Estate

Several Organizations Fight Tennessee Family Over Estate

A Tennessee family‘s estate that has been passed down through six generations has become part of a heated battle between the family and several non-profit organizations, the Tennessean reports. The last heir, Barry Blackburn Sr., died unexpectedly in 2014, with his will specifying that properties be held in a lifetime trust for his son, then passed along to that son’s children. The will also includes a provision that should Blackburn Sr.’s son die before him, the trust would pass to his sister's three children. A failure of beneficiary clause was included stating that if there were no surviving beneficiaries, the estate would be equally divided among Nashville Christian School, Harpeth Presbyterian Church, the University of Mississippi law school and Boykin Spaniel Rescue. Blackburn Sr.’s son, Christopher Blackburn, died the following year at 21, having no children. The nonprofits now argue that the will, read literally, bequeaths property to them since the son died after the father. A Mississippi judge last year sided with nieces and nephew involved, calling the matter a "scrivener's error," however, the organizations have appealed that decision. The properties, including working farms in Mississippi and Alabama and acres of property along Pickwick Lake, are worth millions and were given to the family by President Andrew Jackson.

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Estate Planning & Probate Executive Council Seeks Your Input

The TBA Estate Planning Forum 2019 is just around the corner and the Estate Planning & Probate Section Executive Council would like your input. Along with the top-notch presenters and timely topics, this program features a Clerk and Master’s panel where the clerks interact with lawyers practicing in their respective counties, and the panel answers questions from attendees. The council would like your help in predetermining topics that may be beneficial to address, or specific questions that you might have as a forum attendee. Please submit comments or ideas to Estate Planning & Probate Section Coordinator Jarod Word by Friday. All questions and comments are confidential unless otherwise specified by the author. 

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Michael Jackson Estate Blasts HBO Over New Documentary

Lawyers for Michael Jackson's estate have admonished HBO over the network’s decision to proceed in airing its documentary "Leaving Neverland," Rolling Stone reports. An attorney for the estate, Howard Weitzman, sent a 10-page letter to HBO CEO Richard Plepler calling the film a “one-sided, sensationalist program,” and questioned the credibility of the two accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who are the focus of the documentary. “The Estate spent years litigating with Robson and Safechuck, and had four different lawsuits by these two men dismissed with prejudice,” the letter said. “Today, Robson owes the estate almost $70,000 in court costs, and Safechuck owes the estate several thousand dollars as well.” HBO responded to the letter saying that its plans remain unchanged, and that the documentary will air March 3 and 4.

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Senate Republicans Move to Kill 'Death Tax'

Three Republican Senators on Monday proposed a plan to repeal the federal estate tax, The Washington Post reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced the bill that aims to kill the already weakened “death tax,” of which the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel estimates only 5,000 taxpayers are expected to claim. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 currently allows married couples to gift up to $22,360,000 exempt from federal estate and gift taxes. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the estate tax is projected to account for about 0.6 percent of the federal budget in 2018, down from more than 1 percent in the 2000s. 

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Sears Closures Add Millions of Square Feet to Commercial Real Estate Market

Beleaguered retail behemoth Sears is considering liquidation, which would add an estimated millions more square feet of unused commercial space nationwide, Forbes reports. Since it announced bankruptcy last October, Sears has either closed or plans to close 260 of its 700 retail locations. In 2015, Sears Chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert created the real estate investment trust Seritage Growth Properties, seeking to capitalize on the real estate value of Sears’ holdings; however, there is no indication if this was done in light of bankruptcy considerations. 

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Metro Council Approves Infrastructure Funding for Nashville Yards Development

The Metro Nashville Council recently voted to grant preliminary approval for $15.2 million earmarked towards road, sewer and other infrastructure needs around the Nashville Yards project which will be home to Amazon’s HQ2, The Tennessean reports. The move also approves participation, easement and license agreements between Metro and Uptown Property Holdings, the building group in charge of development. Council member Kathleen Murphy — one of only three detractors — denounced the city’s interest in the infrastructure plan, saying that it was just "another incentive" for Amazon and that the money would be better spent on other projects throughout the city. The council will make its final decision regarding the infrastructure reimbursement on Feb. 5.

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Oak Ridge Intends to Break Ground on Regional Airport Within Next Couple of Years

The much-anticipated Oak Ridge airport moves closer to reality, with city leaders hoping to break ground on the project within the next couple of years, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Since 2009, the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority has maintained the need for a general aviation airport in the city because of population growth in the area, and increased business travel needs from places like Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Coqui Pharmaceuticals Corp. Though Oak Ridge has seen plans for an airport come and go over the years, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said that this plan "has legs.” It calls for a 5,000-foot runway, a partial parallel taxiway and approximately 40 hangars on the 171 acres of land acquired from the U.S. Department of Energy on the former K-25 uranium enrichment facility site.

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Real Estate Investments Safer than Other Sectors in Flailing Market

Real estate fund investments remain relatively stable despite a mercurial stock market, The New York Times reports. As the S&P 500 plunged 13.52 percent in the fourth quarter, FTSE Nareit All Equity R.E.I.T.s Index — the leading index of publicly traded real estate investment trusts — lost only 6.1 percent, marking a 4 percent loss for the entirety of 2018, compared to an S&P 500 loss of 4.4 percent, including dividends, for the same period. The sector has achieved comparative stability through tangible assets, banking on office buildings, malls and warehouses.

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Enigmatic Howard Hughes 'Beneficiary' Dies of Cancer

The man who claimed Howard Hughes left him one-sixteenth of the Hughes estate in a mysterious handwritten will died last month of cancer, The New York Times reports. Melvin Dummar was a gas station owner in Utah when he said that he rescued Hughes from the Nevada desert. After Hughes died 9 years later, Dunmar maintained that an unknown man presented the will to him, which he then anonymously took to the Mormon Church Headquarters — that was also named as a beneficiary in the will — hoping that the church would attest to the veracity of the document.  A jury subsequently decided that the document was forged, but no one was ultimately charged with a crime. Although Dunmar received none of the Hughes fortune, Hollywood took note, retelling his story in the 1980 movie “Melvin and Howard.” Several books have also been written about the case, including one by a retired FBI agent who contends that the will was legit.

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Loudon Lawyer Found Guilty of Theft from Estate

A Loudon County lawyer has been ordered to pay back $25,000 of money he stole from a client’s estate, The News-Herald reports. Arthur Wayne Henry pleaded guilty on Dec. 10, 2018, to felony theft of property related to a probate case he oversaw since 2008, agreeing to a payment plan regarding restitution and four years unsupervised probation. Henry must pay also $500 to the 9th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office Fraud and Economic Crime Fund. He was suspended from the practice of law last April.

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