Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Indiana Ordered to Recognize One Couple’s Same-Sex Marriage

RingsA federal district court judge has granted a restraining order for a same-sex couple that will force Indiana to recognize the couple’s marriage. Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler were legally married in Massachusetts in 2013, however a state statute prevents the recognition of their marriage in Indiana. Quasney is terminally ill with stage 4 ovarian cancer. The couple sought the restraining order against the state to compel Indiana to recognize their marriage, so that Sandler will be able to effectively handle Quasney’s affairs after her death. The ruling is limited to this specific couple, and does not affect other cases currently challenging Indiana’s gay marriage ban.

See Charles D. Wilson, Federal Judge: Indiana Must Recognize Gay Couple’s Marriage, Huffington Post, Apr. 10, 2014. 

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 14, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate Map to Shutdown in May

EstateMapAs I have previously discussed, Estate Map is a cloud-based estate planning tool that was launched 10 months ago, and among other uses functions as information storage. Estate Map will be shutting down the end of May. Customers have until May 31, 2014 to retrieve any information they need from their accounts before the information becomes inaccessible on June 1, 2014.

The founder of Estate Map, Joe Henderson, attributed the shutdown to the chosen target market. Henderson plans to replace Estate Map with Navigatr, which will work similar to Estate Map, but instead of targeting lawyers it will directly target consumers as their client base.

See Robert Ambrogi, Breaking: ‘Estate Map’ is Shutting Down, LawSites, Apr. 12, 2014.

April 14, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wicked Widow Forges Signature on Will

Will!The will contest concerning the Estate of Carl Wayne Grothe ended in a victory for Paul Romano of  Romano & Sumner. After the two-day will contest in the 20th District Court of Milam County, the court deemed that the will signature on the 2008 will was forged.

Mr. Romano was legal counsel for the Contestants of a will submitted by Mr. Grothe's widow. The contestants were the children of Mr. Grothe's prior marriage. The children claim that their stepmother had committed fraud by withdrawing hundreds of thousands in community property and spending it on herself, her lover, and her own children. After nearly three hours of jury deliberation, the jury sided with the contestants and the will was denied probate. 

See Paul Romano, Will Contest Victory in Milam County Texas!, Houston Law Blog, Jan. 26, 2014.

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

April 11, 2014 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Baby Boomers Can Learn a Thing or Two From George W. Bush, Painter

BushpaintRecently, George W. Bush revealed his 24 paintings of world leaders at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. He began painting two years ago, but has left an impression on those who have seen his exhibit "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy." He offers five important principles he used to cultivate his new passion. These principles are highlighted in two books. The First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything by Josh Kaufmanand the other is by Josh Waitzkin called The Art of Learning.

  1. Do not let age discourage you from learning something new.
  2. Set realistic goals. It is not practical to expect perfection.
  3. Have beginner's enthusiasm.
  4. Make sure you practice enough to see improvement.
  5. Learn from someone who has mastered the skill.

See Richard Eisenberg, 5 Lessons For Aging Boomers From George W. Bush, Painter, Forbes,  April 4, 2014.

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

April 10, 2014 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bobby Brown’s Lawsuit Against Enquire Continues

Bobby Brown & WhitneyThe defamation suit brought by Bobby Brown against American Media and writer Derrick Handspike over a National Enquire article has survived a summary judgment motion. Soon after the death of Whitney Houston, the Enquire published a story that prior to Houston’s death, she and Brown had gotten back together and were having an intimate relationship. The story was in an edition dated April 2, 2012, and was distributed March 25, 2012. Brown and his wife, Alicia Etheridge-Brown, filed their defamation claim on March 25, 2013. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on the expiration of the one year statute of limitations.

In Brown v. American Media, Inc., U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken denied summary judgment, and found that the Brown’s may have timely filed the suit since the online article posted on March 26, 2012 is arguably a republication that targeted a new audience. The Browns are not in the clear though, as the judge noted that the defendants may be able to bring a subsequent summary judgment motion after discovery.

See Adam Klasfeld, Enquier Can Be Sued for Whitney Houston Story, Courthouse News Service, Apr. 3, 2014.

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

April 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 7, 2014

New Zealand High Court Reveals A Breach of Fiduciary Duty

GavelRecently, a New Zealand High Court found that the former city councilor of Auckland City did not perform his fiduciary duty. Former Auckland City Councilor, Greg Moyle, failed to keep the beneficiaries of a $1.4 million dollar estate updated and informed about his investments. The investments were made with farmer Murray Dean's money. Mr. Dean died ten years ago, but in his will named Mr. Moyle as his executor.

Under the will, Mr. Dean left his estate to his wife and children from his first marriage. The will instructed that the estate should generate income for his wife's lifetime and after her death be distributed evenly among his children. After Mr. Moyle failed to provide information about how the money was being invested, Mr. Dean's children filed suit.

Eventually, Mr. Moyle provided the information, but the court forced him to pay court costs. The fees he paid himself were more than $100,000 in seven years; he claims the fees were standard in managing the sizable estate. Additionally, the court revealed unauthorized payments. General manager for NZ Financial Planning, Craig Dealey, stated the company only learned of the court case a short time after Mr. Moyle resigned and did not agree with the way Mr. Moyle handled the situation.

See David Fisher, Conduct Over Will Criticised by Judge, NZ Herald, April 5, 2014.

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

April 7, 2014 in Current Events, New Cases, Professional Responsibility, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tax Court Ruling Helps Trusts Avoid Passive Loss Limitations

GavelRecently, the Tax Court in The Frank Aragona Trust v. Comm'r.,  held that it is now an option for a trust to qualify for the coveted title of "real estate professional" under the passive loss rules. This holding permits trusts to avoid the passive loss deduction limitations. The IRS claimed the trust could not be a real estate professional because the test for real estate professional looked to "personal services," and a trust was an entity that could not perform personal services. Additionally, the IRS if a trust qualified, the relevant participation must come from the fiduciaries in their capacity as fiduciaries and not as employees. The court disagreed with the first claim and did not rule on the second issue, but did say a trust could qualify as a real estate professional.

See Steven R. Schneider, Tax Court Decision Will Help Trusts Avoid Passive Loss Limitations and New 3.8% Tax, Tax Law Round Up, Mar. 29, 2014.

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

April 6, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Income Tax, New Cases, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Article on State Tax Law in a Post-Windsor World

Rings Nicholas A. Mirkay III (Creighton University -School of Law) recently published an article entitled, "Equality or Dysfunction? State Tax Law in a Post-Windsor World", (March 11, 2014). Creighton Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 2, 2014. Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

Depending on one’s religious and political proclivities, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor can either been seen as a progressive step towards equality or a troublesome departure from traditional marriage norms. Notwithstanding, from a federal tax perspective, the Windsor decision clearly raised a myriad of issues that spanned virtually the entire Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), including but not limited to income taxes (including filing status), estate and gift taxes, payroll taxes, and the tax treatment of retirement account contributions and social security benefits. In the aftermath of Windsor, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) was left with a quandary in administering marital-status-dependent Code provisions: should it base its administration of the Code on the taxpayer’s valid marriage in the state in which it was performed (commonly referred to as the “state of celebration” test) or the taxpayer’s state of residence or domicile (commonly referred to as the “state of residence” test)? The IRS resolved most of the federal tax issues raised by Windsor in its issuance of Revenue Ruling 2013-17, which chiefly adopted a state of celebration test for income and other tax purposes. However, the ruling did not extend to quasi-marital statuses, such as domestic partnerships and civil unions, resulting in federal tax non-recognition and complexities for couples in those legally recognized relationships.

Windsor also raised innumerable state and local taxation issues, particularly for the majority of the states that outright ban, or otherwise do not recognize, gay marriages. The Windsor decision’s failure to completely repeal all provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), specifically Section 2, permits states to continue such bans or lack of recognition, resulting in significant state and local tax complexities for same-sex couples that reside in such states but chose to marry in one of the seventeen states (and District of Columbia) that permit it. Thus, a post-Windsor world remains complex and uncertain for a majority of married same-sex couples. As with federal taxation, for couples in a domestic partnership or civil union, their state and local taxation issues remain much as they did prior to Windsor and Revenue Ruling 2013-17 – complex and uncertain.

April 2, 2014 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, New Cases, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

L'Wren's Family Speaks at Her Funeral

L’Wren ScottAs I have previously discussed, L’Wren Scott committed suicide and left a will that left her entire $9 million dollar estate to Sir Mick Jagger.  Scott made it clear in her will that she did not want her family to receive anything from her estate. Despite Scott's choice to exclude her family from inheriting any of her estate, they spoke at her funeral and divided her ashes among the family and Mick Jagger. Her brother claims that he will bury some of the ashes in Utah. Additionally, another ceremony to commemorate Scott will be held in Utah for other family and friends to attend.

You can check out L’Wren Scott ‘s will here.

See Aly Weisman, L'Wren Scott Leaves Entire $9 Million Estate To Mick Jagger, Mysteriously Leaves Out Family, Business Insider, Mar. 27, 2014.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention. 

April 1, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 31, 2014

New Tennessee Law on the Tenancy by the Entirety Joint Revocable Trust

BillTennessee is a leader in trust law. As a result, there are many available estate planning tools that attorneys can use. The most recent tool will become available on July 1, 2014: The Tenancy by the Entirety Joint Revocable Trust.

According to the Tennessee Attorney's memo, the bill will be on the Governor's desk soon. However, the state legislature website claims the house amended the bill and is waiting on approval from the senate. Despite the discrepancy, the new bill if passed will allow a Tenancy by the Entirety Joint Revocable Trust. The determination of whether property is held as a tenancy by the entirety turns on intent.

Now, attorneys can protect their clients by removing any doubt as to whether a tenancy by the entirety exists. The property held in the trust is shielded from creditors when the first spouse passes away. Creditors of the surviving spouse will be permitted to go after assets held in the trust. The amendment to the bill also permits estates under $50,000 to qualify for probate under a shortened procedure, which is more cost effective.

See Rob Malin, Tennessee Legislature Passes Tenancy By The Entirety Joint Living Trust, Estate Planning in the Mid South, March 28, 2014.

March 31, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)