Trusts and Estates

anna nicole smith.jpgDespite her death back in February 2007, Anna Nicole Smith (aka Vickie Lynn Marshall) continues to make headlines. From the Ninth Circuit comes bad news for her former lawyer (and lover) Howard K. Stern, and her daughter, Daniellynn. From E! Online:

[A court] said today that the estate of Anna Nicole Smith is not entitled to the $300 million-plus judgment previously awarded from her late oil tycoon hubby’s billion-dollar estate.

The court battle over Texas oilman J. Howard Marshall II’s millions has been ongoing since 1995.

You can download the opinion from the Ninth Circuit here [PDF]. You’ll see a familiar name on the list of counsel.

Kathleen Sullivan, new name partner at Quinn Emanuel, filed an amicus brief in the case for the Washington Legal Foundation, arguing in support of the decision by the Texas probate court that originally denied Smith’s claim to Marshall’s $1.6 billion fortune.

This could make for an appropriate last act in the forthcoming Anna Nicole Smith opera.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Dechert partner G. Eric Brunstad, the veteran Supreme Court litigator who represented the victorious estate of Pierce Marshall in this case. (Brunstad was also Lat’s bankruptcy law professor at Yale.)

Remember All Those Millions? Anna Nicole’s Estate Can Kiss ‘Em Bye-Bye [E! Online]
SF Appeals Court Denies Anna Nicole Smith Estate’s Claim To Millions [KTVU]
In re: VICKIE LYNN MARSHALL, Debtor. ELAINE T. MARSHALL v. HOWARD K. STERN
[U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit]

will last will testament trusts estates.jpgWe continue our series of open threads about small law firms focused on different areas of practice. In light of the turmoil being experienced by Biglaw, as well as the many laid-off lawyers and job-hunting law students looking for other opportunities, now is an excellent time to look beyond large law firms.
Today we turn our attention to TRUSTS AND ESTATES. What is it like to work at a small (or at least non-big) firm focused on T&E work? What are your hours like? Your compensation? What do you like the most — and the least — about your job?
Please discuss, in the comments.
Speaking of trusts and estates, at the recent Lavender Law conference we attended a workshop on advanced estate planning. The panelists offered advice that might be helpful to people who practice in, or aspire to practice in, trusts and estates.
Read about it, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Law Firm Open Thread: Trusts and Estates
(Plus another Lavender Law panel write-up.)”

south carolina map bar exam controversy.jpgFor those of you who followed the South Carolina bar exam controversy, previously discussed here and here, we bring you an update.
The South Carolina Supreme Court recently issued a supplemental statement on the matter. According to the Court, the elimination of the Trusts and Estates section from the scoring process had nothing to do with complaints from the kids of prominent public figures.
An excerpt from the court’s statement, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Further Update on the South Carolina Bar Exam”

south carolina map bar exam controversy.jpgRemember the alleged South Carolina bar exam shenanigans, which we discussed in these pages last week? There are some updates. See the links collected below, including a fairly barebones statement from the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Also, here’s what appears to be an interesting email that made the rounds in the wake of the results announcement. It was purportedly sent by one of the test takers who initially failed to other individuals who sat for the S.C. bar exam:

Hey Y’all,

First of all I’m so sorry about the bar exam. This sucks. I need to know if any of you failed the Wills part of the exam and your score.

My Dad and [redacted's] dad have been on the phone with the powers that be, and if we can get a big enough group together that failed the Wills section they are going to take it to the Sup. Ct and see if they’ll regrade our exams. Apparently, the examiner for the Wills section has been asked not to come back. We have a slim chance, but I think that it is worth it.

So far I have a list of 10 people that have failed the exam. They are [names redacted]. If you all know of anyone else that failed the Wills section PLEASE let me know so that we add them to the list. The scores are important too because we need to show the court how outrageous they are. Again, I’m so sorry we all failed. I really can’t believe it.

[redacted]
Law Clerk

Please do not identify any individuals by name in the comments. Thank you.
South Carolina Bar Examination Weirdness [Feminist Law Professors]
S.C. High Court Responds to Bar Exam Flap [FITSNews]
Supreme Court Issues Statement Regarding July 2007 Bar Examination [South Carolina Judicial Department]
Bar exam appeal route urged [The State]
20 years ago, state official’s daughter got score changed [The State]
Earlier: What’s Up With the South Carolina Bar Exam?

south carolina map bar exam controversy.jpgAs you know from our extensive coverage of Laptopgate, we follow bar exam controversies quite closely. So we can’t ignore what’s going on down in South Carolina (especially since we’ve been on a southern kick as of late, what with all our coverage of Emory Law School).
A very juicy possible scandal is brewing down in the Palmetto State. We believe the story was first broken by FITSNews. But for those of you who like your news sources older and more MSM-y, here’s an article from The State:

The state’s top court has changed the grades for 20 people — including the children of a prominent state lawmaker and a longtime circuit judge — who earlier flunked the test required to practice law in South Carolina.

The S.C. Supreme Court in last week’s order said the wills, trusts and estates section of the July exam would “not be considered” in determining a test-taker’s overall score, though the justices gave no reasons for their decision.

The students include the daughters of state Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Richland, chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee; and Circuit Judge Paul Burch of Pageland, The State confirmed Thursday in interviews with the two men.

More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “What’s Up With the South Carolina Bar Exam?”

tombstone cemetery RIP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgFrom the Department of Astute Observations:

“Some former Steel Hector partners suggested it may have been unwise to make a large loan to a partner allegedly on the brink of bankruptcy.”

Ya think?
Firm Sues Estate of Dead Lawyer for Loan Repayment [Daily Business Review (Miami / South Florida)]

golden retriever dog pet lawsuit estate litigation Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re not really big on pets. Taking care of them is a lot of work, and we can barely keep our houseplant alive. So stories like this one strike us as almost insane:

A man who had not written a will left a $2 million estate, but the most hotly contested item in court has been his golden retriever, Alex. The four-way dispute over the 13-year-old pet was so intense, an attorney was appointed to represent the dog’s interest.

A guardian ad litem causa canis, perhaps?

On Monday, the judge decided the man’s divorced parents should split custody, The Commercial Appeal reported.

“At first glance, the petition seems almost frivolous, but after speaking with all parties, it is evident that this is a highly emotional issue for all involved,” said Alex’s attorney, Paul Royal, in his report to the probate court.

You had it right the first time, Mr. Royal.
P.S. A former colleague who shares our aversion to pets once quipped, “There are at least ten good reasons not to get a dog. Reasons one through nine are fecal matter.”
Judge settles intense custody battle over dog [CNN]

Along with London, New York is one of the great tabloid cities of the world. When we opened the door of our hotel room this morning, we were greeted by this sight:

New York Post Anna Nicole Smith Larry Birkhead.jpg

The news has been mentioned in a few places on ATL (e.g., comments, Morning Docket). But for those of you who haven’t been paying attention: Larry Birkhead is the Anna Nicole Smith babydaddy.
(Which may not result in the financial windfall that Birkhead might have been expecting.)
LUSTY LARRY LICKS ‘EM IN ANNA NICOLE DADDY DERBY [New York Post]
Earlier: Oh Crap. This Baby Ain’t Worth Millions? Then You Take Her!

Anna Nicole Smith 3 Anna Nicole Smith photo photograph pic picture Above the Law Above the Law.JPGHere’s an interesting analysis of the underlying merits of the litigation over J. Howard Marshall’s estate. It contains some bome bad news for Anna Nicole Smith’s infant daughter, Dannielynn.
From a Legal Times piece by Professor Horace Cooper (who narrowly missed being a colleague of Kiwi Camara, and probably isn’t unhappy about that):

[T]here is little chance that this child will inherit millions. Why? Because Anna Nicole Smith’s legal claims on J. Howard Marshall’s estate were always tenuous.

And once the courts act, they will likely extinguish the claim altogether. That means Dannielynn is more likely to be saddled with legal bills and other debt from litigation associated with her mother’s estate than she’s likely to inherit any portion of Marshall’s estate.

We’ll spare you Professor Cooper’s detailed examination of the case, which deploys such fancy-pants legal terms as “de novo” and “res judicata.” We’ll just give you his bottom line:

A separate trial in the Bahamas is going forward to determine who Dannielynn’s biological father is. Once that is answered, will the biological father continue his efforts to secure custody after all the legal claims on the Marshall estate are extinguished?

I predict that once those claims are finally exhausted, even King Solomon himself might not have the wisdom to find a father for this baby.

And Judge Larry Seidlin is no King Solomon.
Anna Nicole’s Daughter Is No Million-Dollar Baby [Legal Times]

It becomes fodder for Trusts & Estates courses and casebooks.
Smith Death a Case Study at Law Schools [Associated Press via TaxProf Blog]

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