Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, June 10, 2018

New Jersey Teacher Leaves Students $1 Million Gift in Her Will

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-06-10/046561ee-1b31-4e03-8f8d-39d1da66857d.pngGenevieve Via Cava was a special-needs teacher in Bergen County, in northern New Jersey, alternating between the middle and high school levels during her teaching career that spanned decades. Superintendent of the Dumont School District, Emanuele Triggiano, was not surprised that the late teacher bequeathed a cash donation to the Board of Education. What was a shock was the amount - $1 million dollars, which will be used to provide scholarships of up to $25,000 for one or more students annually, starting with next year’s high school graduates, and that it was set up so that the $1 million would generate enough interest for the scholarship to continue in perpetuity.

Cava's long-time friend, Richard Jablonski, was the executor of her will and had an explanation of how the decedent was able to give such a large gift after years of living on a teacher's salary. “Her family went through the Depression, and I think a lot of that had a big influence on her life, being so frugal,” he said. She would not buy the hearing aids she needed, seemed to have few outfits and stopped going on vacations after her husband died.

See Jacey Fortin, New Jersey Teacher Leaves Students $1 Million Gift in Her Will, New York Times, June 8, 2018.

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

June 10, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Teaching, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Suicide Discussion is Evolving in the Wake of Kate Spade's Death

KateThe death of famous handbag designer Kate Spade earlier this week by suicide in her Manhattan apartment has reignited the conversation surrounding suicide, depression, and the way the two are linked. Spade’s longtime friend Elyce Arons told The New York Times this week that when the subject of celebrity suicides came up in their discussions about Spade’s depression, her friend assured her, “‘I would never do that. I would never do that. I would never do that.’ And I believed her.”

National Institute of Mental Health data show that, in 2016, 1 million U.S. adults made plans for death and attempted suicide. Eric Beeson, core faculty member at Northwestern University, says that being 'suicidal' is more than just a list of factors but rather a spectrum of behaviors, and that the act of suicide is not usually an act of impulse. “People talk about it being selfish; people talk about it being irrational,” says Beeson, “but actually I think a lot of suicides are very well-thought out, very well-contemplated."

The moral and philosophical discussion of suicide may also be changing. In ancient cultures such as Japan and Greece, suicide was seen as noble, available, and even honorable. Certain countries and states are passing "Death with Dignity" laws that allows phsyician assisted suicide for those diagnosed with a terminal illness. The conversation starts to travel down the path of when and under what circumstances suicide is "ok." As touchy as this subject may be for some people, the image of the men jumping out of the Twin Towers on 9/11 before they collapsed are not usually met with the proposition that they should be judged. “That analogy is not too different from someone who has a depressive disorder,” explains Beeson. “It’s not true flames, but it’s the flames of something."

See Cindy Dampier, In the Wake of Kate Spade's Death, Looking at Suicide Differently, Chicago Tribune, June 8, 2018.

June 8, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

California Appeals to Save Assisted Death Law

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an appeal on Monday against a ruling by a judge in Riverside County that overturned the state's assisted suicide law two years after the legislation passed it during a special session on health care funding. The law allows doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients with 6 months or less to live.

In the court document, Becerra claims that the reversal "contradicts both the deference owed the Legislature and an earlier finding by the same court that the act was within the scope of the special session."

See Taryn Luna, California Appeals to Save Assisted Death Law, The Sacramento Bee, May 21, 2018.

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

May 22, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Advisor Firm in Australia Accused of Billing Deceased Clients

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-21/aaab59c4-e393-4ee5-b1b8-087645be7426.pngThe Australian Broadcasting Company, or ABC, revealed that financial advisors at a firm based in Sydney were charging deceased clients for services that could not have been taking place. In one instance that was investigated, a widow claimed that after her husband passed away in 2013, the financial firm continued to bill him.

This is not the only Australian financial firm that is being investigated. According to Bloomberg, the Financial Services Royal Commission has been looking into the practices of several firms for fee malpractice.

See Asia Martin, Advisor Firm In Australia Accused Of Billing Deceased Clients, Financial Advisor, April 24, 2018.

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

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Matthew Mellon's Cryptocurrency is Being Held in Probate

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-20/fa52989f-fbc6-4656-81fb-9ccd6742f418.pngMatthew Mellon, descendant of the famous banking family, passed away last month at the age of 54 from ingestion of the hallucinogenic ayahuasca. He was on his way to rehab to treat his oxycontin habit which at one point peaked at $100,000 a month. Mellon inherited a $25 million inheritance when he was only 21 through one of the 14 trusts created for him, but he did not become a billionaire until he invested in cryptocurrency.

According to TMZ.com, those beneficiaries of the descendant's estate desire to push Melon's accumulation of cryptocurrency through the probate process - "faster than the normal course of action." The site claims that legal documents describe being worried about "the volatility of the digital money, noting since Matthew's death it's fluctuated by up to 30% of its value."

See Jay Brinker, Mellon's Folly and Infinite Sadness, JayBrinker.com, May 18, 2018.

May 20, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Advisor Catering to $100M Clients Starts Firm; Criticizes Industry

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-17/9ab0cf9d-1161-4a89-98c3-966719f04fac.pngA founding member of Iqonic Capital, an advising firm that touts clients worth $100 million and over, has left the company to start a rival firm. Chad Boeding was previously employed by Goldman Sacs before starting Iqonic with Divesh Makan, Michael Anders, and Will Griffeth. Iqonic's connections to Silicon Valley executives - including Facebook's own Mark Zuckerberg - propelled the company forward.

Boeding's new company, Epiq, will have a much different agenda and format than his earlier endeavor. Though Epiq will still cater to ultra-wealthy clientele, it will focus on eradicating conflict-of-interest techniques that are common in the industry. “Epiq will never sell proprietary products nor have its own internal funds," the new company stated. Beoding's hope is for the new enterprise to remain an impartial advisor for their clients.

See Simone Foxman, Advisor Catering to $100M Clients Starts Firm; Criticizes Industry, Financial Advisor, May 15, 2018.

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

May 17, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Billionaire Sackler was a Tax Avoider on an Industrial Scale

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-11/9064103f-ca42-47a0-943d-bbf761a799c0.pngMortimer Sackler, who lived in the famed Belgravia Square in London, was known for his philanthropic efforts in England and receiving naming rights due to gifts to art institutes. New light has been shined on the ways that Sackler avoided taxes beyond charitable gifts.

Mortimer Sackler's brother, Raymond, is a citizen of America and is domiciled in America, therefore he pays his taxes to America. Mortimer decided to renounce his American citizenship, become a resident of the United States but have no domicile "in any part of the UK.” This could result in Mortimer's portion - especially those in a tax haven such as Bermuda - in their shared business to be taxes less than his brother's. “The domicile of a person is not the same as his residence; you can be here 365 days of the year and still be non-domiciled provided (if you have a foreign domicile of origin) your intention is to leave."

See David Cohen, The Sackler File: Billionaire Liked to Parade as a Philanthropist.. in Fact He Was Tax Avoider on Industrial Scale, Evening Standard, May 11, 2018.

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

May 11, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rockefeller Estate Auction Ignites Frenzy Among Several Pieces

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-10/37796b7b-42aa-4279-b239-30afcd0f0088.pngThe name Rockefeller was once reviled as the epitome of ruthless and heartless capitalism. Now the name is spoken with the same reverence for being in par as American royalty. This change was in part due to converting much of their wealth to philanthropy.

Over 1,500 items from the estate of Peggy and David Rockefeller came up for auction on Tuesday at Christie's in New York. Many items were understandably well sought after, including paintings by modern artist Pablo Picasso. Other pieces were not advertised as much. However, there's a premium for simply owning something that possesses the Rockefeller name. Jonathan Rendell, Christie’s deputy chairman states, “You can’t calculate it."

Online bidding started the first of May. A 14-karat money clip shaped like Rockefeller Center has reached $26,000 after only being projected to be worth $800 to $1,200.  A pair of 3-inch porcelain tigers have garnered a price tag of 10 times their estimated $500.

See Katya Kazakina, Rockefeller Trove Ignites Frenzy with $26,000 Money Clip, Financial Advisor Magazine, May 7, 2018.

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

May 10, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

He Did it: Scientist, 104, Ends Life at Assisted-Suicide Clinic in Switzerland

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-10/34fcf641-15da-4ebf-a1d0-29354eb75142.pngDavid Goodall, a renowned Australian scientist, was successful in his medically-assisted suicide on Thursday in Switzerland. He was unable to stay in his home country to perform the procedure as it remains illegal there. Starting in 2019, the Australian state of Victoria will allow terminally ill citizens to undergo voluntary euthanasia. However, Goodall was not terminally ill, so the new law would not have made the procedure available to him.

Six states have laws dealing with euthanasia, but all of them require the person requesting the medication or procedure to be diagnosed as terminally ill. Switzerland's decades-old law only requires a written statement that the person - not dependent upon citizenship - is ending their lives freely and without coercion.

"At my age, and even at rather less than my age, one wants to be free to choose the death and when the death is the appropriate time,” Goodall said.

See Stephen Sorace, Scientist, 104, Ends Life at Assisted-Suicide Clinic in Switzerland, Fox News, May 10, 2018.

May 10, 2018 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 7, 2018

13-Year-Old Boy Regains Consciousness After Parents Sign Papers to Donate His Organs

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-08/488d3b31-34c6-456c-86db-d1a544a5a483.pngTrenton McKinley’s parents faced a difficult decision when the doctors told them their 13-year-old son would never be the same mentally after severe brain damage. The boy had suffered seven skull fractures two months prior in a small trailer accident. His parents did what they thought was best – signed the documents to donate his organs for five children that desperately needed them.

But the day before the doctors were authorized to “pull the plug,” Trenton miraculously showed brain activity. In late March, he regained full consciousness. The boy has a long road to recovery, already having undergone three brain surgeries and still needing a large piece of his skull  reattached.

See Kathrine Lam, 13-Year-Old Boy Regains Consciousness After Parents Sign Papers to Donate His Organs, Fox News, May 7, 2018.

May 7, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)