Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Without An Estate Plan Property Might Go To State

RyanI have previously discussed how an unknown descendent of Lizzie Ryan could be eligible to inherit a $788,000 estate.  If an heir is not found in thirty years then the estate will go to the British Crown.  In the United States, if an heir is not found then the property often escheats to the State government after a certain amount of time.  If a person does not want their property to go to the state it is important to have an estate plan. 

See Idaho Estate Planning, Leaving Your Estate To The State?, Wealth Management, May 27, 2015.

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

May 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Audrey Hepburn’s Two Sons Each Claim Belongings

Audrey hepburnAudrey Hepburn’s two sons are currently disputing over ownership of her personal belongings.  The two brothers are feuding over a storage unit “filled with posters, photos, costumes, awards and other memorabilia.”  The “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” star, who passed away more than 22 years ago, never decreed who would take possession of these items.  The two brothers are most likely going to let a judge divide up the property. 

See Derrick Bryson Taylor, Audrey Hepburn’s kids still fighting over her stuff, New York Post, May 27, 2015.  

May 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Slayer Statutes Help Prevent Profiting From Murder

TrusteeOn May 12, Diana Nadell was convicted of murdering her 80 year old mother so that she could inherit wealth from her estate.  State governments often deal with these types of situations by creating “slayer statutes” that are intended to prevent evil beneficiaries like Diana Nadell from profiting off of their crimes.  The specific rules of these types of statutes vary from each state, but they often involve the similar goal of preventing people from benefiting from the inheritance of a person that they murdered. 

See David H. Lenock, Slayer Statutes In The Spotlight, Trusts & Estates, May 13, 2015.

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

May 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How To Manage Digital Assets After Death Of Account Holder

ComputersaThe digital revolution has done more to advance humanity than almost any other creation. However, that same revolution creates a new problem in the form of management of digital assets after death. In the case of one couple, the surviving spouse was unable to do something simple such as requesting cable repair since her husband was the one who knew all the passwords to their online accounts. Estate planners should take heed and encourage their clients to make sure all necessary digital information to manage online assets is accessible to their heirs be it in a will or in some other secure location that will be accessible to their family. 

See Thomas Owen, Preparing For The Digital Afterlife, WGN News, May 18, 2015.

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

May 19, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Unknown Heir Could Inherit $788,000

MI-Ryan-family-treeA UK Woman named Kathleen Hilda Ryan passed away in 2013 leaving behind a small fortune of $788,000.  A BBC program called “Heir Hunters” and a group called Finders International have been working together to track down any heirs who could have a rightful claim to the Ryan estate.  So far many people have made unsuccessful attempts to claim themselves as proper heirs.  If an heir is not found in 30 years the British Crown will get the assets. 

See Casey Egan, Is your ancestor Lizzie Ryan from Westmeath? You could inherit $788,000, Irish Central, May 16, 2015.

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

May 17, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Don’t Wait Until The Last Moment To Write Last Words

WillsMost people do not like to think about their own mortality particularly those that are young with families and, as a result, refrain from making a will. However, a little forethought can be a saving grace if the unexpected occurs as a will can prevent much legal wrangling during probate. Any client should be made aware of the benefits of testate succession and guided through available options based on their personal circumstances. Also explain that death planning is a naturally prudent choice and can alleviate long term anxiety about the welfare of loved ones.

See Jeff Woodburn, Don't Put Off Writing Down Your Last Words, New Hampshire Magazine, May 2015.

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

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Article on Challenges Facing the Posthumously Conceived Child

Test tubesAndrew T. Peebles (J.D. Candidate, University of Missouri School of Law, 2015) recently published an article entitled, Challenges and Inconsistencies Facing the Posthumously Conceived Child, 79 Mo. L. Rev. 497-515 (2014).  Provided below is the article’s introduction:

The use of artificial reproductive technology (ART) has increased sharply in recent decades as families plan ahead in the face of such difficulties as disease and military service that raise doubts as to whether reproduction will be possible for an individual in the future.  Posthumous conception of children is a widely used form of ART, and it allows families to expand, even after the death of one of the parents.  In vitro fertilization is the newest form of this technology.  But for the posthumously conceived child, the difficulties continue as most states bar these children from inheriting Social Security survivor’s benefits from a deceased parent.  The Supreme Court of the United States case of Astrue v. Capato ex rel. B.N.C. has recently given authority to this inequality, holding that posthumously conceived children are eligible for such benefits if they qualify as a “child” under state intestacy law. However, the Court’s decision in this case has left several problems unresolved that will continue to plague courts in the future and will lead to further inconsistent decisions and disparities for children born through in vitro fertilization.  Due to the rise in the use of this innovative technology, these issues affect an increasing portion of the population.

This Note will discuss the problems with the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision, the inconsistencies that exist in state intestacy law, and the solutions that are necessary to remedy these challenges.  Part II gives a brief background of the facts and circumstances surrounding Astrue.

Part III discusses the history of the Social Security Administration and in vitro fertilization and points out the conflicting results from various jurisdictions that have dealt with this issue.  Part IV delves into the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind its decision in Astrue.  Finally, Part V comments on the reasons Astrue was poorly decided, the difficulties that will result from the decision, and the methods to resolve these complications.

March 26, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Non-Probate Assets, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Parent May Still Virtually Adopt

Gavel2Shalanda Sanders brought a claim in a Georgia trial court arguing that she had a right to inherit from the man that she believed was her father until she was 14-years-old, Clifford Riley. Sanders was born while her mother and Riley were married, but found out at age 14 that her biological father was Roy Warren. The trial court granted summary judgment against Sanders and she appealed.

In Sanders v. Riley, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the trial court. The court reasoned that the fact that the legal presumption was that Riley was Sanders' father did not preclude her from making her virtual adoption claim. The court noted that for Riley to have prevented a future challenge to his presumptive status, he would have had to effectively publicly announce the private information that his wife had an affair. Further, the court found that Sanders reconnecting with her biological father later in life did not change or undue the virtual adoption.

See, Woman May Proceed With Claim of Virtual Adoption by Presumptive Legal Father, Bloomberg BNA, March 24, 2015.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 26, 2015 in Estate Administration, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Virtual Adoption Not Severed By Reconnecting with Natural Father

AdoptionIn Sanders v. Riley, Ga. LEXIS 179 (Ga. March 16, 2015), the Georgia Supreme Court held that once a child has been virtually adopted by an adopted father, the subsequent relation between the adopted child and the natural father does not sever the previous virtual adoption. 

Here, the court was faced with a situation where a child was treated as having been virtually adopted by the father who raised her, and then reconnected to her biological father when the child was 14.  The father died intestate, setting up a dispute over his estate between the father’s biological son and the daughter.  In the opinion, the Georgia Supreme Court explained, “Just as children, once legally adopted, do not become unadopted by forming a relationship later in life with their biological parents—something that is occurring with increasing frequency—children, once virtually adopted, do not become unadopted by developing a relationship later on with their biological parents.” 

See Jeffrey Skatoff, Virtual Adoption Not Undone By Developing Relationship with Natural Father, Florida Probate Lawyers, March 17, 2015.

March 18, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Article on Posthumously Conceived Children and State Intestacy Laws

Test tubesLane Thomasson recently published an article entitled, Burns v. Astrue: “Born in Peculiar Circumstances,” Posthumously Conceived Children and the Adequacy of State Intestacy Laws, 91 Denv. U. L. Rev. 715-740 (2014). Provided below is the article’s abstract.

A posthumously conceived child is one born to a woman who became pregnant by the preserved semen of a dead man. This Comment examines the rights of posthumously conceived children to receive social security benefits using an example from the Utah Supreme Court, Burns v. Astrue. Currently, the result is determined by the intestacy laws of the state where the semen donor died. It also discusses the applicable intestacy provisions in the states comprising the Tenth Circuit, as well as the approaches used by the Uniform Probate Code and the Uniform Parentage Act. The Comment concludes by addressing whether it would be more desirable to leave the determination of the issue to each state, to pass federal legislation that would bring all states into conformity with each other, or to adopt model legislation in every state.

March 14, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)