Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Jerry Lewis’ Daughter on Being Left out of His Will

10149065-suzan-lewis-and-jerry-lewisJerry Lewis’s will does not leave anything to or even mention anyone named Suzan. Well, so what? There are many names not mentioned in Lewis’s will. Suzan Minoret Lewis, the unmentioned Suzan, claims to be an unrecognized heir to Lewis’s estate. She resembles her alleged father and DNA tests revealed over an 80% match with Lewis’s eldest son. Suzan Lewis noted: “There’s a time limit to challenge my father’s will. I need a lawyer. Some say they believe I have a claim.” Two New York attorneys approached about the case refused to take it.

See Cindy Adams, Jerry Lewis’ Daughter on Being Left out of His Will, Page Six, October 16, 2017.

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

October 21, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 20, 2017

London Court Declares Trusts of Ex-Russian Senator Pugachev Sham

274102378The High Court of Justice in London held that trusts owned by ex-Russian senator Sergey Pugachev were a façade designed to hide his control of the trust assets. The Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) quoted the court in a statement: “the point of the trusts was not to cede control of his assets to someone else, it was to hide his control of them. In other words Mr. Pugachev intended to use the trusts as a pretense to mislead other people, by creating the appearance that the property did not belong to him when really it did.” Pugachev has been in serious trouble since 2011, when investigations were launched based on suspicions that Pugachev and staff embezzled from Mezhprombank. By 2014, Pugachev made the international most wanted list and by 2015, Russia sent the UK a request for extradition.

See London Court Declares Trusts of Ex-Russian Senator Pugachev Sham, Russian Legal Information Society, October 11, 2017.

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

October 20, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Holds Personal Representatives May Provide Lawful Consent Under the Stored Communications Act,

Jim_LammThe Stored Communications Act prevents online service providers from violating a user’s privacy rights by releasing their electronic data without permission. While this serves to protect personal information, the law has also erected an unwieldy barrier for family members and fiduciaries seeking online information concerning those who have passed away. There are some exceptions to the act, but the language is permissive and allows the service providers the choice to release information. Another issue, the part of the statute outlining these exceptions fails to expressly state whether a personal representative of the decedent’s estate has the authority to stand in the shoes of the deceased in order to gain access to this information.

In Ajemian v. Yahoo!, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held “that the personal representatives may provide lawful consent on the decedent’s behalf to the release of the contents of the Yahoo email account.” Despite this ruling, the permissive language found in the statute remains. It does not require release of the information, but gives the service provider the option to release online information to the representative of a decedent’s estate.

See Jim Lamm, Court Holds Personal Representatives May Provide Lawful Consent Under the Stored Communications Act, Digital Passing, October 16, 2017.

October 20, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Killing the Estate Tax Could Help Art Sales, Sotheby’s CEO Says

9713-Andy-Warhol -MaoArt experts have complained that the repeal of the estate tax would decrease donations to charitable organizations. Since art collectors would no longer have to worry about paying an estate tax on their high-value collections, there would be no incentive to reduce estate tax liability by donating to charities. Sotheby's CEO, Tad Smith, has a different perspective on the debate. Smith believes that many wealthy individuals put off selling or donating their collections until death in order to benefit from the step-up in basis. "A lot of people delay selling their art or transacting in the art market until some event happens, until the estate tax kicks in. So, eliminating the estate tax is a reason to eliminate the delay. So I think it will provide more liquidity to the market.”

See Robert Frank, Killing the Estate Tax Could Help Art Sales, Sotheby’s CEO Says, CNBC, October 16, 2017.

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

October 20, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Missouri Funeral Home Will Be Converted To Haunted House

1507915184031An abandoned funeral home is slated to serve as a haunted house prior to its demolition in Rogersville, MO. The owner of the Preston-Marsh funeral home gave a local high school permission to use the building for a fundraising event. This seemingly kind gesture has divided the community as some residents find the scheduled use of the building an offense to their more sensitive sensibilities. Despite bitter allegations of sacrilege and profanation, the haunted house event has not been cancelled.

See Missouri Funeral Home Will Be Converted To Haunted House, Prompting Uproar, Fox News, October 13, 2017.

October 17, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

State Law on After-born Children Leads to Revocation of a Will

Download (1)A number of states have enacted statutes that serve to revoke a decedent’s will, in whole or in part, if the decedent’s life-circumstances later change in specific ways. Hobbs v. Winfield, a recent case out of Georgia, highlights such a scenario. Alphonzo Hobbs executed a valid will in 1989 and died in 2007. In the interim, Hobbs had three children outside of marriage. The Supreme Court of Georgia held that because Hobbs did not draft the will with a consideration of future children, it was not valid under Georgia law. Hobbs’s assets passed under Georgia’s  intestacy scheme. Because laws may vary drastically from state to state, it is important to seek out professional advice to make sure a previously valid will remains intact after death.

See Michelle Soto, State Law on After-born Children Leads to Revocation of a Will, The National Law Review, October 12, 2017.

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

October 17, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Unsent Text Message OK As Valid Will

1507586132688A 55-year-old Australian man drafted a text for his brother just before taking his life. The text message included a terse disposition of real property, but it was never sent. The Supreme Court in Brisbane held the draft to be enough for consideration as a valid will. Justice Susan Brown reasoned: “The reference to his house and superannuation and his specification that the applicant was to take her own things indicates he was aware of the nature and extent of his estate, which was relatively small.”

See Unsent Text Message OK As Valid Will, Says Australian Court, Fox News, October 10, 2017.

October 16, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Man Sues Anti-Gay Mississippi Funeral Home for Refusing to Cremate His Husband

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 2.12.16 PM.png.CROP.promo-xlarge2.12.16 PMWhen Robert Huskey died at the age of 86, his husband, Jack Zawadski, proceeded with prior plans to bury him at Picayune Funeral Homes in Mississippi. Upon discovering that Zawadski and Huskey were a same-sex couple, the funeral home refused to transport and cremate Huskey’s body. Zawadski has filed suit under theories of breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent misrepresentation. This case may bring into question Mississippi HB 1523, which protects the rights of a business to turn away LGBTQ customers.

See Mark Joseph Stern, Man Sues Anti-Gay Mississippi Funeral Home for Refusing to Cremate His Husband, Slate, May 2, 2017.

Special thanks to Deborah Matthews for bringing this article to my attention.

October 16, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

IRS Faulted on Scrutiny of Estate and Gift Tax Returns

DownloadIn a recent report, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recommended that the IRS fix a number of current processes associated with review of estate and gift tax returns. TIGTA encouraged the IRS to strengthen its internal controls and suggested that it should revise the Internal Review Manual. IRS management agreed with all the recommendations and is planning on taking some action to fix the issues. TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George stated, “Taxpayers must be treated fairly and consistently. The IRS must effectively process, select, and assign estate and gift tax return cases for examination and identify the overall compliance impact of the program.”

See Michael Cohn, IRS Faulted on Scrutiny of Estate and Gift Tax Returns, Accounting Today, September 28, 2017.

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

October 15, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hugh Hefner, Role Model? He Was When It Came To Estate Planning

151207113336-hugh-hefner-playboy-playmates-exlarge-169When listing potential role models, few people would consider Hugh Hefner as a top contender for a spot. But, as is often the case, context can change everything. Though normally appearing surrounded by buxom blondes and pictured in a bathrobe and captain’s hat, Hefner’s laissez-faire persona worked to obscure his estate-planning acumen. Hefner’s business and real estate deals left him with a rent-free residence, a million-dollar-a-year allowance, and a final estate plan that seems impenetrable to contest. Though he appeared to be the quintessential playboy, Hefner’s acuity left his heirs with a solid inheritance through a meticulously designed estate plan.

See Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Hugh Hefner, Role Model? He Was When It Came To Estate Planning, Forbes, October 9, 2017.

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

October 13, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)