Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, February 27, 2015

Doctors Chosen to Examine Tom Benson

Tom BensonA three-doctor panel has been selected to determine the mental fitness of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson.  The court has not released the names of the doctors, and the judge said that all of the information surrounding the exam would be confidential. 

The judge previously stated that each side would select a physician for the exam, with the two sides jointly agreeing on a third doctor.  The exam ordered is less invasive than the heirs had originally sought 

The doctors are scheduled to examine Benson in mid-March and a report will be filed with the court shortly thereafter. 

See Doctors Selected for Benson’s Exam, WWLTV, Feb. 26, 2015.

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

L'Oreal Heiress Takes Center Stage in Courtroom Battle

Loreal Heiress

Liliane Bettencourt, the 92-year-old heir to the L’Oreal cosmetics fortune, is at the center of a courtroom battle in southwestern France, where prosecutors and defense lawyers paint vastly different portraits of Ms. Bettencourt. 

The case is the universal story of any wealth family with an elderly relative who fluctuates between independence and vulnerability.  Prosecutors allege that her age, the beginnings of dementia, and a daily medical regimen of 56 pills, invited exploitation.  So when French photographer, Francois-Marie Banier gained the largest share of her fortune ($1.13 billion), eyebrows raised.  “Liliane wanted to do things for me, to ease my life,” testified the photographer, who is facing three years in prison.  Mr. Banier’s lawyers argued that Mrs. Bettencourt made calculated choices and challenged the notion she was showing signs of dementia when she gave away lavish gifts. 

Also on trial are Mr. Banier’s friend, Martin d’Orgeval, Patrice de Maistre, and Jean-Michel Normand.  The list also includes a lawyer, a businessman, the former manager of Mrs. Bettencourt’s private island and her onetime nurse, Alain Thurin.  Investigators say they believe the amount of money taken from Mrs. Bettencourt totals more than €1 billion from a variety of schemes. 

The trial ended on Wednesday, and a panel of judges said it would announce its verdict on May 28. 

See Doreen Carvajal, In Case of L’Oreal Heiress, a Private World of Wealth Becomes Public, The New York Times, Feb. 25, 2015.

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

February 27, 2015 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

French Criminal Case Gives Glimpse Into Life Of L’Oréal Heiress

Gavel BWThe criminal trial in France involving allegations by prosecutors that trusted advisers of the second wealthiest woman in the world exploited her mental state and schemed her out of over €1 billion, concluded Wednesday and a verdict is expected on Saturday. The prosecution accused a long list of individuals close to 92-year-old L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, of taking advantage of her as she aged and began to develop dementia.

See Doreen Carvajal, In Case of L’Oréal Heiress, a Private World of Wealth Becomes Public, The New York Times, Feb. 25, 2015.

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

February 27, 2015 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Surprising Retirement Facts

Retirement

While many individuals look forward to retirement, many retirees have significant financial worries and health concerns.  Below are a few ways retirement might surprise you:

  • It may be difficult to spend down your savings.  After decades of accumulating enough money to retire, it can be psychologically and emotionally challenging to spend down that money.  “They are going to feel like they spent a lifetime accumulating this pile, and the idea of spending this down is just repulsive.”
  • You still need investment growth.  Develop a plan to make your retirement money last the rest of your life.  Learn how to minimize your risk in the portfolio, while also staying ahead of inflation and taxes.
  • Many retirees rely on Social Security.  For most retirees, Social Security is a significant source of income. 
  • Medicare does not cover everything.  Although Medicare covers a large amount of the medical treatments older people need, there are several popular services it does not cover.  For example, Medicare does not cover eye exams, eyeglasses, dental care, or hearing aids.  Retirees who require additional long-term care will need to find another way to pay for it.
  • Retirees are dating.  If you outlive your spouse or divorce, you could find yourself single in retirement.  Many single seniors begin meeting new people and dating. 
  • Moving is difficult.  Although it may seem attractive to move to the Sunbelt, most retirees do not relocate for retirement.  Relocating to a new community often means leaving behind family and a support system.

See Emily Brandon, 10 Surprising Facts About Retirement, U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 17, 2015.

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

February 24, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tom Benson: Treated Unfairly?

Tom Benson Family

On February 9, Bear County Probate Judge Tom Rickoff ordered that two receivers take control of Tom Benson’s Texas-based fortune—a move that has not occurred more than a dozen or so times in the past thirty years. 

This order sparked concern because it was based upon only a slight finding that Tom Benson is “stressed” by the pressures of sports fans and media scrutiny attendant to the probate proceedings, rather than probable cause or credible evidence of actual incompetence.  Neither the United States Constitution, nor the Texas Estates Code allow this kind of overreaching by the courts, which deprives citizens of liberty or property without due process of law.  Yet, Judge Rickoff cites a two-day hearing to justify the extraordinarily rare act of ordering a receivership over the 87-year-old’s fortune. 

The receivers confirm the premature nature of Judge Rickoff’s unprecedented decision, stating that their immediate plans include “deciding whether the assets are in any danger.”  Not only could this suggest that receivership was an abuse of discretion, but Benson’s attorneys characterize this move as a “fishing expedition.”

See Candice Schwager, Judge Rickoff’s Unprecedented Receivership Over 87-Year Old Tom Benson’s Fortune, Examiner, Feb. 22, 2015.

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

February 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lessons From An Heiress

Huguette Clark

Before she died at age 104, Huguette Clark was an heiress to a copper mining fortune with more than $300 million.  In his best-selling book, Empty Mansions, Bill Dedman unravels the tale of her remarkable family and why much of her fortune was spent and her valuable belongings sold in the last decades of her life.  Upon her death, relatives challenged Clark’s end-of-life wishes, and many of her millions went to lawyers instead of funding a charity. 

Clark was clear that she did not want her distant relatives to inherit any of her money.  However, when 19 relatives came forward to challenge her will, the resulting battle carved away at her large estate.  Even though the relatives were unable to prove that Clark was incompetent or had been misled, they received $35 million from the estate, and tens of millions more went to lawyers. 

While many of us do not have to worry about leaving behind millions when we die, Clark’s story offers clear lessons for anyone worried about what will happen to a lifetime’s savings when they are gone.  It is crucial to make a full estate plan, which should be flexible, changing as circumstances change. 

See Bob Sullivan, How an Elderly Heiress Lost Her $300 Million Fortune, Fox Business, Feb. 19, 2015.

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

February 23, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Article on Public Guardianship for Elders

GuardianshipEleanor B. Cashmore (Boston College Law School) recently published an article entitled, Guarding the Golden Years: How Public Guardianship for Elders Can Help States Meet the Mandates of Olmstead, 55 B.C. L. Rev. 1217-1251 (2014).  Provided below is the article’s abstract:

The aging American population will quickly lead to a greater demand for long-term care and services for people who are unable to care for themselves. Some older adults may require other individuals to make informed decisions on their behalf. State guardianship programs must confront the tension of providing protections for people who are incapacitated while respecting their autonomy, particularly when making decisions involving a person’s residence. When elderly adults wish to stay in their communities and are capable of doing so, a lack of proper support may be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999 in Olmstead v. L.C. ex rel. Zimring. One solution may be found in effective public guardianship programs. This Note explores the effect of Olmstead on state funding for long-term care, the implications of the Olmstead decision for guardianship, and common models of public guardianship. This Note then argues that existing public guardianship programs, if appropriately funded and held to proper standards, can help states meet the mandates of the ADA and Olmstead.

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Retirement Lessons From A 122-Year-Old Frenchwoman

France 2

Jeanne Calment, a Frenchwoman, sold her apartment in 1965 on a contingency contract to Andre-Francois Raffray, a local lawyer.  The agreement stated that Raffray would pay Calment 2,500 francs a month until she died, and then the apartment would become his outright. 

At the time, Raffray thought he was getting the better end of the deal—he was only 45, whereas Calment was 90 and a heavy smoker.  He was not counting on her outliving him, however, that is exactly what happened.  Raffray died at the age of 77, after paying Calment more than double the apartment’s market value.  His family continued to honor the deal after Raffray’s death and was paying Calment rent when she passed away at the age of 122. 

Madame Calment’s story illustrates the importance of considering life expectancy in retirement planning.  There is often a serious disconnect between how long people think they’ll live and how long they actually do.  While you do not know how long you will live, life expectancy gives you a starting point from a financial planning perspective.  It enables you to build a plan that takes into account that you may live longer than you anticipate.  This way, you can be confident you will not outlive your money.

See Rebekah Barsch, What A 122-Year-Old Frenchwoman Can Teach Us About Retirement Planning, Forbes, Feb. 18, 2015. 

February 18, 2015 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Benson's Mental Evaluation Will Look Like

Tom BensonAs I have previously discussed, Tom Benson has been ordered by a New Orleans court to undergo a mental evaluation. Benson will not have to endure a 15-hour long mental evaluation as initially requested, but he will be evaluated by three different doctors. According to LSU Health Psychiatry chairman Dr. Howard Osofsky, the doctors will focus on whether Benson understands the changes he made to his will, including the details of his will and estate. Osofsky also noted that the evaluation should start with an assumption of competence.

See Media Sources, Doctor Describes What Benson Faces in Competency Evaluation, Bayou Buzz, Feb. 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.

February 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tom Benson Looks Forward to Mental Evaluation

Tom Benson

Just hours after a New Orleans civil court judge ordered Tom Benson to undergo a psychiatric evaluation as part of a lawsuit filed against him by his daughter and her children, the Saints and Pelicans owner declared in a statement that he is “looking forward to taking this test.”

“I have instructed my attorney Phil Wittmann to bring forth this medical exam of me as soon as possible,” Benson said in his written statement Tuesday.  “I look forward to putting this behind us and moving on.”  Benson further stated that the legal proceedings against him by his daughter and grandchildren, “extremely disappointed him,” as they allege the Saints and Pelican’s owner’s mental capacity is inadequate to manage his own business assets.  “I must state right now that it has only strengthened my resolve to defend what I have built.” 

See Ramon Antonio Vargas, Tom Benson: I Look Forward to Mental Evaluation Ordered By New Orleans Judge, The Advocate, Feb. 10, 2015.

February 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)