Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Egyptian Woman Uses Christian Doctrine to Fight Unequal Islamic Inheritance Laws

Huda-Nasrallah1Huda Nasrallah, a 40-year-old human rights lawyer in Egypt who is also a Coptic Christian, has faced three judges to tackle the Islamic law of the country that dictates that women only inherit half of what males inherit. She is arguing that she should be entitled to the exact same share of her father's estate as her brothers (all of which are on her side), and she is using Christian doctrine to do so. Two prior judges have ruled against her, citing Islamic law that favor men and using it as their justification in their decisions.

Their father, a former state clerk, passed away in December of last year, leaving a 4-story apartment in a lower income neighborhood of Cairo as well as a bank deposit. The siblings filed a request for inheritance at a local court, and Nasrallah invoked a church-sanctioned Coptic bylaw that calls for equal distribution of inheritance. A final verdict is expected to be handed down later this month.

A 2016 ruling from a Cairo court favored a Coptic woman who also challenged Islamic inheritance laws, but recent cases and the sentiment in the nation does not bode well for the minority believer. Egypt's Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni religious institution in the Muslim world, vehemently dismissed the proposal that called for equal inheritance rights. He claimed that it was contradictory to Islamic law and destabilizing to Muslim societies, fearing that if the state offers equal property rights to Christian women that Muslim women will demand the same.

See Caleb Parke, Egyptian Woman Uses Christian Doctrine to Fight Unequal Islamic Inheritance Laws, Fox News, November 15, 2019.

November 16, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 15, 2019

Article on When is an Execution Error Harmless: Electronic Wills Raise New Harmless Error Issues

ElecSusan N. Gary recently published an Article entitled, When is an Execution Error Harmless: Electronic Wills Raise New Harmless Error Issues, Probate & Property Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 6 (Nov/Dec 2019). Provided below is the introduction to the Article:

The focus of the harmless error doctrine is the intent of the decedent when the decedent created a writing the decedent may have intended to be a will. Using the harmless error doctrine, a court can excuse a defect in the execution of formalities if the proponent of a will can establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the testator intended the writing to be the testator's will. The will formalities serve as proxies for testamentary intent, and the harmless error doctrine replaces strict compliance with the formalities with direct evidence of that intent.

November 15, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning—Summer 2020 Conference

The announcement below comes to us from Kelly S. Terry, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and Clinical Programs, Ben J. Altheimer Professor of Law, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law:

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning—Summer 2020 Conference

Effective Instruction in Online and Hybrid Legal Education

June 11—13, 2020

University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law

Little Rock, Arkansas  

Conference Theme:  The future of legal education has arrived, with more and more law schools moving toward teaching part or all of their J.D. program online.  During this conference, we will explore how law professors can design and implement methods for teaching effectively in online environments, including both synchronous and asynchronous formats.  After an opening plenary examining data regarding the effectiveness of online education, the subsequent plenaries and concurrent workshops will address the following topics in the context of online and hybrid courses and programs:  course and program design, assessment of student learning, active learning and student engagement, teaching methods, providing feedback, and collaborative learning.

Conference Structure:  The conference will consist of three plenary sessions and a series of concurrent workshops that will take place on Thursday, June 11; Friday, June 12; and the morning of Saturday, June 13.  The conference will open with an informal reception on the evening of Wednesday, June 10.  Details about the conference will be available on the website of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, www.lawteaching.org 

Registration Information:  The conference fee for participants is $285, which includes materials, meals during the conference (three breakfasts and three lunches), and the welcome reception on Wednesday, June 10.  The conference fee for presenters is $185.  Details regarding the registration process will be provided in future announcements.

November 14, 2019 in Conferences & CLE, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and Charitable Giving: Impact and Planning Strategies

Charity1Julie R. Sirrs recently published an Article entitled, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and Charitable Giving: Impact and Planning Strategies, Probate & Property Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 6 (Nov/Dec 2019). Provided  below is the introduction to the Article:

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) effective January 1, 2018, represents one of the most significant changes to the US Tax Code in decades. One area in which the TCJA appeared to formally change little was the deductibility of charitable gifts. Other changes under the TCJA, however, particularly those resulting in dramatic reduction in the number of taxpayers who itemize, have had a profound impact of charitable giving and require new strategies for charitable gift planning. This article will explore those changes and suggest opportunities to maximize the tax benefits of charitable giving under the new law.

November 14, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

American-Born Countess Leaves $41M Fortune to Interior Designers, Not Husband's Son

ParkGloria Clary was the second wife of the eighth Earl Bathurst, and after his death became the Dowager Countess Bathurst. She decided to forgo her American citizenship in 2008, allegedly to get out of paying U.S. taxes, and reportedly had a sour relationship with her late husband's son, Lord Allen Bathurst. But recent news still came to a shock to the estate: Dowager Countess Bathurst completely wrote her step-son out of her will, opting instead to give her $41 million fortune to two interior designers. She had passed away in 2018 at the age of 90.

After the Earl "Barmy Bathurst" died in 2011, his son inherited a tony 15,000-acre estate in Gloucestershire called "Cirencester Park," where the Countess and the late Earl had lived. Allen said that there were legal battles recently over whether or not she would have access to the sprawling home for the "use and enjoyment" of the family's collection of heirlooms, which was worth £13 million, or approximately $16.7 million.

"Having married into the family, she was happy to use the family name," the Lord added. "It was just disappointing that she could not follow in the manners, standards and loyalty of the family of the past."

See Stephanie Pagones, American-Born Countess Leaves $41M Fortune to Interior Designers, Not Husband's Son, Fox Business, November 13, 2019.

November 13, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE on Current Developments in Estate and Tax Planning 2019

ALI CLE and ACTEC are conducting a webcast entitled Current Developments in Estate and Tax Planning 2019 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Provided below is a description of the event.

Why You Should Attend

Do you want to provide your estate planning clients with the best possible advice going into the new year? Are you up-to-date on the most significant developments to have come out of 2019? Set aside just 90 minutes to gain valuable insights on emerging trends in estate and tax planning, and learn how the newest cases, IRS guidance, and proposed regulations will impact your practice and your clients’ estate plans.

What You Will Learn

The faculty, all Fellows of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and highly-experienced estate and tax planning practitioners, anticipate discussing:

• Inflation adjustments
• IRS Priority Guidance Plan
• Court decisions of significance, including: Kress, Jones, Dieringer, Kaestner / Fielding
• Presidential candidate proposals
• SECURE Act
• Anti-clawback regulations
• Estate and gift tax proposed legislation
• Uniform basis PLRs
• PLR on §1041 & grantor trusts
• Regulations on 170 SALT limitation workaround
• IRS Chief Counsel Advice on high/low trading prices

Additional breaking topics may be added as we get closer to the date of the program.

All registrants will receive a set of downloadable course materials to accompany the program.

Who Should Attend

Estate planners and other related professionals will benefit from this CLE on estate and tax planning developments jointly offered by the ALI CLE and ACTEC.

November 13, 2019 in Conferences & CLE, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, New Cases, New Legislation, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Article on Fixed Intentions: Wills, Living Wills, and End-of-Life Decision Making

WillJane B. Baron recently published an Article entitled, Fixed Intentions: Wills, Living Wills, and End-of-Life Decision Making, Elder Law eJournal (2019). Provided below is an abstract of the Article. 

Contemporary trusts and estates law is built on the premise that individuals can and should have fixed intentions with respect to the disposition of their property at death. These intentions can and should be fixed in a written document, and that document can and should be fixed against other outside evidence of intention. Experience with end-of-life health care decision making gives reason to question these premises. In the health care context, intentions have proven to be fluid, and the documents purporting to record individuals’ wishes have often proved unreliable.

This paper examines the implications for wills of the literature on end-of-life health care decision making. Advance health care directives and property wills are alike pre-commitments, attempts in the present to bind the future, but studies in the end-of-life health care decision making context show there are serious issues with this process. Individuals simply do not care to decide about post-competency treatment, those who do make such decisions often change their minds, and cognitive biases operate to limit individuals’ ability to predict accurately in the present what they will want in the future. Many of these issues arise also in the context of end-of-life property decision making and unsettle many of wills law’s fundamental premises about intention.

The final part of the paper suggests avenues for further empirical study and explores the practical significance of this potential research for estates law, particularly the potential to displace the vision of the estates attorney as a passive scrivener who simply asks what the client wants and writes it down. It may be that the wishes expressed in a will may be formed in response to, and shaped by, the attorney’s questions rather than being brought out by those questions. The paper concludes by asking whether there might be a way to honor fluid intentions in the property context that does not destroy the utility of testamentary documents as a safe harbor.

November 12, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Season Ticket Transfers and Estate Planning: Football [Michigan]

FootballWhen putting together a will, often times people diligently lay out a laundry list of specific requests that have immense sentimental value. The gifts could involve cars, jewelry passed down through the family, or pieces of art. But for those that share a special pastime of watching sports with a child or other beneficiary, the ability to pass on season tickets might be one of the most memorable and meaningful component of an estate plan. Depending on the sports program, this ability could be attainable.

  • Detroit Lions
    • Season tickets can be transferred with prior approval of the ticket office, but partial transfers or subdividing accounts are generally not approved.
  • Michigan Wolverines
    • Officially, only a surviving spouse can be transferred season tickets, but the office may be willing to work with other family members. Since 2015, tickets can be transferred while alive during the month of December, with a nonrefundable transfer fee. Parking and priority points (used for bowl and away games) are not transferrable.
  • Michigan State Spartans
    • During life or at death, season tickets can only be transferred to the ticket holder's spouse, unless the holder has acquired special permission.

For other states' professional and collegiate teams, be sure to inquire about their season ticket policies.

See Rebecca K. Wrock, Season Ticket Transfers and Estate Planning: Football, Varnum Law, November 11, 2019.

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

November 12, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Wealth Tax Plan Worrying US Billionaires

100sDemocratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has made a potential federal wealth tax a pillars of her campaign. This would evolve the system in which the US federal government gets the majority of its revenue (income tax) by not only taxing the gains on investments, but also on the principal of those investments. A federal wealth tax would hit a household’s complete net worth every year, falling on all assets including homes, portfolios of stocks and bonds, art, land, etc. 

Warren has proposed what her campaign calls an “ultra-millionaire” tax of 2%  on assets above $50 million, plus a 1% t “billionaire surtax” on assets above $1 billion. Another candidate, Bernie Sanders, has put forth a plan that starts at 1%  on net worth above $32 million, and raises taxes in steps until it arrives at 8%  for wealth over $10 billion. Bill Gates is worth $107 billion, and under Warren's plan would have to cough up $6.4 billion while under Sanders' plan his invoice would stand at $8.4 billion.

Extreme wealth inequality is the reasoning for the push for taxing a person's wealth instead of simply their income or capital gains. The Unites States has the largest wealth inequality of any developed country and as of 2012 22% of the country's wealth could be found among the .1% richest Americans.  The wealthy are no longer ashamed of avoiding taxes, though this was not the case decades ago. “The attitude of people in power matters a lot,” said Emmanuel Saez, an economist from the University of California at Berkeley who designed the ultra-millionaire tax. “Franklin Roosevelt spent a lot of time on the radio shaming tax dodgers.” 

See Brendan Greeley, The Wealth Tax Plan Worrying US Billionaires, Financial Times, November 11, 2019.

November 12, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Cars Singer Ric Ocasek Cuts Supermodel Wife Paulina Porizkova Out of Will

Ocasek-divorce-2Cars' front man Ric Ocasek, 75, passed away in September while recovering from a recent surgery and was found by his estranged wife, Paulina Porizkova, when she was bringing him coffee. Though this act is undeniably sweet, the two were in the middle of a divorce after being married for 28 years. Citing this, Ocasek laid out in his will that his wife was not to receive any portion of his estate, “Even if I should die before our divorce is final … Paulina is not entitled to any elective share … because she has abandoned me.”

A filing listed with Ocasek’s will show that his assets include $5 million in “copyrights," just $100,000 in tangible personal property and $15,000 in cash. This amount may seem low for a rock legend, but the copyrights were not detailed, and there may more stashed away in trusts to protect his privacy. 

His wife was not the only one that appeared to get the short end of the stick - two of his six sons also were not designated as beneficiaries. But they may have been compensated in other ways, either before his death or through a trust. 

Ocasek signed the will on Aug. 28, less than a month before his death, and the executor is named as his “friend and business manager,” Mario Testani.

See Priscilla DeGregory and Aaron Feis, Cars Singer Ric Ocasek Cuts Supermodel Wife Paulina Porizkova Out of Will, Page Six, November 7, 2019.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) and Jim Hartnett, Jr. (Dallas, Texas Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 11, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)