Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Article on Reintegrating the Wealth Transmission System

Melanie_LeslieMelanie B. Leslie (Professor of Law and Vice Dean, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law) and Stewart E. Sterk (Mack Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Revisiting the Revolution: Reintegrating the Wealth Transmission System, 56 B.C.L. Rev. 61 (2015). Provided below is the abstract from the article:

Thirty years ago, John Langbein published “The Nonprobate Revolution and the Future of Succession.” The article celebrated testators’ newfound ability to avoid the expense and delay of the probate court system by holding assets in a variety of non-probate devices, such as retirement and bank accounts with beneficiary designations and revocable trusts. Langbein highlighted problems the revolution might generate and predicted how they might be resolved. Since then, significant problems have indeed developed. First, wills law doctrines designed to effectuate intent of testators have not been universally extended to non-probate transfers. Second, the fragmentation of the wealth transmission process has created coordination problems that did not exist when almost all of a decedent’s assets passed through the decedent’s probate estate. This has increased opportunities for attorney error. Even when attorneys get it right, rogue clients can easily undermine a carefully constructed estate plan, and the law does not always allow courts to correct these errors. Third, the non-probate system increases the potential for wrongful takers to dissipate assets before rightful beneficiaries have an opportunity to make claims to those assets. As we explain, neither lawyers, financial institutions nor the legal system have successfully resolved these issues. We advance several proposals that might ameliorate the costs of the non-probate system, such as conferring broader power on estate executors to coordinate non-probate assets, and a voluntary registration system that would reduce the risk of inadvertent conflicts among wealth transmission documents.

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

February 27, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Income Tax Regulations Draw Attention at Heckerling

TaxesAs I have previously discussed, income tax issues were a major focus at the 49th Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning. One area of focus was recent income tax guidance from the IRS relating to trusts and estates issues, including final regulations on Section 1.67-4, which discusses the 2-percent floor in connection to estates and trusts.

See Kevin Matz, A View From the Audience at Heckerling: Part III, Wealth Management, Feb. 26, 2015.

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

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tom Benson Denied Expedited Appeal

Tom Benson

The Texas Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio has rejected Tom Benson’s request for an expedited review of a lower court’s decision to temporarily oust the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner as steward of a trust created for his now-estranged daughter. 

In a motion filed Monday, Benson’s lawyers asked the court to speed up the usual 60-day briefing schedule, the reason being significant legal costs.  They wanted oral arguments set for seven days after his daughter, Renee Benson, files a brief in the appeal.  However, Court of Appeals denied the request on Wednesday without any explanation.

Benson is appealing the decision made by Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff, who put the trust under the oversight of ex-San Antonio mayor Phil Hardberger and Art Bayer, a local attorney.  Benson’s lawyers argue that Rickhoff’s decision was problematic because less “harsh” remedies were not considered.  Hardberger and Bayern are each charging the trust $600 an hour — or a total of $9,600 daily — to handle decision-making responsibilities, money the trust will never recover.  

See Ramon Antonio Vargas, Tom Benson’s Request for an Expedited Appeal is Denied in Legal Battle Over Texas Trust, The Advocate, Feb. 26, 2015.

February 26, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CLE on Practical Trust and Estate Planning


CLEThe American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education (ALI CLE) is holding a CLE entitled, Practical Trust and Estate Planning, on April 30-May 1, 2015 at the Marriot Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California.  Here is why you should attend:

Stay informed. Stay current. Give your clients the best advice a competitive estate planner can offer. Attend Practical Trust and Estate Planning!

Formerly Advanced Estate Planning Techniques, this long-running program features carefully selected, sophisticated topics that address some of the biggest issues currently faced by estate planning clients. Taught by experienced trust and estate practitioners and educators from around the country, this course will not only help you avoid common traps and pitfalls that often snare the unwary estate planner, but also help you develop the expertise you need to properly advise your clients.

February 26, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fitness Star Greg Plitt Dies Intestate

Greg plitt

When Bravo T.V. fitness star Gregg Plitt was tragically hit and killed by a commuter train while shooting a sports drink commercial last month, he did not have a will.  Now, Plitt’s family is trying to ensure his $800,000 estate ends up in the right hands. 

The 37-year-old did not have a spouse or child when he died, and according to court documents, his father filed a petition to control his son’s estate. Regardless as to whether a petition is filed, the California intestacy statute requires that his parents will share his estate.

See Bravo’s Greg Plitt Had $800K in the Bank…But No Will, TMZ, Feb. 24, 2015.

See also Jay Brinker, Greg Plitt’s Final Run, Jay Brinker, Attorney, Feb. 24, 2015.

Special thanks to Jay Brinker (an Ohio attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 26, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Family Discovers Forged Will

Last will and testament

The family of a man who died of cancer said he would be “turning in his grave” if he knew his partner had forged his will for her benefit. 

Terence Powell’s family feels “violated” by the fraud committed by the late man’s partner, Ingrid Lee and her ex-husband, Chris Lee.  Mr. Powell’s children say the forged will stripped them of their inheritance and did not reflect their father’s dying wishes.   The family is still unsure as to what has happened to the bulk of his estate, and have been told to “expect nothing.” 

Mr. Powell told his son Simon that he created a will in 2007 and that “everyone would be looked after.”  Yet, this will was never found.  When Mr. Powell passed, Lee had a piece of paper claiming it was her partner’s wishes.  Mr. Powell’s family became suspicious after they saw some of his possessions for sale on eBay.  A handwriting expert looked at the will, and ultimately determined it was not the handwriting of Mr. Powell. 

See James Connell, “Dad Would Be Turning in Grave” Over Forged Will, Malvern Gazette, Feb. 24, 2015.

February 26, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charitable Bequest Reduced by Lawsuits and Taxes

Gavel2The recent Tax Court decision in Estate of Eileen S. Belmont serves as a cautionary tale. The problems for the estate seemed to arise out of a lack of communication with the estate's accountant combined with the estate plan not considering Ms. Belmont's individual family situation. Belmont left $50,000 to her brother and the rest of her estate, including her Ohio home, her California condo that her brother lived in, and a retirement account, to the Columbus Jewish Foundation. However, after the accountant for the estate claimed a charitable set aside deduction of $219,580 without being informed of pending litigation in California involving Belmont's brother attempting to gain a life estate in the condo, the estate was hit with a $75,662 income tax deficiency.

See Peter J Reilly, Estate Intended for Charity Depleted by Litigation and Income Tax, Forbes, Feb. 24, 2015.

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

February 26, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

When a Will Double Gifts

WillIt is unknown exactly what Mr. King intended to happen to his real property when he died as his will seemingly left it in fee simple to both his wife and then to his son when his wife died. After Mrs. King's death, the double gift by Mr. King's will created a legal battle between the executors of  Mrs. King's estate and Mr. King's grandchildren.

In Thompson v. Blackwell, the bequests to Mrs. King was interpreted as a life estate by the Georgia Supreme Court, which reasoned that the contradictory language and the order of the gifts showed that Mr. King intended that his wife receive only a life estate in the property.

See Luke Lantta, Giving the Same Property Twice in a Will, Bryan Cave Fiduciary Litigation, Feb. 25, 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 26, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Accelerated Gifting

GiftsThe current estate tax climate has created a decreased focus on estate tax in estate planning, with the most recently available statistics showing that 99.7 percent of those who died in 2012 had estates that were below the exemption amount and the states that have an estate or inheritance tax only make up 38 percent of the U.S. population. This lowered estate tax focus has expanded charitable gift planning to include addressing concerns such as income tax, effective philanthropy, and asset protection. One way of addressing these concerns is through accelerating gifting by creating a Charitable Remainder Unitrust funded by appreciated securities or starting an endowment fund.

See Robert F. Sharpe, Jr., Making Gifts Sooner Than Later . . . Accelerating Charitable Bequests, Wealth Management, Feb. 23, 2015.

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

February 26, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reporter Bob Simon's Will Made Public

Bob simon 2

“60 Minutes” correspondent Bob Simon, killed in a horrific car wreck two weeks ago, left an estate worth about $2 million to his wife. 

Details were contained in Simon’s October 2009 will, made public Wednesday.  Simon left his wife of 49 years, Francoise Anne-Marie Simon, a $1 million Hamptons home and another $1 million in stocks and other investments.  Mrs. Simon was named as the sole executor of the estate.

See Barbara Ross, 60 Minutes’ Reporter Bob Simon Leaves $2 Million Estate to Wife of 49 Years, New York Daily News, Feb. 25, 2015.

February 25, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)