Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Kristoff St. John's Ex-Wife Mia Says She's the Sole Beneficiary of His Life Insurance Policy

KristoffThe family drama in the wake of Kristoff St. John's death is coming to a boil as different members vie for control of different sections of his estate. His father previously filed to become executor of St. John's estate, but then the eldest daughter of the deceased, Paris, objected and filed her own petition last month, stating that her father died without a will.

Now, his ex-wife Mia is jumping into the foray. “Kristoff did not have a will. What was found were pages in a journal. There were things that were scribbled out, crossed out, and we just want to make sure — my daughter just wants to make sure — that his wishes are carried out,” she says. Mia says her daughter his not fighting St. John's father, but rather trying to clarify her father's last requests. 

Mia and St. John were married from the years 1991 to 1995 and had two children together, Julian, died by suicide at age 24 in 2014, and Paris. Mia also claims that because of Julian's death, she is the sole remaining beneficiary of a life insurance policy for the actor. He was found dead in his home in the San Fernando Valley on February 3rd, and a month later his death was ruled an accident. 

See Elise Burger, Kristoff St. John's Ex-Wife Mia Says She's the Sole Beneficiary of His Life Insurance Policy, People, April 4, 2019.

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

April 9, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases, Non-Probate Assets, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Luke Perry Will Be Celebrated at 'Private Memorial Service' in Hollywood

LukeperryThe late and beloved Luke Perry will be celebrated by those close to him in a private memorial service in Hollywood on Saturday, April 14th. The service is by invitation only, of which they have already been sent out featuring a picture of the actor smiling with his two dogs.

The Beverly Hills, 90210, star passed away at a Los Angeles hospital after suffering from a massive stroke days before at the relatively young age of 52. “[Perry] was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancée Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, stepfather Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder and other close family and friends,” his rep told Us in a statement.

Social media was flooded with an outpouring of affection and admiration from fans and co-stars alike after Perry's death. The occasion caused several members of the cast of the show to meet up, though it was evidently with "mixed emotions," revealed Brian Austin Green.

See Jessica Vacco-Bolanos, Luke Perry Will Be Celebrated at 'Private Memorial Service' in Hollywood, MSN, April 1, 2019.

April 4, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Article on Fiduciary Loyalty, Inside and Out

ScalStephen R. Galoob and Ethan J. Leib recently published an Article entitled, Fiduciary Loyalty, Inside and Out, 92 S. Cal. L. Rev. 69-126 (2018). Provided below is an introduction of the Article.

A fiduciary is someone with a certain form of discretion, power, or authority over the legal and practical interests of a beneficiary. As a result of this arrangement, the beneficiary is vulnerable to predation by the fiduciary. Fiduciary relationships trigger a suite of duties, at the core of which is the duty of loyalty. In a sense, the fiduciary relationship is oriented around the possibilities of trust and betrayal. One point of fiduciary duties is to prevent betrayal or, failing that, to assure that betrayals are rectified insofar as possible. What constitutes loyalty or betrayal in fiduciary law, however, is not always clear.

Consider Item Software (UK) Ltd. v. Fassihi.  Messrs Fassihi and Dehghani were corporate directors of a small software distribution company called Item Software, whose main business was selling software developed by Isograph. Dehghani was the managing director, and Fassihi was the sales marketing director. In November 1998, Dehghani decided to renegotiate the terms on which Item sold Isograph’s products. Fassihi urged Dehghani to drive a hard bargain with Isograph, so Deghani negotiated aggressively. Ultimately, the negotiations between Item and Isograph broke down, and Isograph terminated its contract with Item.

Fassihi’s advice to Dehghani, although plausibly in Item’s best interest, had the air of duplicity. Unbeknownst to Dehghani, during the negotiations Fassihi had approached Isograph with a proposal to establish an independent company to market Isograph’s products. At the same time Fassihi counseled Dehghani to engage in brinksmanship, he also urged Isograph to terminate its relationship with Item. In a subsequent lawsuit, Item alleged that Fassihi only urged Dehghani to negotiate aggressively in order to increase the prospects of undermining the negotiations and subsequently obtaining Isograph’s business for himself.

Was Fassihi disloyal? The answer, of course, depends on what loyalty means. It seems clear that Fassihi was disloyal to his partner in the ordinary sense of that term. Fassihi’s conduct bears a striking resemblance to that of Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello and of Littlefinger in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, arguably the preeminent historical and contemporary literary examples of treachery. Yet as a legal matter, whether Fassihi violated his fiduciary duty of loyalty is not as obvious. This discrepancy might be explained on the grounds that the notion of loyalty applicable in life (let alone Elizabethan tragedy and genre fiction) differs from the standard that leads to legal liability against fiduciaries like corporate directors, trustees, and attorneys.

Cases like Fassihi implicate a lively scholarly debate concerning how the legal notion of loyalty relates to the notion applicable outside the law. Although the terms of this debate are not always clear, some see a deep connection between the legal and non-legal notions of loyalty. Call this position “moralism.” For the moralist, this connection to the moral or ordinary notion of loyalty informs the legal requirements that apply to fiduciaries, as well as the determination of whether a fiduciary has violated duties to a beneficiary in any particular case. By contrast, a position we can call “amoralism” denies that there is any meaningful connection between the loyalty that applies to fiduciaries and its moral counterpart. To be sure, the amoralist does not (and cannot) deny that judges sometimes invoke moralized language to describe fiduciary concepts. However, for the amoralist, any such connection is rhetorical flourish rather than real law. We more fully describe the parameters of the debate between moralists and amoralists in Part I.

The debate between moralists and amoralists is a species of a much broader dispute about the comparative importance of legal materials and broader normative principles in theorizing the private law. Consider the connections between the morality of promise and the law of contract, or the role the concepts of “wrong” and “duty” play in tort law. Much private law litigation and scholarship concerns whether legal concepts resemble and operationalize concepts from ordinary morality. Within fiduciary law, this debate about loyalty has particularly important practical implications, since it bears on how to elaborate standards in areas where fiduciary norms already apply and on whether fiduciary norms should apply to a particular legal domain in the first place.

The debate between moralists and amoralists is long running and perhaps intractable. We propose to finesse, if not resolve, this impasse by focusing on what we term the cognitive dimension of fiduciary loyalty. On this view, whether someone satisfies the requirements of fiduciary loyalty depends, at least in part, on how she deliberates and how her deliberation is connected with her actions. Fiduciary loyalty also imposes demands on a person’s commitments: a fiduciary does not satisfy her duty of loyalty toward a person or cause if her commitments to that person or cause prove themselves too flimsy. These standards apply to loyalty both inside and outside of law. For the most part, they apply irrespective of whether the best understanding of fiduciary loyalty is moralist or amoralist. We elaborate and defend these claims in Part II, drawing on doctrines in corporate law, trust law, agency law, bankruptcy law, and the law governing lawyers that are, we argue, best explained by the cognitive dimension of fiduciary loyalty.

Part III then clarifies our conclusions regarding cognitivism and fiduciary loyalty, highlighting some of the implications of our analysis for fiduciary law. Cognitivist accounts can catalyze both doctrinal and policy innovations. Regardless of whether loyalty has an identical meaning inside and outside of legal institutions, fiduciary loyalty, like ordinary loyalty, imposes important standards on a fiduciary’s cognition. Appreciating this structural feature of loyalty will enable judges and scholars to transcend many debates about moralism and to resolve practical questions that do not turn on whether moralism is true.

March 26, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, New Cases, Professional Responsibility, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Luke Perry Protected His Family With Estate Planning

LukeperryLuke Perry, the actor who achieved fame by playing Dylan on the television series Beverly Hills 90210, suffered a stroke last week at the young age of 52. His family then made the decision on March 4 to remove Perry life support, after it was apparent that he would not recover. Though this choice must have been highly difficult for his children, fiancé, and ex-wife, Perry had the forethought to protect them by conducting adequate estate planning.

In California, the documentation required to allow a family member to end life support must be in writing. Perry's family would have most likely been forced to acquire a court order to it without it, especially if family members had disagreed with the decision. According to a friend, Perry had a colonoscopy a few years ago in which precancerous growths were discovered. Though he did not develop cancer, it drove the actor to make a will in 2015, leaving his estate to his two children, 21-year-old Jack and 18-year-old Sophie.

A question yet remains if he had altered his will after 2015 to include his fiancé, therapist Wendy Madison Bauer.

But Perry's death can a lessen to others as to not wait until their twilight years or a serious illness to prepare an estate plan. Though it was his cancer scare that pushed him to make his will, he definitely did not expect to die at the age of 52 - when he had been a thriving, healthy adult just the week before.

See Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Luke Perry Protected His Family With Estate Planning, Forbes, March 8, 2019.

Special thanks to Matthew Bogin, (Esq., Bogin Law) for bringing this memorandum to my attention.

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

Monday, March 4, 2019

Luke Perry Dies at 52

LukeperryActor Luke Perry, best known for his starring role on the popular television show "Beverly Hills, 90210," was rushed to the hospital last Wednesday after suffering a stroke at his home in Los Angeles. He passed away today at the age of 52. His two children, his fiancée, and his ex-wife were at the hospital when he died.

Perry was young for a stroke, as according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 66% of stroke victims are 65 or older. Strokes account for 5% of deaths in America per year, and they are on the rise for those between the ages of 25 to 44.

The actor had no qualms about aging, appearing on the cover of AARP magazine in 2016 to celebrate his 50th birthday.  Recently, he had worked on CW's "Riverdale," starring as Fred Andrews, the father of lead character Archie Andrews.  With the news of his deaths, celebrities all over the nation took to social media, including the Cincinnati Reds and his former co-stars.

See David K. Li, Luke Perry, of '90210' Fame, Dead at Age 52, NBC news, March 4, 2019.

March 4, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The ‘Golden Girls’ Trend Could be a Golden Opportunity for Retirees Facing Isolation

GoldengirlsInstead of living with their younger family members such as children and grandchildren, retirees are deciding to become roommates with fellow individuals in similar circumstances. "I found myself getting increasingly depressed because I didn’t have any contact with people my own age,” Jane Callahan-Moore, 69, said after she moved in with Stefanie Clark, 75.

The neighborhood they reside in has easily accessible restaurants and stores, so the fact that neither own a car is no issue. As older people lose the ability to drive, many find themselves trapped in their homes, unable to run errands or meet with friends. This unfortunate situation can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression.

Living with a roommate or housemate can also lower the burden of bills while on a fixed income. “In the broader population, shared living in the last decade has exploded, especially in cities where housing costs are quite high,” said Gary Painter, professor in the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. With the older population growing rapidly, so is the number of older individuals sharing homes. According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies this number increased by an amazing 88%, making the 'Golden Girls' lifestyle more and more commonplace. 

See Adina Solomon, The ‘Golden Girls’ Trend Could be a Golden Opportunity for Retirees Facing Isolation, Washington Post, January 24, 2019.

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

January 31, 2019 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

'Aunt Bee' of the Andy Griffith Show Left 100K for Small Town Police

BavierNOWFrances Bavier, the actress who played Aunt Bee in the classis Andy Griffith Show, appeared to be highly appreciative of her local police department. Bavier lived in Siler City, North Carolina in her later years solo with an astounding 14 cats. She passed away at the age of 86 in 1989 and her will specified that $100,000 go toward a trust fund for the police. The principal of the trust fund is kept at $100,000, while the interest is divided among the police staff of around 20 every year for a Christmas bonus around December 15.

Floyd Bowers, who worked at an Exxon station in the town, told the press in 2004 that Bavier "liked her privacy, and she was hard to please. My wife worked at the hospital, and she was what the nurses call a hard patient.” Though she may have been difficult to deal with, locals believe that it was a nice last gesture by the woman.

See Amy Lieu, Frances 'Aunt Bee' Bavier of the Andy Griffith Show Left 100g for Police in Small Town of North Carolina Report, Fox News, January 11, 2019.


January 17, 2019 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Summer Redstone Ordered to Have a Court-Appointed Guardian

RedstoneSummer Redstone, the 95-year-old controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, has been placed under a guardian, presumably because of a speech impediment. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan said he was appointing a guardian because of Redstone's extreme difficulty in speaking. It is reported that Samuel Ingram, III has been offered the position, who was the court-appointed of Britney Spears after her unfortunate public mental health breakdown in 2008. In this instance, it does not appear that Redstone's mental capacity is at issue.

The court’s decision on Monday will have no effect on Redstone’s control of his trust, which owns almost 80% of voting stake in the two American media companies. His ownership and control will remain valid until he either dies or is incapacitated. If the latter occurs, the trust would then be overseen by seven trustees, including his daughter, Shari Redstone, and his grandson, Tyler Korff. Redstone has communicated that he approves of the appointment, which is family requested during his court battle with a former girlfriend.

Redstone amended his trust in 2015, removing his former girlfriend as a beneficiary. The ex, Manuela Herzer, claims Redstone’s mental abilities were diminished, which would thus invalidate the amended trust.

See Ariel Zilber, Summer Redstone Ordered to Have a Court-Appointed Guardian Because of a Speech Impediment, Weeks Before Ex-Girlfriend Take him to Court for Cutting her out of his Trust, Daily Mail, December 17, 2018.

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

December 19, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Guardianship, New Cases, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Penny Marshall Dead at 75

PennyPenny Marshall, who was the star in ABC's Laverne and Shirley and later became one of the most successful female directors in history, has died at the age of 75. Her publicist stated that she died peacefully at her home from complications of diabetes.

She made her name as Laverne DeFazio on the TV sitcom Laverne and Shirley (1976–1983), earning three Golden Globe nominations, and turned her sights to directing. She directed Tom Hanks in his breakout role in 1988's Big, the first film made by a woman to gross more than $100 million at the domestic box office. She also directed A League of Their Own, starring Geena Davis and Madonna, in 1992.

The family statement described Marshall as "a comedic natural with a photographic memory and an instinct for slapstick."

See 'Big' Director Penny Marshall Dead at 75, Yahoo News, December 18, 2018.

December 18, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Murdoch Children May Get up to $2bn Each in 21st Century Fox Sale

MurdochRupert Murdoch’s six children could each receive as much as $2 billion from the sale of his 21st Century Fox global entertainment empire to Disney. Murdoch's family trust owns a 17% interest in Fox, and that totals to a $12 billion to be split among the beneficiaries: Prudence, James, Lachlan, Elisabeth, Grace and Chloe. The last two children are from his ex-wife that he divorced five years ago and they are beneficiaries but have not voting power.

The $12 billion is the maximum the trust could receive, as there is still a hefty tax implication with the sale of the empire. Tax experts believe Murdoch would end up having to accept a “roughly”50/50 mix between cash and Disney shares for the family trust’s holding. This would mean a bill of up to $2 billion and more like a $10bn windfall for the trust and its beneficiaries.

Murdoch and his eldest son, Lachlan, are to continue to work side by side following the Fox sell-off, with the son being the chairman and chief executive of New Fox and Murdoch co-chairman. The youngest son, James, currently 21st Century Fox’s chief executive, had been set for a potential role at Disney following completion of the deal but is instead striking out on his own. It has been rumored that he might take over at Tesla as chairman after Elon Musk steps down next month.

See Mark Sweney, Murdoch Children May Get up to $2bn Each in 21st Century Fox Sale, The Guardian, October 18, 2018.

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

October 19, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)