Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Son Of Harry Magnuson In Legal Dispute With Siblings

MagnusonThe son of deceased Silver Valley mining magnate Harry Magnuson is currently suing his three other siblings alleging that they conspired to have him written out of their mother’s will.  When Harry Magnuson died in 2009 he left everything to his widow Colleen Magnuson.  The widow passed away recently in March and now the children are engaged in this legal dispute.  Thomas Magnuson alleges that his siblings coerced their mother into revising her will shortly before her passing.  This dispute brings attention to the issues of will contests and undue influence.  There is a good chance that whenever a presumptive heir is written out of a will that they are likely going to contest the document. 

See Chad Sokol, Magnuson son sues siblings over estate, The Spokesman-Review, July 24, 2015.

July 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Impact Estate Planning Has On Single People

SinglePeople who are single often face their own set of issues when estate planning.  If a single person dies intestate then their property will be distributed in accordance to the laws of that person’s state.  It is usually just as important for a single person to have a will as it is for a married couple.  A person making a will should put some thought into who will inherit their personal property.  It is a good idea to designate who will have power of attorney to make medical and financial decisions in the event the single person loses capacity.  Making sure to plan ahead for possible state and federal estate taxes is also a wise strategy.  Any single person who wants to make an estate plan should speak with an Estate Attorney and Financial Planner to get professional advice. 

See Douglas Rothermich, Estate Planning For Single People, Forbes, June 18, 2015.

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

July 26, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Income Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Seven Things Personal Estate Representatives Should Avoid Doing


Estate planningWhen acting as a personal representative for a decedents estate there are things that you need to remember not to do.  Here is a list of seven things a personal estate representative should avoid doing:

  1. Avoid early distribution of assets. Make sure to make a full assessment of potential claims the estate could face.
  2. Do not spend estate assets on personal expenses.  This should be self-explanatory, but some people may need a reminder of why this would be a bad idea.
  3. Never ignore tax issues.  Tax liabilities can pile up, so it is always important to stay on top paying them.
  4. Obey court orders.  A personal representative has to submit to the jurisdiction of the court and disobeying court orders can open him or her up to personal liability.
  5. Do not distribute funds until all bills are paid. It can often be difficult to get money back from somebody once it has been paid out. 
  6. Do not ignore any claims.  It is a good idea to stay on top of any potential claims that you might face.
  7. Do not go forward without seeking attorney advice.  Seeking out expert advice from somebody who understands probate law can be a good strategy.

See Unique Estate Law Blog, What [Not] To Do After A Death: Seven Things Personal Representatives Should Never Do, Wealth Management, June 1, 2015.

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

July 25, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Passes New Rules To Disclaim Property

TexasThe Texas Legislature recently passed new rules concerning the proper procedure to disclaim property. Among the major changes, the new act unifies the right to disclaim under the Property Code rather than have the rights spread between the Estate and Trust Code. In addition, fiduciaries now have the right to disclaim property though some, such as guardians, must seek court approval although trustees have the right to disclaim without a judge's blessing. The most important change, however, is the elimination of the nine month time limit to disclaim; from here on out a disclaimer will be effective as long as no control has been exerted over the property. A version of the new statute may be found here.

See Glenn Karisch, The new Texas Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interests Act, Texas Probate, July 9, 2015.

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

July 25, 2015 in Estate Administration, New Legislation, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ex-Wife Ordered To Turnover Life Insurance Proceeds After Interest Was Extinguished

JusticeIn 2008, the State of New York made revisions to the Estate Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL).  The new statute was intended to correct the inadvertent failure of a divorced spouse to eliminate an ex-spouse as beneficiary.  This article discusses The Matter of Suggs which dealt with a situation of a court dividing life insurance proceeds between the decedent’s estate and his divorced spouse.  The divorced decedent had carelessly forgotten to remove his ex-spouse as a beneficiary of his life insurance policy.  Under the new statute the ex-spouse is treated as having predeceased the testator and her interest in the life insurance proceeds were extinguished.  The New York Court decision can be read here.  People should not be overly reliant on the new law and should make sure to periodically review their insurance policies. 

See Philip Bernstein, Ex-Wife Compelled To Turnover Life Insurance Proceeds After Her Interest In Decedent’s Insurance Policy Was Extinguished, The New York Probate Litigation Blog, July 16, 2015.

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

July 24, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Benson Trustee Continues Fight For Fair Asset Swap

TOm BensonThe trustee of the foundation that holds the majority interest in the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans continues to argue in court that Tom Benson failed to exchange assets of equal value for the shares of the team. This case, the latest in a series, pits Mr. Benson against family members that are excluded from management of the two pro-sport franchises after Mr. Benson announced he intended to leave team control to his current wife. The primary issue concerns the promissory notes used to compensate the trust for the team shares; notes whose actual worth is far less than the their face value, according to the trustee, which violates the trust terms. No word yet on when the judge is expected to issue a ruling.

See Ramon Antonio Vargas, Trustee being sued by Tom Benson argues Saints, Pelicans owner still isn’t proposing fair asset swap with relatives, The New Orleans Advocate, July 24, 2015.

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

July 24, 2015 in Current Events, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Claims Of Undue Influence At Center Of Irish Will Dispute

MajellaAllegations of undue influence can often be a reason people contest a Will.  This article is about an ongoing Will contest dispute in Ireland over an estate that could be worth “between €283,000 and half million.”  The decedents sisters and brother-in-law are seeking to have the Will declared invalid claiming that Celine Murphy was subjected to duress and undue influence.  Latin Tridentine Bishop Michael Cox along with the sole beneficiary Mary Butler are both seeking to have the Will declared valid claiming that Ms. Murphy was of sound mind.  Bishop Cox testified before an Irish High Court that he signed and witnessed the Will when it was presented to him by the decedent. 

See Tim Healy, Woman whose Will is contested by sisters had document prepared: ‘All we had to do was sign and witness it’- Bishop tells court, Independent.ie, July 23, 2015.

July 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Reality When A Client Ask For A "Simple" Will

WillsEstate planners know that when a client comes in, they are often looking for the quickest, easiest, and cheapest will possible. As a result, clients will often leave out key details, such as the true size of the estate, or that there is likely to be a big family dispute that will require litigation. This obfuscation of the truth, usually done in a misguided attempt to lower attorney fees, is a problem since an estate cannot be properly planned without accurate information. For example, a client that understates personal wealth out of fear of being charged more may face adverse consequences if the understatement causes the planner not to anticipate estate taxes. If a client ever ask for a "simple will," explain to them that full candor concerning all relevant matter, such as assets and potential estate disputes, is the truly easy path and that a desire to save a few bucks now may cost them down the line.

See Robert Fleming, The Myth of the Simple Will, Fleming & Curti, June 15, 2015

July 23, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Protecting Assets While Contesting A Will

WillIf a person is thinking about contesting a Will they may want to take measures to protect estate assets from being depleted by the current beneficiaries.  These measures often involve seeking court imposed restraints on the distribution of assets during probate proceedings.  When a probate court imposes temporary restraints it is often referred to as "Injunctive Relief".  The standard for obtaining Injunctive Relief involves a four part test which is examined in this column.  A person who is considering contesting a Will should seek out expert advice from a qualified estate attorney. 

See Paul W. Norris, Preserving Assets of an Estate During a Will Contest, The National Law Review, July 21, 2015.

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

July 22, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Important Things To Remember When Making An Estate Plan

Estate planning 2Putting together an estate plan is a very important task that many people often neglect to do.  This column includes a 14-point checklist of important things people need to remember when making an estate plan.  One of the most important things a person should do is seek out assistance from a competent and honest financial adviser who can help put together an estate plan that can accomplish the client’s goals.  The checklist includes things people need to do to plan ahead for the distribution of their estate and to determine who will have power of attorney and guardianship in the event something happens.  Going through this checklist will help people identify the important details that they need to remember when speaking with an adviser.  This column will hopefully provide more people with the tools they need to make better financial planning decisions. 

See Art Koff, Review your estate plan against this 14-point checklist, Market Watch, July 20, 2015.

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

July 22, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Income Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)