Where There’s a Will, There’s a Clause

Imagine yourself sitting in your law office working on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when all of a sudden your junior partner, Bill Richardson, interrupts you.  He pardons himself for interrupting you and conveys to you he is in dire need of your help.  Turns out, Bill is having trouble constructing a particular will clause for Murphys-Mariayour client María Salazar that you tasked him to prepare.  Now, María is a famous ukulele legend from Glasgow, Montana and became internationally famous for her 1983 hit song “MisSUITla & TIE,” which made her a tidy fortune.  Bill further tells you that he is unsure about creating a bequest clause that will leave the copyrights and royalties for “MisSUITla & TIE” to María’s favorite daughter, Penélope.  You look Bill square in the eyes and say, “Fortunately for you, I happen to have the 5-volume set of Murphy’s Will Clauses: Annotations & Forms with Tax Effects (“Murphy’s”) on my shelf right over there.”

You can tell Bill’s mind is racing just by the expression on his face and you reassure him that everything is going to be all right.  You proceed to inform Bill that Murphy’s contains over 1,400 will and trust clauses.  It is a bi-annually updated legal resource, which includes guidelines, suggestions, checklists, annotated law of all 50 states, and a selection of sample wills and trusts.  Like other loose-leaf sets geared to practicing lawyers, Murphy’s collects all you need on will and trust clauses in just one place so you don’t have to consult a ton of different sources.  It’s like a one-stop shop.

Bill starts getting excited about using Murphy’s, but admits that he has no clue on how to use it.  Without skipping a beat, you raise Bill’s spirit by letting him know that you have time to show him how to use Murphy’s.  You let him know that you like the print version because you can flip back and forth among sections, tab pages, jump around volumes or skim through the table of contents for broad topics.  Furthermore, you inform Bill that if he is away from the office or dislikes print resources that he can use the online version of Murphy’s on your office’s Lexis Advance subscription, which has the same information and useful finding aids.

Now that you and Bill are on the same page, you place Murphy’s Volume 5 in front of Bill.  Murphys-vol5You proceed to tell Bill that from your own past experiences, Murphy’s Index is a great starting point, which is why you pulled out Volume 5 first because that is where Murphy’s Index is located.

With Murphy’s Index in hand, you and Bill start to think about what terms or phrases to search for to help you find a suitable copyrights and royalties will Murphys-musical-compositionsclause.  Music or some similar variation might work.  A search under M leads you to “Musical Compositions.”  Perfect.  María’s song is a musical composition.  Below “Musical Compositions” is a sub-entry, “Copyrights, bequests of.”  Even better.  María wants to bequest the copyright to her composition to Penélope.  Bill jots down the entry reference — FM 5.50[3][c][i]-2.


Bill is feeling more comfortable now and reminds you that María also wants to gift royalties to her hit song to Penélope, so he takes the reins and searches for “Royalties” in Murphys-royaltiesMurphy’s Index.  You’re happy that Bill is getting the hang of using Murphy’s Index and Bill is happy to see an entry for “Royalties” that includes a sub-entry for “Copyrights and royalties, disposition of.”  The citation reference looks very familiar — Bill realizes it’s almost exactly the same as the one he jotted down under Musical Compositions. He makes a note of FM 5.5.[3][c][i]-1.

You voice to Bill that the term “copyright” keeps popping up in the searches.  Bill catches Murphys-copyrightsyour drift and decides to check Murphy’s Index for “Copyright.”  Sure enough, there is a topical entry for “Copyrights” and a sub-entry for “Musical Compositions, gift of copyrights in.”  Bill can’t help but smile because once again he sees the same citation reference you two found under “Musical Compositions” — FM 5.5[3][c[]i]-2.  You tell Bill that you like it when Murphy’s Index refers you to the same form more than once.

Although you two have found references to the same form in a couple of places, you askMurphys-IP Bill, “Do you know of any other phrase to check for?”  Bill replies, “I do.   Intellectual Property because María’s hit song is the result of musical creativity, which she has the copyright to.”   So Bill, still in charge of the Murphy’s Index, searches and finds the entry for “Intellectual Property” and sees two sub-entries on point.  Both entries advise you to “see Copyright” and one addresses “specific devises of copyright” — exactly what you two are looking for in María’s case.

As you and Bill review the research notes, you realize you don’t remember how to interpret Murphy’s citation references.  You go back to the beginning of the Index and show Bill that it reminds you that references are to section numbers and that FM precedes references to forms.

Murphys-Index-references-are-to“That’s all well and good, but what exactly do those numbers and letters refer to?” asks Bill.  Then your memory clicks in.  You educate Bill that the first 5 in 5.05 refers to Chapter 5.  The remaining numbers and letters refer to the specific section in Chapter 5 where you’ll find the either the information or form you want.  The term “form” is a bit of a misnomer, you assert to Bill.  You explain that forms are really examples or templates of a clause that you can insert into a will.

But time is of the essence you declare, so you instruct Bill that the next step is figuring out which volume contains Chapter 5.  You then push Volume 5 to the side and place Volume 1 Murphys-set-wide-TOCin front of Bill because you remember that  Murphy’s has a set-wide Table of Contents located at the beginning of Volume 1.  You Murphys-vol2show Bill that a quick scan informs him that Chapter 5 is in Volume 2.

It’s all coming back to you.  “Eureka!” you cry. A startled Bill inquires why you are crying for joy.  You then compose yourself and inform Bill that like all other chapters, Chapter 5 has its own chapter Table of Contents.  Furthermore, Murphy’s arranges its chapters with a synopsis of the chapter at the beginning, followed by sections of general information related to chapter topics, and then the forms (examples) are at the end of the chapter.  This is what is to be loved about Murphy’s — great index, useful tables of contents, well-organized chapters — making the task of researching and locating a will clause a breeze.

You then tell Bill that it is best to scan the synopsis and look over the general information Murphys-sec-5.04to get back up to speed.  One section in particular that you want to review is section 5.04, which discusses “Devises of Specific Types of Property.”  You show Bill that to find section 5.04 easily, it’s most prudent to find it by looking at the top outer page corners for the section number.

You’re glad you remembered to browse through Murphy’s general information and you’re also glad you showed Bill that there really is more to Murphy’s than just a clause example.  Murphys-Copyright-ActAnother reason why you are glad that you remembered to browse through Murphy’s general information is because you’d forgotten the Copyright Act of 1976, which governs copyrights created after 1977.  Since María’s musical composition was written and performed in 1983 that’s important.  You pat yourself on the back for having the wisdom to invest in a legal resource that gathers relevant primary and secondary materials in one place so you don’t have to consult the different sources on a topic — and remember which ones to consult.

You’re feeling pretty good about you and Bill having your memories refreshed about understanding specific devises and copyrights, so now you feel that it’s time to show Bill the home stretch, which is tracking down the form citation references that Bill jotted down earlier.

This time Bill steps in and uses the section references on the top outer page corners to find the first form reference — 5.05[3][c][i[]-1, “Bequest of Copyrights and Royalties.”  Bill also looks at form 5.05[3][c][i[]-2, “Gift of Copyrights in Musical Compositions,” which follows.  Now all that is left to do is to review both forms and decide if one of them applies to María’s situation.

Murphys-formsIt looks like the first one might just work.  Bill then jots down 5.05[3][c][i]-1 and leaves to go to his office in order to finalize the bequest of copyrights and royalties clause before inserting it into María’s will.

On a high now that you just taught your junior partner how to use Murphy’s, you sit down in your king-sized office chair, lean back and think about how simple it was to locate a clause for Marías will when a mnemonic expression for searching Murphy’s pops into your head — I Think Cats Savor Good Food.  I for Index, where you should start your search.  Then T for Table of Contents, your guide to finding which volume contains your chapter.  C, of course, for your pertinent chapter.  S for Synopsis — the starting point for your chapter overview.  G for General Information, the material that can bring you up-to-date and serve as a checklist so you don’t forget something important.  Finally, F for Forms — your ultimate research goal — examples of clauses that you can potentially use for clients with special requests, like María.

Murphy’s Will Clauses: Annotations & Forms with Tax Effects — where there is a will, a clause will surely follow.

Authored by Fernando Terrones, 3L, University of Montana School of Law.  Fernando is interested in contract law.  He currently participates in the Montana Legal Services Association Clinic, where he assists low-income taxpayers.  Upon graduation from law school he plans to return to his home state of Texas.
Photo credit:  gonzaleznovoa via photopin.com cc

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