Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Headstones Provoke Fight Between Catholic Church And Monument Association

HeadstoneThe Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark New Jersey operates almost a dozen cemeteries which contain the remains of over one million people.  Therefore it was a natural step when the diocese began to sell headstones for use in the cemeteries, however, the program quickly fell afoul of the Monument Builders Association of New Jersey. The association brought the diocese to court arguing the church had an unfair advantage due to its tax exempt status but lost at trial and on appeal. But the association managed to convince legislators to craft a bill that, while neutral on its face, would solely prevent the church owned cemeteries from selling headstones. Currently the issue is before a federal court with the diocese arguing that the bill is an unconstitutional act of economic cronyism and protectionism that serves no government interest. This case, if resolved in favor the diocese, could have a big impact nationwide as non profit cemeteries enter into new zones in order to increase revenue for the upkeep of cemeteries.

See Kelly Phillips Erb, A Grave Decision: Archdiocese Files Suit Against New Jersey Over Headstone Statute, Forbes, August 21, 2015.

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

August 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Estate Planning For Those That Follow Traditional Inheritance Rules

TorahThe rules of inheritance vary across the globe, between cultures and religions, and have been that way since the dawn of humanity. When it comes to planning an estate in the modern world, many clients will want to follow their traditional inheritance practices even if they conflict with current estate laws. In those cases, closely working with an expert in the laws of the religion or culture can assure that the client is well protected legally in a manner that conforms with their way of life. A good example of this can be found with Halachic, or traditional Jewish inheritance laws, which calls for a distribution of a persons wealth in a manner much in conflict with state intestacy laws which requires a carefully drafted will.  Anyone that wants to follow both temporal and spiritual inheritance rules does not, in almost all cases, have to choose one or the other as long as good communication occurs between planner and client concerning the requirements of tradition.

See Isaac Yedid & Raymond Zeitoune, Halachic Estate Planning, Yeshiva World, July 17, 2015.

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

July 22, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Effect a Faith Based Arbitration Clause Has On Taxes

Jewish courtPlacing faith-based arbitration clauses into trusts has recently been growing in popularity.  When a Florida couple claimed the gift tax exclusion for money that they placed into a faith-based irrevocable “Crummey” trust, the IRS challenged them.   The IRS argued that because the trust required beneficiaries to arbitrate disputes before a “beth din” (a rabbinical court in Judaism), the beneficiaries did not possess the “present interest” necessary for the gift-tax exclusion.  The Tax Court overruled the IRS, ruling that including a faith based arbitration clause does not disqualify a settlor from claiming the gift tax exclusion.  Resolving disputes through faith based arbitration is becoming increasingly popular in Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other religious communities.  

See Juan C. Antunez, Will a Faith-Based Arbitration Clause Disqualify Your Trust For Tax Purposes?, Probate & Trust Litigation Blog, April 20, 2015. 

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

May 11, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Religion as a Motivating Factor for Executing a Will

WillExecuting a will can be especially important for individuals of religious faiths that have inheritance rules and laws that differ from intestate succession laws in their state. For example, under the Laws of the Torah, inheritance goes to a deceased male's male sons or if there are no sons then to his daughters. Though most state intestacy laws provide for a surviving spouse and also for all children equally regardless of gender.

See Isaac Yedid and Raymond Zeitoune, The Jewish People & The "Kosher Will" - Halachic Estate Planning, The Yeshiva World, March 13, 2015.

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

March 17, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Woman Leaves $14.5M Bequest to Lutheran Ministries

Money money moneyDiakon Lutheran Social Ministries, which operates several senior and assisted living facilities in Philadelphia, will split a $14.5 million bequest from the widow of Frank R. Palmer, the former president and CEO of Carpenter Technology Corp. 

Helen Nicholson Palmer died in 2012, and now more than $7.2 of her bequest will go to Diakon with the remainder going to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. 

William Swanger, senior vice president of corporate communications and public relations for Diakon, said Helen Palmer had a lifelong commitment to the Lutheran Home of Topton, which Diakon operates.  The nonprofit is currently determining where the money will be spent.  “We are deeply grateful for this bequest and for the forethought Mrs. Palmer exhibited in making such a generous contribution to our services.”

See Stacy Wescoe, Diakon to Split $14.5M Bequest With Phila. Seminary, LVB.com, March 11, 2015. 

March 12, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Green Burials and Cremations


Unlike other living creatures on this earth, humans treat dying as a solemn rite of passage.  Many of us bury our dead with a ceremony, and many of us believe in an afterlife. 

This idea is reflected upon in the Green Cemetery Initiative, a nonprofit trust in rural central Massachusetts.  The main idea motivating the Green Cemetery Initiative is that instead of caring so much about preserving our own dead bodies, why not care more about preserving the natural environment—“the unspoiled beauty of God’s creation.”  According to the Green Burial of Massachusetts, a partner with the trust, “Each year we bury approximately 827,060 gallons of toxic embalming fluid, 104,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, 30-plus million board feet of hardwood, and 1,636 tons of reinforced concrete.” 

The key feature of the initiative is that the deceased would be buried in biodegradable coffins, without embalming fluids and concrete fortresses.  Engraved organic flagstones would serve as grave markers. 

See Michael Guillen, Final Gestures, U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 28, 2015.

January 29, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Losing Faith In JPMorgan


Self-dealing allegations of JPMorgan Chase & Co. made by two churches expose an area inside the largest U.S. bank that illustrates the potential for conflicting interests—a trust business that invests in the bank’s own products. 

The churches say that JPMorgan, which was entrusted to manage funds to support the churches' good works, put its own financial interests first.  The claims came after other religious orders pressed the bank for a report on its business standards, prompting it to release almost 100 pages last month describing its efforts to augment ethics and compliance. 

Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis said JPMorgan breached its duty as trustee by investing the church’s $31 million trust largely in products that generated revenue for the bank, with some fees exceeding 8 percent a year. The bank invested in these and other “toxic” products, the church alleged in an August lawsuit, resulting in a “surreptitious transfer of wealth from the Christ Church trusts to JPMorgan.”  These decisions cost the trust $13 million over nine and a half years, said the church suit. 

JPMorgan has denied wrongdoing in connection with its trust business and said the trust had a positive return from 2006 to 2013.  The bank stepped down as Christ Church Cathedral’s trustee a year ago, and in October sought to dismiss the suit saying the church did not have standing to file a securities claim in part because it did not buy or sell securities and the allegations were not specific.  “The church is painting a grossly inaccurate picture of how the trust was managed, cherry-picking funds that did not perform well and failing to mention multiple funds that performed very well.”

See Neil Weinberg, Losing Faith in JPMorgan, Two Churches Claim Self-Dealing, Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan. 8, 2015.

January 8, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Church of England Entangled In Suicide Debate

Church of England

The Church of England is embroiled in a debate over proposals to sweep away laws that prohibit a full Christian funeral to people who have commit suicide. 

Although clergy are more sympathetic to suicide than when “self murder” was still a crime, critics within the Church believe the reforms will “legalize” suicide, which is something that should still be regarded as a serious sin.  “The Church has always opposed suicide on the basis of the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill, and that includes yourself.” 

The move comes as Labour peer Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, which says terminally-ill patients must make a voluntary and informed decision to end their lives before they can helped to do so, faces further debate in the House of Lords later this month. 

The Church of England’s General Synod meets next month, when members will call for Canon law to be reformed so that clergy who use the Church’s rites to bury those who have taken their own life in any circumstances are no longer in breach of the law.  Under current Church law, clergy should use a modified funeral service for people who have taken their lives in order to reflect the Church’s concerns about suicide. 

See Jonathan Petre, Church of England to ‘Legalise’ Suicide in Historic U-Turn On Funerals, Daily Mail, Jan. 3, 2014. 

January 6, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Church of England to Reconsider Suicide Stance

ChurchAs I have previously discussed, an assisted dying bill is currently being considered in the United Kingdom, and the Church of England previously supported a review of the issues surrounding assisted dying, but did not officially support the bill. The Church of England is now reconsidering their stance on suicide, specifically a current church law that bans a full Christian funeral to be performed for individuals that have committed suicide. New proposals will be considered next month at the Church's General Synod meeting.

See Jonathan Petre, Church of England to 'Legalise' Suicide in Historic U-Turn on Funerals, Daily Mail, Jan. 3, 2015.

January 5, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Article on the Trust for Manumissions


Jessica Lee Thompson (UNC Chapel Hill School of Law) recently published an article entitled, ‘Toward Freedom for All’: North Carolina Quaker Legal Theory on the Trust for Manumissions (April 30, 2014).  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

The Perquimans event was the spark to one of the greatest legal debates in North Carolina’s history as Quakers directly challenged the state supported institution of slavery and conceptions of property through the use of trusts as a technology of law in conjunction with the exercise of their religious liberty. That is, they used the trust as a way for members of the local Meeting to hold slaves for the "benefit" of the Meeting and thus comply with the requirements of the North Carolina law that slaves have owners. Yet, the trustees, apparently following the wishes of the Meeting, allowed the slaves they "owned" substantial freedom, which in essence circumvented the North Carolina statute’s requirement that the slaves have owners. The Quakers’ challenges to the institution of slavery went beyond their defiance of acts passed by the General Assembly, which specifically contemplated the "Quaker issue." The debate over Quaker slaves held in trusts would largely unfold in the North Carolina courts. The legal theories the Quakers advanced challenged the common law and divided members of the State’s highest court on questions of morality. The Quakers use of trusts and natural law principles to accomplish a moral objective run’s counter to Morton Horwitz’s instrumental conception of law, and proposes an alternative theory, namely that those in power were more motivated by their fears or concern for security and stability.

This paper traces the debate over the legality of Quaker manumission efforts in North Carolina through an examination of three major cases presented before the North Carolina Supreme Court between 1827 and 1851. It combines research in the Quaker archives with an examination of the trial records and the record in the Supreme Court, as well as the published opinions. Thus, this paper moves beyond the previous work that has either looked only at the Quaker records and not the legal records or the North Carolina Supreme Court’s published opinions without telling the full story of the record below. A central question for this paper is how dissenters turned to the neutral technology of law to achieve a result that was at least partially at odds with the established policy of the state? That raises subsidiary questions about the ways that one renowned North Carolina lawyer, William Gaston, sought to defend his use of the innovative strategy and how North Carolina jurists responded to this challenge to state policy. This paper, thus, lies at the intersection of a series of questions about religious freedom, legal innovation, policy, and stare decisis.

September 11, 2014 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)