Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

More Problems Surrounding Michael Jackson's Estate

Images-13Janet Jackson put down a $40,000 deposit at Forest Lawn to secure a burial spot for Michael Jackson, but she would not let the funeral proceed until that money was repaid.  

On the night of Michael's death, Talon Executive services, a private-security company, was dispatched to his house.  They report that La Toya and her boyfriend showed up at the house shortly after he died demanding access into the house because they were family.  Shortly after their arrival, Katherine Jackson followed suit.  While within the home, Katherine Jackson called Grace Rwaramba, the former nanny to Michael's children, to ask her where Michael hid the cash at his house.  Talon reports that they saw La Toya and her boyfriend loading black plastic garbage bags into duffle bags and then putting them into the garage.  La Toya, however, insists that almost all of Michael's money was gone by the time she arrived at Michael's house. 

Also, as I previously blogged about, there were rumors that Katherine Jackson was kidnapped.  To read more about her side of the story, please click here. 

And for more about John Branca, an executor of the Michael Jackson estate, please click here. 

See Michael Jackson's Burial Was Delayed Because Janet Wanted Her Burial-Plot Deposit Back, Vanity Fair, Oct. 6, 2012. 

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

October 6, 2012 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Rights to Bill Monroe's Name

Images-12Bill Monroe was a bluegrass music legend, and Campbell Mercer organizes The Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Music Festival in his honor.  The problem is, he may not be able to use Monroe's likeness or name to promote the festival that honors him.  

Thirteen years ago, Ohio County and the county industrial foundation bought the rights to Monroe's name and image.  Currently, Mr. Mercer is battling the county to see whether they ever gave Mercer's organization the right to use Monroe's name. Regardless of the lawsuit's outcome, Mercer believes that the county will eventually decide to use Monroe's name to promote the festival to honor the legendary musician. 

See Brett Barrouquere, Legal Fight Waged For Right to Bill Monroe's Name, mySA, Oct. 4, 2012. 

Special thanks to J. Barrett Shipp (Associate Attorney, Heinriches & De Gennaro, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  .

October 6, 2012 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Estate Tax in the Next Administration

CongressAccording to members of Congress who are directly involved in the discussion on the status of the estate tax, it is unlikely that either President Obama for Governor Romney's administration will repeal the estate tax. However, as I have previously discussed, the outcome of the election could determine the exemption and the tax rate. I am providing a link to this blog below. that provides a audio recording of Senator Chuck Grassley discussing the various rates and the likelihood that Congress will adopt that tax rate.

See Rick Shields, Death Tax Repeal Unlikely, WHTC, Sept. 26, 2012.

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

October 6, 2012 in Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

It’s Best to be Proactive When it Comes to Post-Death Decisions

Molly Abshire Wesley WrightWesley E. Wright (Partner, Texas) and Molly Dear Abshire (Partner, Texas) recently published an article entitled, It's Best to be Proactive When It Comes to Post-death Decisions, Senior Living Section, Houston Chronicle. Provided below is their article:

Thanks to Joy Eckelkamp-Torres and Bryn Poland for their contributions to this article.

Legal decisions that follow the death of loved ones are complicated.  The period of time immediately following the loss of an important person in your life, like a parent, spouse, sibling or child, can leave you vulnerable to stress, misguided advice, or high-pressure sales tactics that lead to rushed decisions. 

Hasty choices may leave a person in a poor financial condition and could potentially impact the life of a survivor for years to come.  So it’s important to be proactive when considering post-death decisions.

Donating the deceased’s body is one such consideration. Any adult living in Texas, who is of sound mind, may choose to donate their body by Will or other written instrument to be used for the advancement of medical science.  Family members in the following priority may give all or part of the decedent’s body if there is not actual notice of contrary indications by the decedent.

  1. Decedent’s spouse
  2. Decedent’s adult child
  3. Either of the decedent’s parents
  4. Decedent’s adult sibling
  5. Guardian of the person of the decedent at the time of death

Such gifts may be made after or immediately before death.  In order for the gift to be valid, it must be made by a document signed by the person or by telegraphic, recorded telephonic, or video or audio recording.  Donation of a body may also be specified prior to death on a donor card, driver’s license or personal identification certificate for gifts of the eyes, tissues or organs.  For more information about these kinds of donations, contact the Living Bank at www.livingbank.org.

Making advance plans for a memorial service or funeral, also referred to as a “pre-need funeral contract,” is an essential part of post-death planning and will lessen the stress of handling these arrangements during the grieving process, especially if the pre-need arrangements are paid for in advance.  Personal preferences may be made in writing and a copy given to family members, friends or an attorney to keep in a safe and accessible place.  Veterans or their family members should inform their funeral director if they want military honors.  Veterans and their immediate family members are entitled to burial in a VA National Cemetery.  For additional information about military honors, visit www.militaryfuneralhonors.osd.mil.

Another important post-death consideration is paperwork.  The more organized your estate documents are, the easier it will be for a surviving loved one to find the documentation necessary to carry out your wishes.  If these documents are kept in a safe deposit box, be sure to identify the appropriate person on the account card of the financial institution where the box is held.  Documents to have prepared and organized are a Will, list of all financial institutions and account numbers, life insurance policies, Social Security card, tax returns, deeds, and other information related to the decedent’s assets and income.

Obtaining several certified copies of the death certificate is prudent, as each financial institution holding the decedent’s accounts, life insurance company, employer death benefits, government agency and immediate family need an original.

Awareness of post-death decisions can lessen the burden on surviving loved ones, which is reason enough to start making or reviewing your plans today.  

October 6, 2012 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Article on the Laws of Succession

Mark GloverMark Glover (Teaching Fellow & Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, Louisiana State University, Paul M. Hebert Law Center) has recently published an article entitled, A Therapeutic Jurisprudential Framework of Estate Planning, 35 Seattle U. L. Rev. 427 (2012). The abstract from SSRN is provided below:

The psychological consequences of the law of succession largely have been overlooked. This oversight is confounding given that the estate planning and probate processes are emotionally charged and raise a number of psychological issues. Filling this analytical void, this article examines the estate planning process from a therapeutic jurisprudential perspective and makes two primary contributions to the study of the law of succession. First, the article identifies the psychological consequences of the estate planning process. Although the analysis suggests that certain aspects of preparing and implementing an estate plan can negatively affect one’s psychological wellbeing, the analysis also reveals that estate planning has positive psychological consequences, which contribute to the process’s overall therapeutic nature. Second, the article develops the therapeutic and antitherapeutic qualities of estate planning into a framework through which to analyze how reforms of the law of succession will affect the therapeutic potential of the estate planning process. Ultimately, this article encourages the continued use of the therapeutic jurisprudential framework in the estate planning context and seeks to inspire further therapeutic jurisprudential analysis throughout the law of succession.

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

October 5, 2012 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court of Utah Rules Against Warren Jeff's Polygamous Sect

Warren JeffsThe Utah Supreme Court has reversed the ruling of a lower court that returned control of a $114 million property trust to the polygamous sect. Now, the court's ruling makes it so that the trust will remain in state government control. In its holding, the court reasoned that the statute of limitations had passed, and that the sect could not "challenge the takeover of the trust, which holds nearly all the land, homes, and property in the sect's home base of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah." However, this is not the end of the case. A federal district court, heard a challenge to the state's actions based upon a violation of the 1st Amendment's free exercise. The judge in that case ruled that the taking of the trust violated the 1st Amendment and ordered the Government to return the trust to the sect. Now, the Government has appealed the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether a violation of the 1st Amendment has actually occurred.

See Lindsay Whitehurst, Utah High Court Deals Blow to Polygamous Sect in Property Trust Case, The Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 2, 2012.

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

October 5, 2012 in Current Events, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Waiver of the Tax Penalty on Early IRA Withdrawals

IRAAt least, that's what the New York Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) would like to see. According to Accounting Today, the NYSSCPA "has asked Congress to consider new legislation that would temporarily waive tax penalties for taxpayers who are forced to make early withdrawals from retirement accounts due to financial hardship." The NYSSCPA noted that the tax penalty has become a problem for those who are relying on their qualified retirement plan to help them get through the economic crisis. Thus, the NYSSCPA has petitioned Congress to ask them to enact a number of short-term exceptions to the tax penalty. It is also important to note that the NYSSCPA only supports the waiver of the additional tax penalty. In other words, the distribution would still be considered ordinary income for federal income tax purposes. This are the following of exceptions that the NYSSCPA would like Congress to consider:

  • "Payments to prevent foreclosure on a principal residence. 
  • Payments for a student loan of the taxpayer, their spouse or their child. 
  • Long-term unemployment (individuals who have exhausted their 26 week basic unemployment benefit on or before the due date, including extensions, of their tax return). 
  • To pay a federal, state or local tax lien. 
  • Extent to which a taxpayer is insolvent at the time of distribution (ignoring the amount of distribution).
  • As part of a court-ordered bankruptcy payment plan.
  • Deemed distribution of a loan under Section 72(p) of the Tax Code, if caused by involuntary loss of employment by layoff or termination."

See Michael Cohn, N.Y.CPAs Ask Congress to Waive Tax Penalties on Early Retirement Plan Withdrawals, Oct. 3, 2012.

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

October 5, 2012 in Income Tax, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Even Astronauts Do Not Have Life Insurance

InsuranceNeil Armstrong and the other astronauts on the Apollo 11 meeting did not have life insurance before all of them went into outer space. The reason that he or the other astronauts did not have life insurance was because the costs were simply too high. The primary reason for the high cost was the high amount of risk that the life insurance company would have to take in insuring the astronauts. This is generally the case with high risk occupations, where high risk relates to the likelihood that the employee will suffer a fatal injury in the course of his or her employment. Now, the astronauts on the Apollo mission did leave their families some type of insurance. Apparently, weeks before the scheduled mission, Neil Armstrong signed hundreds of envelopes in the hopes that his autograph would be valuable after this death. As it happened, one of the signatures had the potential to earn $30,000 at an auction.

See Charlotte Beugee, First Man on the Moon Didn't Sign Up for Life Cover, We Know Life Insurance, Aug. 31, 2012.

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

October 5, 2012 in Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Article on Permanent Estate Tax Reform

001177421Jeffrey A. Cooper (Professor of Law, Quinnipiac University) recently published his article entitled Time For Permanent Estate Tax Reform, 81 UMKC L. Rev. (2012).  The abstract available on SSRN is below: 

On January 1, 2013, the federal estate tax regime in effect from 2001 to 2012 is scheduled to revert to its pre-2001 structure. A 35% rate will soar to a 55% rate. A $5 million exemption will plummet to $1 million. Some deductions and credits enacted in 2001 will disappear while others repealed in that year suddenly will reappear. In fundamental ways, the estate tax in effect on inauguration day will bear little resemblance to the tax as it existed on election day. 

Regardless of one’s personal politics, there is little redeeming to be found in such dramatic shifts in tax policy. In the next four years, preferably in the next four months, Congress and the President must work together to implement their own vision for the estate tax, rather than allowing mere inertia to effectuate choices made by their predecessors. I offer this essay as a modest contribution to that effort. 

This paper is organized in two major parts. In Part I, I explore the recent history of the federal estate tax, highlighting how changes made in the last dozen years have brought Congress to a moment of crisis. In Part II, I offer a suggestion for permanent reform of two provisions of the current estate tax regime: enacting a permanent estate tax exemption of $3.5 million to $5 million and restoring the state death tax credit.

October 4, 2012 in Articles, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Mayor of Halifax Steps Down as Executor of Woman's Estate

Images-11The mayor of Halifax, Peter Kelly, used to be the executor of Mary Thibeault's estate until he agreed to step down after beneficiaries petitioned to have him removed. The beneficiaries were concerned with his accounting of the estate and continued procrastination.

Kelly's final accounting of the estate indicated that it was worth almost $700,000.   The accounting also showed that Kelly accumulated nearly $117,000 in expenses as the former executor. The province's probate court will review the expenses and the beneficiaries can challenge them. 

See Mayor Accrued $117K as Estate Executor, CBCnews: Nova Scotia, Oct. 3, 2012. 

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

October 4, 2012 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)