed, N.Y. Times, March 2, 2021. 

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

March 11, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 22, 2021

Chris Cornell’s Widow Sues Soundgarden Again, Claims Group Declined $21 Million Buyout

ChrisCornellChris Cornell, singer of Soundgarden passed away suddenly in 2017. Since his passing, his widow Vicky Cornell has sued the surviving bandmembers, claiming that the $300,000 buyout offer is "ludicrously low." 

Vicky has stated that she wants Soundgarden's holdings to be professional valued in order to determine what the fair amount would be. "Vicky Cornell claims that the bandmembers declined her offer of $21 million for their interest in the band partnership, and also declined a separate offer of $16 million for the rights to the group’s recorded-music rights." 

Vicky apparently attempted to settle the matter in December by offering Matt Cameron and Ben Shepard $4 million a piece for their interest in the Soundgarden partnership and then raised the offer to $7 million after her other offer was declined. 

Vicky's complaint body states, “The band members have knowingly offered only an infinitesimal fraction of the true worth of Chris’ interest in Soundgarden and certain related entities by making a ludicrously low offer. And, they know it. … This case relates to, and seeks a judicial valuation of, Chris’ interest in Soundgarden (the band owned by the partnership of the same name) and certain related entities, including SG Recordings, SMF, SG Productions, and LLM (collectively, the Soundgarden Related Entities’).”

Of course, the surviving bandmembers rebuttal by claiming that the buyout offer was fair and was accurate and calculated by "respected music industry valuation expert Gary Cohen." 

See Jem Aswad, Chris Cornell’s Widow Sues Soundgarden Again, Claims Group Declined $21 Million Buyout, February 17, 2021. 

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

February 22, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Britney Spears' father loses his attempt to keep sole control of her investments as documentary stokes fans 'free Britney' campaign

FreebritBritney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, has come up empty in his attempt to keep sole control of her investments. "A California judge denied Jamie Spears' objections to establishing wealth management company Bessemer Trust Co as a co-conservator over her estate." Jamie has had control over Britney's finances since 2008. The conservatorship came after Britney had a number of public breakdowns, which included shaving her head and attacking paparazzi with an umbrella. 

Although the fight over conservatorship has been going on for a while, even inciting a movement coined the "Free Britney Movement," a new documentary has made the discussion relevant all over again. The documentary, 'Framing Britney Spears,' released last week. The documentary sheds light on Britney's mental health issues and "her struggle to regain autonomy in her career." 

The #FreeBritney movement has brought on a slew of sympathy and support for Britney. This support ranges from your average Joe and average Jane fans to celebrities like Miley Cyrus. 

Britney recently posted a video of one of her previous performances with the following caption on Twitter and Instagram, "I´ll always love being on stage .... But I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ..... I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life !!!!"

See Megan Sheets, Britney Spears' father loses his attempt to keep sole control of her investments as documentary stokes fans 'free Britney' campaign, Daily Mail (U.K.), February 11, 2021. 

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

February 17, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Britney Spears’ father Jamie and Bessemer Trust Co. to continue co-conservatorship, judge says

SpearsA judge has ruled to keep Bessemer Trust Co. as a co-conservator over Britney Spears' estate. Further, Spears' father's objects to sharing conservatorship duties were thrown out. 

Britney Spears' attorney stated on Thursday that "he originally proposed the co-conservatorship between Bessemer and Jamie to give both parties 'an equal division of responsibility, in the hopes that they would sit down and figure out together the best way to handle this complex estate for the benefit of my client.'" He also added, "It’s no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator, but we recognize that removal is a separate issue." The attorney further recommended that Bessemer and Jamie Spears meet to discuss a budget and investment plan for Britney's estate. 

According to Vivian Lee Thoreen, Jamie's attorney, Britney asked for and agreed to her father's role early in the conservatorship. Thoreen stated, "Ms. Spears reflected in court papers that she wanted her father to be the sole conservator of her estate."

Britney Spears did not appear in the proceedings that took place last week. Additional hearings are expected to take place on March 17 and April 27.

See Nate Day,  Britney Spears’ father Jamie and Bessemer Trust Co. to continue co-conservatorship, judge says, Fox News, February 12, 2021.  

February 16, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Britney Spears Conservatorship Case Heads Back to Court

SpearsAs Britney Spears continues to fight to get her life back, fans and other onlookers are creating hype around the New York Times documentary "Framing Britney Spears." The documentary covers the #FreeBritney movement spurred by the conflict over Britney Spears' conservatorship. The conservatorship arrangement has left her father in charge to manage her career, personal life and finance since 2008. 

The documentary includes footage of Spears when she was just a young and gifted performer, who was often used and taken advantage of for political gain. Spears was often terrorized by paparazzi and evil celebrity culture. 

Since the documentary has been released, celebrities are beginning to join the movement, which was mostly made up of activists and superfans at its origin. 

Spears tweeted earlier this week,

“I’ll always love being on stage …. but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ….. I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life!!!!”

“Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life,” she wrote, “it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens.”

It is clear that Britney wants her father out as her conservator. According to her lawyer, Spears is afraid of her father Jamie and wanted her temporary personal conservator, Jodi Montgomery, to be made permanent. 

See Julia Jacobs, Britney Spears Conservatorship Case Heads Back to Court, N.Y. Times, February 9, 2021. 

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

February 11, 2021 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Handling of Britney Spears

SpearsThe unusual court-approved conservatorship of Britney Spears which spurred the "Free Britney" movement continues to be the topic of conversation and has even brought a new documentary from the New York Times. The movement and the documentary are made up of fans of Britney Spears. 

Liz Day, a writer for the Times Insider, stated, "It appears to raise a contradiction: How can someone be seemingly able to function at a high level as a superstar performing sold-out shows in Las Vegas, while also being so unable to take care of herself and at risk that this layer of intense protection is needed?" Liz Day is also a senior editor for the new documentary and film which is titled, "Framing Britney Spears." 

Many fans and followers are asking themselves the same question, and many are irritated at the way Britney Spears has been treated during the last 13 years of the legal arrangement and the continued legal process. 

The film is not without controversy, as the film includes clips, interviews, and commercials of Britney Spears in the past, including those that occurred in her early rise to fame. 

It is not secret that Britney Spears was loved by many, but she was also hated and tortured by many. Much of this hatred was supported and encouraged by the mainstream media. 

According to Johanna Schiller, the archival producer, “Britney is so incredibly well documented and so much is out there that there was an overload of material,” Ms. Schiller said. “What was challenging was finding the choice moments in that ocean of stuff and trying to pinpoint material that hadn’t been out there so much before.”

According to Britney's lawyer, “Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret,” her lawyer wrote. “In this case, it is not an exaggeration to say that the whole world is watching.”

“The New York Times Presents” airs on FX on Friday at 10 p.m. and can be streamed on Hulu." 

See Lix Day, The Handling of Britney Spears, February 5, 2021. 

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

 

February 9, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Family of legendary singer Tony Bennett opens up about his Alzheimer's diagnosis

TonyLegendary singer Tony Bennett, 94, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016. Bennett continued to tour and record music even after his diagnosis, as was recommended by his neurologist. Further, "because of music's 'peculiar power' to rouse deep memories in dementia patients, 'audiences and critics never suspected his condition. 

Bennett had been recording and touring until the coronavirus pandemic. Since Bennett stopped touring and doing live performances, his condition has worsened. 

"Just how therapeutically beneficial performing had been for Tony soon became obvious when his world shrank to the confines of his apartment," Dr. Gayatri Devi, Bennett's neurologist, told the magazine.

"Describing him as free today from some of the condition's worst symptoms — anger, disorientation — the magazine noted that there is still "little doubt that the disease had progressed."

Bennett's caregivers have alleged that it is clear that the disease has progressed. Apparently, a fork and set of housekeeps were "utterly mysterious to him."

See Tim Fitzsimons,  Family of legendary singer Tony Bennett opens up about his Alzheimer's diagnosis, NBC News, February 1, 2021. 

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

February 4, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)