Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Article on Marley v. Rawlings


Edward Granger and James Goodwin recently published an article entitled, Where There’s a Will There’s a Way: Marley v. Rawlings and Another, The Modern Law Review, Vol. 78, Issue 1, pp. 140-150 (2015).  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

In Marley v Rawlings and another, a unanimous Supreme Court has widened the scope of judicial power to rectify a will under section 20 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982. An intended will that falls foul of formality requirements may now have such defects resolved by rectification, and the meaning of ‘clerical error’ – one of the two possible bases for invoking the rectification doctrine – has been expanded. The Court's decision to resolve the issue by this method rather than by recourse to the doctrine of construction may prove to have implications for the extended scope of the latter. Moreover, the recent award of a third party costs order in this case is also likely to have a significant impact on the manner in which similar disputes are conducted in the future.

January 18, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jane Austen Letter to be Auctioned

Pride_and_PrejudiceA 1799 letter written by author Jane Austen to her sister is currently on public display for the first time at Torquay Museum in Devon. The letter was left to the museum in Hester Pengelly's will in the 1930s along with roughly 3,500 other autographs and letters, but was forgotten and sat in a file box until it was discovered in 1989. The museum is considering auctioning off the letter to raise money for an endowment  fund that is intended to keep the museum open, despite the sale being contrary to the terms of Pengelly's bequest. Austen's letter references an upcoming novel by the author entitled First Impressions, which was later re-titled Pride and Prejudice when it was published 14 years later.

See Stephanie Linning, Previously Unseen Letter by Jane Austen Where She First Writes About Pride and Prejudice Goes on Public Display for the First Time, Daily Mail, Dec. 6, 2014.

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

January 17, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Trust and Estate Law Program for Paralegals


The ABA Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law is continuing the professional development series focused on paralegals, legal assistants, and others working in the areas of Trust & Estate Law, with the program entitled, From Undertaker to Litigator and Steps in Between: The Role of the Paralegal in Estate Administration, Distribution and Resolution.  The program features ten 60-minute webinars beginning January 22, 2015 and ending August 6, 2015.  Here is why you should attend:

Attendees of the Paralegal eLearning Program will learn substantive legal and ethics issues, as well as best practices, from leading industry professionals with in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience in Trust & Estate Law. The program includes ten 60-minute webinar sessions, and attendees can register for the entire series or individual sessions.

As a special offer, those who register for the entire 2015 Paralegal eLearning Program series will receive complimentary Associate membership in both the ABA and the Section of Real Property, Trust & Estate Law (RPTE).

January 14, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Online Trusts and Estates Practice Tools

LaptopLast year saw many developments in technology that effects trusts and estates areas, and a plethora of information about these developments were made available online. Many online practice tools and commentaries on trust and estate planning were made available last year, such as updated charts published by Steve Oshins on state rankings for dynasty trusts, trust decanting, and domestic asset protection trusts. Additionally, many resources on tips for more effective uses of email, Microsoft Office programs, and use of technology in trust and estate practice were made available. There were also many practitioner helpful mobile phone and Mac apps released last year, such as apps that allow computer files to be synched and stored with mobile devices. Links to informative resources on the online practice tools discussed and many more can be found here.

See Donald Kelley, Recent Developments in Tech Resources for the Trusts and Estates Practice, Part 1, Wealth Management, Jan. 13, 2015.

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

January 14, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Veterans Center Employees Fired For Accepting Bequests Left by Resident

WillSeven former Norman Veterans Center employees are seeking reinstatement and back pay after being fired for accepting money left to them in the will of a resident of the center three years prior to their terminations. The Case before Oklahoma Administrative Law Judge Anitta Bridges concluded testimony last week. The employees testified that despite a rule that they could not receive gifts from residents, the bequests were not covered because veteran Bill Marshall gave them the gift at his death and was no longer a resident. The employees also testified that they were told by the center's director at the time, Christy Howell, that they could accept the gifts without being in fear of termination from their jobs. Attorney William O'Brian, who was general counsel to the veterans department at the time that Marshall died, testified that the acceptance of the gifts did not violate any rules of the Oklahoma Veteran Department’s handbook.

See Mick Hinton, Attorney Testifies Handbook Doesn't Prevent Veterans Center Workers From Accepting Bequests, The Transcript, Jan 11, 2015.

January 13, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Grave Digger Pleads Guilty

Grave (dug up)

Michael Day, 38, has pleaded guilty to helping a woman ransack her father’s grave in search of his “real will.” 

Day, along with three others, conspired to raid the vault holding the remains of businessman Eddie Nash from a Colebrook cemetery last May.  Nash’s 53-year-old daughter, Melanie, is among those charged. 

Prosecutors in New Hampshire say that Day should have to volunteer at a cemetery as part of his sentence.

See Associated Press, Man Pleads Guilty in Grave Digging in Search of ‘Real Will’, ABC News, Jan. 8, 2015.

January 9, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Battle Over Officer's $2.7 Million Inheritance

Police reports

According to a court filing, efforts by Portsmouth city officials to shield two internal police investigation reports pertaining to an officer’s disputed $2.7 million inheritance “do little to instill public confidence.” 

Attorney Paul McEachern represents four clients who contest the last will and trust of the late Gerladine Webber, who left most of her valuable assets to police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin.  McEachern asked a judge to order the police reports be released, which describe the internal investigations of the matter.  In a motion filed with Strafford County Probate Court, McEachern argues that the reports should be part of the public record to determine whether or not there was an investigation. 

City Attorney Robert Sullivan objects to the release of the reports, deeming them confidential and inadmissible in civil cases.  Sullivan alleges that police investigations relate to complaints that Goodwin may have violated Police Department rules and regulations with regard to his contact with Webber prior to her death. 

The initial demand for the police reports came from attorney David Eby, who represents the Shriner’s Hospital for Children and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, both of which also contest Webber’s last will and trust.  Goodwin’s inheritance diminished bequests to Eby’s clients and others; according to the terms of her 2009 will and her final will and trust.  The will also diminished inheritances to the Portsmouth Police and Fire Departments, both of which were designated to receive one-quarter of Webber’s estate in her 2009 will, but were reduced in her final will and trust. 

A judge will hear both sides of the argument regarding release of the investigatory records before the trial in May. 

See Elizabeth Dinan, Portsmouth Lawyer Joins Fight for Internal Police Records, Sea Coast Online, Jan. 4, 2015.

January 6, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 5, 2015

DC Comics Widow Allegedly Defrauded By Workers


An elderly widow of the DC Comics publisher who brought Superman to news stands, was taken advantage of when she was convinced to leave large sums of cash from her $50 million estate to two real-life Lex Luthors. 

The son of the late widow, Shirley Liebowitz, accused her lawyers Dennis Drebsky and her business manager Ronald Krause of inserting themselves into his mom’s will and isolating her from him and other family members.  "The story that is unfolding is clearly one of elder abuse, fraud and undue influences," the son's lawyer, Jason Blasberg, wrote recently in a court filing. 

Liebowitz died at 96 on April 24, 2013, but during the last 12 years of her life, Krause and Drebsky drafted 28 wills for her. In later versions, her son's bequest drastically dropped while the lawyer and business manager's inheritances ballooned, according to Blasberg's filing.

However, in court filings responding to the accusations, Drebsky and Krause said they were not villains and denied that they conspired to influence Liebowitz's decisions about her will.  Krause added that he never interfered with Liebowitz's will or finances, noting that her decisions about inheritances changed with her mood swings.  Liebowitz "used her money in general, and her will in particular, as both a punishment and a reward," Krause wrote. "If the wind blew the wrong direction on a given day, she would reduce your bequest. Conversely, if you jumped through hoops to satisfy her demands, she would reward you."

See James Fanelli, Widow of DC Comics Co-Founder Was Conned By Workers, Son Says, DNA Info, Jan. 5, 2015. 

January 5, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Charity Fails To Fulfill Bequest Several Years After Donation

Anya Adams

In the months before a beloved pediatrician died, she chose two charities to include in her will.  Yet, six years later, one of the charities—the Land Conservancy of B.C. (TLC)—is mired in financial trouble and legal battles that could jeopardize the sizable donation Dr. Chrystal Kleiman made to the charity. 

Only $134,000 of the $707,000 Dr. Kleiman bequeathed to the Victoria based TLC has made its way to the Galiano Conservancy Associations $4 million Galiano Learning Centre.  In her will, Dr. Kleiman asked that her children work with TLC to identify a property that had a unique ecosystem. 

TLC took $106,050 from Kleiman’s bequeathment as an “administrative” fee, then in Dec. 2010 wrote a promissory note to the Galiano project for $600,000. Since that time, TLC has only paid the Galiano project $134,000.

Although TLC said the wishes of Dr. Kleiman have been honored, her children think otherwise.  Dr. Kleiman’s two children say they are not happy that a large portion of the money their mother gave to the charity is unaccounted for.  “She had a very specific wish.  It’s so sad, for my mom, and for the others who are being affected [by TLC’s financial troubles].” 

TLC is currently undergoing restructuring under CCAA rules in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.  TLC will present its “plan of arrangement” to the creditors before being sent to the courts for approval.

See Susan Lazaruk, B.C. Family’s Trust Broken As Charity Bequest Still Unfulfilled Several Years After Donation, The Province, Jan. 5, 2014. 

January 5, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Inheritance Woes


Many estates attorneys have witnessed cases of sibling rivalry that have shocked their conscience.  Not only do jealous siblings spark inheritance wars, but issues involving second marriages, glitches in the will, poorly worded phrases and assumptions are also infamous for causing heartache after the estate is settled.  “Sometimes parents themselves set the needs of destruction of their own family by not doing proper planning.  Some parents keep their heads in the sand.” 

Many parents believe that dividing the inheritance equally is the best thing to do, “But equality isn’t always fairness and doesn’t mean the kids won’t fight.”  Parents should do what they want with their money, but they should consider the consequences. 

In drawing up a will, it is suggested to include a “family law clause.”  This protects the income generated from an inheritance should the child later separate or divorce.  If the inheritance has been kept in the child’s name, then it is safe, but the money earned from it is not.  “This can cause so much grief, accounting for all the money made from the inheritance and giving half to the spouse.  The family law clause protects against that.” 

A trust is another mechanism to control money.  If a child has drug or alcohol problems, parents might leave the inheritance in a trust that pays an income through the child’s life rather than having them get one lump sum.  “If parents didn’t like their son-in-law, they could set up a trust for their daughter’s inheritance specifying that when she died, the money goes to their grandchildren.” 

See Nancy J. White, Parents Should Ask: ‘Will My Children Be Talking After I Die?’ The Star, Jan 2, 2015.

January 2, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)