Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guardians Arrested For Abusing Disabled Woman

JailA couple in Toledo, Ohio was recently arrested and charged for allegedly abusing and neglecting a 53-year-old woman that they are the legal guardians of. In 1994, Norman and Susan Demski were named the guardians of Lori Demski, who was deemed mentally and physically disabled.

Mr. Demki found his sister Lori badly injured and bleeding when he returned home after Lori was left alone for five hours, according to court affidavits. Lori was taken to the hospital where it was determined that she was attacked by two dogs at the home, had broken bones, and what appeared to by human bite marks on her body, according to police reports. The couple has been released, but cannot contact Lori.

See Taylor Dungjen, Woman’s Guardians Arrested in Abuse Case, Toledo blade, Sept. 9, 2014

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

September 17, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Elderly Couple's Marriage Questioned

Old newlyweds

After 96-year-old Edith Hill and 95-year-old Eddie Harrison had been companions for more than a decade, they finally married earlier this year.  Hill’s daughter, Rebecca Wright, does not understand the fuss over her mother’s marriage, “Anybody who wants to get married must have a little dementia.” 

However, the courts are not amused and the future for the newlyweds remains uncertain.  Legally, the wedding has been problematic, as Hill has been declared incapacitated for several years.  At a hearing earlier this month a judge said he believes that Wright, co-guardian over her mother, acted improperly by taking her mother to get married without the court’s permission. 

Cary Cuccinelli, represents Patricia Barber, the sister who opposed the marriage, said that the wedding occurred without other family members’ knowledge, and that it complicated the matter of how to eventually distribute Hill’s estate.  “Legally, Mr. Harrison now has a right to a portion of Ms. Hill’s estate.

The judge removed Wright and Barber as Hill’s guardians and subsequently appointed a lawyer, instructing her to “investigate the marriage and take all actions appropriate and reasonable to protect the best interests of Edith Hill.”    

See Matthew Barakat, Marriage of Newlyweds, Ages 96 and 95, Questioned, SF Gate, Sept. 9, 2014.

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

September 9, 2014 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book on Guardianship Alternatives in Texas

Guardianship alternativesA Road Map to Guardianship Alternatives, by Sarah Patel Pacheco provides forms and guidance for utilizing available alternatives to court-supervised guardianship in Texas. Provided below is a description of the book from Texas Bar Books.

Texas guardianship proceedings can be intrusive, burdensome and costly. Practitioners should be aware of the many alternatives to guardianship that are available to Texas residents. This guide provides an overview of those alternatives, including specific forms that can be used to avoid a court-supervised administration of affairs.

A Road Map to Guardianship Alternatives, previously published as Contingency Planning, is intended to support practitioners in every area by providing knowledgeable and cost-effective legal support to families making plans for financial and medical care. This useful handbook has been expanded and updated to reflect legislative changes that have occurred since the previous publication.

The book is organized to easily direct both general practitioners and seasoned estate planning attorneys through situations in which the time and expense of creating a guardianship is not in the best interest of the client. It alerts practitioners to events that may be anticipated, such as travel, planned surgery, and administering the assets of minors or the infirm.

A Road Map to Guardianship Alternatives Digital Product, containing the entire book as an internally hyperlinked, word-searchable PDF file and all forms in Wordformat, is included at no additional charge.

September 1, 2014 in Books, Books - For Practitioners, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Booklet Series on Managing Someone Else’s Money

CFPB_LogoThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released a series of informative guides entitled, Managing Someone Else’s Money. Here is a description of the series from the CFPB website:

Millions of Americans are managing money or property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. This can be very overwhelming. But, it’s also a great opportunity to help someone you care about, and protect them from scams and fraud.

We are releasing four easy-to-understand booklets to help financial caregivers. The Managing Someone Else’s Money guides are for agents under powers of attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees, and government fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries.)

The guides help you to be a financial caregiver in three ways:

  • They walk you through your duties.
  • They tell you how to watch out for scams and financial exploitation, and what to do if your loved one is a victim.
  • They tell you where you can go for help.

August 22, 2014 in Books, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Non-Probate Assets, Professional Responsibility, Resource Links, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Planning For Your Kids

Children2It is important to have a plan in place for your children in the event of your death.  Who will be your child’s guardian and who will be the guardian of your estate?  While these difficult decisions may not have one right answer, there are several important considerations to take into account when you are making your will and planning your child’s future.

Although you are allowed to designate someone as the guardian of your child, in most states the court has the final decision as to who will be the most appropriate caregiver.  “It’s at the discretion of the court as to what’s in the best interest of the child.”   When drafting your will, it is important to take into consideration that your money and your child can go in opposite directions.  Two types of guardians can be specified in your will—the guardian of the child, and the guardian of the property of the estate.  Though they can be the same person, that is not a requirement.  “Naturally, the answer is different for everyone and depends on what you want for your child as well as his or her caregiver . . . The person who looks after and cares for your child may not be the same person you’d want handling his or her financial life, as they may require a different skill set.  To control risk, some people decide to keep the roles separate.” 

The best way to do this is by creating a trust.  In establishing a trust, you can be explicit about how those funds are to be used for the care and education of the child.  When thinking about the appropriate dollar amount to leave for your child’s care, remember that children are expensive.

See Kathryn Tuggle, How to Give Away Your Kids, The Street, July 28, 2014.

July 28, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Man Charged With Wife’s Murder Loses His House, All Three of Them

JailAfter Donna Honaker was murdered in her home in Ohio, her estate brought suit to collect the assets that her husband would have inherited under more normal circumstances. The husband, Royce Honaker, has been charged with Donna’s murder, partly based on the 911 call he placed telling authorities he had just killed his wife. Royce did not fight the estate, but rather stated from the beginning that he wanted his portion to go to his four children. A county probate judge has given Royce’s court appointed guardian settlement authority in the case. Donna’s estate includes three real estate properties, a $105,000 life-insurance policy, and two bank accounts. Royce will maintain ownership of his pension and four vehicles.

See Ed Runyan,  Estate of Killed Woman Finalized in Trumbull Probate Court, Vindy, July 23, 2014.

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

July 26, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

ComputerThe Uniform Law Commission has approved the new Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. With huge technology advancements changing where assets are stored, a legal update is needed to accommodate the increase in digital assets. The Act adopts “media neutrality”, which means that the individuals who would gain access to tangible property as a fiduciary after the owner dies, such as personal representatives, or during the owner’s life, such as a guardian, will now also have access to the digital assets. However, if the owner has previously expressed a desire that the assets be kept private, then those wishes will be honored.

See, Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act Approved, Uniform Law Commission, July 16, 2014.

July 18, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Minnesota Addresses Thefts by Court-Appointed Guardians

MinnesotaAfter the discovery of abuse by court-appointed guardians in Minnesota, the state audited 24 random accounts handled by Alternate Decision Makers, Inc. The findings uncovered problems with ten accounts ranging from missing documents to possible indications of theft. Allegations of theft by the guardians include unreasonably high fees accessed, missing property, and personal items sold off after the protected person died. The suspicious accounts discovered by auditors are being sent to judges for review and to be remedied.

See James Eli Shiffer, Conservator’s Thefts Prompted 24 State Audits, Star Tribune, July 14, 2014.

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

July 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Guardianship, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Father's Indecencies Funded by Disabled Son's Trust Fund


An Appleton man has been charged with stealing more than $360,000 from his disabled son’s trust fund to pay for his drugs, pornography and vacations. 

Police say Todd Laseke, 48, transferred $502,672 from the trust fund into his personal bank accounts between 2008 and 2011.  While Laeske was permitted to take a $3,000 monthly allowance, almost $400,000 was spent beyond his stipend.  Beginning in October 2010, the register in probate asked Laseke to explain this “substantial” spending, however, he did not comply.  Officials subsequently appointed a guardian ad litem to represent Laseke’s son and investigate.  Through subpoenaed documents, it was discovered that money was being spend on trips to Florida, a minivan as well as marijuana and cocaine. 

On Tuesday, Laseke filed paperwork for a court-appointed attorney.  The court commissioner set a $100,000 signature bond and he was not taken into custody.

See Ariel Cheung, Police: Man Used Disabled Son’s Trust Fund for Drugs, Porn, The Northwestern, July 8, 2014.

July 11, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Estate Planning Documents Every College Graduate Should Have

GraduationAfter graduating from college and entering the coveted “real world,” drafting an estate plan is not necessarily on the top of everyone’s to-do-list.  However, after starting your first job, preparing an estate plan is vital.  Below are five documents that should be part of your estate plan:

  1. Durable Financial Power of Attorney. This is where you name an agent to act on your behalf concerning your personal financial affairs.  Generally, your agent would step into this role if you were unable to handle your own affairs.  This can be a family member, a close friend, or a private fiduciary. 
  2. Health Care Power of Attorney. This is similar to the Financial Power of Attorney, except it is used for decisions concerning your health care.  You must name an agent who can assist with placement, if you must be moved to a rehabilitation facility, and is often given the authority to follow your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment. 
  3. Last Will and Testament. A will allows you to provide to whom and in what manner your assets will be distributed upon your death. 
  4. Beneficiary Designation. Make sure there is a beneficiary designation on your 401(k)s and IRAs.  A beneficiary designation states that upon your death, the assets held in that account pass immediately to the named individual.  If you do not have a beneficiary designation, the funds will be distributed as part of your estate. 
  5. Beneficiary Deed. This allows you to name an individual who will receive your interest in real property at your death.  If you are married, a beneficiary deed would only be used at the death of the second spouse.  There are times when use of a beneficiary deed may not be in your best interest (i.e., if you want the property to be distributed to minor children.)

See Amber Curto, Five Estate Planning Documents Every Young Professional Should Have, Nat Law Review, July 7,  2014.   

July 10, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)