Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Issues with Heirlooms


Figuring out what to do with family heirlooms can be difficult.  If the heirloom is gathering dust in a closet, it may be time to part with the heirloom.  But tradition, and other family members, may make you think twice before giving it away.

For a great example of the difficulties that arise when giving away an heirloom, read the article below.   

See Deborah L. Jacobs, When It’s Time to Part with Family Heirlooms, And Why I Gave Away Grandpa Oscar’s Violin, Forbes, March 31, 2014.

April 1, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reverse Mortgages Threatening Inheritances


A growing number of baby boomers are confronting a bitter inheritance.

Reverse mortgages have been a constant pitfall for older borrowers, but their survivors are increasingly being threatened by reverse mortgage companies to pay the mortgages in full or face foreclosure.  And most heirs don’t know that surviving family members are supposed to be offered the choice to settle the reverse mortgage for a percentage of the full amount, in some cases 95% of the home’s current value.

Some heirs say that lenders are moving to foreclose just weeks after the borrower dies while other heirs say they become stuck in a bureaucratic maze as they try to figure out how to keep the family home.

See Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Pitfalls of Reverse Mortgages May Pass to Borrower’s Heirs, The New York Times, March 26, 2014.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) and Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 30, 2014 in Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wealth Inequality in America After the Baby Boomer Generation


In today's America, the top 1% of households owns about 35% of the nation's wealth, which is more than the entire bottom 90% does. However, this wealth inequality has not yet resulted in a big uptick in inheritances. Since the 1980s, the value of inherited wealth has only drifted upward slightly. In fact, wealth transfers as a proportion of net worth have fallen, from 29% in 1989 to 19% in 2007.

This will change once the baby boomer generation accelerates retirement, which will create a flood of princelings and some potentially worrisome consequences for social mobility in the United States, as the immense earnings of an already stratified economy are entrusted to a new generation.  A study by the consulting firm Accenture identifies 2031 as the point when the transfer of wealth will peak. What's unclear is what the country will look like afterward.

See Annie Lowrey, What Comes After Rich Baby Boomers? Kids with a Big Inheritance, The New York Times, March 11, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) and Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Should You Leave an Inheritance?


A recent survey found that only 59% of parents in the United States intended to leave their children an inheritance.  Of 15 nations studied, the U.S. was the lowest.

So why do U.S. parents intend to leave their children less than parents in other countries?  One reason may be that affluent parents desire to see their children make it on their own.  First-generation wealth builders value hard work and frugality and may feel that an inheritance is more hurtful than helpful.

See Larry Light, Why Bother Leaving an Inheritance for the Kids?, Forbes, Feb. 27, 2014.

March 11, 2014 in Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Article on Slayer Rules


Carla Spivack (Oklahoma City University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Killers Shouldn’t Inherit from Their Victims—Or Should They?, 48 Ga. L. Rev. 145 (Fall 2013).  Provided below is the beginning of her article:

Almost all states have laws, called “Slayer Rules,” barring killers from inheriting from their victims. At first glance, the idea behind these statutes seems reasonable, indeed, morally obvious: killers should not profit from their crimes. This Article, however, suggests reasons why this age-old truism may not necessarily be true. Where murder and inheritance overlap, we often find family. When family members kill one another, the equities are often cloudy. The sociopathic child who kills a grandparent to hasten an inheritance is an anomaly. In reality, murders within a family are usually a product of that family's harmful, often violent, dynamics, from which, because of the failures of state and society, a family member sometimes can find no escape except murder. Most women who kill their husbands or partners do so to protect themselves or their children from violence. Most children who kill a parent act to stop severe and prolonged abuse by that parent; most other parricides are acutely mentally ill. Most mothers who kill their children suffer from postpartum psychosis, a severe mental illness with symptoms including visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions. In many of these cases, social, political, economic, and cultural factors have combined to block the suffering relative's escape, sometimes leaving murder as the only way out.

Once the tragedy has played out, resulting in a murder, a corpse, and a defendant, the legal system often fails to recognize or address the defendant's plight: it often bars effective defenses at trial, extorts pleas that stand in as guilty verdicts without reliably reflecting guilt, and offers defendants inadequate representation. Even defendants who bypass these obstacles and are found not guilty at a criminal trial may still fall within the reach of the Slayer Rules due to the lower standard of proof and different definition of intent in civil proceedings. Depriving such defendants of the decedent's estate compounds their vulnerability by depriving them of resources. In this context, it is far from clear that barring such killers from inheriting is morally or legally justified, or sound public policy. I explain here why it is not, and propose revisions to the Slayer Rules to address this problem.

March 2, 2014 in Articles, Intestate Succession, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Article on Inheritance of Escheat by Municipal Units

SsrnNina Aleksandrovana Novoshonova (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration) recently published an article entitled, Inheritance of Escheat by Municipal Units, (January 29, 2014). 20 years of New Russia Constitution: sources, theory and modern practice. Materials of All-Russian scientific and practical conference (25th of October, 2013). 262 p. PAGES: 224-227. Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

The author analyses changes of civil code clause 1151 and justifies the necessity of special order of escheat inheritance by municipal units taking into account joint responsibility of official organizations in inheritance arrears.

Note: Downloadable document is in Russian.

February 21, 2014 in Articles, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tips on Spending an Inheritance


Inherited money has its own unique challenges.  Here are six tips for how to spend and save an inheritance:

  1. This money is different.  Recipients of an inheritance may treat an inheritance different from other money.  A conflicted relationship with the deceased may cause the recipient to disown the money or waste it away.
  2. Wait to spend.  Estates can take a long time before they’re settled.  Recipients should wait until the money is in hand before they go spending it.
  3. Write a wish list.  A wish list allows a recipient to prioritize the may options newfound wealth brings while also giving them time to consider the most meaningful uses.
  4. Get insured.  Besides car and house insurance, a personal liability policy is likely a necessity.  Recipients should buy coverage for as much as they are worth.
  5. Follow the 10% rule.  Don’t spend more than 10% of an inheritance.  Invest the rest.
  6. Consider ongoing costs.  Ferns require daily watering, while a cactus can go a month without.  A new BMW might sound nice, but the insurance premiums, maintenance costs, and gasoline should also be considered.  Think about a family vacation instead.

See Robert Pagliarini, 6 Tips to Spend Your Inheritance, Wealth Management, Feb. 14, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) and Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 20, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Article on Intestate Inheritance and Stepparent Adoption


James T.R. Jones (Professor of Law, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville) recently published an article entitled, Intestate Inheritance and Stepparent Adoption: A Reappraisal, Property, Trust and Estate Law, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Fall 2013).  Provided below is the editors’ synopsis of this article:

Societal attitudes toward adoptions have shifted over time, and adoption statutes vary widely among U.S. jurisdictions.  Unique challenges arise when drafting statutes that affect the intestate inheritance rights of adoptees.  Drafters of uniform laws and state legislatures attempt to balance the goal of complete assimilation of an adoptee into an adopted family with the prevalence of remarriages and stepfamilies.  This Article analyzes the intestate inheritance rights of adoptees in stepparent adoptions generally, against the backdrop of Kentucky law.  Noting that stepchildren deserve a well-considered examination of their intestate inheritance rights, this Article offers suggestions for stepparent adoption statutes in Kentucky and nationwide.

February 19, 2014 in Articles, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Article on Laughing Heirs


John V. Orth (William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law) recently published an article entitled, “The Laughing Heir” What’s So Funny?, Real Property, Trust and Estate Law, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Fall 2013).  Provided below is the editors’ synopsis of this article: 

Death is inevitable, yet people often die without adequately providing for the disposition of their assets.  In such cases, inheritance laws often provide guidance for the distribution of a decedent’s assets to relatives.  Most states do not limit collateral succession—even among remote kindred.  However, this Article questions whether the state, rather than the “laughing heir,” is most deserving of the windfall.

February 17, 2014 in Articles, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Show Called “Strange Inheritance”


Fox Business Network is currently developing a new program set to debut this summer.

Hosted by Tracy Byrnes, Strange Inheritance will explore “real-life stories of unconventional inheritances.”  Fox Business hopes this eccentric premise will present a compelling option for a business audience after hours.

See Dunstan Prial, Fox Business to Air New Primetime Program, ‘Strange Inheritance’, Fox Business, Feb. 12, 2014.

February 15, 2014 in Intestate Succession, Television, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)