Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Who Gets the L.L.C.? Inside a Silicon Valley Billionaire’s Divorce.

DivorceIn 2014, Scott Hassan, one of the founders of Google, texted his wife of 13 years to tell her that their marriage was over and he was moving out of their home. After nearly 7 years, the couple is still tied up in litigation over "how to divide an estate with tech investments and prime California properties estimated to be worth billions of dollars." 

A trial expected to begin Monday will offer "an unusual, public peek into the details of a big-money Silicon Valley divorce." Included in these details is Mr. Hassan's failed attempt to get his ex-wife, Ms. Huynh to sign a postnuptial agreement and his admission that he "started a website in her name to publicize embarrassing information from her past." 

In the past, technology billionaires have "typically divorced quietly behind closed doors." Every now and again, unpleasant details will be leaked into the news, but it is still rare for couples to trade blows in a public courtroom. 

Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki hired a private judge to "hash out the details" of their split. Also, the divorces of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos were handled in private. 

Ms. Huynh has accused Mr. Hassan of engaging in "divorce terrorism" claiming that Mr. Hassan told her that he planned to "bury her" and make sure she "gets nothing." 

Mr. Hassan denied making those statements but stated that "no one is at their best" during a divorce. 

It will be interesting to see how things play out in the public proceedings.

See Daisuke Wakabayashi, Who Gets the L.L.C.? Inside a Silicon Valley Billionaire’s Divorce., N.Y. Times, August 20, 2021. 

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

August 21, 2021 in Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sorting Out Tony Hsieh’s Estate, From LLCs to Thousands of Sticky Notes

HsiehTony Hsieh, who recently passed away due to complications from smoke inhalation following a house fire, died intestate which has left his family scrambling. 

Apparently, inside Hsieh's mansion was found thousands of color-coded sticky notes plastered on the walls/ Some of them represented financial commitments that Hsieh had made to employees, friends, and local businesses. 

It appears that Hsieh wrote these notes himself in the months leading to his death and may function as informal contracts. This adds a complicating piece of the puzzle to his estate which was already complex and difficult due to the lack of a will. The estate is said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Within the estate plan is about $70 million worth of real estate he recently purchased, which are spread across about a dozen LLCs; some of Hsieh's friends continue to live in these houses and condos. Another asset is a $30 million "angel" fund planned for tech startups and other businesses in Park City.

According to Hsieh's friends and others that were close to him, Hsieh was struggling with alcohol and drug abuse in the months prior to his death, which only adds more complexity to handling the estate. With the many sticky notes and writings left around Hsieh's home. it is unclear whether or not he was of sound mind when he recorded these writings or when he made recent investment decisions or employment agreements. 

See Kristen Grind & Katherine Sayre, Sorting Out Tony Hsieh’s Estate, From LLCs to Thousands of Sticky Notes, Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2020. 

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

December 16, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 18, 2020

Warren G. Harding’s Grandson, Lover Want President’s Body Exhumed

Harding"The grandson of U.S. President Warren G. Harding and his lover, Nan Britton, went to court in an effort to get the Republican's remains exhumed from the presidential memorial where they have lain since 1927." 

James Blaesing stated that he wants Hardin's remains so he can "establish with scientific certainty"  that he is blood related to Harding. 

Benefactors are preparing to celebrate the centennial of Hardin's 1920 election with "site upgrades and a new presidential center in Marion, the Ohio city near which he was born in 1865." James Blaesing claims that he deserves to have his story included "within the hallowed halls and museums in this town." 

"A branch of the Harding family has pushed back against the suit filed in May — not because they dispute Blaesing’s ancestry, but because they don’t."

The family agues that they have accepted as "fact DNA evidence that Blaesing's mother", Elizabeth Ann Blaesing was Harding and Britton's daughter. They also stated that she is set to be acknowledged in the museum. 

“Sadly, widespread, public recognition and acceptance by the descendants, historians, and biographers (and Mr. Blaesing himself) that Mr. Blaesing is President Harding’s grandson is not enough for him,” relatives said in a court filing.

See Julie Carr Smyth, Warren G. Harding’s Grandson, Lover Want President’s Body Exhumed, AP News, September 13, 2020.

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

September 18, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Understanding Digital Assets And Their Importance In Your Estate Planning

Digital-Assets-ImageAlthough most people may think of houses, businesses, or other ordinary finances when thinking about assets, since so many area of our lives have transferred to the digital realm, digital assets have become an integral part of the estate planning process.

Digital assets are any online record that a person owns. These online records could contain anything from a blog on cooking to an online rewards program. Failure to maintain and protect your digital assets can lead to serious consequences, especially for industry leaders that use digital accounts as a revenue stream. 

These digital assets may be financial accounts, online reward programs. electronic communication, or digital collections. Despite the the prevalent use and exchange of online data, many people neglect to include their digital assets in their estate plans. If you are one of these people that forgets to include your digital assets, your family members or loved ones may be unable to access your online accounts even if it is just to pay bills. 

In order to prevent this from happening you should make a list of your online accounts and be sure to include them in your estate plans.

See Russel Morgan, Understanding Digital Assets and Their Importance in Your Estate Planning, Forbes, June 8, 2020.

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

June 11, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Article on Technology’s Impact on the Changing Future of the Trusts and Estate Practice

TechGerry W. Beyer recently published an Article entitled, Technology’s Impact on the Changing Future of the Trusts and Estate Practice, Wills, Trusts & Estates Law eJournal (2020). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

Less than a few decades ago, technology had a minor impact on the legal profession. Today, a wide range of technology may be central to a lawyer’s practice, changing the way we plan for the future. While the integration of technology in the legal world has had its many benefits, keeping up with the wide array of rapidly changing technology now available is a dubious task for many practicing lawyers.

To stay ahead of the curve in your estate planning practice and lessen potential frustration and expense, it is important to understand and leverage the latest estate planning technology. This article will serve to inform estates and trusts lawyers of the available technology tools along with their benefits and disadvantages, with a special discussion of cryptocurrency and electronic wills.

January 30, 2020 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Facebook Will be Overrun by Dead People Within 50 years, Researchers Say

FbAccording to new research from the Oxford Internet Institute, by 2070 the number of users on that are dead could outnumber the amount of living people using Facebook. The Institute predicts that at least 1.4 billion Facebook users will die before 2100, with the dead outnumbering the living in about 50 years. This could have serious implications for the manner in which the social media network stores our digital profiles.

The lead author of the study, Carl Ohman, said that, "These statistics give rise to new and difficult questions surrounding who has the right to this data, how should it be managed in the best interests of the families and friends of the deceased and its use by future historians to understand the past." Though Facebook is a for-profit firm, co-author David Watson says that there are also major public policy concerns. "Never before in history has such a vast archive of human behavior and culture been assembled in one place. Controlling this archive will, in a sense, be to control our history...It is also important to make sure that future generations can use our digital heritage to understand their history."

Many parts of the world is seeing a decline in new and continuing users of Facebook, either because of privacy concerns with the digital data as a whole or are turning to other social media applications. The study's predictions are based on data from the United Nations, which provided researchers with the expected number of deaths and total populations of each country in the world distributed by age, along with Facebook data from the company's Audience Insights feature.

See Christopher Carbone, Facebook Will be Overrun by Dead People Within 50 years, Researchers Say, Fox News, April 29, 2019.

April 30, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 15, 2019

What Happens to My Digital Assets on Death or Incapacity?

IcloudMany states have complex and confusing laws that deal with the administration and distribution of a decedent's digital assets. In Estate of Swezey out of New York, Apple was considered about the legality of handing over access to photos on the deceased user's iCloud to the executor. The Court concluded that Apple was required to disclose those photographs.

The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act of 2014 treated digital assets that same as traditional assets. The account owners could decide what would happen to them and the fiduciaries could have control of them when the owner died or became incapacitated. If the executor or other fiduciary did not have the password to an account, they were to ask the company for access and the company would have to comply. This faced strong opposition from technological companies and privacy advocacy groups claiming that this contradicted federal and state privacy laws.

In 2015, the Uniform Law Commission revised that act to correlate with the issues raised by the companies and advocacy groups, including not allowing access to all of the different aspects of certain accounts. Now, executors will not have authority over the content of electronic communications, unless expressly disclosed, but they can get access to other types of digital assets, such as photographs or an eBay or PayPal account. Many companies now have "online tools" that allow the user to designate who the company is to release the account to when the user dies. 

Fiduciaries may request court orders if necessary. In general, access is only granted to assets that are “reasonably necessary” for wrapping up the estate.

See Stacie J. Rottenstreich and Karin Barkhorn, What Happens to My Digital Assets on Death or Incapacity?, Lexology, Februaru 6, 2019.

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

February 15, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Parents Believe That the Instagram Account of Their Daughter Holds the Key to her Suicide

InstagramThe parents of Molly Russell have been unsuccessful in their attempts to access her social media data, which they believe will help them to understand her suicide.
The 14-year-old's father has claimed that her use of Instagram was a factor in her taking her own life.
Instagram has told the BBC it is constantly reviewing its polices regarding images about depression and suicide, and that experts have advised the company that allowing those topics could help people feel supported.

See Why Can't I See My Daughter's Data?, BBC, February 6, 2019.

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

February 13, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

CLE on Digital Assets in Estate Administration

CLEThe National Business Institute is holding an auto webinar entitled Digital Assets in Estate Administration, on Monday, March 25, 2019, from 12:00 PM - 3:15 PM Central. Provided below is a description of the event.

Processes, Procedures and Legal Pitfalls
As our online lives continue expanding exponentially, your clients accumulate more and more digital assets. Some of these assets add significant financial value to the estate, some have purely sentimental value to the heirs, but all can easily slip through the cracks without the proper knowledge. Make sure the digital life your client spent so many years compiling is left to loved ones instead of being lost in cyberspace forever - register today!
Learn how to correctly incorporate digital assets into your client's estate plan, such as electronic tax returns, E-bank accounts and PayPal accounts.
Explore the ins and outs of the Terms of Service agreements you'll need to understand to gain access to the clients' data.
Understand which digital assets are often lost at death - online bank accounts, emails, domain names, etc.
Get practical tips for retrieving online information if no provisions have been made to transfer access.

Who Should Attend
This legal program is designed for attorneys looking to increase their knowledge of probate and estate planning. It will also benefit accountants and paralegals.

Course Content
Online Assets and Information at Issue
Post-Mortem Searches and Account Access
Digital Assets with Monetary Value in Estate Administration
Business Digital Assets in Estate Administration
Lessons From States Adopting Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

February 10, 2019 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Article on Technology Tools for Real Property and Trusts and Estates Lawyers

DigitalThe integration of technology into the practice of law has been a double-edged sword for most practitioners. On one hand, technology has made some things easier and faster. On the other hand, it can generate a lot of frustration, delay, and expense. When tech began impacting our profession in the early 1990s, the conventional wisdom was for lawyers to focus on doing what only lawyers could do and let the support staff deal with the new technology tools. Of course, it has now become nearly impossible for a lawyer to do his or her job without using technology directly. To make matters worse, the technology tools change at a dizzying pace, and there is often no one around to ask for help. As a result of all of this, lawyers often feel behind the curve and wonder where they should focus their efforts to improve efficiency and profitability. Here are some ideas.

See Barron K. Henley, Technology Tools for Real Property and Trusts and Estates Lawyers, Probate & Property Magazine, Vol. 32, No. 8, November/December 2018.

January 31, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)