Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

New Laws Address Access To Clients' Online Accounts After They Die

Digital-assets-online-accountsThe passage and signing of Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act makes New Jersey the 24th state to enact laws affecting the final disposition of an individual’s digital assets. Under the new law, fiduciaries have the same powers to manage digital property as they do tangible property. This applies to estate executors, trustees, court-appointed guardians, and agents granted power of attorney. The ability to handle these assets may entail a duty to handle the assets and attorneys and fiduciaries should be on the alert for clients with digital property.

See Christopher Robbins, New Laws Address Access To Clients' Online Accounts After They Die, Financial Advisor, September 15, 2017.

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

September 25, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jerry Lewis Excludes His Six Sons from His Will

La-et-jerry-lewis-pictures-015Jerry Lewis, who passed away in August at age 91, has apparently excluded his six sons and his first wife, Patti Palmer, from inheriting as beneficiaries from his estate. The pertinent portion of the will reads: “I have intentionally excluded Gary Lewis, Ronald Lewis, Anthony Joseph Lewis, Christopher Joseph Lewis, Scott Anthony Lewis, and Joseph Christopher Lewis and their descendants as beneficiaries of my estate, it being my intention that they shall receive no benefits hereunder.” Lewis’s second wife, SanDee, and adopted daughter, Danielle, are purportedly the only beneficiaries that will inherit under the will.

See Nardine Saad, Jerry Lewis Excludes His Six Sons from His Will, Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2017.

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

September 25, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Alan Thicke’s Widow Scores Court Win Against Sons…for Now

0914-tanya-thicke-robin-thicke-tmz-getty-3Tanya Callau, Alan Thicke’s widow, won a brief victory in court over Thicke’s sons, Robin and Brennan. The boys originally alleged that Callau was preparing to challenge the prenuptial agreement she had signed with Thicke, and they petitioned the court to stop her. Callau claimed that she had no such intention and that Thicke’s sons were trying to smear her in the media and to make it seem as though she was only after money. The judge sided with Callau, holding that there was no apparent intent on her part to challenge the premarital agreement.

See Alan Thicke’s Widow Scores Court Win Against Sons…for Now, TMZ, September 14, 2017.

Special thanks to Molly Neace, J.D., for bringing this article to my attention.

September 24, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hurricanes, Displacement and the Effect on Domicile

Hurricane-harvey-flooding-ap-17239709388422Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have cut a devastating swath of large-scale destruction through both Texas and Florida over the past few weeks. While stories of tremendous courage and breath-taking heroism shed light on the more admirable qualities seen in human nature, the overall tale remains one of mass evacuations and terrible property loss. The fortunate few that were able to evacuate to winter or vacation homes may have avoided the worst of the storms, but those who fled to the safer harbors of Connecticut may have another problem: the Connecticut estate tax. The move, though intended to be temporary, may affect these individuals’ domicile planning for the purpose of estate taxes. For those in this situation, it is important to keep all pertinent records and to contact your estate-planning professional.

See Lisa P. Staron, Hurricanes, Displacement and the Effect on Domicile, The National Law Review, September 20, 2017.

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

September 23, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Frank Vincent's Body Cremated for Presentation at Memorial Service

0915-frank-vincent-getty-7Frank Vincent, a star of “The Sopranos” and “Goodfellas”, died last Wednesday during open-heart surgery due to complications. The body was transported to a funeral home in Montclair, New Jersey where it was cremated. The memorial service will feature Vincent’s ashes in an urn surrounded by phots of the actor at various stages of his life.

See Frank Vincent's Body Cremated for Presentation at Memorial Service, TMZ, September 15, 2017.

September 22, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Estate Tax Exemption Projected to Top $11 Million Per Couple in 2018

Elephant-donkey-boxing.268130451_stdThe estate and gift tax exemption limits for 2018 are expected to increase to $5.6 million from the $5.49 million threshold in 2017. If this were the case, it would mean that couples would be able to leave over $11 million to beneficiaries without triggering the estate or gift tax. The annual allowable exemption for gifts is also expected to increase from $14,000 to $15,000 in 2018. This change represents the first time the yearly gift exclusion has been adjusted since 2013. While these increases make it slightly easier for individuals with significant assets to pass their estate to the next generation, those exceeding the threshold limits for exemption are more excited about the prospect of repeal.

Although estate and gift taxes affect a minute percentage of the American populous and bring in an insignificant amount of tax revenue, Republicans and Democrats are battling mightily along tightly drawn party lines. Democrats are holding the tax out as a great equalizer and a means to reduce social inequality. Republicans point to the ranchers and landowners that struggle to pay hefty estate taxes over multiple generations. Whatever side you chose, the legislative conversation about estate tax repeal will likely intensify before any commitment to action occurs.

See Ashlea Ebeling, Estate Tax Exemption Projected to Top $11 Million Per Couple in 2018, Forbes, September 15, 2017.       

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

       

September 22, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bobbi Kristina's Estate Joins Bobby Brown in Suing Over Biopic

BobbiBobbi Kristina’s estate has paired up with Bobby Brown to prevent TV One from releasing a show about Kristina’s life. The estate is arguing that the release would be a violation of Kristina’s right to privacy, despite her passing in 2015. Bobby Brown is alleging that the show is defamatory in that it portrays him as violent and abusive toward his former spouse, Whitney Houston. The estate and Brown are seeking $2 million in damages along with an injunction preventing TV One from airing the show.

See Bobbi Kristina's Estate Joins Bobby Brown in Suing Over Biopic, TMZ, September 12, 2017,

Special thanks to Molly Neace, J.D., for bringing this article to my attention.

September 22, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Est. of Sower v. Commissioner: IRS Allowed to Examine Predeceased Spouse’s Estate Tax Return

Baton_passingIn Estate of Minnie Lynn Sower v. Commissioner, Husband predeceased Wife in 2012 with a deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE). Husband’s estate elected portability for the DSUE. When Wife passed away in 2013, her estate claimed the husband’s DSUE. The IRS examined Husband’s estate tax return as part of an investigation into Wife’s estate tax return and found a deficiency in Wife’s estate based on the return submitted by Husband’s estate. Wife’s estate argued that the IRS could not examine Husband’s estate tax return due to the statute of limitations and because the letter accepting Husband’s estate tax return represented a closing agreement between the parties. 

The Tax Court ultimately held that the statute of limitations did not bar the IRS from examining a deceased spouse’s estate tax return to determine the deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE), and that the letter accepting Husband’s estate tax return did not signify a closing agreement.

See Est. of Sower v. Commissioner: IRS Allowed to Examine Predeceased Spouse’s Estate Tax Return, Wealth Strategies Journal, September 12, 2017.

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

September 21, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Article on Relaxed Formalism: The Validation of Flawed Wills

ElementsDoron Menashe Sr. recently posted an Article entitled, Relaxed Formalism: The Validation of Flawed Wills, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Section 25 of the Succession Law, 19651 authorizes the courts to validate flawed wills if certain “fundamental elements” of the will are present and the court has no doubt that the will “represents the true and free wishes of the testator.” This Paper attempts to explore the meaning and implications of the statutory burden of proof set by Section 25. The section was amended in such a manner as to end case law disputes, arising over the years, regarding the character of flaws which may be overcome through the use of this burden. Such flaws had been known as “dynamic elements,” as opposed to flaws which are so constitutive as to preclude the use of Section 25. 

In Part II, I briefly present background regarding the conceptual and normative framework in which probate law functions. In Part III, I discuss Section 25’s role within the Succession Law and in the general framework of inheritance law; I will also examine the interpretation of Section 25 in the Supreme Court case law. According to this interpretation, judicial examination must determine beyond any doubt that the will, though flawed, expresses the free and true wishes of the testator. I criticize the approach taken by the Supreme Court. Its interpretation, even if practicable, seems to lay an unbearable burden on the party wishing to validate the will, and is at odds with the objective of the Succession Law in general and of Section 25 in particular: realization, to the extent possible, of the testator’s wishes. In Part IV, I delineate a general theory of the “wishes” protected by and based in the Succession Law. In Part V I use this theory to develop a model for the analysis of the burden of proof set by Section 25. I do this using disutility equations based on classic considerations in decision-making under conditions of uncertainty; my conclusion is that the burden of proof currently imposed by courts on a beneficiary seeking to validate a flawed will is considerably stricter than it should ideally be.

Finally, I summarize, and touch on “heretical” doubts as to whether the realization of the testator’s wishes can indeed be established as the logical base of inheritance law.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 20, 2017 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tipping the Scales: Part II—How Anna Nicole Smith’s Billionaire In‑Laws Secretly Lobbied the Courts

AnnaJ. Howard Marshall II was a Texas oil billionaire perhaps most famous for his short marriage to Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith. When Marshall’s heirs found themselves in a $75 million dispute with the IRS over taxes, they gained an unlikely ally in Barber-Scotia College. The college was founded after the Civil War and was the first institution of higher learning established for black women. Once a beacon of hope, the school is currently weighted down with debt, has difficulty paying staff, and has been stripped of accreditation. Curiously, the name of the school appears on an amicus curiae brief supporting the Marshall family’s position along with four other historically black colleges. While the school denies any involvement, the brief appears to be part of a sinister campaign by the Marshall family to influence two of this nation’s highest courts.

See Zachary R. Mider, Tipping the Scales: Part II—How Anna Nicole Smith’s Billionaire In‑Laws Secretly Lobbied the Courts, Bloomberg, September 13, 2017.

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

September 20, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)