Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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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)

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Few Simple Steps Every Parent Can Take To Protect Minor Children

ChildrenThe parents of minor children are often harried and have little free time to plan for the next week let alone years down the line. When they do plan for the future, their concerns are often about retirement and college not what would happen to their children in the event of one, or both, parents dying. However, failure to plan for such an event could have terrible consequences if something did happen but can be avoided by following a few simple steps:

  • Making a will should be the first step for every parent. Consulting with an attorney is the best way to prepare the document but holographic wills can also serve the same purpose when the parents are short on cash.
  • Guardianship of minor children should always be established. Battles between in-laws over who will take care the children can easily erupt when the wishes of the parents are not established in writing before death or incapacitation.
  • Consult with a reliable agent to determine what type of life insurance would be the best fit. The majority of parents do not have any insurance, or too little, to support children for a long period of time. While the expense might seem unnecessary to many, it will protect children from being impoverished or dependent on the goodwill of others in order to survive.

SeeCatey Hill, Why parents don’t make this simple move to protect their kids, Market Watch, August 27, 2015.

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

August 28, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Texas Attorney General Played Dubious Role In Hunt Estate Battle

Article PictureKen Paxton, the embattled Texas Attorney General with a recent felony indictment, is now facing questions about his conduct while serving as a guardian ad litem. The issue arises from the estate of Tanner Hunt, son of billionaire Ray Hunt, and the trust fund that had been established for him. Paxton was the guardian for Tanner's two daughters and participated in negotiations that would have bought out the girls interest in any Hunt family trust for far less than they would have otherwise inherited. In addition, details later emerged that Paxton had improper contact with the attorney that sought to exclude the daughters from their father's trust and was appointed to the position by a judge that had to recuse himself from the case due to contact with the same attorney. Several estate law experts questioned Paxton's actions in light of the prior contact with opposition attorneys and his passive acceptance of offers that obviously undervalued what the daughter could get otherwise. As of now, no investigation into his actions has been announced.

See Lise Olsen & Lauren McGaughy, Paxton's role in Hunt family probate case called ill-defined and unorthodox, Houston Chronicle, August 22, 2015.


August 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Guardianship, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hospital That Reaped Millions From Wealthy Heiress Benefits From Legal Loophole

HeiressThe Beth Israel Medical Center does not owe the estate of Huguette Clark any money because the statute of limitations on the hospital’s alleged crime ran out.  The hospital was accused of placing the wealthy heiress in a private room for close to 20 years for no medical reason and receiving millions from her estate.  Clark’s estate sued the hospital for upwards of $95 million, but Manhattan Surrogate Court Justice Nora Anderson dismissed the case because the State’s statute of limitations period ran out on the case.  The important lesson to take away from this is to always seek out legal advice on any potential claim as soon as possible to avoid violating any local statute of limitations period. 

See Julia Marsh, Hospital doesn’t owe Huguette Clark’s estate due to loophole, The New York Post, August 24, 2015.

August 24, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Financial Planning Issues Same-Sex Couples Might Still Face

Same sexThis year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage has brought about major changes to estate planning for same-sex couples.  There are still some bureaucratic hurdles that same-sex couples might face.  It is important to make sure that all financial and testamentary documents like trusts and wills are updated to reflect the changes in the law.  If a same-sex couple is thinking about getting married they should plan ahead carefully instead of rushing the decision.  Getting a pre-nuptial agreement is a very important estate planning decision.  It is also a good idea to apply for a Federal tax refund for health insurance payments made by a spouse.  Same-sex couples should seek out the advice of competent estate planners to help decide on all of these important issues.

See Melissa Montgomery-Fitzsimmons, A Checklist for Advising Same-Sex Clients, Financial Planning, August 21, 2015.

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

August 23, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Guardianship, Income Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Son Squanders Inheritance Money Before Nephew Can Receive Share

InheritanceIn New Zealand a court has held that a son must account for squandering his nephew’s share of his father’s estate.  Justice Stephen Kos of the High Court in Wellington has held that Ashley Vernon and his wife Beverly Vernon will have to pay back the money that they owe their 19-year old nephew.  When Kenneth Vernon went to go live with his son in March 2006 he had an estate that was worth $330,000, and when he died in September 2011 only $1,400 was left in the estate.  “Justice Stephen Kos found that Ashley Vernon knew he was due to inherit only half his father's estate and set about forestalling that by transferring virtually all of it, while his father was still alive, to himself and his wife.” 

See Inheritance lost: Son spends estate money before nephew can get his share, Business Day, August 20, 2015.

August 21, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mickey Rooney’s Children Drop Objections To Will

Mickey-Rooney-DCI have previously discussed the dispute over the will of late actor Mickey Rooney.  On Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan accepted Mickey Rooney’s will after several of the actor’s children dropped their objections to the document.  The Court appointed attorney Michael Augustine to serve as the estate’s administrator.  Mickey Rooney passed away in April 2014 at the age of 93.  His children contested the actor’s will when he signed the document just weeks before his death.  Before his death Mickey Rooney spoke out against elder abuse; the actor had previously lost most of his fortune after being a victim of elder abuse and financial mismanagement from one of his stepsons. 

See Associated Press, Objections to Rooney’s will dropped, administrator approved, Tulsa World, August 20, 2015.

August 21, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Nevada Supreme Court Holds Panel On Guardianship Pay Rates

NevadaThis Monday the Nevada Supreme Court Commission met to study why private guardians in Las Vegas make significantly more income than their other Nevada counterparts.  Chief Justice James Hardesty described the current guardianship laws as an “untethered process.” Current Nevada law entitles guardians to “reasonable compensation,” but offers no clear standards for what that means.  The 26-member panel plans to meet again in September to further explore and debate the guardianship fee issue.  The Nevada Supreme Court Panel plans to hold a total of five more meetings by the end of this year. 

See Colton Lockhead, Nevada’s Top Judge Questions Guardianship Pay Rates, Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 17, 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 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What Caregivers Should Know About Financial Planning

End of lifeThe focus of care-giving is usually on managing a person’s medical needs, but there is also a financial planning component of care-giving that people should be aware about.  It is important to have a plan in place that will make it possible to fund needed medical care.  There are also legal traps that individuals need to be aware of when serving as a caregiver.  This column recommends seeking out the advice of an estate planning attorney to discuss retirement planning options.  Make sure to have the necessary knowledge about Medicare and Social Security benefits.  It is also extremely important to have a durable power of attorney and advanced health directive in place. 

See Kyle E. Krull, What Should I Know About “Financial Caregiving”?, Wealth Management, August 13, 2015. 

August 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Facing The Financial Realities Of Cognitive Decline

Cognitive declineThe White House Conference On Aging (WHCOA) recently met to discuss many of the issues senior citizens will face as they plan for retirement.  At the WHCOA event Bank of America partnered with the University Of Southern California Leonard Davis School Of Gerontology to release resources that can assist Americans with preparing for issues of cognitive decline.  A white paper titled Addressing Memory & Your Family was released to provide readers with a step-by-step approach to building a plan that would focus on a wide range of issues dealing with both the practical and emotional aspects of cognitive impairment.  In this column experts on these issues answered a series of important questions about the sort of symptoms family members need to look for and the best way to go about making a plan. 

See Robert Powell, Families need to address the financial realities of cognitive decline, USA Today, July 20, 2015.

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

August 14, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)