Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

After Killing Her Mother for Her Inheritance, Heather Mack Settles Claim

BaliHeather Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer were convicted of murdering Mack's mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, for her $1.6 million inheritance in Bali in 2014, infamously stuffing the body into a suitcase. While incarcerated in a notorious Indonesian prison, Mack has been fighting with the executor of her mother's estate, claiming that she was her mother's only beneficiary.

William Wiese, as exeuctor of Wiese-Mack's estate as well as the deceased's brother, has refused to pay out the inheritance to the convicted murderer, citing the Illinois slayer statute which states if you're involved in a murder and you're a beneficiary of a trust of the person you murdered, you lose all rights as a beneficiary.

The two have now reached an agreement and Heather Mack will not receive "any property, benefit, or other interest" from her mother's estate. Instead, the sole beneficiary of the remainder of Wiese-Mack's estate will go to Mack's three year old daughter Stella, who was born inside of the Indonesian prison in 2015.

Other details of the agreement were left confidential.

See Hannah Parry, Heather Mack Settles Claims for Mother's Estate Four Years After Killing Her With Her Boyfriend - and All the Money Left Will go to Her Daughter Stella, 3, Daily Mail UK, June 21, 2018.

June 22, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lisa Marie Presley Sues Money Manager, Claims MisManagement of $100 Million Trust Fund

MarieThe daughter of famed American musician Elvis Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, is in the midst of a brutal divorce as well as a lawsuit against the ex-money manager of a trust set up for her benefit. Presley claims that Barry Siegel, "enriched himself with exorbitant fees" of more than $700,000 per year while placating her with emails that her trust was, "in good shape on your finance"' and that she should be, "assured that we are doing everything on our end to maintain both your current lifestyle and the future of you family." Instead, the trust that was once valued at $100 million is supposedly at only $14,000.

Presley's lawsuit blames her losses on Siegel's 2005 decision to sell 85% of her trust's stock in Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) - the trust's largest asset at the time." The Trust received $25 million in stock in American Idol's holding company as part of the sale of EPE. That company went bankrupt in 2016, "and in one week alone the Trust lost $24.5 million of the $25 million in stock,"' court documents say

She claims to owe $10 million in back taxes and $6 million in other debts, and her soon-to-be ex-husband is seeking $263,000 in annual alimony payments.

See Ryan Parry, EXCLUSIVE: Lisa Marie Presley Claims Her Ex-Money Manager Lost $100 Million Trust Fund Left to Her by Elvis With 'Reckless and Negligent' Investments While Paying Himself a Salary of $700,000, Daily Mail UK, June 18, 2018; see also Jay Brinker, Suspicious Minds, JayBrinker.com, June 21, 2018.

Special thanks to Jay Brinker (Attorney at Law, Cincinnati, Ohio) for bringing this article to my attention.

 

June 21, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Inheritance Damaged by Delayed Property Taxes [Massachusetts]

SharonMassachusetts lawmakers created a property tax deferral program for seniors 45 years ago, and according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, only about 1,000 seniors across the state participate. The program allows senior to defer payment of their property tax until they pass away, leaving the burden to their heirs or beneficiaries when they inherit the property. Municipalities are allowed to charge up to 8% interest on the deferred tax, but some town opt to not charge any interest at all.

Frances Arntz was 76 in 1989 when she first applied for the tax deferral program for her home, and continued to reapply annually until she was 95 and moved in with her daughter in 2008. Her son Barry then took over the property and began paying the current property taxes every year, but he was never informed about the $50,000 in taxes his mother had deferred. Frances passed away in 2018 and left the house to her son, "free and clear" of any mortgages and liens.

Imagine Barry Arntz's surprise when he found out the tax burden on the home had ballooned to $120,000, including the additional 10 years worth of interest from 2008 to 2018. Arntz claimed that his mother was confused by the term deferral, believing it meant the tax debt was absolved rather than postponed. He also claims that the town of Sharon intentionally did not tell him about the deferred property tax.

See Sean P. Murphy, An Inheritance Damaged by Delayed Property Taxes, Boston Globe, June 18, 2018.

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

June 21, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyer Stole $328,000 from Clients and Firm According to the FBI

FBIAnother estate planning attorney from New York has been arrested last week for allegedly stealing money from clients, but this time also from the firm that he was employed at. Albert Hessberg III, 63, worked at the firm of Barclay Damon from 1981 until he was fired this past March. "The FBI and federal prosecutors in Albany are still investigating Hessberg's alleged thefts that could be in the range of $1 million to $3 million." Hessberg is being charged with mail and wire fraud, and faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Hessberg was the executor for a client only referred to as "A.R." who left an estate of $550,000 when he died in 2007. The assets were to be left in a trust to the client's wife, "C.R.," and then trusts to benefit the couple's children and grandchildren. When "C.R." passed away in 2010, she also had an estate of about $314,000. The FBI claims that there is no evidence that Hessberg ever set up trusts for the couple's children or grandchildren. Hessberg even emailed one of the beneficiaries and claimed, "that distributing the assets was complicated and he needed more time."

See Robert Gavin, Feds: Lawyer Stole $328,000 from Clients, Firm, Times Union, June 14, 2018.

June 21, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Man Serving as Pallbearer Crushed to Death by Mother's Falling Coffin

LakkianSamen Kondorura, 40, of Indonesia was killed after his mother's coffin fell off the funeral tower during the service on the island of Sulawesi. The coffin was being carried by Kondorura and other pallbearers on a ladder up to an ornately carved raised tower called a lakkian. The deceased is placed in the lakkian before "elaborate traditional funeral rites."

The ladder crumbled under the weight of the pallbearers and the coffin and fell 10 feet, hitting Kondorura. He passed away on the way to the hospital.

Julianto Sirait, the chief police commissioner in the North Toraja district, said the ladder “was not properly reinforced” but the family has decided not to press charges against the manufacturer. The son's body now rests beside his mother's.

"When an ethnic Torajan dies, some families spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on funerals. The funerals can go on for days and include feasts, dancing, and animal sacrifice."

See Kathleen Joyce, Man Serving as Pallbearer Crushed to Death by Mother's Falling Coffin, Fox News, June 19, 2018.

June 19, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Stephen Hawking's Ashes Buried in Westminster Abbey

HawkingStephen Hawking was laid to rest last week between Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey, the burial ground for Britain's greatest scientists. "The ashes were interred in Scientists' Corner, a section of the Abbey dedicated to those who have made significant breakthroughs." A stone will be placed atop the burial spot with the inscription: "Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking 1942 - 2018." The stone is also inscribed with one of Hawking's most famed equations.

The physicist passed away in March at the age of 76 after decades of battling with a motor neuron disease. At the thanksgiving service there were readings by actor Benedict Cumberbatch who played Hawking in a BBC drama, astronaut Tim Peake, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, and Nobel prize winner Kip Thorne. 1000 members of the public were chosen through ballot to attend.

A private funeral service was held in Cambridge in March.

See Stephen Hawking's Ashes Buried in Westminster Abbey, KVOA.com, June 15, 2018.

June 18, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Albany Attorney Admits to Stealing from Elderly Clients in $11.8 Million Estate Fraud

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-06-18/49b0d7c2-9794-46c1-a045-ee9732c86791.pngRichard J Sherwood, 58, pled guilty last week to money laundering and tax crimes stemming from a scheme to steal millions from estates of elderly clients that he was serving as attorney and fiduciary. Between Sherwood and his co-conspirator they stole a total of $11.8 million from an elderly couple, the wife's sister, and a client from Ohio that suffered from dementia.

Sherwood had been a practicing attorney in New York since 1988, primarily in the field of trusts and estates. He became the attorney for the couple of Warren and Pauline Bruggeman in 2006, as well as Pauline's sister Anne Urban, all of Niskayuna, New York. They all signed will directing the majority of their assets to be transferred to charities upon their deaths.

"Warren Bruggeman died in April 2009, and Pauline died in August 2011. At the time of her death, Pauline had personal and trust assets valued at approximately $20 million." Anne Urban passed away not long after in 2013. The conspirarcy also included the grabbing of funds from Julia Rentz, a resident of Ohio, who was suffering from dementia at the time of the thefts and died in 2013 as well.

Sherwood faces up to 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to 3 years of post-imprisonment supervised release. He also served as Guilderland Town Justice from 2014 until his arrest on February 23, 2018. He resigned his position on March 5.

See Albany Attorney Admits to Stealing from Elderly Clients in $11.8 Million Estate Fraud, US. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York, June 11, 2018.

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

June 18, 2018 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Tom Wolfe's Wife of Years to Inherit Majority of His Estate

WolfeAuthor Tom Wolfe passed away last month of an unidentified infection in New York City and his will was filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court on Thursday. The 12-page document revealed that the writer left all of his personal property to his wife of 40 years, Sheila, as well as "all my right, title and interest to any real property and any cooperative apartment used by me or my family as a residence…" He left the interests to his books to his two adult children, Alexandra and Tommy.

"While there isn’t an extensive breakdown of how much Wolfe was worth, probate paperwork indicates that his estate is valued north of $500,000." Wolfe's will also directed that he desired to be cremated.

Wolfe was a writer that captured the essence of the culture of America for 50 years, writing such books as The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Right Stuff, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

See Ariel Zilber, Tom Wolfe's Will Reveals He Left the Bulk of His Fortune to Hife Wife of Years and Asked to be Cremated, Daily Mail, June 14, 2018.

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

June 15, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Viral Photo of Nigerian Man Being Buried With $90,000 BMW SUV

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-06-15/590d1b7d-d20f-4253-aaa4-c72ba6328d50.pngA Facebook picture supposedly showing a Nigerian man being buried with a brand new BMW X6 SUV in a small village in Nigeria recently went viral. The story was picked up by several news stations and continued to be shared via social media. Upon further investigation, the picture and story most likely is not legitimate.

The picture was originally posted onto the account of Nigerian filmmaker and artist Zevi Gins. Several commentators appeared to be getting annoyed by the rumor of waste and selfishness the photo stirred up, saying such things as "this is a film that's being directed by Tchidi chikere." Also, it appeared that numerous people recognized in the picture were well known Nigerian actors and actresses.

See Gary Gastelu, Photo of Nigerian Man Allegedly Being Buried in New BMW SUV Goes Viral, Fox News, June 13, 2018.

June 15, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on NOTE: Uncle Sam Killed Grandma: How The Estate Tax Can Help Alleviate Medicare Uncertainty

Uncle samAlexander G. Karl recently published an Article entitled, NOTE: Uncle Sam Killed Grandma: How The Estate Tax Can Help Alleviate Medicare Uncertainty, 26 Elder L.J. 443 (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

In the United States, Medicare is the single largest purchaser of medical services. This government program is primarily used by the elderly population. The future of Medicare is murky as there are many obstacles hindering its funding. It is more important than ever to ensure funding for this governmental program. The funding for Medicare has been reduced, even though the aging baby boomer generation has caused an exponential growth in enrollment.

Wealthy individuals who are in similar health conditions as those who are Medicare beneficiaries are subject to the Estate Tax. This tax is calculated based on the estate's value before it is passed to its heirs. As more baby boomers age, there will be more deaths and more estates that are taxable. Reformation of the Estate Tax will generate more revenue and, due to its relationship with Medicare, can justifiably be used to fund Medicare.

This Note: surveys the history and functionality of Medicare and the Estate Tax. This Note: also analyzes the impacts of budget cuts. It suggests a congressional policy change that would allow the collected Estate Tax revenue to fund Medicare. To do so, the Estate Tax must be reformed in two steps: (1) lower the exclusion amount while raising the maximum tax rate; and (2) limit the Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts to prevent large transfers of untaxed wealth.

 

June 15, 2018 in Articles, Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)