Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Filing Taxes For A Loved One Who Passed Away

Tax filingNothing is more certain than death and taxes, and death does not typically relieve an estate of tax liability.  This article provides a list of things that people should keep in mind if they ever find themselves in the unenviable position of doing the taxes for a deceased loved one.  That person will first need to find out if they even have the authority to file the decedent’s taxes.  It might be a very good idea to seek out the assistance of a qualified tax professional who can file the tax returns.  There is a lot of important paperwork that people will need to gather before filing the deceased loved one’s taxes.  This is a difficult and unenviable task and there are tax professionals that people should seek out to help with this important work.

See Geoff Williams, How to File Final Taxes for a Deceased Loved One, U.S. News & World Report, April 22, 2016.

April 22, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Handling Beneficiary Designations

Last willNaming beneficiaries for important things like assets and life insurance policies involves a more nuanced decision-making process than many might think.  There can be significant repercussions for loved ones if people get something wrong.  It is important for people to familiarize themselves with the basic requirements for naming beneficiaries.  Keeping beneficiary designations up-to-date is extremely important, and people should review their designations in their estate plan whenever any major life event happens.  There are also tax consequences which people should consider.  People should be specific about beneficiary designations when dividing assets, and should give special considerations to special-needs loved ones.  It is important to be familiar with all the important aspects of estate planning so that difficult problems in the estate probate process can be avoided.

See Christine Benz, How to Handle Beneficiary Designations, Morningstar, April 22, 2016.

April 22, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Speculation About Michael Douglas Estate Issues

Michael douglassActor Michael Douglas has had many issues in his personal life during the past decade.  This article discusses how many of the situations in his personal life impact his estate.  The 71-year-old actor has had to struggle with cancer and there are concerns that the disease might be coming back.  His second wife Catherine Zeta Jones has dealt with bipolar disorder and his oldest son once went to jail on drug charges.  This article discusses how the Michael Douglas estate would be divided up if he were to pass away.  Planning for celebrity estates can be very difficult, and the problems can be amplified when dealing with a blended family with children from a previous marriage.  This blog has posted extensively about many of the court battles surrounding the Robin Williams estate.  These types of celebrity estates require careful and detailed planning.

See Scott Martin, Michael Douglas “Death or Divorce” Rumors Raise Big Dynastic Questions, Trust Advisor, April 18, 2016.

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

April 20, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Impact A Parent’s Remarriage Has On Inheritance

Adult childrenBlended families have become the most common form of family today, and this article explains what impact a parent’s remarriage could have on their children’s inheritance.  When a person die’s they typically have both probate and non-probate assets.  If the decedent had a will then the probate assets will typically be distributed in accordance with the terms of that will, and if there is no will then they will be distributed according to the governing state intestacy laws.  The non-probate assets will typically pass to the joint survivor or named beneficiary.  Experienced estate planners should be familiar with the rules and requirements of the state that they work in.  The rules and regulations can vary from state to state, and the probate process can often become complex, and this is especially true as it concerns blended families.

See Kyle E. Krull, How Will My Client’s Father’s Remarriage Impact His Inheritance?, Wealth Management, April 18, 2016.

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

April 19, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Why It Is Uncommon For Americans To Have Advanced Directives?

AgingAn advanced directive is a tool that enables people to have control over their future and what type of end-of-life care they will receive.  This article discusses how uncommon it is for Americans to use this estate planning tool.  The two forms of directives that are discussed in this article are instruction directives and proxy directives.  It explains the requirements for each of these two directives and the process that people have to go through to create an advanced directive.  Making decisions about end-of-life care can be stressful for people, but it is important to tackle these issues now so that people can have control over their lives.  People who put these decisions off might end up having these decisions made for them.  Advanced directives can protect patients when they are most vulnerable. 

See Jamie Zuckerman, Why Do So Few Americans Have Advanced Directives?, Wealth Management, April 18, 2016.

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

April 18, 2016 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Don’t Forget About The Minor Details When Estate Planning

Family-heirloomWhen creating an estate plan people will often put a lot of time and energy in planning for big assets, like cash, homes, and securities.  One important thing that often gets overlooked is planning for those personal items that have little monetary value but a great amount of sentimental value.  Dividing up these personal sentimental items can often cause a great amount of friction in families.  It is important to include a system for dividing these personal items up in any estate plan.  This article discusses some of the different options that are available for people who want to plan ahead for dividing these sorts of items.  Putting a good and fair system in place can help prevent bitter disputes between siblings and other family members from happening.

See Paul Sullivan, When Dividing Assets, the Little Things Matter, The New York Times, April 15, 2016.

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

April 16, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How Financial Advisers Can Assist Surviving Spouses

Incentive trust 2When a client passes away their surviving spouse is often left in a difficult situation of having all of a sudden deal with the financial responsibilities.  Financial advisers need to be proactive about helping to manage the surviving spouses financial transition.  They should help them go through the records to be able to better manage the household.  Will and trust documents are important and should be kept updated, but they are not enough and there are many other details that a surviving spouse will need to consider.  Financial advisers need to be proactive about spotting the issues before they develop into major problems.  It is a good idea to establish a good relation with clients early on and to have a game plan in place.

See Arie Korving, How Advisers Can Help Surviving Spouses, Investopedia, April 13, 2016.

April 14, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Florida Law Requires Life Insurers To Put More Effort Into Finding Beneficiaries

Grading advisorFlorida Governor Rick Scott has recently signed a law that will require life insurance companies to do more to locate beneficiaries when a person passes away.  “The new law requires life insurers to search the Social Security Administration's Death Master File for all of their policyholders retroactively to 1992 and every year going forward to identify beneficiaries. If a beneficiary cannot be found, the insurance company must turn the policy over to the State of Florida’s Unclaimed Property Program, currently overseen by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, where the state will continue to look for rightful beneficiaries.”  This has been a top priority for the Florida Chief Financial Officer who felt that life insurance companies are sitting on too many unclaimed benefits. 

See Jeremy Wallace, New Florida law requires life insurers to do more to find beneficiaries, Tampa Bay Times, April 12, 2016.

April 13, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Gilded Age Relic As An Example Of How To Create Estate Chaos

ArticleHuguette Clark is as close as it comes to being the living embodiment of the high nobility as it exist in America. The daughter of a U.S. Senator and heiress to an imposing fortune, her life was full of promise but ultimately become one of isolation as she withdrew from a world she was sure only cared for her money. Her limited contact with others made her dependent on a small set of advisors who ultimately failed to serve as they allowed her to die, at the age of 104, with no more estate planning than a will. Predictably, litigation ensued between the various beneficiaries and family members who were left out although most of the $300 million dollar fortune eventually went to charity. In order to avoid a similar estate battle, try not being estranged from family with a strong claim to an inheritance since it encourages lawsuits when those people are left out. In addition, other planning vehicles such as trust are a better way to dispose of large estates than a will which is easier to challenge and offers less flexibility. But whatever the approach, do not allow yourself to be lead about by a small group of people whose motives have reason to be suspect.

See Ettinger Law Firm, HOW TO ASSURE AN ESTATE BATTLE, New York Estate Planning Attorney Blog, April 11, 2016.

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

April 13, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Asset Protection Planning Threatened By Uniform Voidable Transactions Act

Golden eggsThis column discusses an article by Chuck Rubin about the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act (UVTA).  According to the article this act might be a threat to the sort of debtor protections that exist outside of UVTA.  This is an act that has been enacted in several states and is a reworking of fraudulent conveyance law.  This “allows a creditor to avoid transfers made that attempt to put property beyond the reach of a creditor.”  There are some attorneys who might be realizing that this statute could threaten certain debtor protections.  “Other concerns are being raised about how the UVTA may interfere with other business and tax planning, such as its potential application to swap powers in grantor trusts (which may be used to obtain a step up in basis at death) and transfer of property to business entities by debtors.”

See Pooja Shivaprasad, Uniform Voidable Transactions Act (UVTA) Threatens Asset Protection Planning, Wealth Strategies Journal, April 7, 2016.

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

April 12, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)