Monday, June 3, 2013

Kardashian Diaries Suit, Copyrights and Estate Planning

The recent news that the late Robert Kardashian’s widow, Ellen Pearson (a/k/a Ellen Kardashian), has been sued by the Kardashian children (and Mr. Kardashian’s former wife, Kris Jenner), for selling excerpts from their father’s diaries about their lives is a good reminder of the importance of good, clear estate planning documents. Reportedly, Ms. Pearson, who sold portions of the diaries to the tabloids, found the diaries in a box at a vacation home she shared with her late husband. The Kardashian children claim that Mr. Kardashian’s will left the bulk of his tangible and intangible personal property (which would include copyrighted items) to them, including the diaries, and that Ms. Pearson’s sale of them was, among other things, a copyright violation. Interestingly though, Mr. Kardashian’s will may have given both the vacation home and other personal property "customarily used at that property" to Ms. Pearson. The question is whether the property left to Ms. Pearson with the vacation home included the intangible personal property rights (such as copyright and publication rights) in the diaries. Though he probably had no idea his children would have such a public life following his death, had Mr. Kardashian given careful thought to how those diaries and any intangible property rights from photos and other personal effects should be disposed of in his will, and had drafted his plan to clearly reflect that intent, this dispute might have well been avoided. A court has not yet ruled but for estate planners and their clients, the lesson is to plan for all eventualities - who knows, your own kids may turn out to be reality TV stars well after your death and your own notes and photos might be for sale to the highest bidder.