Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Plan Ahead for Your Estate

Writing a willThe current number of those who do not have a will can be astonishing, especially knowing that they run the risk of letting the state decide what happens to their estate. Those who do have wills also often fail to update them after a change in circumstances. With a lot of important estate decisions, it is necessary to prep for your loved ones—spouses, significant others, children, and grandchildren alike. Issues like body disposition and organ donation are crucial steps to consider because if not, you leave your family members guessing as to what you would have wanted, which often leads to fights. Further, in our technology era, it will be essential to specify actions for your digital accounts. Ultimately, one must plan their estate so that the bureaucracy does not consume those we care about at the worst possible time.  

See Lisa Pollack, One Day It Will Be Curtains, so I’m Planning for It, Financial Times, January 17, 2017. 

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


January 19, 2017 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2017

CLE on Advanced Elder & Advanced Guardianship Laws

CLEThe State Bar of Texas is holding a CLE entitled, 2017 Advanced Elder Law and Advanced Guardianship Law, which will take place April 6–7, 2017, at the Westin Memorial City on 945 Gessner Road in Houston, Texas. Provided below is a description of the event:

We hope you will join us for our upcoming live presentations of 2017 Advanced Elder Law and Advanced Guardianship Law in Houston on April 6-7, 2017 at the Westin Memorial City.

We are leading off this year with our Advanced Elder Law Course on Thursday, followed by Advanced Guardianship Law Course on Friday. Together these courses provide up to 13.25 hours (including 2.5 hours ethics) of MCLE credit while discussing some of the biggest topics in the field today.

Advanced Elder Law will cover:

  • What You Don't Know Can Hurt You: Case Law and Legislative Updates
  • Dealing with MERP Claims Through Probate Proceedings
  • MERP - It Ain't a Lien and Here's Why
  • How to Deal with the Transition Between VA and Medicaid
  • Anatomy of a Will
  • Title Issues on Gift Deeds, Lady Bird Deeds, and Transfer on Death Deeds
  • Communicating Complicated Elder Law Concepts to Clients Who May Have a Hard Time Understanding Complicated Concepts
  • Client Self Defense Against Abuse, Disputes, and Neglect
  • Medicaid Applications - The View from 30,000 Feet
  • Handling Odd Types of Property

Advanced Guardianship Law topics include:

  • Tool Kit for Contested Guardianships
  • Supports and Services - Alternatives to Guardianships
  • Temporary Guardianships and Other Remedies v TROs
  • The Interaction of POA in Guardianships
  • Runaway Ad Litems
  • Fees and Costs in Guardianships; A Trap for the Unwary
  • Effective Use of Management Trusts With or in Lieu of Guardianships: Guardians of the Estate
  • Creditors' Claims in Guardianships

Plus, attending Advanced Guardianship Law will qualify you for Attorney ad Litem certification!

Select rooms have been reserved at the Westin Memorial Hotel for State Bar registrants at the special rate of $189/night. Reserve your room by calling the hotel at 281-501-4300 and asking for the State Bar of Texas room block by March 16th or use the link above.


January 13, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ken Thompson's Mother Claims She Was Axed from Her Son's Will

Ken thompsonThe late Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s mother claims she was stiffed of a promised portion of her son’s estate when his wife coerced the ill prosecutor into signing a revised will on his deathbed. The family feud was brought to the public’s attention when a court filing alleged that an earlier version of the will was found, which gave Thompson’s mother a fair share of his seven-figure estate. The new will was executed approximately two weeks prior to his death, when Thompson was suffering from substantial mental and physical complications. A court hearing was set for January 19, where Thompson’s wife will surrender the original 2008 will. 

See Christina Carrega & Larry McShane, Ken Thompson’s Mother Says She Was Cut Out of Will by Late Brooklyn DA’s Wife, N.Y. Daily News, January 12, 2017. 

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


January 12, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on the Doctrine of Secret Trust

Secret trustsAdam Tanner published an Article entitled, Secret Trusts: Are They a ‘Conceptual Conundrum’? (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

The Doctrine of the Secret Trust is a strong area of contention; academics struggle to agree on even the fundamental justifications and basic functions of the Secret Trust. This article seeks to purvey the view that there is not a ‘conceptual conundrum’ surrounding these issues. Whilst many academics may be in disagreement, the case law shows well founded reasoning for the doctrine. Through an analysis of the current leading cases the key arguments against the Secret Trust are disputed.

It is argued that the nature of the Secret Trust, when considered in light of judicial reasoning, is not disputable and that not only is there sound justification for the doctrine in the pursuit of preventing fraud but Secret Trusts also fall outside the scope of the Wills Act, therefore the view that they are unconstitutional in their circumventing of the Wills Act 1837 and ‘thus ‘go against the will of Parliament’ is completely unfounded.

This piece takes an alternative stance to the proposition, as well as to the majority of the literature referenced throughout, in stating that there should not continue to be debate surrounding this issue, as it is clearly demonstrable that the concepts of the Secret Trust are easily palpable and not a conundrum at all.


January 12, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Muhammad Ali's Will Set to Ignite "World War Three"

Ali world war threeMuhammad Ali’s will is set to ignite “World War Three” within his family due to the inheritance amounts his nine children will receive. Ali’s $80 million estate will be divided between his widow and children. His widow is expected to inherit double what the children have been given, which is likely to cause some family squabble. Ali’s children have reportedly been left $6 million each, but their grievances over his widow inheriting double stem from her preventing them from seeing their father before his death. 

See Revealed: Muhammad Ali’s Widow Will Receive DOUBLE the $6M Inheritance Awarded to Each of His Nine Children, Sparking ‘World War Three’ Between the Warring Relatives, Daily Mail, January 3, 2017. 


January 4, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Problem with the Chinese Not Having Wills

Chinese willsChina is the world’s most populous nation with the second-largest economy, but almost no one has a will to pass on their estate. Only 1% of Chinese seniors have created an inheritance plan. The reason is cultural—the subject of death is taboo, and writing a will is thought to put a curse on the testator. Now thirty years after communist China allowed individuals to accumulate wealth, that first generation to benefit is starting to die, creating inheritance disputes that are clogging up the court system. To remedy this problem, the government is requesting that local authorities establish free legal centers for seniors. 

See Hannah Gardner, Chinese Don’t Have Wills – and Now It’s a Big Problem, USA Today, January 2, 2017. 


January 4, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Learn from These Celebrities' Estate-Planning Mistakes

Celebrity deathsAverage Americans make estate-planning mistakes all the time, but when a celebrity makes them, we are sure to hear about it, and each story can leave us with some estate-planning wisdom. The biggest lesson of 2016 is one that we can all learn from Prince—you must have an estate plan! The singer died without his own estate plan, which gave large sums of money to attorneys, banks, and the government. Further, it is important to update your estate plan to account for your beneficiaries’ life situation. Whitney Houston never updated her estate plan after her daughter was born, which left her daughter with large sums of money at an early age, and she died shortly after. Another lesson for your estate plan is that when you create a trust, you must retitle the assets in the name of the trust. Michael Jackson’s estate dealt with this issue for many years because he did not properly “fund” his trust. Also, you must plan for the possibility of new heirs in your estate plan. Heath Ledger had an estate plan, but after his sudden death, all of his fortune went to his parents and sister, not his daughter. Finally, you must keep your estate plan in a safe place and communicate to your family where that is. Florence Joyner had a will but never told anyone where it was located, so her family spent the next four years in litigation before coming to a settlement. These are just some of the many estate-planning lessons we can learn from celebrities. 

See Matthew Talbot, Avoid These Celebrity Mistakes with Your Estate Plan, Lamorinda Weekly, December 28, 2016. 

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


December 29, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

George Michael's Godchildren Set to Inherit Millions

George michael2George Michael’s godchildren are expected to receive substantial inheritances from the late singer’s will. Michael was a godparent to several of his celebrity friend’s children, who could now walk away with part of his $120 million estate. He made his fortune from his singing career and royalties, investing a portion of it into properties and art. In addition, Michael was a long-term supporter of many charities, including Childline and Macmillan Cancer Support, which could see future bequests from the megastar. His two older sisters, his boyfriend, and his cousin’s two children are also expected to be named in his will. 

See Richard Spillett & Alex Matthews, George Michael’s £100m Fortune ‘Will Go to His Godchildren’: Offspring of His Celebrity Friends Could Inherit Tens of Millions EACH After Star Died Without Heirs, Daily Mail, December 27, 2016. 

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


December 27, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Article on New York Will Drafting

Will drafting2Gerald Lebovits recently published an Article entitled, Will of Fortune: New York Will Drafting – Part 2, 89 N.Y. St. B.J. 64 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Part 1 of this two-part column, which appeared in the last edition of the New York State Journal, outlined the basics of New York will drafting. This column is about the importance of clarity in will drafting.


December 26, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Article on Law of the American Dead

Law of the deadRay D. Madoff recently published an Article entitled, The Law of the American Dead, 3 Savannah L. Rev. 1–14 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This Essay outlines my journey to and through the law of the dead: what brought me to this subject and what I found along the way. 

The subject of the Law of the Dead is not really one that most people think of when they think of legal scholarship. Most think of Contracts, Telecommunications, Criminal Law, and other subjects of that ilk. All of those subjects have their dedicated academics, who have all sorts of events in which everyone gets together to discuss their shared interest in these topics. But we Law of the Dead people really had not had this opportunity before. The Savannah Law Review Colloquium was our very first meeting. 

So you might wonder what first brought me to this topic. 

I first came to this subject by way of the courses I teach: Trusts and Estates, Estate Planning, and Estate Gift Tax. All of these courses are grounded by the principle of freedom of testation. Freedom of testation generally means that in the United States, people can leave their wishes about what they want done with their property, and the law will expend significant effort to actually carry out those wishes. Well, of course, you might think, “yeah, that’s obvious.” But it is not that way everywhere, and it is really not so obvious that it would have to be that way. We could come up with all other rules about what happens to people’s property after death. For example, in some countries, as much as eighty percent of a person’s property must be distributed to the spouse and children after death, allowing that person to control only twenty percent of value to us. 


December 22, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)