Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Article on Encouraging Charitable Bequests

Charitable givingKristine S. Knaplund recently published an Article entitled, Becoming Charitable: Predicting and Encouraging Charitable Bequests in Wills, 77 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 1–49, (2015). Provided below is a summary of the Article:

            What causes people to leave their property to charity in their wills? Many scholars have explored the effects of tax laws on charitable bequests, but now that more than 99% of Americans’ estates are exempt from federal taxes, what non-tax factors predict charitable giving? This Article explores charitable bequests before Congress enacted the federal estate tax and a deduction for charitable bequests. By examining two years of probate files in Los Angeles and St. Louis, in which 16.6% of St. Louis testators, but only 8.3% in Los Angeles, made charitable bequests, we can begin to discern why testators in St. Louis were far more inclined to give to charity. The surprising results may help policy makers encourage those in the United States and in developing countries to give beyond their family and friends.

            This Article is unique in that it is the first to examine not just whether a will included a charitable bequest, but whether the charity received it. This crucial information adds key insight into who gives to charity. In fact, if we compare the two cities by looking at charitable bequests that were actually received, St. Louis testators are even further ahead of their Los Angeles counterparts, with 15% of St. Louis testators giving to charity, compared to 6% in Los Angeles.

May 29, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Appointing a Stranger as a Will Executor?

Will executorIs it OK to appoint a stranger as executor of your will? Sometimes couples with no children find it hard to select someone to execute their will after one or both dies. So, if one partner dies first, it seems best to make the other the will executor with any necessary help. In selecting a will executor for when both die, it is best to shop around for or consult a lawyer that fits your criteria. Also, remember that friends and extended family members often have invaluable advice for recommendations.

See Quentin Fottrell, My Wife and I Don’t Trust Anyone To Be Executor of Our Will, MarketWatch, May 23, 2016.

May 27, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

SOL on Holy Will Bequest

ALUAmericans United for Life is asking a superior court to overturn a ruling that they waited too long to challenge the changes made to Gabrielle Mee’s 1991 will. This will would have left approximately 10% of her $60 million fortune to the organization. The new version created in 2000 left all of the estate to the Legion of Christ.

            AUL argues undue influence on the part of the Legion. They also evidence that the Legion’s founder was a sexual predator, one that Mee, devout in her Catholic faith, would never have left her estate to. The problem, however, is timing because the judge ruled that AUL knew about the changes in 2013. If AUL sees their day in court, it is likely that they have a good case against the Legion.

See John Hill, New Suit Filed Over Woman’s Bequest to Legion of Christ, Providence Journal, May 17, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hartnett for bringing this Article to my attention.

May 25, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prince's Death Sparks Will Trend

Last willHas Prince’s death sparked a new trend across the nation—drafting a will? Several legal information sites have seen an increase in sales for downloadable products, requests for consultations, and estate planning activity. This furor, however, is most likely due to personal life events—young couples naming guardians, old couples passing wealth, and others hearing of horror inheritance stories. Starting the will process early can end up saving you tons of money, unlike Prince’s family who face an expensive state-ordered probate.

See Dearly Beloved: Prince’s Death Prompts Uptick in Wills, Private Wealth, May 24, 2016.

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

May 25, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Humorous Steps on How To Prepare a Will

HowtopreparewillWhen we think about preparing a will, we think about a somber, reflective experience. One where you identify your assets, name beneficiaries, and assign fiduciary duties. But does it all have to be so serious? We can certainly find some humor in accumulating enough garbage to make having a will upon your inevitable death worth it. And hey, who knows, maybe you want your remains poured out on the final drop of Splash Mountain.

See How To Prepare a Will, The Onion, May 18, 2016.

May 24, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Will Practices of Gays and Lesbians

MonkDaniel Monk recently published an article entitled, 'Inheritance Families of Choice'? Lawyers' Reflection on Gay and Lesbian Wills, Journal of Law & Society, Vol. 43, Issue 2, pp. 167–94 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

            This article presents the findings of research about the will‐writing practices of gays and lesbians. It develops a conversation between sociological literature about ‘families of choice’, which is silent about inheritance, and socio‐legal research about ‘inheritance families’, which is relatively silent about sexuality. It demonstrates how research with lawyers can contribute to thinking about inheritance and complement historical archives about personal life and sexuality. Focusing on funeral rites, partners, ex‐lovers, friendships, children and godchildren, and birth families, the findings reveal how gay men and lesbians have used wills to communicate kinship practices in ways that both converge with and differ from conventional testamentary practices. Examining the findings through the concepts of generationality, family display, connectedness, and ordinariness, and locating them within the recent history of social and legal changes, it complicates and troubles both anti‐normative and individualistic readings of the choices gay and lesbians make in constructing their ‘inheritance families’.

May 24, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Article on Clear and Convincing Wills Law

BaronJane B. Baron recently published an article entitled, Irresolute Testators, Clear and Convincing Wills Law, Washington & Lee Law Review, Winter (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

        Controversial recent wills law reforms, embodied in new provisions of both the Uniform Probate Code and the Restatement of Property, excuse so-called harmless errors in will execution and permit judicial correction of erroneous terms in a will or trust. Both reforms pose evidentiary dangers, as proof of the error must come from outside the attested instrument and will be offered after the testator’s death. To respond to this concern, both the error and the testator’s true intent must be established by “clear and convincing” evidence.

        This Article is the first to examine how courts have applied the clear and convincing evidence standard to these important reforms of wills law. In practice, the clear and convincing evidence standard provides less evidentiary protection than its proponents expected. More importantly, judicial struggles with the clear and convincing evidence standard expose a deep fissure in the very concept of testamentary freedom.

May 20, 2016 in Articles, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

CLE On Inherited IRAs

CleThe American Bar Association is hosting a CLE entitled, Inherited IRAs: What You Must Know, which will take place on June 14, 2016 from 1:00 P.M. – 2:00 P.M. ET. Provided below is a description of the event:

Retirement assets often represent a substantial portion of a taxpayer's wealth. The retirement assets may be accumulated in a 401(k) plan, 403(b) arrangement, in another kind of qualified plan, or in an IRA. Regardless of the retirement arrangement involved, the tax consequences of making the right move at the right time can be financially beneficial - or, conversely, financially hazardous - for the taxpayer and the taxpayer's family.

This program will help you avoid common errors when dealing with retirement assets during your client's lifetime and after your client's death. Tax planning with retirement assets including integrating retirement assets in an estate plan will be discussed. Additionally, the presentation takes on special significance since the Supreme Court of the United States in Clark v. Rameker held that an inherited IRA is not a retirement fund under the federal bankruptcy exemption. This program is especially important since it will include coverage of the new IRA rollover rules that are effective as of January 1, 2015.

May 17, 2016 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Article On Language, The Law, And Inherited Property

ArticlePictureDeborah S. Gordon (Professor of Law, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Mor[t]ality and Identity: Wills, Narratives, and Cherished Possessions, Yale J.L. & Human (Forthcoming). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

This Article starts by discussing connections between property law and language, explaining how property theorists have used metaphorical and narrative language about “things” to explore the political and economic communities the property creates among the people who have interests in those things. The Article then explores various inheritance texts, both fictional and legal, to demonstrate the multiple ways narratives and inheritance intersect and together “transmit traditions, cultural values, and ideologies.” The balance of the Article explores the potential for stories about cherished possessions to democratize inheritance law and enhance its purposes. It does so, first, by proposing model language to assist individuals and individuals and their lawyers in drafting conveyances that acknowledge the narrative power of cherished possessions. Having surmounted this procedural hurdle, the remaining sections argue that the current practice of trivializing personal property dispositions, either by relegating them to separate non-binding memoranda or not dealing with personal property at all other than in a general or residuary clause, are missed opportunities. Building from empirical studies that show how individuals identify with personal possessions, often because of the memories associated with those items, this Article argues that including these family histories in testamentary documents can help make estate planning more accessible and meaningful to a broad range of property owners. Encouraging personal property dispositions that include narratives also benefits survivors; psychological research shows a relationship between family stories and resilience, and sociological studies support the idea that sharing stories aids in bereavement. Finally, using this narrative approach as a strategy for encouraging broader participation in estate planning will benefit the inheritance system more holistically.

May 16, 2016 in Articles, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Current Value Of Michael Jackson’s Estate

New jacksonThe passing of Prince has brought the topic of celebrity estate planning back into public attention.  Celebrity estates can continue to generate revenue long after the person passed away. This column discusses the current value of the Michael Jackson estate.  “As I noted in yesterday's blog post, Michael Jackson's estate is claiming a value of $2,105 ... but the IRS number is in excess of $434 million.”  There is an ongoing dispute between the Michael Jackson estate and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  “Adam Streisand, a probate attorney who has worked with celebrity estates such as those of Ray Charles, Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, thinks the IRS will not successfully point to the post-death earnings of other celebrities as part of the valuation process.”

See Kyle E. Krull, What is Michael Jackson “Worth” These Day$?, The Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull P.A., May 10, 2016.

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

May 13, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)