Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Marilyn Monroe Mausoleum Marker Goes Up for Auction

Monroe markerMarilyn Monroe fans have a rare chance to purchase one of the markers from her final resting place. The bronze marker was removed back in the '80s from Monroe’s mausoleum at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles and now will make its way to the hands of a lucky fan. Heritage Auctions says the opening bid is $10,000, but it expects the memorabilia to bring in significantly more—Monroe’s marker from the '70s sold for $212,500 in 2015. 

See Marilyn Monroe Mausoleum Marker Up for Grabs, TMZ, January 22, 2017. 


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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tips for Estate Planners in 2017

Estate planning 2017In 2017, estate planners should look to take their own advice, just as they easily give necessary advice to their clients. First and foremost, it is essential that estate planners write a letter to their children detailing critical information needed for emergencies. Similarly, one should also give access to any passwords for their digital assets. Also, save your children and family the trouble of guessing your body disposition by making arrangements beforehand, such as buying a burial plot or arranging plans for cremation. Additionally, review life insurance terms and create any necessary trusts that will benefit loved ones. One can also provide for their grandchildren by setting up 529 plans that will provide for their education. Setting up an asset inventory will also make it easier for family members to be organized and informed. Further, one should continue to update charitable bequests as they see fit and revise any beneficiary designations to reflect their wishes. Lastly, estate planners should look to set up family meetings to provide those important to them with the information and security they will need to carry out their estates.     

See Martin M. Shenkman, An Estate Planner’s 11 Tips for the New Year, Wealth Management, January 18, 2017. 


January 21, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

50 Years Marks Frozen WWI Veteran the Oldest Human Awaiting Reanimation

Frozen alcorJames Bedford, a World War I veteran, since his death in 1966, has been encapsulated in enough liquid nitrogen to keep his body frozen at about -320° F. This week marks the 50th year anniversary of his deep freeze, making him the oldest “deanimated” individual on earth. In 1991, twenty-five years after his death, Alcor Life Extensions Foundation, the company storing Bedford’s body, checked on his condition and found “a well-developed, well-nourished male who appears younger than his 73 years,” deeming his condition good. Bedford’s body along with 146 others in the facility will remain frozen indefinitely with ongoing financial support to sustain their current state. 

See After 50 Years, Frozen WWI Veteran’s Body Awaits Reanimation, Fox News, January 18, 2017. 


January 21, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Case Summary on Collecting Unpaid Estate Tax

Unpaid estate taxLewis J. Saret recently published a case summary entitled, Code Sec. 6324: Tax Court Allows IRS to Collect Estate’s Unpaid Estate Tax: Estate of Ruben A. Myers v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2017-11, Wealth Strategies Journal, January 11, 2017. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

P asks us to review a determination by IRS Appeals sustaining a lien notice and a notice of proposed levy to collect delinquent installment payments of estate tax. The gravamen of P’s complaint is that R abused his discretion during the 10-year period before the delinquency by not pursuing collection from nonprobate assets not under P’s control. Following the CDP hearing, the settlement officer prioritized collection actions first against nonprobate assets and certain jointly owned probate property. P misunderstands the I.R.C. sec. 6324(a)(1) special estate tax lien, which attaches automatically on the date of death to the gross estate without any action by R and which lapses in 10 years. P also misunderstands the scope of our review under I.R.C. sec. 6330(d). We do not conduct broad-ranging inquiry into the means by which R has sought to collect estate tax over the years since decedent’s death. Our narrow focus is on whether the settlement officer abused his discretion in sustaining the filing of the lien notice and the proposed levy notice. Moreover, we will not remand this case for consideration of changed circumstances because the 10-year duration of the special estate tax lien lapsed during the pendency of this case after R froze collection actions on the filing of the petition. Although the special estate tax lien has lapsed, the period for asserting I.R.C. sec. 6324(a)(2) transferee liability may be open.

Held: IRS Appeals’ determination is sustained. 

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


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

Estate Planning for the Affluent Clients Living Longer Lives

Living longer estate planningAdvances in medical technology are allowing people to maximize longevity, which creates the possibility for more rewarding lives. Personal, family, and societal consequences, however, can ensue for those living past 100. These difficulties are heightened for ultra-wealthy families in how and when they transfer assets to subsequent generations. By not planning out your estate properly, disastrous family confrontations can occur. Sometimes transferring assets before death will solve several possible problems because of the possibility of dementia and elderly exploitation. In the near future, those affluent individuals who live longer rewarding lives will create gaining implications for wealth managers and tax professionals in planning their estates.     

See Russ Alan Prince, Estate Planning for the Ultra-Wealthy When Living to 120 or Beyond, Forbes, January 18, 2017. 

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


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

Article on Gig Employees & Their Retirement Benefits

Gig economyPaul M. Secunda recently published an Article entitled, Uber Retirement, U. Chicago Legal Forum (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

The rise of the gig economy with its part-time, itinerant, independent workers, in conjunction with the employee-centric nature of occupational retirement benefits under ERISA, has led to gig employees largely lacking meaningful retirement benefits. Current proposals to provide portable benefits to gig workers as independent workers or independent contractors are unacceptable because such benefits would not be secured by the fiduciary consumer protections of ERISA. 

However, two developments with regard to the retirement security of the gig workers are promising. First, there is now increasing examples of gig workers being found to be common-law employees under tests like ERISA’s Darden test. As common law employees, gig workers are entitled to the reporting and disclosure, vesting, funding, and fiduciary protections of ERISA. Second, the use of an open MEP model, in which pooled employer plans (PEP) have a pooled plan provider (PPP) as the named fiduciary, are gaining growing bi-partisan acceptance. This article encourages Congress to promptly adopt the open MEP model, free of current regulatory restrictions, so that gig employees can enjoy retirement security with the peace of mind that ERISA fiduciary protections provide under industry-wide gig employee open MEPs.


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

IRS Formalizes Notice for Transcripts in Place of Estate Tax Closing Letters

Estate tax returnIn 2005, the IRS posted information online that a transcript notation with the code “421” could be used to determine when the IRS had concluded its review of a filed estate tax return, in place of obtaining a closing letter. This indicated that closing letters would no longer be automatically issued but could be requested. Now, this information has be formalized into a Notice, essentially to notify the probate courts that they can rely on IRS estate tax transcripts bearing the “421” transaction code. The Revenue Procedure also mandates that the IRS can still reopen the review under specified circumstances.    

See Charles Rubin, IRS Formalizes Transcripts as Substitute for Estate Tax Closing Letters, Rubin on Tax, January 18, 2017. 

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


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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Final Battle of the War on Estate Tax

Democrat estate taxPresident-elect Donald Trump will soon assume his position, and as it stands, the Democrats have control over the Executive and Legislative branches, but their party was severely wounded after the election. Consequently, many assume that they will raise the white flag in regards to the estate tax. With the greatest wealth transfer in human history occurring, however, it would be foolish to assume the Democrats would not put up a fight. This final battle over the estate tax should not come as a surprise due to the long 100-year history on the United States’ war over taxation. Throughout this time span, liberal economists and academics have argued over the estate tax’s economic importance and its service to inequality. Those Republicans seeking to repeal the estate tax believe it will be one of the final components to stir economic growth, while the Democrats seek to maintain its existence.   

See Darren T. Case, Trump vs. the Democrats: Is This the End of the 100-Year War over the Estate Tax?, Hill, January 12, 2017. 


January 19, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Aid in Dying Gains Acceptance

Aid in dyingAs aid in dying legislation continues to be passed all over the country, nearly 20% of Americans will be living in jurisdictions where terminally ill patients can legally end their life. The laws allow physicians to write prescriptions for lethal drugs when a patient qualifies. The procedure is complicated, requiring two oral requests, a written request, extensive discussions, and two physicians’ approval. Additionally, patients must have the capacity to make medical decisions. The cultural and political context surrounding the legislation, however, has changed considerably over the last two decades. There have been substantial gains in acceptance throughout various groups and organizations, but this alone does not broadly provide aid in dying to those who want it. In the upcoming years, it will be important to address how end-of-life care and aid in dying can improve to provide those in need with the help they desire. 

See Paula Span, Physician Aid in Dying Gains Acceptance in the U.S., N.Y. Times, January 16, 2017. 

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


January 18, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thieves Demand Ransom to Return Remains Back to Family

Thieves steal ashesA California family was recently forced to pay $5,000 to get their son’s remains back. Their son lost his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma back in 2011, but his ashes remained in a locked safe. In December 2016, the family discovered that the safe had been stolen in a robbery. After working with police, the remains were located, but the thieves insisted on splitting the reward money, threatening to dump the ashes if refused. The family is still working to find out who the criminals are, hoping to bring them to justice. 

See Kyle Foley, Thieves Steal Ashes of 6-Year-Old in California, Demand Ransom to Return Them to Family, Heatstreet, January 16, 2017. 


January 18, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)