Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, March 27, 2015

Elder Abuse Investigator Sued Over Husband's Will

Gavel2A former Medford, Oregon police detective who specialized in investigating elder abuse has been accused of using her expertise to exploit the dementia of a Portland lawyer before his death last year. 

The daughter of Victor Calzaretta says that she was in line to inherit her father’s estate until Calzaretta married Sue Campbell after only a brief courtship.  In 2011, Calzaretta changed his will to make his wife the executor and sole beneficiary.

The $4 million dollar lawsuit filed on behalf of Diane Miller alleges the detective was familiar with the signs of dementia and married Calzaretta to gain access to his estate.  Campbell denies the allegations.

See Steven Dubois, Daughter Sues Elder Abuse Investigator Over Father’s Will, Statesman Journal, March 27, 2015.

March 27, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Breaking Bad" Prequel Follows Adventures of Elder Law Attorney

TVThe "Breaking Bad" prequel "Better Call Saul" will soon complete its first season, and shows the audience a different side of the ethically questionable Saul Goodman as a fledgling elder law attorney named Jimmy McGill. With his slogan "Need a Will, Call McGill" printed on his business cards, McGill navigates the world of elder law, including filing a class action lawsuit against an assisted living facility chain taking advantage of their residents.

See, TV Blockbuster 'Better Call Saul' Features an Elder Law Attorney, Elder Law Answers, March 24, 2015.

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

March 27, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tom Benson Speaks Out

Tom Benson speaksFor the first time on Tuesday, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson talked about the difficult decisions he had to make by ousting his former heirs from the family business.  Benson said he feels strongly about the state of both the franchises during an interview in Phoenix. 

Benson explained how his wife of ten years, Gayle, has been sitting in on more league meetings than ever before, including one Tuesday when she was allowed to join Benson, general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton in a session that is normally limited to just three per club.  Although Benson’s heirs have questioned Gayle’s lack of experience and success in her former interior design business, Tom Benson pointed to that history as a plus.  "We got married about 10 years ago and before that she was in business. So it's nothing new to her. It's not like somebody who was never in business. She knows the difference. You've got to make a profit against a loss."  Benson stressed that the plan with Gayle in charge would keep things running the way they are now, with a mostly hands-off ownership allowing the bulk of decisions to be made by the vice president.

See Mike Triplett, Benson Defends Call to Shut Out Heirs, ABC News, March 24, 2015.

March 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Overseers of Benson's Trust Seek to Pay Debts

Tom Benson

Since being appointed to temporarily oversee the trust of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson, a former San Antonio mayor and an estate lawyer asked a Texas judge for permission to pay off $206,997 owed to the holding company that includes New Orleans’ NFL team. 

Phil Hardberger and Art Bayer also filed a separate motion asking Bexar County Probate Court Judge Tom Rickhoff to pay $3,853 to an accounting firm the pair retained to help them prepare a list of assets and liabilities related to the trust created by Benson’s first wife, Shirley, for the benefit of daughter Renee Benson.  That inventory is due to Judge Rickhoff on March 25th

The $206,997 mentioned in the motions forms a portion of almost $9 million the trust owes to a company called Benson Football LLC.  The only amount that was due on that debt was an interest payment.  The annual interest due on the $9 million owed to Benson Football LLC is about $103,498. 

See Ramon Antonio Vargas, Overseers of Texas Trust at Center of Benson Family Dispute Seek Permission to Pay Debts, The Advocate, March 21, 2015.

March 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Undue Influence Ruling Upheld

Gavel2Patty Carlman successfully challenged her father's will in a Florida probate court, alleging that her father's surviving spouse, Demetra Blinn, asserted undue influence in having his will changed to leave all assets to Demetra. Demetra married Richard Blinn when he was 82 years old and suffering from dementia. Evidence was heard regarding Demetra giving the drafting lawyer for the new will proof of Richard's sound mental state that was nine-months old, and taking steps to isolate  Richard from his family. Demetra appealed the probate court's ruling.

In Blinn v. Carlman, a Florida appeals court found that there was "substantial competent evidence" of undue influence relied on by the probate court and affirmed the invalidation of the will.

See Anya Van Veen, Florida Will Overturned On Finding of Undue Influence By Surviving Spouse, Clark Skatoff, March 19th, 2015

March 23, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tom Benson Texas Case Moved to Federal Court

Tom BensonThe Texas case involving Tom Benson has been removed from Bexar County probate court to a San Antonio federal district court on Benson's motion.

See David Hendricks, Benson Case Moved Out Of Bexar Probate Court, My San Antonio, March 20, 2015.

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


March 23, 2015 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Saying 'I Do' to Social Security

WeddingMillions of seniors rely on Social Security to supplement their retirement income.  Because your spouse’s earnings record can impact your own benefit levels, many people who find their second loves later in life believe they would be better off if the remained single. 

This is typically because of the way Social Security treats second marriages from a benefits prospective; however, there are other factors at play as well.  If you are eligible to receive Social Security, you can collect based on half the benefit level your spouse earned or the full benefit level you earned.  If you marry twice, you are only allowed to claim spousal benefits on one of your spouse’s records.  If your spousal benefits from your second spouse are higher than what you would get based on your first spouse’s record, you can claim the higher benefit level. 

Although older individuals forego marriage the second time around, there are benefits to tying the knot.  First, married couples can give gifts of unlimited sizes to one another.  When a member of a married couple passes away, the spouse has better options when it comes to retirement accounts.  Additionally, for couples that have substantial income differences, the tax benefits that come from being married and filing jointly may outweigh any hits that come from changes to their Social Security.

See Chuck Saletta, Does Social Security Encourage Seniors to Remarry? The Motley Fool. March 21, 2015.


March 22, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Helping Clients With Long-Term Care Plans

Medical expensesLong-term care woes are rapidly escalating.  Rising medical costs, improved longevity and continued low interest rates are taking a toll on an industry many clients will rely on to take care of them on old age. 

Amidst these problems planners must evolve their own strategies on how to best help clients meet their future needs.  Below are some components an advisor should address to help clients create the best possible plan:

  • Home Front.  Home equity continues to be the most significant asset for a majority of older Americans.  Yet as clients begin aging, home maintenance becomes a burden and downsizing may not have much financial benefit.  Better ideas include renting in an area where there is good elder support, moving to a continuing care community, or living with family members. 
  • Default Care.  Identify potential caretakers and create agreements long before the need arises.  Financial planners can help families negotiate the best process. 
  • Too Much Stuff.  Create a plan as to how jewelry, collections, and other valuables should be insured and protected.  Discuss car ownership and a transportation plan before a client can become a danger to themselves or others.  If a client drives less than a couple thousand miles a year, paying someone else to drive may provide cost benefits. 
  • Quality of Life Choices.  Help clients become empowered patients by documenting acceptable quality of life measures, and sharing those decisions with medical providers and everyone else who has input on their care.  In doing so, the medical system will have a defined end point of when to move away from aggressive curative care to palliative care. 

See Carolyn McClanahan, Create a Long-Term Care Plan—Without Insurance, Financial Planning, March 18, 2015.

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

March 19, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Four Indicted for Robbing Elderly Clients

Atlantic County JusticeA New Jersey grand jury indicted the owner of an in-home senior care company and her sister, alleging they stole more than $2.7 million from 12 elderly clients to buy a Mercedes, a swimming pool and a Florida condo.

The duo posed as caregivers, while at the same time plotted to steal their clients’ life savings.  "In some cases, these sisters allegedly deprived their vulnerable victims of the ability to live out their final days in comfort and dignity, callously draining away the victims’ funds to pay for their own pets, swimming pool, expensive cars and Florida condo," said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman. 

The defendants robbed their victims by forging a power of attorney or obtaining one on false pretenses.  They would then add their names to the victims’ bank accounts or transferred the victims’ funds into accounts they controlled.  When one of them prepared a will for a victim, she typically named herself as executor of the estate and named a co-conspirator as a beneficiary.    

See Grand Jury Indicts 4 for Conspiring to Rob Elderly Clients, Press of Atlantic City, March 17, 2015.

March 18, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Writer Questions Allegations Surrounding Tom Benson's Mental Capacity

Tom BensonThe dispute over future ownership of the Saints and Pelicans has dominated headlines when Tom Benson announced his wife would inherit the two teams. 

As I have previously discussed, Benson’s granddaughter, Rita LeBlanc, as well as other family members have alleged in a lawsuit that Benson’s mental capacity is inadequate to manage his own business assets.  Yet, New York Times writer Ken Belson recently spent several days with Benson, and told WWWL Radio that the 87-year-old owner appeared sharp and comfortable in his element during his visit.  “He was very sharp.  He was presiding over a couple of meetings that I was lucky enough to sit in on,” said Belson. 

While he noted that Benson is aging and cannot recall every detail, Belson said the allegations claiming the billionaire can no longer make decisions was baseless. 

See Dave Cohen, Writer: Tom Benson is ‘Sharp . . . On Top of Things’, WWL.com, March 18, 2015.

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

March 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)