Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

DNA Testing Denied in Charles Manson Estate Litigation

MansonA claimed grandson of Charles Manson attempted to have DNA testing in order to be recognized as an heir of Manson's estate. However, in In Re Estate of Charles M. Manson, DNA testing was rejected. 

After Charles Manson died in 2017, Jason Freeman petitioned the court to be recognized as the sole adult next of kin of Mr. Manson. Michael Channels, the sole named beneficiary of one of Manson's wills objected. 

Charles Manson and his wife Rosalie Handley had a son named Charles Manson, Jr. In 1986, an Ohio court determined that he was the natural father of Jason Freeman. Manson Jr. committed suicide in 1993. 

"In a dispute regarding the disposition of the remains of Manson (Sr.), the trial court ruled that Freeman is the sole surviving adult next of kin." The trial court granted the genetic testing and further ruled that that the 1986 decision of the Ohio court was not binding. 

The appellate court vacated the order requiring genetic testing and found that there was no reference to genetic testing in California Statute Section 6453. 

The appellate court also rejected genetic testing under California's Family Code, because "the statute does not authorize testing to determine a grandparent–grandchild relationship. . ." 

See DNA Testing Denied in Charles Manson Estate Litigation, Probate Stars, April 15, 2021. 

April 17, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Trust Beneficiaries Can Examine Trustee’s Attorney’s Billing Records If Trust Is Paying Fees

Estate planningIn In Re Estate of McAleer, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review to determine "whether the attorney–client privilege and the work product doctrine may be invoked by a trustee to prevent disclosure to a beneficiary of communications between the trustee and counsel pertaining to attorney fees expended from the trust corpus." 

The Court says no, if the trust is paying for the trustee's attorney's fees. 

William McAleer ("Trustee") is the sole trustee of a revocable trust that was created by his father, who is now deceased. The Trust was created for the benefit of the Trustee and his two stepbrothers. 

In 2014, the Trustee filed a first and partial accounting of the Trust. The Trustee retained two separate law firms to respond to his stepbrother's objections to the accounting. The probate court dismissed the objections following an evidentiary hearing. 

The Trustee's filings in Pennsylvania court indicated that about $124,000 had been expended from the trust for attorney's fees and costs through December 2015. Trustee's stepbrothers filed a petition for special relief to "determine the reasonableness of those expenses." 

In April 2016, Trustee filed a second and final accounting, which were also objected to by his stepbrothers. Trustee argued that he was never under any obligation to provide his stepbrothers with copies of legal invoices because they were protected by attorney–client privilege. 

The Pennsylvania court ordered the Trustee to forward unreacted attorney's fee billing invoices to his stepbrothers within 30 days. Trustee disclosed the trustee invoices but filed an interlocutory appeal in regard to the attorney invoices. 

The court explained that a party seeking to assert privilege must first set forth facts to establish that the privilege has been properly invoked.

The court concluded that the Trustee failed to present facts establishing the privilege. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated in its decision that the attorney–client privilege is not absolute. Further, when the interests protected by the privilege "conflict with weightier obligations, the former must yield to the latter." The Court asserted that this case was one in which this conflicting duty was present. 

Ultimately, the Court held that the fiduciary duty to furnish trust-related information to beneficiaries outweighed the asserted attorney–client privilege. 

See Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Trust Beneficiaries Can Examine Trustee’s Attorney’s Billing Records If Trust Is Paying Fees, Probate Stars, April 13, 2021. 

April 13, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 5, 2021

Oklahoma Supreme Court: Children Not Mentioned In One-Sentence Holographic Will Are Pretermitted Heirs

Estate planningIn the Matter of the Estate of Chester, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that "a testator’s son (who had shot the decedent during his lifetime leaving him with life-long injuries) was a pretermitted heir under his father’s holographic will which left the son nothing." 

Buddy Wayne Chester, the decedent, was survived by two adult children, Steven and Lisa. After Buddy died, Lisa was appointed as Special Administrator. 

One day before Lisa filed a number of petitions, Buddy's grandson, Brandon, filed Buddy's probate in Oklahoma County, claiming that Buddy had left a holographic will. Brandon objected to Lisa's filings alleging that Lisa "Was not to be administrator because of her financial issues and damage to estate property, and that Steve should be disqualified as well because he once shot the decedent." 

The holographic will left everything to Brandon and was written entirely in Buddy's handwriting. 

Steven later filed a Motion for Order determining that he was a pretermitted heir. 

The trial court found that the holographic will omitted the son as a beneficiary and that it was not accidental. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 

The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the two children were pretermitted heirs and that the will does not express the intention to omit to provide for his children. The will was only one sentence long and never used language that expressed that the decedent wanted his children to take nothing. Instead, the decedent did not even acknowledge his kids' existence in the will. 

See Oklahoma Supreme Court: Children Not Mentioned In One-Sentence Holographic Will Are Pretermitted Heirs, Probate Stars, March 30, 2021. 

April 5, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, April 2, 2021

Britney Spears' dad requests pop star to pay nearly $2 million of his legal fees

SpearsBritney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, has requested that the pop star cover his legal fees out of her estate. Jamie Spears has requested nearly $2 million dollars to cover these fees. 

Jamie is also requesting to be paid for the time he spent as Britney's conservator from November 1, 2019 to February 28, 2021. In the court document filing Jamie stated, "I am authorized and allowed to receive compensation through my personal services corporation Spears Management, Inc., for services performed as Conservator of the Estate of Britney Jean Spears, in the amount of $16,000 monthly plus $2,000 monthly for the cost of an office space in a secure location that is dedicated to Ms. Spears' activities."

These requests come after Britney Spears' attorney officially requested that Jodi Montgomery be made her permanent conservator. Britney also asked for her father to resign from his position as conservator. 

See Melissa Roberto, Britney Spears' dad requests pop star to pay nearly $2 million of his legal fees, Fox News, April 1, 2021. 

 

April 2, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

VANESSA BRYANT PLEASE JUDGE, CANCEL MY MOM ... Her Claims For Lifetime Support Are Bogus

VanessaVanessa Bryant's mother, Sofia Laine, filed a lawsuit against Kobe's estate alleging that Kobe Bryant promised to take care of her financially for the rest of her life. 

Vanessa Bryant asked the judge to dismiss her mother's claim, alleging that her mother's claims are "bogus." 

Vanessa Bryant used previous documents to shed light on a legal fight her mother had with her ex-husband in 2004 and 2008 over spousal support. Sofia's ex-husband claimed that he should not have to pay her because Kobe and Vanessa were supporting here. Sofia rebutted by saying that Kobe and Vanessa had no obligation to support her and anything they provided for her was "simply out of the goodness of their hearts." 

Vanessa Bryant also claims that even if Kobe had made the oral promise to Sofia, its too vague to be enforced. 

Sofia has also claimed that Vanessa and Kobe violated California labor laws by not giving her "meal breaks, rest periods, and giving her minimum wage for babysitting services." Vanessa rebutted these claims by saying Sofia was never an employee but is instead a grandmother who helped Kobe and Vanessa by spending time with her grandchildren. 

Vanessa Bryant's legal team has also stated that Sofia did not file a creditor's claim within a year of Kobe's death so she cannot go after Kobe's estate. 

The judge has not made a ruling yet. 

See VANESSA BRYANT PLEASE JUDGE, CANCEL MY MOM ... Her Claims For Lifetime Support Are Bogus, TMZ, March 29, 2021. 

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

March 31, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Billionaire Estee Lauder heir locked in legal battle with baby mama

LauderBillionaire cosmetics heir William Lauder is "trying to kick his baby mama out of the $7 million Bel Air mansion he gave her. . . " 

The battle was apparently ignited by their child's "innocent social media post." 

The battle is centered on the Bel Air mansion which is 6,000 square feet and looks over Los Angeles. William Lauder is working hard to kick his ex-lover, Taylor Stein out of the mansion. 

William Lauder is son to billionaire philanthropist Leonard Lauder, who has donated more than $1 billion worth of art to the Metropolitan Museum. Stein is the daughter of legendary NYC nightclub impresario Howard Stein, who has sense past away. Stein's grandfather was a loan shark who was murdered by the Westies gang. 

Lauder and Stein met in 2000 at a party at Lauder's mansion in Aspen. At the time, Lauder was still married to his wife Karen. The two strikes up an affair about a year later and Stein was pregnant by 2005. Apparently, Lauder asked Stein to end the pregnancy because he was negotiating an agreement with his wife. 

Lauder and Stein have had a rocky relationship since then that has involved legal agreements, NDAs, and restraining orders. 

The battle at issue now began last year when Lauder and Stein's 13-year-old daughter described her parents as "divorced" on social media. 

See Isabel Vincent & Melissa Klein, Billionaire Estee Lauder heir locked in legal battle with baby mama, N.Y. Post, March 20, 2021. 

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

March 23, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Vermont Supreme Court Determines Ownership Of 1979 Cadillac Eldorado In Probate Dispute

CadillacIn re Estate of Theodore George the Vermont Supreme Court had the job of determining the rightful owner of a 1979 Cadillac Eldorado. Although these types of cases are common, it is rare for them to make it all the way up to the Vermont Supreme Court. 

Theodore purchased the Cadillac in 1992 and he received the certificate of title in 1994. Theodore was the sole owner of the Cadillac. In 2006, Theodore submitted a Vermont Registration, Tax and Title application with the DMV. Theodore was listed as the owner and his daughter was listed as co-owner The form directs applicants to select rights of survivorship if there is more than one owner listed on the certificate. The form provides, "if no box is checked joint tenants will be selected. Theodore did not check the box and he was the only person that signed the certificate. 

In 2016, Theodore left the car to one of his other daughters, Christine, through both a will and a codicil. Theodore died in 2017 and both the will and the codicil were admitted to probate. The executor of the estate listed the Cadillac as an asset of the estate and Deborah contested. 

The Probate Court did not find clear evidence of ownership and that the Cadillac was properly listed as part of the estate. 

In order to transfer title in Vermont, the testator must, at time of the delivery, "execute an assignment and warranty of title to the transferee in the space provided in the certificate." 

The Vermont Supreme Court held that Theodore did not transfer the Cadillac because delivery requires "complete possession and control" to complete an inter vivid gift. 

See Vermont Supreme Court Determines Ownership Of 1979 Cadillac Eldorado In Probate Dispute, Probate Stars, March 10, 2021.

 

March 17, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Aretha Franklin’s Estate Signs Tentative Deal Over Back Taxes Owed

ArethaSince Aretha Franklin's death in 2018, there has been a looming debt ganging over her estate. After three years, Franklin's estate is moving toward an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to repay this debt which is comprised of "thousands and thousands of [dollars] in federal revenue taxes that the singer owed throughout her life. . ." 

The settlement requires the estate to put aside 45% of all income it receives to repay the tax responsibility that Franklin accrued from 2010 to 2017. Also, $800,000 is to be paid to the IRS within 5 days of the deal's approval. 

A document submitted in court on February 19, states that the IRS has declared that the state owes $7.8 million, but apparently, this determination did not include about $3 million that the estate alleged it paid at the end of 2018. 

Under the deal, 40% of the estate's revenues will be put toward ongoing taxes and funds to Franklin's heirs. This 40% will be generated by music royalties and licensing and is allowed to be held in escrow. 

If a deal is reached, the estate will have room to breathe and bring in revenue. 

The worth of Franklin's estate has not been fully determined but it has been estimated to be around $80 million. 

There were also multiple wills found, which has lead to a stark divide between Franklin's alleged heirs as members of Franklin's family have been battling to prove which documents should be probated. 

See Ben Sisario, Aretha Franklin’s Estate Signs Tentative Deal Over Back Taxes Owed, N.Y. Times, March 2, 2021. 

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

March 11, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Donald Trump's niece blasts his 'chutzpah' toward her fraud lawsuit

TrumpMary Trump, Donald Trump's estranged niece, has accused the former president of "trying to dodge accountability for defrauding her out of a multimillion dollar inheritance by claiming she took too long to sue." 

Mary Trump's lawyers brought the allegation in a New York State court. Mary Trump is suing the former president along with his sister Maryanne Trump Barry and his late brother Robert's estate. 

Mary Trump's lawyers wrote, The offensiveness of defendants' past conduct — stealing tens of millions of dollars from their own niece — is perhaps surpassed only by the chutzpah of their current arguments for dismissal." 

Mary's father, Fred Trump Jr., Donald Trump's older brother, died in 1981 and left Mary, who was 16 at the time a profitable real estate portfolio. 

Mary alleges that her aunt and uncles "siphoned" money away and "squeezed" her out of the family fortune. Mary Trump brought suit in September, close to two years after she says she learned of her families' actions, which she claims to have learned through an investigation into Donald Trump's finances. 

Mary Trump's lawyers claim that "[r]easonable diligence would not have uncovered the fraud [more than a decade earlier as the defendants contended]." 

Mary Trump has also written a tell-all entitled, "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man" in which she delves further into her allegations against Donald Trump and other family members. 

Donald Trump's lawyers claim that Mary Trump is simply attempting to "cash in on the family name, and consume [Donald Trump] with lawsuits." 

See Jonathan Stempel, Donald Trump's niece blasts his 'chutzpah' toward her fraud lawsuit, Yahoo News, February 26, 2021. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 3, 2021 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Larry King's widow Shawn King files to be TV icon's estate administrator: report

LarrykingShawn King, estranged widow of Larry King, is not only contesting Larry King's will, but has also filed to be the estate administrator. Larry King's will stated that King wished for his $2 million estate to be divided between his five children. The handwritten will, left Shawn out of it and was not updated after the deaths of King's daughter Chaia and son Andy. However, the will was executed shortly after King had filed for a divorce from Shawn. 

In contesting the will, Shawn claimed that "reconciliation remained possible." Shawn also claimed that she had "the most knowledge of Larry's business, assets, and wishes." 

Shawn originally contested the appointment of King's son Larry King Jr. as administrator, but now she requests to take over the position and has submitted a copy of King's previous will that was executed in 2015 that names Shawn as executor of the estate. Other documents filed claim that Larry King's estate is only worth $350,000 as opposed to $2 million. 

Reps for King Jr. stated, "We do not intend to litigate this matter publically in the press. That said, we are aware of the unsupported allegations and innuendo in the Objections filed to the Petition for Probate. "Needless to say yet said nonetheless, we remain committed to our request to the Los Angeles Superior Court to admit to probate the valid October 17, 2019 will, entirely drafted and written in Larry King’s hand, which is the true and final statement of Larry’s intent to fully benefit his children equally."

See Nate Day, Larry King's widow Shawn King files to be TV icon's estate administrator: report, Fox News, February 20, 2021.

February 25, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)