Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Single Clients Should Deal With Estate Planning

SavingsAmericas singles population has been growing lately and a majority of the U.S. population that is over 15 is single.  There are certain important steps that single people need to take in regards to estate planning.  When a single person dies intestate State law determines how their assets are distributed.  It is extremely important for clients to have a Will if they want their intentions for how they want their property distributed carried out.  Finding a trustworthy person to designate with the power of attorney is also crucial.  Clients should also be proactive about making sure insurance, IRA, and any other retirement accounts have clearly named beneficiaries.  Make sure to also have any desired health care directives put in writing.  Single clients should speak with an estate planning attorney about coming up with an individualized estate plan that will accommodate their needs.

See Shoshanna Delventhal, Estate Planning for Single Individuals, Investopedia, October 6, 2015.


October 6, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Scaife Estate Claims To Have Overpaid State Estate Tax By $10 Million

Richard-ScaifeI have previously discussed the dispute over the estate of the late Tribune-Review Publisher Richard Scaife.  The Estate has filed a tax return with the State of Pennsylvania claiming that the estate overpaid the State's estate tax by $10 million.  According to accountants for the estate the tax payments amounted to $104.7 million, but that a year-long review that they did on the estate shows that they should have only paid $94.5 million.  This current estate tax dispute is separate from many of the other legal actions that the Scaife estate is involved in.  The Scaife estate was worth about $830 million and about according to the tax return about $630 of that was subject to tax.  Because of the large size of this estate there will likely be more future developments to this story.  

See Mike Wereschagin, Scaife estate overpaid state taxes by $10M, return filed Monday states, Trib Live News, October 5, 2015. 



October 6, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Delaware Court Goes Against Growing Trend Of Prioritizing Beneficiaries’ Wishes

JudgmentThe Court of Chancery in Delaware has recently rejected the petition by the income beneficiary of a trust to modify its written terms to permit the inclusion of an investment adviser and directed trustee.  In In re Trust Under Will of Wallace B. Flint for the Benefit of Katherine F. Shadek the court held that letting the beneficiary modify the trust would contradict the State of Delaware’s policy of upholding the settlors intent.  “This decision is significant because it’s an example of Delaware’s rejection of the current trend to prioritize the wishes of the beneficiaries even if the settlor’s intent is clearly stated.”  This column discusses some of the details of this important decision and how it rejects the current legal trend that many other states are adopting. 

See Pamela Lucina and John Welsh, Delaware Court Rejects Trend to Prioritize Beneficiaries’ Wishes, Wealth Management, October 5, 2015.

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

October 6, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Revocable Trust Must Be Properly Funded

Revocable trustA revocable living trust is a tool that clients can use to avoid the probate process after they pass a way.  Any revocable trust that is created must be properly funded or else the trust will fail due to a lack of sufficient assets necessary to cover the expenses.  This column discusses the rules and regulations dealing with living trusts that are created in the State of New Jersey.  In the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a revocable living trust is transparent.  If the grantor of the trust is also the trustee then they can “buy, sell, trade, mortgage, liquidate, gift or otherwise treat trust property as personal property while having no impact on personal income taxes.”  When the grantor transfers personal assets into the trust that is called “funding the trust.”

See Trusts Must Be Funded Properly, Cape May County Herald, October 4, 2015.

October 5, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ways To Minimize Family Fights Over Inheritance

Family battle cartoonFamily disputes over inheritances is a very common occurrence, about 70% of families will lose a portion of the wealth they inherit primarily because of estate battles according to research done by the Williams Group in San Clemente California.  Families should communicate with each other and try to come to an agreement on what is considered a "fair" distribution of property.  Clients will need to decide if they want to distribute property equally or if they would rather base it on the individual child's needs or circumstances.  It is a good idea to itemize the assets before hand and to get input from family members about what they might be interested in inheriting.  Being consistent and fair about the distribution of inheritance will make the probate process go by more smoothly and will reduce the chances of estate battles breaking out.  

See Glenn Ruffenach, How to prevent family feuds when it comes to your inheritance, Market Watch, September 29, 2014. 

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

October 4, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Responsibilities Of Serving As An Estate Executor

ExecutorTaking on the responsibilities of being an estate executor for a friend or loved one can be a risky burden.  An executive that breaches his or her fiduciary duties can be held personally liable.  The real work of an executor begins after the testator's death when the executor must settle all outstanding taxes and debts and then distribute the estate's assets to the correct beneficiaries.  There are many different difficult tasks involved with this process and the policies can vary from state to state.  It is important to protect the estate and make sure everything is properly managed.  The position of estate executor carries with it immense responsibilities and people should think carefully before taking on such a task.  

See Shelly Schwartz, The other side of a will: Serving as executor to an estate, CNBC, October 3, 2015.  

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

October 4, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Risks Involved With Fill-In-The-Blank Estate Plans

EstateThere are many people that would like to try to save money on estate planning with do it yourself fill-in-the-blank forms.  Individuals thinking about this option should consider the risks involved with such an approach.  An estate plan with a Will or living trust that is poorly executed can easily fall apart and lead to a difficult situation for the loved ones that are left behind.  Putting time and effort into estate planning can help to prevent or reduce the chances of a bitter family fight later on down the road.  When setting up a plan people should think about how they want to provide for their children.  Setting up a charitable fund can be one method of keeping families together.  Clients should also base their planning around their own unique circumstances and the laws of the jurisdiction that they live in.  

See Maria C. Schmidlkofer, Fill-in-the-blank estate planning is playing with fire, Statesman Journal, October 2, 2015. 

October 3, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Importance Of Making Sure An Executor Can Find The Estate Plan

Missing documentsThe best executed estate plan would be worthless if the executor of the estate cannot find the legal documents after a client passes away.  This column discusses the importance of making sure the designated executor is able to find the legal documents that client created for the estate.  The author of this column, Michael Pace, provided a personal anecdote of an experience he had with his sister keeping her estate planning documents in a hidden compartment that he would not have been able to find or gain access of.  This author recommends creating an "info list" template that would explain to the person that is appointed the attorney-in-fact, personal representative, or trustee knows where the necessary information is kept and stored.  Trying to get access to these documents after a client passes away would create a lot of stress and hardship for anyone appointed in a fiduciary role.  

See Michael Pace, The Best Estate Plan Is Worthless If It Can't Be Found, Financial Advisor IQ, October 2, 2015. 

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


October 2, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

How The Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision Will Impact Texas Couples

Same-sexThis article discusses the major impact that the Obergefell decision will have on Texas same-sex couples.  The State of Texas uses a community property system where assets accumulated during the marriage are dived evenly.  Texas also recognizes common law marriages (informal marriages).  If a couple agreed to be married, lived together as a married couple, and represented to others that they were married then the elements of a common law marriage in Texas are met.  The question many lawyers and same-sex spouses are asking is whether this common law marriage rule will apply to same-sex relationships that were formed before the Supreme Court decision.  This would have a huge impact on how the same-sex couple’s property is distributed. 

See J. Daryl Hinze, How The ‘Obergefell’ Decision Affects Texas Same-Sex Couples and Everyone Who Practices Law, Texas Lawyer, October 5, 2015.

October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Guardianship, Income Tax, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Estate Planning For Works Of Art Can Get Complex

Estate plan artArt collectors often face complex issues when it comes to estate planning.  These collectors must contemplate financial matters that relate to inheritance.  The planning surrounding art collections has tangible and intangible aspects often involving legacy issues.  There can be tax consequences for heirs that depend on how they are related to the deceased collector. 

Specialist advisers are out there that can handle issues surrounding art collections by focusing on tax and legal concerns in estate planning and philanthropy.  There are various estate planning techniques discussed in this article like placing the art collection into a trust or corporation.  The location and appraisal value of the art collection is also important when putting together a plan.  Collectors need to be aware of the laws and tax regulations that apply to their individual circumstances. 

See Conrad De Aenlle, Estate Planning Can Get Tricky When Art Is Concerned, The New York Times, October 1, 2015. 

October 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)