Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh

LaughingA father from Dublin, Ireland had his family play a pre-recorded message at his funeral to lighten the mood and make a number of the attendees laugh. Shay Bradley, a Defense Forces veteran, can be heard knocking and calling out - presumably from the coffin - before jokingly calling for the priest, saying he’s stuck in the box.

His daughter, Andrea Bradley, shared the message on social media where it has gone viral, writing that this was her dad’s dying wish. The short clip has now gone viral and the family has received many heart-felt messages.

“Myself and my Family are overwhelmed with the Amazing response and comments we have received regarding my dad's funeral, he truly is a legend and was the most amazing man!!! He would be overjoyed to know how many smiles and laughs he has given to every one. Thank you all,” Andrea wrote.

See Alexandra Deabler, Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh, Fox News, October 14, 2019.

October 17, 2019 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Article on Sour Grapes: When Decanting Gives Rise to Litigation

DecanterLydia Lee Lockett and Peter Blumeyer recently published an Article entitled, Sour Grapes: When Decanting Gives Rise to Litigation, Probate & Property, Vol. 33, No. 5 (Sep/Oct 2019). Provided below is the introduction to the Article.

By the end of 2018, there were 29 states that had enacted trust decanting statutes, with approximately 22 of those taking effect in the last decade. With the prevalence of decanting increasing, courts are increasingly being force to consider the circumstances under which decanting is permissible and, relatedly, what remedies are available in case of impermissible decanting. It behooves fiduciaries, beneficiaries, and trusts and estate practitioners to familiarize themselves with this emerging area of law, so they recognize and avoid common pitfalls associated with decanting and recognize the attendant issues associated with decanting before those issues evolve into litigation. This article provides a selective overview of decanting and common themes and issues that have arisen in decanting litigation in the United States, including the authority to decant, the intersection of decanting and family law and special needs trusts, creditor avoidance, and remedies for unauthorized decanting.

It is worth noting that the commonly litigated issues discussed in this article are not exclusive. Given the nearly unlimited ways in which a trust may be modified through decanting, it is foreseeable that a plethora of issues relating to decanting may be litigated, such as tax controversies resulting from decanting, disputes relating to decanted trust that change the governing law of the trust, or challenges to a decanting that grants powers of appointment to beneficiaries. Because these types of controversies could rise in the future, trustee, financial advisors, and trusts and estates practitioners should consider these and other potential issues could result from decanting.

October 16, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

In France, Elder Cares Comes With the Mail

MailFrance has given a new responsibility to their mail carriers: to check on the elderly. Through a program called Veiller Sur Mes Parents ("Watch Over My Parents), subscribers pay €37.90 for a month's worth of weekly visits as well as an emergency call button. The subscribers can be family members of the elderly person and the mail carrier can notify them through an app that their loved one is "well" or if they require assistance with outings or house repairs.

The program was initiated in 2017, a total of 21,000 elderly singles have been enrolled in the program across France. The visits usually last between six and fifteen minutes, and at the end the senior signs the mail carrier's tablet as a sign of life - similar to signing to accept a package.

One of the reasons La Poste has been able to fill this void for the country's aging generation is due to economic changes. The number of letters being mailed has dropped dramatically compared to a year ago, and despite the stamp prices going up, delivering mail is not supportive enough. So the definition of "postal work" has expanded to include picking up prescriptions, delivering flowers, and now providing conversations and social visits to seniors. Last year alone, only 28% of La Poste's revenue came from delivering mail.

See Zoey Poll, In France, Elder Cares Comes With the Mail, The New Yorker, October 9, 2019.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 16, 2019 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

SEALs seeking particpation in T&E discussion groups

SealsThe SEALS T&E Resource Group has developed two discussion group proposals for the 2020 SEALS Conference.  Prof. Deborah S. Gordon is inviting you to indicate your interest in one or both of the proposals.  Please feel free to share this posting with anyone else you think might be interested.

The 2020 SEALS Conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from July 30 to August 5. (More information about SEALS is available at https://sealslawschools.org/ .) A description of the two discussion groups appears below.

Prof. Gordon is collecting the information for the groups. If you are interested, please email her at dsg45@drexel.edu by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 28 (sorry for the quick turn-around). In the email, please indicate one (or both!) of the discussion group proposals you wish to join. If you need to tentatively indicate an interest subject to scheduling or travel budgets, just let her know.  Also, if you have an idea of what you would want to discuss, please include that information in the email (although doing so is not necessary at this time). 

Thanks for considering being part of one (or both) of the proposals.  

2020 SEALS Proposal – T&E Discussion Group - Teaching 

Title:  Using Technology and Creativity in the Trusts & Estates Classroom 


Trusts & Estates, as an area of law, has a reputation for being old-fashioned in its adherence to paper documents and other traditional rules.  Trusts & Estates professors, however, have harnessed the power of technology to bring the subject to life. Discussion group participants will share their ideas for how to use technology and other forms of creativity in the Trusts & Estates classroom for presentations, assignments, and assessment. Examples might include (but are not limited to): (1) polling apps; (2) remote or on-line course components; (3) video or audio presentations; (4) current events, popular culture, and interdisciplinary materials; and (6) any other uses of technology. 

2020 SEALS Proposal – T&E Discussion Group – Scholarship 

Title:  Current and Evolving Trusts & Estates Scholarship           


Scholarship in the Trusts & Estates field is dynamic and expanding beyond core topics.  Until recently, trusts and estates law primarily concerned mechanisms for the effective transfer of wealth, and was the province of dry formalities concerning the necessities for the execution of wills and, over the past century, trusts. There was widespread consensus over a series of core principles, concepts basic to the field.  New scholarship, however, seeks to challenge this traditional approach and to bring alternative perspectives to the core meanings and concepts of trusts and estates.  The scholarship today uses a variety of methodologies and lenses. In this discussion group, participants have an opportunity to present their current research and explore symmetries and differences between their various scholarly projects.

October 16, 2019 in Conferences & CLE | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wealthy Families Continue to Ditch Trusts

Trusts2In the United Kingdom, fewer and fewer wealthy families are utilizing trusts in their estate plants. According to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, there was a 6% drop in trusts that filed a tax return from 2017-18 compared to 2016-2017. 

One of the primary reasons that families have stopped placing their assets in trusts is that in 2006, then chancellor Gordon Brown announced reforms to stop trusts “being used to shelter wealth from inheritance tax”.  Trusts once upon a time were used for their privacy benefits, but as of 2017 there is now an online registry of Trusts in the UK. Mike Hodges, partner at accountancy firm Saffery Champness, admitted that, “A punitive tax regime and a host of draconian regulatory requirements [has created] a toxic combination which has compelled increasing numbers of people towards alternative options for asset protection.”

And there could be more reforms and changes to trusts in the future. “Both major parties in the last general election pledged different reform measures aimed at improving transparency and with such measures inevitably comes greater uncertainty over the future of trusts and an increased reluctance for people to use them,” Hodges said.

See Emma Agyemang, Wealthy Families Continue to Ditch Trusts, Financial Times, September 26, 2019.

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

October 15, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Article on Charitable Tax Reform For the 21st Century

Charity1Roger Colinvaux & Ray D. Madoff recently published an Article entitled, Charitable Tax Reform For the 21st Century, Tax Law: Tax Law & Policy eJournal (2019). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

The article identifies two goals of the charitable giving tax incentives: promoting actual charitable work and fostering a strong culture of charitable giving with broad participation. The recent increase to the standard deduction and the rise of donor-advised funds compromise both goals. The article outlines reform proposals to bolster the charitable sector, including expanding the giving incentive to all taxpayers in the form of a credit (subject to a giving floor), allowing some tax benefits to DAF donors upon contribution but delaying the income tax deduction until DAF funds are released from advisory privileges, closing loopholes that enable foundations and donors to skirt long-standing legal requirement, and modifying incentives to foundations to foster more spending.

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

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Man gets ‘DNR’ Tattoo to Prevent Coming ‘Back as Vegetable’ in Case of Emergency

DNRNigel Thwaites, of Norfolk, England, is a 52-old-man that is healthy and has not faced a recent medical emergency. But after viewing a video that shows what can occur to a body after CPR, he decided to preemptively tattoo DNR (do not resuscitate) on his chest.

Thwaites said that the video showed what can happen if someone does not perform CPR correctly, and "that the brain becomes starved of oxygen which causes a loss of faculties in that person." He also is a registered organ donor, has a living will, and his blood type is also tattooed on his shoulder. Because a DNR tattoo creates legal and ethical issues for doctors in both the US and UK, the fact that Thwaites also has a living will is important to his choice.

Honoring the tattoo alone without a witness signature and patient signature could cause a doctor to lose his medical license, or be sued by the patient’s family or estate.

See Alexandra Hein, Man gets ‘DNR’ Tattoo to Prevent Coming ‘Back as Vegetable’ in Case of Emergency, Fox News, October 11, 2019.

October 13, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Valid Execution of a Will [New Jersey]

WilltestamentThe most commonly viewed method of properly executing a last will and testament is by the decedent signing the document in front of two witnesses. But New Jersey's statute also allows for two other methods for a valid execution in lieu of the preferred manner.

Instead if actually signing the document in the presence of the witnesses, the decedent acknowledges to the witness that in it was his or her signature, and then the witness would sign the document. This method works when a witness to the will is not at the same location as the notary who may eventually notarize the document. The will may be signed before the notary, and then the other witness can witness the will after the decedent has acknowledged his or her signature.

The other way for a valid execution is that the will does not have to contain the decedent’s signature for it to be witnessed by a witness, provided the decedent makes it clear to the witness that the document is indeed his or her last will and testament. This can occur if the decedent wants a person to witness the will before taking it to a notary who will notarize the signature.

See Paul W. Norris, Valid Execution of a Will, NJ Law Blog, October 8, 2019.

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

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

Article on The ‘Social Contract’, Care and Inheritance in England and Hong Kong

England flagBrian Sloan recently published an Article entitled, The ‘Social Contract’, Care and Inheritance in England and Hong Kong, Elder Law eJournal (2019). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

In common with much of the world, the populations of both England and Hong Kong are ageing. One of the most important questions of our age is therefore how to allocate the burdens of providing and funding the care that increasing numbers of people are likely to need. Another vital question affecting the elderly and their families is that of inheritance: how legitimate is the claim of family members (including adult children) to a person’s assets? The aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between these questions, with reference to concepts such as the ‘social contract’ and family solidarity, and the law of family provision in England and Hong Kong.

October 11, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Article on How Savings and Retirement Benefit Distributions May Prudently Be Used to Make Charitable Gifts

RetirementAlbert Feuer recently published an Article entitled, How Savings and Retirement Benefit Distributions May Prudently Be Used to Make Charitable Gifts, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2019). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

Individuals often fund charitable gifts with their savings or retirement benefits. Such benefits, other than those from a Roth individual retirement account or annuity, are generally included in the individual’s gross income when received. However, individuals may not be able to deduct for federal income-tax purposes any of the charitable contributions they make during the period 2018 to 2025 because the 2017 tax act substantially limited the deductibility of state and local taxes, eliminated miscellaneous itemized deductions, and dramatically increased the applicable standard deductions. On the other hand, distributions from individual retirement accounts or annuities may be eligible for the favorable tax treatment applicable to qualified charitable distributions (QCDs). This article explains the QCD requirements. The article also discusses when it is prudent to use those provisions and when it is prudent to do otherwise if savings or retirement benefits fund charitable contributions, and when it is prudent to use other funding sources, such as appreciated publicly traded securities, for charitable contributions.

October 10, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)