Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Video Recordings of Will Execution Ceremonies Under Louisiana Law

Nunez_6Alison V. Nunez (J.D. 2007, Louisiana State University Law Center) has recently published her comment entitled A Testament to Inefficacy: Louisiana's New Legislation Allowing for the Admissibility of Videotape Evidence in the Probate Process, 67 La. L. Rev. 871 (2007).

Here are some excerpts from the article's introduction and conclusion:

Newly enacted Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 2904 provides for the admissibility at trial of a videotape of a testament's execution.  Videotape evidence may be entered in a contradictory trial to probate a testament or in an action to annul a probated testament. The videotape is to serve as proof of a number of factors associated with a will's execution.
This comment addresses several issues raised by the enactment of article 2904.  Specifically, it argues that article 2904 requires substantial revision before it can effectively serve the evidentiary purposes intended by the legislature. To develop this argument, Part II explains the grounds for videotape admissibility in the probate process. Part III focuses specifically on the Louisiana approach by giving an in-depth analysis of article 2904's shortcomings, providing corresponding suggestions for legislative revision, and suggesting the proper interpretation courts should give to the article. Part IV concludes by offering practical advice to practitioners who rely on the article's provisions. * * *
The legislators failed to debate thoroughly all possible issues when they unanimously voted to approve new Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 2904. The resulting article is in great need of assistance. Aside from its potential ability to aid in a court's determination of whether the testamentary execution was carried out according to proper codal requirements, the article does not add any additional support to a beneficiary's action to probate a testament or a challenger's action to annul a probated testament. As a result, Louisiana courts should not grant article 2904 undue importance. Likewise, practitioners must be wary of its potential effects. One commentator warns that the process of videotaping will “likely require longer office appointments and greater preparation [resulting in larger bills to clients] than presently needed to execute wills.”  Practitioners must also be aware of the risk that article 2904 could exacerbate malpractice actions for failure to videotape.
The fact remains, the vast majority of other states that have considered similar legislation did so in the late 1980s.  The only state to enact legislation was Indiana in 1988, while all other states that proposed legislation opted not to do so. Why, then, did Louisiana choose to take action in 2005, nearly twenty years later? Such action was not well considered, as evidenced by the deficiencies associated with the article; the legislature must make amends.

June 30, 2007 in Articles, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Decedent Got Mail

EmailIn Quick Fix: Accessing a Deceased Relative's Email, Wall St. J., June 19, 2007, at D3, Theo Francis summarizes the policies of the most popular e-mail providers:

      • Google Gmail -- requires death certificate, a document giving authority such as a power of attorney, and the full header of the email.
      • Microsoft's Hotmail & AOL -- will provide e-mail on CD to next of kin
      • Yahoo -- requires a court order before it will release email

Accordingly, Francis recommends that, if you want survivors to access your e-mail, you should "leave passwords where they can be found--a safe deposit box, for example, or computer file encrypted with a password they'll figure out."

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

June 29, 2007 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Wills Taxes on Partnerships be Doubled?

PartnershipOn June 22, 2007, "Representatives Charles B. Rangel of New York, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Sander M. Levin of Michigan joined 12 other Democrats in introducing the legislation to tax the performance income earned by many partnerships, including private equity firms, at ordinary income tax rates of 35 percent instead of the current 15 percent capital gains rate"  This legislation would "rais[e] taxes on private equity and hedge fund managers [and] more than double taxes on most of the income earned by partnerships, including private equity managers, venture capitalists and some hedge funds."  Jenny Anderson & Andrew Ross Sorkin, Bill Is Offered to Increase Tax on Private Equity, NY Times, June 23, 2007.

June 29, 2007 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tenants in Common CLE

Aba_cleThe American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law and the ABA Center for Continuing Legal Education are sponsoring a teleconference and live audio webcast on July 17, 2007 entitled Current Issues Involving Tenancies in Common.

Here is a description of this program:

Commercial real estate loans are increasingly being made to groups of investors or co-owners who hold the fee interest to real property under the common law form of ownership known as tenancy in common (TIC). The TIC is significantly different from other forms of property ownership, such as limited partnerships and limited liability companies. Mortgage lenders must know and understand the differences. These differences affect negotiation, drafting, enforcement of financing transactions, and related bankruptcy issues. In the event of bankruptcy, complex questions may arise as to whether one tenant can place the entire aggregation into bankruptcy and whether the right to partition will be enforced.

Topics will include:

  • What are the basic underlying theories of a TIC?
  • What is the partition right and why does it matter?
  • What kinds of transactions are suitable for TIC structure?
  • How do the enforcement and bankruptcy risks differ from lending to a limited liability company or a limited partnership?
  • Will the co-owners’ buy-out right in a TIC be enforceable in the event of bankruptcy?
  • Will a bankruptcy court permit a single tenant to obtain a partition, and sale of the entire property, even if the other tenants object to such a sale?
  • Will a mortgage lender’s right to credit bid prove to be a highly valuable protection in the event of a bankruptcy case?

June 29, 2007 in Conferences & CLE, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Agent-Ademption Interface

The testator’s agent sold specifically devised real property to pay for the principal’s care and support.  Although the sale was a proper use of the agent’s authority, the court in In re Estate of Anton, 731 N.W.2d 19 (Iowa 2007), held that the devisee of the real property was entitled to the proceeds remaining at the principal’s death.  The court concluded that sale of specifically devised property by an agent should be treated like a sale by a guardian, unless the principal is competent and has approved the sale.

June 28, 2007 in New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brooke Astor Update

AstorEarlier on this blog, I reported on allegations that Anthony Marshall has been mistreating his mother, Brooke Astor, and his response to those allegations.

The following developments are reported in Serge F. Kovaleski, Will of Mrs. Astor, Now 105, Gives Millions to Family and to Charity, NY Times, June 24, 2007:

      • Brooke turned 105 years old in March 2007.
      • The terms of her will, unknown publicly until recently, detailed gifts to her son Anthony (primary beneficiary), daughter-in-law Charlene (specific gifts of clothes and jewelry), grandsons ($1 million each), and New York City public school teachers (travel endowment), among others.
      • The value of Brooke's estate is estimated to be $130 million plus the trust of her deceased husband valued at an additional $60 million.
      • A fight over the validity of the will and several codicils is likely to occur after her death on the basis of lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, and forgery.  These codicils enhanced the share of her estate to be received by or controlled by her son.

Special thanks to Dr. Natalie Tarenko for bringing this article to my attention.

June 28, 2007 in Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What if Dannielynn Were Born in Illinois?

DannielynnProfessor Jeffrey A. Parness (Northern Illinois University College of Law) has recently published his article entitled Reforming Paternity Procedures: A Dannielynn in Illinois, 95 Ill. B.J. 324 (2007).

By considering how Dannielynn's paternity (the daughter of Anna Nicole Smith and Larry Birkhead) would have been determined under Illinois law, Prof. Parness recommends that Illinois law needs to be reformed to account for such fact patterns.  Here is the conclusion of his article:

Had Dannielynn been born in Illinois rather than in the Bahamas, inquiries into initial legal paternity and its later possible override may well have yielded different results depending on the establishment mechanism employed (birth certificate, marital presumption, lawsuit); the purpose for establishing paternity; and, whether the initially-designated legal father wished to continue to parent. Neither DNA nor birth into a married family is always dispositive.

The differing possible results for Dannielynn suggest the need for discussing reforms in paternity procedures in Illinois. What types of fraud should prompt paternity disestablishments in varying settings? When, if ever, should marital paternity presumptions be subject to rebuttals? What rationales, if any, support differing paternity tests in different contexts?

Confusion abounds while legal paternity issues continue to grow in varying civil case settings, with the public and their lawyers often confused. In the United States this year about 1.5 million children will be born to unwed mothers and about one half million of those children will have no father named on a birth certificate.

It is time to heed the Illinois Supreme Court's direction in John M. to petition the General Assembly, because any comprehensive paternity law reforms in Illinois are best done by statute. Possible reforms are discussed in my recent article, No Genetic Ties, No More Fathers, 39 John Marshall L Rev 1295 (2006), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=958095.

June 27, 2007 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Illinois and Estate Tax Apportionment

SchrederCarleen L. Schreder (Levin & Schreder, Ltd, Chicago) has recently published her article entitled Even More Uncertainty about Estate-Tax Apportionment, 95 Ill B.J. 306 (2007).

Here is an excerpt from her article:

"Estate-tax apportionment." Three words likely to cause any estate planning attorney to break into a sweat. Why? Because taxes can have a profound impact on an estate, and the estate-tax apportionment provision - which allocates the burden of paying the tax - can have a bigger dollar impact than any other part of a will or trust. What's more, even if you choose an appropriate tax payment clause based on your client's knowledge of the facts - including ownership of and beneficiary designations for all assets - those facts are almost certain to change by the time of the client's death.

Unfortunately, the choice and drafting of estate-tax payment clauses in Illinois has become even more difficult as a result of two cases decided in the last two years, one from the state appellate court and one from the seventh circuit.

In Estate of Williams, the third district held that when a decedent's will provides for estate taxes to be paid from the residuary estate and waives apportionment against other assets, but the residuary estate is insufficient to pay the taxes, the waiver of apportionment is ineffective with respect to the deficit.  Williams is significant primarily because the court overruled its decision in Estate of Fry * * * and in so doing created a conflict with the fifth district's decision in Landmark Trust Company v Aitken.

In Lurie v CIR, the decedent had executed a will with estate-tax payment language similar to that in Williams. However, the decedent had also executed a revocable trust that directed payment of estate taxes from its assets without apportionment.

The seventh circuit made two important holdings in Lurie: (1) the language in the "pour-over" will that effectively incorporated the revocable trust by reference governed the payment of estate taxes that exceeded the residuary estate and (2) even without such language in the will, it is proper under Illinois law to consider both the will and revocable trust agreement to determine the decedent's intent about payment of estate taxes.

June 27, 2007 in Articles, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Spring Issue of Wake Forest's E-Clinic News

Wake_forestThe Wake Forest University School of Law's "Elder Law Clinic provides free legal assistance to moderate income seniors, and serves as a resource center for lawyers and other professionals.  In a partnership with the School of Medicine, the E-Clinic offers a unique opportunity to learn about medical and health law issues of older clients."

The Spring 2007 issue of the clinic's newsletter, E-Clinic News, is now available on-line so you may read about the activities of this innovative clinical program.

June 27, 2007 in Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prince William Gains Partial Access to Princess Di's Estate

Prince_williamPrince William, the son of Diana (Princess of Wales) and Charles (Prince of Wales), turned 25 years of age on Thursday, June 21, 2007.  Reaching this milestone entitles him to all of the income from his share (one-half) of Di's estate which is estimated to be over one-half million dollars per year.  Prior to reaching age 25, distributions of income were discretionary.

Another benefit of reaching age 25 is that he may marry the woman of his own selection without prior approval of Queen Elizabeth II, his grandmother.

Prince William must really be looking forward to his 30th birthday when he will be entitled to one-half of the corpus of the trust.

See Press Association, Prince William's inheritance boost, Guardian Unlimited, June 21, 2007.

June 26, 2007 in Current Events, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)