Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

Aretha Franklin's Funky Wills

In May, three hand-written wills were found hidden in Aretha Franklin’s Detroit area home. Her family and lawyers previously thought she had died intestate. Two hand-written wills dated 2010 were found in a locked cabinet and third hand-written will dated 2014 was found under a couch in Ms. Franklin’s living room. The wills are difficult to follow. (Click here for example.) All three documents have been offered for probate as valid holographic wills. There is some question whether they are valid under Michigan law.

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Will Contests

The proponents of the Will have the initial burden of due execution, venue, and proof of death. The burden is on the contestant to show lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, undue influence, duress, mistake or revocation. However, undue influence cannot be inferred by motive and opportunity alone. There must be some evidence, either direct or circumstantial, to show that undue influence not only existed but also influenced the making of the Will.

I have always considered the two most important witnesses in a Will contest to be the drafting attorney and treating doctor.

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Making the Law Keep Up

Intestacy laws determine how a person’s assets pass if there is no will. What should intestacy law provide with regard to same sex marriage and with respect to parentage involving genetic materials. Under the Uniform Parentage Act a person may have three parents (and correspondingly more grandparents).

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Who Has the Right to a Decedent's Remains

Probate and estate litigation is fraught with emotion. We often see families divided over a deceased loved one’s property. And while each dispute is different, there are commonalities; one of which is that the disputes are often “not about the money.”

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Electronic Wills-Dispensing With Pen and Paper (Part I)

Will Requirements

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1030 Hits

Elusive Assets After Death

Aubrey McClendon, a co-founder of Chesapeak Energy Corp. and a pioneer in the shale industry, died on March 2, 2016. Mr. McClendon had significant assets yet his estate appears to be insolvent. Creditor claims filed to date exceed $1.1 billion. Mr. McClendon’s business holdings were complex and the estate has had a hard time selling assets.

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News of the Firm

We are very pleased to announce that Gary T. Potter joined our firm on July 1, 2016. Gary’s practice will continue to focus on Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Administration. Before beginning his career in the private practice of law, Gary served as a Deputy Colorado Attorney General, Inheritance Tax Division; as a Vice President and Trust Officer with First National Bank of Denver Trust Department; and as Vice President Marketing of Integrated Resources. Gary has served on numerous boards and in leadership positions throughout his career including the Denver Trust Officers Association, Teachers Award Foundation, Craig Hospital Board and the Colorado Golf Association, to name a few.

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Those picky details . . .

In this age of instant access to information on the Internet, including do-it-yourself estate planning documents, it is important to remember that the devil is in the details. Examples on point: a recent email exchange among estate planning attorneys from around the country describing potentially painful prose:

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Kardashian Diaries Suit, Copyrights and Estate Planning

The recent news that the late Robert Kardashian’s widow, Ellen Pearson (a/k/a Ellen Kardashian), has been sued by the Kardashian children (and Mr. Kardashian’s former wife, Kris Jenner), for selling excerpts from their father’s diaries about their lives is a good reminder of the importance of good, clear estate planning documents. Reportedly, Ms. Pearson, who sold portions of the diaries to the tabloids, found the diaries in a box at a vacation home she shared with her late husband. The Kardashian children claim that Mr. Kardashian’s will left the bulk of his tangible and intangible personal property (which would include copyrighted items) to them, including the diaries, and that Ms. Pearson’s sale of them was, among other things, a copyright violation. Interestingly though, Mr. Kardashian’s will may have given both the vacation home and other personal property "customarily used at that property" to Ms. Pearson. The question is whether the property left to Ms. Pearson with the vacation home included the intangible personal property rights (such as copyright and publication rights) in the diaries. Though he probably had no idea his children would have such a public life following his death, had Mr. Kardashian given careful thought to how those diaries and any intangible property rights from photos and other personal effects should be disposed of in his will, and had drafted his plan to clearly reflect that intent, this dispute might have well been avoided. A court has not yet ruled but for estate planners and their clients, the lesson is to plan for all eventualities - who knows, your own kids may turn out to be reality TV stars well after your death and your own notes and photos might be for sale to the highest bidder.
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