Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Article on 'Deadbeat Dads': Should Support and Inheritance Be Linked?

Married_with_children_Luck_of_the_Bundys_Al_bundyPaula A. Monopoli recently posted an Article entitled, 'Deadbeat Dads': Should Support and Inheritance Be Linked?, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

American inheritance law is based predominantly on status within the family—individuals inherit from relatives simply because they are linked by blood or adoption. Children do not have to be "well-behaved" to take from their parents under intestacy statutes and generally, unworthy heirs are not punished by forfeiture of their inheritance. In other words, American inheritance law is a status-based system rather than a behavior-based system. Most states do not require good behavior to inherit; nor, absent murder, do they prevent anyone from taking from an intestate relative. Should a parent who abandons a child forfeit his or her inheritance? Should we use the law of succession to achieve a goal other than the simple reallocation of a decedent's property at death? In other words, should we adopt a behavior-based model of succession rather than the status-based model which prevails in most states? This article explores those normative questions and evaluates the costs and benefits of shifting from a status-based model to a behavior-based model of inheritance.

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

September 8, 2017 in Articles, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Article on Recent Texas Cases Impacting the Wills, Probate, and Trust Practice

Intestate-Succession-212x300Gerry W. Beyer recently published an Article entitled, Recent Texas Cases Impacting the Wills, Probate, and Trust Practice, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This article discusses recent judicial developments relating to the Texas law of intestacy, wills, estate administration, trusts, and other estate planning matters. The discussion of each case concludes with a moral, i.e., the important lesson to be learned from the case. By recognizing situations that have led to time consuming and costly litigation in the past, estate planners can reduce the likelihood of the same situations arising with their clients.

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

June 21, 2017 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Malpractice, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 22, 2017

New Mexico 2017 Legislative Report

Land splitThe 2017 New Mexico Legislature considered over 1000 bills and 43 Constitutional Amendments during its sixty-day session. Two bills of some interest that were approved by both Houses were the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADA) and the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA).

UFADA is designed to extend the traditional power of a fiduciary to manage tangible property to include management of an individual’s digital assets. The act would allow fiduciaries to manage web domains, computer files, and virtual currency. It still restricts access to texts, email, and social accounts without prior consent from the client.

UPHPA is designed to protect family wealth from real estate speculators. A devise of property that creates tenants-in-common leaves each tenant with the power to force a partition of the property. Occasionally, speculators will purchase a small amount of an heir’s property in order to file a partition action and force a sale. The speculator will then purchase the property at a severe discount, depleting the family’s wealth in the process. UPHPA provides beneficiaries with certain rights in order to prevent this practice.

The Governor has a limited time period to act on most of the legislation approved during the recent session.

See John W. Anderson & Mark Anderson, NMBA Legislative Report, New Mexico Bankers Association, March 20, 2017.

May 22, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Legislation, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Article on Biologically Biased Beneficence

Last-Will-and-Testament-Attorney-LakelandJeffrey Evans Stake recently published an Article entitled, Biologically Biased Beneficence, 48 Ariz. St. L.J. 1101 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

After death and after taxes, the laws relating to wills, trusts, and intestate succession determine what to do with a decedent’s assets. Much of that body of law is built upon the assumption that the law should help the decedent reach her goals if she has expressed them, or mimic her probable goals if she has not. As put by Daniel Kelly, “The organizing principle of succession law is testamentary freedom.” While the wishes of decedents are certainly relevant, as a normative matter there are other concerns deserving attention. This Paper discusses some biological reasons to worry about the behavior of benefactors. Various potential bio-biases in the hearts of donors will be identified, followed in each case by ideas for reforming the law. My main message is that testamentary freedom should be demoted from the organizing principle to an important consideration in the design of the law of succession.

May 17, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Estate Planning Lessons from John B.

John b“S-Town” is the successor podcast to the famous “Serial” podcast. The podcast depicts the anti-hero, John B., who lives in a house on 128 acres in Woodstock, Alabama with his mother who suffers from dementia. Most residents of Woodstock thought John B. was a wealthy man, but upon committing suicide, he dies without a will and without a plan for someone to take care of his mother. However, John B. did leave instructions with a friend about what to do and who to contact after his death. His story represents several estate planning lessons. You should always choose a will over a set of instructions, but leaving both is not a bad idea. Without a will, your assets will pass to those heirs designated by the estate, and your loved ones will be cared for by a relative willing to serve as guardian, both scenarios may not represent your true wishes.

See Jay Brinker, Don’t Be Like John B. (Estate Planning Lessons from “S-Town”), Jay Brinker Blog, April 21, 2017.

April 26, 2017 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Article on Chinese Inheritance Law

Chinese inheritance lawThomas E. Simmons recently published an Article entitled, A Chinese Inheritance, 30 Quinnipiac Pr. L.J. (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

A society's values may be discernible in its intestacy laws, the laws which govern the distribution of a decedent’s estate when there is no valid will. Upon examination, unique characteristics among competing intestacy schemes emerge. The most startling characteristic of Chinese inheritance law is its willingness to invoke judicial review of an heir’s conduct in settling upon distributions. American succession law also considers an heir’s conduct, but it does so sparingly and formalistically. Chinese conduct-based intestacy is widespread and fluid. This article contrasts American and Chinese approaches to conduct-based intestacy, identifies the underlying competing policies and values in play, and summarizes five recent Chinese judicial opinions as a way of assessing the operation of Chinese conduct-dependent intestacy.

April 16, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lawyers Still Battling for Control over Prince's Estate

Prince lawyers2Two lawyers who have been battling for control over Prince’s estate were both denied official roles last month by a judge. Entertainment lawyer L. Londell McMillan and political commentator Van Jones were both close advisers of Prince at different times in his life. The two have managed to ignite a family feud between the late singer’s six known heirs, including issues about the singer’s legacy, a memorial concert, and the lawyers’ conflicts of interest. Prince’s catalog becoming available for the first time on major digital music-streaming services evidences McMillan’s vision for the late singer’s estate. 

See Hannah Karp, Lawyers Battle for Control of Late Pop Star Prince’s Estate, Market Watch, February 11, 2017. 


February 12, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Top Estate Disputes of 2016

Estate disputesThroughout 2016, the public witnessed several high-profile estate disputes, but which ones truly captivated our attention? First and foremost, Prince died in April 2016 without a will, which has left the probate judge fighting off several self-proclaimed heirs. Prince’s death highlights the most basic estate-planning lesson of all time—create an estate plan! Another interesting estate dispute was that of Frank Sinatra, Jr., who passed away in March 2016. At the time of his death, Sinatra, Jr. and his then-ex-wife were not married, but she was under the impression they were in a common law marriage; it was not until he stopped paying her alimony payments that she decided to file for divorce a second time. After appealing the lower court’s decision, Sinatra, Jr. passed away, which presents the next lesson—ensure careful planning to mitigate any frivolous claims. The passing of Jose Fernandez evinces another estate-planning misfortune. Fernandez’s girlfriend was pregnant at the time of his death but was not indicated as a beneficiary of his trust. Now, his girlfriend is left to rely on any hopes she has of the child being ruled as a pretermitted child under state law. And finally, Tom Clancy passed away in 2013, but 2016 saw significant litigation for his estate. Essentially, Clancy set up several trusts and signed a codicil that unintentionally shifted the entire tax burden to his four children’s trusts, as to maximize the estate tax amount under the marital exemption, leaving his children with an $11.8 million tax bill. Estate planners should beware of drafting language that can be construed as ambiguous. Hopefully, the planners of 2017 will learn from these public estate-planning blunders.    

See Will Sleeth, Top Four Estate Disputes of 2016, Wealth Management, January 31, 2017. 

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


February 3, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

58th Anniversary of "The Day the Music Died"

Day_music_diedWriting this blog from Lubbock, Texas, today is especially signficant as the 58th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly (a Lubbock native), Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.), and the plane's pilot.

Like most Americans, Buddy Holly died intestate.

February 3, 2017 in About This Blog, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Prince Will Lose the Control He Once Had over His Music

Prince estate tax billDuring Prince’s longstanding career, we saw him part with his record label, change his name, and yank his songs off popular streaming services all to prove a point—no one could tell him what to do. Although his desire to control his music inspired other artists, this limited exposure could hurt the value of the late singer’s music. Without a will, Prince’s wishes will take a backseat because his estate administrators are under a court mandate to get the most for his 1,000-song catalog. The estate administrators have a legal responsibility to maximize the return on his music, which most likely goes against his wishes, in order to pay the looming estate tax bill.  

See Lucas Shaw, With No Will, Prince Loses the Control He Zealously Guarded, Wealth Management, January 18, 2017. 


January 25, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)