Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, February 5, 2016

New Book On Jury Charges For Texas Family Law And Probate

ArticleThe 2016 edition of Texas Pattern Jury Charges—Family & Probate has recently been published by Texas Bar Books and is now available. Provided below is a description of the book:

The assistance that this excellent resource offers extends beyond providing definitions, instructions, and questions useful for drafting charges in your jury trials. Many practitioners find it very helpful in preparing findings of fact and conclusions of law in nonjury cases and in identifying issues and evidence requirements in family and probate cases generally. Comments provide a ready reference to the source of each charge and instructions on when to use it.

Texas Pattern Jury Charges—Family & Probate digital product contains the entire book as a hyperlinked and word-searchable PDF file. All charge language is included as MS Word files linked to the comments for quick retrieval and assembly of jury charges. Texas and federal case citations are linked to the online version of the Casemaker Web Library. Texas and federal statute citations are linked to the main code section cited via Casemaker online.


February 5, 2016 in Books, Books - For Practitioners, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Unhappiness With Form 8971 Filing Requirements

Charitable trustThe IRS has recently issued final Form 8971 as well as instructions for a requirement that will now be placed on the executors of estates filing a Form 706. “The Form requires a schedule for each beneficiary which lists the assets received by the beneficiary and the estate tax value of those assets.” The purpose is to allow the beneficiary to be able to calculate the gain or loss on any assets they received. This new form will have to be filed within 30 days of the Form 706 filing. The process of filing a Form 8971 might be complex and difficult for practitioners. Some may argue for Congress to introduce an amendment to permit the deferment of the due date for the Form 8971 “until either actual distribution is made to the beneficiary or the assets to be distributed to the beneficiary can be precisely identified.”

See Charles Rubin, Form 8971 Filing Unhappiness, Rubin On Tax, February 3, 2016.

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

February 4, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE On Advanced Planning And Probate In Texas For 2016

CLEThe State Bar of Texas is hosting a CLE entitled, Advanced Estate Planning and Probate 2016, which will take place on June 22-24, 2016 at the La Cantera Hill Country Resort in San Antonio. Provided below is a description of the event:

If you are a Real Estate Probate and Trust Law Section member, you can save up to $100! ($25 provided by REPTL) Not a member? You can join today!

Hot Topics:
Directed Trusts
Will Reformations and Will Constructions
Criminal Aspects of Guardianship
Bringing the Bling to Your Presentation
International Estate Planning
Pre-Trial Tricks, Traps, and Opportunities

Registrants of the advanced course will receive the following benefits:
Continental breakfast and lunch provided each day
Networking socials on Wednesday and Thursday evening
Complimentary self-parking at all sites
Complimentary wireless signal in the meeting room
Complimentary online registration for the Attorney Ad Litem Certification for Guardianship Proceedings

February 4, 2016 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Why Selling A Life Insurance Policy Might Be Better Than Giving It Up

Life insuranceThis article discusses how many people pass of the opportunity to sell an unused life insurance policy.  “Almost 88% of life insurance policies go unused or are surrendered. Jon Sabes, CEO of GWG Holdings (GWGH - Get Report) , said many consumers are simply not aware that they have the option of cashing their policies in.”  The secondary market that exists for life insurance policies is described in this article as being similar to reverse mortgages. Life insurance is a very important part of estate planning and people with life insurance policies that they know will go unused should think about how they want to get rid of the policies. People who have life insurance policies that they know will not be used should speak with their estate planner about the options that this article mentions.

See Gregg Greenberg, Sell Your Life Insurance Policy—Don’t Just Give It Up, The Street, February 2, 2016.

February 2, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Common Pitfalls Executors Should Avoid

New estate planServing as an executor is a very difficult task that carries with it many legal responsibilities. An executor should be careful to not pay bills be careful and should instead get a good grasp of the estate’s financial situation. They should also be careful not to use the estate’s assets to play the market, and they should avoid mishandling real estate. Executors also need to be aware of the tangible assets that belong to the estate to avoid losing any of them. “Executors must find all of the deceased’s assets and sort through all of their personal belongings to account for the entire estate, says Victor Ngai, an executive at Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America in New York.” Being an executor is a tough job and a person needs to be well prepared for dealing with all their fiduciary responsibilities.

See Veronica Dagher, The Biggest Mistakes Executors Make, The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2016.

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

February 1, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Work That Goes Into Finding The Heirs Of An Estate

Last willThe duty of an executor to locate all heirs who are entitled to a share in the assets of an estate is something that is recognized in many jurisdictions. The difficulty involved with the process of locating heirs will often depend on the Will and the circumstances surrounding the specific situation. This article discusses some of the self-help remedies that executors can use to locate heirs. The executor might also want to consider hiring a professional researcher if the task of locating heirs becomes too difficult or complex. It is important for the executor to make a “reasonable effort” to find the heirs in order to fulfill the required standard that this column discusses.

See Suzana Popovic-Montag and Ian M. Hull, The Process of Locating The Heirs of an Estate, The Huffington Post, January 25, 2016.

January 26, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Florida Cases Clarify Interest Payments On Surviving Spouse's Elective Share

Gavel 2In some states, a surviving spouse may take an elective share from the estate of their spouse in lieu of what was left to them in the will. In Florida, a spouse may take a %30 share in what remains of the estate after deducting valid creditor claims against the estate as well as any liens against estate assets. Interest may be paid on the portion of the estate that has not been distributed but, according to the appeals court, is only paid on the portion of the estate that the spouse will retain which does not include portions that are to go pay such expenses as taxes. In addition, Probate courts are able to set the percentage of the elective share that will draw interest and will be reviewed only for abuse of discretion by higher courts. However, the appeals court, in another case, stated that a probate court cannot deduct attorneys fees from the elective share of the spouse; only deductions that are specified in the statute my be considered when establishing the value of the elective share.

See Anya Van Veen, Florida Surviving Spouse’s Elective Share Earns Interest, Not Charged Fees, Clark Skatoff, January 22, 2016.



January 25, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Battle over $100 Million Executor Fee Billed To Estate Of Leona Helmsley

HelmslayThere is currently a legal battle brewing over a $100 million fee submitted by the executors overseeing the estate of the late hotel magnate Leona Helmsley. Lawyers for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have argued that the $100 million fee is “exorbitant, unreasonable and improper,” and they say that a fee of $10 million would be more reasonable for the work that was done. Helmsley was known as the “Queen of Mean” and became famous when her Will left $12 million to her dog Trouble (who eventually sadly only got $2 million). The bulk of the hotel magnates $4.8 billion estate was left to charity. The executors, who “are two grandchildren, an attorney and a business adviser” have defended the large fee by saying that they administered an “extraordinarily complex estate…in the face of enormous risks.”

See Battle brews over $100M fee billed to ‘Queen of Mean’ NYC estate, Fox News, January 22, 2016.

January 22, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Bankruptcy Impacts Reverse Mortgage Payments

Grading advisorThis advice column discusses a situation involving a person with a reverse mortgage who filed for bankruptcy. When they filed for bankruptcy their lender stopped making monthly payments to them because borrowers are usually not allowed to access funds from their reverse mortgages during bankruptcy proceedings. A person might be able to get the bankruptcy court or trustee monitoring the proceedings to approve a request for continued funds through a “reaffirmation agreement.” It is important to be careful with reverse mortgages and to have the assistance of a competent legal professional when going through these types of issues. State bankruptcy laws can vary and different circumstances can become complex so it is a good idea to have guidance from an experienced professional.

See Steve McLinden, Bankruptcy halts reverse mortgage payments, Bankrate, January 22, 2016.

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

January 22, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Just How Much Money Was David Bowie Worth When He Died?

ArticleMost reports since the death of legendary rocker David Bowie have put his net worth at about $200 million which was built up from nothing when the singer went bust in the 90's. But is that really the case?  As late as 1997 estimates of his wealth reached $900 million but when he released his famous Bowie Bonds most assumed that he had lost everything and was forced to restart with the $55 million he took in from the sale. However, it appears to some that Bowie simply shifted his assets over to a series of offshore trusts and corporations and used the proceeds from bonds and a huge recording contract advance to buy himself out of a contract from earlier in his career and used the rest to build the empire that was known to exist at his death. Yet all is speculation about what happened to the $900 million he was estimated to be worth in '97 which just goes to show how effective his efforts at privacy have been over years. Losing or hiding that much money in secret is an impressive feat when it comes to avoiding public scrutiny which just goes to show that he had good advisors when it comes to asset protection in regards to secrecy. In any event, the minimum $200 million he was worth is more than enough to keep his family in luxury for the rest of their days and the fact they might have another billion is just a very thick icing on the cake.

See Scott Martin, Why David Bowie’s Posthumous Estate Will Break the $2 Billion Cash Barrier Faster Than Michael Jackson’s, The Trust Advisor, January 18, 2016.


January 19, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)