Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, June 27, 2020

XXXTentacion's Mom Sued for $11M by Half Bro, Claims She Stole from Trust

UnknownIt has been two years since XXXTentacion's (XXX) passing, but the drama storm continues to brew, as his half-brother is suing XXX's mother, claiming she stole from his Trust. Jodi Kavney, the mother of XXX's half-brother, Corey Pack, claims that Cleopatra Bernard, created a plan to siphon off millions of dollars from her own son's trust—money that the rapper set aside for Corey. 

Jodi, who's suing on behalf of Corey, says in docs, XXX left behind assets in excess of $50 million ... including a trust that lists Corey as 1 of 3 beneficiaries. In the lawsuit, Jodi claims Cleopatra cut a deal with XXX's baby mama which helped her cut Corey out of his portion of the estate. Jodi's now seeking to recover assets she claims were "improperly and surreptitiously transferred" by Cleopatra to herself.

Jodi's suing for $11 million in damages and may try to triple that amount ... if she can prove this was intentionally done. She also claims Corey's entitled to ownership rights to XXX's record label, Bad Vibe Entities.

In a recent update in the case, Bernard's attorney, Michael Simon, told TMZ that the lawsuit that was filed was completely without merit as a court has already determined that Corey Pack is entitled to nothing from XXX's estate or trust. 

Cleopatra has not only paid Corey’s living expenses and purchased him a car, but she has gifted to him and his mother, Jodi Kavney, a mortgage free home and paid the current year’s real estate taxes.

See XXXTentacion's Mom Sued for $11M by Half Bro, Claims She Stole from Trust, TMZ, June 19, 2020. 

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

June 27, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

South Carolina Supreme Court: No Surviving Spouse Status In Dispute Over “Godfather of Soul” James Brown’s Estate

F14de63953ac4ec3cef2e2da3c35b073In Brown v. Sojourner (June 2020), the South Carolina Supreme Court addressed the surviving spouse status of the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown’s purported surviving spouse, Tommie Rae Brown, where Tommie had not annulled her prior marriage at the time of her marriage to Brown.

Tommie married Javed Ahmed in February 1997. In December 2001, Tommie participated in a marriage ceremony with James Brown in South Carolina. On the marriage license, Tommie affirmed that the marriage to Brown was her first marriage. However, Tommie and Ahmad had never divorced and were still legally married. 

Two years after her marriage to James Brown, Tommie brought an action to annul her marriage to Ahmed. A month later, James Brown filed an action to annul his marriage to Tommie, arguing that he was entitled to annulment because Tommie had never divorced her first husband.

A hearing was held in Tommie’s annulment action against Ahmed in April 2004.  An order was entered the same day granting the request for annulment.  Ahmed did not appear.

In May 2004 Brown amended his complaint against Tommie, arguing that S.C. Code Ann § 20-1-80 prohibited Tommie from marrying Brown while she was still married to Ahmed. Tommie then counter petitioned for divorce. Both James Brown and Tommie ultimately withdrew and dismissed their actions. 

However, following James Brown's death, inheritance litigation began. Tommie sought an elective share or omitted spouse's share of Brown's estate. 

Circuit court found:

  • Tommie was the surviving spouse of Brown;
  • Tommie’s first marriage to Ahmed was void ab initio due to Ahmed’s bigamy;
  • Tommie had no legal impediment to her marriage with Brown in 2001;
  • Tommie and Brown’s marriage was valid;
  • Tommie and Brown’s marriage was not annulled, and they had not divorced prior to Brown’s death.

Some of James Brown's children appealed the order. The court of appeals held that the rule that an annulment order cannot retroactively validate a bigamous marriage – is limited to situations where the first marriage is merely voidable, not void, as voidable marriages are valid until one of the parties elects to end the marriage, but a bigamous marriage is never valid.

See South Carolina Supreme Court: No Surviving Spouse Status In Dispute Over “Godfather of Soul” James Brown’s EstateProbate Stars, June 22, 2020. 

June 23, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Does Little Richard’s Son Inherit his $40 Million Career or Will God Get Everything?

LittlerichardThe legendary musician Little Richard helped revolutionize music, bringing forth the rock-and-roll movement. It is rumored that he earned $40 million over his decades long career, but the question is how much of that is left? And who will it pass on to?

Richard's 49-year-old son Danny may be getting a portion of it, whether by default or design, as they remained on good terms during the musician's life. But the assets that could be inherited are questionable. Unfortunately, he sold the publishing rights to his songs in the mid-1950s and the intellectual property eventually ended up at Sony. Unlike for children of other older musicians, there is no vast copyright library to harvest income for future generations, nor a secret archive of unreleased recordings.

Hologram projections of his father may not be Danny's forte, as it is known that he is an individual that values his privacy.Richard's surviving siblings are too old to attempt to push the hologram feature, and the traditional churches he associated with are most likely not interested, either. 

See Scott Martin, Does Little Richard’s Son Inherit his $40 Million Career or Will God Get Everything?, Wealth Advisor, May 11, 2020.

May 12, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Prince’s Family Claims That They Have Not Received Any Payments From His Estate; They Are Now Asking a Judge To Intervene

PrinceThree of the six siblings of the late singer Prince are claiming that they have not received anything from the estate, though they are his legal heirs. Despite this, lawyers and advisers of the estate have been paid. Sharon, Norrine, and John Nelson, three of the singer's siblings, have filed a petition for compensation in Prince’s estate.

The estate is run by Comerica Bank and the two parties have not agreed on many terms in the past. The siblings have accused Comerica of mismanaging money and leaving them out of the loop concerning major decisions regarding the estate. Comerica has denied these allegations. The three siblings say they want to continue helping out the estate but cannot continue without being compensated. The three siblings claim they have had to heavily depend on “solely on their pension, social security, personal savings and loans from friends to cover the costs needed to support the Prince Estate despite the millions paid to advisors, attorneys and others approved by the Court.”

A judge has yet to rule on the case.

See Gibson Precious, Prince’s Family Claims That They Have Not Received Any Payments From His Estate; They Are Now Asking a Judge To Intervene, Baller Alert, March 28, 2020.

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

April 2, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

James Brown's Lawyer Breaks Silence as DA Weighs Potential Death Investigation

JamesbrownThe long-time attorney of the late James Brown, Buddy Dallas, did not comment to the media after an investigate series on Brown was released in early 2019. But now that Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. has stated that he is considering opening a formal investigation into the death of the singer, Dallas did have a comment: "Exhume him. I don't have any feeling about it one way or the other."

There are a few mysteries laying just under the surface pertaining to Brown. After his death at the age of 73 in 2006 in Atlanta, his body was supposedly placed in a crypt outside of the home of his daughter Deanna Brown Thomas near Aiken, South Carolina. However, another daughter in 2010 claimed that the crypt was empty. Both Deanna and the executor of Brown's estate, Russell Bauknight, would not comment as to the body's location.

Another mystery is the man's death itself. When Brown was ill in December of 2006, his friend Andre White suggested he see his doctor, Dr. Marvin Crawford. Crawford treated him for a mild heart attack and a mild case of congestive heart failure on December 23. It appeared that the man improved quickly, and was near being released on Christmas Eve. Later that same night, he stopped breathing. Crawford wanted to know why he had taken such a sudden turn for the worse, so he spoke with Brown's daughter Yamma about having an autopsy done, but she declined. Just a few months later, Yamma's husband Darren Lumar publicly requested an investigation. Lumar was killed in a shooting in 2008, suggested to be a "contract killing," but no suspects have been charged.

Shana Quinones, a Los Angeles woman who said she worked for Brown in the 90s, claims that she knew Brown's personal manager, Charles Bobbit. Bobbit, who died in 2017, supposedly saw Brown the night he died. Allegedly, Bobbit told Quinones that Brown said, "Mr. Bobbit, I'm gone. They got me."

See Thomas Lake, James Brown's Lawyer Breaks Silence as DA Weighs Potential Death Investigation, CNN, March 3, 2020.

March 4, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Aretha Franklin’s Estate Still Unsettled as Executor Resigns

ArethaSabrina Owens, the niece of the late Aretha Franklin, took on the role of executor with the approval of the diva's four sons shortly after the singer's death. However, family disputes were described as the reason for Owens' letter of resignation to her lawyer that was then filed in probate court. The judge overseeing the case is expected to consider Owens’s petition at a hearing on Tuesday.

The timing may cause more confusion as several major projects for the estate are ongoing, including the filming of a biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, who had the approval of Franklin herself. At the time of the singer's death in August of 2018, the court and the family believed that she died intestate. However, Owens found three handwritten wills last May while going through Franklin’s home in Detroit. The discovery led to months of legal woes and tense negotiations among Franklin’s sons and the estate, though the validity of the wills have yet to be proven.

Lawyers for Franklin’s sons have in recent weeks been preparing for a possible trial in the fall, and Kecalf Franklin, asked to have David J. Bennett removed as a lawyer for the estate, though he represented Franklin for about 30 years. In her letter, Owens said she had accepted the role of executor “under two important conditions”: that “no fractured relationships” develop in the family, and that disagreements did not end up in court — “both of which,” she wrote, “have occurred.”

See Ben Sisario, Aretha Franklin’s Estate Still Unsettled as Executor Resigns, New York Times, January 31, 2020; see also Aretha Franklin's Niece Says she's Quitting as Singer's Executor of Estate, Fox News, February 1, 2020.

Special thanks to Matthew Bogin, (Esq., Bogin Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 1, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)