Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Whitney Houston estate considering legal action over late singer's scrapped hologram after it debuts in variety show without permission

WhitneyWhitney Houston's new hologram surfaced last month and the people behind it may be facing legal action. The hologram was originally set to debut on the 2016 finale of the Voice, but Whitney's estate cancelled reasoning that "the quality didn't meet her high standards." 

The variety show in which Whitney's hologram was debuted included "live performances and appearances from iconic deceased celebrities."

After "perfecting" Whitney Houston's likeness, the producers entered the hologram into the performance. However, Houston's estate claims that they "had no legal standing to re-build or re-brand the hologram."

The estate originally backed the creation of the hologram when it was first announced and the original plan was to have Whitney Houston's hologram perform its own headlining show. 

However, the estate decided to cancel when they saw the hologram because they "didn't like the hologram's look."

It is not clear where this potential litigation is heading, but its likely that the fans were excited to see Whitney Houston's music come to life. 

See Kevin Kayhart, Whitney Houston estate considering legal action over late singer's scrapped hologram after it debuts in variety show without permission, Daily Mail (U.K.), October 4, 2020.

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

October 6, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 31, 2020

Britney Spears Seeking Substantial Changes to Conservatorship

BritneyFor over a decade, Britney Spears has lived in California under a court-approved conservatorship. The conservatorship is a "complex legal arrangement meant to oversee her personal well-being and finances." This conservatorship was spurred after Spears' infamous public breakdowns, which you are probably aware of. 

Spears' father, James Spears, is mostly in charge of Britney's affairs who has, for the most part, kept it out of public view. However, fans and family members have begun to worry about the control over Britney and her fortune which has led to the #FreeBritney movement. 

Despite her fans and family's worries, Britney had not made many comments about the arrangement until a couple of weeks ago when attorney Samuel D. Ingham III submitted a filing pushing for a change in the conservatorship. It appears that Britney believes that the conservatorship “must be changed substantially in order to reflect the major changes in her current lifestyle and her stated wishes.”

James Spears stepped away from his role as Britney's personal conservator and was replaced (temporarily) by Jodi Montgomery, a licensed professional conservator. Britney now asserts, strongly, that she does not want her father to resume his role as her personal conservator and would like Ms. Montgomery to take over the role permanently. 

Britney has also asserted that she wants a qualified corporate fiduciary appointed to serve in the role to take care of her financial affairs.

See Joe Coscarelli, Britney Spears Seeking Substantial Changes to Conservatorship, N.Y. Times, August 18, 2020.

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

August 31, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 24, 2020

Michael Jackson's former manager no longer in legal battle with his estate

MJA judge's ruling has ended Michael Jackson's former manager with the late King of Pop's estate. The judge ruled that the manager is owed $3 million.

The ruling ended a feud that had been going on since 2012, when Tohme Tohme first sued the estate claiming he was owed 15 percent commission on compensation the singer received in the last year of his life as well as the concert film, "This is It."

A news outlet stated that the feud appeared that it would end in May 2019, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement. 

Tohme will get the $3 million, however, only under the condition that he does not bring the estate back into litigation. 

The news outlet also reported that the lawsuit followed a written draft that Tohme received that detailed the settlement agreement which included terms he had not agreed to. Tohme moved for summary judgment, but the estate made it clear that nothing would be final until they executed a written agreement. 

See Tyler McCarthy, Michael Jackson's former manager no longer in legal battle with his estate, Fox News, July 18, 2020.

 

July 24, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 10, 2020

‘Wicked' widow of French Elvis Johnny Hallyday pockets assets of up to €34 million after a two-year battle with his older children who were written out of the 73-year-old’s will - but she's also inherited his €30 million debt

UnknownAfter a bitter legal battle that lasted more than two years, the widow of the 'French Elvis' who died in December of 2017 from lung cancer, aged 74, has inherited the singer's properties, to the estimated value of €28 to €34 million, and an undisclosed amount of cash. 

The singer's eldest children decided to contest his will, which left his entire estate to Laeticia, excluding his son David Hallyday and Laura Smet. The will was drafted in the U.S., where Hallyday was living with Laeticia and their two adopted daughters, and did not comply with French law, where children have automatic succession rights. 

A grudging legal battle ensued, with Laeticia provoking further outrage last year by announcing plans to have the singer exhumed and placed in her family vault — a move that saw her branded the "wicked stepmother" by French magazines. 

However, Laeticia's lawyers announce on July 3rd, that a "definitive agreement" had been reached between Hallyday and her late husband's children. 

Laura Smet received a settlement of €2.4 million in exchange for renouncing any further legal action and recognizing the American will, which excluded her and David. David, said he did not want any money, but instead was granted the "moral rights" to his father's musical estate, meaning he will oversee how his musical legacy is used from now on. 

It appears that Laeticia won the battle, however, she inherited Johnny's tax debts, which are estimated to be around €30 million. 

It appears that all parties involved are finally ready to "move on."

See Clair Toureille, ‘Wicked' widow of French Elvis Johnny Hallyday pockets assets of up to €34 million after a two-year battle with his older children who were written out of the 73-year-old’s will - but she's also inherited his €30 million debt, Daily Mail (UK), July 6, 2020.

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

July 10, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)