Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Monday, December 29, 2014

Gift Tax Return Details Kept Private in Estate Battle

GavelA legal battle over artwork is stirring between a co-executor of former Rolling Stones and Beatles band manager Allen Klein's estate and Iris Keitel, who lived with Klein for about 30 years. Keitel wants to keep artwork that was previously in her and Klein's shared home, and co-executor Leonard Leibman wants them back. In an attempt to prove the art was a gift, Keitel requested disclosure of Klein's gift tax returns, but only received a redacted version.

In Matter of the Estate of Klein, Keitel's motion for disclosure of the unredacted returns was denied, with New York Surrogate's Court Judge Nora Anderson noting that they contain private information and do not have information relevant to Keitel's claims.

See Joel Stashenko, Disclosures Limited in Estate of Rock Groups' Manager, New York Law Journal, Dec. 29, 2014.

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

December 29, 2014 in Estate Administration, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Man Continues to Search for Over a Decade for Deceased Daughter

SearchFor over 10 years after Kerry Fletcher was murdered, discovered by authorities, and buried, her father continued to search for her, because he was not informed of her death, according to Gerald Fletcher's lawsuit against Forensic Medical Management Services and Oakdale Funeral Home. Fletcher claims that the lack of communication was not due to lack of knowledge as his name was listed on Kerry Fletcher's death certificate. In addition to not knowing his daughter had died, his granddaughter's location was also unknown to him.

See Kevin Lessmiller, Man Not Told of Daughter's Death for 10 Years, Courthouse News Service, Dec. 22, 2014.

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

December 26, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Widow Appeals Verdict Against 'American Sniper' Chris Kyle's Estate

Taya Kyle

Taya Kyle, widow of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle, will appeal a $1.8 million verdict against her husband’s estate.  Earlier this year, a federal jury found Kyle’s estate liable for defamation, finding in favor of Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura who argued Kyle lied about him in his autobiography. 

Taya, the executor of his estate, filed notice of the appeal with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

See Michael Schaub, ‘American Sniper’ Author’s Widow Will Appeal Book Verdict, LA Times, Dec. 24, 2014.

December 25, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Divorce Vacated After Gender of Couple Realized

Law RingsA divorce ruling in Ohio was vacated when new facts surfaced that brought to light that the marriage was invalid, ruled Judge George McCarthy. The Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge granted the divorce for a couple that was married in California. However, only one member of the couple had attended court proceedings and Judge McCarthy did not realize until after the divorce was granted that the couple was two women. Due to a valid marriage being a requirement for divorce in the state, the judge vacated the order because Ohio does not recognize same-sex marriages. Judge McCarthy did note in his ruling that he was not expressing any personal opinion on the issue, and that any constitutional issues involved were for higher courts to resolve.

See Susan Tebben, Same-Sex Divorce Vacated Because Marriage Legally Invalid, Athens Ohio Today, Dec. 18, 2014.

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

December 24, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Importance of Consistent Estate Planning

Tax3An important lesson in coordinating all accounts and estate planning tools to match estate planning goals was illustrated in a recent Private Letter Ruling. A trust was created which named charities to receive donations from the trust. There was not enough funding for the charitable contributions, but the trust was named as a beneficiary of an IRA. A state court approved the taxpayer's petition to reform the trust so the funds from the IRA to the trust and then from the trust to the charities would be direct bequests from the IRA to the charities.

In  Private Letter Ruling (201438014), the court's grant of the reformation for the purpose of beneficial tax treatment was not allowed, and the IRA distribution to the Trust would be income. Additionally, the donations would not be deductible because gross income was not required under the trust terms to be used to make the donations.

See Joseph Tamburello, Coordinate Your IRA Beneficiary Designation With the Terms of Your Estate Plan, The National Law Review, Dec. 18, 2014.

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

December 19, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, New Cases, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

James Dean Twitter Lawsuit Dismissed

James DeanAs I have previously discussed, the estate of iconic actor James Dean filed a lawsuit against Twitter in February to gain ownership of the Twitter handle @JamesDean, which was being used by an unknown user as a fan page. The suit has been dismissed without prejudice and without any explanation given in the notice. However, previous court documents and statements by the parties infer that the estate was having difficulty identifying and locating the person behind the @JamesDean account and thus could not serve the individual with notice of the suit. Despite the dismissal, the estate is taking steps to take over the @JamesDean handle as an official page, and the estate's representation said the previous Twitter account was removed.

See Tim Evans, James Dean Estate Drops Lawsuit Against Twitter, Indy Star, Dec. 17, 2014.

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

December 19, 2014 in Estate Administration, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Case: Willingham v. Matthews

Gavel2

In Willingham v. Matthews, a husband killed his wife and then took his own life.  Under Alabama’s slayer statute, the slayer is not entitled to any benefits under the victim’s will or as beneficiary of any non-probate property, and the victim’s estate and non-probate property is distributed as if the slayer had predeceased the victim. Ala. Code § 43–8–253. The wife’s personal representative brought an action for a declaration that the slayer’s estate would be distributed as if the slayer had predeceased the victim, which would mean that the husband’s estate and at least some non-probate property would pass to his wife’s estate and moved for summary judgment. The court held that under the plain meaning of the statute its provisions applied only to the disposition of the estate of the victim.  Willingham v. Matthews, No. 1130890, 2014 WL 4666962 (Ala. Sept. 19, 2014).

Special thanks to William LaPiana (Professor of Law, New York Law School) for bringing this case to my attention.

December 18, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Germany's Tax Exemption for Family Businesses Ruled Unconstitutional

Tax2As I have previously discussed, Germany's inheritance tax exemption for family operated companies was challenged in Germany's Constitutional Court. The court held yesterday that the current inheritance tax breaks for the family businesses are unconstitutional because they fail to give equal treatment to individuals and companies. The current exemption rules will continue for now, as lawmakers have a deadline for remedying the problem of mid-2016. However, lawmakers may be able to create a system that is more limited than the current rules that still offers some tax breaks to these companies.

See Reuters, German Court Declares Tax Breaks for Family-Run Firms Unconstitutional, The Economic Times, Dec. 17, 2014.

December 18, 2014 in Estate Tax, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Case: Ferguson v. Critopoulos

Gavel2

In Ferguson v. Critopoulos, the Alabama Supreme Court held that a will beneficiary met the burden to show that the decedent provided for spouse outside the will.  The decedent’s will, executed nine years before his second marriage, gave his residuary estate to his first spouse who predeceased him, and made her three children alternate beneficiaries.  After her death, he remarried but did not change his will. His surviving spouse then claimed an omitted-spouse’s share under a statute giving an intestate share to the spouse “unless it appears from the will that the omission was intentional or the testator provided for the spouse by transfer outside the will and the intent that the transfer be in lieu of a testamentary provision be reasonably proven.” Ala. Code § 43–8–90. The trial court held that the intent was not proven, and the supreme court reversed, setting out guidelines for determining when a transfer outside of a will is in lieu of a testamentary provision. In this case, the testator changed the beneficiary of insurance policies and retirement accounts to the new spouse and considered changing his will but did not, all of which showed that the testator provided for the spouse outside of the will. Ferguson v. Critopoulos, No. 1130486, 2014 WL 4666935 (Ala. Sept. 19, 2014).

December 17, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Workers' Comp Worth 23 Years of Benefits to Widow Affirmed

GavelAfter her husband died from injuries caused by a 30 feet workplace fall, Doloreza Taluri, was awarded permanent partial disability benefits of $959, 175. The award was calculated based on 1,225 weeks of benefits. The employer of Taluri's husband, Arberia L.L.C., challenged the award because Mr. Taluri only survived for 4.5 hours after his fall and argued that the benefits should be limited to one week.

In Arberia v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, an Ohio appeals court upheld the benefits because Mr. Taluri was entitled to the benefits before he died, the calculation was based on medical evidence, and the amount of time Mr. Taluri actually survived the injury was irrelevant.

See Sheena Harrison, Widow of Ohio Construction Worker Due 23 Years' Worth of Comp Benefits: Court, Business Insurance, Dec. 10, 2014.

December 17, 2014 in New Cases, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)