Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

State Department Might Start Revoking Passports For Unpaid Taxes

PassportThere is a proposal in the new highway-funding bill that congress is set to pass which would give the State Department the power to revoke the passports of Americans that owe the IRS more than $50,000 in back taxes. This provision would apply to Americans who have already had a levy or lien filed against them by the IRS and would probably not impact those that have already arranged a payment plan or are legally disputing a tax case. Under the proposal the State Department would still be able to issue a passport for a “humanitarian” emergency. “Critics of the measure claim there will be no judicial review and no due process if the passport revocation rule retains its current form.” The bill is currently before a conference committee and is expected to be passed in early December.

See State Department Could Soon Take Your Passport Away For Owing IRS Taxes, HNGN, November 21, 2015.

November 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Crazy Business Expenses That Were Made In 2015

Business_expenseCertify, an expense management software developer, has published a list of some of the craziest business expenses from the year 2015.  "Some of the expenses that made the list of “Top 10 Craziest Business Expenses” include $17,000 for an automobile expense due to 'employee stupidity,' $1,000 for 'adult entertainment,' and $85 for a separate room for garlic samples because the salesman supposedly couldn’t stand the smell of garlic."  This article provides a detailed info-graphic that details what the ten craziest expenses were.  Anyone reading through this list of expenses will see the types of things some businesses have been willing to spend large sums on money on.  

See Michael Cohn, Craziest Business Expenses of 2015, Accounting Today, October 30, 2015.

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

November 1, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Things That People Should Do Before Retiring

TravelGetting emotionally and financially prepared for retirement can be a difficult task.  This article discusses some of the ways people can plan ahead for the life adjustments they will need to make when entering retirement.  It is important to create a list of goals and to try and stick to them.  People should make a budget and try to live on it as a way of getting prepared for the possible reduction in income that will come about because of retirement.  Getting plenty of exercise is also important for health and longevity.  This article also recommends traveling while the client is still young because the longer a person waits the more expensive traveling will become. 

See Rosie Wolf Williams, 5 things you should do before you retire, Market Watch, August 21, 2015.

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

August 28, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Frequent Flier Inheritance

Frequent flier milesAmongst the dozens of things newly widowed Roberta Bekerman had to do, she also had to persuade Delta Air Lines that she was entitled to inherit her husband’s frequent flier miles.  Although the company’s policy states that its “SkyMiles” cannot be transferred upon death, Ms. Bekerman asked them to make an exception. 

Ms. Bekerman’s experience illustrates what lawyers and people with frequent-flier programs describe as an inconsistency: Though the published “terms and conditions” of most airline programs prohibit the transfer of miles, heirs are often able to get the rule waived.  For example, through its MileagePlus program, United has  “made case-by-case exceptions” allowing miles to be transferred after the death or divorce of a member, charging a $150 transfer fee.  Many lawyers anticipate that this airline boilerplate will not be the last word, and include provisions in clients’ wills saying who will receive the frequent-flier miles when the account owner dies. 

See Deborah L. Jacobs, Loyalty Program Rules Aren’t Ironclad, The New York Times, May 6, 2015.

May 7, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Woman Files Suit To Access Her Victim's Trust Fund

Heather Mack

An American woman who is on trial in Indonesia for the murder of her mother has filed a lawsuit seeking money from a trust in the victim’s name to pay legal bills.

Heather Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, could face the death penalty if found guilty of murdering Sheila von Wiese-Mack, whose body was found in a suitcase outside a luxury resort in Bali. 

To pay for her legal expenses, Mack filed a suit in Chicago to transfer $150,000 out of her mother’s $1.6 million trust fund to which she is the sole beneficiary.  The money would go to a bank to pay future billed expenditures.  A hearing on the matter is scheduled in Cook County circuit court on Friday.

See Reuters in Indonesia, Woman on Trial In Mother’s Murder In Bali Files Lawsuit to Access Trust Fund, The Guardian, Jan. 16, 2015.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 20, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

529 Plans For Expats

School tuition

As I have previously discussed, 529 college savings plans can be a powerful vehicle to finance higher education, however, there are additional considerations for U.S. expatriates. 

529 plans are established in a specific U.S. state under that state’s rules as well as federal rules.  To establish a 529 account, many plans require the account holder have a U.S. residence at the time the account is established.  If you plan to move overseas, it is recommended you establish 529 plans before leaving the U.S.  Yet, if you are already living overseas you may consider having a trusted family member create the account for the benefit of your children.  This could mitigate any negative tax treatment of the account in a foreign jurisdiction.  Remember, the account holder has the right to change the beneficiary or to surrender the holding of the account to someone whom you did not elect. 

Many non-U.S. based educational institutions are eligible for 529 withdrawals, but if the beneficiary decides to attend a college that does not qualify, the 529 plan can be used for another family member.

See Jonathan Lachowitz, Ask an Expert: Tips for U.S. Expats Using 529 College Savings Plans, The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 5, 2015.

January 7, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Worst Countries for Older Residents


There are approximately 868 million people across the globe who are at least sixty years or older.  This comprises about twelve percent of the world’s population and by 2050, it is estimated that more than two billion people, or 21% of the global population will be sixty or older. 

HelpAge International recently ranked the social and economic well-being of older residents in ninety-six countries in the “Global AgeWatch 2014 Index.”  The report rated each country on four broad factors important to an aging population: supporting income security, fostering good health, employment and education, and the overall environment for older residents.  While Norway was rated the best country for elder residents, Afghanistan was rated the worst country for older people for the second consecutive year.  Provided below are the worst countries to grow old in according to the report:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Mozambique
  3. West Bank and Gaza
  4. Malawi
  5. The United Republic of Tanzania
  6. Pakistan
  7. Jordan
  8. Uganda
  9. Zambia
  10. Iraq

See Alexander E.M. Hess and Thomas C. Frohlich, The Worst Countries to Grow Old In, USA Today, Oct. 12, 2014.

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

October 13, 2014 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 19, 2014

EU Finds Spain's Taxes Discriminatory

EU Court

The European Court of Justice recently ruled that Spanish authorities cannot charge different rates of inheritance tax for residents and non-residents.  In Spain, there are a complex range of tax relief options that can reduce the tax to zero for residents, however, these have previously been unavailable to non-residents.

 Non-residents who have been discriminated against by paying more tax than Spaniards for inheritances or gifts of property will likely be owed a refund of the difference.  The verdict earlier this month could open the floodgate to thousands of people reclaiming their tax.  Thus far, the Spanish authorities have not responded to the ruling.  Spain has six months to change its laws, which should come by January 2016.   

The reason for the decision rested on the notion that charging other members of the EU different rates to Spanish residents went against the spirit of the European union.  The court said the Spanish legislation was discriminatory and there was no reason why inheritance tax should be charged at a higher rate for non-Spaniards than for Spaniards. 

See Liz Phillips, EU Court Rules Against Spain Over Discriminatory Tax Rules, The Telegraph, Sept. 18, 2014.

September 19, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax, New Cases, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The World’s Seven Best Retirement Locations

BeachAccording to the 2014 Retire Overseas Index, 1.4 million Americans are choosing to retire overseas. Here are the seven best retirement locations in the world, based on cost-of-living, climate, healthcare, crime statistics, and other quality of life criteria:

  1. The Algarve, Portugal
  2. Cuenca, Ecuador
  3. George Town, Malaysia
  4. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  5. Dumaguete, Philippines
  6. Pau, France
  7. Medellin, Colombia

See Richard Eisenberg, The 7 Best Places to Retire Around the World, Forbes, Aug. 25, 2014.

August 27, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 22, 2014

New Law Urges Samsung to Spend

Samsung logo

Samsung Electronics Co. is sitting on a cash pile that is 58 percent larger than Apple Inc.’s treasure chest.  The message to South Korea’s biggest company is “use it or lose it.” 

The government of President Park Geun Hye published plans for a ten percent tax on what should be either spent on wages and investment or distributed to shareholders.  The levy could affect Samsung, which had the equivalent of $60 billion in cash and short-term investments compared to Apple that had $38 billion. 

Moon Chang Yong, head of Korean Tax Bureau, said “We’re trying to give a signal here . . .The aim is to create a virtuous cycle and recirculate corporate earnings back to households.”

Yet under the new rule, companies are unlikely to increase investments, dividends or wages significantly.  “Companies may prefer to use their internal cash reserves rather than sell bonds when they need capital expenditures and that’s what the government wants.”  As for now, it is uncertain whether the new law will lead to increases in investments and wages.

See Kyungji Cho and Cynthia Kim, Samsung Told by Korean Tax Man To Use Apple Topping Cash, Bloomberg, Aug. 20, 2014.

August 22, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)