Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why It's A Good Idea For Young Couples To Estate Plan

TrustMost young couples do not take the death of either one into consideration when it comes to planning for the future. This perfectly understandable position seems logical until the realities of probate, guardianship of children, and other estate matters come into focus. For example, most people assume that certain after death acts will be automatic such as a spouse taking everything in the estate. But, in many states, the spouse will take all in limited circumstances with everything depending on intestate laws which have great variation between states. Retirement saving plans might also be a problem since beneficiary forms, created before a relationship and often immediately forgotten, may not name a person the owner now would want to inherit. These. and a wide swath of other issues, should be mentioned to any young couple that comes in for a consultation. While the expense may seem unnecessary now, preparation is enormously helpful should an estate plan ever need to be put into effect.

See Andrew Rusniak, Estate Planning for Young Families, JD Supra, June 26, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

July 2, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Estate Planning For A Widow

CoffinThe loss of a spouse is one of the worst traumas a person can endure and will often leave one boggled on how to manage an estate that had traditionally been managed by two. But there are ways to minimize having to make crucial decisions while still in a state of bewilderment and depression by following some of these tips:

  • Before death, spouses should seek professional help to draft wills for each one and clearly express how the estate is expected to pass. Being clear with wishes long before illness or death is the best way to protect the survivor.
  • Make sure each spouse has a bank account in their own name with enough funds to cover expenses after death. If joint bank accounts are frozen in probate then the survivor might find themselves in financial need.
  • Make sure all estate related documents, such as wills and life insurance policies, are updates with the names of the proper beneficiaries. Misnaming a person could lead to costly court cost and large sums of money passing to someone that was never intended.
  • The most important planning technique is to make sure that you have a network of friends and family who may help through a post death crisis. The emotional turmoil from losing a spouse may cause people to make poor decisions that could be avoided if there are trusted people around to advise a better course of action.

See Sandra MacGregor, The Widow's Guide To Estate Planning And Wealth Transfer, Forbes, June 2, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

June 30, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Life Settlement May Provide For Long Term Care Of Dementia Patient

Old WomenFull time, in house care for a person suffering from dementia or Alzheimer cost an astounding amount every year. Medicare does not cover long term care and Medicaid only applies to those with little or no money which often leaves the family to pay the cost. However, if a patient has a life insurance policy, they have the option to sell the policy on an open market to provide instant liquidity to pay for care. There is a downside though, the immediate payout will be for a percentage of the policies' face value and the seller must continue to make premium payments to maintain the coverage. But a family that needs money now should carefully explore a settlement as it offers, in certain circumstances, the best option to care for a loved one in their dying days without wrecking the survivor's finances.

See Jeff Hallman & Scott Thomas, Families of Alzheimer’s patients turn to life settlements, Life Health Pro, June 25, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.   

June 26, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Proposed Massachusetts Legislation Would Permit Pets To Be Buried With Owner

PetPeople in society have a strong emotional bond with their pets, and it is common for households to treat these animal companions as members of the family.  There are some people whose love for their pets is so strong they want to be buried with them in order to live together in the afterlife.  In Massachusetts, it is illegal for people to be buried with a pet animal, but some lawmakers are trying to change that.  A new bill being proposed would make Massachusetts the fifth state to allow pets to be buried with humans.   If this legislation passes, those who wish to spend eternity with their beloved animal companions will finally have their dreams realized. 

See Jon Keller, Mass. Bill Would Allow Pets To Be Buried With Owners, CBS Boston, June 24, 2015.

Special thanks to Susan T. Bart for bringing this article to my attention. 

June 24, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 22, 2015

British Wills Database Reveals Much About Attitudes Towards Death Planning

Old Style WillIn the Midlands, sits a highly guarded facility in which every will probated in England and Wales since the mid 19th century resides. Until recently, access was limited to researchers but digitization now allows anyone, for a small fee, to read the last testaments by some of the most famous names in British history.

While much of the archive's value accrues to the historian, a legal professional may appreciate how these documents show the problems the creation and maintenance of a person's last testament entails, be it past or present. These wills reveal that all strata of society have faced the same issues when it comes to wills ranging from failing to update after a major life event like marriage to not properly describing property. Knowing these problems have always existed puts into perspective the difficulties all estate planners face and the ongoing struggle that is required to keep them in check.

See Rosie Ifould, Last orders: what do our wills say about us?, The Guardian, June 12, 2015.

Special thanks to Eloisa Rodriguez-Dod for bringing this article to my attention.

June 22, 2015 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

New York Court Of Appeals Overturns Award For Family Of Deceased Teen

Gavel 2When Jesse Shipley died, his body was taken to the local medical examiner and, as part of the examination, had his brain removed and preserved. When his classmates came to the morgue and saw the brain, his parents were informed and sued for damages and to recover the organ. After a trial and the first round of appeals, the parents held a $600,000 judgment for which the state sought certiorari.

In Shipley v New York, the New York Court of Appeals overturned the award of damages holding that state sepulcher law only requires that the body, not all internal organs, is returned to the family. The law only contemplates the return of the body so that a family may follow any religious or spiritual ceremonies their belief requires. However, a dissent pointed out that a complete body might be needed under some belief systems and urged action to change the current law.

Special thanks to Rick McGary for bringing this case to my attention.

June 21, 2015 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Legal Advantages Of Marriage For LGBT Couples

MarriageNow that a majority of states have had LGBT marriage legalized through the legislature or the courts these couples are enjoying new legal entitlements. The marital deduction will now be available from the IRS as well as estate tax exclusions for inheritance between spouses. Retirement plans will also be effected as a 401(k) require that the spouse be the sole alternative beneficiary and IRA's will be allowed to roll over into the other spouses IRA after death. However, couples should still take the time to create a will that expressly sets out inheritance plans to solidify the rights for the other person in the relationship.

See Holly Hanson, Estate Planning Advice For LGBT Couples, Forbes, June 10, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 11, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Small Business And The Estate Tax

Cutting TaxesSmall businesses and family firms are vulnerable to estate taxes due to the sudden liquidity that might be needed to pay off the IRS. In many cases, the estate plan of a family will not take this need for money into account and it can have a devastating impact on the ability of the firm to continue. One potential solution is to take out a life insurance policy for the amount of the expected tax hit so that the business is not forced to take detrimental action to create liquidity.

See McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC, Estate Tax Planning Prevents Heirs From Having to Liquidate Estate, National Law Review, May 4, 2015.

June 9, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Buy-Sell Agreements Great Help To Estate Planning

Passing Down PicturePartnerships and closely held businesses may be a problem when planning an estate due to the uncertainty regarding the valuation of the shares and ability to sell an ownership stake. The use of a buy-sell agreement may make planning easier by setting in stone procedures for buy out and valuation upon the death or retirement of a shareholder. Business partners will often support these agreements as it guarantees continuity of management and prevents outside parties from entering the business. Bring it up with any client who might need one and explain the benefits that might come from the certainty an agreement offers.

See Fox, Shjeflo, Hartley & Babu LLP, Buy-Sell Agreements: Good For Business and Good For Your Estate Plan, JD Supra, June 5, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

June 8, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Supreme Court Might Consider Jim Thorpe Burial Case

Jim thorpeThe two sons of famous athlete Jim Thorpe want their father’s remains to be re-buried on a sacred Native American burial ground in Oklahoma.  Jim Thorpe, who died in 1953, is currently buried in a Pennsylvania town that was named after him after his third wife seized control of his remains.  The town of Thorpe Pennsylvania named itself after the famous athlete to gain notoriety, though the Thorpe never set foot in the place. 

The sons are invoking the American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 to make the case for moving their fathers remains the Oklahoma.  The law was passed to assist Native Americans in recovering plundered remains and burial sites.  An ABC Sports poll once declared Jim Thorpe to be the greatest athlete of the 20th century. 

See Tony Mauro, Jim Thorpe’s Sons Take Burial Dispute to Supreme Court, Legal Times, June 2, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)