Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Concerns About Privacy Arise In Digital Assets Debate In New Hampshire

FacebookAs I have previously discussed, the state legislature of New Hampshire has introduced legislation that would give control of a person's digital assets to the executor of the estate. While this piece of legislation could help many people, it met with a great deal of controversy. In fact, "[a] majority of the House Judiciary Committee recommend that the house kill the bill." Recently, the house narrowly voted to give the bill's sponsor an opportunity to amend the bill to establish a study that would analyze the benefits and consequences of the legislation. 

Some of the legislators believe that the state should have no part in determining who should control a user's account and that Facebook and other similar websites should be able to contract with its users. Other legislators contend that there are privacy issues involved with digital assets. For example, would you as a Facebook user want the executor or a personal administration to sift through your personal Facebook messages or emails. As it currently stands only five states have legislation that addresses concerns with digital assets after death.

See Norma Love, Who Controls Your Facebook Page After Death? N.H. Lawmakers Examine It, Seacoast Online, Jan. 31, 2013.

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

February 2, 2013 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Happy Groundhog Day!!

Best wishes for a
Happy Groundhog Day!!

February 2, 2013 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on What Happens To Social Media Assets Postmortem

Kristina Sherry (J.D. Facebook Candidate for 2013, Pepperdine University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, What Happens to Our Facebook Accounts When We Die?: Probate Versus Policy and the Fate of Social-Media Assets Postmortem, 40 Pepp. L. Rev. 1 (2012).

In the vast cyber-universe of millions of websites, billions of e-mails sent daily, and approximately twenty hours worth of amateur video uploaded to YouTube in the time it takes you to read this sentence —collectively sucking our psyches into digital excursions like baby pandas sneezing, small children shimmying to Beyoncé, and increasingly nonsequitur Internet memes—there are few things creepier than the dead Facebook friend. 

Yet, according to projections, more than 580,000 Facebook users will die in the United States this year, leaving just as many friends and family members wondering how to best handle a loved one’s persisting postmortem digital presence. Without third-party intervention, a dead Facebooker’s “profile” page will be frozen in time like a pixilated Dorian Gray, colored by iPhone photos, “pokes,” and “LOL!”s—possibly for an eternity. For some, a dead friend’s or family member’s abandoned profile might serve as a beautiful and appropriate reminder of its creator. But for others it might trend closer to a macabre eyesore in need of termination. 

February 2, 2013 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hillsborough Estate Listed for $100 Million

Unknown-1Christian de Guigne IV is selling a 47.4-acre estate in Hillsborough, California for $100 million.  Chrisian's grandparents built the house and it has been in the same family for 150 years.  The 16,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style home includes seven bedrooms, 8.5 bathrooms, a ballrom and a flower-arranging room.  There is also a servants' wing with four maids' rooms and two chauffers' rooms. The house is on a hilltop at the end of a 4,500-foot driveway and has views of San Francisco to the north, the Bay Bridge, the hills of the East Bay and the San Mateo Bridge.  

See Sarah Tilton, Bay Area Boom: A Large Hillsborough Estate--With Occupant--Lists for $100 Million, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 1, 2013. 

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

February 1, 2013 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Informal Carers and Private Law

Resize.phpBrian Sloan (College Lecturer in Law, Robinson College) recently published his article entitled Informal Carers and Private Law Introduction, University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 30 (2012).  The abstract from the article available on SSRN is below: 

This paper forms the introductory chapter of Informal Carers and Private Law (Hart, 2012), setting out the scope of the book and justifying its focus on private law.

Every day, large numbers of altruistic individuals, in the absence of any legal duty, provide substantial and essential services for elderly and disabled people. In doing so, many such informal carers suffer financial and other disadvantages. This book considers the scope for a "private law" approach to rewarding, supporting or compensating carers, an increasingly vital topic in the context of an ageing population and the need for savings in public expenditure. Adopting a comparative approach, the book explores the recognition of the informal carer and his or her relationship with the care recipient within diverse fields of private law, from unjust enrichment to succession. Aspects of the analysis include the importance of a promise of a reward from the care recipient and the appropriate measure of any remedy. In considering the potential for expansion of a "private law" approach for carers, the book addresses the fundamental and controversial question of the price of altruism. 

February 1, 2013 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Gift Giver's Remorse

UnknownIf you made gifts at the end of the year to avoid any changes in the gift tax exemption, you weren't the only one surprised when the fiscal cliff passed keeping the gift tax extension at the same level.  Most gifts may have been made in trust with some controls attached to them, but if you didn't do that, you might still be able to fix it with some advice from your estate planner.

If you transferred more than you now believe you should have and you cannot undo it, the bright side is that the assets you transferred will probably continue to appreciate in value and they are now out of your estate.

See Robert W. Wood, Buyer's Remorse? How About Year-End Gift Remorse!, Forbes, Jan. 29, 2013.  

February 1, 2013 in Gift Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Five Pitfalls Overlooked in Estate Planning

EstateplanningThere are many different steps in the estate planning process, but too often these five areas in the estate planning arena are overlooked. Clients will be thankful if advisors take the time to address these five estate planning pitfalls. 

  • Make sure legal documents are accessible 
  • Request beneficiary designation forms
  • Have your client evaluate the beneficiaries circumstances 
  • Clients owning a business should formulate a succession plan
  • Clients need to take the time to review and update their estate plan  

First, an attorney can be delayed in fulfilling a client’s wishes because he lacks access to important legal documents. Therefore, a client might want to keep important documents in places that are accessible to those who need them to prevent this delay. Not keeping documents accessible can cost heirs both time and money. Second, attorneys might want to evaluate assets outside of the estate. An attorney might consider requesting and updating their client's beneficiary designation forms . Not doing so can cause problems because a beneficiary form is honored regardless of the date. Third, clients might want to consider the beneficiaries' circumstances to make sure that their needs are met. For example, a beneficiary with financial problems would benefit from a spendthrift clause. Arranging to accommodate beneficiaries in advance can prevent future drama. Fourth, if your client owns a business, a well formulated succession plan can avoid disasters and save his business. Most importantly, regardless of a client's busy schedule he or she might want to make time to review and update his estate plan frequently to make sure it's current. 

See Erik Hartstrom, 5 Estate Planning Black HolesLife Health Pro, Jan. 31, 2013.

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

February 1, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

CLE on Solo Estate Planning Practitioners Following The Passage of ATRA

CLE ImageThe ABA Section of Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, Commission on Law and Aging, and Senior Lawyers Division will host a 1.5 CLE credit hour webinar entitled, The Solo Practitioner and Small Firm's Guide to the New Frontier in Estate Planning from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. central standard time on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. Provided below is a description from the ABA website:

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (2013) makes permanent the $5 million inflation adjusted estate tax exemption and portability (which permits a surviving spouse to use a prior deceased spouse's exemption). For the vast majority of Americans the federal estate tax is now irrelevant. This will change the face of estate planning (and for professionals the practice of estate planning) in dramatic ways. Planning that most clients have done needs to be evaluated and perhaps changed. The way wills are drafted will change. The use of life insurance and insurance trusts will never be the same. With the fear of the federal estate tax gone practitioners can no longer charge to the same degree for estate tax planning work. Efficiency and practice management are more important than ever to profitably serve fee sensitive clients. This webinar will explore the new estate planning paradigm and offer practical insights into how you can modify your documents and planning to work best in this brave new estate planning world.

February 1, 2013 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nickel From 1913 Will Likely Go For Millions

CoinsIn Virginia, a rare nickel will likely earn more than $2 million for its owners. The coin apparently has an interesting past. The coin was minted in 1912 and illegally cast in 1913.  The coin was reportedly the product a man named Samuel W. Brown. Brown reportedly altered the dye for the five coins to add a false date. It was discovered in a car accident in 1962 that took the life of its owner,  George O. Walton. Walton was a coin collector and he purchased the coin in 1942 for less than than $4,000. Upon its discovery, one of Walton's heirs Melva Givens inherited the coin, coin collectors informed Givens that they believed that the coin was a fake. It was then forgotten for 30 years because Givens placed in the closet thinking that the coin was worthless.

The current coins owners are four siblings from Virginia, the children of Melva Givens. Since the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money determined the identity of the coin, the Waltons donated the coin to the Colorado Springs Museum, who placed the coin on exhibit.

See Steve Skzotak, Nickel From 1913 Likely To Fetch Millions At Auction, ABC, Jan. 31, 2013.

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

February 1, 2013 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Super Bowl of Charitable Giving

CharityEven though the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have not faced off in the biggest professional football game of the year, the fans of Baltimore can already claim a small victory. The citizens of Baltimore are apparently more generous when it comes to charitable giving. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy,"[p]eople in the Baltimore metropolitan area claimed a median charitable contribution of $2,683 in 2008, according to The Chronicle's  analysis of federal tax data. Based on that figure, residents in the Charm City gave roughly 4.8 percent of their discretionary income to charity that year." In comparison, the City of San Francisco only gave 30.9 percent of its residents of discretionary income. Of course, that's just when we take a look at the giving habits of the residents of the NFL cities. Head to head, the San Francisco 49ers' Foundation have given much more than the Baltimore Ravens' Foundation, a staggering $2.4 million to only $317,000.

However, if we were really counting numbers the champion would be the Atlanta Hawks. They are easily the most generous NFL city. Atlanta's citizens gave "5.9 percent of their income to charity."

See Emily Gipple, Baltimore vs. San Francisco: Who's Most Generous, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Jan. 31, 2013.

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

February 1, 2013 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)