Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Monday, May 25, 2015

Estranged Husband Of Murder Victim Seeks Part Of Estate

Penn STate FlagA Pennsylvania man is seeking part of the estate of his estranged wife after she was murdered by her boyfriend from after the separation. The couple had been apart for almost three years when the murder occurred and, as a result, the probate court ruled that the husband would take nothing under the doctrine of "willful neglect." While the former lovers had remained friends, there was no evidence either party sought to keep the marriage together even if there had not been a formal ending of the marriage. The ruling is currently on appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

See Terrie Morgan-Besecker, Spouse of Homicide Victim Fights for Share of Estate, Times-Tribune, May 23, 2015.

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

May 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CLE On Estate Tax Returns, Estate Expenses

CLEThe American Bar Association Paralegal Elearning Program presents, From Undertaker to Litigator and Steps in Between: The Role of the Paralegal in Estate Administration, Distribution and Resolution, Thursday June 4, 2015 from 12:30-1:30pm Central, online. Here is why you should attend:

Attendees of the Paralegal eLearning Program will learn substantive legal and ethics issues – as well as best practices – from leading industry professionals with in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience in Trust & Estate Law.  The program will offer ten 60-minute eLearning sessions, and attendees can register for the entire series or individual sessions.

As an added bonus, all Paralegal eLearning Program series registrants will receive a complimentary Associate membership in both the ABA and Section of Real Property, Trust & Estate Law for the 2014-2015 bar year.

May 25, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Power of Attorney Never An Automatic Authorization For Self Dealing

Money FightMany people have a fundamental misunderstanding of what actions are authorized with power of attorney. Self dealing is the most common result of this misunderstanding and prompts many people to alter estate distributions to better suit their own desires. However, self dealing is never authorized without specific grants of power and, even then, usually cannot allow complete selfishness as holder. Every client should have specific language setting forth the duties and powers of a holder and must be clearly expressed to avoid ambiguities that may be exploited.

See Brian Spiro, Power of Attorney Not Authorized for Self Dealing, Clark & Skatoff, May 22, 2015.


May 23, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Neville Wran's Adopted Son Suing Step-Mother For Larger Share Of Estate

Neville wranThe adopted son of Neville Wran, the deceased former premier of the Australian State of New South Wales (NSW), is suing his step mother for a larger portion of Wran’s estate. Glenn Wran, who is 68, was adopted by Neville Wran as an infant when he married Glenn’s mother in 1946.  In 1976, Neville Wran married Jill Lesley Norton Hickson who is now the defendant in this dispute.  When Neville Wran died in April of last year he left behind a large property portfolio that is estimated to be worth $40 million.  NSW succession law does not just take into account the actual estate.  If the claimant feels like he or she has not been sufficiently provided for, then NSW will also factor in the notional estate (superannuation, family trusts and real estate held in a joint tenancy).  Justice Helen has recommended mediation as a possible remedy, the case will return to court on July 31.  

See Louise Hall, Neville Wran $40 million estate: Son Glenn Wayne Wran takes Jill Hickson Wran to court for bigger share, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 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.

May 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article On The Simplification Of Death Deeds In Connecticut

Tyler GablenzTyler Gablenz (Quinnipiac University School of Law, Class of 2015) recently published an article entitled, Simplify The Process: Why Connecticut Should Adopt The Use Of Transfer On Death Deeds, 28 Quinnipiac Prob. L.J. 165-183 (2015). Provided below is an excerpt from the article:

At a time when the economy is struggling, Americans are looking for ways to save money. Hiring an attorney to handle one's estate in probate court may be impossible or impracticable for many. One solution to this problem is the use of will substitutes, documents people may draft themselves, or with the assistance of a legal professional, that allow them to avoid going to probate court. One such document is a real property transfer on death deed, which allows an individual to turn over real property to a beneficiary without court involvement. A law has already been enacted in Connecticut, allowing the non-probate transfer of securities to designated beneficiaries at the death of the owner. A real property transfer on death deed act has been codified in only nineteen states, but many other legislatures, including Connecticut's, have recently considered a change in the law.

This Note will provide an overview of the Connecticut probate process, introduce what a transfer on death deed is, outline how one is created, explore its effects (including the benefits and dangers of this type of deed), and discuss why states should consider enacting them.


May 22, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vanderbilt Family Involved In Dispute Over Management Of Breakers Mansion

Breakers mansionThe Breakers mansion, which is in Newport Road Island, was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895.  The mansion is currently by a non-profit group called the Preservation Society of Newport County.  Earlier this month 21 members of the Vanderbilt family signed a letter complaining about the management of the mansion.  The family members have threatened to withhold donations to the mansion because they disagree with “the current leadership climate.”  Donald Ross, the chairman of the preservation society, responded to the letter by stating that the signers of the letter have only contributed a total of $4,000 and that only 7% of the objects in the Breakers mansion were on loan from the family.  Ross also went on to state that two of the signers of the letter currently live in the mansion with permission from the Society. 

See Vanderbilt Family Locked In Feud Over ‘America’s Downtown Abbey,’ Associated Press, The Guardian, May 19, 2015.

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



May 21, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How To Structure Zero Basis Stock Sales For Tax Savings

Trust AltStock with a zero basis can be a tax headache for those about to retire that seek to divest of their assets in order to fund a retirement plan that provides income and liquidity. By using a couple of different charitable remainder unitrust to take the bulk of the stock sale income the estate planner may offset the capital gains on the portion that was retained for liquidity purposes. This article provides step by step instructions on how to format this tax savings strategy using a hypothetical based on a $3.5 million dollar sale of stock.

See Three-Way Split SaleCharitable Planning, May 14, 2015.

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

May 19, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Article On Testamentary Restraint On Choice Of Same Sex Marriage Partner

Emylee PopoffEmalee G. Popoff (J.D. Candidate, Drexel University School of Law, May 2015) recently published an article entitled, Testamentary Conditions In Restraint Of The Marriage Of Homosexual Donees, 7 Drexel L. Rev. 163-193 (2014). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

Courts generally enforce conditions on inheritance; however, conditions restricting the conjugal choices of donees are sometimes held unenforceable on public policy grounds. These policies have not yet been applied to testamentary conditions in restraint of the marriage of homosexual donees.

Today, attitudes toward homosexuality are changing. At the same time, the use of incentive trusts and other conditional testamentary gifts is on the rise. Given the political trend in many jurisdictions toward treating homosexual relationships like heterosexual relationships, the resulting backlash against homosexuality, and the recent increase in the use of incentive trusts and other conditional testamentary gifts, testamentary gifts conditioned on the conjugal choices of homosexual donees are likely to be-come more common.

There is reason to believe that, in certain circumstances, courts would not consider a donee’s sexual orientation relevant to such conditions’ enforceability, even with respect to conditions restricting the donee’s marriage to a person of a particular sex. This Note argues that courts should consider a donee’s sexual orientation in determining whether a condition in restraint of the donee’s marriage is enforceable or void as against public policy.

May 17, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Changing Duty To Give Notice To Beneficiaries

Trust AltOver the years, the obligation of a trustee to give notice to the settlor and beneficiaries has been far from uniform. Many states differentiated between types of trust with the general rule being that only the settlor required notice of certain key actions by the trustee as long as the trust remained revocable. However, this distinction was not always statutorily based and, in the case of Kentucky, the state Supreme Court refused to read this into the relevant code provisions. The most recent Uniform Trust Code enshrines the revocability doctrine in law but, depending of state, is not always guaranteed to be adopted. It is always advisable to review notice requirements when setting up a trust as this could be an easy way for an irate beneficiary to get into court.

See Terri Stallard, The Evolving Duty of Trustee Communication with Beneficiaries, National Law Review, May 15, 2015.

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

May 17, 2015 in Estate Administration, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Portsmouth Inheritance Dispute Comes to a Close

Gavel 5I have previously discussed the months long inheritance dispute regarding whether police Sergeant Aaron Goodwin took advantage of Geraldine Webber in order to inherit her $2.7 million estate.  As arguments come to a close in the hearing, Judge Gary R. Cassavechia will focus on whether Webber maintained her testamentary capacity when her new lawyer rewrote her will.  The judge is also expected to determine whether Goodwin exerted undue influence over Webber to have her estate revised during their two-year friendship.  Judge Cassavechia told lawyers that he would need time to consider the legal arguments surrounding the burden of proof before he officially takes the case under advisement. 

See James A. Kimble, Inheritance Dispute Involving Portsmouth Detective Draws to a Close, Union Leader, May 12, 2015.   

May 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)