Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ohio Supreme Court Rules On Corrupt Guardian Issue

Maureen-oconnorThe Ohio Supreme Court has declined calls for the Court to increase its scrutiny of the State’s guardianship system.  Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner held that the responsibility for providing more scrutiny needs to come from county probate judges.  The Court’s decision is partially a response to calls to investigate former Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky for his role in a high profile theft scandal.  Judge O’Conner ruled that the court cannot insert itself into a criminal investigation that it might need to decide on at a later date.  There have been efforts to reform legislation to provide more essential oversight to the probate system.  Other States have put in place certain safeguards to crack down on corrupt officials who abuse their power. 

See Lucas Sullivan, Ohio Supreme Court can’t investigate corrupt guardians, chief justice says, The Columbus Dispatch, September 4, 2015.

September 4, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

A. Alfred Taubman’s $500 Million Collection To Be Auctioned By Sotheby’s

TaubmanA heated contest between two competing art auction houses has come to an end and Sotheby’s will now have the privilege of auctioning A. Alfred Taubman’s massive art collection that is estimated to be worth about $500 million.  The sales are planned for November and January and is estimated to be even more successful than the Yves St. Laurent sale of 2009 in Paris that brought in $477 million.  Sothby’s competed with archrival Christie’s to get the right to sell Taubman’s collection.  Alfred Taubman had long been associated with Sotheby’s, helping the company grow into a major prominent auction house.  Taubman sold his controlling interest in the company in 2005 but maintained involvement with the auction house until his death in April at the age of 91.

See Graham Bowley and Colin Moynihan, Sotheby’s to Auction A. Alfred Taubman’s $500 Million Trove, The New York Times, September 3, 2015.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 4, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Bad Situation Caused By A Parent Not Having A Will

Estate planThis article discusses a bitter dispute between two sisters over a father’s inheritance.  The father had made one of the sisters a signatory on a bank account to help her pay bills.  He told both sisters that they would eventually split the inheritance, but he ended up dying intestate.  The jointly-owned bank account ended up passing by law to the sister that was the signatory.  She ended up keeping all of the money in the account, which was over $100,000, and as a result relations between the two sisters went south.  Dying without a Will can cause a lot of problems as families fight over the estate.  A major cause of family breakups are disputes over inheritance. 

See Quentin Fottrell, What to do when a parent dies and leaves no will, Market Watch, September 4, 2015.

September 4, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

How To Keep A Small Business In The Family

Small businessThere are many small business owners who would like for their business to stay in the family after they pass away.  In most cases the family business gets sold off and the assets are distributed to the heirs, only about 20% of small businesses actually remain in the family after the owner dies.  If someone wants to keep their business in the family they need to plan ahead.  The small business owner may want to reduce the estate tax liability that their heir would be subjected to by setting up a life insurance policy that can pay down some of the estate taxes.  Another technique involves setting up a Trust that will own the family business after the owner passes away.  It is also important to get the heir involved in the business so that they can obtain much needed experience with running the company.

See Dave Lindorff, Keys to Keeping a Business in the Family, Financial Planning, August 28, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention. 

September 4, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article On The Law of Will-Execution

Article PictureMark Glover (Professor of Law, University of Wyoming College of Law) recently published an article entitled, Decoupling the Law of Will-Execution, 88 St. John's L. Rev. 597-652 (2014). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

The law of will-execution includes two related but distinct components. The first is formality, including the requirements that a will be written, signed, and witnessed. The second is the standard that courts use to evaluate compliance with these formalities. Courts traditionally apply a rule of strict compliance, under which any formal defect invalidates the will. Fueled by longtime criticism of this rule, an ongoing reform movement seeks to relax the law’s insistence on strict compliance. However, despite broad support within the legal academy, this reform effort has been slow to instigate change.

This Article argues that the reform movement’s struggles can be explained in part by the way that scholars evaluate the need for reform. When analyzing this area of law, they typically ask two questions: (1) What are the functions of will formalities? and (2) How can the law be changed so that these functions are better served? By focusing on formality’s purpose, the reform movement overlooks the purpose of strict compliance, and it therefore fails to clearly identify the costs and benefits of reform.

Just as will formalities serve specific functions, the rule of strict compliance also serves various functions. The loss of these functions is a potential cost of reform that the reform movement disregards when it focuses on formality. This Article therefore illuminates the utility of reform by clearly identifying the functions of strict compliance and by analyzing whether these functions justify the rule’s place in the law of wills. This analysis clarifies the costs and benefits of reform and ultimately refines the argument in favor of change.

September 4, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Inherited Wealth Tends Not To Last Very Long For Many Americans

PiggyBankThe Baby Boomers as a whole are rich and many of them will leave significant wealth to the succeeding generations. However, the windfall does not last for long as one in three people will have spent the entire devise within two years. This trend is unfortunate as the majority of current workers have little in the way of retirement savings and a generous inheritance could be used to provide for the future. Instead of blowing through money, individuals who inherit should be advised to have a cool off period to allow emotions to settle before making any financial decisions. This will allow an individual or family the chance to decide the best way to use the money such as paying off high interest debt or putting the money into savings. Spending some of the inheritance on personal comfort is not a problem but should be limited to part of the inheritance with the remainder being dedicated to less ephemeral use. While debt reduction or saving does not feel as exciting as a world trip or luxury car it will ultimately be the better choice.

See Elizabeth O'Brian, One in three Americans who get an inheritance blow it, Market Watch, September 3, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

September 4, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE On Exculpatory Clauses

CLE PictureThe American Bar Association is presenting a CLE entitled, Exculpatory Clauses, Tuesday October 20, 2015, 12:00-1:30pm Central, online.  Here are some details about the event:

ABA Members join RPTE for $70 to save $55 on this and future RPTE teleconferences, sign up at Register online. Find upcoming programming here . You may also email Michael.Kesler@americanbar.org, or call 312-988-5260. Visit www.shopaba.org to update your preferences to receive future program announcements via e-mail.

This program will be available on audio CD and MP3. Order from the ABA Web Store
(search by program title or keyword).

Cancellations and requests for refunds will be honored on the following basis: Two business days or more, 100% refund; one business day or less, 100% refund minus the $25 administrative fee. Substitute registrants are welcome. The ABA will seek 1.5 hours of CLE credit in 60-minute states and 1.8 hours of CLE credit in 50- minute states in states accrediting ABA live webinars and teleconferences.* Credit hours granted are subject to each state’s approval and credit rounding rules. NY- licensed attorneys: This non-transitional CLE program has been approved for experienced NY-licensed attorneys in accordance with the requirements of the New York State CLE Board for 1.5 New York CLE credits.

September 4, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Should People Create A “VSED” Advanced Directive When Planning For Dementia Possibility?

DyingThis article discusses some of emerging debates surrounding VSED (voluntary stopping eating and drinking) advanced directives.  People who expect that they might suffer from some form of dementia or other type of severe illness later in life might want to consider whether a VSED might be an option for them. A California Psychiatrist named Dr. Stanley Terman has created a “Natural Dying Living Will” that he promotes as a strategy to help people with advanced Alzheimer’s Dementia or those who are suffering from unbearable end-of-life pain.  There are other advanced healthcare directives that can be made along with a VSED.  John Schappi, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, describes his own personal advanced care directive that he plans to use.

See John Schappi, Creating a “VSED” Advanced Directive in Case of Future Dementia, Aging Care, September 3, 2015.

September 3, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Copy Of Former Sheriff’s Will Being Contested By Son

Gavel2The only child of a former Bucks County Sheriff is contesting his father’s photocopied will.  Thomas French Jr. has recently filed a petition in the Bucks County Orphan’s Court that accuses his father’s widow of submitting a forged and fraudulent photocopy of his father’s will.  Claire A. Risoldi claims that her husband’s original Will might have been destroyed in a fire at the family’s estate, and she is currently facing a $20 million insurance fraud charge for a separate incident related to the same fire.  French Jr. contends that two of his father’s signatures on the photocopied Will that are exactly the same is proof that the document is a forgery. 

See Jo Ciavaglia, Former Bucks sheriffs will at center of dispute with family charged in $20M insurance fraud, The Morning Call, September 1, 2015. 

September 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ways To Reduce Estate Planning Stress

CrowdSetting up an estate plan can be a stressful task for many people that are living busy lives.  Planning for death can be a morbid topic and people will often procrastinate on making important decisions.  It is very important to have a change in perspective on the issue of estate planning.  Clients should keep their families informed on what their intentions are.  Keeping family members involved in the estate planning process can minimize the risk of bitter probate disputes breaking out between loved ones as a later date.  A person should consider gifting more assets while they are alive to simplify their estate and see how certain beneficiaries manage their assets.  It is also a good idea to keep informed about the tax bracket that a beneficiary might be in when planning distributions. 

See Brian Vnak, How to take the stress out of estate planning, Market Watch, September 2, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention. 

September 3, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)