Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

2018 Changes to Federal, Maryland and D.C. Estate Tax Laws

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-26/ce07e0f4-1c6d-4b8b-a384-989fa76ea249.pngThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act markedly altered prior law relating to the taxation of corporations and individuals. This includes changes to the gift, estate, and generations-skipping tax (GST) provisions. Under the federal law, unmarried individuals may exempt up to $11.2 million from federal gift and estate tax. Married couples may exclude double this amount, as long as the surviving spouse files a timely estate tax return electing portability. The marginal tax rate for estates that exceed the threshold exclusion amounts remains at 40%.

In Maryland, the estate tax exemption increases to $4 million in 2018. The marks a massive jump from the $1 million exclusion allowed in 2017. After 2019, Maryland’s exclusion thresholds will mirror the federal limits. Until 2019, the portability election for spouses is not available. In 2007, Virginia repealed its estate tax and continues to have neither a gift nor the estate tax. The District of Columbia’s (DC) estate tax exemption now matches the federal exemptions except for the portability election for spouses. Like Virginia and Maryland, DC has no gift tax.

See 2018 Changes to Federal, Maryland and D.C. Estate Tax Laws, Whiteford, Taylor, & Preston, LLP, January 9, 2018.

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

February 26, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax, Gift Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Ciox Health Sues HSS to Stop 'Irrational' HIPAA Enforcement

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-01-26/fc73d5f3-f1cf-443c-861b-6d590305664b.pngCiox Health, a Georgia-based healthcare technology company that facilitates the production of medical records, recently filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The company has said that the manner in which HHS is enforcing HIPAA "imposes tremendous financial and regulatory burdens on healthcare providers and threatens to upend the medical-records industry that services them.” More specifically, in its complaint, Ciox took issue with two of the agency's prior actions.

The first is a 2013 rule wherein HHS requires providers to send information to certain individuals along with all electronically-housed medical information, regardless of whether the information is available in the electronic health records. These changes failed to consider the incredible expense associated with gathering the data, and HHS even acknowledged that it was stretching the boundaries of the applicable regulations. Second, Ciox is arguing that guidance issued by HHS in 2016 requiring providers to limit their charges only to a “reasonable cost-based fee” resulted in dramatic changes to HIPAA enforcement. Ciox said in a statement, “The long-term viability of the medical-records industry is critical to the delivery of high-quality, error-free and cost-effective healthcare services to patients by ensuring that healthcare providers have timely access to individual medical records.” 

See Evan Sweeney, Ciox Health Sues HSS to Stop 'Irrational' HIPAA Enforcement, FierceHealthcare, January 10, 2018.

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

January 26, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

An Everlasting Love Nest: Hugh Hefner Gets His Headstone in LA Cemetery Next To His First Magazine Cover Girl Marilyn Monroe

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-28/d19667a0-9591-4e28-b0db-e53acf3897f7.pngHugh Hefner died in late September after he contracted a strain of E. coli that was resistant to antibiotics. Just in time for Christmas, his headstone was affixed to his grave marker at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. His final resting place happens to sit next to Playboy’s 1953 inaugural cover girl, Marilyn Monroe. Hefner purchased the spot next to Monroe in 1992 at a cost of $75,000.

See Snejana Farberav, An Everlasting Love Nest: Hugh Hefner Gets His Headstone in LA Cemetery Next To His First Magazine Cover Girl Marilyn Monroe, DailyMail.com, December 25, 2017.

December 28, 2017 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Trust Beneficial Owner Register

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-13/8144e146-9e31-4a29-b360-0cdb285b8c72.pngThe Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds Regulations 2017 (MLR 2017) were passed in the U.K. in June. Part of the legislation requires certain trustees to maintain a register of “beneficial ownership information” for use by HM Revenue & Customs. This information will be available to law enforcement agencies in the U.K. and upon request to European Economic area states. Generally, trusts subject to taxation in the UK and intentionally created by a settlor are the trusts specifically targeted by the new law. Though the penalties for failing to register are yet unclear, trustees affected by the regulations need to take precautionary measures to ensure compliance.

See Sam Thompson, The Trust Beneficial Owner Register, Wealth Management.com, December 5, 2017.

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

December 13, 2017 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pennsylvania Mom Discovers Baby's Cremains Were Really Dog Remains After 2 Years

CremainsTwo years ago, Jennifer Dailey suffered the grief of having a stillborn baby girl. Jerrica Sky’s remains were cremated at the Bauer Funeral Home. Funeral home staff provided Dailey the cremains in a small, white box containing a bag that supposedly held her daughters ashes. For two years, Dailey held and wept over the small box she thought held her daughter.

Recently, Dailey’s husband suggested they might take the remains and spread them in a place that had special meaning to the family. Upon opening the container, Daily found a metal plate that said “Butler Pet Cremation.” The funeral home has already apologized and pinned the fault on Thompson-Miller Funeral Home, which operates a human and pet crematory. The owner of Thompson-Miller immediately took responsibility and apologized for his mistake. Dailey is having nothing with the apology and may pursue legal action.

See Pennsylvania Mom Discovers Baby's Cremains Were Really Dog Remains After 2 Years, Fox News, August 20, 2017.

August 28, 2017 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Article on Don’t Pull the Plug on Bioethics Mediation: The Use of Mediation in  Health Care Settings and End of Life Situations

TerryAmy Moorkamp recently published an Article entitled, Don’t Pull the Plug on Bioethics Mediation: The Use of Mediation in  Health Care Settings and End of Life Situations, J. Disp. Resol. (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Theresa Marie “Terri” Schiavo was a woman who suffered cardiac arrest in 1990 which left her in a persistent vegetative state.1 Terri Schaivo’s case made headlines in 2005 in a well-publicized right-to-die case. The controversy festered in the clashing of opinions voiced from both Schaivo’s husband (her legal guardian) and Schaivo’s parents. Schaivo’s husband argued that his wife would not have wanted prolonged artificial life support without the prospect of recovery, and advocated for removal of her feeding tube. Conversely, Terri Schaivo’s parents advocated for a continuation of artificial nutrition and hydration for their daughter. This well-documented conflict amounted to an array of legal challenges, ultimately involving state and federal politicians alike, including President George W. Bush. The result was a seven-year delay before eventual removal of Terri Schaivo’s feeding tube.

A hefty decision, such as the life or death of a loved one, requires more than a few minutes of deliberation and a handful of outside consultations. Delicate, emotional, and potentially contentious medical decisions compel a structured, compassionate approach to produce quality and well-informed results. Due to the magnitude of the decision being made, as well as the abundance of other considerations, (emotional, religious, historic, financial, etc.) the case for a creative, problem-solving process of dispute resolution, such as mediation, is ripe.

This Comment will explore the use of mediation in bioethical disputes. In Part II, the Comment will give an overview of bioethics and examine its inherent nuances and complexities. Part III will examine mediation and its application in healthcare settings. Finally, Part IV will advocate for increased use of mediation in bioethics disputes in recent, applicable scenarios and cases.

Special thanks to Stacie Strong, Manley O. Hudson Professor of Law, for bringing this article to my attention.

August 21, 2017 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Aging Spaces

Old-man-walker-raising-his-hands-full-length-portrait-isolated-white-background-38695234Ernie MacNeill, a longtime contractor and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), points out problem spots as he tours Elliot Goldberg’s home. MacNeill makes note of carpet that needs to be taken up to remove it a possible tripping hazard, doorways that need widening to possibly accommodate a wheelchair, and discusses moving a closet to make space for an electric lift. Goldberg, 71, has difficulty traversing the multi-storied space . Despite living in a three-floor, split-level home, memories of a deceased wife and family keep him from relocating. MacNeill, part of a growing group of specialists, focuses part of his practice on remodeling homes for aging homeowners that may have mobility and access issues.

There are currently around 3,500 CAPS graduates spanning across the country, but their dispersion is uneven and focused in large cities. While the need for such individuals may be growing, their relative scarcity leaves a gap that has been partially filled by occupational therapists. Though not performing the work of tearing down walls and ripping up carpet, these individuals make suggestions to clients to alleviate some of the common risks found in the home. These suggestions include installing bars in the tub, adding curbless showers, improving lighting, and installing stairless walkways.

While these solutions are practical and may potentially save trips to the emergency room, many of these changes come at a high price.  To counter this, some architects have proliferated the idea of a “universal design.” This would encompass some safety features, like a zero-step entrance, with a selling point considering not just the elderly but also the parent hauling twins with a stroller in tow. By incorporating these design features into new homes and scheduled remodels, contractors create a living space their clients can enjoy even as they age and become less mobile.

See Paula Span, Planning to Age in Place? Find a Contractor Now, N.Y. Times, May 19, 2017.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

May 24, 2017 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Estate Planning for Your Step-Family

Step-familiesToday, about 55% of Americans have no estate-planning documents in place. Accordingly, default rules will come into play in the absence of these documents, which may provide primary benefits to the surviving spouse. Unfortunately, the relationship between the surviving spouse and the stepchildren can be fraught with conflict. Fortunately, proper estate planning in these scenarios can help to avoid confusion and hurt.  Emotional ties do not always sever during a divorce, so it is important to name who is family in your estate-planning documents. Similarly, it will be beneficial to name those who are no longer considered family in order to avoid inheritances passing to unintended beneficiaries. So, keep your intended goals in mind when preparing your estate-planning documents.   

See Amy Ziettlow & Naomi Cahn, Step-Families and Estate Planning, Family Studies, October 6, 2016. 


October 7, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Will a Significant Tax Bill Take Half of Prince's Estate?

Prince4The trustee for Prince’s estate has revealed that a sizeable tax bill could wind up taking half of his estimated $250 million estate, which could potentially force an early sale of his unreleased music. In order to meet a fee deadline for the tax bill, many of Prince’s non-cash assets will have to be sold. Representations for all parties are working to avoid an inevitable fire sale if the deadline is not met.

See Lindsay Kimble, Taxes Could Wipe Out Half of Prince’s $250 Million Estate and Force Early Sale of His Unreleased Songs, Trustee Says, People, June 8, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hartnett (The Hartnett Law Firm) for bringing this Article to my attention.

June 16, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Prince's Death Sparks Will Trend

Last willHas Prince’s death sparked a new trend across the nation—drafting a will? Several legal information sites have seen an increase in sales for downloadable products, requests for consultations, and estate planning activity. This furor, however, is most likely due to personal life events—young couples naming guardians, old couples passing wealth, and others hearing of horror inheritance stories. Starting the will process early can end up saving you tons of money, unlike Prince’s family who face an expensive state-ordered probate.

See Dearly Beloved: Prince’s Death Prompts Uptick in Wills, Private Wealth, May 24, 2016.

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

May 25, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)