Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Window Cleaner Bequeathed £300,000 by Customer Faces Jail for Failing to Hand Money Back To Her Family

CrapsAlbert Pearce was left a small fortune, nearly £300,000, when 98-year-old Julie Spalding changed her will. After her death, her nephew, Cecil Bray, challenged the will and was successful in getting a court to order Pearce to return the money. Pearce initially claimed that he lost the money through extensive travel and gambling. He has also said the entire amount was confiscated when his car was impounded by High Court bailiffs, as he had hidden the money in the boot. The case has been adjourned until October to give Pearce time to seek legal counsel.  

See Martin Evans, Window Cleaner Bequeathed £300,000 by Customer Faces Jail for Failing to Hand Money Back To Her Family, The Telegraph, August30, 2017.

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

September 19, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Borrowing in the Shadow of Death: Another Look at Probate Lending

Payday-loan-storeDavid Horton recently posted an Article entitled, Borrowing in the Shadow of Death: Another Look at Probate Lending, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

“Fringe” lending has long been controversial. Three decades ago, demand for subprime credit soared, and businesses started to offer high-interest rate cash advances, such as tax refund anticipation loans, payday loans, and pension loans. These products have sparked intense debate and are subject to a maze of rules. However, in Probate Lending, 126 YALE L.J. 102 (2016), a co-author and I examined a form of fringe lending that has gone largely unnoticed: firms that pay lump sums in return for an heir or beneficiary’s interest in a pending decedent’s estate. Capitalizing on a California law that requires companies to file these contracts in probate court, we analyzed seventy-seven loans that stemmed from deaths in 2007. In this companion Article, I report the results of a study of an additional twenty-two months of probate records. My research provides hard evidence about the multi-million dollar inheritance-buying industry, including the prevalence of loans, characteristics of borrowers, how often lenders are repaid, and annual interest rates. I then use this data to compare probate lending to other species of fringe lending and to outline how courts and lawmakers should regulate the practice.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 19, 2017 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

GOP Plan to Kill Estate Tax Sets up Charitable Giving Conflict

TaxMost Republican lawmakers seem to favor a repeal of the estate tax as part of overall tax reform. What many have failed to consider are the negative repercussions for charitable giving if the repeal is successful. When the estate tax was temporarily repealed in 2010, gross charitable bequests dropped over 37% from the previous year.   William Gale, co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, noted that, “Charitable contributions are highly concentrated among very wealthy households. It [the estate tax] encourages people to give during life as well.” This may be true, but many view the estate tax as being inherently unfair. While the tax affects a small minority, the idea of severely taxing assets that have already been heavily taxed does not seem equitable. Jim Jordan, a representative from Ohio, echoes this sentiment: “I want to preserve charitable contributions, but I definitely want to get rid of the estate tax. It’s peoples’ money. It’s their families’ money. It’s not the government’s money.”

See Sahil Kapur, GOP Plan to Kill Estate Tax Sets up Charitable Giving Conflict, Bloomberg, August 25, 2017.

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

September 19, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

'Only Morons Pay The Estate Tax,' Says White House's Gary Cohn

FootGary Cohn’s speculation that only “morons” pay the estate tax, while being a poor choice of words, bears with it a kernel of truth. An examination of recent tax data shows fewer and fewer wealthy are paying the so-called “death tax”. According to IRS reports, 2015 saw only 11,917 estate tax returns filed, which marked a 75% decrease since 2006. Much of this decline can be attributed to the threshold for federal estate taxes increasing from $2 million to $5.49 million over the period. Another factor may be skillful maneuvering on the part of estate planners to help their clients avoid a 40% reduction of their estate to pay additional taxes on assets that have already been taxed. Whatever the cause, the value of keeping the estate tax seems to steadily decline as the threshold exemption continues to increase and savvy planners continue to find ways to shield assets.

See Robert Frank, 'Only Morons Pay The Estate Tax,' Says White House's Gary Cohn, CNBC, August 29, 2017.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 19, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 18, 2017

CLE on Estate Administration Procedures: Why Each Step Is Important

0000000 CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a conference entitled, Estate Administration Procedures: Why Each Step Is Important, which will take place on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at The Riverside Hotel in Boise, ID. Provided below is a description of the event:

Program Description

Properly Administer Your Client's Estate

Do you have a solid understanding of proper procedures surrounding estate administration? Do you feel confident that you can overcome the wide array of challenges you may face while working with each estate's unique requirements? Join us and gain a comprehensive understanding of the estate planning process so you can easily organize and manage your responsibilities. Register today!

  • Weigh the pros and cons of informal administration and learn how it can be advantageously used.
  • Make the entire process as efficient as possible when working with the personal representative.
  • Determine the survivors' immediate needs - and ensure they're met.
  • Know your options: take a look at alternative methods to closing the estate.
  • Competently file federal and state estate tax returns and know exactly what is required.
  • Learn how to handle the most common issues in probate litigation.

Who Should Attend

This basic level seminar will provide fundamental estate administration topics for:

  • Attorneys
  • Accountants
  • Paralegals
  • Trust Officers
  • Estate Planners
  • Tax Preparers
  • Financial Planners

Course Content

  1. Foundations of Estate Administration Defined
  2. Preparing to Begin the Administration Process
  3. Considerations for Collecting the Assets, Preparing the Inventory and Handling Claims Against the Estate
  4. Being Thorough to Close the Estate Without a Hitch
  5. Understanding Tax Procedures to Avoid Problems Later
  6. Ethical Challenges in Estate Administration
  7. Common Issues To Be Prepared for in Litigation and Probate

Continuing Education Credit

Continuing Legal Education – CLE: 6.75 *

Financial Planners – Financial Planners: 8.00

International Association for Continuing Education Training – IACET: 0.70

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – CPE for Accountants/NASBA: 8.00 *

Professional Achievement in Continuing Education – PACE: 8.00


* denotes specialty credits

September 18, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Bell Tolls for Thee, Estate Tax Repeal

SighThe notion of repealing the estate tax has been floating around in the proverbial ether since President Trump took office. Considered by many as a tax on only the wealthiest Americans, strong advocacy for repeal has been lacking. The most potent opposition to the tax comes mainly from lobbyists for farmers, who are more prone to facing significant turmoil from a 40% tax, assuming they exceed the federal exclusion threshold, when their assets are tied up primarily in land. The possibility for repeal grows noticeably dimmer however, especially in light of Kevin Brady’s, Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, speech that entirely avoided discussing the estate tax. So, estate planners can take a tentative sigh of relief as it looks as though any new tax reforms will likely not affect the current status quo.

 See Dominick Schirripa, The Bell Tolls for Thee, Estate Tax Repeal, Bloomberg, August 17, 2017.

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

September 18, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Fiduciary Duties in Bankruptcy and Insolvency

DutyJohn A. E. Pottow recently posted an Article entitled, Fiduciary Duties in Bankruptcy and Insolvency, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Although discussed nowhere in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, fiduciary duties play a central role in guiding the administration of an insolvent debtor's assets. This book chapter explores the fiduciary obligations of trustees (including DIPs) under both statute and common law, with a special focus on the intrinsic conflicts that arise within the "menagerie of heterogeneous creditors" that constitute the claimants of a bankruptcy estate.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 18, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Edith Windsor, Whose Same-Sex Marriage Fight Led to Landmark Ruling, Dies at 88

Windsor5-master768Edith Windsor died on Tuesday in Manhattan at the age of 88. Windsor was a gay-rights activist who became famous after succeeding on a case in the Supreme Court. Her case involved the denial of a tax exemption that was barred to same-sex couples under the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 majority that Windsor could not be denied the refund under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause.

See Robert D. McFadden, Edith Windsor, Whose Same-Sex Marriage Fight Led to Landmark Ruling, Dies at 88, The New York Times, September 12, 2017.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 18, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

When Our Elderly Mother Refused to Stop Driving, We Took Drastic Action

AngryWhen Stephen Petrow’s mother turned 80, she rewarded herself with a sporty, fire-engine-red Lexus. Petrow’s high-spirited, feisty mother loved fast, high-octane cars and despite her diminutive 5’2” frame that could barely see over the steering wheel, she drove with a passion that matched her fiery-red Lexus. The results of her impassioned driving began showing up as dents and dings on the exterior of her vehicle, adding to the mounting concerns her children had regarding her ability to drive safely.

Petrow and his brother had both witnessed their mother’s near-collisions with bicyclists and pedestrians on numerous occasions. Petrow’s brother had actually been forced to grab the steering wheel out of his mother’s hands while sitting as passenger in order to prevent a collision. Petrow, and  others, had confronted his mother on numerous occasions to no avail; she refused to acknowledge any fault and did not want to sacrifice her freedom to travel where she wished. After a series of semi-serious incidents and in the face of their mother’s absolute refusal to recognize that she was clearly a danger behind the wheel, Petrow and his siblings anonymously turned their mother in to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The New York DMV maintains a driver reevaluation program that allows individuals familiar with another’s bad driving to report them for a specific reason. Subsequent to the report, Petrow’s mother was required to take a driving test. Though she successfully passed the written portion, the instructor of the driving portion failed her, writing: “Extremely dangerous!! Turns wide into wrong side of road! Poor late braking. No observation at all backing. Completely unaware of surroundings. FAILED.” The DMV revoked her license. While Petrow knows this was the right thing to do, he wonders if he will have enough wherewithal later in life to give up his keys voluntarily if he becomes a danger to others.

See Stephen Petrow, When Our Elderly Mother Refused to Stop Driving, We Took Drastic Action, The Washington Post, September 2, 2017.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 17, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

100 Questions to Ask in an Estate Planning Interview

QuestionFor estate planners, among the most important skills they must acquire and use pointedly and consistently is an ability to communicate effectively with clients. Getting to know clients, their fears and goals, is a fundamental cornerstone of the estate planning process. This essential need for successful communication parallels fields like psychology, social work, and psychiatry. But unlike those employed in these fields, estate planners are generally on their own when it comes to training and education specifically aimed at improving their ability to converse.

Planners lacking solid communication abilities tend to focus narrowly on fact-finding and gathering data. This concentrated focus can cause them to miss important non-verbal and verbal cues from clients. Overlooking these subtle social cues may cause a planner to miss critical information required to create a comprehensive and accurate estate plan that fits their client’s needs.

As a means of facilitating effective communication, provided are a number of open-ended questions that a planner can ask a client in order to lubricate conversation. These range from broad questions like, “What is your greatest fear?” to more detailed questions like, “Have you ever been involved in a contested estate or trust? If so, please provide some details, including how it started and how it concluded or the present status of the matter.” The questions are arranged by category for easy reference. It is not necessary to ask every question or even pull questions from every category.

See L. Paul Hood, Jr. & Stephan R. Leimberg, 100 Questions to Ask in an Estate Planning Interview, ThinkAdvisor, September 5, 2014.

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

September 17, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)