Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Monday, August 31, 2015

First Wife Of Marlon Brando Denied Request To Be Buried Next To Son

Marlon brandoThe late wife of actor Marlon Brando has been denied her request to be buried in the plot next to her oldest son.  Instead Anna Kashfi ended up being buried in the plot above her son, which means that they will be “head to head.”  Kashfi passed away at the age of 80 after a battle with breast and colon cancer.  The reason that she could not be buried in the plot next to her son Christian was due to the fact that the plot had been previously purchased by Christian’s former wife Mary.  When representatives of Kashfi’s estate contacted Mary she refused to give up the plot.  This article goes into detail describing the tumultuous backstory that lead up to this recent dispute. 

See Daniel Bates, Marlon Brando’s first wife denied her dying wish to be buried next to their killer eldest child - by the son's first wife who has reserved the plot and refuses to give it up, The Daily Mail, August 31, 2015.

August 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida Has Made Reforms To Its Health Care Surrogate Act

FloridaIn the State of Florida there is a written document called a “Designation of Health Care Surrogate” that can name a person to make health care decisions for an individual or receive health information on the individual’s behalf.  Since the enactment of the Florida Health Care Surrogate Act of 1992 an individual had the recognized right to designate a health care surrogate. 

Two key changes to the act are set to go into effect on October 1, 2015.  The first change will give a surrogate the ability to act immediately, and the second change will let parents name a health care surrogate for a minor child in the event that they cannot act.  It is important to keep in mind that there is a difference between a designation of surrogate and a “living will.”  This article provides some of the important details about the new statutory reforms. 

See Seth Kaplan, Recent Improvements to the Florida Health Care Surrogate Act, Berger Singerman, Offices, August 26, 2015.

August 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Americans Might Have Unclaimed Assets That They Don’t Know About

Unclaimed moneyThere are many people who might have unclaimed money that they do not even know about.  State governments are currently holding around $41.7 billion in unclaimed assets.  According to a collective of state officials called the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators the unclaimed property that States are currently holding can include things like stock splits, life insurance payouts, gift cards, and payroll checks that have not been cashed.  There are many people who assume that they do not have any property to claim.  People often lose contact when they move or if there is property scattered about in many different locations around the country.  This article offers tips on how people can better keep track of their assets to know if there is any unclaimed property to collect.

See Kelli B. Grant, Unclaimed assets: Are you missing money?, USA Today, August 29, 2015.

August 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

People Can Save Time By Using Social Security Online

Social security 3Dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer involves having to wait in long lines if people know to utilize the option of handling Social Security business online.  Thanks to the my Social Security accounts people can now change direct deposit of their benefits, request a replacement Medicaid card, and even order SSA tax documents.  These are just some of the many services that any qualified person over 18 and possessing a valid email address can use.  People can also view their statement and correct any mistakes in the records.  Being able to review records and statements can also provide people with the tools they need to make wise retirement and investment decisions. 

See Wayne Fourman, Using Social Security Online: A real time-saver, USA Today, August 29, 2015.

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

August 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Few Financial Matters To Keep In Mind When A Client Dies

HeadstoneDeath is always difficult to deal with and the burden grows stronger when it is a person with a strong personal connection. However, the planner must keep a clear head due to the responsibility that is placed on their shoulder and should keep the following in mind:

  • Contact the other advisers the client might have such as a tax planner, accountant, and attorney. Coordination between everyone will allow the client to have all information at hand which will ease the grieving process and help protect the client's interest.
  • Ensure that the basis in any property is stepped up or down to the fair market value. Depending on circumstances, valuation will be based on the date of death or an alternate valuation date.
  • Evaluate any inheritance for items that need to be disclaimed. The reason for doing this are many ranging from decreasing a tax burden, desire for the next person in line to inherit, or because the property is valueless or difficult to administer.
  • Make sure assets that are to be divided are split fairly with an eye towards their ultimate use by the heir. For example, giving a volatile asset to someone near retirement when a stable but low growth one was available might not be advisable.

See Lindsay Garland, 4 Steps for Moving Forward After a Client's Death, Financial Planning, August 26, 2015.

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

August 31, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article On The Mutual Wills Doctrine

WillsYing Khai Liew (University College London - Faculty of Laws) recently published an article entitled, Explaining the Mutual Wills Doctrine, Current Issues in Succession Law (April 2016, Forthcoming). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

Although the mutual wills doctrine has been part of English law since the 18th century, it remains difficult precisely to define its operation, the legal principles involved, and its underlying rationale(s). These difficulties have caused many to doubt the usefulness and coherency of the doctrine. Recently, the Law Commission announced its plan commence a review of the law concerning wills in late 2015, with one of the four key areas to be reviewed being mutual wills. The review is said to ‘aim to reduce the likelihood of wills being challenged after death, and the incidence of litigation. Such litigation is expensive, can divide families and is a cause of great stress for the bereaved.’ This is reminiscent of Mummery LJ’s comments in Olins v Walters that the doctrine ‘continues to be a source of contention for the families of those who have invoked it. The likelihood is that in future even fewer people will opt for such an arrangement and even more will be warned against the risks involved.’ It is therefore a real possibility that the Law Commission might suggest abolishing the mutual wills doctrine completely.

This chapter proposes a new way of understanding the mutual wills doctrine which is consistent with orthodox principles. It distinguishes between what will be labelled ‘qualified interest’ and ‘absolute interest’ situations, each applying to a different type of mutual wills agreement. From this renewed understanding, it will be seen that the doctrine is underpinned by two distinct rationales which also form the basis of equity’s intervention in other areas. This indicates that the appropriate way of understanding the mutual wills doctrine is not to treat it in isolation, but in view of its relationship with other doctrines which give rise to constructive trusts such as the doctrine in Rochefoucauld v Boustead, secret trusts, and proprietary estoppel.

August 31, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tom Benson Continues Effort To Remove Heirs From Teams

BensonI have previously discussed the ongoing legal dispute between Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and his jilted heirs.  Tom Benson is continuing his efforts to remove his children from ownership of the sports teams by suing the trustees overseeing the funds that hold his heirs’ stakes in the teams.  Benson claims that the way the trusts were set up permit a transfer of equivalent assets and the sports team owner transferred over $522 million in promissory notes to the trusts.  Robert Rosenthal, and attorney for the heirs, claims that Benson did not offer a fair trade in the transfer attempt.  This ongoing dispute is likely going to continue to play out in the future due to the high stakes that are involved. 

See Katherine Sayre, Tom Benson family feud: Saints, Pelicans owner continues push to remove heirs from teams, The Times-Picayune, August 28, 2015.

August 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Robin Williams’ Bike Collection Currently An Issue In Estate Dispute

Robin williamsI have previously discussed the battle over Robin Williams’ estate.  There is currently a legal battle brewing over a large bicycle collection that the late actor owned.  William’s was an avid biker and used to frequent bike shops on a regular basis.  The two disputing sides are expected to meet next week over this issue and many other unresolved conflicts.  Another ongoing dispute involves a disagreement over how much money should be placed into a reserve fund to maintain Susan Williams in the Tiburon home that she shared with her late husband. 

See Robin Williams’ Bikes Are An Issue In Estate Fight, ABC News, August 28, 2015.

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

August 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Some Issues To Consider When Creating Trusts For Troubled Adult Children

Trust AltWhen a family has an adult child that suffers from addiction or mental disease they will want to ensure that the child's well being is protected after the death of the parents. However, some precautionary steps should be taken to ensure that the child will be taken care of for the longest possible time. First, a trust that is established should have limitations set on the distributions made to the child with the problem. For example, distributions should be premised on need and remain within the discretion of the trustee since a fixed sum might provide more than is needed and help support an addiction.

In addition, a statement by the settlor explaining the circumstances of the child's problems should be provided so that future trustees known the circumstances behind the formation of the trust. Finally, serious consideration should be given to a trust that never distributes in full to the troubled child even if the mental condition or substance abuse remains dormant for years. Both problems may be triggered by unforeseen life events, even after years of successful treatment, which could lead to financial disaster if the corpus of the trust is in the child's hands. Ultimately a trust must be tailored to the reality of each situation with the history and severity of any afflictions being carefully considered when fixing the terms of the support trust.

See Paul Sullivan, For Parents With Troubled Adult Children, Financial Hurdles Abound, New York Times, August 28, 2015.

Special thanks to Matthew Bogin for bringing this article to my attention.

August 30, 2015 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Woman Convicted Of Stealing From Granddaughters Inheritance

MilwaukeeA Milwaukee woman has been convicted for stealing over $50,000 from her granddaughter’s inheritance.  Prosecutors say that Betty J. Coleman lied about her past criminal history in order to be named as her granddaughter’s legal guardian.  The young granddaughter had been the beneficiary of a $50,000 inheritance from Coleman’s deceased husband.  When Coleman was appointed guardian in April 2013 and later received the inheritance money in May she was told to invest $20,000 of it and to use the rest for her granddaughter’s benefit.  She ended up spending all of the money within five months of receiving it.  On Friday Betty J. Coleman was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison for misappropriating her granddaughters inheritance.

See Bruce Vielmetti, Woman sentenced after blowing granddaughter’s inheritance, Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, August 28, 2015.

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

August 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)