Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kirk Kerkorian Leaves Behind A $2 Billion Estate

Kirk kerkorianI have previously discussed the estate of the late billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.  The casino tycoon Kirk Kerkorian who passed away recently at the age of 98 has left behind an estate that is worth about $2 billion.  Kerkorian’s will, which was filed in Las Angeles superior court, has designated several beneficiaries who will each be receiving millions of dollars.  Anthony Mandekic, the secretary and treasurer of the Tracinda Corp., has been named in the court documents as the executor of Kerkorian’s estate.

See Casino Tycoon Left an Estate Worth More Than $2 Billion, West Side Today, June 29, 2015.

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

June 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Estate Planning For A Widow

CoffinThe loss of a spouse is one of the worst traumas a person can endure and will often leave one boggled on how to manage an estate that had traditionally been managed by two. But there are ways to minimize having to make crucial decisions while still in a state of bewilderment and depression by following some of these tips:

  • Before death, spouses should seek professional help to draft wills for each one and clearly express how the estate is expected to pass. Being clear with wishes long before illness or death is the best way to protect the survivor.
  • Make sure each spouse has a bank account in their own name with enough funds to cover expenses after death. If joint bank accounts are frozen in probate then the survivor might find themselves in financial need.
  • Make sure all estate related documents, such as wills and life insurance policies, are updates with the names of the proper beneficiaries. Misnaming a person could lead to costly court cost and large sums of money passing to someone that was never intended.
  • The most important planning technique is to make sure that you have a network of friends and family who may help through a post death crisis. The emotional turmoil from losing a spouse may cause people to make poor decisions that could be avoided if there are trusted people around to advise a better course of action.

See Sandra MacGregor, The Widow's Guide To Estate Planning And Wealth Transfer, Forbes, June 2, 2015.

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

June 30, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE On 2015 Estate Planning and Probate Drafting

CLEThe Texas Bar Association is presenting a CLE entitled, Estate Planning and Probate Drafting 2015, October 8-9, 2015, at The Westin Houston Memorial City Hotel.  Here is why you should attend:

Topics Include:

  • Top 10 Considerations for Drafting to Avoid Litigation
  • 2015 Texas Estate and Trust Legislative Update
  • Is It Fair to Be Equal? Working with Equalization Provisions
  • Marital Property Issues in Drafting Planning Documents
  • The Agent Can Do WHAT?! Drafting Tips to Empower Agents While Protecting Principals Under a Power of Attorney

Course Amenities

  • Coffee and breakfast provided each morning
  • Lunch provided both days
  • Complimentary wireless connection in the meeting room
  • Convenient access to electrical connections - bring your laptop!
  • Networking Social on Thursday night (Houston site only)

June 30, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2015

How Showing Favoritism Can Divide Families

Family disputeIn this column, Carolyn Hax discusses the emotional turmoil that can split families when a parent shows favoritism or writes someone out of a will.  Hax responds to a letter sent by a sibling wondering if they should feel guilty about their brother being written out of their fathers will.  The brother in this situation was always treated as the family favorite but ended up being disinherited when he did not live up to his father’s expectations.  This column discusses why it is important to not be spiteful and to strive to hold families together.  It touches on the emotional pressures and difficulties that favorites often face and the tensions that they have with jealous siblings. 

See Carolyn Hax, Favoritism has tendency to fragment family ties, The Washington Post, June 26, 2015.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 29, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article On Probate In Alameda County, California

Article PictureDavid Horton (Professor, University of California, Davis - School of Law), recently published an article entitled, In Partial Defense of Probate: Evidence from Alameda County, California, 103 Georgetown Law Journal 605 (2015). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

For five decades, probate — the court-supervised administration of decedents’ estates — has been condemned as unnecessary, slow, expensive, and intrusive. This backlash has transformed succession in the U.S., as probate avoidance has become a booming industry and contract-like devices such as life insurance, transfer-on-death accounts, and revocable trusts have become the primary engines of intergenerational wealth transmission. Despite this hunger to privatize the inheritance process, we know very little about what happens in contemporary probate court. This Article improves our understanding of this issue by surveying every estate administration stemming from individuals who died in Alameda County, California in 2007. This original dataset of 668 cases challenges some of the most entrenched beliefs about probate. For one, although succession is widely seen as a tranquil process in which beneficiaries settle disputes amicably and pay a decedent’s debts voluntarily, both litigation and creditor’s claims are common. In addition, attorneys’ and personal representatives’ fees are far lower than assumed. The Article then uses these insights to critique the demand for probate avoidance, to contend that probate’s cautious approach to creditors should also govern non-probate transfers, and to suggest reforms to the probate process.

June 29, 2015 in Articles, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Advice On Distributing Assets

CalculationThis is an edited excerpt of The Tax & Legal Playbook by attorney and CPA Mark J. Kohler.  It examines the benefits of using a revocable living trust (RLT) to avoid probate and maintain a significant amount of control over distributions to beneficiaries.  Kohler also discusses how a marital bypass trust, also known as an A-B Trust, can be used by married couples to take advantage of personal estate tax exemptions.  This excerpt lists out the creative ways that people can distribute assets to children.  It offers advice on various techniques people can use to reduce estate tax liabilities. 

See Mark J. Kohler, Smart Estate Planning Tips for Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneur, June 25, 2015.

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

June 27, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Michigan Law Makes It Easier To Transfer A Cottage To A Family Member

CottageRecent changes to Michigan law will make it easier to transfer a cottage to an eligible family member without losing the homes property tax cap.  “In 1994 the Michigan legislature adopted “Proposal A” which effectively “caps” an owner’s property tax liability.”  The cap means that the property tax liability does not increase with the home’s fair market value.  The problem was that the cap was removed when ownership of the property was transferred, which meant the new owners would be given a new assessment that could potentially lead to substantially higher property tax liabilities.  The new law will keep the cap in place when a person transfers the property to an eligible family member.  This will make it easier for people to keep their cottages in the family after they die. 

See Jeffrey D. Koelzer, Cottage Owners, Relax: New Law Can Help Keep The Family Cottage In The Family, The National Law Review, June 24, 2015.

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

June 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Rules That LaVerne Toney Will Remain as Executor of B.B. King’s Estate

Bb king 3I have previously discussed the bitter legal dispute over the estate of late blues musician B.B. King.  In a recent development Las Vegas District Court Judge Gloria Sturman has held that LaVerne Toney will continue with her role as executor of B.B. King’s estate.  The judge held that B.B. King’s 2007 Will made it clear that his long term manager would be the executor of his state.  The legal dispute between King’s daughters and LaVerne Toney is likely to continue into the future. 

See Carri Geer Thevenot, Judge rules B.B. King’s manager will continue to run his estate, Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 25, 2015.

June 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Benson Family Seeks Interdiction Order From Appeals Court

Tom BensonThe daughter and grandchildren of Saints owner Tom Benson have appealed a denial of an interdiction requested by the family that was issued by a Orleans Parish District judge. The family sought to have control of various business transferred to their control based on the "hazy" state of Mr. Benson's memory and supposed mental incompetence. However, a recent trial found Mr. Benson to be competent to control his estate and refused to block a transfer of shares in two pro sport franchises. This suit is the latest in a series over the Benson business empire and will likely only represent the latest development in a never ending saga.

See Ousted heirs of Tom Benson appeal interdiction ruling, WWLTV, June 24, 2015.


June 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

North African Tribe Uses Mother's Bloodline To Dictate Inheritance

TuaregThe Tuareg people of North Africa have evolved unique customs when it comes to women's rights, among them being an emphasis on the female bloodline for inheritance. Any children from a marriage are considered to be of the mother's line and will have inheritance privileges based on that connection. The female line is favored due to the belief that a child's paternity is without doubt when it comes to a mother and is a more reliable method to track bloodlines than through the father. This is in stark contrast to the use of male preference inheritance rights that dominates the surrounding regions and truly sets the Tuareg apart in a unique way.

See Flora Drury, Sex and the Sahara: Striking photographs of the mysterious Islamic tribe..., Daily Mail, June 24, 2015.

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


June 25, 2015 in Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)