Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, December 19, 2014

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)

Using Annuities to Decrease Tax Consequences of IRAs

IRAThe use of annuities along with other retirement and estate planning tools can help reduce tax burdens by differing taxes. If required minimum distributions from an IRA are unneeded or unwanted, a deferred annuity can be purchased up to 25% of each IRA's assets of $125,000 total max to reduce required distributions and tax consequences. Additionally, heirs of the annuity can now maintain tax deferral even if they switch insurers through a 1035 exchange. Tax deferral may also be achieved for trust income through a variable annuity.

See Karen Hube, Annuity Novelties, Barron's, Nov. 29, 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, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Breakthrough In Treating Strokes

Stroke

Researchers in the Netherlands have discovered a treatment that improves the prognosis for people who have the most severe and disabling strokes.  By directly removing large blood clots blocking blood vessels in the brain, they are able to save brain tissue that would otherwise have died, in turn enabling many to return to an independent life. 

The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, and is being met with an inundation of exhilaration after three decades of failure.  One reason the treatment is thought to have worked this time, is that doctors used a new type of snare to grab the clots.  It is a stent, which is basically a wire cage, on the end of a catheter that is inserted in the groin and threaded through an artery to the brain.

Each year, about 630,000 Americans have strokes caused by clots blocking blood vessels in the brain.  In almost half of these cases, the clot is a large vessel, which can have devastating consequences. 

See Gina Kolata, Breakthrough Helps Treat Worst of Strokes, The New York Times, 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 18, 2014 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Retirement Lessons From Ebenezer Scrooge

Scrooge

Many of us have seen the classic, A Christmas Carol, or have at least heard of the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge, the character Charles Dickens described as tight-fisted, squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching and covetous. 

Despite some of these flaws, Scrooge also possessed some qualities that make him a decent role model for achieving a secure and meaningful retirement.  Below are three ways we should emulate (in moderation) to improve our retirement outlook.

  1. Scrooge had a hard work ethic. Scrooge always put in a full days work.  The commitment to work that Scrooge displays is crucial to successful retirement because you cannot build a nest egg without regular income and the amount you earn and number of years on the job will determine you Social Security benefit—a key source of retirement income. 
  2. He was a prodigious saver.  Scrooge knew about saving a buck.  Although he went a little far by living in the dark, keeping a small fire and eating gruel from a saucepan, he had the right idea; if you live below your means by not splurging on vacation, cars and big houses, you will have a better chance of saving that can lead to a better retirement. 
  3. Scrooge (eventually) understood what mattered.  While it took a few visits from ghosts to transform Scrooge, he morphed into a generous and compassionate person who sends a turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner.  Similarly, retirement planning is not just about the money.  It is about creating a retirement lifestyle that has meaning and purpose as well as financial security.

See Walter Updegrave, What Scrooge Can Teach You About Retirement Planning, Money Magazine, Dec. 17, 2014.

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

Should Your Teenager Open A Roth IRA?

Teenager moneyMany parents are concerned about how to prepare for their kids’ financial futures.  This apprehension is usually in the context of college savings or estate planning, however, some parents are also concerned for their children’s retirement.  Oftentimes, parents ask: “Should a teenager open a Roth IRA?”

Because of compound growth, the earlier you save for retirement, the better.  The tax benefits of a Roth IRA for kids can be great because you pay taxes on your contributions, not earnings or withdrawals.  Thus, helping your children start a Roth IRA in their teenage years can help them enormously down the road, especially since there is no minimum age for opening a Roth. 

Despite the advantages, opening a retirement for a minor can be tricky as there is a separate set of considerations from the ones you would use to open your own.  Furthermore, to be eligible to open a Roth IRA, your children must earn some taxable compensation income, and the yearly contributions to their account cannot exceed what they earn. 

Although creating a Roth IRA for your teenager is not very common, it can be a great way to instill financial independence early, specifically by making them responsible for their contributions. 

See Matt Shaprio, Is It A Good Idea For Teens To Open A Roth IRA? Forbes, Dec. 18, 2014.

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

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)

Congress Passes ABLE Act

LawAs I have previously discussed, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act supported by disability rights groups would change the current limitation that individuals with a disability may not hold assets over $2,000 without losing Medicaid and other government benefits eligibility. The Act passed the House on December 3, and the Senate this past Tuesday. Under the Act, a tax-free savings account for disability-related expenses is allowed up to $100,000.

See Gail Russel Chaddock, ABLE Act: How One Bill Offers Hope on Congress's Biggest Problems, The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 17, 2014.

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

December 18, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, New Legislation | 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)

Trust Protectors

Trust1When a trustee is not enough to quell concerns over turning over control of assets through an irrevocable trust, a trust protector can help. Choosing a trusted person that can address changes in circumstances by altering trust terms and keep an eye on the trustee can calm concerns over how the trust assets will be handeled. The trust protector's role can be customized based on the oversight powers conferred.

See E. Hans Lundsten, Joseph Marion, III, David Riedel & Christina Scola, Will Your Estate Plan Benefit From a Trust Protector?, JD Supra, Dec. 10, 2014.

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

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

Woman's Will Directs for Her Dog to Join Her

German ShepherdThe will of Connie Ley directs, among other possible options, that her German Shepherd be cremated so that their ashes may be together. However, this plan requires that the dog be euthanized. The fate of Ley's canine friend Bella is still unknown as the legal proceedings of the estate are ongoing. Outrage and disapproval have erupted on Twitter and some have offered to adopt or help care for the dog. Ley's attorney has responded to the public outcry by standing by Ley's right to direct what will happen to her property when she died, including her pet.

See Sarah Larimer, Indiana Woman Wants to be Laid to Rest With Her German Shepherd. One Problem: The Dog is Still Alive, The Washington Post, 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.

Please follow this link, Pet Destruction Instructions, to read a short article I prepared on how courts are very reluctant to enforce this type of provision.

December 18, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)