Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Disney Reportedly Refuses to Allow Spider-Man Engraving on Tombstone of Dead Boy Who Loved Superhero

Ollie-Jones-1-SWNSOllie Jones, a 4-year-old boy that passed away this past December and suffered from leukodystrophy, a rare genetic condition, will not be allowed to have an etching of his favorite super hero included on his tombstone. His father, Lloyd, sent a request to Disney to be allowed to include an image of Spider-Man on his beloved sons's grave, but the company allegedly refused, citing company policy.

Ollie loved the webslinger so much that his funeral was Spider-Man themed and his last family vacation was to Disneyland to "meet" his hero. The local city council had told Lloyd to forward his request to the Walt Disney Company about including an etching of the character on the tombstone. But the company denied the grieving father's request, claiming that doing so would ruin the "innocence" and "magic" of the company's famed characters, citing a policy that Walt Disney himself instituted when he was alive. Instead, the company offered to send the family a one-of-a-kind illustration of Spider-Man, which would include a special message for the boy.

The denial has outraged many people across social media, and a petition to force the Walt Disney Company to allow the etching on Ollie's grave has surpassed 12,000 signatures. "This meant everything to us. My brother’s life has been shattered, it has shattered the whole family," Ollie's uncle Jason said. "We can’t move on until we have his headstone done — Spider-Man was Ollie’s entire life. He loved it so much."

Ollie's 6-year-old sister, Laillah, also reportedly suffers from the same condition, which damages the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

See Nicole Darrah, Disney Reportedly Refuses to Allow Spider-Man Engraving on Tombstone of Dead Boy Who Loved Superhero, Fox News, July 11, 2019.

July 13, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

'Willy Wonka' Actress Denise Nickerson Taken off Life Support 1 Year After Stroke

VioletThe actress best known for playing the gum-smacking Violet Beauregarde, Denise Nickerson, was admitted to the ICU after suffering a "major medical emergency" at home on Monday. According to her son, Josh, and daughter-in-law, Jasmine, Nickerson got into her own medicine and "took as many as she could" before Josh stopped her and rushed her to the hospital. Nickerson has previously suffered a stroke and required hospitalization in June 2018.

"She’s had seizures this morning and is in pulmonary and respiratory distress. The doctors have found that she aspirated and has developed pneumonia,” Jasmine posted on Facebook to update the public. "They have upped her oxygen. She’s under a DNR order so they aren’t putting her on a ventilator or feeding tube." She has also requested prayers for her husband because he "is just coming to terms with the reality of the situation and doesn’t know how to process it.

Nickerson also had roles in The Brady Bunch, Dark Shadows, and The Electric Company, but would ultimately leave the lime light to become a nurse.

See Sasha Savitsky, 'Willy Wonka' Actress Denise Nickerson Taken off Life Support 1 Year After Stroke, Fox News, July 10, 2019.

July 10, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Gloria Vanderbilt's Son Anderson Cooper to Inherit Less than $1.5M, Report Says

CooperGloria Vanderbilt's expected fortune at the time of her passing was estimated to be around $200 million, but according to probate documents, her estate is much smaller. Her eldest son, Leopold “Stan” Stokowski, will inherit his mother's Manhattan co-op, and her son Anderson Cooper gets "the rest," which consists of less than $1.5 million.

The reports have indicated that lavish spending and sizable charitable donations largely diminished her family fortune. Even so, it is more than the CNN anchor had expected to inherit, as he believed that he was not going to receive anything from his mother. "Who has inherited a lot of money that has gone on to do things in their own life?" Cooper asked radio host Howard Stern in 2014. "From the time I was growing up, if I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don't know that I would've been so motivated."

See Katherine Lam, Gloria Vanderbilt's Son Anderson Cooper to Inherit Less than $1.5M, Report Says , Fox Business, July 8, 2019.

July 9, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Gloria Vanderbilt Leaves Almost Entire Fortune to Anderson Cooper

CooperAnderson Cooper, of CNN fame, told Howard Stern in 2014 in a radio interview that he was not expecting to inherit anything from his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, who recently passed away at age 95 after being diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer.  As the great-great-great-granddaughter of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, Gloria had originally inherited from a trust fund, but then made a sizable amount from being a pioneer in the fashion industry. Cooper claimed that "there was no trust fund" for him, and actually said inherited money was a bit of a curse and that it is an "initiative sucker."

He may have second thoughts on that, however, as it has come to light that Cooper, the youngest son, has inherited the majority of his mother's fortune, estimated to be $200 million. The eldest son, Leopold “Stan” Stokowski, will get her Midtown pad in a co-op at 30 Beekman Place. The second son, Chris Stokowski, has been estranged from the family for the past 40 and was written out of his mother's will. A third son, Carter Cooper, committed suicide in 1988 by leaping out of his mother's balcony. So "everything else" will be going to Cooper.

See Priscilla DeGregory, Gloria Vanderbilt Leaves Almost Entire Fortune to Anderson Cooper, Fox News, July 2, 2019.

July 2, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 1, 2019

2 Oregon Women Accused of Stealing from a Dead Mouseketeer

Dennis-Day-DisneyIn Oregon, the Jackson County District Attorney's Office charged Wanda Garcia and Lori Declusin with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle for allegedly taking a 1990s Ford Escort station wagon belonging to the deceased Dennis Day, and original member of the Mickey Mouse Club. Day's body had been discovered in his home in April after he had been missing for almost a year, as he had last been seen on July 15 of 2018.

Day, 76, had told his husband, Ernie Caswell, who at the time was suffering from dementia and living in an assisted living facility, that he was going out to visit friends, but no one ever heard from him or saw him alive again.

The car was discovered on July 26 near the Oregon coast, about 200 miles away from his home, but so far there is no evidence that there was a crime - besides the use of the station wagon, of course. Garcia is also facing one charge of theft for stealing and selling a brooch that had belonged to Day just days after that fateful phone call.

See Vandana Rambaran, 2 Oregon Women Accused of Stealing from a Dead Mouseketeer, Fox News, June 30, 2019.

July 1, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Television | 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)

Friday, June 21, 2019

Farrah Fawcett's Last Words were Son's Name

FawcettIt has been 10 years since Charlie's Angel actress Farrah Fawcett passed away from cancer at St. John’s Health Center in Los Angeles at the age of 62, but it has now been revealed what the late beauty's last words were. Mela Murphy, a long-time friend of the actress, claims that she repeated her only son's name over and over, Redmond.

Redmond O'Neil, 34, is the son of the late actress and Ryan O'Neil. At the time of Fawcett's death Redmond had been struggling with drug addiction and had been in prison for drug charges.

Fawcett made her battle with cancer public, even chronicling her fight in the documentary “Farrah’s Story,” which she co-produced alongside her friend Alana Stewart. A couple of years before her death, she launched The Farrah Fawcett Foundation, which “funds HPV-related cancer research, prevention and education, and provides patient assistance for those in need.”

See Stephanie Nolasco, Farrah Fawcett’s Pal Says the Late ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Star’s Last Words were her Son’s Name, Fox News, June 20, 2019.

June 21, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Doris Day: The Tragic Last Days of a ‘Manipulated’ Hollywood Icon

DorisdayAmerica's sweetheart of the 1950s and 60s, Doris Day, passed away on May 13 at the age of 97. But those around her paint the picture of a lonely and manipulated woman that did not spend much time outside of her home, isolating herself to her bedroom and kitchen. Her only grandchild, Ryan Melcher, said that he only learned of his grandmother's death from social media. Ryan's father, Terry, had been her only child and had been adopted by her third husband, producer Marty Melcher. Doris found out that Marty had squandered her $20 million fortune after his death, forcing her to begin The Doris Day Show on CBS.

Ryan has claimed on Facebook that veterinarian-turned-manager Bob Bashara blocked him from seeing his aging grandmother and even replaced board members on her animal-rescue foundation with Bashara's direct family members. Day's representative has denied these allegations. The longtime manager has stated that the actress's will specified that she wanted no funeral service or grave marker, and that she wanted her fortune to go to the Doris Day Animal Foundation. No will has yet been probated or filed.

See Sara Nathan and Chris White, Doris Day: The Tragic Last Days of a ‘Manipulated’ Hollywood Icon, Fox News, June 9, 2019.

 

June 13, 2019 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 31, 2019

‘Star Trek’ Actress Nichelle Nichols, 86, said to be Heard Screaming for Help in Audio Recording: Report

NicholsA recording that allegedly contains the voice of Nichelle Nichols, the actress that played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on the original “Star Trek” television series in the 1960s, shrieking and screaming for help. Nichols is currently in a guardianship battle with her son over her suffering from dementia. 

“You get your hands off me! You’re trying to get rid of me!" the voice shouts from the recording. Gilbert Bell, a longtime friend of Nichols, supplied video and audio in which Nichols reportedly discusses her son’s efforts to gain control of her estate. Later the voice claims, “I didn’t give permission to have conservatorship over me. I didn’t know what he was doing.”

Nichols was praised by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for helping to break racial stereotypes with her role on the show. One year later Nichols and William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk, made TV history when they shared an interracial kiss.

See Dom Calicchio, ‘Star Trek’ Actress Nichelle Nichols, 86, said to be Heard Screaming for Help in Audio Recording: Report, Fox News, May 29, 2019.

May 31, 2019 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)