Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Court Adds Seven New Cases To Merits Docket

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-11/e6940245-d8d0-4142-967c-0aea55ef815e.pngThe Supreme Court issued a preliminary set of orders that served to add seven fresh cases to its merits docket. Among them is Sveen v. Melin, a case that involves spouse-beneficiaries and state laws that automatically revoke their beneficiary status upon divorce. The question before the court is whether this is a violation of the Constitution’s contracts clause.

See Amy Howe, Court Adds Seven New Cases To Merits Docket, SCOTUSblog, December 8, 2017.

Special thanks to Paul Cathcart for bringing this article to my attention.

December 11, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 8, 2017

CLE on Estate Planning with Family Entities in the Powell Aftermath: Risks and Practical Guidelines

0000000 CLEAmerican Law Institute CLE (ALI CLE) and The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) are holding a conference entitled: Estate Planning with Family Entities in the Powell Aftermath: Risks and Practical Guidelines, which will take place on Wednesday, January 10, 2017, via telephone seminar and audio webcast. Provided below is a description of the event:

Why You Should Attend

The May 2017 ruling in Estate of Powell v. Commissioner may be the most important family partnership case to be decided by the Tax Court in recent years. Invest just 90 minutes of your day to learn about the key components of the case and the requirements for avoiding estate tax inclusion (or double inclusion!) of gifted interests in family entities. If you are an estate planner representing family entities, attend this program to ensure your clients are complying with the dictates set forth by this decision.

What You Will Learn

The faculty, all Fellows of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and highly-experienced practitioners, will:

explain the key factors from the Powell case that resulted in the IRS victory

discuss the risks in estate tax planning with family entities that are increased due to Powell and the steps that can be taken to minimize or eliminate the risks

examine the applicable principles from the Byrum case and insights from the particular circumstances in Powell

Who Should Attend

Any estate planner who advises family entities will benefit from listening to this webcast jointly offered by the American Law Institute CLE and ACTEC.

December 8, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Federal Court Sustains Vivian Maier Copyright Claim

11111A federal court in Chicago held that the estate of Vivian Maier may pursue various claims, copyright infringement among them, against Jeffrey Goldstein. Maier died intestate in 2009 with no known heirs. At the time, she had gained no recognition for her photographic works. Goldstein was one of a number of buyers who purchased a number of her prints, negatives, and undeveloped film from a storage locker after her death. He started peddling these works through a website in 2010 and began selling them to galleries by 2012. Goldstein attempted to persuade the court that his purchase of Maier’s works occurred prior to her death, thereby removing it from her estate and providing him a “rightful claim of ownership.” The court did not buy Goldstein’s pre-death-purchase argument and said that the timing of his acquisition of the works was irrelevant anyway. The date for trial has not yet been set.

See David Walker, Federal Court Sustains Vivian Maier Copyright Claim, PDN Pulse, November 21, 2017.

Special thanks to Victor Salas for bringing this article to my attention.

November 23, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Court: Kids of Divorced Stepparent Must Pay Inheritance Tax

285px-StepByStepOpeningPaula Tyler and Mark Alcorn were raised by their mother, Connie Smith, and stepfather, Donald Hitzhusen. The couple later divorced, but Hitzhusen remained close to Tyler and Alcorn. Close enough, in fact, that he left them 77% of his $1.9 million estate. Because the distribution occurred in Iowa, Tyler and Alcorn were subject to a $200,000 inheritance tax. The pair challenged the validity of the tax, claiming that they were essentially being punished for the divorce of their parents. The court did not buy the argument and held that the Iowa Legislature’s goal to promote family cohesion was legitimate.

See David Pitt, Court: Kids of Divorced Stepparent Must Pay Inheritance Tax, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2017.

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

November 19, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

John McLaughlin's Estate Gets an Annuity Decision

Disneys-cinderella-and-her-evil-stepmotherJohn Joseph McLaughlin, who died in 2016, most likely did not intend for his former spouse, Christina Vidal, to benefit from life insurance annuities purchased prior to their marriage after their divorce in 2010. In 1996, before their marriage, McLaughlin designated Vidal as the beneficiary of two annuity contracts. In an antenuptial agreement, the pair agreed that upon divorce, a $1 million asset transfer from McLaughlin to Vidal would suffice as a division of the marital assets. Elizabeth McLaughlin, John McLaughlin’s niece and executor of the estate, sought a declaration from a federal district court in D.C. holding that the annuities should pass to the estate, not Vidal.

The district court agreed with Elizabeth and ruled that the prenuptial agreement had effectively revoked Vidal’s right to any income from the annuities. Looking to specific language in the prenup, the court noted that the “parties manifested their intent to vitiate beneficiary designations made before the agreement, like those of the annuities here.”

See John McLaughlin's Estate Gets an Annuity Decision, ThinkAdvisor, October 31, 2017.

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

November 1, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Article on Waiting for the Other Shoe

Shoe_DropsRuss Willis recently posted an Article entitled, Waiting for the Other Shoe, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Last year in Estate of Dieringer v. Commissioner the Tax Court disallowed a large portion of a claimed estate tax charitable deduction for the transfer of the decedent's controlling interest in a closely-held stock to a private foundation, where the corporation redeemed the stock at a steep discount from its reported estate tax value. The logic of the decision is arguably flawed, and the 9th Circuit federal appeals court may reverse, but the executor's troubles may be far from over.

October 29, 2017 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Clergy Housing Tax Exemption The Times Square Of Religion And Taxation

Braveheart1370473231In a suit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Judge Barbara Crabb has once again declared IRC §107(2) unconstitutional. This specific section of the code allows ministers of the gospel to exclude rental allowances from their gross income. Recent coverage of the decision has overstated the scope of Crabb’s ruling and deserves rectification.

See Peter J. Reilly, Clergy Housing Tax Exemption The Times Square Of Religion And Taxation, Forbes, October 15, 2017.

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

October 26, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Court Rejects Effort to Avoid Settlement Agreement

Dd48da1480d9eb0e36a0134bfb833542Disputes involving wills and estates are typically settled through mediation. Mediation has a number of benefits over taking these issues to court including reduced expenses, more certain results, and less time spent waiting for assets to be distributed to beneficiaries. In Texas, another benefit of mediation is the reluctance of the courts to overturn settlement agreements. In Lawson v. Collins, the Austin Court of Appeals rejected an attempt to challenge a mediated settlement agreement and binding arbitration following the initial mediation. Despite the challenger’s argument that she acted under duress and was coerced, the court held that the agreement and the arbitration were both valid.

See Michael Young, Court Rejects Effort to Avoid Settlement Agreement, Texas Probate Litigation, October 19, 2017.

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

October 25, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Article on Case Note. Estate Law--Summary Distribution of Small Estates: In re Estate of Coborn

Jackson-wyoming-wallpaper-1Jennie Boulerice recently published an Article entitled, Case Note. Estate Law--Summary Distribution of Small Estates: In re Estate of Coborn, 17 Wyo. L. Rev. 59 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This case note argues that the Wyoming Supreme Court was correct in holding that Wyoming Statute § 2-1-205 authorized a district court to order summary distribution of real property located in other Wyoming counties based on the court's expository legislation reasoning and policy reasons. The background section begins with a brief overview of estate succession and an explanation and history of the relevant statute, Wyoming Statute § 2-1-205. Additionally, the background section discusses the legal theories that the Wyoming Supreme Court relied on to reach its conclusion. This section also offers a brief overview of relevant legal principles, such as split estates. The principle case section discusses the facts, procedural history, the court's reasoning, and the holding of In re Estate of Coborn. The analysis section explains why the court was correct in its holding with respect to the expository legislation reasoning and policy reasons. Finally, the case note explains a few likely implications of the court's decision for estate distribution in practice.

October 24, 2017 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

State Law on After-born Children Leads to Revocation of a Will

Download (1)A number of states have enacted statutes that serve to revoke a decedent’s will, in whole or in part, if the decedent’s life-circumstances later change in specific ways. Hobbs v. Winfield, a recent case out of Georgia, highlights such a scenario. Alphonzo Hobbs executed a valid will in 1989 and died in 2007. In the interim, Hobbs had three children outside of marriage. The Supreme Court of Georgia held that because Hobbs did not draft the will with a consideration of future children, it was not valid under Georgia law. Hobbs’s assets passed under Georgia’s  intestacy scheme. Because laws may vary drastically from state to state, it is important to seek out professional advice to make sure a previously valid will remains intact after death.

See Michelle Soto, State Law on After-born Children Leads to Revocation of a Will, The National Law Review, October 12, 2017.

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

October 17, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)