Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

"All we are is dust in the wind"

A business designed to dispose of cremains in Montana is triggering opposition from federal officials.  According to Jim Robbins, Roadblock for Spreading of Human Ashes in Wilderness, NY Times, March 30, 2007:

Last wishes notwithstanding, federal officials are opposed to a Montana woman’s plan for a business that would spread the cremated remains of her clients over western Montana’s publicly owned wild mountain peaks and flower-studded meadows.

To Fran Coover, her new business, Ladies in White, seemed a perfect way to blend her interest in the environment and alternatives to the American way of dying. “It’s much less expensive,” Ms. Coover said. “And it is far more environmentally benign.”

For $390 Ms. Coover, a former administrator at a project studying end-of-life care here, along with two other ladies, offered to scatter the ashes of clients and provide a ceremony, a photograph, journal notes and Global Positioning System coordinates of the final resting place. Ten percent of the cost would be donated to groups who work to protect wild lands.

But after Ms. Coover scattered the cremated remains of her first client, she applied to the federal Forest Service, one of Montana’s largest owners of wild land, for a special-use permit to continue her business.

Though some officials told her it was fine to scatter the ashes on public land, she says, officials from Region I of the Forest Service, which covers Montana and Idaho, said it was against national policy and denied a permit.

She took her request to the Bureau of Land Management, the largest of the country’s federal land management agencies. At first the bureau seemed fine with it, she says, until it sent out an e-mail message to stakeholders, or groups with an interest in public lands, and ran into opposition from Indian tribes. * * *

While she appeals the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management decisions, Ms. Coover said, she is negotiating with a private landowner, a rancher, to scatter ashes on his mountain property.

March 31, 2007 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 30, 2007

More Colleges Allow Investments in Their Endowments

The following excerpts are from Arden Dale, Smart Investment With Harvard?, Wall Street J., March 24, 2007, at B2, which discusses how charitable trusts may invest in a college's endowment:

Harvard was the first to offer such an option, in 2003. Other top schools, including Stanford University, the University of Notre Dame and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have been granted permission by the Internal Revenue Service to allow donors to invest with their endowments. * * *

The trust option allows donors to share in the returns earned by university endowments, which often have access to investments that are hard for individuals to hold on their own.

After a donor dies, the trust proceeds go to the university. One possible drawback: Tax rates on payments from the trust may be higher than some other investment options. * * *

To invest alongside an endowment fund, donors typically use a specialized version of a "charitable remainder trust," in which donors put money and receive a regular distribution for a set period of time, usually for life. After the trust ends, the remainder of the assets must go to the charity.

Donors who invest in charitable-remainder trusts typically get an immediate deduction for the amount that is expected to ultimately end up with the charity. Some of the annual distribution that the donor receives, however, may be taxed as ordinary income, rather than capital gains. A donor could pay as much as 35% tax on distributions, rather than the 15% capital-gains rate. But for many people, the tax burden is offset by the higher returns endowments offer.

Special thanks to J. Brad Hickman (J.D. Candidate, Texas Tech University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 30, 2007 in Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New York Times Recommends "Full-Blown Marriage Rights for Gay Couples"

Earlier on this blog, I discussed the case of Olive Watson who, in 1991, adopted her same-sex partner, Patricia Spado.  By doing so, Olive made Patricia her "child" so that she would be able to inherit from her upon Olive's death.

On March 24, 2007, the New York Times published an editorial, Legal Convolutions for Gay Couples, which advocates in favor of formalizing same-sex relationships.  Here is an excerpt:

[G]ay people who want to protect their families should not have to resort to adult adoptions. Nor should they be confined to separate and unequal new legal regimes, like civil unions, or rely on a patchwork of contracts, some of dubious enforceability. One benefit that comes with marriage is a universally understood framework for formally dissolving relationships and settling financial matters.

Connecticut’s legislators are about to consider a proposal to upgrade their state’s civil union law to allow full-blown marriage rights for gay couples. For practicality and fairness, it’s the right move.

March 30, 2007 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Fate of "Radiator Building"

Radiator_buildingFisk University (Nashville, Tennessee) received a gift of a painting by Georgia O'Keeffe entitled Radiator Building.  Fisk University wanted to sell the painting on the open market to raise money and had offers for as high as $25 million.

However, the O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe claimed that the sale would violate the terms of O'Keeffe's gift.  Thus, the Museum will be able to purchase the painting for a mere $7 million as a result of a settlement reached earlier this year.  However, the Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper still must approve the settlement.

See AP, Lawyer: Fisk University must sell O'Keeffe painting to Santa Fe museum, March 26, 2007.

March 29, 2007 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Reefer Madness in Broward County

KordaBroward County, Florida Circuit Judge Lawrence Korda who presided over a portion of the paternity battle over Anna Nicole Smith's daughter (Dannielynn) was recently arrested for allegedly smoking marijuana around over a dozen children near a drug-free park.

As a short-term solution effective April 9, 2007, Judge Lawrence will preside over the probate division and Judge Larry Seidlin, who presided over the body disposition case involving Anna Nicole Smith, will move to the family division.

See Tonya Alanez, Judges Seidlin and Korda trade jobs, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 28, 2007.

March 29, 2007 in Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shaffer, Mooney and Boettcher's The Planning and Drafting of Wills and Trusts, 5th Edition Released

The Fifth Edition of The Planning and Drafting of Wills and Trusts authored by Thomas L. Shaffer, Carol Ann Mooney, and Amy Jo Boettcher has recently been released by Foundation Press as part of its University Textbook Series.

Here is the publisher's description of this book:

This text, prepared by recognized experts in the field, addresses questions and issues that arise during the drafting of wills and trusts, particularly by couples. In addition, the authors offer insightful commentary. Representative chapters include Planning Together, Rebuilding Together, Non-Estate Planning, and Planning for Disability.

March 28, 2007 in Books - For the Classroom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Estate Planning Seminar in Dallas

The Center for American and International Law in Plano, Texas is sponsoring a three day seminar entitled Estate Planning on May 23-25, 2007.

Here is a description of the program:

[This is] an intensive three-day course for the probate and estate planning practitioner on legal and practical problems encountered in planning estates, drafting wills and trusts, and administering estate in both community property and common-law states, including a consideration of relevant income, estate, and gift tax principles.

March 28, 2007 in Conferences & CLE | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Power Boomers Fear Health Care Costs

A "power boomer" is a person between the ages of 40 and 60 with more than $2 million in investable assets.

According to Rebecca Knight. Medical cost fears weigh on 'Power Boomers', Financial Times, March 27, 2007:

more than 43 per cent * * * spend at least three to eight hours a month planning for retirement.

Their planning encompasses researching funds on the internet, and reading personal finance books. By comparison, only 28 per cent of those aged 40-60 with $1m-$2m in assets spend more than three hours planning for retirement.

"The [affluent Power Boomers] spend more time and energy thinking about these issues and it is paying off," said Laura Varas, a research partner at FRC who wrote the report. "About 63 per cent of them say they have little or noanxiety about paying for their retirement."

This group is not entirely free of anxiety, however. About 26 per cent of respondents said they were worried that a costly and unexpected medical issue could have an impact on their standard of living.

Special thanks to Prof. Joel C. Dobris of the University of California-Davis for bringing this article to my attention.

March 27, 2007 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fund Raising With Life Insurance


According to Greg Johnson, Oklahoma State Univ. insures sports future, LA Times, March 26, 2007:

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens is being credited with a novel — some would say morbid — financing plan that his fellow Oklahoma State University fans hope will lift their beloved Cowboys football team to the top of the Big 12 Conference standings.

Over the course of the last year, Pickens, 77, steered his alma mater's athletics department to buy life insurance policies for himself and a posse of aging Cowboys donors. The department hopes to net about $250 million from the proceeds by the time the last donor dies.

The insurance program is in addition to about $200 million in cash that Pickens has donated in recent years so Oklahoma State can better compete against rival Big 12 football powerhouses Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.  * * *

The Cowboys borrowed $20 million from a booster association to pay the premiums for $10 million in whole-life insurance policies for each of the 25 or so carefully selected donors, including Pickens, who are between the ages of 65 and 85. * * *

Oklahoma State's donors were selected because their age, gender and health "best matched the university's needs," said John Lee, chairman of Dallas-based Management Compensation Group, which is managing the insurance program. To put it less delicately, the donors selected are expected to die in a timely manner to generate the $250-million payout.

Special thanks to Prof. Joel C. Dobris of the University of California-Davis for bringing this article to my attention.

March 27, 2007 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Overdosed

Smith5The autopsy report for Anna Nicole Smith was released earlier today, March 26, 2007.

According to Officials: Smith's death caused by overdose, CNN.com, March 26, 2007:

Seminole tribal police Chief Charlie Tiger said, * * * "We are convinced, based on extensive review of the evidence, that this case is an accidental overdose with no other criminal element present." * * *

Joshua Perper, Broward County medical examiner, said nine prescription drugs were found in Smith's system, including three antidepressants or antianxiety drugs.

Also found in toxicology testing was human growth hormone and chloral hydrate, a sleep medication, Perper said. * * *

During the course of the autopsy, doctors found evidence that Smith had an abscess in her left buttock that had been perforated by a needle, probably when she took injections of either the growth hormone or vitamin B-12, the medical examiner explained.

The perforation allowed bacteria to get into Smith's blood, which caused a high fever in the days before her death. She was being treated with Tamiflu and Cipro, one an antiviral medication and the other an antibiotic, Perper said.

He said the abscess and a case of flu were contributory causes in Smith's death.

March 26, 2007 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)