Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

These High-Profile Figures will not be Leaving a Lot of Their Fortunes to Their Children

BillgatesMany celebrities and members of the super-wealthy, especially those that are self-made, have been extremely public about their decisions to leave small inheritances to their children. Well, small relative to their net worth, at least. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett as well as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, founded the Giving Pledge, a campaign to get the ultra-wealthy to pledge half their fortunes to charitable causes. eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar signed onto the pledge in 2010, along with his wife. Another notable member of the Giving Pledge is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

After her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is finalized later this month, Mackenzie Bezos states that she will sign on to the campaign to give away half of what she is awarded. Warren Buffet, who has an estimated worth of $87.5 billion, says that he will be leaving his children $2 billion each. The rest, or more than 99% of his wealth, is going to philanthropic causes. His reasoning for his children getting such a small portion of his fortune? He wants them to receive “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.''

Bill Gates wills be doing the same thing for his children and for the same reason: as to not stunt their ambition and drive. The singer, Sting, as well as celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay have similar plans with their estates so they do not "spoil" their children.

See Kathleen Joyce, These High-Profile Figures will not be Leaving a Lot of Their Fortunes to Their Children, Fox Business, June 29, 2019.

July 3, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Discovery of Aretha Franklin's Handwritten Wills Throws Her Estate Into Turmoil

ArethaOriginally thought to have died intestate, two possible handwritten wills written by the musical diva Aretha Franklin have caused quite a commotion with her estate. The appointed representative is now asking the court to determine if either of the wills are valid under Michigan law.

The wills are seen as holographic, or handwritten, and must meet certain qualifications. They must be entirely in the testator's handwriting, must be dated, must be signed, and must have been intended to be a will. Two were dated 2010 and a third was dated 2014, and it unclear whether any of the documents will meet the other standards, being as they go off on tangents and are difficult to read. Two of Franklin's four sons are contesting the validity of the wills, and though a niece is acting as the representative, one of the documents appoints one of the sons to act as the representative.

All of this expense and turmoil could have been avoided if the diva had consulted with an estate planning attorney and put together a will and/or trust. With a good estate plan, she also may have been able to keep the details of her estate private through the trust instead of having the battle play out in public. 

See Discovery of Aretha Franklin's Handwritten Wills Throws Her Estate Into Turmoil, Elder Law Answers, May 31, 2019.

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

June 27, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Britney Spears' Father Sues Free Britney Blogger for Defamation Over Conservatorship Comments

BritneyA creator of a blog devoted to the theory that singer Britney Spears, 37, is being controlled by her father and appointed conservator, Jamie Spears, 66, has now been sued by Jamie. The singer's father became her conservator (referred to as guardian in other jurisdictions) after her highly public mental breakdown in 2008.

Anthony Elia, the man behind the Absolute Britney blog, may have to explain certain comments that he made about Jamie Spears. The lawsuit claims that Elia made false and malicious claims that Jamie and his conservatorship controlled Britney's Instagram account to make her seem less stable and more in need of psychiatric help than she actually is. The blog has also strongly influenced the #FreeBritney movement, which questions why Jamie still has a conservatorship over Britney, despite the progress she has made in her mental health over the last 11 years. A conservator is usually only appointed for the severally debilitated, whether mentally or physically, or a person in their minority.

The pop singer has not commented publicly on her conservatorship, but did request to speak to the judge in her case at a closed hearing in May. The judge subsequently ordered a court review of Britney's situation before another hearing, currently scheduled for September.

See Jessica Sager, Britney Spears' Father Sues Free Britney Blogger for Defamation Over Conservatorship Comments, Fox News, June 27, 2019.

June 27, 2019 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Casey Kasem’s Daughter Wants to Bring Star’s Body Back from Norway, Stepmother Denies Elder Abuse Allegations

CaseyCasey Kasem, the esteemed disk jockey, passed away in 2014 at the age of 82, but the drama swirling amongst his family has yet to settle down. His daughter, Kerri, wants to have his body returned to the United States even though he was buried in Norway 6 months after his death. She also alleges that her stepmother, Jean, abused her father while he was suffering from dementia and hindered Kerri and other friends and relatives from visiting him.

In 2013, Kerri and a dozen other individuals held signs outside of Casey's Los Angeles mansion, demanding Jean to allow them access to him as he suffered from failing health. Kerri said that her and her siblings had not been able to see their father in more than three months. Jean denied the claim, instead stating that she was simply giving her husband the privacy that he craved. There were many other allegations tossed back and forth between Kerri and Jean, resulting in Jean being stripped of control over Casey's healthcare decisions in 2014 after a Washington judge decided she had not acted in his best interests and awarded Kerri and conservatorship. 

Kerri claimed she is eager to confront her stepmother in court again and that once and for all, she will set the record straight.

See Stephanie Nolasco, Casey Kasem’s Daughter Wants to Bring Star’s Body Back from Norway, Stepmother Denies Elder Abuse Allegations, Fox News, June 18, 2019.

June 22, 2019 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Aretha Franklin's Youngest Son is Seeking to Gain Control Over Late Star's Multi-Million Dollar Estate

ArethaKecalf Franklin, 49, the youngest son of the later singer Aretha Franklin, has petitioned a court in Michigan to replace his cousin, Sabrina Owens, as the representative of his mother's estate. At the time of Owens' appointment, it was believed that the diva had died intestate. Now, an unverified and handwritten will of the singer, dated 2014, has been entered into probate and named Kecalf as administrator.

Attorneys for the estate are challenging his filing, claiming that the son lacks the ability and the knowledge to manage such a sizable estate. Franklin left an estimated $80 million, with debts totaling $5.3 million. Kecalf claims that Owens has not provided the heirs with an inventory of his mother's assets and property, nor kept them up to date on an investigation into her music catalog. Owens countered that she has been handling her aunt's estate properly.

See Rachel McGrath, Aretha Franklin's Youngest Son is Seeking to Gain Control Over Late Star's Multi-Million Dollar Estate, Daily Mail, June 18, 2019.

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

June 19, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tom Petty's Estate is in Chaos—and That's With a Will

TompettyThe late Tom Petty took the advice of any estate planning attorney and wrote a detailed estate plan, yet over a year-and-a-half after his sudden death in 2017, his family is still fighting over what those instructions truly mean. Amanda DiChello, a trusts and estates attorney in private client services at Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia, points out that even with the best of intentions, wills and estates are complicated.

The rock-and-roller instructed that the management of his estate (and sizable music catalog) would be left to his widow and two daughter from a prior marriage in "equal participation." But what did Petty intend by the word equal? Does that instruction mean that each of the three parties gets to participate equally in the decision making or that the widow and daughters split the decision making fifty-fifty? The daughters, Adria Petty and Annakim Violette, filed a suit in Los Angeles against their step-mother, Dana York Petty, claiming that they are entitled to more control and are asking for $5 million in damages plus attorney's fees.

A financial advisor should make sure his or her clients have a stable and unambiguous estate plan and if a fight is foreseeable, he or she should make sure all future entanglements are considered. “Many people feel they can trust their spouses and children. Often there is peace between first and second spouses and children before someone dies, but it may not stay that way after death," DiChello commented.

See Karen DeMasters, Tom Petty's Estate is in Chaos—and That's With a Will, Financial Advisor, June 5, 2019.

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

June 11, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Should You be Able to Disinherit Your Child?

EiffelIn most of America, the question is not whether you can disinherit your child, but whether you should. A parent has every right to decide to completely block their assets from transferring to a particular offspring. In France, that is not the case. Under French law, for an estate with three or more children - such is the case with Johnny Hallyday - at least 75% of the estate must be divided equally among the children. Hallyday took the American approach and named is widow as the sole heir of his estate, estimated in the tens of millions.

The children from Hallyday's previous marriage filed in France, and obviously want French law to prevail. So the question truly is: was Hallyday more French or American, so what was his domicile? He had a home in both countries and died in France. From his stage name to his musical choices, the lifestyle he portrayed was much more American, though he was known as the "French Elvis" and very few Americans knew of him. He married a French-born American as his second wife, and she claims that he had plans to become an American citizen when they moved to Los Angeles. When he died in 2017 from lung cancer, hundreds of thousands of mourners flooded the streets at his funeral.

Though the court has yet to answer the question of which country has jurisdiction, the case has brought forth many questions from French citizens. The idea of forced heirship is derived from the French Revolution, when the reformers wanted to break up the wealth of the aristocracy. Now, parents are curious if they are required to leave assets to children that "have given them nothing but misery."

See Pamela Druckerman, Should You be Able to Disinherit Your Child?, New York Times, May 28, 2019.

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

May 30, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Doris Day Rejected Lifetime Achievement Award

DorisdayThe legendary actress and singer Doris Day passed away on May 13 at the age of 97, and it was no surprise to her longtime publicist Charley Cullen Walters that she did clearly stated in her will that she did not want a funeral, memorial, or even a grave marker.

Many around the country took to social media to remember the icon and mention their confusion with the odd situation of a Hollywood star not wanting any time spent memorializing her death. “[It] was something a lot of people were surprised [by] — some people were even upset by it,” Walters explained. “I personally completely understand that having worked with her.”

Walters said Day did not start acting to become famous. “There’s nobody like her anymore. She was truly an egoless person who did not crave the spotlight. In fact, she shied away from it. For her, her acting and her music career were her jobs." In fact, she left Hollywood in 1973 and had no intentions of returning. In fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reportedly offered Day a Lifetime Achievement Award about six times — and all six times she turned them down.

See Stephanie Nolasco & Julius Young, Doris Day Rejected Lifetime Achievement Award About Six Times, says Publicist: 'Our Job was to Protect Her,' Fox News, May 21, 2019.

May 23, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)