Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Nicolas Cage blew $150 million on a dinosaur skull, pygmy heads and 2 European castles

CageAt one point, Nicolas Cage was worth around $150 million, but the wealth ran out quickly after he began purchasing expensive items. The string of outlandish purchases lead to foreclosure on several properties. 

Cage once owned 15 homes across the world, including one in the Bahamas. Other purchases included a nine-foot-tall burial tomb, an octopus, shrunken pygmy heads, a $150,000 Superman comic and 70-million-year-old dinosaur skull. 

What really hurt Cage financially was his "overstuffed real estate portfolio." Cage indulged himself in reading and studying philosophy, which moved him to seek out the places he had been learning about, eventually leading him to buy properties that matched the new found ideals. 

Cage refers to this period as the "holy grail quest" that "put [him] on a search around different areas, mostly in England, but also some places in the States." During this period, Cage purchased two European Castles that were $10 million and $2.3 million and a $15.7 million countryside estate in Rhode Island. 

On his search for the "holy grail" Cage came to this conclusion: "What is the grail but Earth itself." 

See Emmie Martin, Nicolas Cage blew $150 million on a dinosaur skull, pygmy heads and 2 European castles, CNBC News, November 24, 2020. 

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

December 31, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Television, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 14, 2020

Eddie Van Halen was cremated, ashes went to son Wolf, who will scatter them in the Pacific Ocean: report

WolfgangvanhalenEddie Van Halen was reportedly cremated and his ashes have been passed on to his son, Wolf. Eddie Van Halen died in October after a trying battle with Cancer. His son Wolf, who is 29, broke the news to the world on Twitter. 

Wolf stated, "He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I've shared with him on stage and off stage was a gift," Wolf continued. "My heart is broken and I don't think I'll ever fully recover from this loss."

Eddie Van Halen was cremated 22 days after his death. Wolf has been very open about the difficulties he has had in dealing with his father's death. He told Howard Stern in an interview that when his father was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, the doctors told him he had six weeks, however, they ended top up having another three years with each other. 

Wolfgang has stated that he will scatter his father's ashes in the Pacific Ocean. On social media he stated, "1 month. Not a second goes by where you’re not on my mind," he wrote. "I miss talking with you. I miss laughing with you. I miss listening to music with you. I miss making music with you. I just miss everything." And concluded with, "I love you so much, Pop. It’s really hard being here without you."

See Tyler McCarthy, Eddie Van Halen was cremated, ashes went to son Wolf, who will scatter them in the Pacific Ocean: report, Fox News, December 12, 2020. 

December 14, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Rothschild descendant claims initial victory in legal battle with Vienna

Rothschild A Rothschild descendant has "claimed an initial victory" in a legal battle with the City of Vienna regarding the challenge of a medical trust set up by his ancestors. The medical trust was seized by Nazis in 1938 and is now controlled by the city. 

Geoffrey Hoguet is suing the Austrian authorities for control of the trust. "The case is the latest chapter in Austria’s long, slow reckoning with one of the darkest chapters in its history, the persecution of its Jewish citizens after it came under Nazi rule, and the theft of their property and assets." 

Hoguet was supported by a court when his lawyer claimed that the city of Vienna had a conflict of interest over the foundation's finances. The court held that "an independent figure, or "collision curator" must be appointed to represent the charity in legal proceedings over a 2017 change to its statutes." 

This decision was very important as it was a step forward in correcting "the course of Nazi-era injustices endured." Hoguet has now called on Viennese politicians to take action and reinstate and independent governing board. 

Hoguet, an American, learned that his great-grandfather set up a foundation for mental health and neurological conditions. "The Nathaniel Freiherr von Rothschild foundation flourished in the city known as the birthplace of modern psychiatry, and home of Sigmund Freud, with board members at one point including a Nobel laureate."

Hoguet has made it his mission to end the pattern of erasure that "scrubbed" the city of any remembrance of the Rothschild's philanthropy and investment that shaped the city. 

See Emma Graham-Harrison, Rothschild descendant claims initial victory in legal battle with Vienna, The Guardian, November 14, 2020. 

Special thanks to Daryane Couto for for bringing this article to my attention.

November 17, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Travel, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 13, 2020

Article on Contested Wills and Testaments in Ghana: Exploring the Legal Claim for Reasonable Provision for Dependants

Reginald Nii Odoi recently published an article entitled, Contested Wills and Testaments in Ghana: Exploring the Legal Claim for Reasonable Provision for Dependants, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Estate planning

It is certain that human life is not perpetual and surely does come to an end. That notwithstanding, during one’s lifetime, several properties whether movable and/or immovable are acquired but cannot be carried along into the afterlife. Thus, the Ghanaian law and the Common law in general allows persons to execute Wills as the legal means by which property acquired during their lifetime could be disposed of, in the event of death.

Wills represent the aggregate of a person’s “testamentary intentions so far as they are manifested in writing and duly executed according to the statute.” Wills are capable of disposing of all real and/or personal property of the testator in accordance with law. The law also ensures that the true declaration of the last Will of a testator is that which is done after the death of the testator.

The law follows the intentions of the testator by leaving everything to the unfettered discretion of the testator since the law presumes that the “instincts, affections and common sentiments” of the testator may be safely trusted to secure a better disposition of the property of the dead as compared to a distribution prescribed by the stereotyped and inflexible rules of a general law.

However, there are instances where dependants of the deceased, whether deliberately or inadvertently, are not provided for in the Will of the deceased testator. In such instances, Ghanaian law does not leave dependants without a remedy. This Article thus seeks to explore the legal claim for reasonable provision out of the Will of a deceased testator in favor of dependants of the testator. By so doing, the Article would review the legal architecture as well as a number of decisions of the Superior Courts of Judicature on the subject so as to explore the jurisprudence on the subject of reasonable provision in a Will.

November 13, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 6, 2020

Sod Cemetery - Tallahassee, Florida

Sod cemeteryFlorida State University is known for its love of football and the tradition that it is rooted in. Like many other powerful college football teams, the fans of Florida State flaunt their team colors, tailgate on game day, scream the team chants at the top of their lungs, etc. However, there is one Florida State tradition that is a bit unusual: the Sod Cemetery. 

In preparation for a game against the University of Georgia in 1962, professor and athletic board member Dean Coyle Moore told the players to "bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia." 

"Team captain Gene McDowell took the statement literally: He pulled a handful of grass from the field after the 18-0 victory, and presented it to Moore at the next practice. Moore and FSU coach Bill Peterson buried the sod on the practice field. A monument was later put in place to commemorate the victory, and the tradition of the Sod Cemetery had begun." 

Now, when Florida State marks a win in a road game as the underdog, all games against their rival—the Florida Gators —and all ACC title and bowl games, the team captains are to collect a piece of the sod from the field. 

Moore wrote about the tradition and passed on instructions on how to remove the sod, the ceremonies that follow a proper burial (in tiny coffins), and how to place the "headstones." 

Visitors can take a look at the the cemetery, which is located outside the gates of the practice field at Doak Campbell Stadium. 

See Mom0ja, Sod Cemetery, Atlas Obscura, (last visited November 5, 2020). 

November 6, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Games, Humor, Sports, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Estate planning for your worldwide assets

Estate planningDue to globalization, more South Africans are traveling and working abroad. Due to the rise in travel, South Africans are "purchasing assets and investing in businesses overseas." "In addition, with local political and economic uncertainty, more South Africans are investing offshore either through foreign-domiciled funds or rand-denominated funds." 

If you have foreign assets, you may need to take extra steps to ensure that the assets are protected and that their succession is correctly planned for. 

Worldwide Will

"Unless otherwise specified, your South African will covers your world-side assets." Therefore, you may need to draft as separate will that deals with your assets that are located elsewhere. "From a practical perspective and depending on the foreign jurisdiction, it may not be possible to have your South African estate and foreign estate wound up simultaneously due to requirements by each jurisdiction for certified and court-sealed documentation."

Foreign Will

Foreign wills are also referred to as offshore wills or concurrent wills. These type of wills deal with assets you own that are located in a foreign jurisdiction. This type of will is typically required when you own "immovable property or shares in an overseas company."


You must have your South African-drafted will approved and validated by the foreign legal authority so that your foreign assets can be administered in that jurisdiction. 

Freedom of testation

"Many countries, such as South Africa, the UK and Canada enjoy the freedom of testation which is essentially the right of the testator to bequeath their assets to whoever they wish."

Mandatory succession rights

"Many countries, especially those in civil law jurisdictions and those operating under Shariah law, have mandatory succession rights – otherwise known as ‘forced heirship’. These countries include Mauritius, Switzerland, Spain, France, Japan and Portugal. While mandatory succession rights vary from country to country, these rules essentially restrict a testator’s freedom to distribute their estate as they see fit. "

Foreign Jurisdiction

There are a few things to consider if you own assets in a foreign jurisdiction. You may have to account for language barriers and translation costs which can result in delays and additional expenses. Further, if you own immovable property overseas, that jurisdiction may only recognize a will executed in that jurisdiction. 

Offshore invested assets

"If you are invested directly offshore through foreign-domiciled funds, your investments are held in the foreign country’s currency such as dollars, euros or pounds and, generally speaking, you may require a foreign will to deal with these assets. On the other hand, if you are invested offshore through a rand-denominated fund such as a feeder fund, your funds are held in South African currency and a foreign will is not required."

Tax Residency

If you are a permanent resident in South Africa, the South African tax system will control your worldwide estate. Therefore, capital gains tax and estate duty will apply to your estate. 

Accidental Revocation

"If you have a South African will and a foreign will, be sure to avoid inadvertently revoking a will. All wills should include what is referred to as a revocation clause which effectively revokes all previous wills that you have drafted."

Double taxation agreements

Consider whether South Africa has a double taxation agreement with the country where you have other assets. This is important, because if you do not take this step, you may end up paying taxes in both countries. 

See Eric Jordaan, Estate planning for your worldwide assets, MoneyWeb (South Africa), November 3, 2020. 

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

November 5, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Actively speaking two languages protects against cognitive impairment

"The prevalence of dementia in places where more than one language is spoken is 50% lower than in regions where the population uses only one language."

Also, "A study has shown that Alzheimer's patients with a higher degree of bilingualism receive a later diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment."

Language is arguably the greatest tool in the world. It is how we communicate, how we express our thoughts and knowledge and it often shapes our perspective. Language is also "a gateway to other cultures..." 

Studies have shown that speaking even just two languages regularly "enhances cognitive reserve" and delays the onset of dementia. 

Prior to these studies, previous work showed that the lifelong use of two or more languages could be a "key factor in increasing cognitive reserve and delaying onset of dementia, as well as offering advantages for memory and executive functions."

Learning and using two languages regularly will not only increase your effectiveness to delve into other cultures and communicate with people from those cultures, it will also provide you with the ability to keep those memories—and others—for much longer.

See Cristina Saez, Actively speaking two languages protects against cognitive impairment, September 17, 2020. 

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

October 8, 2020 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

International Estate Planning

GlobalInternational travel has dropped significantly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, people around the world are still needing to travel for employment. Also, those who own or inherit assets outside of their regular homes are traveling as well. For the latter, International Estate Planning is a must. 

"International Estate Planning are the strategies and tactics used to achieve U.S. and Foreign clients objectives."

These strategic objectives include:

  • Maintaining control and ownership of wealth and property during the client's lifetime and after their death.
  • Providing financial security not only for the client but also for their spouse, children and other beneficiaries. 

International Estate Planning is also a very efficient way to enhance personal, business and family wealth management. "This most often means making your actions tax-efficient especially in regards to U.S. Income, Excise, Estate, Gift, and Generation Skipping Transfer Taxes, as well as foreign income, estate, gift and excise taxes as well as the issues raised by the conflicts of laws, the transparency of financial transactions and compliance with restrictions on the use of tax and asset protection havens."

One issue with International Estate Planning is that many clients are concerned about opening their financial accounts and tax information "not just in the context of the United States, but of any country with which the client may have a tax connection." This raises a confidentiality issues that is sure to make certain clients uncomfortable. 

Clients should be informed about the risks of International Estate Planning and should also know (1) if they are a part of the two groups that it affects and (2) when International Estate Planning is triggered. 

See, Matthew Erskine, International Estate Planning, Forbes, August 10, 2020.

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

August 19, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Woman with husband’s bones gets close look at Munich Airport

BoxPeople bring a lot of different things to the airport when they travel, toiletries, laptops, tablets, games, playing cards, etc. However, it is not very often, if ever, that a passenger packs a box of bones for a flight. 

Yet, police at Munich Airport got a surprise when they searched a wooden box belonging to a 74-year-old passenger. The box contained the bones of her deceased husband.

"Customs officials, a doctor and prosecutors were called in, and they determined no crime had been committed."

Police learned that the woman and her 52-year-old daughter were on traveling from Greece back home to Armenia via Munich and Kyiv. 

The mother said that her husband died in 2008 and was buried in Thessaloniki, Greece and that she and her daughter decided to bring his remains home to a final resting place in Armenia. 

See, Woman with husband’s bones gets close look at Munich Airport , AP News, August 4, 2020. 

August 12, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

As Marlborough gallery winds down, the Fine Art Society reopens

Http---com.ft.imagepublish.upp-prod-us.s3.amazonaws.com-903475cc-b624-11ea-8ecb-0994e384dffeA spokesperson for the Lloyd Family Trusts, owners of the legendary Marlborough gallery, confirms that management is evaluating "the best approach to eventually winding down the gallery's operations". Marlborough, which once boasted the likes of Francis Bacon and Barbara Hepworth was founded in London in 1946 and opened in New York in 1963. 

Family relationships of those that run Marlborough have reached a boiling point which appears to have played a role in the gallery's wind down.

Last week, Max Levai— son of Pierre Levai, who ran Marlborough in New York while Gilbert Lloyd ran business in London, released a strongly worded statement that said he had been "effectively terminated by the Board of Trustees of the Lloyd Family Trusts" and therefore had "regrettably broken with the international Board of Marlborough Gallery."

Levai said while his 83-year-old father was "battling for his life" after testing positive for COVID-19, the board "used his condition for their own advantage" and voted to close the New York gallery permanently. 

The Trusts' spokesperson says that the decision to eventually close the New York gallery was made solely in light of business realities. 

The Fine Art Society, which shut its doors after 142 years on London's New Bond Street in 2018, sold its stock. Now, under new chairman Benny Higgins, chief executive of Tesco Bank until 2018, the London space will reopen in Soho's Carnaby Street in October. 

The opening exhibition will be of "the best of the artists that we show", Morgan-Cox says, including the English Painter John Minton (1917–1957). 

See Melanie Gerlis, As Marlborough gallery winds down, the Fine Art Society reopens, Financial Times, June 24, 2020.

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

July 8, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)