Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, August 28, 2015

New York Siblings Allege Stepmother Filed Fraudulent Will

Last willTwo New York siblings have put forward a claim that their stepmother filed a fraudulent will that disinherited them of a portion of their father’s estate.  Jennifer and Robert Shafer have asked a Manhattan judge to put aside patient-client privilege so that they can get a psychiatrist who provided marriage counseling to their father and stepmother to hand over intimate details about the relationship.  The siblings are hoping to prove that their father’s December 2010 will that cut them out and gave everything to their stepmother and her child from a previous marriage was a fraudulent.  If the 2010 will is declared invalid then that would revive an earlier 2009 will that leaves the siblings half of the estate.

See Julia Marsh, Siblings claim stepmom filed fake will to get $10M inheritance, The New York Post, August 28, 2015.

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

August 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Butler County Man Facing Accusations That He Stole From Mother’s Estate

PorroJames M. Porro has turned himself into the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office for allegations that he stole from his mother’s estate.  The Butler county man was serving as the executor of his deceased mother’s estate and was supposed to divide the estate’s assets equally among her three children.  According to bank statements Mr. Porro made a number of withdrawals and transfers from the estate that he could not explain.  Mika Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, believes that the amount of money Porro stole from the estate could range from $30,000-$100,000. 

See Tony Raap, Butler County man charged for allegedly stealing from mother’s estate, Trib Live, August 27, 2015.

August 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Invalidates Geraldine Webber’s Will

PortsmouthI have previously discussed the legal dispute over a Portsmouth Police Sergeant who was named as a beneficiary in Geraldine Webber’s will.  Judge Gary R. Cassavechia has recently issued an order invalidating Ms. Webber’s will and denying Police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin the $2.7 million inheritance that he would have received.  This is an important case for any person involved with caring for and protecting people who are elderly or infirmed.  The Court found that officer Goodwin abused the trust that he had with Ms. Webber and used undue influence to get himself named as a beneficiary of her estate.  The complete 63 page decision on this case can be read here

See New leadership needed at Portsmouth Police Dept., Fosters, August 23, 2015.

August 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Using A Photocopy And Then Downloaded Form To Revoke A Will Is Ineffective According To Recent Court Decision

Last willA Minnesota Appeals Court has recently held that a testator’s attempt to revoke her original will by making a photo copy of it and then making a new one with a downloadable form was invalid.  On October 11, 2008, Esther Sullivan attempted to make hand written changes to an original will that she drafted back in 2006.  Later on October 30, 2010, Sullivan tried to execute a new valid will by downloading a form and filling in the provisions by hand.  The Court of Appeals held that the new will was invalid because Ms. Sullivan failed to adhere to the necessary will formalities.  In re the Estate of Sullivan can be read here

See Efforts to Change Will Using Photocopy and Then Downloaded Form Are Ineffective, Elder Law Answers, August 27, 2015.

August 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Rampant Greed Leads To Devastating Consequences For Family

Piggy BankThe Baker family was prosperous, they possessed a valuable stake in several gyms, owned multiple properties, and seemed to be living the perfect life. However, greed got the better of them and saw the family using a series of illegal trust to avoid taxes with millions invested in a get rich quick ponzi scheme. As a result, they were faced with a vengeful IRS going after a diminished fortune to which they responded by doubling down and going with a sham divorce to hide what assets they had left. In the end, they were exposed in court for fraudulent transfers and will lose what ever wealth they have left.

This story is an excellent example that many people will go to any lengths to avoid paying what is owed and will often windup in a worse situation. When faced with a client that is plainly willing to do anything to avoid taxes and creditors, approach them with caution and make sure they know the limits of what is allowable. The rapacious must have boundries or else they will use those around to accomplish their illegal aims no matter the potential harm it could cause to those involved.

See Jay Adkisson, Son of BOSS Leads To A Divorce And Fraudulent Transfer Troubles In Baker, Forbes, August 22, 2015.

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

August 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Charitable Dilemma When It Comes To Naming Right In Perpetuity

PhilantropyNaming rights may be the most valuable asset a nonprofit organization holds as the altruistically inclined super rich trade millions for name recognition. Many of the donation agreements call for the name to stick in perpetuity but the reality of the situation is often muddled. A cash strapped charitable organization is unlikely to turn down a major donation in order to preserve the name of a donor from decades before. In some instances, the descendants of the original donor have had the donation returned to allow the charity to free up the naming rights to bring in new benefactors. As a result of this trend, commentators have suggested charities drop the perpetuity promise for naming rights and admit that future conditions may require adding a new name or dropping the old one in order to preserve the organization. While current donors might not like such a change, dropping perpetuity agreements would allow greater flexibility in the future and ensure charitable intent will not die for lack of resources.

See Doug White, No Gift Should Be a Suicide Pact — So Drop the Perpetuity Idea, Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 24, 2015.

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

August 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Historical Society Denied Standing To Bring Suit Over Historic Island Charitable Trust

Article PictureGardiner’s Island is something of a throwback to a time past due to the preservation of the island's historical character by generations of the Gardiner family. However, a trust set up by a family member to ensure the island remained pristine is now embroiled in controversy after accusation of mismanagement by the local historical society. The society claimed the trustees were misusing the assets and sought a court order forcing the trust to return to it's purpose of historical preservation. But a New York appellate court has denied the society standing stating the group was not a named beneficiary and did not have a "special interest" to give them standing. As a result, only the Attorney General of New York may bring the suit against the trust to enforce its purpose and, as of now, has shown no inclination to take action.

See John T. Brooks & Jena L Levin, No Standing to Enforce a Charitable Trust, Wealth Management, August 25, 2015.

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

August 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Huguette Clark’s Estate Loses Court Battle Against Hospital

ClarkI have previously discussed the legal battle between the estate of Huguette Clark and the Beth Israel Medical Center over allegations that the hospital billed Clark for unnecessary treatment and applied undue influence to obtain millions in donations.  Last week the case was dismissed by Manhattan Surrogate Judge Nora S. Anderson because the statute of limitations on the claim had run.  The lawsuit was initially brought by a New York City public administrator who has control over the estate because the decedent has no close relatives.  Judge Anderson has stated that a separate lawsuit might be able to be brought against two physicians and a nurse who received about $3.6 million in gifts from Ms. Clark while taking care of her. 

See James C. McKinley Jr., Estate of Heiress Loses Fight to Recover Millions in Donations From Hospital, The New York Times, August 25, 2015.

August 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Same-Sex Couples Will Now Be Eligible For Spousal Related Social Security Benefits

Social security 2Thanks to this year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage same-sex couples across the country will now be eligible for Social Security spousal or survival benefits.  Under the old regulations people were not deemed eligible for spousal-related Social Security benefits unless their marriage was recognized by their state.  There were 11 States that did not recognize same-sex marriage before Obergefell v. Hodges changed everything.  The Justice Department put out a statement that the Supreme Court’s ruling will be applied retroactively, which means that if couples previously filed claims for Social Security benefits that they will now be able to collect on those claims. 

See Toi Williams, Same Sex Couples Now Eligible For Social Security Benefits, IRA Market Report, August 24, 2015.

August 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wyly Brother’s Children In Legal Battle With The SEC Over $300 Million In Frozen Assets

SECThe SEC has been attempting to collect on a $300 million judgment after Sam and Charles Wyly were convicted of perpetuating an offshore stock-trading fraud for over 13 years.  Now the children of the Wyly brothers are challenging the SEC’s attempt to go after estate assets, and arguing that they should not be punished for their father’s transgressions.  The Wyly family claims that there is no evidence that they inherited proceeds that can be traced to the fraud conviction.  There is currently a freeze on $300 million dollars of the estate’s assets after U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin imposed a $299.4 million penalty on Sam Wyly and the estate of Charles Wyly (who perished in a 2011 automobile accident).

See Wyly Family Battles SEC Over $300 Million In Court-Frozen Assets, Private Wealth, July 9, 2015.

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

August 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)