Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Florida Probate & Intestacy Guides Available

MAP-OF-FLORIDA-743x5001The Florida Probate Law Group  has recently made available some useful materials regarding Florida probate law:

Chart to determine intestate heirs, and

A guide to Florida probate.

September 8, 2021 in Estate Administration, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brother Had Standing Under Texas Slayer Statute To Seek Declaration Regarding Rights To Insurance Proceeds

Estate planningIn Lawrence v. Bailey, the Texas First District Court of Appeals addressed whether "a relative had standing under the Texas Insurance Code's Slayer Statute to obtain a declamatory judgment as to the disposition of life insurance proceeds." 

Steven Lawrence's wife LaQuita was named the primary beneficiary in his life insurance policy, which was issued by Hartford in January 2008. Their son Ross was named the contingent beneficiary. 

Steven and LaQuita were killed in their home in October 2013 and ross was indicted for capital murder for killing them. 

Hartford filed an interpleader petition in order to seek direction as to what to do with the life insurance funds. In the mean time, Hartford deposited the insurance proceeds with the registry of the court. 

Robert (Steven's brother) filed a tradition motion for summary judgment, in which he argued that based on the Texas slayer statute, he was entitled to the life insurance proceeds as a matter of law. 

The trial court ruled that it was granting the special exceptions and denying Robert's motion for summary judgment and set a trial for March of 2020. One month later, the administrator of Steven's Estate filed a "Motion to Close and Distribute Funds in Registry of the Court to the Estate of Steven Ross Lawrence, Deceased."

The trial court granted the administrator's motion and Robert filed a motion for new trial alleging that the trial court "spontaneously granted" the motion to distribute the interpleader funds to Steven's Estate, "without a hearing or notice" to him. 

Robert also asserted that "[t]his was a fundamental violation of Robert's right to due process." Robert asked the trial court to vacate the order awarding the insurance proceeds to Steven's Estate and grant him a new trial. The trial court denied the motion and Robert appealed. 

Under the Texas Insurance Code: 

A beneficiary of a life insurance policy or contract forfeits the beneficiary's interest in the policy or contract if the beneficiary is a principal or an accomplice in willfully bringing about the death of the insured.

The Texas appeals court determined that Robert had standing to obtain declaratory relief under the Texas slayer statute. The court determined that "the record also demonstrated that a real controversy exists between the parties regarding the insurance proceeds, since Hartford interpled funds indicating it anticipated rival claims to the funds." 

Despite the fact that the murder case against Ross had not been solved yet, the court found that the Texas Slayer Statute does not require that any criminal case relating to "whether the beneficiary willfully brought about the insured's death be resolved before the willfulness determination is made." 

See Brother Had Standing Under Texas Slayer Statute To Seek Declaration Regarding Rights To Insurance Proceeds, Probate Stars, August 30 2021. 

September 8, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Britney Spears' father accused of trying to get $2 million before stepping down as conservator

SpearsBritney Spears' attorney has urged the pop star's father, Jamie Spears, to immediately step down as her conservator "after accusing him of trying to get about $2 million as a condition of his resignation." 

Spears' attorney, Mathew Rosengart, has demanded that Jamie Spears step down without payment. Rosengart cited to Jamie Spears' August 12 response to a petition to remove him from her conservatorship in which Jamie Spears stated that he would be "willing to step down when the time is right, but the transition needs to be orderly and include a resolution of matters." 

According to Rosengart, "Mr. Spears and his counsel are now on notice: the status quo is no longer tolerable, and Britney Spears will not be extorted. . .Mr. Spears's blatant attempt to barter suspension and removal in exchange for approximately $2 million in payments on top of the millions already reaped from Ms. Spears's estate by Mr. Spears and his associate, is a non-starter."

See Wilson Wong & Diana Dasrath,  Britney Spears' father accused of trying to get $2 million before stepping down as conservator, NBC News, September 1, 2021. 

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

September 7, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 5, 2021

LA's famed Hearst Estate, seen in 'The Godfather,' sells for $47 million

HearstThe iconic Beverly Hills mansion, known as the Beverly House, has sold for $47 million after a number of price reductions. The mansion which was formerly owned by newspaper titan William Randolph Hearst and Hollywood actress Marion Davies featured in legendary movie "The Godfather" as well as "The Bodyguard." 

Hearst and Davies' love story began in 1921, and Davies purchased the property for Hearst 15 years later. The media mogul remained in the home until he passed four years later. 

The mansion was also the honeymoon spot for Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy. 

The property sits on 3.5 Acres and contains one of the longest private driveways in Los Angeles. The mansion has 18 bedrooms and 25 bathrooms between its two-story gatehouse and the main home. 

The property is currently in bankruptcy and originally hit the market for $165 million. In March it was listed for $119 million and again recently for $89.75 million. The asking price was at $69.95 million when the $47 million offer was accepted. 

See Breck Dumas, LA's famed Hearst Estate, seen in 'The Godfather,' sells for $47 million, Fox Business, August 29, 2021. 

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

September 5, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 3, 2021

Article: Maintenance of Hindu Widow under Personal Law in India

Mr. Shiv Shankar Banerjee recently published an article entitled, Maintenance of Hindu Widow under Personal Law in India, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

The law of maintenance for widow at India under the Indian law .The personal law of India do recognized the of the widow form the period of British rule. The article demonstrate the right of the Hindu female under personal law.

September 3, 2021 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Article: Summary of Changes Made By the 2021 Texas Legislature

Gerry W. Beyer recently published an article entitled, Summary of Changes Made By the 2021 Texas Legislature, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

This article reviews the highlights of the legislation enacted by the 2021 Texas Legislature relating to the Texas law of intestacy, wills, estate administration, trusts, guardianship, and other estate planning matters.

September 2, 2021 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Article: Interpretation of Wills – Does the Endumeni Case Apply?

Fareed Moosa recently published an article entitled, Interpretation of Wills – Does the Endumeni Case Apply?, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Wills

This article argues that the general approach to documentary interpretation articulated in Natal Joint Municipal Pension Fund v Endumeni Municipality 2012 4 SA 593 (SCA) (Endumeni) applies also to the interpretation of wills, subject to adaptation for context. It is argued that interpretation of wills and the application of an interpretation to a particular factual setting are coequal tasks. Each case must be decided on its own facts. The cardinal rule is the ascertainment of a testator's intention and giving effect thereto, provided that this will not bring about a violation of the law. It is argued that a court must put itself in the armchair of the testator and, after determining where the probabilities lie, it must infer or presume what the testator had in mind at the time that the will was created. Although intention is subjective, the interpretive process to determine a testator's intention is objective in form. It is argued that a court must, in every instance, understand the purpose for which it seeks to determine a testator's intention. This is so that it can undertake the correct enquiry. If the aim is to determine the meaning of a testamentary provision, then a testator's intention must be ascertained as memorialised in the written text of the will read as a whole, taking into account also the purpose of the text and its context. If, on the other hand, the aim is to determine whether a document is a testator's intended last will and testament, as is the case when section 2(3) of the Wills Act 7 of 1953 is invoked, then a testator's intention must be ascertained with reference to the document's purpose, taking also into account all legally relevant and admissible internal and external contextual factors. It is argued that all this is, as confirmed in Endumeni, consistent with the modern trend favouring an objective, purposive, contextual cum teleological mode of documentary interpretation.

September 1, 2021 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Celebrities Who Have Died Without A Will Have Taught Us

Estate planningOver the last few years, there has been an influx of athletes, musicians, and other celebrities who have died without an effective estate plan. The news stories covering the family battles over these estates, although entertaining, can be quite terrifying. 

Whether you are a famous celebrity or an "regular" person, here are some good reasons to complete an estate plan and avoid dying testate. 

  1. It will be easier for family members to help you in a crisis 
  2. It saves family members from playing detective
  3. It can save you—and your family members—time and money
  4. It can ensure that your assets are disposed of the way YOU choose
  5. It can help minimize, or even eliminate, certain taxes 

"A good estate plan is a lot like flood insurance—if you don't have it when you need it, it's too late. . ."

See Cheryl A. Jones, Esquire, What Celebrities Who Have Died Without a Will Have Taught Us , Pessin Katz Law Firm, August 25, 2021. 

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

September 1, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Statutory Book Released: 2021 Texas Estates & Trust Codes with Commentary

Gerry W. Beyer recently posted his book, 2021 Texas Estates & Trust Codes with Commentary, on the Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal. Provided below is the abstract of his work: Estate planning

This document contains the Texas Estates Code and the Texas Trusts Code (and related Property Code provisions) showing all changes made by the Regular Session of the 2021 Texas Legislature. The changes, most of which take effect on September 1, 2021, are shown in red-lined format for easy comparison of the prior and new versions of the statutes. Also included are charts converting Probate Code to Estates Code sections and Estates Code to Probate Code sections.

I have included commentary entitled Statutes in Context to many sections. These annotations provide background information, explanations, and citations to key cases which should assist you in identifying the significance of the statutes and how they operate.

August 31, 2021 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brooklyn Law School Seeks Trusts & Estates Visitor

The following is from a posting on The Faculty Lounge originally posted by Tim Zinnecker and brought to my attention by Adam J. Hirsch (Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law):

Brooklyn Law School is looking for a visitor to teach one section of Trusts & Estates as an overload course in the evening of Spring 2022, in-person or remotely. Pay is negotiable. Previous experience teaching this or a similar course is strongly preferred. Email the Vice Dean at christina.mulligan@brooklaw.edu if interested.

August 31, 2021 in Faculty Positions -- Visiting | Permalink | Comments (0)