It is generally accepted that “personal property” refers to all property aside from real property. But in California, that isn’t always the case when it comes to making gifts of your property in a will or a trust.  California courts actually look to the language used in a document making a gift of “personal property” or “personal belongings,” and sometimes to other evidence, to interpret the scope of property intended when using such a term in an estate planning document.

Continue Reading This Time, It’s Personal: Beware The Misleading Use of “Personal Property” In Your Estate Planning Documents

First, what is a contract to make a will?

A contract to make a will is exactly as it sounds.  It is an agreement to provide for a person as part of a decedent’s will.  The terms of the agreement could be as simple as a promise to provide services in exchange for a specific cash gift as part of a decedent’s will.  For example, Elizabeth may promise to provide caregiving and household services to William in exchange for William’s promise to provide her with $250,000 upon his death.  When William dies, hopefully his will has a provision leaving a specific cash gift of $250,000 to Elizabeth.  If not, then there has been a breach of the agreement.  The agreement can become substantially more complex, particularly when real property is the subject of the agreement.  Instead of agreeing to pay Elizabeth $250,000 in exchange for her services, William may promise to leave his house to Elizabeth.  Again, when William dies there may be a breach of the agreement if William’s will contains no provision instructing that his house be given to Elizabeth.


Continue Reading Dead Men Tell No Tales and Other Issues with Contracts to Make a Will

It was recently revealed that the late Paul Walker left his entire estate—valued at approximately $25 million—to his 15-year-old daughter, Meadow.

As reported, Paul Walker named his father as the executor of his will and his mother, Cheryl, as the guardian of Meadow’s person and now-$25 million estate. Prior to his death, Meadow lived

Over thirty-five years after Bing Crosby’s death, the California Court of Appeal put an end to the continuing battle over the Crooner’s right of publicity.

I Can’t Begin to Tell You

In 1930, Harry Lillis Crosby—nicknamed Bing for his love of a newspaper parody, “The Bingville Bugle”—married first wife, Wilma Wyatt (known professionally as Dixie Lee). The mother of his first four sons, Wilma died in 1952. In her Will, Wilma gave her community property to her two sons, which was held for their benefit in a trust known as the Wilma Wyatt Crosby Trust (the “Wilma Trust”).

Over the next several years, Bing was regularly the topic of gossip as he romanced several of Hollywood’s most beautiful women. In 1957, Bing married Kathryn Grant, a young actress and singer that Bing met on the Paramount lot. Together they had three children and remained married until Bing’s death on October 14, 1977 on a golf course in Madrid.

Bing left the residue of his estate to a trust for the benefit of his wife, Kathryn. Subsequent to Bing’s death, HLC Properties, Limited (“HLC”) was formed for the purpose of managing Bing’s interests, including his right of publicity.

Pennies from Heaven

Under the common law of California, there exists a “right of publicity” in a person’s name, likeness and identity. In 1971, the California Legislature established a statutory right of publicity in a person’s “name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness.” After a controversial California Supreme Court decision in 2007, the California Legislature clarified that the right of publicity is freely transferable “by means of trust or testamentary documents.”


Continue Reading Celebrity Trusts & Estates: Another Battle in the Saga of Bing Crosby’s Right of Publicity Comes to an End