Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Britney Spears is Drafting a New Will to Protect Her Kids

Britney-spears-2001Britney Spears has elected to redraft her will in order to better benefit her two boys. Her current will leaves her entire estate to Sean, 11, and Jayden, 10. The issue with the will is that it leaves her fortune to her children when they turn 18. Spears has decided that leaving millions of dollars to teenagers may not be the best course of action and has instead chosen to place her assets into a trust upon her demise. The trust would limit her children’s access to monies based on their age. This arrangement also helps the estate avoid inheritance taxes it would otherwise owe.

See Britney Spears is Drafting a New Will to Protect Her Kids, TMZ, August 16, 2017.

August 18, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

CLE on Estate Administration Boot Camp

0000000 CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a conference entitled, Estate Administration Boot Camp, which will take place on Thursday, August 16, 2017 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dallas - Love Field in Dallas, TX. Provided below is a description of the event:

Program Description

Everything You Need to Know About Effectively Administering an Estate

Are you fully confident in your knowledge of the latest court and tax rules and the most effective transfer tools to ensure each client's estate is laid to rest according to the decedent's wishes, with minimal tax burden? This comprehensive 2-day instruction will give you all the skills you need to administer estates that include trusts and/or business interests without a hitch. Register today!

  • Don't miss any crucial notice and filing requirements when opening the estate - learn what must be done right away.
  • Get helpful forms and checklists that will help you in administration.
  • Understand how income and estate tax deductions interact and find the most advantageous way to structure the tax returns
  • Learn how to use disclaimers more effectively.
  • Clarify what must be done when the trust becomes irrevocable.
  • Protect your professional reputation with a practical legal ethics guide focused on trusts and estates practice.
  • Prevent mistakes in final petition and ensure each estate is closed quickly and without disputes.

Who Should Attend

This two-day, basic level seminar is designed for:

  • Attorneys
  • Accountants/CPAs
  • Enrolled Agents
  • Certified Financial Planners
  • Trust Officers/Administrators/Managers
  • Paralegals

Course Content

DAY 1

  • Forms of Administration and When They are Used
  • First Steps and Notices, Executor Duties, Opening the Estate
  • Marshalling the Assets
  • Key Intestacy Laws You Must Know
  • Handling Debts and Claims Against the Estate
  • Spouse Elective Share and Disclaimers
  • Trusts That Affect Estate Administration

DAY 2

  • Income Tax Returns
  • Portability and Estate, Gift, GST Taxes
  • Business Interests in Estate Administration
  • Legal Ethics in Estate Administration
  • Closing the Estate and Final Accounting
  • Estate and Trust Contests, Disputes, Challenges

Continuing Education Credit

 

Continuing Legal Education

Credit Hrs State
CLE 12.00 -  OH*
CLE 12.00 -  TX*

International Association for Continuing Education Training – IACET: 1.20

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – CPE for Accountants: 14.00 *

* denotes specialty credits

August 16, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Testamentary Promises between Selflessness and Self-Interest

Altruism-830x460Alexandra Braun recently published an Article entitled, Testamentary Promises between Selflessness and Self-Interest, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Law often indicates a suspicion of gifts and, in particular, of promises to make a gift. This is principally due to a concern that such promises are made without sufficient deliberation, apparently because they benefit another person without the promisor gaining anything in exchange.

Against that backdrop, this paper investigates the role of selflessness in the context of testamentary promises, that is, of a testator’s promise to benefit someone in his or her will. It questions the assumptions that all gift promises are altruistic and that they are therefore irrational and should not be enforceable unless expressed using certain legal formalities. Drawing on the findings of sociologists, anthropologists, and economists, the paper argues that testamentary promises are often likely to be less altruistic than lifetime promises of a gift. The case law offers many instances of uses of testamentary promises that are far from purely selfless, including influencing others and exercising power over them. This paper serves, then, as a counterweight to the common story of the undeserving promisee and the frail and vulnerable promisor. It shows that testamentary promises frequently involve a degree of reciprocity that can benefit both. Ultimately, what may look like a selfless act may actually be a self-interested one.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 16, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Carrie Fisher's Daughter Billie Lourd Will Inherit Nearly $7 Million

0809-carrie-fisher-billie-lourde-tmz-7Billie Lourd, daughter of Carrie Fisher, is set to inherit nearly $7 million of personal property left to her by her mother. $6.8 million is a relatively substantial inheritance, but it is quite diminutive in comparison to the $2 billion in revenue earned by the latest Star Wars film in which Fisher played. It is possible there is additional money that has been left in trust, which would not be reflected in the probate of Fisher’s will.

See Carrie Fisher's Daughter Billie Lourd Will Inherit Nearly $7 Million, TMZ, August 9, 2017.

August 14, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

You and the Law: Planning for the Expected Unexpected

AdobeStock_70242561-1024x808Considering one’s mortality can be an unsettling prospect. This natural aversion to discussing what will happen upon death leads many to avoid conversations about wills, trusts, assets, and final expenses. While such conversations may be uncomfortable, dying without an estate plan creates additional headaches for spouses and children that can add frustration and guilt onto their already-present sense of bereavement and loss.

In a modern arena, dying without a will offers problems unique to our technological age. Not disclosing or sharing online financial information may leave some assets overlooked. When passwords and usernames are not accessible, social media pages remain in stasis as heirs look for a means to close accounts.  

See H. Dennis Beaver, You and the Law: Planning for the Expected Unexpected, Times Standard, July 31, 2017.

August 13, 2017 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Corpus Christi Court Upholds Undue Influence Verdict

CorpusA Corpus Christi Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s jury verdict denying probate of a will based on allegations of undue influence. To show undue influence, a plaintiff must prove three elements: “(1) the existence and exertion of an influence; (2) that subverted or overpowered the testator’s mind at the time he executed the instrument; (3) so that the testator executed an instrument he would not otherwise have executed but for that influence.” In Estate of Jose M. Rodriguez, the jury found that the decedent’s daughter was the sole beneficiary of the will, that she wrote checks on his account until they bounced, chose the lawyer that drafted the will, and that the testator disinherited seven of this other children in favor of his daughter; one of the children is confined to a wheelchair. While no piece of evidence, on its own, is usually enough to justify a finding of undue influence, the aggregate of these factors was enough for the jury to find the daughter exercised undue influence over her father.

See J. Michael Young, Corpus Christi Court Upholds Undue Influence Verdict, Texas Probate Litigation, August 1, 2017.

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

August 11, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Estate Planning Is Not Just For The Ultra-Rich Anymore

ArnoldEstate planning has been historically associated with those who have enough assets to justify the expense of hiring an attorney. The complexities of drafting a will and establishing trusts for beneficiaries can be very expensive. As many families are discovering though, you do not have to have a large estate for family members to start fighting over money or grandma’s antique boudoir furniture.

Given the odd and materially ravenous nature family members can assume after a loved-one’s death, it is important for those with even modest wealth to do some estate planning. The most important part of an estate plan is a will. While some assume their state’s intestacy scheme will pretty much follow their final wishes, there can be some unexpected surprises. In Texas, for example, if there are children from a prior marriage, your spouse will not receive any part of your community property. This can be extremely problematic if a decedent’s assets are illiquid and the surviving spouse is forced to sell a home or business to pay taxes and divide the property.

Setting up a trust may be beneficial if you are interested in giving away assets to beneficiaries with certain restrictions on how the assets will be used. This is especially useful when you want to take care of a child or grandchild that has proven to be financially illiterate or has interests that actively impair their decision-making skills. Trusts may also be used as tax shelters in some circumstances. Finally, designate a power of attorney. It is extremely important to have someone that you can trust readily available to make decisions for you in case of incapacity.

See Ernie Burns, Estate Planning Is Not Just For The Ultra-Rich Anymore, Financial Advisor, August 3, 2017.

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

 

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

 

August 10, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Appeals Court Rules in $573 Million Griffin Industries Family Dispute

Road killIn 1943, John L. Griffin borrowed $200 to buy a used truck so he could go out and collect dead animals off the side of the road. From these extremely humble beginnings, Griffin grew his road-kill collecting business into a multi-million dollar animal-processing empire. Unfortunately, upon his death, his sons transferred property that should have gone to their sisters into the company in order to lubricate an $840 million sale. What has become a decades-long family dispute was somewhat finalized on Monday when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in on the feud. The court awarded the Griffin sisters $573 million in damages in recognition of the fraudulent manner their brothers handled the administration of the estate.

See Bruce Crippen, Appeals Court Rules in $573 Million Griffin Industries Family Dispute, Cincinnati Business Courier, August 1, 2017.

Special thanks to Jay Brinker, estate planning attorney, for bringing this article to my attention. 

August 9, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Article on A New Hope: Tortious Interference with an Expected Inheritance in Rhode Island

RiRebecca M. Murphy and Samantha M. Clarke recently published an Article entitled, A New Hope: Tortious Interference with an Expected Inheritance in Rhode Island, 22 Roger Williams U. L. Rev. 531-589 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article: 

An extension of actions for interference with contractual relations, tortious interference with an expected inheritance, creates liability for a tortfeasor who intentionally prevents another from receiving an inheritance, at-death benefit, or lifetime gift. It is rooted in the concept that causes of action such as undue influence and fraud, typically brought in the probate courts, may be insufficient to provide a disinherited victim with a remedy, and premised on the maxim that every wrong should have a remedy.

Tortious interference with an expected inheritance or gift, though by no means a recently developed cause of action, has gained traction since its adoption by the Restatement (Second) of Torts in 1979, 2 and has received attention since the highly publicized 2006 United States Supreme Court decision in Marshall v. Marshall, perhaps better known as the Anna Nicole Smith litigation. 3 Currently, about half of the states acknowledge the tort. 4 Many of these states adopt the definition provided by the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 774B (1979):

One who by fraud, duress or other tortious means intentionally prevents another from receiving from a third person an inheritance or gift that he would otherwise have received is subject to liability to the other for loss of the inheritance or gift. 

However, many of the states that recognize the tort only allow a claim of tortious interference where an alternate remedy at law (be it through the states' probate code or otherwise) is unavailable...

August 7, 2017 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Unsigned Will? No problem!

MichiganNearly every jurisdiction in these United States has almost universally held, for a historically significant period of time, that an unsigned will is no good in probate. Whether the will is holographic or attested, the testator must, with some very stringent exceptions, place his John Hancock somewhere on the document. In a recent case out of Michigan, In re Estate of Attia, a Michigan appellate court overturned the probate court’s decision granting summary disposition regarding an unsigned will. The probate court dismissed an original petition holding that an unsigned will was not admissible into probate as a matter of law; so far, pretty unsurprising.

Where the appellate court diverges tangentially from the norm was its reasoning and statutory consideration that led it to hold that Michigan statute MCL 700.2503 worked as an exception to MCL 700.2502. MCL 700.2502 sets out the standard requirements for a will: it must be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed and signed by two other individuals.

The appellate court held that the language in MCL 700.2503 was intended by the legislature to be an exception to the general requirement that a will must be signed: “Accordingly, a will does not need to be signed in order to be admitted to probate under MCL 700.2503, as long as the proponent of the document in question establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to be a will. To hold otherwise would render MCL 700.2503 inapplicable to the testamentary formalities in MCL 700.2502, which is contrary to the plain language of the statute.”

Although the statutory language seems to allude only to “a document or writing added upon a document,” the court did see this as a barrier to their final holding. So, for now, a will without a signature can be introduced into probate in Michigan.

See Attia v. Hassan (In re Estate of Attia), 2016 Mich. App. LEXIS 2075 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 10, 2016).

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

August 7, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)