Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

3 Handwritten Wills Found in Aretha Franklin’s Home

ArethaAretha Franklin died last August of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, and both her lawyer as well as her family stated that she had no will or any type of estate plan in place. However, months after her death, not one but three handwritten wills have been discovered at her home in suburban Detroit. And they were dated - two are from 2010, found in a locked cabinet, and the last is dated 2014, found in a spiral notebook under the seat cushions of a living room couch.

Her longtime attorney, Bennett, filed the wills on Monday and claimed that he was unsure if they were valid under Michigan law. A hearing has been scheduled for June 12. A statement from the estate said two of Franklin's four sons object to the wills. The statement also expressed that a neutral administrator from the University of Michigan, Sabrina Owens, will continue to serve as the administrator.

Kecalf Franklin has filed a separate petition, claiming that Aretha Franklin wanted him to serve as representative of the estate in the 2014 will. He is objecting to plans to sell a piece of land next to his mother’s Oakland County home for $325,000 to pay off a debt to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS filed a claim back in December, asserting that the diva's estate owed $6 million in back taxes.

See Ed White, 3 Handwritten Wills Found in Aretha Franklin’s Home, Associated Press, May 20, 2019.

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

Special thanks to Jim Hartnett, Jr. (Dallas, Texas Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

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

May 21, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Whitney Houston’s Estate Plans a Hologram Tour and a New Album

WhitPat Houston, the sister-in-law and former manager as well as executor of the estate of the late singer Whitney Houston,  has finally decided to allow the estate to engage in business endeavors. She has formed quite a list, too: a touring hologram, a possible Broadway musical, branding deals and an album of unreleased tracks. The estate signed a deal last week with Primary Wave Music Publishing, a boutique music and marketing company in New York. According to the agreement, Primary Wave will acquire 50% of the estate’s assets, which include the singer’s royalties from music and film, merchandising, and the rights to her name and likeness.

But it is not all about the Benjamins - it is also about reviving the star's once sparkling reputation. A documentary last year, “Whitney,” which was authorized by the estate, looked unflinchingly at her downfall, including her very public struggle with drugs. “Before she passed, there was so much negativity around the name; it wasn’t about the music anymore,” Pat Houston said. Larry Mestel, Primary Wave’s founder, put it, “Whitney was America’s sweetheart, and the idea now is to remind people that that is what her legacy is.”

Whitney Houston died in 2011 at the age of 48 in Beverly Hills, California. Pat Houston is the sole executor of her estate, whose beneficiaries include Whitney Houston’s mother, the gospel singer Cissy Houston, and her two brothers, Gary and Michael. Houston had 11 Number 1 hit songs and starred in the 1992 blockbuster movie "The Bodyguard."

See Ben Sisario, Whitney Houston’s Estate Plans a Hologram Tour and a New Album, New York Times, May 20, 2019.

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

May 20, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Even the Best Laid Plans Can Go Awry: The “Breakdown” of Tom Petty’s Estate Plan

TompettyTom Petty’s unexpected death on October 2, 2017 dismayed his fans worldwide. Whenever a celebrity passes away, especially when it is sudden, the news sadly can be followed up with the story of how they failed to plan for their death, such as was the case with Prince and Aretha Franklin. But Tom Petty had a complete estate plan laid out, including a 77-page revocable trust document that he diligently amended throughout his life.

In the trust agreement, Tom named his second wife, Dana York Petty, to serve as the successor trustee after his death. One of her responsibilities was to create an LLC to hold Petty's music catalog. Though Dana is to have broad discretion such as how the limited liability company makes decisions, Petty's two daughters from his previous marriage are entitled to “participate equally” in the management of the limited liability company. The wording has unfortunately created tensions between the daughters and their stepmother.

The daughters have taken the position that, as the holders of the majority vote of the company, they have the power to control the company, including Petty’s artistic property. Dana, on the other hand, has taken the position that Petty intended for the parties to unanimously consent to actions taken by the company. Litigation has ensued between the parties.

Though Tom Petty appeared to put together a well executed estate plan and trust document, a prudent estate planning attorney may have advised him to appoint an independent trustee to serve as the successor trustee following his death and to require a professional manager to operate the limited liability company. The objectiveness of the independent trustee can foster confidence and cooperation between the trustee and the beneficiaries.

See Mary Rennie Rowe “M.R.” Litman, Even the Best Laid Plans Can Go Awry: The “Breakdown” of Tom Petty’s Estate Plan, WilliamsMullen.com, May 7, 2019.

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

May 13, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 6, 2019

Aretha Franklin's Estate to Sell Late Singer's Property to Help Pay Off her Remaining $5.3 Million Tax Debt

ArethaThe estate of the Aretha Franklin, who passed away this last August from pancreatic cancer, has petitioned the court to sell a vacant block of land in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to help pay off the singer's tax debt of $5.3 million. The land, as well as a house being built on the plot, will be placed on the market for $1.4 million.

It was also revealed last month that Franklin reported a missing check of $178,000 to Bloomfield Township police back in June 2018. The investigation of the theft remains open, and has the possibility of adding more animosity among her family and her estate. The police tracked down the check and spoke with the teller who had endorsed it at the bank, but they did not release any further details of their relationship with the singer.

The diva's estate attorney, David Bennett, claimed that she "always paid her debts" but she "did not immediately cash checks." He said in December that "She had a lot of (pay) checks lying around that she had never cashed. I had to have some of them reissued because they were so old. I don't know why she didn't cash them, but it seems that the IRS figured some of it as undeclared income and are going after it."

See Annita Katee, Aretha Franklin's Estate to Sell Late Singer's Property to Help Pay Off her Remaining $5.3 Million Tax Debt, Daily Mail, May 4, 2019.

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

May 6, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Article on Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous II

JamesgandolfiniJessica Gilligan Goldsmith, David Y. Choi, Shaina S. Kamen, Gerry Joyce, Christina M. Lazo, Alison Silverman, and Bruce D. Steiner recently published an Article entitled, Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous II, Probate & Property Magazine, Vol. 33 No. 3, May/June 2019. Provided below is the introduction to the Article.

In many ways, celebrities are no different than other people. Even though they often have access to the best managers, agents, and attorneys, celebrities often have non-existent or outdated estate plans. Sometimes changes in family circumstances or in the tax laws can create unexpected results, and sometimes no tax planning has been contemplated. The estate plans of the celebrities discussed in this article, which is a sequel to an article in the July/August 2018 issue, can provide useful lessons to estate planners and individuals.

May 2, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Tom Petty Estate: A Cautionary Tale in Business Succession Planning

TompettyWhen a celebrity dies, the news is usually followed by a recounting of the person's estate and the people that will be getting a slice of it. For those that fail to perform any estate planning such as Prince and Aretha Franklin, the heirs battle other what they are entitled to and claimants can jump in to try to get the decedent's debts paid off. But even those that attempt to put together an estate plan, problems can arise and lead to serious litigation between the beneficiaries.

Tom Petty died in October of 2017, and the terms of his trust attempted to direct that his extensive music catalog be placed into a separate trust, called the Artistic Property Entity. His second wife was the trustee of his original trust, but for the second trust her and Petty's two daughters, Adria and Kim, "shall be entitled to participate equally in the management of the Artistic Property Entity, even though their respective economic interests in the Artistic Property Entity are not equal." This language has lead to a bit of a misunderstanding of how the management of the Entity should be determined.

The daughters believe that they are holders of a two-thirds majority vote in the entity, they now have effective control over Petty’s music catalog. Petty's widow argues that a more thorough reading of the trust terms, as well as an understanding of his intent, relays that actions should require the unanimous consent of her and the two children.

Though Petty named who the beneficiaries and parties to the trust are, he did not expressly lay out the controlling parties, and how the trust should operate.

See Charles Lin, The Tom Petty Estate: A Cautionary Tale in Business Succession Planning, TrustBCLP.com, April 9, 2019.

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

May 1, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tom Petty's Widow Says His Daughters are Attacking Members of The Heartbreakers

TompettyThe late Tom Petty's two daughter, Adria and Annakim, are claiming in probate court that their father's widow, Dana York Petty, is ignoring two separate instructions of their father's will. One is that the sisters have equal share of decision-making power as Dana, and that she was required to transfer Tom's "artistic property" assets out of his trust, and into a separate company that would be jointly administered by all 3 women.

Dana says that she is the one that who runs the Estate and that the daughters are making it exceptionally difficult by attacking the surviving members of The Heartbreakers and withholding unreleased tracks of their father's. She claims that Adria sent an anger-filled emailing ranting to Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell claiming that her entire life is being "raped" and that the two do not respect her because she is a woman.

Dana wants an order from the judge asking him to appoint a day-to-day manager for the Estate, and to force Adria, in particular, to act rationally.

See Tom Petty's Widow Slams His Daughters: They're Attacking Members of The Heartbreakers, TMZ, April 2, 2019.

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

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

April 2, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Study: Music Is Powerful Enough To Resist Alzheimer’s & Dementia

MusicheartThe Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease claims that the distressing effects of the condition can subside for short periods of time when the patient hears songs that are important to them from their past.

Particular songs that call to us can ignite a certain physical response when we listen to them. This sensation, called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, appears to sear those songs harder into our brains. Because this tingling response catalogs those songs differently, the melodies can cause the condition's heartbreaking symptoms to fade temporarily while the sufferer listens to them.

Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at the University of Utah Health, says: “In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max. No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient’s quality of life.”

See Karlie Powell, Study: Music Is Powerful Enough To Resist Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Your EDM, March 24, 2019.

March 27, 2019 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Johnny Cash's Property Selling for $3.95 Million

JohnnycashFans of the Man in Black may be excited to buy the four-and-a-half acre land in Tennessee that he had owned, but the 14,000 square foot mansion will not be accompanying it. Johnny and June Carter Cash's house of 35 years unfortunately burned down in 2007 during renovations brought by a new owner. A cabin that measures 546 square feet still remains, which was used as June Carter Cash's wardrobe closet, as well as a pool, a guardhouse, a tennis court, and a large garage. The property also sits right next to Lake Hickory - complete with a dock.

The property has only had a handful of owner's since Cash's death in 2003. At the time of its last listing in 2016, the property was appraised at $1.14 million. It is currently listed for $3.95 million.

See Michael Bartiromo, Johnny Cash's Former Tennessee Property Selling for $3.95 Million, Fox News, January 29, 2019.

January 30, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Police Investigating Theft of Assets from Aretha Franklin's Estate

ArethaIt 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.

January 14, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)