Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Monday, August 16, 2021

Trailblazing 'Star Trek' Actress Nichelle Nichols At The Center Of Conservatorship Battle

NicholsStar Trek actress Nichelle Nichols has found herself in a situation strikingly similar to Britney Spears. Nichols is currently in a conservatorship struggle that involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, her former manager Gilbert Bell, and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette—who Nichols named as her successor). 

Nichelle Nichols is known for breaking the color barrier in television in the 1960s with her role as Lt. Nyota Uhura in Star Trek. 

Similar to Britney Spears, Nichols' conservatorship battle is "raising public consciousness about conservatorships." Nichols' former agent and her concerned friend have taken steps to intervene because they feel that "Nichols is being denied the opportunity to live a life free of unwarranted restrictions." 

A specific catalyst for the conservatorship struggle is Nichols' dementia. Nichols' son, Kyle Johnson, claims that his mother could be "exploited due to her mental instability" and sought a petition for her conservatorship three years ago. 

In August of 2018, Fawcette filed an objection to Johnson's petition in which she argued that Nichols was still of sound mind and body and was capable of managing both her personal and financial affairs with some limited assistance. 

Fawcette also alleged that Johnson is simply using the conservatorship to take advantage of his mother by abusing his role to access Nichols' income and personal possessions. 

In 2019, Johnson was appointed conservator of his mother's estate, which Bell quickly opposed. 

The conservatorship battle continues, while Nichols' condition is unclear—at least to the public. 

See Okla Jones, Trailblazing 'Star Trek' Actress Nichelle Nichols At The Center Of Conservatorship Battle, Essence, August 16, 2021. 

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

August 16, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Elizabeth Hurley reacts to son Damian 'callously' being cut out of family fortune due to being born out of wedlock

Hurley"Elizabeth Hurley says a court decision to cut off her son Damian from a share of his grandfather's fortune is 'callous' and goes against what his late father would have wanted." 

Hurley stated that her former partner Steve Bing believed that "both of his children were financially secure before his death by suicide in 2020."

Damian obtained a judgment to ensure they would receive money held in trust, but the decision was successfully appealed by Dr. Peter Bing.

According to Hurley, "When Stephen took his own life, he died thinking his children were going to be taken care of. . .[w]hat Stephen wanted has now been callously reversed. I know Stephen would have been devastated."

Pursuant to Dr. Peter Bing's successful appeal, Damian and his half-sister Kira will not receive any money since they were both born out of wedlock.

Instead, "their grandfather's fortune will be shared between the two children of Bing's sister Mary, who were born within a marriage." 

Hurley claimed that although Bing initially refused to acknowledge Damian and Kira, he later reconnected with them and "fought very hard in his final year to ensure that his children were recognized." 

Hurley added, "I am just relieved that Stephen will never know that Damian's relatives—Stephen's father and the family of his sister Mary—were ultimately successful in their appeal against the original trial verdict." 

See Tom Beasley, Elizabeth Hurley reacts to son Damian 'callously' being cut out of family fortune due to being born out of wedlock, Yahoo Entertainment, July 4, 2021. 

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

July 11, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

“I Care A Lot” – Could It Happen to Me?

Pike"If you're a probate attorney (or someone with a Netflix account), you've seen or heard about the somewhat disturbing film 'I Care a Lot.'" The film was released on Netflix in early 2021. 

The film illustrates "a legal guardian's ability to target and drain the assets of susceptible elderly individuals." The movie follows a "crooked guardian" named Maria, played by Rosamund Pike. In the movie, Maria obtains guardianship over Jennifer, played by Dianne Wiest. 

What starts as a seemingly predictable plot turns into a thrilling piece of art with "twists of violence, crime, and laughable moments." Unfortunately, the legal procedures depicted in the film are inaccurate at best. 

It is important to discuss these inaccuracies. First, when Maria meets with Dr. Amos to discuss Jennifer's "need" for a guardian. The encounter is filled with HIPAA violations, ethical concerns, and Dr. Amos fails to provide a medical certificate to the court, which is required with a petition for guardianship. 

In a startling scene, Maria shows up to Jennifer's front door and takes her to an assisted living home, while Jennifer has no idea what is going on and is completely unaware that there was a hearing to begin with. 

Also, Maria seemingly has a lot of powers that guardians in most states would not have. For instance, Maria began painting the walls in Jennifer's home and attempted to sale the home. In the real world, these powers must be provided by the court and are not automatic when someone becomes a guardian. 

If you watched or plan on watching "I Care A Lot" keep in mind that the movie is not completely accurate and portrays an exaggerated picture of the potential abuse of a guardianship and the authority that comes with it. 

See Noelle Lussier, “I Care A Lot” – Could It Happen to Me?, Burns & Levinson, June 24, 2021. 

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

June 29, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Humor, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Netflix's “I Care A Lot” Isn’t The Movie It Thinks It Is

PikeNetflix's new movie, I Care a Lot, has gained a lot of popularity since its release and even made Netflix's top 10 list.  And Rosamund Pike won a Golden Globe for her wonderful performance in the movie. 

In the film, Pike's character, Marla Grayson, "bribes medical professionals to declare older people legally unfit to look after themselves and then fools gullible judges into appointing her as their legal guardian. Once she becomes their guardian, she places them in nursing homes, often against their will, and immediately sets about liquidating their assets to pay herself." 

The court room scenes are very dramatic and compelling as they show that Marla is allowed to do these things she is doing and receives undying support from the courts and the police. She is even being thanked and assisted with her work. 

One of Marla's "victims" ends up being connected to the Russian mafia, which turns out to be a problem for Marla. Marla eventually has to take on the Russian mafia, which turns out to be very dramatic. This conflict is emotional as you find yourself rooting for criminals. 

Apparently, the idea of the film came from news reports of predatory guardians. 

As it turns out, given all of the abrupt changes and different levels in the movie, the movie may not really be about what the movie thinks it's about. 

See Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Netflix's “I Care A Lot” Isn’t The Movie It Thinks It Is, Buzz Feed News, February 26, 2021. 

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 9, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Television | 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)

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Larry King's estranged wife to contest his secret will

LarrykingShawn King, Larry King's estranged wife, will be contesting the late broadcaster's secret will. Shawn King was Larry King's seventh wife and was legally married to him at the time of his death in January. Larry King had filed for divorce in August of 2019, but according to Shawn, she was surprised that he had secretly updated his will. 

Shawn stated, We had a very watertight family estate plan,” and also said, “It still exists."

Recently, news broke that Larry King wrote a handwritten amendment to his will on October 17, 2019 leaving his estate to his five children. According to Shawn, she and Larry had sort of rekindled things and became close again after he filed for divorce. 

Shawn also believes that someone convinced—or heavily influenced—Larry to update his will. Shawn said she is fighting for a mere sliver of the estate, but the main reason she is fighting is because, “[i]t’s the principle.”

See Suzy Byrne, Larry King's estranged wife to contest his secret will, Yahoo Entertainment, February 15, 2021. 

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

February 20, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 15, 2021

Larry King left a 'hand-written will' in 2019 seeking equal split of his $50M fortune to his five children... and leaves out ex-wife Shawn

LarrykingLegendary journalist Larry King died of sepsis on January 23rd at the age of 87. King reportedly left behind a hand-written will "advising for an even split of his fortune to his five children in the event of his death." Larry King was reportedly worth around $50 million at the time of his death. 

The will was reportedly written on October 17, 2019, coming just two months after he filed for divorce. His seventh wife (whom he intended on divorcing), Shawn Southwick, was left out of the note entirely. 

The document stated, "This is my Last Will & Testament. It should replace all previous writings." The will stated that King wanted "100 percent of his funds to be divided equally among my children Andy, Chaia, Larry Jr., Chance, and Cannon." King's son Andy passed away of a heart attack in July 2020 and his daughter Chaia, died in August after being diagnosed with lung cancer. 

"Shawn revealed that Larry was 'ready to go' as he fought off an infection in the hospital after beating the coronavirus." Shawn also stated that King's last words to her were, "I love you, take care of the boys." 

'You know, he never wanted to go but his sweet little body was just, it had just been hit so many times with so many things and once we heard the word Covid, all of our hearts just sank. But he beat it, you know, he beat it, but it did take its toll and then the unrelated infection finally is what took him, but boy, he was not gonna go down easily.'

Luckily, King was able to share a moment with Shawn and his sons on a video call shortly before he passed. 

See Tracy Wright, Larry King left a 'hand-written will' in 2019 seeking equal split of his $50M fortune to his five children... and leaves out ex-wife Shawn, Daily Mail (U.K.), February 11, 2021. 

Special thanks to Deborah Matthews (Virginia Estate Planning Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 15, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Britney Spears Conservatorship Case Heads Back to Court

SpearsAs Britney Spears continues to fight to get her life back, fans and other onlookers are creating hype around the New York Times documentary "Framing Britney Spears." The documentary covers the #FreeBritney movement spurred by the conflict over Britney Spears' conservatorship. The conservatorship arrangement has left her father in charge to manage her career, personal life and finance since 2008. 

The documentary includes footage of Spears when she was just a young and gifted performer, who was often used and taken advantage of for political gain. Spears was often terrorized by paparazzi and evil celebrity culture. 

Since the documentary has been released, celebrities are beginning to join the movement, which was mostly made up of activists and superfans at its origin. 

Spears tweeted earlier this week,

“I’ll always love being on stage …. but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ….. I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life!!!!”

“Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life,” she wrote, “it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens.”

It is clear that Britney wants her father out as her conservator. According to her lawyer, Spears is afraid of her father Jamie and wanted her temporary personal conservator, Jodi Montgomery, to be made permanent. 

See Julia Jacobs, Britney Spears Conservatorship Case Heads Back to Court, N.Y. Times, February 9, 2021. 

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

February 11, 2021 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, New Cases, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Handling of Britney Spears

SpearsThe unusual court-approved conservatorship of Britney Spears which spurred the "Free Britney" movement continues to be the topic of conversation and has even brought a new documentary from the New York Times. The movement and the documentary are made up of fans of Britney Spears. 

Liz Day, a writer for the Times Insider, stated, "It appears to raise a contradiction: How can someone be seemingly able to function at a high level as a superstar performing sold-out shows in Las Vegas, while also being so unable to take care of herself and at risk that this layer of intense protection is needed?" Liz Day is also a senior editor for the new documentary and film which is titled, "Framing Britney Spears." 

Many fans and followers are asking themselves the same question, and many are irritated at the way Britney Spears has been treated during the last 13 years of the legal arrangement and the continued legal process. 

The film is not without controversy, as the film includes clips, interviews, and commercials of Britney Spears in the past, including those that occurred in her early rise to fame. 

It is not secret that Britney Spears was loved by many, but she was also hated and tortured by many. Much of this hatred was supported and encouraged by the mainstream media. 

According to Johanna Schiller, the archival producer, “Britney is so incredibly well documented and so much is out there that there was an overload of material,” Ms. Schiller said. “What was challenging was finding the choice moments in that ocean of stuff and trying to pinpoint material that hadn’t been out there so much before.”

According to Britney's lawyer, “Britney herself is vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret,” her lawyer wrote. “In this case, it is not an exaggeration to say that the whole world is watching.”

“The New York Times Presents” airs on FX on Friday at 10 p.m. and can be streamed on Hulu." 

See Lix Day, The Handling of Britney Spears, February 5, 2021. 

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

 

February 9, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Music, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)