Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, November 28, 2022

Advanced Topics in Taxation Colloquium: Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

The Tax Program at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law has invited six leading academics from across the country to participate in the Spring 2023 Advanced Topics in Taxation Colloquium. This year’s colloquium is organized by Professor Gregg Polsky. All sessions take place on Wednesdays from 1:30 – 3:30pm.

Northwestern Flyer

Special thanks to Philip F. Postlewaite (Harry R. Borrow Professor of International Law, Director, Tax Program, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law) for bringing this series to my attention. 

November 28, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Speechifying and Scribbling—A Candid Discussion about the “Why” and “How” of Integrating Public Speaking and Presentations into Your Trusts and Estates Career

Stephen R. Akers (Bessemer Trust), Dana G. Fitzsimons, Jr. (Bessemer Trust), Terrence Franklin (Sacks, Glazier, Franklin & Lodise, LLP), Carol A. Harrington (McDermott Will & Emery), and Paul S. Lee (The Northern Trust Company) recently participated in “Speechifying and Scribbling— a Candid Discussion about the “Why” and “How” of Integrating Public Speaking and Presentations into Your Trusts and Estates Career” where they discussed the strategic use of speaking as a tool for career enhancement and spoke on topics like dealing with nervousness and stage fright, working with co-presenters, and how to maximize results. Provided below is an introduction to the discussion:

DANA: Welcome, and this is the program on public speaking for trust and estates audiences. I’m your moderator, Dana Fitzsimons, and I’m lucky to be joined by a panel of folks who really need no introduction. So, we’re going to skip that part and get on with it, other than to say this. Everyone’s really busy right now. Exemptions are high and fragile. Markets are roller coasters. People are scared, and staffing is thin. But when I asked these four insanely busy professionals to give still more time to help the rest of us, they couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. And that’s just one of the many reasons they are in that echelon of lawyers we all look up to and that we refer to by just their first names. So, it’s my honor to welcome and thank Carol, Steve, Terry, and Paul for joining us, and I’m looking forward, as I’m sure we all are, to learning from them. And thank you for attending and taking some time to invest in yourself and your career. And to keep things fun, none of us has any idea what the others are going to say.

We’re going to be exploring incorporating speaking and writing into your career from every angle—at least every angle we could think of when we put the program together. And I’ll speak just this one time for the whole panel and say that speaking and writing have been, for us and many others, a vital part of building successful careers. But before we get into the mechanics, we should be candid that it’s not without costs. Clients and firms are already demanding, and they sometimes demand everything from a lot of us. And our families need us too, and they’re not always patient with us being away from home even more. And professional activities don’t just cost time. They cost money, and life is expensive, and that may not be money that’s easy to spend. We need to be candid about these costs of building a career. So, we should start with this question: Why should we speak and write?

November 27, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Article: Technology—Probate: NFT Scams—Buyer Beware

Ross E. Bruch (Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.) recently published an article entitled, Technology— Probate: NFT Scams— Buyer Beware, ABA Probate & Property, November/December 2022. Provided below is an introduction to the article:

The year 2022 has been a rough year for digital assets. First, after reaching all-time highs in late 2021, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many other popular cryptocurrencies lost more than 70 percent of their market value earlier this year, erasing trillions of investment dollars. Second, multiple crypto exchanges either declared bankruptcy or limited withdrawals from their customers’ accounts to avoid a run on assets. Third, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged several crypto exchange employees with insider trading, which resulted in increased demand for Congressional regulation over digital assets and their markets. Among digital assets, this article focuses on a specific type of digital asset that is experiencing remarkable volatility—non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Like other digital assets, NFTs have faced their fair share of problems in the last year. Sales of NFTs have significantly dropped in both volume and value. According to Non-Fungible.com’s market tracker tool, NFT sales peaked in late 2021 and as of late summer 2022 stood at about 25 percent of their highest values. Admittedly, even after excluding the current market turmoil, I have some doubts about the functionality and value of a majority of existing NFTs. I believe the purported fundamentals of many NFTs are questionable at best. Furthermore, the NFT environment and various markets are ideal for scams and other fraudulent activity (more on that below). That being said, underlying NFT smart-contract technology appears to be useful in some capacities and will likely continue to appear in different formats and platforms for years or decades to come. In other words, I believe we are still in the very early stages of NFT development, and just as the internet of the late 90s barely resembles the ubiquitous digital resource we so heavily rely upon today, NFT naysayers should not immediately dismiss NFTs as merely a passing fad.

November 26, 2022 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 25, 2022

Article: Honoring the Intentions of a Loved One—The Importance of Advance Directives

Lindsey E. Wilkinson (Fox Rothschild LLP) recently published an article entitled, Honoring the Intentions of a Loved One— The Importance of Advanced Directives, ABA Probate & Property, November/December 2022. Provided below is an introduction to the article:

Trusts and estates practitioners routinely draft wills, living wills, and financial powers of attorney for their clients. My understanding of the importance of a living will was recently reinforced when I had to advise a family member to search for his wife’s advance directive. My aunt elected to consent to surgery where doctors would attempt to remove a brain tumor below her cerebellum, wrapped around the vagus nerve. The surgery had a 75 percent chance of success. On their way to the doctor, my aunt and her husband did not even consider the possibility of failure. She had her bag packed neatly for rehab and considered her future without the falls, dizziness, and other struggles that her brain tumor imposed on her.

Unfortunately, at the end of the surgery, my aunt suffered a massive blood hemorrhage and stroke, leaving her unresponsive, in a vegetative state, with a “one percent chance” of survival. When I heard the news, I called my uncle and advised him to look for her advance directive. Luckily, she had one prepared along with her will in 2016. Within a week of the operation, and after a proper Catholic unction was performed by a priest (unction is a service that forgives any and all the sins of a sick person committed during the person’s mortal life), family members and the priest gathered in the small hospital room to witness the removal of the feeding tube and breathing apparatus. She struggled to breath momentarily before releasing her last breath.

Although her last few moments were agonizing to watch, my aunt felt no pain. More importantly, her intentions were honored. She would not have wanted to remain in a vegetative state. Such a state would have been contrary to her entire life as a light-hearted, loving, caring, compassionate person. My aunt loved to laugh. She would find humor and joy wherever she went, always outgoing and a true crowd-pleaser. That is how she will be remembered.

November 25, 2022 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Jennifer Aniston Buys Oprah Winfrey’s Montecito Farmhouse for $14.8 Million

Estate planningOprah Winfrey recently sold her Mediterranean-style Montecito mansion, referred to as “Tuscan Farmhouse,” to Jennifer Aniston for $14.8 million. When Winfrey bought the one-acre estate it included the main mediterranean style house and two cottages. The famous talk show host split the property and sold the main house to Aniston in one transaction and the two cottages to her personal trainer and property manager, Bob Greene, for $2.3 million in a separate transaction.

Winfrey purchased the property for $10.5 million last year and was able to make $6.5 million on the sales.

Aniston’s new home boasts four bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, picturesque ocean and mountain views, multiple terraces and landscaped gardens. Aniston has previously told AD that if she weren’t an actress she would be an interior designer. “I love the process.” 

For more information see Katie Schultz “Jennifer Aniston Buys Oprah Winfrey’s Montecito Farmhouse for $14.8 Million”,  Architectural Digest, September 9, 2022.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 24, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

A former lawyer for scammer Anna Sorokin was disbarred for taking $600,000 from an elderly client

Anna SororkinAttorney Audrey A. Thomas, who formerly represented notorious scammer, Anna Sorokin (AKA Anna Delvey) was disbarred earlier this month. The state of New York found that Thomas was running a scam of her own.

Thomas began misappropriating funds in 2013 after being hired by Rhea Murray to help sell an apartment in Brooklyn. Thomas had access to the accounts that held the money from the sale. Bank records show that Thomas siphoned more than $630,000 in funds to different bank accounts, and claims that Murray had signed off on the use of the funds due to their relationship, which Murray denies. Murray claims she specifically asked Thomas to use the money to pay down mortgages on other properties she and her family owned. Thomas later promised to pay back the money but never followed through.

Ms. Sorokin provided statements in the form of an illustration of a mock book cover titled, “How to Get Disbarred in 10 Days.” Sorokin says that she is glad Thomas can no longer represent clients and cannot do damage to anyone else’s life. Sorokin fired Thomas earlier this year after being told Thomas would not work during April due to it being her “birthday month.”

Thomas responded to Ms. Sorokin’s statement via text, “Just remember I may not be admitted to practice law anymore but there's nothing to stop me from appearing pro se… Tell Anna I said he who laughs last laughs the best. I AM still Audrey A Thomas AKA Sandy!!!!!!!!”

For more information see Ashley Collman, Jacob Shamsian “A former lawyer for scammer Anna Sorokin was disbarred for taking $600,000 from an elderly client”, Yahoo! News, November 16, 2022.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 23, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A New Survey Reveals Americans’ Magic Number for Retirement

Estate planningIn February, 2,381 American adults were surveyed by Northwestern Mutual on what amount is needed for their household to retire. The average answer was $1.25 million, a 20% jump from a year ago. However, the average retirement savings account contains $86,869, showing an 11% decline from last year.

Christian Mitchell, chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual, points to volatility in financial markets and rising inflation. The federal government has increased Social Security checks by 8.7% for 2023 in an attempt to mitigate the pain for retirees and investors. The IRS has also made inflation adjustments for 401(k) savings accounts, increasing contribution limits.

Another contributing factor is the Covid-19 pandemic. Approximately one in four people say they have shifted their plans to retire later due to the impacts of the pandemic. Of those who said they will be delaying retirement, 59% said they hope to save more money, while another 45% said they were concerned about the rising healthcare costs.

For more information see Joseph De Avila “A New Survey Reveals Americans’ Magic Number for Retirement”, The Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2022.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 22, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 21, 2022

Article: Would the Enhancing American Retirement Now (EARN) Act Enhance Retirement Equity?

Albert Feuer (Law Offices of Albert Feuer) recently published an article entitled, Would the Enhancing American Retirement Now (EARN) Act Enhance Retirement Equity?, 50 Tax Management Compensation Planning Journal, 2022. Provided below is the abstract to the Article:

Congress is expected to agree upon major retirement legislation in the coming months. The EARN Act which was developed by the Senate Finance Committee, should be revised to better enhance retirement equity, particularly for the many American workers and their families who are seeking to accumulate sufficient savings to retire comfortably. Three major changes would help achieve this goal: (1) focus retirement incentives more quickly on those with inadequate retirement savings; (2) insure that those seeking to meet their reasonable retirement needs are the ones targeted for incentives; and (3) reduce the incentives for those with savings in excess of their reasonable retirement needs. Congress can and should do more to enhance retirement equity for American workers and their families.

November 21, 2022 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Some superfan paid over $200,000 for Steve Jobs’ old Birkenstocks

JobsAt the “Icons and Idols: Rock ’N’ Roll” auction in New York City last week, a pair of brown Birkenstock owned by Steve Jobs sold for $218,750. The Apple founder has maintained cult-like status for more than 11 years after his passing, demonstrated by the sale of the "well-used" sandals. They auctioned significantly higher than the auction organizers were expecting to raise, which also included an NFT of images of the Birkenstocks as part of the sale.

The brown suede Birkenstock Arizonas were worn by Jobs in the 1970s and 1980s during "many pivotal moments in Apple's history," according to the auction house. The sale marks the highest-earning sandals at an auction. However, a pair of Nike Air Ships worn by Michael Jordan in the 1980's sold for $1.47 million a few years ago, and a pair of Black Nikes worn by Kanye West at the 2008 Grammy's sold for $1.8 million last year.

For more information see Chris Morris's “Some Superman paid over $200,000 for Steve Jobs’ old Birkenstocks”, Yahoo! Finance, November 14, 2022 and James Doubek's "Steve Jobs' worn-out Birkenstocks sell for $218,000 at auction", NPR, November 15, 2022.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 20, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Jeff Bezos pledges to give away the majority of his $124 billion fortune to charity

BezosJeff Bezos has pledged to give away the majority of his wealth to charity. The Amazon founder is worth an estimated $124 billion and has been criticized in the past for not signing the Giving Pledge, a promise by some of the worlds wealthiest individuals to donate a majority of their wealth to charity. His ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, signed the Giving Pledge in 2019.

Bezos plans to dedicate the bulk of his fortune to fighting the climate crisis and supporting causes that aim to unifyi humanity. He an his girlfriend, Lauren Sánchez, are currently building a way to give away his money in a levered way.

For more information see Beatrice Nolan “Jeff Bezos pledges to give away the majority of his $124 billion fortune to charity”,  Yahoo! News, November 14, 2022 and Isabella Simonetti and Nicholas Kulish “Jeff Bezos Says He Will Give Away Most of His Fortune”, The New York Times, November 14, 2022.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) and Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing these articles to my attention. 

 

November 19, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)