Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, April 24, 2015

Planning Tips For Unmarried or Same-Sex Couples

Hand HEartEstate planning for unmarried or same-sex couples should be a primary concern due to the fewer legal protections available to partners at the end of life and death of the other. State law will often require a written document to execute any pre or post death wishes, making the need for living and attested wills paramount to guarantee the rights one wants the other to have. In addition, couples with children will be better able to dictate post death guardianship of children in the face of potential legal challenges by other relations. Ultimately, clients will best be served if these potential issues and solutions are made clear even if broaching the subject might be awkward for some.

See Kathy Kristof, Unmarried Couples? Use These Planning Strategies, Financial Planning, Apr. 17, 2015.

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

April 24, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Grandmother Steals $50K Inheritance

Betty ColemanWhen Betty Coleman’s ex-husband died, her 14-year-old granddaughter inherited $50,000.  In order to become her granddaughter’s guardian and access her money, Coleman lied about her criminal past.  Within five months, Coleman spent all the money on alcohol, cigarettes, wigs, back rent, among other frivolities.  Meanwhile, Coleman’s granddaughter was living with a relative and sleeping on an air mattress.

Coleman’s misdeeds were discovered in probate court in 2013 and her granddaughter won a default judgment for $150,000 on claims of theft, conversion, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty.  But just last month, prosecutors charged Coleman with embezzlement and contempt of court.  She is currently working on a plea deal. 

See Bruce Vielmetti, Grandmother Accused of Wiping Out Girl’s $50,000 Inheritance, Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Apr. 22, 2015.

April 23, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Article on Wills, Trusts, Guardianships and Fiduciary Administration

Mary RadfordMary F. Radford (Marjorie Fine Knowles Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law) recently published an article entitled, Wills, Trusts, Guardianships and Fiduciary Administration, 66 Mercer L. Rev. 231-245 (2014).  Provided below is the article’s introduction.

This Article describes selected cases and significant legislation from the period of June 1, 2010 through May 31, 2011 that pertain to Georgia fiduciary law and estate planning.

April 22, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ohio Lawyer Charged With Felony for Guardianship Ethics Violation

GavelAn Ohio lawyer who has been charged with multiple felonies now faces ethics charges as well.  Paul Kormanik is accused of misappropriation of funds and incompetent representation from his guardianship of several state appointed wards. Allegedly, he made his clients out to be indigent in order to take taxpayer money and was stealing from a trust for which he was trustee. This case goes to show that courts and the public must carefully scrutinize any attorney that will be granted a fiduciary duty.

See Lucas Sullivan, Lawyer’s Work as Guardian Prompts Ethics-Violation Case, The Columbus Dispatch, Apr. 16, 2015.



April 17, 2015 in Current Affairs, Guardianship, Malpractice, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

CLE on Contested Guardianships

CLEThe American Bar Association Section of Real Property Trust & Estate Law is holding an eCLE entitled, Silver Hair and Fighting Heirs: Contested Guardianships, on May 19 from 12:00 – 1:30 PM CT via webinar. 1.50 General CLE Credit Hours. Here is why you should attend:

This program will survey national trends and new developments in contested guardianships and other pre-death events that impact the assets and care of the incapacitated, as well as their estates at death.

The panel will cover the following issues, among others:

  • Multi-jurisdictional disputes;
  • Adult guardianships and the Protective Proceeding Act;
  • Role of guardianship in caring for persons with mental illness;
  • Civil commitment;
  • Capacity determinations;
  • Guardianship appointments; and
  • Alternatives to guardianships.

April 15, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Planning Ahead for Special Needs

Special needs 2

Planning for family members with special needs can be overwhelming, especially when so many decisions may have lifelong consequences.  Not only must parents untangle the intricacies associated with government programs, but they must also understand guardianships, legal documents and the like.  Below are some tips for families beginning to plan for individuals with special needs:

  • Getting Started.  When you need to budget for another person, saving for retirement becomes even more difficult.  You may need to take precautions that money set aside for your child will not be consumed by long-term care expenses for you or a spouse.  Many families supplement what Medicaid provides by putting money into a special needs trust, and those funds can be used to help pay for the individual’s expenses without jeopardizing government benefits. 
  • Utilize New Tools.  The ABLE or 529A account, is a tax-advantaged savings vehicle that make it much less costly to create a special needs trust.  These accounts are likely to be attractive for disabled people who work and want to save more than $2,000, or for families who need a place to deposit gifts or inheritances from family members.  Once the account exceeds $100,000, the individual’s benefits will be cut off, although Medicaid is not affected. 
  • Trusts.  While there are several types of special-needs trusts, “third party” trusts are frequently used by families who want to supplement what the disabled person receives through government-run programs.  The trusts can sit for years, families can add money over time, or they can fund them with life insurance and estate proceeds.  Pooled trusts are also an option for families with less money or little family to help oversee the process.
  • Guardians.  Families struggle when it comes to considering whom to appoint as a guardian to look after their child, as well as who will serve as a trustee to oversee any trust accounts.  Some experts suggest splitting roles to build in a system of checks and balances: Have a guardian who will advocate for the individual, and a separate trustee to handle the money.

See Tara Siegel Bernard, Tips for the Future Care of Disabled Family Members, The New York Times, March 27, 2015.

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

March 30, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Latest Battle in Ernie Banks' Estate

Ernie BanksThe caregiver in charge of Ernie Banks’ estate wants the late Chicago Cubs player’s estranged wife to turn over records of any assets he left behind in the couple’s California home when they separated.  In a court filing, Regina Rice said Banks had “attempted to retrieve” assets from the home after he moved out in 2012 but that he was unable to get them back from his wife.  Rice has asked Cook County Probate Judge James Riley to order Banks’ wife to turn over records of any assets in her control so Rice can complete a full accounting of the estate.  A hearing on the case is scheduled for Thursday. 

See Jason Meisner, Ernie Banks’ Caretaker Wants List of Assets from Ex-Cub’s Estranged Wife, Chicago Tribune, March 24, 2015.

March 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tips for Professional Guardians

HandGuardianship is trending toward professional guardianship assignment rather than those with a personal connection to person. Professional guardians bring experience, but can also get overloaded with responsibilities. Here are some tips for professional guardians:

  • Keep an individualized case-by-case approach with each ward.
  • Have an understanding of the ward's situations and the unique responsibilities that will come with accepting the guardianship.
  • Do not take on too many cases.
  • Create a plan for who will be the next guardian if sudden and unexpected circumstances arise that make the current guardian unavailable.

See Patricia Maisano, Watching Out For Our Wards, Wealth Management, March 17, 2015.

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

March 20, 2015 in Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Estate Planning for Internationally Minded Families

GlobeThe current climate of large international businesses results in estate planners having clients that are from one country, living currently is the U.S., and facing the possibility of moving again at an indeterminate time. This creates unique challenges for the estate planner. It is important for the planner to help with planning in the current state of residence, such as setting up a living trust and naming a guardian for any children. Many globe-trotting families will also have property and assets in the country they moved from, which makes it important for a U.S. estate planner to coordinate with an attorney in that other country that is planning for those assets as well.

See Ian Holzhauer, International Estate Plans, Tailored Estate Planning, March 17, 2015.

March 19, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Florida's Guardianship System Could Get a Makeover


Last year, an investigation detailing the abuse regarding Florida’s guardianship system showcased that in cases across the state, court-appointed guardians were taking advantage of the elderly and incapacitated people they were supposed to protect. 

Now, Florida’s much-maligned system may finally get the overhaul it so desperately needs.  Half a dozen bills have been filed and several of them are likely to pass.  “No longer can anyone claim that we are making this up and it’s not a statewide chronic problem,” says Dr. Sam Sugar of the group Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship. 

One of the most important bills, Senate Bill 1226, could make the most sweeping changes by creating a wholly new agency to supervise guardians.  Currently, there is almost no remedy for family members to complain that a guardian is physically or financially abusing a ward.  The only recourse is to complain to a probate judge.  The new law, if passed, would be “absolutely revolutionary for this state.”

See Michael E. Miller, Florida’s Broken Guardianship System Could Finally Get Overhauled This Year, Miami New Times, March 4, 2015.

March 17, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)