Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Article on The Commissioners' Model of Ante-Mortem Probate

TimeJoe R. Savoie recently published an Article entitled, The Commissioners' Model of Ante-Mortem Probate, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Most jurisdictions within the United States follow the post-mortem model of probate, wherein a person of legal age and of sound mind distributes his or her estate upon death. The distributions, as intended by the individual, are set forth in his or her will only to be disclosed upon death. At such time, the individual's estate is distributed according to his or her wishes. Experience has shown, however, that in many cases the traditional probate system has failed to preserve the very interest it was designed to protect--the intent of the testator. This article discusses the problems associated with the post-mortem probate model and the techniques utilized to avoid it.

As an alternative to post-mortem probate, few states have enacted ante-mortem probate statutes that allow a testator to validate a will during his or her lifetime. This article discusses the current models of ante-mortem probate and their attempts to resolve the problems with post-mortem probate. The focus of this article is to advocate for a new method of ante-mortem probate, the Commissioners' Model, as an alternative to post-mortem probate. The Commissioners' Model addresses the unresolved issues and the problems with the current ante-mortem probate models. While the Commissioners' Model is not the ultimate ante-mortem probate solution, it demonstrates that ante-mortem probate deserves serious consideration and can eliminate the traditional problems of post-mortem probate.

June 23, 2017 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Article on Recent Texas Cases Impacting the Wills, Probate, and Trust Practice

Intestate-Succession-212x300Gerry W. Beyer recently published an Article entitled, Recent Texas Cases Impacting the Wills, Probate, and Trust Practice, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This article discusses recent judicial developments relating to the Texas law of intestacy, wills, estate administration, trusts, and other estate planning matters. The discussion of each case concludes with a moral, i.e., the important lesson to be learned from the case. By recognizing situations that have led to time consuming and costly litigation in the past, estate planners can reduce the likelihood of the same situations arising with their clients.

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

June 21, 2017 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Malpractice, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

A New Conflict-of-Interest Rule for Retirement Savers Is Causing a Lot of Confusion

Confused babyOn June 9, the long-awaited fiduciary rule finally became effective. The rule requires financial advisors to put their clients’ best interests first when offering advice about retirement accounts like a 401(k). There is substantial confusion on the part of both investors and planners in understanding the scope of the rule. Some investors are becoming concerned with the changes their planners insist are due to the new standard, but seem arbitrary or outside the scope of the new fiduciary rules. Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, sat down to answer some common questions regarding the rule. Roper explained that the rule, “applies to advice regarding Individual Retirement Accounts (both Roth and traditional), including rollover recommendations. It also applies to workplace retirement plans, such as 401(k)s and SEP and SIMPLE IRAs. Some 403(b) plans are also covered, but others, such as K-12 403(b)s, unfortunately are not. It does not apply to non-retirement accounts.” Roper also discusses how the rule generally works, necessary and unnecessary changes taken by advisors, and gives specific advice about different accounts and options for investors facing stubborn or dishonest planners.

See Michelle Singletary, A New Conflict-of-Interest Rule for Retirement Savers Is Causing a Lot of Confusion, The Washington Post, June 19, 2017.

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

June 21, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 19, 2017

How Do You Put a Price on Audrey Hepburn’s Personal Treasures?

AudreyA Burberry trench coat, once owned by Audrey Hepburn, will soon go to auction at Christie’s London. The estimated auction price for the item ranges from around $7,000 to $10,000. But, why this range? Why not $70,000 to $100,000? This is the question that Hume-Sayer and his team at Christie’s must grapple with as they arrange hundreds of objects once owned by Hepburn. Hume-Sayer notes that that objects themselves do not hold any great intrinsic value. It is the connection to the individual that they are really selling. Estimating this value can be incredibly difficult when dealing with celebrity memorabilia. A ring owned by Nancy Reagan, as an example, was “worth” $8,000 but sold at auction for $319,500. A little black Givenchy dress owned by Hepburn and worn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s sold for 467,200 pounds. It had been estimated to sell at auction for 70,000 pounds. While these prices cannot be certain, the trend seems to be that the more it meant to the owner, the more it will mean to collectors. This may be a key in understanding an object’s normal value versus the price it will earn at auction. “It’s that closeness to her person,” Hume-Sayer said, “that really resonates with people.”

See James Tarmy, How Do You Put a Price on Audrey Hepburn’s Personal Treasures?, Bloomberg, June 15, 2017.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) & Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 19, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Art as an Investment Class? It's Tricky

BasquiatThe pictured Basquiat painting of a skull recently sold at Sotheby’s for over $110 million. Looking at the incredibly high prices certain pieces may earn at auction, is it possible that planners and investors need to look at art as a viable investment option? Conservative investors tend to look at art collections like second homes or yacht-chartering businesses. Adam Lindemann, a prominent collector, advises that it is better to buy art for art’s sake. Lindemann explains that buying art is not like making investment decisions. Investing requires cold, objective analysis and purchasing art requires interest, patience, and hopefully, some passion.  

See Art as an Investment Class? It's Tricky, Trust and Wealth Management Marketing, May 31, 2017.

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

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

Preventing Financial Exploitation on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

OldYesterday marked the twelfth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Though public awareness of the day may be low, it is an internationally recognized event. Financial exploitation of the elderly is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. It has the potential to upend the financial stability of an older adult at a point in time when they are extremely vulnerable to personal pecuniary variations. By retirement age, a severe loss of in assets may be a difficult, if not impossible, event from which to recover. It is currently estimated that annual losses to elderly Americans range in the billions. Though much progress has been made over the past twelve years, there is a long way to go in the fight against elder financial exploitation.

See Stacy Canan, Preventing Financial Exploitation on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, June 15, 2017.

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

June 18, 2017 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Redstone Faces Ex-Girlfriend's Palimony Demand

T-sumner-redstone-sydney-holland-excommunicated-breakupBillionaire Sumner Redstone’s former girlfriend, Sydney Holland, is filing suit against Redstone’s daughter for interfering with an oral contract. Holland alleges Redstone’s daughter paid her father’s staff members to uncover confidential information in order oust Holland from her father’s life. Holland is arguing that this invasion of privacy caused Redstone to abandon his promise of lifetime financial support. Now, Holland is suing for an award of palimony for half of Redstone’s liquid estate. If awarded, Holland would receive about $10 to $20 million.

See Kartikay Mehrotra & Christopher Palmeri, Redstone Faces Ex-Girlfriend's Palimony Demand, Private Wealth, June 13, 2017.

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

June 16, 2017 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New York Banking Royalty’s Heirs Are Unloading Art to Save the Family Estate

WestfeldJames Jewett Stillman, born June 1850 and died March 1918, was one of the original founders of National City Bank—later Citibank—and died with an estimated worth of over $1.6 billion dollars (2017 dollars). Part of Stillman’s family legacy is the magnificent estate of Wethersfield. Nestled amongst rolling hills a short 95 miles from New York City, the grounds feature sculpted terraces, ornate fountains, and immaculately crafted and maintained gardens. Stillman’s descendants had thought the estate safely shielded from bankruptcy through trustees’ efforts at the Homeland Foundation. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

According to state investigation and their own eventual admissions, trustees of the estate squandered away millions of dollars in foundation assets on personal interests. They gave trust money to private schools their children attended and to their former alma maters. As part of a legal agreement, the unscrupulous trustees agreed to compensate the foundation at a cost of $4.4 million. Despite this, the estate is still running dangerously low on funds. A stopgap, the Stillman heirs have been reduced to auctioning off their ancestors’ beloved pieces of art. Christie’s will host the auction of works by Degas, Sargent, Lancret, and others. The new trustees hope to raise enough money to infuse at least $20 million into the lethargic foundation.

This loss of fortune over successive generations has become a common cautionary tale. In some cases, heirs may simply not have the education or skills required to manage large sums of money or the background to recognize when trustees are frittering away assets. Regardless of an heir’s capacity or ability, this case represents the extreme importance in choosing trustees and a trust that will look to a settlor’s best interest even after their passing.

See Katya Kazakina, New York Banking Royalty’s Heirs Are Unloading Art to Save the Family Estate, Bloomberg, April 4, 2017.

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

June 15, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Playboy Model Katie May's Estate Sues Chiropractor for Wrongful Death

KatieKatie May, a former Playboy model, died under the purportedly negligent hands of her chiropractor. May’s estate is alleging that Dr. Eric Swartz’s aggressive adjustment was the direct cause of the tear in her left vertebral artery. The tear cut off blood circulation to May’s brain and was medically determined to be the immediate cause of her death. According to the suit, Swartz wrote up May’s patient report four days after her death. May’s estate believes this is indicative of Swartz’s desire to alter the report to mitigate evidence of his responsibility. The estate is currently suing for malpractice, negligence, and wrongful death.

See Playboy Model Katie May's Estate Sues Chiropractor for Wrongful Death, TMZ, June 14, 2017.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump Administration Calls for Overhaul of Wall Street Rules

Trump familyThe Trump administration laid out its highly anticipated plan to overhaul the banking system. The proposed changes urge federal agencies to rewrite regulations that have plagued bankers and banking institutions since the passage of Dodd-Frank. The goal of rolling back and easing regulation is to help cut administrative costs shouldered by banks, make regulation more efficient, and spur job and general economic growth. The House bill passed on June 8 is not expected to make it through the Senate in its current form. Democrats, whose support is required for passage, are critical of the bill. They argue that Wall Street must be held accountable and should not be directing the charge for deregulation and removal of these protective safety measures. Major regulations that would be changed by the bill are the Volcker Rule, capital requirements for banks, and the seemingly limitless powers of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau. The banking report is one of several that will be released in response to Trump’s call for lighter regulation.

See Robert Schmidt & Elizabeth Dexheimer, Trump Administration Calls for Overhaul of Wall Street Rules, Wealth Management.com, June 13, 2017.

June 14, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)