Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Purple Rain Shower in California — Prince’s Estate Chases Northern California Law Firm

PrinceFamed musical artist Prince passed away three years ago without a will or any form of estate planning. In Minnesota, Comerica Bank & Trust was named as administrator of his estate and recognized his six siblings and half-siblings as the heirs. 

In 2017, a music engineer that collaborated with Prince in 2004-2008, George Boxill, allegedly conspired with others to sell unreleased music without the approval of the estate and Prince's company, Paisley Park, and litigation ensued. Boxill signed a confidentiality agreement before starting work that confirmed Prince and Paisley Park’s ownership of any recordings. In 2018, an arbitrator found that Boxill breached the Confidentiality Agreement and awarded Paisley and Comerica nearly $4 million in damages and attorneys’ fees.

After the arbitration, the representative amended the complaint to include two law firms that Comerica believed induced Boxill and the other defendants into breaches of the agreement and the intellectual property interests of the estate. One of the law firms, Sidebar Legal of Redding, California, defaulted on its subpoena and Comerica filed a motion to compel compliance in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

On January 3, 2019, Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman transferred the motion to the federal court in Minnesota. As the probate process drags on, Comerica has a duty to defend the Estate’s valuable interests in Prince’s released and unreleased music.

See Jeffrey S. Galvin, Purple Rain Shower in California — Prince’s Estate Chases Northern California Law Firm, Trust on Trial, January 7, 2019.

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

January 10, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Aretha Franklin's Estate May Owe Millions in Back Taxes

ArethaThe undisputed "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, passed away in August of this year, but according to court documents filed this week she was not up to date on her taxes at the time of her death. The documents say that the Internal Revenue Service claims that Franklin owes $6.3 million from the tax years 2012 to present, with another $1.5 million in penalties. The odd thing is, the tax year of 2018 is not quite over yet.

The attorney for the estate, David Bennett of Thav Gross P.C., issued a statement that the Estate disputes the tax claims, and that, "The Estate is diligently working to resolve any remaining issues."

A new lien has also been placed on the estate by a publishing company. The company claims that it is owed $136,000 for royalties in connection with the 1973 song Angel. Franklin's personal attorney has also placed a lien on the estate for $54,000 for unpaid bills from the last 6 years.

See Aretha Franklin Owes IRS Almost $8 Million in Back Taxes and Penalties, TMZ, December 27, 2018.

December 28, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Must Hand Over $5.3M to the Family of Marvin Gaye

ThickeCalifornia Circuit Court Judge John A. Kronstadt affirmed the ruling he made three years ago, ruling that music artists Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were to pay the estate of Marvin Gaye for infringing on the singer's song. The court found that Thicke and Williams committed copyright infringement with their 2013 song Blurred Lines. The new opinion lowered the amount owed to $5.3 million and also included a breakdown of the payments required by the two men.

Thicke, Williams, and the publishing company that released the song will be responsible for $2.9 million of the fine and Thicke will solely be required to pay an additional $1.7 million. Williams and the publishing company will pay the remain $357,631. The estate will also have the right to 50% of the royalties from the song.

After jurors found for Gaye's estate in 2015, the legal teams of Thicke and Williams "went on a public relations campaign ... criticizing the verdict and saying the evidence did not support the finding of copyright infringement, and did not believe the decision on liability would therefore stand," said the family's attorney after the new opinion. At the initial trial, rapper T.I. was found to not have committed copyright infringement, though he claims a songwriting credit with the song.

See Chris Spargo, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Must Hand Over $5.3M to the family of Marvin Gaye and Split Blurred Lines royalties with the Singer's Estate After Ripping off his Song Got to Give It Up, Daily Mail, December 13, 2018.

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

December 16, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Glen Campbell's Children End Effort to Contest Will

GlenThree of country singer Glen Campbell's children have dropped their fight to contest the validity of two wills that exclude them from any inheritance. Glen Campbell passed away in August of 2017 after a battle with Alzheimer's. He was 81.

Travis, Kelli, and Wesley Campbell contested the singer's capacity to agree to the 2001 and 2006 wills that omit them, arguing undue influence, but agreed to dismiss their complaint in Davidson County Probate court according to the Tennessean.

A 2006 will was filed by Campbell's widow Kimberly, who was named executor of his estate. That will lists Kimberly and five other children as beneficiaries.

See Glen Campbell's Children End Effort to Contest Will, Fox News, November 21, 2018.

December 1, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Future of Aging Just Might be in Margaritaville

MargTimes are changing. The fastest growing age demographic in America is now between the ages of 85-94. People are living longer, having less children, and less immigrants are coming. The Census Bureau predicts by the year 2034, people over the age of 65 will outnumber those under 18 for the first time. This shift is evidence around the globe.

Senior citizen communities that are formed for reasons beyond religion, military, and failing health may be the secret to enjoying a person's golden years. The recently built Maragitaville in Daytona Beach, Florida, promises fun, sun, and camaraderie for those "55 and better." But it comes with a hefty $10,000 deposit and monthly expenses, which the majority of older Americans cannot afford. 30% of those 65 and older have an annual income below $23,000, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the least expensive house in Maragitaville is easily 10 times that.

But the change is still brewing: There are cruise ships and floating condos that cater to the wealthy; the Villages, outside of Orlando, has dozens of golf courses and feature enrichment programs; University of Arizona is developing a 20-story senior-living facility it calls “the world’s coolest dorm.” Can redesigning the physical environment where seniors live can redefine the way we experience aging itself? The mood of these facilities are vastly different. No more set times with drab cafeterias. Now there are come and go restaurants, delis, and take out joints is these communities, giving a level of freedom that was previously hidden away.

See Kim Tingley, The Future of Aging Just Might be in Margaritaville, New York Times, November 17, 2018.

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

November 27, 2018 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Prince's Estate Wants to Trademark the Color Purple

Prince TOP TENPrince reportedly loved the color purple, referring to it as his favorite color and naming his most famous album Purple Rain. Now, the late singer's company, overseen by his estate, has filed an application earlier this month with the US Patent and Trademark Office to stake ownership in the color that he cherished so much. Specifically, the estate wants to hold exclusive rights to shades near Love Symbol #2, the paint color Pantone created last year in memory of Prince.

But can a person or company own a color? In certain ways it is possible, especially within a particular industry. In 2012, a court in the US allowed shoemaker Christian Louboutin to trademark red soles, after the company sued Yves Saint Laurent over a YSL line that had a similar look. The court found that the soles were distinctive enough that other shoes could not have the same look without drawing a comparison.

Prince's estate has been particularly busy, filing dozens of similar petitions and applications to monetize the icon's image. Throughout his career, Prince was well-known for fiercely protecting his intellectual property. A critic of the internet, he sued YouTube and eBay in 2007 for hosting his copyrighted music.

See Paul Donoughue, Prince's Estate Wants to Trademark Purple, the Colour Synonymous with the Late Pop Singer, ABC News, October 30, 2018.

Special thanks to Logan Underwood for bringing this article to my attention.

November 1, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Humor, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

10 Things You Need to Know About Prenups

PrenupSinger Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin secretly were married last month, but as that was slightly shocking, the real bombshell was that there may not have been a prenuptial agreement between the love birds. Bieber's worth is estimated at $265 million while Baldwin is worth $2 million. The imbalance of wealth between the couple could have severe potential complications down the road if the passion burns out.

Here are things every person should know about prenuptial agreements.

  • They are private agreements between the parties and which state’s law to apply depends on where the marriage took place, where the parties live during the marriage and what law the agreement says to apply.
  • Fairness is paramount - both parties must disclose all assets and each must have their own attorney.
  • With fairness being so importance, many of the details depend on the unique facts and circumstances surrounding each couple, such as length of marriage.
  • Again, full disclosure is required, and many states may look at potential inheritances.
  • The idea of a prenup should be raised long before the marriage, not the week or night before.
  • Often, separate or prenuptial assets will be off limits under a prenuptial agreement.
  • Most prenups will allow each party to leave their separate property to whomever they want, while requiring some provisions for the surviving spouse.
  • Alimony could be stipulated or waived in an agreement. If it is not mentioned, then either party could still raise it in the event of a divorce.
  • A prenuptial agreement cannot provide for or limit child support or rights related to children. Courts and legislatures do not let couples bargain away the rights of their children.

See Christine Fletcher, 10 Things You Need to Know About Prenups, Forbes, September 18, 2018.

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

October 6, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Lesson in Intestacy from Tupac Shakur

TupacThe 22nd anniversary of the unsolved murder of Tupac Shakur, known as 2Pac within the rap world, recently passed on September 13th. Though his life and death may be steeped in controversy and mystery respectively, his estate can seen as a study in mult-generational estate planning, litigation, and management.

Shakur died in intestate in 1996 at the young age of 25, and his entire estate was inherited by his mother, Afeni Shakur. There was even litigation in 1997 from William Garland claiming to be Tupac absent father and demanding one half of the late rapper's estate. The court found that Garland had not demonstrated a substantial relationship nor support to be treated as an heir of Shakur's. His fatherly support over the artist's life consisted of $820, a bag of peanuts, and a ticket to "Rollerball."

Afeni Shakur, however, managed her deceased son's estate admirably, growing his estate both popularly and financially. Shakur's estate released six posthumous albums — including 1996’s The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory and 1998’s Greatest Hits, which are each certified 10 times platinum — a Broadway musical, several books, documentaries, clothing, and merchandise. Shakur is the first deceased performer to appear as a hologram (at Coachella in 2012). He is also the only artist to be nominated posthumously for the Grammy’s Best Solo Rap Performance award (in 2000 for Changes).

Afeni Shakur passed away in 2016 at the age of 69, but the estate had alternative fiduciaries so little is left up to chance and speculation. The words of Shakur’s homage to his mother ring true in his song dedicated to her: “Oh mama, I appreciate you. Although my shadow’s gone I will never leave you.”

See Cori A. Robinson, A Lesson in Intestacty from Tupac Shakur, Above the Law, September 11, 2018.

Special thanks to Carissa Peterson (Associate, Hrbacek Law Firm, Sugar Land, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 16, 2018 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)