Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Article on the Prudent Investor Rule and Market Risk

InvestmentMax M. Schanzenbach (Northwestern University School of Law) and Robert H. Sitkoff (Harvard Law School) recently published an article entitled, The Prudent Investor Rule and Market Risk: An Empirical Analysis, Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 15-16 (2015).  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

The prudent investor rule, enacted in every state over the last 30 years, is the centerpiece of fiduciary investment law. Repudiating the prior law's emphasis on avoiding risk, the rule reorients fiduciary investment toward risk management in accordance with modern portfolio theory. The rule directs trustees to implement an overall investment strategy having risk and return objectives reasonably suited to the trust. Using data from reports of bank trust holdings and fiduciary income tax returns, we examine trustee management of market risk before and after the reform. First, we find that the reform increased stock holdings only among banks with average trust account sizes above the 25th percentile. This result is consistent with sensitivity in asset allocation to beneficiary risk tolerance as proxied by account size. Second, we find that, although stockholdings increased after the reform, trust corpus did not become more correlated with the market. We explain this result in part with evidence of increased portfolio rebalancing after the reform. We conclude that the rule’s command to align market risk with beneficiary risk tolerance, and to manage market risk exposure on an ongoing basis, has largely been followed.

April 1, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Rules Ernie Banks' Will Is Valid

Ernie BanksYesterday a Cook County Probate judge determined that the will signed by Ernie Banks is valid.  The judge confirmed the will that gave all of Banks’ assets to his caretaker after hearing testimony from two paralegals from the law firm that executed it.  The witnesses said that Banks was of sound mind and was not coerced at the time he signed his will. 

Attorneys for Banks’ wife said they would continue to fight, as the judge’s ruling was merely procedural.

See Associated Press, Judge: Ernie Banks’ Will Giving Estate to Caretaker is Valid, Independent Mail, March 31, 2015.

April 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate Planner Accused of Deceiving Family After Losing Will

Gavel2An estate planning lawyer in New York has plead not guilty to charges of possessing a forged instrument and offering a false instrument for filing. The lawyer is accused lying to the family of his late client after he could not find the man's will. The lawyer did not receive any financial gain from allegedly deceiving the family.

See Mark Hansen, New York Lawyer Charged for Allegedly Deceiving Family Over Misplaced Will, ABA Journal, March 27, 2015.

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

April 1, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Robin Williams Restricts Use Of Image

Robin WilliamsRobin Williams will remain a missed presence in feature films in years to come, but his image or name will not appear in advertising or even referenced in future works.  According to the Robin Williams Trust, Williams bequeathed rights to his name, signature, photograph and likeness to the Windfall Foundation, a charitable organization created by Williams’ legal reps. 

The Trust restricts exploitation of Robin Williams’ right of publicity for 25 years after his death.  This means that there will not be any authorized advertisements featuring Williams until August 11, 2039.  Moreover, if the Windfall Foundation is deemed ineligible for a charitable deduction by the Internal Revenue Code, the Trust mandates that Robin Williams’ publicity rights be distributed to one or more charitable organizations with a similar purpose that qualify for such deductions. 

By assigning publicity rights to a tax-advantaged charitable organization, Williams’ may have limited his family’s tax liability.  Not only did Williams assert a measure of control over posthumous exploitation, but he recognized that the value of a celebrity’s afterlife has gone up in recent years and made a step to mitigate the IRS's interest in this. 

See Eriq Gardener, Robin Williams Restricted Exploitation of His Image for 25 Years After Death, The Hollywood Reporter, March 30, 2015.

Special thanks to Madeleine M. V. Young (a Hawaii Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention. 

March 31, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Robin WIlliams' Widow Takes Stepchildren to Court

Robin and Susan

Robin Williams’ widow Susan Schneider and his children are entangled in a legal battle over the comedian’s personal items he kept in the house where he committed suicide last August. 

Susan seeks to prevent Zachary, Zelda and Cody from taking anything that was in their father’s Tiburon, California home, claiming that it belongs to her.  She also argues that some of Williams’ personal items were taken from his home without her permission. 

The children say that Susan is “adding insult to a terrible injury” in attempting to alter the trust and rob them of their father’s possessions. 

According to the late actor’s will, his three grown children will receive the bulk of his jewelry, memorabilia and other belongings.  However, Susan is asking a judge to exclude the belongings within their “marital home” from the list of things the children are allowed to take.  She says that because Williams wanted her to continue to reside at the Tiburon home, it follows his children should only have the specific personal items in another home he owned in Napa. 

See Michael Zennie, Robin Williams’ Widow Goes to Court to Stop His Children From Taking Their Father’s Things From the Home Where He Committed Suicide, Daily Mail, March 30, 2015. 

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

March 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Dead are Living Through Social Security Numbers

SocialSecurityAdminThere are roughly 300 to 450 living individuals over the age of 110 in the world, but many more American supercentenarians are on record as still living. According to Social Security records, 6.5 million. This gap in death reporting opens up deceased individuals to identity theft. Executors and family members can avoid this by reporting the death of an individual to Social Security or arrange for the funeral home to do so.

See Chuck Saletta, 6.5 Million New Reasons to Worry About Your Social Security, The Motley Fool, March 29, 2015.

March 31, 2015 in Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Alfred Nobel's Last Will and Testament Goes On Display

Alfred Nobel will

Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament, which was integral in creating the renowned Nobel prizes, has gone on display for the first time in Stockholm. 

Until now, only a few people have seen the original 1895 document that has been safeguarded at the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm.  The Nobel Museum has decided to change that, putting the will on public display as part of its new exhibition “Legacy.”  “The exhibition draws attention to how important it is to pass things on.  The will is the centerpiece.  It is a simple document, but it still today provides the basis of our work with the [Nobel] prizes.”  

See Camille Bas-Wohlert, Alfred Nobel’s Last Will and Testament Goes On Display for First Time in Stockholm, Art Daily, March 17, 2015.

March 30, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dean Smith Gift to Former Players Described as Typical of His Coaching Style

Dean SmithAs I have previously discussed, roughly 180 former University of North Carolina basketball players will soon receive a $200 check from a trust created by their former coach, Dean Smith, with instructions to enjoy dinner on him. One of the former UNC players to receive a check is six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan, who described Smith as one of the largest influences in his life. Another player included as a recipient, Eric Montross, described Smith's inclusion of these gifts in his estate planning as a typical action of his former coach who was often making a point to teach his team lessons. Montross describes this lesson as one of friendship.

See Eben Novy-Williams & Rob Gloster, Dean Smith Dinner Bequest Is One of His ‘Lessons’ to Team, Bloomberg, March 26, 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 30, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

CEO Tim Cook To Give Away All His Money

Tim CookChief Executive of Apple Inc., Tim Cook, is planning to give away his wealth.  The head of the world’s largest technology corporation says he plans to donate his estimated $785 million fortune to charity after paying for his ten-year-old nephew’s college education.  “You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripples for change,” said Cook.

Although Cook’s fortune is not as massive as Gates or Zuckerberg, who are both worth billions, the Apple CEO said he hopes to make a difference.  In recent years, Cook has begun speaking out about issues ranging from the environment to civil rights.  Cook has already started donating money to unspecified causes quietly and is trying to develop a more “systematic approach” to philanthropy that goes beyond writing checks.

See Reuters, Apple’s Tim Cook Will Give Away All His Money, Yahoo Finance, March 26, 2015.    

March 28, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Singapore's Remedial Constructive Trust

Man YipMan Yip (Singapore Management University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Singapore’s Remedial Constructive Trust: Lessons from Australia? Journal of Equity, Vol. 8, pp. 77-107 (2014); Singapore Management University School of Law Research Paper No. 42/2015.  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

Although Singapore equity was historically derived from and remains reliant on English equity, in recent years, the Singapore courts have not always followed in the footsteps of English law. One such instance is Singapore’s embrace of the remedial constructive trust. Presently, Singapore law is still in the process of working out its model of remedial constructive trust in two key aspects. The first aspect relates to the scope of the remedial constructive trust; and the second aspect concerns the principles governing the exercise of remedial discretion. This paper considers what Singapore law can and should learn from the Australian experience. Whilst there are key points of reference that can be taken from the Australian jurisprudence, there are also some fundamental distinctions between Singapore law and Australian law that would prevent a direct and automatic transplantation of Australian principles. Indeed, there remain some unresolved issues within the Australian framework of remedial constructive trust.

March 28, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)