Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Congressmen Make Their Case for The Repeal of Estate Tax

Seal_of_the_United_States_Congress.svgIn an opinion piece Rep. Bill Flores and Sen. John Thune argue that it is time for the abolishment of the estate tax. The two congressman assert that it is small business owners and farmers that are penalized by this tax not the handful of super wealthy that are more commonly associated with the legislation. They also argue that the tax creates a drag on the economy and would create 139,000 new jobs if repealed. However, none of their predictions will likely be tested soon as there exist significant opposition from the White House which could scuttle the bill.

See Bill Flores & John Thune, Time For The Estate Tax To Die, USA Today, Apr. 16, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

April 17, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ohio Lawyer Charged With Felony for Guardianship Ethics Violation

GavelAn Ohio lawyer who has been charged with multiple felonies now faces ethics charges as well.  Paul Kormanik is accused of misappropriation of funds and incompetent representation from his guardianship of several state appointed wards. Allegedly, he made his clients out to be indigent in order to take taxpayer money and was stealing from a trust for which he was trustee. This case goes to show that courts and the public must carefully scrutinize any attorney that will be granted a fiduciary duty.

See Lucas Sullivan, Lawyer’s Work as Guardian Prompts Ethics-Violation Case, The Columbus Dispatch, Apr. 16, 2015.



April 17, 2015 in Current Affairs, Guardianship, Malpractice, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

House of Representatives Votes to Repeal Estate Tax

The CapitolIn what could be a massive shift in tax law, the US House voted to repeal the estate tax 240-179 with significant Republican support. The change would result in the total abolishment of the tax and preserve the stepped up basis rule which is already in the code. However, this bill will face significant opposition both in the Senate and with President Obama who has already indicated he does not agree with the change. No matter what ultimately happens, this act will certainly bring out the political big guns in the foreseeable future.

See Ashlea Ebeling, House Votes 240-179 To Repeal Estate Tax, Forbes, Apr. 16, 2015.

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

April 17, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Luxurious Amenities to Lure Medicare Patients

Nursing homeIn a cutthroat race for Medicare dollars, nursing homes are luring patients who are leaving a hospital and need short-term rehabilitation with luxuries such as decadent baths and calming waterfalls.  Yet, even as nursing homes invest in lavish living quarters, the quality of care is very uneven.  Many of the homes are unable to provide the intensive medical care that rehabilitation requires.

The Department of Health and Human Services released a report in 2014 indicating that 22 percent of Medicare patients who stayed in a nursing facility for 35 days or less experienced harm as a result of their medical care.  Experts say that nursing homes were not built for this purpose; many patients leave hospitals with acute medical needs. 

Competition for these patients has become intense because Medicare pays 84 percent more for short-term patients than nursing homes generally get from Medicaid for long-term patients. 

See Katie Thomas, In Race for Medicare Dollars, Nursing Home Care May Lag, The New York Times, Apr. 14, 2015.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.

April 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Death In Space

SpaceFor the first time since the Apollo missions, there is a serious talk regarding more manned spaceflight missions.  This is prompting the question, what do you do with the body when someone dies in space?

Prior to spending approximately six months in space, astronauts undergo an intense medical examination.  NASA is clearly focused on prevention, rather than what do if an astronaut dies in space.  Although there is no official protocol for bringing back an astronaut who dies, astronauts do practice for this worst-case scenario.  A “death sim” is designed to help prepare astronauts for what they should do if one of there colleagues should die.  The death sim forces astronauts to formulate a plan of action in the case of death. 

Now, as NASA and SpaceX work to establish human colonies on Mars, it is inevitable that someone will die.  While the easiest solution might be to send the body floating into space, there are international laws prohibiting this.  Thus, there needs to be a Plan B.  “Body Back” is a proposal that involves an airtight sleeping bag that a human corpse is zipped into and then exposed to the freezing temperatures of outer space.  The body is taken back on board and vibrated around until it shatters, generating about 50 pounds of ground human body dust that can stay outside the spacecraft until arriving at the destination.  Another idea is to use human bodies for composting and fertilizer on Mars; however, it is doubtful that idea will catch on. 

See Kelly Dickerson, Here’s What NASA Plans to Do If An Astronaut Dies in Space, Yahoo, Apr. 11, 2015.   

Special thanks to Riley Branch for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 13, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Portion of Nazi Looted Monet Sale to go to Heirs for Restitution

Haystacks at GivernyThe Monet painting Haystacks at Giverny was owned by French Jewish art dealer Rene Gimpel during World War II. Gimpel died in a concentration camp. The painting was sold by Gimpel under duress according to his grandson. The painting is now owned by a private Swiss art collector and will be sold at auction in May. Its estimated value is up to $18 million. Gimpel's heirs will receive a portion of the sale per the terms of a restitution agreement.

See JTA, Jewish Heirs Get Slice of $18M From Looted Monet 'Haystacks', Forward, Apr. 10, 2015.

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

April 13, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Average Rates for Nursing Homes Rise Nationwide

Wheel ChairNursing home expenses continue to rise with the nationwide average increasing to $91,250 per year for private and just over $80,000 for semi private rooms. However, not all parts of the country carry the burden equally with the difference between the highest and lowest cost states being $220,000. As prices are expected to rise indefinitely, estate planners should be careful to take this potentially massive expense into consideration.

See Cost of Private Nursing Home Room Now Averaging $91,250, Elder Law Answers, Apr. 10, 2015.

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

April 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Renee Benson Seeks Remand to Probate Court

Tom Benson Family

As Renee Benson seeks to remove her 87-year-old estranged father as overseer of his trust and other assets, she most recently asked a federal judge to mover her lawsuit against Tom Benson back to state probate court. 

I have previously discussed the feud over ownership succession of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, a case landing in federal court after Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff appointed two individuals to temporarily replace Benson as trustee.  Renee Benson’s lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge David Ezra to move her case back to Rickhoff’s courtroom, arguing that Benson did not seek to move the case to federal court at the outset of the case. 

See Katherine Sayre, Tom Benson Family Feud: Renee Benson Wants Texas Trust Battle Back in Probate Court, Nola.com, Apr. 10, 2015.

April 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Montana Declines to Criminalize Doctors Aiding Patient Suicide

Physician assisted suicideThe Montana state senate committee recently declined to pass a bill that would criminalize doctors prescribing life-ending drugs to their terminally ill patients.  In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court legalized physician assisted suicide, allowing mentally competent adults to be prescribed fatal doses of medication. 

Montana’s governor signed Senate Bill 142 just last week, which codifies the “right” to try drugs that are still in the clinical trial phases of testing.  In passing this legislation, Montana has joined twelve other states including Louisiana, which enacted House Bill 891 and allows patients with terminal illnesses to obtain drugs not yet approved by the FDA.  This law allows doctors, hospitals and manufacturers to bypass the FDA and shield them from prosecution.  Opponents of these laws argue any unapproved drugs could endanger the lives of patients, whereas proponents claim this could give people access to life-saving treatments. 

See Senate Rejects Bill Criminalizing Doctors Who Aid Patient Suicide, Harrell & Nowak Law, Apr. 8, 2015. 

Special thanks to Sean Malseed for bringing this article to my attention.

April 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Facebook's "Scrapbook" Gives Children Digital Identity

FacebookLast week, Facebook enabled a feature for U.S. users called “Scrapbook,” which allows parents to compile baby photos in one place and share them with friends. 

In order to use this feature, users must identify their relationships on their profile.  Scrapbooks can only be created for children that are listed under a user’s “Family and Relationships” section.  Parents have the ability to co-own a scrapbook with the partner identified in their relationship status. 

This new feature reflects an important decision that parents must make when it comes to their child’s digital footprints.  Children whose parents create digital scrapbooks not only inherit a digital identity, but they also inherit a digital identity within Facebook.

See Priya Kumar, Facebook’s New Baby-Photo Feature Lets Children Inherit a Digital Identity, Slate, Apr. 6, 2015. 

April 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)