Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Frank Ostaseski has travelled alongside over 1,000 hospice care patients as they have taken the final steps toward the end of life. Despite such a melancholy subject matter, Ostaseski encourages his audiences to learn about death; to sit down and face death to see what it can teach about life. The speech is available as a podcast or video. The content and the unique delivery contain a potent message that stands to shift any audience’s perspective on death and dying.
See Frank Ostaseski, What the Dying Teach the Living, The Long Now Foundation, April 10, 2017.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Jeffrey A. Zaluda recently published an Article entitled, 30 Things I’ve Learned After 30 Years as an Estate Planner, 31 Probate & Property 52 (May/June 2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:
I began practicing estate planning in the spring of 1987. I had been out of law school for less than a year, practicing in litigation at a large, prestigious firm in Chicago, meaning that I largely spent my days looking at documents in cases in which one faceless corporation was suing another. As I remember the story (facts do get fuzzy over time), a partner came to me and said that he had a small piece of probate litigation that he didn’t want to be bothered with. I think the case revolved around whether life insurance proceeds needed to be paid because there was a suspicion that the decedent had committed suicide. I don’t remember the result but I do remember that I was intrigued that the practice of law actually involved living, breathing (or dead!) human beings and human emotion, something I had not encountered as a commercial litigation associate before that. I spoke with a couple of the partners in the firm’s Trusts and Estates Group and asked if I could do some work with them and they kindly agreed to take me on. My only encounter with anything having to do with estates up to that time had been one morning session in my Bar-Bri class preparing for the bar exam.
I ended up leaving that firm later that year and joined the firm that I’m still with now, over 29 years later. That alone feels very good. In that time I have gone from as green as green can be, eagerly chasing after any small matter I could get, to an ACTEC Fellow with a successful and sophisticated practice and what I believe is a nice reputation within Chicago’s estate planning community, if not beyond. I think I’ve learned a thing or two in that time and this article is my effort to put some of that down on paper. I assume many readers will nod their heads in agreement at some items and shake their heads in disagreement at others. So be it. Hopefully, there is at least something of interest to each of you.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Oftentimes, companies provide 401(k) retirement plans for their employees, including a mix of prudent investment options. Millions of Americans—like public school teachers and clergy members—however, are not offered these plans, forcing them to rely of 403(b) plans. Ironically, the people who do the most good get the worst retirement plans. 403(b) plans carry excessive investment fees that can cost the owner tens of thousands of dollars or more. Further, these accounts are not subject to the more stringent rules and consumer protections that the average 401(k) plan is. This Article details several stories of public schools teacher’s fight to retire efficiently.
See Tara Siegel Bernard, Think Your Retirement Plan Is Bad? Talk to a Teacher, NY Times, October 21, 2016.
Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Monday, July 4, 2016
Victoria J. Haneman recently published an Article entitled, Incorporation of Outcome-Based Learning Approaches into the Design of (Incentive) Trusts, S. Dakota L. Rev. (Forthcoming 2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:
This Essay is based on a panel discussion at Asset Protection and Trust Innovations: South Dakota’s Role in Paving the Way for Innovations Nationwide, organized by University of South Dakota School of Law. The largest transfer of wealth in U.S. history will occur over the next thirty years, as the aging baby boomers prepare to transfer an estimated $30 trillion. A desire to balance privilege and personal responsibility is reflected in this generation’s aversion to “trustafarians” and the seeming popularity of incentive trust provisions. Incentive trusts incorporate financial incentives and disincentives designed to encourage the positive behavior of a beneficiary.
The purpose of this discussion is to explore the idea of incorporating learning outcomes into the drafting of incentive trusts, when the incentive provision requires that the beneficiary develop a skillset as opposed to merely complete a binary task. In the context of legal education, law schools are moving away from focusing on the ability of the student to complete a particular course, and are focusing instead on the broader outcome: a graduate’s ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the law such that the graduate can deliver legal services of a high quality. By incorporating a clearly articulated objective in an incentive trust when the grantor wishes for the beneficiary to develop a skillset, the beneficiary may be moved towards an intentional paradigm of learning. By way of example, the proposed approach will be framed within the context of a laudable proposed goal: creditworthiness of the beneficiary.
Saturday, May 7, 2016
Washburn University School of Law is hosting The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Summer Conference from June 9-11, 2016 in Topeka, Kansas. Provided below are some details on the conference:
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning 2016 summer conference will address the many ways that law schools are preparing students to enter the real world of law practice. With the rising demands for "practice-ready" lawyers, this topic has taken on increased urgency in recent years. How are law schools and law professors taking on the challenge of graduating students who are ready to join the real world of practicing attorneys? Can we be doing more?
Workshops will address real-world readiness in first-year courses, upper-level courses, required courses, electives, or academic support teaching. Workshops will present innovative teaching materials, course designs, and curricular or program designs. Each workshop will also include materials that participants can use during the workshop and also when they return to their campuses.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Please visit this call for panels and papers for the 2016 Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) Teaching Conference!
Proposals are due by June 15, 2016. They look forward to seeing you in Chicago this fall on Friday and Saturday, September 30 and October 1, 2016 at The John Marshall Law School, Chicago, Illinois.
Monday, February 29, 2016
For decades, the LSAT has virtually been the only admissions test used by law schools when it comes to evaluating prospective students. The test has been praised for it's ability to predict first year success but has also been the target of withering attacks on the narrow focus of the skills being tested. In response to those complaints, the University of Arizona School of Law has decided to ditch their LSAT only policy and accept scores from the GRE, a test used primarily for non-law graduate schools. Arizona has stated that they have studies showing that the GRE is as good a predictor of law school success which allows them to use it under ABA accreditation rules. However, the school would be the only ABA accredited school in the nation to not rely on the LSAT which makes the results of this trial run important for other schools considering a change. It will be very interesting to see how this experiment turns out due to the implications it could have for law schools everywhere.
See Sara Randazzo, Move Over LSAT, Here Comes the GRE, The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2016.
Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Art has often been viewed as a good investment opportunity by many investors. “In recent years, many wealthy individuals have sought to convert their personal art collections into private museums as a way of reducing taxes while retaining control of the property.” Tax experts and lawmakers have been placing an increasing amount of scrutiny on the tax-exempt status of many of the private museums in existence. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines dealing with the amount of public benefit that is sufficient to achieve preferable tax treatment is very vague. Because of how vague the standards are it is important for people to focus on the “details of operation” that establish the museum’s sufficient public benefit. “At the end of the year, your client can easily report the accomplishments on the entity’s annual information return (Form 990PF) as a statement of the entity’s work to achieve its public benefit.”
See Avery B. Armas and Jennifer M. Pagnillo, Private Museums Under Scrutiny, Wealth Management, February 11, 2016.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
High schools have long been known to require courses that, on a deeper level, teach absolutely no valuable life skills to their students. But a new trend now has schools requiring students to take personal finance courses which teaches subjects ranging from managing bank accounts to retirement planning. In Virginia, schools have embraced the change with considerable enthusiasm from students since they are being taught information that has an undeniable and universal usefulness. In one wealthy district, some students were shocked when they learned it cost more than $75 to maintain children on a monthly basis which goes to show the extreme need to educate young people on basic financial realities. Let us hope programs such as these spread across the nation as basic financial literacy can have a huge affect on all of society as it makes the citizenry less susceptible to the vast number of pitfalls that a person can make when managing their money.
See Moriah Balingit, Personal-finance courses in Virginia teach teens to budget in the real world, Washington Post, November 1, 2015.
Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Camille M. Davidson (Professor, Charlotte School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Problems, Music, and Popular Culture: How I Teach Theory and Practice in Decedents’ Estates to Our Next Generation of Lawyers, 28 Quinnipiac Prob. L.J. 394-410 (2015). Provided below is an abstract of the article:
In this article, I outline the approaches that I use to reach large numbers of students and encourage active learning. I use visual aids, music, problems, and simulated legal activities to “show” rather than “tell” the classroom. My approach promotes rigor, but not fear. I attempt to make cold calling fun and I encourage active learning through simulated exercises and the use of popular culture references in the fact patterns. The students become team players in the classroom when I engage them with relevant stories from newspaper headlines or have them perform oral arguments using the lyrics of a song to identify legal concepts. Active participation helps students achieve “content mastery,” “higher-level thinking skills,” “professional skills,” and “[p]ositive attitude.” As Denise Knight states, “[f]ew instructors would quibble with the notion that promoting active participation helps students to think critically and to argue more effectively.” Part I of the essay reminds law professors that they are educators who teach law and Part II discusses the design of my course.