Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Retirement Planning for Singles

Single retiree

Retirement planning for couples can be difficult, however, when you are single, the planning can be that much harder. 

While many Americans will retire single for various different reasons (death of a spouse, divorce, changing lifestyles), the one thing senior singles have in common is that their retirement-planning needs can be very different from that of their married peers—and many of them are unprepared. 

A study by the Rand Corporation indicated that single people are at a greater risk of not saving enough for retirement than their married counterparts.  This may be because there are more forces eating away their income and resources.  For the newly widowed or divorced, housing costs may jump as well as living expenses. 

Furthermore, singles miss out on tax breaks.  Tax experts say that single adults will face steeper tax challenges as they near retirement age.  Without tax credits, a spouse exemption, and no one to realize the benefits of filing jointly, singles can take a large tax punch during earning years.  “To lessen the tax bite, I advise my single adult clients who own their won businesses or have side businesses and freelance income to set up a solo 401(k).”  The contributions consist of a salary deferral and a profit-sharing distribution. 

Once singles stop working, they must be smart about planning for withdrawals from their retirement accounts.  Assets like life insurance and alimony become less reliable sources of income, thus, singles should have other resources in place.

See Jane Hodges, Retirement-Planning Tips for Singles, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 5, 2014.

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

October 19, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Benefits to After-Born Children

Mark Strasser

Mark Strasser (Capital University Law School) recently published an article entitled, Capato, Art, and the Provision of Benefits to After-Born Children, Michigan State Law Review 985-1001 (2013). Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

In Astrue v. Capato ex rel B.N.C., the United State Supreme Court held that the twins conceived and born after their father’s death in that case were not entitled to Social Security benefits. While the decision might simply be thought to involve deference to an agency’s interpretation of a statute, the decision is nonetheless regrettable because the Court failed to take advantage of an opportunity to provide needed guidance on whether, why, or how Social Security benefits should be based on state intestacy laws in cases involving after-born, ART children. Such guidance would have been especially welcome considering that Congress when passing the Social Security Act did not have ART children in mind, and providing benefits to such children would have been in accord with some of the purposes behind the Act’s passage.

October 19, 2014 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Buffalo Bills Sale to Buffalo Sabres Owner

Buffalo Bills As I have previously discussed, the death of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson left many wondering who the new team owner would be. Terry Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Sabres, has been approved as the new owner. The sale is for the record making amount of $1.4 billion.

See Eben Novy- Williams & Mason Levinson, NFL Owners Approve Record $1.4 Billion Bills Sale to Pegulas, Bloomberg, Oct. 8, 2014.

October 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Las Vegas Ready for Same-Sex Weddings

CoupleAs I have previously discussed, the 9th circuit struck down the same-sex marriage bans of Nevada and Idaho earlier this month. Leading up to the decision, Las Vegas was gearing up for same-sex weddings. The city known for high wedding volumes and large variety of wedding options, including of course an Elvis impersonator officiant, was ready to facilitate legal same-sex marriages even before the ruling. The county had already changed their marriage licenses to be gender neutral, and individual chapels made sure their photographers knew how to take to perfect wedding day photos when both members of the couple are wearing white wedding dresses.

See Kimberly Pierceall, Land of Chapels Ready for Gay Weddings, The Fresno Bee, Oct. 8, 2014.

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

October 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Passing With Regret

Older person

Many patients have expressed their regrets and unfulfilled wishes in the months before they die to Kerry Egan, a hospice Chaplain in South Carolina.  Although emotional, Ms. Egan states, “the stories about the time they waste hating their bodies, abusing it or letting it be abused—the years people spend not appreciating their body until they are close to leaving it—are some of the saddest.”

This body hatred stems not only from the media and magazines, but it can also come from a religious belief about the sinfulness of bodies.  Some women grow up thinking that their very existence in a body that might be sexually attractive to someone else is cause for shame, and their bodies make bad things occur just by existing. 

Unfortunately, it is only as a patient realizes that he or she will lose their body that they can finally realize how truly wonderful it is.  “I’d never admit it to my husband and kids, but more than anything else, it’s my own body I’ll miss most of all.  This body that danced and ate and swam and had sex and made babies.  It’s amazing to think about.  This body actually made my children.  It carried me through this world.  And I’m going to have to leave it.  I don’t have a choice.  And to think I spent all those years criticizing how it looked and never noticing how good it felt—until now when it never feels good.” 

See Kerry Egan, What the Dying Really Regret, CNN, Oct. 17, 2014. 

October 18, 2014 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

National Estate Planning Awareness Week

CLE Photo

October 19 – 25 is National Estate Planning Awareness week and the ABA Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law is inviting everyone to get involved.  On Thursday, October 23 at 1 p.m., RPTE will host a free webinar entitled, Estate Planning: How to Get Going and Why Not to Do It Yourself.  Here is why you should attend:

Statistical studies show that 55% of Americans die without a will or estate plan.  This free program informs the non-lawyer public how to start estate planning (wills, powers of attorney and trusts) by providing a set of practical first steps.  Our panel of lawyer and trust officer experts will also explain why simply signing a will or power of attorney with a “do it yourself” plan may actually be worse than doing nothing, costing a “special needs” family member the loss of government benefits or resulting in an ex-spouse inheriting assets. The program is intended for the general public and does not require a background in the law of wills or trusts or tax.

October 18, 2014 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Catching the Early Signs of Alzheimer's

SearchIt is important for estate and financial planning strategies to include a plan for if forms of mental disability develop, such as Alzheimer's. This was the topic of a recent symposium earlier this month, held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, entitled Financial Planning in the Shadow of Dementia. In addition to having plans in place, such as financial power of attorney, it is also important that estate planners know the early signs of mental disability. Early warning signs often include confusion or difficulty with understanding financial concepts and difficulty computing basic mathematical calculations. One message of the symposium, stressed the importance of planners noticing changes in a client's ability to understand financial concepts, and of having someone designated as the point of contact for the client who is familiar to the planner before the signs begin to develop.

See Richard Eisenberg, When Alzheimer's Strikes: Losing Your Money Mind, Forbes, Oct. 8, 2014.

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

October 18, 2014 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Case: In re Theresa Houlahan Trust

TrustLimitations does not begin to run even though trust property consists only of a claim against the trustee. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire reversed the grant of summary judgment for a successor trustee in an action alleging that the predecessor trustee violated his fiduciary duty by transferring all of the property of Trust 1 of which he was a trustee to Trust 2 of which he was settlor and trustee. The trial court granted the successor trustee’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that the action was barred by the statute of limitations which requires actions against a trustee for breach of trust be brought within three years of the termination of the beneficiary’s interest in the trust.

In re Theresa Houlahan Trust, citing Restatement (Third) of Trusts § 2, comment i and the Reporter’s Notes, the court held that Trust 1 did not cease to exist when all of its property was transferred to Trust 2 because Trust 1 held a chose in action against the trustee. The court remanded the case for trial on the remaining issues of both fact and law.

Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.

October 18, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Book: Texas Probate System

Texas Probate System

The new 4th Edition of the Texas Probate System by James E. Brill and Russell W. Hall, which is based on the new Texas Estates Code (effective January 1, 2014) is now available in both hard copy and digital.  The new edition of the Texas Probate System includes:

  • Letters of a standard, routine, and repetitive nature
  • Forms to be prepared for court proceedings
  • Worksheets designed to guide you through proper decisions, to make calculations, or to maintain a single summary record of multiple related transactions
  • Significant Date List to assist you in calculating and recording important dates for all proceedings
  • Checkplan containing a checklist of all activities to be considered and performed in handling a decedent’s estate.

October 17, 2014 in Books - For Practitioners, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Warring Over Wills


Leo Tolstoy once wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Yet when it comes to wills and estates, the woes may echo one another. 

Although these battles are the exception rather than the rule, how do you avoid family warring?  Some experts say there is no “one-size-fits all approach” that will ensure harmony when you die.  “Things like family trusts, putting business assets in different companies and having an up-to-date will are very important because if you don’t do those things you can leave a real mess behind which can be very expensive to sort out and money can go to people who you may not have wanted to benefit.”

If property has been gifted before death, it cannot be the subject of dispute.  Thus, when sizeable assets are at stake, a lot of planning is needed.  A discretionary trust may be an ideal mechanism to facilitate this change if it is set up properly. In establishing a trust, one must anticipate where control of the business will lie, and put that in a letter of wishes.  “This generally isn’t a legally binding document, it’s generally informal … in conjunction with a well structured trust, a letter of wishes can be a very useful thing to guide all those who are involved, including family members.”  This may not be a remedy to keep relatives from going head to head, however, consulting your family and communicating your wishes to them before you die can help forestall any problems. 

See Hamish Fletcher, Families at War: When Wills Go Sour, The New Zealand Herald, Oct. 17, 2014.

October 17, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)