Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lessons from Junior Kimbrough

I teach a class called “Music Industry Law” and at least once a semester I try to update my students on a relevant pending court case or recently settled dispute.  This semester I had a difficult time finding anything relevant to talk about (I wasn’t about to try and discuss the case or net neutrality).  Finally, out of desperation I found a citation on the always entertaining Courthouse News Service website concerning the Mississippi Supreme Court’s ruling in the case challenging the last will and testament of David (“Junior”) Kimbrough. 

I was interested in this case both because I knew one of the people involved and because I really like Junior Kimbrough’s music.  On a side note,  his album Most Things Haven’t  Worked Out is the best title for a blues album ever. 

The gist of the case was that the court upheld Kimbrough’s will and his intent to leave his entire estate to his girlfriend Mildred Washington instead of the four of his children who came forward to challenge the will as well as “his supposed 36 children” in all.  Clearly, Junior Kimbrough was a very busy man. 

There is actually an important point here.  Kimbrough clearly had very specific intentions with respect to his estate.  He made sure those intentions would be carried out by executing a formal last will and testament.  The will, properly executed withstood challenge.  This should serve as a reminder to anyone who is contemplating executing a will – stop thinking about it and get it done, especially if your estate involves intellectual property and especially if your intentions are anything different than simply leaving your assets to your next of kin.  In this case, for Mr. Kimbrough, things seem to have worked out. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

DRONES: How New and Evolving Laws on Unmanned Aerial Systems Will Impact My Clients

I am always trying to keep up with emerging law and technology and how these things might affect my clients in the music industry. There are so many things to be worried about these days- online piracy, streaming, consolidation and now…of course…drones.

The Nashville Bar Association always puts on informative continuing legal education seminars and this one sounds pretty exciting. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Digital Estate Planning

            I have been following the rapidly evolving world of estate planning for digital assets for some time, partially confused and concerned by the myriad of laws and  competing interest in this area.

            Part of this arose from trying to help the family of a deceased client deal with a truly awful post-mortem issue with Facebook.

            I came across an excellent article in the February issue of the Nashville Bar Journal by Nashville attorneys Jeff Mobley and Laurie Parker called “Heartaches by the Numbers:  Estate Planning for the Digital Age”.  The piece gives an excellent overview of the current positions of such companies as Facebook, Google and Twitter in dealing with the representatives of deceased users.  But the article brings up  so many other issues.  For example, what does one do with online photo albums such as those hosted by Tumblr, Instagram and Flickr?  What about online money that may be held in a PayPal account?  What about an iTunes library?  What about a domain name?  The authors really help pull all of these disparate issues into perspective.

            They also point out that at least seven states have enacted legislation  that gives personal representatives legal unfettered access to a deceased person’s digital accounts and that Tennessee is considering such legislation.

            The most helpful part of the article is the author’s suggested language for powers of attorneys and wills giving fiduciaries and executors specific authority to deal with these issues.  I plan to incorporate these clauses into my documents going forward and to recommend updates to some of my more social media active  clients.

            I’m also going to warily compile a list of my own digital assets such as they are, just to make sure that my digital presence doesn’t linger much longer than my temporal presence.  Again, my thanks to these authors for making this complicated subject seem manageable.