Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Loneliness Is Linked To Dementia

Alzheimer's DiseaseA study that was published by the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry has revealed that patients that felt lonely were more likely to experience dementia. This study concluded that loneliness is not based upon whether the individual lives alone or with other family members or friends. What matters, according to the study, is whether the elderly person has a good social support system that can lend support when its needed. Other studies seem to suggest that this is the case too. Some studies have found that loneliness alone can lead to a host of medical problem, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. On a side note, "[h]igh blood pressure is also a risk factor for dementia." 

The Dutch study concluded that after all other factors, such as age, were eliminated, loneliness increased the risk for dementia by 64%. The study did not take into count about whether loneliness increased the risk to get a particular type of memory-deteriorating disease, such as Alzheimer's. However, the author's of study cautioned that people should conclude that loneliness causes Alzheimer's. In fact, the author argued that the opposite could be true. The degenerate effects of Alzheimer's Disease could cause people to withdraw from society, which could lead to loneliness in part because the sufferers of Alzheimer's Disease might feel withdrawn or embarassed by the effects of their disease. It is also possible that loneliness leads "'to a lack of sensory and cognitive stimulation,' which can be harmful because it reduces levels of nerve growth factors that are necessary for brain health." It is also possible that both things could be occurring at the same time creating a vicious cycle.

See Maia Szalavitz, Loneliness, Not Living Alone, Linked To Dementia, Time, Dec. 11, 2012.

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

December 15, 2012 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What To Do When A Person Finds A Lost Stock Certificate

MoneyIf a person discovers a stock certificate after the owner died, then that person might want to know whether the stock is still good. The first thing that a person might want to do is determine whether the stock certificate has any value. A person could start by researching the company. A person should look to see if the company still exists or whether ownership of the company has changed hands. Once a person determines the ownership of the company, a person can then locate the transfer agent of the company.

Once a person determines the value of the stock, that person needs to take the necessary steps to transfer ownership of the stock. If the person jointly owned the stock with the descendant, then the person needs to take the necessary steps to transfer ownership to the joint owner where he or she can keep or sell the stock. However, if the stock belongs to the the descendant it is considered to be a probate asset. If it is a probate asset, then the estate might need to pay an inheritance tax on the asset. A person might want to consider engaging an attorney if the the asset has a significant amount of value. Additionally, a person might want to find the descendant's old tax returns, particularly their old 1099, to see if dividends were paid on the old stock. A person might want to see if the property is considered abandoned.

See Christopher W. Yugo, ESTATE PLANNING: Finding A Long Lost Stock Certificate, nwi.com, Dec. 9, 2012.

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

December 15, 2012 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Astor Heir Fight

Estate DisputeAnthony D. Marshall, the son of the late-actress Brooke Astor, is set to be in court tomorrow appealing his 2009 conviction. In 2009, he was found guilty of fraud and of stealing $60 million from his mother. His co-defendant, Attorney Francis X. Morrissey Jr., is also appealing his case. His attorney was convicted because he helped Marshall with all of the estate planning aspects of his plan. He was convicted of fraud and conspiracy. On one of those counts, Morrissey was accused of forging Astor's signature.

Since his conviction, friends close to Marshall have reported that he and his wife were devastated by the whole ordeal. In particular, one of his friends since boarding school, Sam Peabody, told the New York Post that they were not doing well. Marshall believes that he was wrongfully convicted by the jury, and that the other members of the jury pressured the last hold out on the jury to convict him. Marshall also claims that this mother was in her right mind when she bequeathed him additional millions, claiming that he did nothing wrong when he asked his mother for his inheritance a few years early.

See Brooke Astor Heir Fights Jail Rap (NY), New York Post, Estate of Denial, Dec. 14, 2012.

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

December 14, 2012 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Descendants of Hemingway's Cat Are Regulated by Federal Law

Court FightThe descendants of Ernest Hemingway's late cat Snowball still live at his museum home. Recently, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Whitehead Street, Inc. v. Gipson that the cats that currently live in the museum are subject to federal regulations set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture. The court based its ruling on the interstate commerce clause arguing that the cats were in interstate commerce because they constituted an "integral to the museum's commercial purpose."

This suit was brought forward after a visitor complained about how the museum care for Hemingway's cats. According to the ABA Journal, "[t]he agency wanted the museum to obtain an animal exhibitor's license; either cage the cats at night, construct a higher fence to contain them, or hire a night watchman to keep an eye on them; tag each cat; and construct 'elevated resting surfaces' for animals." With the adverse ruling, it looks as if the museum will now have to implement these regulations.

See Debra Cassens Weiss, Hemingway Cat Descendants Are Regulated By Federal Law, Appeals Court Says, ABAJournal, Dec. 11, 2012.

December 14, 2012 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Doomsday Estate Planning

DoomsdayAs of this day, we are only one week away from winter solstice, and that means that time is running out to get a person's affairs in order should the world end in 2012. If you are one of the people who are preparing for the global apocalypse, then you might take a moment to stop stockpiling water, food, and other items to take a closer look at your finances as we head into the final week of civilization. First, it is important to remember that any global catastrophe is likely to damage the banking system and might render it inaccessible. This could prevent a person from accessing their funds should they need the money. A person might want to consider doing the following to adequately prepare themselves financially:

  1. A person might want to consider keeping a small sum of cash on hand. Some people recommend keeping at least $1,000 on their person in $20 bills.
  2. As part of a longer term solution, a person might want to consider eliminating their debts and increasing the amount of money that they are saving. The reason that this is imperative is because long-term debts, such as mortgages, car payments, credit cards, and medical bills, can impair a person's ability to set aside money that could be useful in an emergency.
  3. A person might want to consider converting some of his or her cash money to gold and silver coins. While paper money could depreciate in value, gold and silver usually never lose their value. Note, it is important that a person receive gold and silver that could be actually used in bartering.
  4. The previous point is based on the idea that our paper currency could completely lose its value, requiring us to look to alternatives currencies to make purchases. On a similar note, a person might want to set aside items that could be used to barter for goods.
  5. A person should strongly consider preparing in advance for a disaster by stockpiling necessities, such as water, food, and gas. 
  6. Finally, keep everything in perspective. The odds that the world will end on December, 21, 2012 is going at 300 million to 1 on MyTopSportsbooks.com, a gambling website. While is highly likely that the world is not going to end in a week, the reality that each of us could face a natural or a man-made disaster in our lifetimes is a reality. Many people go through personal disasters when they lose a job. In an incident like that, a person can prepare themselves for disaster if they were to follow these simple steps. 

See Alex Veiga, How To Survive The Mayan Apocalypse: 6 Financial Tips, The Huffington Post, Dec. 13, 2012.

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

December 14, 2012 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Trust Regulation in Romania

TrustsAlexandra Safta (Independent) and Mirela Violeta Buliga (Doctor, Universitatea de Vest Timisoara) have recently published an article entitled, Considerations on the Legal and Tax Regime of the Trust, 4 Romanian Private L. Rev. (2012). Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

The regulation of the trust was placed from the very beginning under the sign of the legislator’s concern of not creating an instrument which could be used for tax evasion or money laundering purposes. This concern is described in the explanatory memorandum of the new Civil Code, but also in its contents, by enacting a series of interdictions and a formalist regime. The heterogeneous nature of the grounds laying at the basis of the instauration of the present regime determined us to attempt an analysis both from the civil side and from the tax side of the trust institution.

December 14, 2012 in Articles, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fourth Edition of Prof. Beyer's "Teaching Materials on Estate Planning" Published

TEMP 4th ed coverWest, a Thomson Reuters business, has just released the Fourth Edition of Teaching Materials on Estate Planning authored by Gerry W. Beyer (Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law) as part of the publisher’s “American Casebook Series.”

Here is the publisher’s description of this book:

This law school casebook provides a comprehensive review of the estate planning process. It is easily adaptable to two- and three-credit courses and seminars. The new edition retains the basic structure of the prior edition with significant updates to reflect recent developments in law and practice. Part One focuses on the substantive law applicable to estate planning, while Part Two concentrates on estate planning practice itself. Extensive researching and drafting exercises are included to hone the student's practical skills.

Most of the material is self-explanatory and thus the professor may reserve class time for more difficult topics, areas that merit special attention, and concerns raised by local law.

December 13, 2012 in Books - For the Classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Millionaires Speak On Raising the Estate Tax

Unknown-1More than 30 of the wealthiest Americans wrote a letter to Congress and the Obama administration arguing that the estate tax should be raised.  Several of those millionaires, members of the Responsible Wealth Coalition, were featured at a news conference yesterday. They propose setting the estate tax threshold at $2 million for individuals and $4 million for couples.  The millionaires spoke about how they believe that there should be a significant tax on large estates when they are passed onto the next generation. They echoed Abigail Disney’s sentiment of not wanting to compound their already significant advantages on the backs of the middle class.  A high estate tax like this ensures that the wealth is not perpetually concentrated in the hands of a small aristocracy and also encourages charitable contributions.

See Isaiah J. Poole, Millionaires Defend the Estate Tax, Truthout, Dec. 12, 2012. 

December 13, 2012 in Current Events, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Recent Case About Intestacy

Images-5Agreement donating sperm to widow of depositor was not sufficient to show consent to being the father of a posthumously conceived child.  Under Utah law, a deceased spouse is not the parent of a child conceived through use of the decedent’s sperm unless the decedent “consented in a record” to be the parent of the posthumously conceived child.  In Burns v. Astrue, No. 20100435, 2012 WL 4841461 (Utah Oct. 12, 2012), the Utah Supreme court held that the sperm storage agreement executed by husband which required that after his death his stored sperm be donated to his wife does not show his consent to be the parent of a child conceived by the wife using the deposited sperm.  The mere act of preserving sperm does not show such consent.  In addition, the court held that the agreement at issue was unambiguous and therefore extrinsic evidence of the decedent’s intent was inadmissible.

Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.

December 13, 2012 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Donor-Advised Funds

Gift TaxEven though we are coming to the end of gifting in the year 2012, some investors are still struggling on when they should make charitable donations. They are still struggling with this because tax changes might limit the amount of charitable deductions that a person can make. Based upon this possibility, many argue that investors should make more gifts this year. On the other hand, it might be better to make more charitable gifts next year because the income tax rates are expected to rise. With this uncertainty, many investors are looking to donor-advised funds. A donor-advised fund is an individual account that is "administered by tax organizations, such as community foundations and national charities." A donor has the option of taking a deduction at the moment they make a large donation, but they can choose to distribute the amount that they donated to their chosen charity over time. If a donor wants to use a donor-advised fund, there are three things that donor should consider.

  1. This process will allow a person to take advantage of a particular benefits in a favorable year, like this one, and then make donations over the course of a few years.
  2. A person might want to donate appreciated securities because the tax code allows a taxpayer to fully deduct the fair market value of the securities but only up to 30% of a taxpayer's adjusted gross income.
  3. An investor could also "convert their deductible individual retirement accounts to Roth IRAs this year in anticipation of higher income tax rates down the road."

See Carolyn T. Geer, Givers Turn to Donor-Advised Funds, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9, 2012.

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

December 13, 2012 in Gift Tax, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)