Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Article on Reducing Litigation Costs for Holographic Wills

NoteWillEmily Robey-Phillips recently published an Article entitled, Reducing Litigation Costs for Holographic Wills, 30 Quinnipiac Prob. L.J. 314 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Holographic wills, which must be at least partially handwritten and do not require attestation, remain controversial despite their long history. Opponents of holographs argue that holographs produce excessive litigation. Proponents deny that charge and argue that holographs expand access to testacy, which far outweighs any costs.

Assuming arguendo that holographs do produce too much litigation, this Article explores the reasons why. Analyzing the case law, this Article identifies several areas in which courts struggle in probating holographs. It recommends adopting a series of presumptions and safe harbors to reduce litigation costs surrounding holographic wills. In this manner, this Article seeks to move the needle on the holographic wills debate in favor of allowing them.

October 5, 2017 in Articles, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 2, 2017

How will Hugh Hefner's estate 'look after' his widow's finances?

44CE6D8E00000578-4928382-Anna_Berglund_Hugh_Hefner_and_Crystal_Harris_arrive_at_the_Kandy-a-36_1506624481829Hugh Hefner died this past Wednesday at age 91. His estate is currently estimated to be worth almost $40 million, not including the value of the Playboy Mansion, which was sold for over $100 million. While not insignificant, this is a far cry from Hefner’s estimated $1 billion (current dollars) net worth at the peak of his celebrity and success. Hefner left the bulk of his fortune to the University of Southern California film school, various charities, and his four children.

Hefner’s widow, Crystal Harris, will not receive anything from the estate given a prenuptial agreement she signed when the couple married in 2012. Despite this, it is still possible that Harris will be taken care of through careful planning on Hefner’s part. While uncertain, some estate planners have pointed to a number of possible investment vehicles that could provide Harris with lifetime income while avoiding the probate process. Hefner may have set up a Qualified Terminable Interest Property (Q-TIP) trust that would provide for Harris during her life. Charlie Douglas, the wealth planning director at Cedar Rowe Partners, noted that such trusts are usually limited to paying expenses "for health, support, maintenance and education," but may be even more narrowly tailored.

See Greg Iacurci How will Hugh Hefner's estate 'look after' his widow's finances?, Investment News, September 29, 2017.

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

October 2, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

CLE on Estate Planning: A How-To Guide

0000000 CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a conference entitled, Estate Planning: A How-To Guide, which will take place on Thursday, October 05, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza Pittsburgh South in Pittsburgh, PA. Provided below is a description of the event:

Program Description

A Detailed Overview of Estate Planning Procedure and Strategy

Do you have all the knowledge and skills you need to draft tailored testamentary documents and minimize tax burdens for each of your clients? This two-day comprehensive course will become your ultimate guide to estate planning. From client intake through tax planning and business succession strategies, you will receive tips, sample forms and answers to your most pressing questions to help you excel. Get the latest knowledge on effective will and trust planning techniques - register today!

  • Get two full days of estate planning training, so you can help clients protect and transfer assets exactly as they intend.
  • Get practical will and trust drafting skills to speed up the process and give the testator's last wishes power.
  • Stave off conflicts of interest with a clear determination of who your client is from the start.
  • Explore the pros and cons of using a revocable living trust in the will's stead and find out when it's a better option.
  • Explore the functions and mechanics of major trust structures - and make certain you choose the right tool for each job.
  • Give each provision full power with precise word choices - get sample forms to speed up the process.
  • Make sure your remarried and unmarried clients know the default inheritance laws and help them make sure the right beneficiaries are assigned.
  • Minimize the taxable estate with effective tax planning techniques.
  • Phrase the fiduciary and beneficiary designations to leave no room for interpretation.
  • Help your clients make the tough medical decisions regarding long-term care, end-of-life and organ donation.
  • Learn how to verify and document the testator's competency to close the door on any potential will contests.

Who Should Attend

This basic-to-intermediate level two-day seminar is designed for:

  • Attorneys
  • Estate and Financial Planners
  • Trust Officers
  • Paralegals
  • Accountants
  • Tax Preparers

Course Content

DAY 1

  1. Client Screening and Intake
  2. Key Elements of Effective Wills
  3. Basic Tax Planning
  4. Documenting Long-Term Care, Incapacity and End-of-Life Decisions
  5. Planning for Unmarried and Remarried Couples
  6. Business Succession Planning

DAY 2

  1. Trusts 101
  2. Who is the Fiduciary?
  3. Revocable Living Trusts
  4. Trusts Used for Tax Reduction - Drafting Tips and Samples
  5. Grantor Trusts
  6. Ethical Considerations

Continuing Education Credit

Continuing Legal Education

Credit Hrs State 
CLE 14.40 -  NJ*
CLE 14.00 -  NY*
CLE 12.00 -  PA*

Financial Planners – Financial Planners: 14.00

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – CPE for Accountants/NASBA: 14.00 *

* denotes specialty credits

October 1, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Article on Formal Requirements for Matrimonial Agreements and Testaments in a Comparative Perspective

160_F_139592152_EQQGowRpStTA2YktHVuxNGtIgsH4CuoGSamuel Fulli-Lemaire recently posted an Article entitled, Formal Requirements for Matrimonial Agreements and Testaments in a Comparative Perspective, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

A significant number of recent studies have dealt with property relations between spouses and succession law from a comparative perspective. In both cases, formalism is a salient issue whenever private autonomy comes into play. This paper deals successively with marital agreements and testaments, the two acts to which most of the issues relate. As far as marital agreements are concerned, the various comparative studies that have been conducted reveal that formal requirements vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. However, this observation must be qualified by taking into account the scope of review exercised by courts over the agreement at the time of the divorce or litigation: often relaxed formal requirements are balanced by broad judicial review. Regarding testaments, a wide-ranging study reveals a steady ebb of formalism across all jurisdictions. Remarkably, it affects all kinds of testaments, and this trend may be further reinforced by a shift towards "property rights, interests and assets created or transferred otherwise than by succession", since part of their appeal is their greater flexibility when it comes to formal requirements.

September 30, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Article on Elder Law Issues and Recent Developments 2016-2017

Elder-LawElizabeth Ruth Carter recently posted an Article entitled, Elder Law Issues and Recent Developments 2016-2017, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

These materials are part of the 2017 LSU Recent Developments CLE. The paper includes recent ethical developments; scam and abuse prevention and reporting; recent developments in mandate and interdiction; recent developments in Louisiana's medical consent law, recent developments in living wills and advance directives; recent developments with anatomical gifts and bodily remains; tax; and recent developments in criminal law.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 28, 2017 in Articles, Conferences & CLE, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Waiting for the Other Shoe

F6b170f28abd909b187cb856c3cd3ed9--children-play-children-booksAt the time of her death in 2009, Victoria Dieringer held the majority of both nonvoting and voting stock in Dieringer Properties Inc. (DPI). DPI managed residential and commercial properties primarily located in the Portland, Oregon area. These stock holdings comprised the bulk of Dieringer’s estate, which she left to a number of charities in trust through a pour-over provision in her will. Dieringer intended for the gifts to these charities to be funded through sale of the corporate stock. DPI redeemed the stock to fund the trust, but did so at substantially reduced rates relative to its reported value. Despite this, the trust executor reported the decedent’s stock at its full value on the estate tax return and sought a charitable deduction reflecting the reported value. The Tax Court held that this was not allowed and assessed a tax deficiency and penalty of over $5 million. The case is on appeal, but it looks as though tumultuous times are ahead for the executor.

See Russell A. Willis III, Waiting for the Other Shoe, taxnotes, September 18, 2017.

Special thanks to Russell A. Willis III, J.D., LL.M., director, The Greystocke Project, for bringing this article to my attention. 

September 28, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Cases, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Article on The Texas Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act: A Primer for Estate Planners

59602861511475746741_YqNfYocymAGerry W. Beyer recently posted an Article entitled, The Texas Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act: A Primer for Estate Planners, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Prudent professionals must address digital assets in all estates they plan or administer. The 2017 Texas Legislature enacted the Texas Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act as Chapter 2001 of the Estates Code which adds clarity to the steps you need to take when planning and administering estates. This article aims to provide the information you need to be well-informed about the cyberspace-estate planning interface.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 26, 2017 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Article on Forced Heirship in Spanish Law

WillieSergio Cámara Lapuente recently posted an Article entitled, Forced Heirship in Spanish Law, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Although the Spanish Civil Code is especially restrictive on the will of the deceased since it imposes the "post mortem" duty to protect the family by means of fixed shares called "legítimas", this system has been softened in the latest legal reforms, testamentary practices and a new, more flexible orientation of case law on the causes for disinheritance since 2014. Legal institutions such as the "mejora" ("improvement" of some of the forced heirs), the non-penalising nature for the testator on the rules on unfair disinheritance or intentional omission (preterition) or payment of the legítima in cash in some cases give the testator some margin for decision-making despite the high amount of the forced share (two thirds of the estate for the descendants). Nevertheless, the legal system is still held to be excessively restrictive in the eyes of society and the legal community alike. This has therefore brought about various different proposals for reform, ranging the keeping of the current system but with various reforms such as reducing the forced heirs and amounts, converting it into a post mortem maintenance right in the measure of the real needs of the relatives and spouse or the abolishment of the forced heir altogether. This paper examines the history of forced heirship in Spain and assess critically the law in force as for the beneficiaries, the calculation and protection measures, the usual techniques to override in practice and the arguments in favor of the preservation of the forced heirship or in favor of a greater freedom of testation, with account of the latest developments in case law and the recent 2017 proposals to reform the Law of Succession in this respect.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 22, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

CLE on The Probate Process From Start to Finish

0000000 CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a conference entitled, The Probate Process From Start to Finish, which will take place Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at the Holiday Inn Louisville East-Hurstbourne in Louisville, KY. Provided below is a description of the event:

Program Description

Handling Probate from Initial Notices Through the Estate Closing

This "a through z" guide to probate is designed to take you from the first days of the estate timeline through all the steps of marshaling and valuing estate assets, locating and paying the creditors, paying the beneficiaries, and laying the estate to rest. You will receive the latest updates on the probate court procedure and tax laws, practical guidance from experienced probate attorneys on using spousal elective share and resolving estate disputes, and sample forms and checklists to speed up the administration process. Build a solid foundation for your probate practice - register today!

  • Learn the procedure, rules and practical steps to effectively administer a probate.
  • Determine what form of administration is appropriate for a specific probate case.
  • Clarify the order of inheritance for an estate when there is no will.
  • Locate assets and obtain ownership documents more easily with a list of local and online resources.
  • Get a complete view of the sequence of events that must happen before the estate can be closed.
  • Identify common actions that trigger malpractice liability and get tips for staying in the clear.
  • Get practical advice for honoring or contesting all claims against the estate.
  • Find new ways to resolve liquidity issues that delay estate closing and final distributions and payments.
  • Learn what common closing mistakes can allow the estate to be re-opened, and how to avoid them.

Who Should Attend

This basic level seminar is designed for professionals who want to be more effective in handling the probate process, including:

  • Attorneys
  • Paralegals
  • CPAs and Accountants
  • Financial Planners and Wealth Managers
  • Tax Planning Specialists
  • Trust Officers
  • Tax Preparers

Course Content

  1. Initial Filing in Probate Court and Estate Timeline
  2. Law of Intestate Succession
  3. Inventory and Appraisement
  4. Probate Property vs. Non-Probate Assets
  5. Handling Claims Against the Estate
  6. Tax Reporting and Post-Mortem Tax Matters
  7. Sale of Property and Distributions
  8. Final Accounting and Closing the Estate
  9. Probate Disputes and Litigation
  10. Ethics

Continuing Education Credit

Continuing Legal Education – CLE: 6.75 *

Financial Planners – Financial Planners: 8.00

International Association for Continuing Education Training – IACET: 0.70

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – CPE for Accountants/NASBA: 8.00 *

Professional Achievement in Continuing Education – PACE: 8.00 *

* denotes specialty credits

September 21, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Article on Relaxed Formalism: The Validation of Flawed Wills

ElementsDoron Menashe Sr. recently posted an Article entitled, Relaxed Formalism: The Validation of Flawed Wills, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Section 25 of the Succession Law, 19651 authorizes the courts to validate flawed wills if certain “fundamental elements” of the will are present and the court has no doubt that the will “represents the true and free wishes of the testator.” This Paper attempts to explore the meaning and implications of the statutory burden of proof set by Section 25. The section was amended in such a manner as to end case law disputes, arising over the years, regarding the character of flaws which may be overcome through the use of this burden. Such flaws had been known as “dynamic elements,” as opposed to flaws which are so constitutive as to preclude the use of Section 25. 

In Part II, I briefly present background regarding the conceptual and normative framework in which probate law functions. In Part III, I discuss Section 25’s role within the Succession Law and in the general framework of inheritance law; I will also examine the interpretation of Section 25 in the Supreme Court case law. According to this interpretation, judicial examination must determine beyond any doubt that the will, though flawed, expresses the free and true wishes of the testator. I criticize the approach taken by the Supreme Court. Its interpretation, even if practicable, seems to lay an unbearable burden on the party wishing to validate the will, and is at odds with the objective of the Succession Law in general and of Section 25 in particular: realization, to the extent possible, of the testator’s wishes. In Part IV, I delineate a general theory of the “wishes” protected by and based in the Succession Law. In Part V I use this theory to develop a model for the analysis of the burden of proof set by Section 25. I do this using disutility equations based on classic considerations in decision-making under conditions of uncertainty; my conclusion is that the burden of proof currently imposed by courts on a beneficiary seeking to validate a flawed will is considerably stricter than it should ideally be.

Finally, I summarize, and touch on “heretical” doubts as to whether the realization of the testator’s wishes can indeed be established as the logical base of inheritance law.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 20, 2017 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)