Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Probate is the New Planning

Last will and testament

Surveys show that many people decide to engage in estate planning in order to avoid probate.  Despite these efforts, the majority of Americans will end up in probate. 

With the 2.5 million people that die each year in the U.S., combined with the estimated 55 to 70 percent of Americans who do not have an estate plan or simple will, it is clear that there will be no shortage of probate proceedings.  These statistics are expected to increase over the next ten to twenty years due to the aging baby boom population.  Estate attorneys will have a strategic advantage into this new reality.  Although many estate-planning attorneys build their businesses around trust planning, they may need to expand their skill sets to capture a share of the probate market.  Since probate is administratively intensive, attorneys may need to hire additional staff with a probate background and/or litigation experience.  Some firms divide these areas of responsibility based on each attorney’s specialized expertise.

See Mary Merrell Bailey, The Shift from Estate Planning to Estate Probating, Wealth Management, Oct. 20, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 21, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Picture Choice Almost Cancels Memorial Service

FlowersThe memorial service for a Toronto man was almost canceled as a result of his appearance in his obituary picture. In the photo, Larry Frazer is smiling with his hair cut into a mohawk and wearing a shirt prominently displaying the name of the popular TV show “Sons of Anarchy.” Frazer's widow was called by the church where the service was planed to be held, and told that the service was canceled due to the photo. The family was greatly upset by the news, but a later call from the church reinstated the service and included an apology for the previous call.

See Hull & Hull LLP, Obituaries, Funerals, and Grave Markers, Toronto Estate Law Blog, Oct. 3, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 21, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Minor Beneficiary May Disclaim Without Gift Tax

 TaxesIn a recent Private Letter Ruling, a taxpayer who is a beneficiary of two trust that were created prior to taxpayer's birth may severe her interest in discretionary payments and contingent beneficial interest. The minor beneficiary intended to to disclaim any right to beneficial interest within nine months of the age of majority, and the IRS concluded in Private Letter Ruling 2014400071 that as long as all other applicable laws are followed the disclaimer may successfully be made without creating federal gift tax liability.

See Debra Doyle, Disclaimers of Distribution Rights Aren't Transfer to Gift Tax, Wealth Management, Oct. 10, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 21, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 20, 2014

R&B Singer's Estate Goes to Widow

Pendergrass

Suburban Philadelphia Orphans’ Court Judge Stanley Ott decided that the widow of R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass will retain control over his estate after rejecting a will submitted by the singer’s son.  The judge stated that a will dated in May 2009 and submitted by Theodore “Ted” Pendergrass II was “fraudulent” and called his testimony, “wholly lacking in credibility.” 

Contrastingly, the judge found testimony by the singer’s wife, Joan, and other witnesses “highly” credible and ruled the will dated in March 2009 giving Joan Pendergrass most of the estate will stand.

Pendergrass’ son “respectfully disagrees with the court’s ruling and is considering an appeal.”

See Associated Press, Judge Rules Teddy Pendergrass’ Widow To Retain Control Over Estate, The Huffington Post, Oct. 16, 2014.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  

October 20, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sale Over Nazi Looted Artwork Wreaks Havoc

Danseuses

A dozen relatives of Ludwig and Margret Kainer, German Jews whose vast art collection was seized by the Nazis, are stepping forward to object the $11 million sale of Edgar Degas’s “Danseuses.”  The masterpiece was sold as part of a restitution agreement with the Kainers, yet relatives say not only did they fail to benefit from that sale, but they were also never even told about it or any other auctions of works once owned by the couple. 

In lawsuits filed in New York and Switzerland, the Kainer relatives allege that officers of the bank never made a diligent effort to find them, and used a family name to create a “sham” foundation disguised to support the health and education of Jewish youth, but instead cheated them out of their inheritance. 

The foundation and the bank maintain they have done nothing wrong.  The lawsuits come as high-profile disputes over looted art focus attention on how courts and governments have handled assets stolen from Jews by the Nazis. 

This case illustrates how difficult adjudicating such claims remains.  Like many Holocaust survivors, the Kainer descendants were unaware that their relatives had lost or left behind valuables to which they might have a claim.  This case only came to light when Mondex Corporation, which helps recover looted property, noticed in 2009 that hundreds of works once owned by the Kainers had been listed in an international database of art lost in the war years, and subsequently tracked down their relatives. 

See Patricia Cohen, Heirs Sue Bank Over Sale of Nazi-Looted Art, The New York Times, Oct. 17, 2014.

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

October 20, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mean Wills

Last will and testament

While Shakespeare is known for his literary brilliance, his will was a rather mean document.  In it, he did not refer to his wife by name and all he bequeathed to her was his “second-best bed.” 

What kind of message was he trying to send in his will?  Clearly, a mean one.  This sentiment could have been excluded from Shakespeare’s permanent legacy, as it tarnishes the image of his works.

The idea behind mean wills does not just stop with Shakespeare.  A recent will contained this provision, “If we’re not divorced by the time I die, make sure she gets nothing.  She already gone through all my money.”  When this man died and his will was probated, this paragraph went on the courthouse record and everyone—including his children—could see it. 

What is the point of including these seemingly mean spirited provisions?  Some people are trying to be funny.  For example, “To my nephew John, who made sure I knew he expected to be named in my will: ‘Hello John.’” 

Yet sometimes it goes beyond laughter, and is just hurtful.  “To my daughter, I leave $1.00 for the kindness and love she has never shown me.” 

It is impossible to reconcile a relationship like this after the person has died.  A mean will just leaves bitter thoughts and hurt feelings, which may not be worth it.  Sometimes meanness and sarcasm are best left buried. 

See George, Mean Wills Don’t Ever Mean Well, Fox + Mattson, P.C., Oct. 16, 2014.

October 20, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Conference on Planning Around Tax Entanglements

CLE Photo

Meadows, Collier, Reed, Cousins, Crouch & Ungerman, L.L.P. is holding the 16th Annual Conference entitled, The Web Our Clients Weave: Strategies for Helping Your Clients Plan Around and, if Necessary, Defend Tax Entanglements, in Dallas, Texas at the Cityplace Conference Center on October 28, 2014.  Provided below are just a few of the many topics that will be throughout the conference:

  • Estate Planning—Navigating the Potholes and Speed Bumps. This presentation will explore recent estate planning cases, their holdings and planning techniques.
  • The Affordable Care Act—Employer Planning Opportunities. This will focus on new employer provisions that take effect January 1, 2015.
  • Family Limited Partnerships. This presentation will discuss how family limited partnerships remain the least expensive and most flexible method of estate planning. 

October 20, 2014 in Conferences & CLE, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Online Estate Planning Tools

LaptopMany online and computing tools to assist with estate planning exist now. One such product, is the online software portal TOLI Vault, which stores and monitors a range of planning documents, such as insurance policy, will, and trust documents. The system sends the user alerts when a document update is needed. A detailed review of the product can be seen here.

See Donald Kelley, TOLI Vault, Wealth Management, Oct. 14, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 20, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Treasury Report Asks IRS to Write Clearer

WriteThe Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has written a report that calls on the IRS to use clearer writing in letters and notices that are more understandable to taxpayers. As the report points out, not only does this request make sense, but is also the law under the Plain Writing Act of 2010. In addition to identifying the existing problems of writings for the IRS being difficult to understand, including not defining terms such as “Tax Lien,” it also included recommendations for creating processes to monitor and check the writings for plain language requirements prior to being sent out, and increasing training for IRS technical writers. The IRS responded that it has put in considerable effort to produce clear writing, and agreed to address three out of four of the recommendations in the report.

See Michael Cohn, IRS Urged to Use Plainer English, Accounting Today, Oct. 14, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 20, 2014 in Estate Tax, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Documents Faked to Steal from Dead Woman

TheftPhiladelphia resident Dorothy Kennedy died at age 79 without any heirs in 2010. Her property, including her house and car, were going to pass to the state, but instead her neighbor, Romanoff Quarlas, concocted an elaborate scheme with the help of his attorney to become the administrator of Kennedy's estate and inherit the property, according to police. The alleged plan involved the assistance of two funeral directors, a real estate agent, and a car salesman to fake documents that resulted in Quarlas becoming administrator and receiving the house and car. After four years, the police discovered the scheme and plan to charge the men with multiple criminal charges including conspiracy and theft.

See Meg Wagner, Band of 6 Philadelphia Crooks Concoct Elaborate Plot to Steal Dead Woman's House, Car: Police, New York Daily News, Oct. 18, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)