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The 2021 Mortimer H. Hess Memorial Lecture

The 2021 Mortimer H. Hess Memorial Lecture: "It’s a Thriller! Lessons Learned from the Estate of Michael Jackson and the potential impact of New York’s new Post-Mortem Right of Publicity"
Monday, September 13, 2021 | 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. 
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Program Fee:
Free for Members | $15 for Non-Members

Please Note:  A final confirmation containing the Zoom link and Access Code to join the event will be sent to ALL registrants the evening before the event.

The post-mortem right of publicity is an heir’s right to control and profit from the commercial use of a deceased person’s name, image or likeness. The value of Michael Jackson’s name and image was front and center in valuing his Estate. Although Jackson’s name and image was valued on his estate tax return at about $2,000, the IRS initially valued it at approximately $435 million. Twelve years after his death, in a decision widely regarded as a spectacular success for the Estate, the Tax Court rendered a 271-page decision about the value of Jackson’s Estate, including valuing Jackson’s post-mortem right of publicity at just over $4 million. While some states, like California, have recognized post-mortem publicity rights for decades, in New York they are brand new, the New York statute granting such rights having only gone into effect on May 29, 2021. 

This year’s Mortimer H. Hess Lecture features a distinguished panel of experts: Estate & Gift Taxation Committee member Sharon L. Klein of Wilmington Trust, N.A. in New York, will moderate the panel and provide critical background on the enactment and implications of the New York statute, Thomas W. Abendroth of Schiff Hardin LLP in Illinois will focus on planning considerations, and two panelists who were intimately involved in the valuation dispute between the Estate of Michael Jackson and the IRS will provide their personal insights. Jeryll S. Cohen of Freeman Freeman & Smiley, LLP, in California, was on the team who represented the Estate in its dispute with IRS, and Mark Roesler of CMG Worldwide, Inc., California, valued Michael Jackson’s name and image on behalf of the Estate in connection with the Tax Court case and that appraisal was largely accepted by the Tax Court.

In addition to reviewing the history of the Jackson Estate tax litigation and how its lessons may better inform front-end estate planning, the panel will explore the provisions of the newly enacted New York legislation, and present a state survey to examine the status of post-mortem publicity rights across the country. Drawing on jurisdictions such as Illinois and California, which have long accorded post-mortem publicity rights, they will reveal techniques that New York practitioners should consider in planning with these new rights for their clients, including for actors, musicians and athletes, to minimize transfer tax costs and maximize opportunities for heirs.
David E. Stutzman, Seward & Kissel LLP

Moderator and Speaker:
Sharon L. Klein, President, Family Wealth, Eastern U.S. Region, Wilmington Trust, N.A., New York, New York.

Thomas W. Abendroth
, Partner, Schiff Hardin LLP, Chicago, Illinois
Jeryll S. Cohen, Partner, Freeman Freeman & Smiley, LLP, Century City, California
Mark Roesler, Founder, CMG Worldwide, Inc., West Hollywood, California

Click Here to View Speaker Bios
Sponsoring Association Committee:
Estate & Gift Taxation, David E. Stutzman, Chair

Since the late 1960s, the Mortimer H. Hess Memorial Lecture has been sponsored annually by the Estate & Gift Taxation Committee. The lecture series, originally created by the family of the late tax lawyer Mortimer H. Hess, are made possible through a generous grant from Mr. Hess’s family and former partners. The subjects of the lectures are related to the law of trusts, estates, and taxation, subjects on which Mr. Hess was an acknowledged authority.

42 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036 UNITED STATES

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