Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Harvard Law Professor Robert Sitkoff made his contribution to the Last Lecture series with his March 29 lecture titled ‘Hope for the best; plan for the worst.’ This article provides a video of the lecture delivered by Mr. Sitkoff, who is an expert in trusts and estates. “The Last Lecture Series, which is organized by the Class Marshals, asks popular HLS professors to give lectures addressing the graduating class.” The main goal of the lecture was to discuss private law and to distinguish it from public law. He discusses ways that the private law practice can be improved and how lawyers need to address their client’s concerns. Another thing that he discusses is how law schools can work to improve the legal education that is provided to students to help get them more prepared for private practice.
See Raishay Lin, A trust and estates lawyer’s ‘last lecture’: ‘Hope for the best; plan for the worst’, Harvard Law Today, April 27, 2016.
Bremer Trust was appointed by District Judge Kevin Eide to oversee the Prince estate, and none of the apparent heirs objected to the appointment. “One by one, five of Prince’s six surviving siblings entered a Carver County courtroom Monday to register their claim to the late music legend’s estimated $100 million-plus estate and set up a special administrator to ensure that it’s handled properly.” As of Monday morning no will has been found, and the search for Prince’s will is ongoing. Prince leaves behind a massive estate that is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that there does not appear to be a will creates many problems because the large estate will have to be distributed in accordance with Minnesota intestacy laws. This could lead to legal battles between beneficiaries who will likely end up disagreeing over the property distributions.
See Emma Nelson and Dan Browning, Judge confirms appointment of special administrator on Prince’s estate, Star Tribune, May 3, 2016.
Friday, April 29, 2016
It has become standard practice for states to permit pet trusts to be included in an estate plan. Minnesota is the only state left that does not allow pet trusts. There are lawmakers in Minnesota who would like to change the law and permit these kinds of trusts. “It seems that Rep. Dennis Smith, most likely along with his dog Reagan, planned to make the case to Smith's colleagues that it was time for Minnesota to end this unique designation.” In the State of Minnesota people can make gifts to their pets in their wills, but there is no legal requirement that money be spent on those pets. With a pet trust the cash must be spent on the animal as a matter of law. In every other state besides Minnesota people can set up a pet trust with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
See Kyle E. Krull, How Many States Allow “Pet Trusts” as Part of an Estate Plan?, The Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull P.A., April 28, 2016.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
It is common for people to put off making important estate planning decisions. “A 2015 survey by CNBC showed that 38 percent of individuals with investable assets of $1 million or more have not consulted with a financial professional to establish an estate plan.” This article discusses some of the common reasons why people avoid estate planning. Advisers should convince clients to set up an estate planning by outlining the benefits to them. There are a myriad of issues that the financial adviser will need to go over with the client which are discussed in this article. It discusses some of the key elements of the estate plan that the adviser should help their clients identify. This article also describes the process of creating and updating an estate plan. An estate plan is a good way to make sure that clients are able to fulfill their wishes and provide for their loved ones.
See Robert Warner, A Guide To Helping Clients Complete Their Estate Plans, Wealth Management, April 28, 2016.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
In this modern social media age a large number of people have developed online identities. This article discusses the issue of “cyber intestacy,” which is the failure of a person to plan for their online presence after death. It is a good idea for advisers to ask their clients if their wills contain digital asset clauses. Clients should take an inventory of all the digital assets that they own. It is a good idea for people to plan ahead so that family members do not get stuck in a bad situation of trying to access their digital accounts. “Automatic bill payments and good-until-cancelled orders continue after death, while electronic bills may go unpaid, and heirs may struggle to access photographs.” Digital asset planning can help clients maintain control over their digital legacy.
See Anne Tergesen, Wealth Adviser Daily Briefing: Help Clients Avoid ‘Cyber Intestacy,’ The Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2016.
In the minds of many, estate planning is all about making sure all the big ticket items like a house, stock, or cash are properly distributed in a way that will avoid conflict. While that is exactly what needs to be done, it is not necessarily the last step in the process when it comes to deciding who gets what. Items of little monetary value can have the biggest significance when they have special sentimentality to more than one person. An old collection of records or knickknacks picked up over the years can cause much conflict when competing claims are made among friends and family. When working with a client, always ask about any sentimental items that might need special dispositions. While it is easy to assume that heirs can work out the seemingly minor details on their own, it is always better to err on the side of caution and make sure than any potential kerfuffles are resolved in advance.
See Paul Sullivan, When Dividing Assets, the Little Things Matter, The New York Times, April 15, 2016.
Special thanks to Naomi Cahn for bringing this article to my attention.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
The music world has recently been shocked over the tragic passing of Prince. It is currently not clear if the musician had a will. There is a lot of speculation over how his estate will be divided. Prince did not have any children and both his parents had previously passed away. If Prince did not have a will then his estate might have to be divided in accordance with Minnesota intestacy laws. “Minnesota law states that his estate would go to his sister and his half-siblings, according to estate planner Danielle Mayoras, author of "Trial and Heirs," a book about highly publicized battles over celebrities' fortunes.” The estate is probably going to be very large and there will be years of income generated from the royalties off the music that he has produced.
See David Goldman, Who gets Prince’s millions?, CNN, April 25, 2016.
Monday, April 25, 2016
The unexpected death of legendary musician Prince continues to send shock-waves around the world as fans and friends alike cope with his passing. Sales of his records and movies have skyrocketed during that time including driving his mid 80's film Purple Rain to number two on iTunes. However, despite having a huge business empire, it is growing increasingly doubtful that Prince left behind a will of any sort. Friends of the songwriter have indicated that he genuinely believed that he was not going to die any time soon which lead him to not make preparations for his estate. While this belief seems to fit Prince's well known mercurial nature, he was also known as an avid business manager of his properties which would make many assume he created a post-death plan. But the disbelief of death is not uncommon so the world will know what plans were made for his passing when probate is opened on the estate sometime in the coming week.
See Roger Friedman, Prince Insider: “So Far, No One Has Presented a Will. He Thought He’d Live 1,999 Years”, Showbiz 411, April 24, 2016.
Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.
Mark Glover (Professor of Law, University of Wyoming College of Law) recently published an article entitled, Minimizing Probate-Error Risk, 49 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 335-404 (2016). Provided below is an excerpt from the article:
By prescribing the method by which courts evaluate the authenticity of wills, the law of will-execution allocates probate-error risk between false-positive outcomes and false-negative outcomes. When the court validates an inauthentic will, the result is a false-positive outcome. When the court invalidates an authentic will, the result is a false-negative outcome. Because false-positive outcomes result in the admission to probate of inauthentic wills and false-negative outcomes result in the denial of probate of genuine wills, both can be characterized as probate errors.
This framework has been used to identify the problem with the conventional law of will-execution, which is that it heavily allocates risk in favor of false-negative outcomes and consequently produces probate errors that could easily be avoided. It has also clarified the objective of will-execution reform, which is to reallocate risk more evenly between false-positive outcomes and false-negative outcomes so that the total number of probate errors is minimized.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
One of the most difficult task for anyone is determining the capacity of a person to be able to make their own decisions ranging from the financial to the testamentary. Unfortunately there is generally a lack of means to assist those tasked with making a determination. But a new tool by Dr. Peter Lichtenberg from Wayne State University seeks to help with the determination by providing a frame from which to work in seeking out the state of the individual. A copy of the screening tool can be found here on slides 49-50. Additional information about Dy. Lichtenberg technique can be found here.