Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wills of WWI Soldiers Garner Huge Interest

WWI SoldierAs I have previously discussed, last year the wills of thousands of fallen British soldiers from WWI were published online by Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS). The historic documents that were found in the pockets of the soldiers have garnered huge interest from scholars, historians, and the general public. The site has received over a million searches for these wills and over 10,000  individuals have purchased their own copy of one of the wills.

See Ministry of Justice, Over One Million Searches for War Heroes’ Wills, GOV.UK, Aug. 29, 2014.

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

September 5, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Local Politician Leaves Detailed Will, Deteriorating Estate

WillSteve Flood, who died three years ago, left a legacy of fighting corruption and uncovering political scandal as former Luzerne County controller in Pennsylvania. When Flood died at age 67 he had a detailed will in place that left generous gifts to close friends and academic institutions. Flood’s will also specified that any items in his estate linked to Adolf Hitler and his American medals could not ever be sold, but could be made available to the public by lending them to museums.  Despite the detail Flood included in his will, his executors are facing challenges in settling his estate due to unexpected financial pitfalls that affected Flood after he wrote his will, such as the recession negatively affecting his investments and a stroke that left him unable to work.

See Jennifer Learn-Andes, Steve Flood’s Estate is a Tangled Web, Times Leader, Aug. 30, 2014.

September 4, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prince Harry and Prince William to Inherit Diana’s Wedding Dress

Princess_Diana_wedding_dressAs I have previously discussed, Prince Harry will inherit more than £10 million this month when he turns 30. Even though his share from his mother’s estate is equal to the share received by Prince William, Prince Harry will receive more due to the interest that has accrued since Prince William received his share in 2012. Additionally, Prince William and Prince Harry will receive other items such as Princess Diana’s wedding dress, which has been cared for by her brother until both princes reach age 30.

See Corey Charlton, Prince Harry to Inherit £10 Million Share of Diana’s Fortune When he Turns 30 Next Month, Aug. 31, 2014.

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

September 4, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Six Financial Steps for the Newly Single


It can often be difficult adjusting to life after divorce both emotionally and financially.  Here are six financial steps for the newly single:

  1. Finalize Finances. Make sure that the terms of your divorce settlement are actually executed, including changing the way financial accounts are titled, transferring divided assets into new accounts, executing any necessary quitclaim deeds, etc.
  2. Disinherit Your Ex.  Prepare a new will, trust, medical directives, and power of attorney.  Select new beneficiaries on all retirement accounts and insurance policies. 
  3. Check Credit Reports.  It is important you establish a list of liabilities that need to have your name of your ex’s name removed from them. 
  4. Don’t Make Irreversible Decisions.  Think strategically rather than emotionally.  Undoing a rash decision can cost you a lot of money down the road.
  5. Think Strategically.  Although you may need to purchase a new car or house, be strategic about it.  If you need cash, do not liquidate your retirement accounts.  A better option may be to open a line of credit.
  6. Have a Team in Place.  Surround yourself with a CPA, trust attorney, and financial adviser who all share your values and possess a strong desire to work with you to preserve your income, protect your assets, and build your net worth.

See Steph Wagner, Newly Single? Here Are 6 Financial Steps Just For You, Philly.com, Sept. 2, 2014.

September 3, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Illinois Probate Law Creates Presumption of Fraud

Anti-FraudIllinois has passed a new law that creates enhanced protection against elder financial abuse by non-family member caregivers. The new law creates a presumption in favor of voiding a transfer of property that is through a transfer instrument, such as a will, if the transfer is over $20,000. The law applies to transfers that are to someone defined by the statute as a “caregiver,” which excludes family members. The law will affect challenged transfers that are made through a transfer instrument that is executed on or after Jan. 1, 2015.

See Jeffrey R. Gottlieb, New Illinois Law Questions Bequests to Non-Family Caregivers, Illinois Estate Plan, Sept. 2, 2014.

September 3, 2014 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lou Reed’s Executors Request Surprisingly Low Payment

Lou ReedAs I have previously discussed, the estate of Velvet Underground singer Lou Reed has increased to $20 million since his death last year and is now worth $30 million. Compared to executors of other famous estates, Reed’s executors will be paid a small sum for fees, as they are requesting a total of $220,000. In contrast, the executors for Michael Jackson’s estate are being paid 10 percent, which results in a huge sum considering just one business deal of the estate with Sony was for $250 million.

See Bonnie Kraham, Trusts Can Keep an Estate Private, Times-Herald-Record, Aug. 28. 2014.

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

September 2, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

New Case: Parker v. Benoist


A recent case from the Supreme of Mississippi held that forfeiture provisions in wills in Mississippi are enforceable unless the will contest has been founded upon probable cause and made in good faith. 

This decision comes after siblings Bronwyn Benoist Parker and William Benoist litigated the will of their father, who granted significantly more property to William and less to Bronwyn than a previous will executed in 1998.  Bronwyn alleged William had unduly influenced their father, who was suffering from dementia and drug addiction, into creating a new will, which included a forefeiture clause that revoked benefits to any named beneficiary who contested the will.  

The Supreme Court of Mississippi held that Bronwyn had sufficiently shown that their suit was brought in good faith and founded upon probable cause.  Thus, the Court reversed the decision of the Chancery Court, allowing Bronwyn to inherit in accordance with her father’s 2010 will.  Parker v. Benoist, 2014 WL 4243763 (Miss.)

Special thanks to Howard M. Zaritsky for bringing this case to my attention.

August 30, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Fiduciary Selection

BeyerI recently published an article entitled, A Guide to Fiduciary Selection, Estate Planning Developments for Texas Professionals (July 2014).  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

Your clients must exercise great care in selecting fiduciaries such as executors, trustees, and agents. These decisions may affect the client and the client’s family members for many years. Decisions regarding the appropriate persons to select are, naturally, for your clients to make. However, you have a duty to explain to your clients the factors they should consider before making designations in wills, trusts and powers of attorney. This article focuses on these considerations.

The article begins with a discussion of legal criteria based on the law of Texas. 

The remainder of the article has general application and discusses the factors from a practical standpoint which a client should consider as well as the pros and cons of using a corporate fiduciary and of appointing co-fiduciaries.

August 30, 2014 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Understanding Probate Court Litigation


A recent case decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals serves as an important reminder that probate court litigation differs procedurally from other types of litigation.  Thus, when confronted with a will contest or other probate proceeding, it is best to consult with someone who specializes in that type of fiduciary litigation. 

In In re Estate of Loyd, an heir of Virginia Childs Loyd, Jack attempted to object to a petition to probate the will on grounds of undue influence.  The trial court dismissed Jack’s caveat as untimely and the appellate court subsequently agreed. 

After the petition to probate the will was filed, the probate court ordered heirs to file any objections to the petition within 13 days.  The executor sought to dismiss Jack’s caveat as untimely and it was dismissed because Jack missed the deadline. 

Although this was a short amount of time to answer, the court was persuaded by Jack’s argument that he was away from his residence and had no actual knowledge of the petition.  He was therefore barred from challenging the will.

See Luke Lantta, In Georgia, The Time to File A Caveat May Be Short And Unforgiving, Brian Cave Litigation, Aug. 27, 2014.

August 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The Most Litigated Will in History

Girard CollegeA Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas recently considered a request from the trustees of the Stephen Girard Trust, a charitable trust that created Girard College, to end the school’s residential and high school programs. Girard College was originally created through the detailed will of Stephen Girard to educate, house, clothe, and feed orphan boys. Over the years, the school has developed and changed away from Girard’s original intent for the school. The school now allows minority and female students. However, the Philadelphia court’s decision denied the trustees' request to cut the requested programs due to how inconsistent the changes would be to the intent reflected in what the court described as “the most litigated will in history.”

See Katherine C. Pearson, The Latest Ruling on “The Most Litigated Will in History,” Elder Law Prof Blog, Aug. 28, 2014; Neil E. Hendershot, Philadelphia Court Upholds Stephen Girard’s Intentions, PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog, Aug. 27, 2014.

August 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)