Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, September 26, 2022

Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous

StarsCelebrities are not immune to the pitfalls of having outdated or nonexistent estate plans, and even if careful estate planning has taken place, changes in family circumstances or tax laws can have negative impacts. 

This article takes a look at some famous mistakes made by famous people, including over simplistic wills (Jim Morrison), after-born children (Philip Seymore Hoffman), domicile (Heath Ledger), second families and decanting (David Bowie), and oral promises (Anna Nicole Smith.)

Ultimately, what all of these mistakes have in common is that they are preventable. Simple updates or revisions can make substantial differences for beneficiaries and it is important to take time to protect love ones with complete and updated estate plans.

For more information see Jessica Galligan Goldsmith, Shaina S. Kamen, Christiana M. Lazo, David J. Posner, and Bruce D. Steiner “Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous” ABA Probate & Property Magazine, September/October 2022.

September 26, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Why People of Color Are Less Likely to Have a Will

Estate planningAccording to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports earlier this year, high numbers responded not having a will in place. While the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call for many Americans around end-of-life planning, it is still reported that 1 in 3 Americans don’t have a will.

The Consumer Report Survey showed a noticeable difference in responses from people of color, with the top reasons cited as being too young, not having enough assets, not being sure how to create one, or assuming their next of kin will automatically receive everything. However, the most common reason is that they planned to create one but haven’t gotten around to it.

Maria Victoria Colón, a certified public accountant, told Consumer Reports that the general belief in the Hispanic community is that wills and financial planning is “only for rich people.” She teaches financial literacy on Instagram and TikTok in hopes of dispelling this myth and warns against the assumption that things will easily transfer to the next of kin. There can be difficulties if the family structure is complicated.

Another reason cited is that they prefer not to think about death, which for some cultures, is not appropriate topic of discussion and can be a big roadblock to creating a will.

For more information see Althea Chang-Cook “Why People of Color Are Less Likely to Have a Will” Consumer Reports, August 10, 2022.

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

September 25, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Anne Heche estate battle begins as ex James Tupper claims he was left in charge, not her 'estranged' 20-year-old son

HecheThe dispute over Anne Heche’s estate has begun to heat up over who should be in charge after the actress died intestate. Her eldest son, Homer, requested to serve as special administrator last month, however, now her ex is contesting Homer’s appointment.

James Tupper, the father of Heche’s youngest son, claims he has a “will” from January 2011 that was given to him “in case [Anne] dies tomorrow.” Additionally, he has expressed numerous reasons why he does not believe Homer is equipped for the job, one being that he was estranged from his mother when she died.

The 2011 “will” is an email sent from Heche to Tupper and entertainment attorney, Kevin Yorn, with the request that it serve as her final wishes until formal papers could be drawn up. This email dictates that her assets would go to Tupper to manage and divide amongst her sons equally until they reach the age of 25. At that time, they could sell her real estate and split the money.

Another shocking claim to arise from Tupper's filing is that Homer has changed the locks on his mother’s apartment where she and her younger son resided, and has listed the residence as “vacant” in the court filing. Tupper notes this is “concerning as her home had previously been full of furnishings, jewelry, valuables, files, and records and their removal was in no way authorized by the Court.”

For more information see Suzy Byrne “Anne Heche estate battle begins as ex James Tupper claims he was left in charge, not her 'estranged' 20-year-old son” Yahoo! Entertainment, September 16, 2022.

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

September 21, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Article: Texas Estate Planning Judicial Update: Summer 2022 Edition

Gerry W. Beyer (Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Texas Estate Planning Judicial Update: Summer 2022 Edition. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This article discusses recent judicial developments (first half of 2022) relating to the Texas law of intestacy, wills, estate administration, trusts, and other estate planning matters. The discussion of each case concludes with a moral, i.e., the important lesson to be learned from the case. By recognizing situations that have led to time consuming and costly litigation in the past, estate planners can reduce the likelihood of the same situations arising with their clients.

August 15, 2022 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Probate Primer: How to Be an Estate’s Executor

Serving as the executor of an estate requires quite a bit of time and energy which requires three main responsibilities: settling debts, filing a final tax return, and transferring accounts to the right beneficiaries. On top of these duties, an executor is often grieving the loss of their loved one and dealing with the emotional toll it takes on other friends and family.

“The executor’s role is to be diligent, not steal from the estate, and to follow the requests of the testator found in their will,” says Meredith Hill, an estate planning attorney in Maryland.

Before an appointment, it is important to spend as much time learning about the role and compiling a list of all the things that will need to be done and make sure that the executor is able and willing to devote the necessary time to the estate administration process. Executors are generally entitled to a fee or commission for their services, which will be stated in the will.

For more information:

See Vikram Barhat “Probate Primer: How to Be an Estate’s Executor” Barron’s, August 6, 2022.

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

August 10, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 6, 2022

National Make-A-Will Month

WillsAugust is National Make-A-Will Month, which is a great reminder to start thinking about your estate plan to ensure your final wishes are executed as you intended. 

According to a survey published by Caring.com, more than 50% of Americans think having a will is important, but many Americans have not gotten around to it. Some have reported they do not like the idea of planning for their death, and 1 out of 3 survey takers stated that they don’t believe they have enough assets to leave behind. Estate Planning goes beyond just wealth, it is important to have a plan in place to make your passing less complicated for your loved ones.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased interest in estate planning, and the number of 18-34 year olds with estate planning documents in place has increased by nearly 50%. However, 2 out of 3 American adults still do not have a will.

For more information:

See National Make a Will Month” NFCR Blog, August 18, 2020.

August 6, 2022 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 5, 2022

Prince’s $156M estate finally settled after 6-year court battle

PrinceThe six year battle over Prince’s estate has now come to an end as a Minnesota judge signed off on a deal. The late singer did not leave behind a will, which required his $156 million estate go through probate, where some estate battles can last up to 10 years or more.

Billboard has reported that six half-siblings of the music icon were named as legal heirs, half of which will sell their shares to New York music company Primary Wave. The other three have hired former advisors to Prince to manage their shares of the estate.

Now that the deal has closed, there are exciting plans in the works, from music exhibitions, films, and Broadway shows. All of his heirs plan to honor Prince and continue to grow his purple legacy. Although he did not leave behind a will, he did leave behind notes and memos on what he would like to happen with his property. This includes a vault of unreleased songs. 

For more information:

See Adrienne Bankert “Prince’s $156M estate finally settled after 6-year court battle” Nextstar Media Wire, August 3, 2022.

August 5, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Article: Legacies of a Pandemic: Remote Attestation and Electronic Wills

Richard F. Storrow recently published an article entitled, Legacies of a Pandemic: Remote Attestation and Electronic Wills, Mitchell Hamline Law Review (2022). Provided below is the abstract to the Article:

The coronavirus pandemic has compelled governors and legislatures to fast-track remote attestation, a previously prohibited form of will-execution witnessing that has largely been left out of the thoughtful, nearly two-decades-long but largely unsuccessful effort to validate electronic wills. This Article examines the unforeseen problems that have arisen in the rush to institute remote attestation in the current crisis, urges lawmakers to interpret the presence requirement as encompassing remote attestation, and predicts that the current experiment with remote attestation will speed the enactment of electronic-will legislation.

July 24, 2022 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 22, 2022

Is this a valid will for House of Yahweh leader? Yisrayl Hawkins leaves behind 30+ kids, 200 properties, $5 million in assets

WillsControversial religious leader, Yisrayl Abel Hawkins, who lead the House of Yahweh, left behind what applicants are claiming is a holographic will. A Callahan County, Texas court is set to decide if the will is valid and can proceed through probate.

In the State of Texas, a holographic will must been signed by the deceased and is written in entirely their own handwriting. The will in question was created by Hawkins in 2008, thirteen years prior to his passing.

If a will does not meet the criteria to be a holographic will, then it must be signed by two witnesses. Objectors to this will, say that only one notary signed the will, therefore unable to meet this requirement.

During Thursday’s hearing, it was determined that there is still too much unknown about this will to make a decision regarding probate. The next hearing will determine the validity of the will. At this time, no date has been set.

For more information:

See Erica Garner “Is this a valid will or House of Yahweh leader? Yisrayl Hawkins leaves behind 30+ kids, 200 properties, $5 million in assets” Everything Lubbock, July 21, 2022.

July 22, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Family Insider Reveals Who Ivana Trump May Have Left a Fortune To: Report

Ivana-trump-3Speculation has been running wild about who Ivana Trump might have left her fortune to. At this time, her will has not been made public, but it has been reported that millions were set aside for her dog Tiger.Tiger is currently living with one of Ivana Trump’s assistants.

According to sources, Ivana loved animals more than she lo ed people. Guests at her funeral have been asked not to send flowers but instead donate to Big Dog Ranch Rescue, a Florida based non-profit. Trump’s funeral will be held in New York City, with her three children and former President Donald Trump in attendance.

For more information:

See Jack Davis “Family Insider Reveals Who Ivana Trump May Have Left a Fortune To,” The Western Journal, July 19, 2022.

Special thanks to Victoria Sutton (Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law and Director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 20, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)