Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Carl Reiner Dead At 98, Rob Likely Financial As Well As Creative Heir

UnknownCarl Reiner, the versatile writer, actor, and director has died at the age of 98. Reiner was the creator of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and was straight man to Mel Brooks' "200 Year Old Man. In recent years, Reiner was part of the gang in the "Ocean's Eleven" movies starring George Clooney.

Reiner's assistant Judy Nagy said he died on Monday night of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills, California. Tributes have poured in from Steve Martin, Josh Gadd, Sarah Silverman, Alan Alda, and many more. 

Reiner is the father of actor-director Rob Reiner who starred on "All in the Family" and directed "When Harry Met Sally..." and "The Princess Bride." Besides Rob, Reiner had another son, Lucas, who is also a film director, and a daughter named Sylvia, who is an author. It is safe to say that the Reiners are an extremely talented family. 

It is likely that Rob Reiner will be the financial and creative heir as his father was his "guiding light." 

The creative world, especially the entertainment industry, will miss Carl Reiner dearly. 

See Carl Reiner Dead At 98, Rob Likely Financial As Well As Creative Heir, Wealth Advisor, June 30, 2020. 

July 1, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 12, 2020

Netflix And Last Will

C1_1860789_200219162635Although the Tiger King series featured on Netflix has ended, the drama continues. Recently, allegations of fraud, forgery, and undue influence have arisen. Anyone in tune with the latest television trends has heard about the drama surrounding Carole Baskin and the suspicious death of her late husband, Don Lewis. 

Although the show is focused on Joe Exotic's wildlife park, Carole Baskin's personal life has sparked interest in viewers. 

Don Lewis mysteriously disappeared and his body has not been found, however, he was declared dead in 2002. Baskin acquired Lewis' estate following his alleged death. However, Don Lewis' children have alleged various claim regarding the will that left everything to Baskin. Lewis was very wealthy with an estate worth upwards of $10 million. There have been many allegations claiming that Baskin was involved in her late husband's disappearance. 

Recently, Florida’s Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister informed news outlets that he is aware that experts have stated that Lewis’ last will and testament was forged. Lewis’ signature has been questioned, and it is suggested that it is a tracing from his 1991 marriage record.

It is unclear if litigation will result from the recent allegations, however, fans have continued to be intrigued by the new evidentiary developments. 

See Cori A. Robinson, Netflix And Last Will, Above the Law, June 10, 2020. 

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

June 12, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Is It Too Late To Challenge The Will of Tiger King Star Carole Baskin’s Missing Husband?

ImageRecent reports state that a Florida sheriff confirmed that the will of Don Lewis, Carole Baskin's missing husband. You probably recognize Carole Baskin from the hit Netflix series Tiger King. WTSP.com reported that the the signature on Lewis' will appears to have been traced from his marriage record and that according to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, "the problem was that the statute of limitations had expired for any crime related to the will." 

It seems that the sheriff was referring to any criminal prosecution regarding the will. However, it is not clear whether it is too late to contest the will.

It was also reported that the estate of Carole Baskin's husband was worth up to $10 million and was left to Carole Baskin, while leaving the rest of Lewis' family, even his children, out of the will. A case was opened in Hillsborough County, Florida and a copy of the will was filed, however it is unclear whether the will was actually admitted to probate or who, if anyone, received notice. One thing that is clear, an order was entered determining that Don Lewis was deceased in 2002. 

There are two questions to consider:

(1) Do Don Lewis' heirs have a claim for tortious interference with an expectancy of inheritance in Florida? and

(2) How long does fraud extend the statute of limitations? 

See Is It Too Late To Challenge The Will of Tiger King Star Carole Baskin’s Missing Husband?, Probate Stars, June 3, 2020. 

June 5, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Tiger King and an Unexpected Lesson on Estate Planning

BaskinHey all you cool cats and kittens! Episode 3 of the recent Netflix hit Tiger King focused on the disappearance of the husband of the protagonist's arch-enemy. Joe Exotic was sentenced to federal prison for animal abuse and his part in a murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin. Baskin's former husband, millionaire Don Lewis, disappeared in 1997 and was declared dead in 2002. Though the man had a will and a trust for his children from a prior marriage, the episode insinuated that the documents were fraudulently altered.

According to the documentary, Lewis sought an injunction against Baskin after she allegedly threatened to kill him, possibly even for a second time. The adult children from his prior marriage claim that there was talk of divorce and suggested that Lewis had attempted to arrange his affairs to minimize any entitlement of Baskin when they separated. The episode also claimed that Lewis gave his assistant, Anne McQueen, an envelope that contained his will and power of attorney, naming McQueen as his agent and executor. The assistant also said that Lewis had told her to take the envelope to the police is anything should befall him. Supposedly, Baskin broke into the office and took the documents before presenting a different will and power of attorney to the court, with her as the agent and executor.

This new power of attorney indicated that it was prepared by Baskin and contained an eyebrow raising line: "This durable family power of attorney shall not be affected by any disability or disappearance.” In most jurisdictions, proof of the person’s death, either in the form of a death certificate or court order, is required in order to obtain probate and proceed to administer the estate. McQueen claims that Baskin filed for a court order to declare Lewis death "immediately" after the statutory five year period.

See Peter Askew, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, Madness and…Lessons About the Law of Estates?, April 1, 2020.

May 4, 2020 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Kirk Douglas Leaves the Majority of his Fortune to Charity

KirkKirk Douglas, arguably the last member of Hollywood's Golden Age, passed away on February 5, 2020 at the age of 103. He is survived by his second wife Anne, who he married in 1954, and three of his sons - Michael, Joel and Peter. Kirk had suffered a stroke in 1996 and his health had declined, but he still occasionally appeared in movies and television productions.

In addition to being a three time Oscar nominee, he received a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1996, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981, the Jefferson Award for public service in 1983 and was named to the French Legion of Honor in 1985. He was born in Amsterdam, New York to Jewish immigrant parents and was lucky enough to have an illustrious Hollywood career that spanned seven decades.

Kirk and Anne founded the Douglas Foundation 1964 and opted to bequeath the majority of his estate to the charity. The Foundation benefits the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, The Kirk and Anne Douglas Childhood Center, a St. Lawrence University scholarship for underprivileged students, Westwood’s Sinai Temple and Culver City’s Kirk Douglas Theater, a restored venue. Anne Douglas remains as the nonprofit's managing trustee.

Though at first glance it might seem harsh that Kirk did not leave anything to his beloved son Michael, who followed in his father's footsteps and became an actor. But the well-known Wall Street is worth over $300 million in his own right so he most likely was not expecting anything from his father.

See Nate Day, Kirk Douglas' $61M Fortune Given Mostly to Charity, None Went to Son Michael Douglas, Fox News, February 23, 2020; see also Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, Kirk Douglas Leaves Most of his $80 Million Fortune to Charity, Page Six, February 22, 2020; see also Will Twigger & Susan Knox, Kirk Douglas Leaves Entire £61m Fortune to Charity - and Son Michael Douglas Doesn't get a Penny, Mirror, February 23, 2020.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) and Jay Brinker (Cincinnati Estate Planning Attorney) for bringing these articles to my attention.

February 25, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Wealth and Drama of the Disney Family

DisneyBefore it was Walt Disney Studio, it was Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, founded by Walt Disney and his brother Roy O. Disney. Walt handled the creative side while Roy O. handled the business side. Walt died in 1966 of lung cancer, survived by his wife, two daughters and 10 grandchildren. Roy O. only had one child, Roy E., who would later become a senior executive for the company. Roy E. had four children - Susan, Roy P., Tim, and Abigail. Though the Disney clan raised their children in a way that was traditional and normal, their legacy is anything but simple.

In 1960, the Disney brothers owned 20% of the company that they had founded, but today the family only owns 3%. But at $130 billion, that would leave the family an investment of $3.9 billion in the company. And that of course does not include other holdings, investments, and endeavors. Some of the grandchildren became notorious, such as a granddaughter living quite lavishly, splurging on $5,000-a-night suites at the Royal Palms apartment homes in Las Vegas. Two other grandchildren fought over their portions to a trust fund, each arguing that the other was mentally incapacitated.

On the other side of the coin, a granddaughter of Roy O. was reportedly embarrassed by her family's wealth and stated that she had developed an "inferiority complex around people who have actually earned their money. She has said that if she could she would outlaw private jets, and she was one of 18 ultra-wealthy Americans to sign a letter asking presidential candidates to support a wealth tax in June 2019. Roy E. was the only heir that got involved in the business, and it is reported that though the original two brothers were close, the families have never been.

See Hillary Hoffower, A Family Feud Over a $400 Million Trust Fund, a Massive Fortune that Left One Heiress with an Inferiority Complex, and a Sprawling Media Empire. Meet the Disney Family, Business Insider, February 7, 2020.

Special thanks to Mark J. Bade (CPA, GCMA, St. Louis, Missouri) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 9, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Why Ashton Kutcher is Leaving Nothing to his Kids

AshtonAshton Kutcher and his wife, Mila Kunis, stated recently that they plan to leave their children nothing, instead giving any money they have earned from Hollywood or their investments to charity, including sex-trafficking causes. Kutcher has invested in several tech companies with his venture capital firm A-Grade Investments, so he understands that his children are already living what he believes is a "privileged life." He specifically said that they will not be receiving any trust funds.

Half of people that are destined to receive an inheritance receive $50,000 or less, and 30% will receive between $50,000 and $249,000 according to Federal Reserve data. Completely cutting off children is an unorthodox approach; teaching them positive life-long habits that can contribute to more beneficial payoffs may be more proactive, and could bloom into long-term financial security.

See Mitch Tuchman, Why Ashton Kutcher is Leaving Nothing to his Kids, Market Watch, November 9, 2019.

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

November 10, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Barron Hilton Leaves 97% of Massive Fortune to this Foundation

BarronBarron Hilton, the magnate behind Hilton Hotels success, passed away on Thursday at his Los Angeles home at the age of 91. The billionaire left 97% of his fortune to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the charity started by his father, which increased its endowment by $3.4 billion.

The Foundation, established in 1944, invests in seven program areas: Catholic sisters, disaster relief and recovery, foster youth, homelessness, hospitality workforce development, safe water, and young children affected by HIV and AIDS.

The remaining 3%, which still constitutes millions of dollars, were left for him family, including the well-known heiress Paris and Nicky Hilton. Altogether Barron left behind eight children, 15 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. "The Hilton family mourns the loss of a remarkable man," ,his son and chairman of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Steven M. Hilton, said in a statement. "He lived a life of great adventure and exceptional accomplishment."

See Matthew McNulty, Barron Hilton Leaves 97% of Massive Fortune to this Foundation, Fox News, September 22, 2019.

September 22, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Article in Be Right Back: Black Mirror and the Importance of Digital Estate Planning

Black mirrorMichael J. Polk recently published an Article entitled, Be Right Back: Black Mirror and the Importance of Digital Estate Planning, South Carolina Lawyer, July 2019. Provided below is the introduction of the Article.

The Netflix series "Black Mirror" imagines the effect technology will have in the near future. In the Be Right Back episode, a young woman's boyfriend suddenly dies. Grieving, the woman signs up for a service that creates a virtual boyfriend by using his past text and email communications, social media accounts and artificial intelligence. The more information fed into the service, the more accurate the interactions with the virtual boyfriend become (spoiler alert: there isn't a happy ending). The episode makes the point that our digital life has become pervasive, and it becomes more so with each passing day. Lawyer must address and plan for digital assets and accounts both on a professional and personal level because, in the words of John Maynard Keynes, "In the long run, we are all dead."

September 19, 2019 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Britney Fans Insist it is Time to #FreeBritney!

BritneyBritney Spears, the pop princess that dominated the charts in her late teens and early twenties before her extremely public break down in 2008, is still under a conservatorship in California. This year she cancelled her Las Vegas residency and she went to a mental health facility. But her fans believe that she is being silenced and was put into the facility against her own free will, and was able to be forced because of the conservatorship with her father, Jamie, at the helm.

Conservatorships - or guardianships as they may be known in other jurisdictions - are intending to help those who cannot take care of themselves and are unlikely to gain that ability, such as the elderly or mentally disabled. Spears's father is control of her finances and many personal choices (including healthcare), but it is apparent that the musician can provide for herself. She has produced four albums since the start of her conservatorship, was a host on The X Factor, even went on four world tours. Attorney Stanton Stein, whom Jamie has hired for #FreeBritney damage control, rejected the idea that Spears had been coerced or manipulated in any way. “She’s always involved in every career and business decision,” he said. “Period.” There have been no more public outbursts, break downs, or suicide attempts.

So why is there still a conservatorship in place? Her fans believe that she is being micromanaged and manipulated to the point of being under complete control of her father. What really gave the rally cry #FreeBritney fire, however, was a voicemail left on a podcast that dissects Britney's Instagram posts. The caller, identifying himself as a former paralegal for an attorney who worked with Spears’ conservatorship, claimed that the singer’s father was involved in getting her to drop her Las Vegas residency. He also made a series of other allegations and raised concerns about her personal autonomy.

In the meantime, Jamie Spears has requested that the conservatorship be extended to more states, including where his daughter lives to vacation, and his suing individuals with slander over the many accusations.

See Laura Newberry, Britney Spears Hasn’t Fully Controlled Her Life for Years. Fans Insist it’s Time to #FreeBritney, Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2019.

Special thanks to Adam T. Uszynski (Bradicich, Moore & Uszynski, LLP, Victoria, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention

September 19, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, Television, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)