Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Singer Prince's Estate Battling Sister Tyka in Court, Fight Over Control of His Legacy

PrinceTyka Nelson, the sister of the late singer Prince, recently informed the court that she sold a portion of her interest in her brother's estate to Primary Wave IP Fund. The estate's personal representative, Comerica, is objecting to the sister's request that Primary Wave now be privy to all matter concerning the estate, including confidential business matters.

Comerica is arguing that it is Tyka and not Primary Wave that is an heir to Prince's estate, who passed away without a will, and thus the company should not be entitled to the "unique role in the administration of this Estate" that the named heirs received. The sister claims that she consulted with legal and financial professionals on her rights as an heir to the estate, and believes that it was fully within her ability to enter into the Expectancy Interest Transfer Agreement with Primary Wave. She added that she did it "in order to realize some value from the Estate before the completion of the Estate administration.” Earlier this month Tyka was ordered to pay numerous attorneys that worked for her $850,000, pertaining to the administration of Prince's estate, so it is not surprising she wanted quicker cash.

See Ryan Naumann, Singer Prince's Estate Battling Sister Tyka in Court, Fight Over Control of His Legacy, The Blast, December 9, 2019.

January 14, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Britney Spears' Dad Jamie Wins Injunction Against #FreeBritney Blogger

BritneyPop icon Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship since 2008, managed by her father, Jamie Spears. In April of this year, however, fans questioned why the star was going into a wellness facility and whether she was going of her own volition, leading many to protest outside of West Hollywood City Hall. The #FreeBritney movement reached a peak when Jamie received death threats and the police took these seriously.

Absolute Britney blogger Anthony Elia fanned the flames for the passionate fans, claiming that Jamie manipulated Britney's social media to make it appear that she desperately needed help. He said that Britney's father would delete positive comments and highlight negative ones. Jamie's lawyer argued that the claims were defamation, and a judge agreed, ordering that Elia is no longer allowed to comment negatively on the conservatorship.

See Glenn Gardner, Britney Spears' Dad Jamie Wins Injunction Against #FreeBritney Blogger who Accused him of 'Human Rights Violation' with Conservatorship, Daily Mail, December 21, 2019.

December 24, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Cars Singer Ric Ocasek's Widow Paulina Porizkova Seeks a Cut of his Estate

RicAfter Ric Ocasek, the singer of the band Cars, passed away three months ago, it was discovered that his wife was left out of his will. However, the widow, Paulina Porizkova, is now seeking an elective share of her late husband's estate, worth approximately $5 million. Under New York law, a spouse is entitled to a third of a deceased spouse's estate. Things get a bit sticky in this case, though.

In his will, Ocasek was very clear on his opinion of whether his wife should get any portion of his estate, including the elective share, because of their ongoing divorce: “Even if I should die before our divorce is final … Paulina is not entitled to any elective share … because she has abandoned me.” If this claim of abandonment can be proven, Porizkova would lose her bid to gain an elective share.

The couple had been married for 28 years but had separated in May 2018. They continued to live in the same Gramercy Park townhouse in Manhattan, though they did not continue a romantic relationship. She discovered his body when she attempted to bring him his morning coffee as he was recovering from a recent surgery. The medical examiner determined that his death was natural and caused by heart disease.

Porizkova was not the only member of Ocasek’s family to get nixed from the will. Two of his six sons, Adam and Christopher, were also disinherited. The two sons Ocasek shared with Porizkova will receive a portion of his estate, though.

See Cortney Moore, Cars Singer Ric Ocasek's Widow Paulina Porizkova Seeks a Cut of his Estate, Fox Business, December 20, 2019.

December 22, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Celebrity Estate Problems Offer a Cautionary Tale — and Not Just for the Rich and Famous

PrinceNot having an estate plan that clearly details how a person wants to dispose of the entirety of their worldly possessions can cause messy fights between family members. If you are famous like Aretha Franklin or Prince those fights can be on the national stage for millions to watch. For the common man, the embarrasment, angst, and cost can still be painful, and unfortunately it happens everyday across the county amongst probate courts. 

The view that estate planning is only for the wealthy is changing, yet many Americans have not taken the most basic steps to ensure that their descendants and loved ones are properly provided for in the future. A recent survey by Edward Jones found that while 77% of Americans believe that estate and legacy strategies are important for everyone, only 24% of Americans have even taken the time to designate beneficiaries for all of their accounts, leaving the simplest of legacy decisions up in the air.

See Celebrity Estate Problems Offer a Cautionary Tale — and Not Just for the Rich and Famous, Market Watch, November 29, 2019.

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

November 30, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Cars Singer Ric Ocasek Cuts Supermodel Wife Paulina Porizkova Out of Will

Ocasek-divorce-2Cars' front man Ric Ocasek, 75, passed away in September while recovering from a recent surgery and was found by his estranged wife, Paulina Porizkova, when she was bringing him coffee. Though this act is undeniably sweet, the two were in the middle of a divorce after being married for 28 years. Citing this, Ocasek laid out in his will that his wife was not to receive any portion of his estate, “Even if I should die before our divorce is final … Paulina is not entitled to any elective share … because she has abandoned me.”

A filing listed with Ocasek’s will show that his assets include $5 million in “copyrights," just $100,000 in tangible personal property and $15,000 in cash. This amount may seem low for a rock legend, but the copyrights were not detailed, and there may more stashed away in trusts to protect his privacy. 

His wife was not the only one that appeared to get the short end of the stick - two of his six sons also were not designated as beneficiaries. But they may have been compensated in other ways, either before his death or through a trust. 

Ocasek signed the will on Aug. 28, less than a month before his death, and the executor is named as his “friend and business manager,” Mario Testani.

See Priscilla DeGregory and Aaron Feis, Cars Singer Ric Ocasek Cuts Supermodel Wife Paulina Porizkova Out of Will, Page Six, November 7, 2019.

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

November 11, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Britney Fans Insist it is Time to #FreeBritney!

BritneyBritney Spears, the pop princess that dominated the charts in her late teens and early twenties before her extremely public break down in 2008, is still under a conservatorship in California. This year she cancelled her Las Vegas residency and she went to a mental health facility. But her fans believe that she is being silenced and was put into the facility against her own free will, and was able to be forced because of the conservatorship with her father, Jamie, at the helm.

Conservatorships - or guardianships as they may be known in other jurisdictions - are intending to help those who cannot take care of themselves and are unlikely to gain that ability, such as the elderly or mentally disabled. Spears's father is control of her finances and many personal choices (including healthcare), but it is apparent that the musician can provide for herself. She has produced four albums since the start of her conservatorship, was a host on The X Factor, even went on four world tours. Attorney Stanton Stein, whom Jamie has hired for #FreeBritney damage control, rejected the idea that Spears had been coerced or manipulated in any way. “She’s always involved in every career and business decision,” he said. “Period.” There have been no more public outbursts, break downs, or suicide attempts.

So why is there still a conservatorship in place? Her fans believe that she is being micromanaged and manipulated to the point of being under complete control of her father. What really gave the rally cry #FreeBritney fire, however, was a voicemail left on a podcast that dissects Britney's Instagram posts. The caller, identifying himself as a former paralegal for an attorney who worked with Spears’ conservatorship, claimed that the singer’s father was involved in getting her to drop her Las Vegas residency. He also made a series of other allegations and raised concerns about her personal autonomy.

In the meantime, Jamie Spears has requested that the conservatorship be extended to more states, including where his daughter lives to vacation, and his suing individuals with slander over the many accusations.

See Laura Newberry, Britney Spears Hasn’t Fully Controlled Her Life for Years. Fans Insist it’s Time to #FreeBritney, Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2019.

Special thanks to Adam T. Uszynski (Bradicich, Moore & Uszynski, LLP, Victoria, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention

September 19, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, Television, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 16, 2019

As Aretha Franklin’s Heirs Dispute Control of Estate, Judge Orders Court Supervision

ArethaThe reigning queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, died in August of last year and the world believed that passed away without a will. But the discovery of three handwritten documents found in her home foreshadowed a rocky and emotional road for her family.

If Franklin had indeed died intestate, Michigan law dictated that because she did not have a spouse at the time of her death, her $80 million estate would have been divided equally among her four sons. But in each of the wills, provided specific provisions to be made for her oldest son, who reportedly has special needs, and that the balance of assets would then be distributed equally among her other three sons. But there remains a question of whether Franklin did create the wills herself, and the youngest son, Kecalf, convinced the judge to have a handwriting expert examine the wills to ensure his mother wrote the documents.

Aretha's niece, Sabrina Owens, was originally named the estate's personal representative, but Kecalf has also petitioned the court to replace her - with him, thus causing dissention among the family. Owens was Aretha's choice to handle her estate, and she is known to be a capable business person, but the largest asset to the estate is no surprise: the rights to the diva's music catalog and likeness. If properly managed, these can be a financial powerhouse to the heirs and preserve their mother's legacy for future generations.

See Cozen O'Connor, As Aretha Franklin’s Heirs Dispute Control of Estate, Judge Orders Court Supervision, Lexology, September 11, 2019.

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

September 16, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)