Friday, September 7, 2012
A married couple, Eileen and Len Tweten, recently sold their business to Best Buy, the electronic retailer. Following the death of their mother Eileen, a court has ruled that the daughters "must await their father's death before they can receive their mother's half of the couple's $100 million estate." Furthermore, the judge ruled that the father can use the daughter's portion of the estate for a number of costs. This is case first became known because Eileen died in 2010, which allowed the father to take her portion of the estate without incurring any estate tax. Because of the lapse in the estate tax, the court was required to decide which member of the family should receive the inheritance.
In this case, Eileen apparently met with her attorneys to change her plan to ensure that $50 million would pass to her husband through their marital trust and not pass through the bypass trust a few days before the death. Her daughters claim that their mother knew about the estate tax lapse and that she wanted to bequest her share to them directly. The attorney of the daughters, Adam Streisand, claims the state of the mother's mind is in contention, and that the mother was unaware of the changes that the amendment made. The lawyer for the father rejected this contention, and argued instead that the daughters just wanted to take advantage of the estate tax lapse. This goes to show that if Eileen had planned in advance, this whole situation would probably have been avoided. Therefore, a person might want to consider reviewing his or her estate planning documents to ensure that the person's wishes are consistent with changes in tax law or any law for that matter.
See Ann Marsh, Family Feud: Review Estate Plans Annually, Financial Planning, Sept. 1, 2012.
Special thanks to Brian J. Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.