Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Court Reverses Trial Court’s Order Denying an Application to Probate a Will As a Muniment of Title

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-13/8ed7df52-9677-4e9b-9ee6-70bfc385d50c.pngIn Ramirez v. Galvan, the probate court refused an application seeking the probate of a will as muniment of title. The reasoning behind the refusal was section 256.003(a) of the Texas Estates Code (TEC), which requires a will to be “submitted for probate within four years of the testator’s death.” This rule is not an absolute. A will may be probated after the four-year period as long as the proponent is not in default. Per TEC, “default” means a “failure to probate a will because of the absence of reasonable diligence by the party offering the instrument.” In the past, Texas courts have been relatively generous in their light enforcement of this provision. On appeal, the appellate court refused to uphold the lower court’s decision. The higher court said that the probate court’s “finding is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence so as to be clearly wrong and unjust.”

See David Fowler Johnson, Court Reverses Trial Court’s Order Denying an Application to Probate a Will As a Muniment of Title, Texas Fiduciary Litigator, February 3, 2018.

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

February 13, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

The ‘Curse’ of Winning the Lottery

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-12/ed8eb045-7a46-4436-aad8-84957ba5a165.pngMost of us have sat idly and dreamed of a day when the sweet greenbacks flow like the Nile in summer and the only money issue we have to consider is whether we can spend that cabbage fast enough. While our daydreams tend to be light and lovely, the reality of winning large sums of cash can be morbidly dark. For Abraham Shakespeare, a $30 million Florida lottery winner, his lucky break was a short-lived affair. After befriending a seemingly kind young woman who offered to help manage his finances, he was soon to discover she had more sinister intentions. Shakespeare’s body was discovered three years after he claimed his prize in a makeshift grave under a slab of concrete. The young lady who had been so eager to lend her assistance had murdered him for the money. She was found and eventually sentenced to life in prison.

There are many anecdotes detailing these fortune-to-murder stories with equally unpleasant conclusions; some lucky lottery winner cashes in for millions and is found dead months or years later, their life snuffed out because someone desperately wanted their wealth. This sinister phenomenon has become increasingly well known, so common in fact that such tales have prompted the winner of last month’s $559.7 million lottery jackpot, a New Hampshire woman, to refuse to claim her prize unless she is granted anonymity. Edward Ugel, author of “Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions,” has said that of the “thousands of lottery winners I knew, a few were happy and a few lived happily ever after. “But you would be blown away to see how many winners wish they'd never won.”

See Christopher Carbone, The ‘Curse’ of Winning the Lottery, Fox News, February 7, 2018.

February 13, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Article on The Elephant Always Forgets: US Tax Reform and the WTO

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-11/bbeef750-d375-4656-b68a-7a1c9d5247b0.pngReuven S. Avi-Yonah & Martin Vallespinosrecently posted an Article entitled, The Elephant Always Forgets: US Tax Reform and the WTO, Tax Law: Tax Law & Policy eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (TCJA) enacted on December 22, 2017 includes several provisions that raise WTO compliance issues. At least one such provision, the Foreign-Derived Intangible Income (FDII) rule, is almost certain to draw a challenge in the WTO and is likely to lead to another US loss and resulting sanctions. This outcome would be another addition to the repeated losses suffered by the US for export subsidies from the 1970s to 2004, which led to the imposition of sanctions and the ultimate repeal of the offending regime. The important question for 2018 and beyond is whether the Trump administration and its Congressional allies will react to such a loss in a similar fashion as the Bush administration did in 2004, or whether it will defy the WTO, with potential far-reaching consequences for the world trade order.

February 12, 2018 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Woman’s Body Held in Ohio Mortuary for More Than a Year

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-11/e1d3ddb7-7db5-45b3-8a37-7b813be84676.png

Nancy Jo Roberts died with no family in Cincinnati to take care of her remains. After her death, her body was taken to a funeral home in Colerain Township, Ohio. Once the staff at the funeral home realized that Roberts was an indigent case, they passed her on to Premium Mortuary Services (Premium) located in Carlisle, Ohio. Premium was limited by Ohio law on what it could do with the body. Poul Lemasters, a death care attorney who represented Premium, said that all they could do was “accept a body. ... Can't cremate. Can't bury. You hold her and keep her in the most dignified way you can.” In all, Roberts’s corpse has been in storage for over a year. The family, once too busy to check regularly on Roberts, are now demanding answers. This is a valuable lesson for those with loved ones who have been relegated to once-in-a-decade visits in that it may be a good idea to pick up the phone every so often so they do not find themselves in a similar situation.

See Woman’s Body Held in Ohio Mortuary for More Than a Year, Fox News, February 2, 2018.

February 12, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Tax Law Makes Roth IRA More Appealing to Savers

Two Candles In The Shape Of The Number 20The Roth IRA just turned 20, and akin to many 20-year-olds, it has never looked quite so good. Though you cannot take tax deductions for contributions to your Roth, money in the account grows tax-free and the withdrawals are tax-free as well. If you had started contributing the allowable maximum to your Roth IRA at its inception twenty years ago, it would now have nearly $200,000 in tax-free savings. The passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act makes Roth contributions even more attractive right now, as the current tax rates are relatively low with expectations they will rise in the future.

See Kimberly Lankford, New Tax Law Makes Roth IRA More Appealing to Savers, Kiplinger, 2018.

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

February 12, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Watch out for the Gift Tax Trap in the New Tax Law

Opposition To The Stamp ActThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act virtually doubled the estate tax threshold. A single taxpayer can now own up to $11.2 million in assets at death without triggering the death tax. Married couples are allowed twice that amount, $22.4 million, as long as they make a timely portability election subsequent to the passing of the first spouse. In addition to this pretty incredible threshold increase, beneficiaries of a decedent’s estate still receive a step up in basis. So, a child receiving a deceased parent’s house would not have to pay tax on the increase in value of the home. This can mean huge savings in taxes, especially when a parent has held on to a home for decades with significant increases in value. While these benefits are exciting for those wanting to pass on property, the misapplication of these new tax rules could potentially incur additional unwanted taxes.

See Melody Juge, Watch out for the Gift Tax Trap in the New Tax Law, MarketWatch, February 1, 2018.

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

February 11, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Estate of Grey Gardens Socialite Sues for the Return of a Long-lost Portrait of 19-year-old Jackie Kennedy That Was Found Hidden Away in a Hamptons Art Gallery

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-11/577101c4-94da-48a3-a326-3c112804cafc.pngJackie Kennedy’s father commissioned a portrait of his daughter after a horse-riding accident that left the then-19-year-old unconscious for several days. The painting was commissioned in 1950 but was only recently discovered. It is believed the portrait was stolen from Grey Gardens, a now-dilapidated estate belonging to Kennedy’s cousin and aunt. The estate is currently seeking the return of the painting and have filed suit. Terry Wallace, the suit’s target, dismissed the estate’s claims: “I got the painting 30 years ago from a very reputable art and antiques dealer. I can't give you the name, but I can only tell you they were reputable. They were in the Hamptons and the painting came with a very good title. It has a very good provenance.”

See Estate of Grey Gardens Socialite Sues for the Return of a Long-lost Portrait of 19-year-old Jackie Kennedy That Was Found Hidden Away in a Hamptons Art Gallery, Daily Mail.com, February 10, 2018.

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

February 11, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 9, 2018

House Passes Senior Safe Act

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-10/b9e1d59a-2fd8-40df-9b9a-b8038613ac26.pngThe House recently passed H.R. 2255, a bill including the Senior Safe Act, which is designed to help prevent the financial exploitation of seniors. President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers, Dirk Kempthorne, believes that the passage of the Senior Safe Act “facilitates improved communication between insurance producers, life insurance companies and regulators in the event of suspected financial exploitation of senior citizens.” Paul Schott Stevens, CEO and president of the Investment Company Institute, noted that though “many states already shield financial institutions from liability when they disclose suspected elder financial abuse, this bill will provide such protection to all financial institutions, including all mutual fund transfer agents.”

See Melanie Waddell, House Passes Senior Safe Act, Think Advisor, January 29, 2018.

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

February 9, 2018 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kelis Says Nas' Child Support Isn't Cutting it Anymore

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-09/393ac2e1-4b4a-4c1d-9bc9-24687b0a7a9f.pngKelis recently filed legal documents with the court in an attempt to force Nas to pay more in child support. She is arguing that the current $8,000 per month she receives is no longer enough to cover expenses for their 8-year-old son, Knight. She also said that Nas is making more money now than when the child support payments were originally ordered and is more than capable of bearing the extra costs. The judge has not yet ruled on the issue.

See Kelis Says Nas' Child Support Isn't Cutting it Anymore, TMZ, February 9, 2018.

February 9, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pierce Atwood Names Marianna Putnam Liddell Chair of Trusts & Estates Practice Group

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-02-09/eb1d2c03-fad4-409e-aa0b-df1b9ec66d1f.pngPierce Atwood has named Molly Liddell the Trusts & Estates Practice Group Chair. Liddell started at the firm in 2003 and became a partner in 2013. Her practice focuses on estate administration and planning, trust administration, prenuptial agreements, probate litigation, and business succession planning. She graduated from Boston College School of Law magna cum laude and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently named her to the Probate and Trust Law Advisory Commission. David E. Barry, a Managing Partner at Pierce Atwood, notes, “Practice group leaders are critically important to the successful operation of the firm and our ability to serve our clients effectively and efficiently. I know Molly will balance her own busy practice with the needs of the Trusts & Estates Group and the firm. We look forward to having the benefit of her thoughtful and creative leadership.”

See Pierce Atwood Names Marianna Putnam Liddell Chair of Trusts & Estates Practice Group, Pierce Atwood, LLP, February 1, 2018.

Special thanks to Meredith Doesschate for bringing this article to my attention. 

February 9, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)