Estate of Denial news clips (1/10/16 – 1/16/16)

Editorial: Connecticut should return funding to probate courts

New Haven Register

January 7, 2016

A change in the probate fee schedule is causing jitters among some Republicans and the probate court administrator. They say that if legislators fail to reconfigure changes made last year to the probate court fee schedule, it could drive wealthy individuals to move out of state.

The General Assembly cut funding to probate courts to zero for the next two years in the fiscal year that began July 1. Instead, it sharply increased fees to make up the $32 million shortfall, leaving behind a court system that must be funded exclusively with user fees. The hardest hit are estates of the deceased.


A Conservatorship Helps Protect a Client With Dementia

The Wall Street Journal

January 8, 2016

A 72-year-old woman had dementia that was advancing and taking a toll on her finances.

Her two sons managed her assets via a living trust, regulating the distributions given to their mother. But they became concerned when she began asking for additional distributions. The woman was also routinely behind on her credit-card bills and car payments. Then, during a visit to see his mother, one of the sons noticed her stuffing cash into an envelope at the post office.


COLUMN: Mother believes grandchildren are entitled to inherit from grandparents: Wrong! (TX)

Glen Rose Reporter

January 9, 2016

Kitty Richards’ husband, Joseph, Jr., was tragically killed when the family was involved in a terrible automobile accident. Kitty and their only son, Joseph, III, four years old, suffered only minor injuries. Patty and Joseph Richards, Sr., little Joey’s wealthy grandparents have taken little interest in Joey over the years. They seemed to resent that he had lived when their beloved son had died.

After Joey’s 16th birthday, Kitty consults a lawyer, saying she wants to protect her son’s “inheritance.” She insists her late husband would have been entitled to a third of his parents’ property if he had lived. She wants to make certain their son gets that one-third when his grandparents pass away.


Benson lawyers oppose request to depose billionaire in estate fight (TX/LA)

San Antonio Express-News

January 11, 2016

A heated disagreement has arisen on whether San Antonio and New Orleans billionaire Tom Benson should give a video-recorded deposition as a scheduled jury trial looms for part of Benson’s business empire, according to filings in Bexar County probate court.

A jury trial is scheduled for the first week of February in the court of Bexar County Probate Court Judge Tom Rickhoff. But the lawyers for Benson and for his daughter, Renee Benson, and her children, had agreed to mediation before then.


Sumner Redstone’s Ex Wants Appeals Court to Intervene in Health Dispute

The Hollywood Reporter

January 11, 2016

A California appeals court has been asked to weigh in on a heated dispute over the mental condition of 92-year-old Viacom and CBS Corp. executive chairman Sumner Redstone.

Manuela Herzer, who was thrown out of Redstone’s home in October, is suing for restoration of her role as the one to make primary decisions about the executive’s health care. That responsibility has now been given to Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. In response to a lawsuit asserting Redstone is a “a living ghost,” his lawyers have slammed Herzer for spreading “lies,” and painted the allegations as financially motivated.


Outcome of Tom Benson mediation with daughter in Texas unclear (TX/LA)

The Times Picayune

January 12, 2016

Mediation in the dispute between Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and his daughter Renee Benson over a trust fund in Texas was held Saturday (Jan. 9), although lawyers won’t say whether any talks were successful in settling who should be in control.

It’s unclear whether the 88-year-old billionaire attended himself or sent a representative to the confidential proceeding. New Orleans attorney Phil Wittmann, who represents Tom Benson, and San Antonio attorney Bennett Stahl, who represents Renee Benson, both declined to comment on the mediation Monday (Jan. 11).


Is Co-defendant Responsible for Deceased Lawyer’s Malpractice Damages? (TX)

Texas Lawyer

January 12, 2016

Can a San Antonio lawyer be held responsible for his dead co-defendant’s share of damages in a legal malpractice case?

It’s a mess of a question that the Texas Supreme Court recently sent to San Antonio’s Fourth Court of Appeals to answer—specifically whether Oscar C. Gonzalez is responsible for all of the $77,500 in actual damages that a jury split against him and his attorney co-defendant Eric Turton.


‘Possible theft’ at Probate Court leads to suspension, investigation (TN)

January 12, 2016

Shelby County Probate Court Clerk Paul Boyd‘s personal secretary has been relieved of duty and the court has stopped issuing passports as officials inspect financial records for possible missing funds.

“All I can say on the record is there is a possible theft and the county is auditing,” Probate Judge Kathleen Gomes said in a phone interview Tuesday. “There are a whole bunch of (investigators) down here right now.”


‘Old-school’ solicitor struck off for using client fund (UK)

Law Gazette

January 13, 2016

A practitioner who ran up a £202,000 cash shortage in the client account has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

Jeremy Humphrey Ashton Roberts, formerly sole practitioner and later principal at Cambridgeshire firm Bendall Roberts, admitted adopting a new system for handling client money from the mid-2000s to keep his firm’s overdraft below a £40,000 limit.


Full appeals court refuses to take-up Cranston estate planner Caramadre’s case (CT)

The Providence Journal

January 13, 2016

BOSTON — The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is declining to reconsider Cranston estate planner Joseph A. Caramadre’s bid to withdraw his guilty pleas to charges that he conspired with an employee in a multimillion dollar investment scheme that wagered on the lives of terminally ill people.

The appeals court on Tuesday declined to re-hear Caramadre’s arguments that he should be allowed to retract his guilty pleas to conspiracy and fraud because his lawyers were not acting in his best interests and he was under mental duress due to his wife’s emotional breakdown during the trial. Judges O. Rogeriee Thompson and David J. Barron did not participate in considering the matter.


Texas resolves dispute with Bill Hall’s estate

San Antonio Express-News

January 13, 2016

Trucking tycoon Bill Hall Jr.’s estate will pay $160,000 to resolve a lawsuit by the state over grants it provided his company to buy environmentally friendly trucks.

Hall, who was 50 when he died in 2013, received $476,631 in Texas grants in 2008 and 2009 to cover a portion of the cost to acquire 13 trucks for Bill Hall Jr. Trucking Co Ltd. In return for the grants, Hall agreed to operate the trucks for seven years.


Portsmouth fights for half of cop’s lost inheritance (NH)

January 13 2016

PORTSMOUTH – In the latest filing for a dispute over the estate of the late Geraldine Webber, City Attorney Robert Sullivan accuses attorney Paul McEachern of “seeking a windfall” from the estate, to the detriment of the city’s inheritance.

McEachern represents Webber’s friends and small beneficiaries Barbara Wardwell, Betsy Lodge and Renee Currie, as well as Joanne Peterson, the mother of Webber’s grandson and only heir. His clients objected to an out-of-court settlement that would have paid now-fired police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin $450,000 and, McEachern contends, they instead “litigated in the public’s interest” by taking the case to trial and “shedding sunlight” on the facts.


Joe Jamail Revised Will Six Months Before Death (TX)

Texas Lawyer

January 13, 2016

Six months prior to his death Dec. 23, 2015, the legendary Texas plaintiff lawyer Joe Jamail revised his will. At the same time, he revised documents governing a trust to which he asked to have poured all his outstanding assets.

As early as this week, Harris County probate court may act upon an application for probate of Jamail’s will and testament, filed by his three sons, whom he named as co-independent executors of his estate. The sons filed their application Dec. 29, 2015.


Tom Benson ordered to face questioning from daughter’s lawyers in Texas trust fund battle (TX/LA)

The New Orleans Advocate

January 13, 2016

Despite his objections, Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson will have to submit to questioning by his daughter’s lawyers in the Texas court battle over control of a family trust fund, a judge said Tuesday.

Attorneys for Benson had argued that a deposition by the billionaire was unnecessary, citing a wealth of previous testimony from witnesses during the multifaceted legal feud between Benson and his daughter, Renee Benson, as well as her children. But the daughter’s attorneys argued that her 88-year-old father should have to sit for questions from them after he avoided the witness stand at preliminary proceedings in the Texas case as well as during a mental competency trial last year in New Orleans.


Billionaire Benson ordered to give deposition in estate fight (TX/LA)

San Antonio Express-News

January 13, 2016

San Antonio and New Orleans billionaire Tom Benson must give a deposition in his family estate legal case under an order issued Wednesday by Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff.

Rickhoff set a deadline of Jan. 21 for the deposition, which might occur in San Antonio even though Benson, owner of the NFL New Orleans Saints and the NBA New Orleans Pelicans, now resides in New Orleans.


Editorial: Time to Euthanize the Probate Court System? (CT)

Connecticut Law Tribune

January 13, 2016

Connecticut’s probate court system has limped along financially now for some years. The court faced a financial crisis a few years ago which resulted in the legislature forcing consolidations among the courts and raising fees for users and not-so-users. In the last legislative session, lawmakers removed a cap on fees charged on estates and provided the probate courts with lien rights on real property for its fees. None of these measures appear to be sufficient to fund the court. Perhaps it is time to end the pain and consider abolishing the probate courts.


Guilty pleas stand for convicted Rhode Island estate planner

Boston Herald

January 14, 2016

BOSTON — The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will not reconsider a Rhode Island estate planner’s bid to withdraw guilty pleas to charges that he ran a $46 million investment scheme targeting the terminally ill.

The Providence Journal reports ( ) the federal appeals court in Boston declined Tuesday to re-hear arguments from Joseph Caramadre. The Cranston resident had been seeking to be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas to conspiracy and fraud charges.


ONLY ON 12: Settlement in James Brown Estate waiting on approval from judge (SC)


January 14, 2016

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) — After nine years of battling in court, there’s finally the possibility of a settlement in James Brown’s estate.

“We came to the settlement so that we could stop this and we can move forward and do the great things in his name,” Brown’s daughter Deanna Brown Thomas told News 12.


The owner of a company that tracks down heirs entitled to an inheritance has agreed to plead guilty to a federal antitrust violation (MA)


January 14, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — The owner and president of a company that identifies and locates potential heirs to an estate has agreed to plead guilty as part of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Richard A. Blake Jr., whose firm is in Braintree, Massachusetts, has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department probe and a sentence will be determined later, prosecutors said.


Mistresses, Muses, Heirs Complicate ‘Ownership’ of $100 Million Picasso

Khmer Times

January 14, 2016

NEW YORK (AFP) – A prominent American art dealer has gone to court in a fight with a British collector – reportedly representing the Qatari royal family – over a Picasso sculpture valued at more than $100 million.

The work, “Bust of a Woman (Marie-Therese),” dated 1931, is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York as part of the largest exhibit of sculptures by the Spanish master in 50 years.


‘All in the Family’ Producer’s Death Sets Off Trust Battle Over Artwork

The Hollywood Reporter

January 14, 2016

The surviving relatives of the late Bud Yorkin, who executive produced All in the Family and Sanford and Son, are now in probate court discussing his final days and what should happen to a valuable painting made by abstract expressionist artist Hans Hoffman.


Ventura Man Sentenced to Prison for Financial Elder Abuse, Embezzlement (CA)


January 14, 2016

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced Thursday that Joseph Anthony Mele, of Ventura was sentenced to 10 years in state prison after pleading “no contest” to seven felony counts and two sentencing enhancements on Nov. 12, 2015.


Paul Knierim: Probate Courts Are a Good Value (CT)

Connecticut Law Tribune

January 14, 2016

There can be no dispute that the increase in probate fees on decedents’ estates enacted as part of the state budget this year is bad public policy. But to suggest that the solution to that problem is to abolish the probate courts, as the Law Tribune’s Editorial Board recently did, overlooks a far more appropriate remedy: the state should provide needed general fund support for the Probate Court and reverse the fee increase.


City attorney: Herald stories ‘put more pressure’ on police than trial (NH)

January 14, 2016

PORTSMOUTH — Stories published in the Portsmouth Herald about a cop’s $2.7 million inheritance from an elderly resident with dementia “put more pressure on” the police command staff than anything said in court, said City Attorney Robert Sullivan.


Paxton’s problems (TX)

Houston Chronicle

January 15, 2016

Before and after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton became Texas’ top prosecutor, questions have been raised about his ethics, his business practices, his investments and most recently his land deals.


Judge to rule soon on settlement over James Brown will (SC)

The Augusta Chronicle

January 15, 2016

A settlement ending an eight-year court challenge by most of James Brown’s children over the validity of the late soul singer’s will is now in a judge’s hands.

South Carolina 2nd Circuit Judge Doyet Early III heard arguments Thurs­day for and against the settlement, which is opposed by Brown’s sons Daryl and Terry. The judge said he would make a decision soon.


Newspapers’ owner must furnish records to Scaife heirs (PA)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

January 15, 2016

Trib Total Media has 20 days to provide 24 years of financial records to the daughter and son of its late publisher Richard Mellon Scaife, according to a judge’s order released Friday.


FL Senate Considering Restrictions For Elder Guardians


January 15, 2016

The conversation around elder abuse typically revolves around nursing homes.  But one lawmaker is fighting a very different kind of mistreatment.

Florida has more seniors than other state according to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.  The elderly make up nearly one fifth of the state’s population.  But that large retired community is an attractive target for predators.  Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) says the stakes are high for Florida’s seniors, and that’s why she’s filed legislation to protect them from guardian abuse.


Next week will be a busy one in the Tom Benson family dispute (TX/LA)

The New Orleans Advocate

January 15, 2016

Next week will be unusually busy for the principals in the legal dispute that erupted after Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson moved to cut his daughter and her children out of his life more than a year ago.

There will be mediation talks Monday and Tuesday in a lawsuit that Benson, 88, filed in New Orleans federal court against the overseers of a group of family trusts benefiting his daughter and grandchildren that contain nonvoting Saints and Pelicans shares, a Benson attorney confirmed Friday.