Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Human cremains may have been scattered on a Disney ride


LOCAL6.com, Possible Scattering Of Human Remains On Disney Rides Reported, Nov. 15, 2007, reported that a woman may have scattered human ashes on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at the Magic Kingdom in California.

Here are more details on this story:

Workers at the Anaheim theme park spotted the woman sprinkling an unidentified substance into the water on the "Pirates" ride. Anaheim police were notified of the incident.***

Some Disney watchers said park-goers tell them that people smuggling in the cremated remains of their loved ones and then sprinkling ashes on rides has been going on for a while.***

They said it started at the Haunted Mansion, but now the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride is growing in popularity.***

Disney officials said they were unaware of any confirmed ash-scattering incidents in the park and didn't believe it to be a problem[.]***

November 27, 2007 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brook Astor Update


Earlier on this blog, I discussed an ongoing criminal investigation which put on hold the Surrogates Court proceedings concerning Brook Astor’s estate.

Here are some of the most recent developments on this story from Serge F. Kovaleski, Brooke Astor’s Son and Lawyer Face Criminal Charges, NYTimes.com, Nov. 27, 2007:

Brooke Astor’s son and one of her former lawyers have been indicted on criminal charges stemming from the stewardship of her financial affairs and the handling of her will[.]***

Her son, Anthony D. Marshall, 83, and the lawyer, Francis X. Morrissey Jr., have been told to surrender to authorities on Tuesday morning[.]*** A Manhattan grand jury has been hearing evidence from witnesses since early last month, following an investigation by the district attorney’s office into the management of Mrs. Astor’s fortune by Mr. Marshall and Mr. Morrissey’s role in the signing of the third amendment to her will.***

The possibility of forgery has been raised by a nationally known handwriting expert.***

JPMorgan Chase & Company, the court-appointed guardian of Mrs. Astor’s assets, raised questions about her mental competency in 2003. That was the year she signed documents transferring $3.4 million of her securities and her estate in Maine, which was valued at $5.5 million, to Mr. Marshall.

November 27, 2007 in Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Illinois Law and POD Accounts

Helen W. Gunnarsson (Highland Park, Illinois attorney and writer) has recently published her article entitled POD and TOD accounts and your estate-planning arsenal, 95 Est. Plan. Ill. B.J. 510 (Oct. 2007).

Here is an excerpt from her article:

POD and TOD beneficiary designations, like joint tenancy and living trusts, are another tool for avoiding probate of property. It couldn't be easier to set up a bank or brokerage account, or a security registration, in POD or TOD status: bank and brokerage clerks understand what they are and, lawyers report, sometimes even suggest them to their clients. Those clerks will also happily help clients set up or convert their accounts at no cost to include POD or TOD beneficiaries.

Unlike joint tenancy, the designation of a POD or TOD beneficiary has no effect on ownership until the owner's death. 815 ILCS 10/6. Under the Trust and Payable on Death Accounts Act, any holder may at any time cancel or change the designation of beneficiary without the knowledge or consent of the other holders or the beneficiaries. 205 ILCS 625/4(a). Under the Uniform TOD Security Registration Act, the sole owner or all currently surviving owners of a security may cancel or change the property's registration in beneficiary form at any time without the beneficiary's knowledge or consent. 815 ILCS 10/6.

The Trust and Payable on Death Accounts Act applies to bank, savings and loan, and credit union accounts. 205 ILCS 625/2. The Uniform TOD Security Registration Act applies to securities and security accounts, both of which the statute defines.

November 26, 2007 in Articles, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate Planning – A Useful Tool for Everyone

Helen W. Gunnarsson (Highland Park, Illinois attorney and writer) has recently published her article entitled Estate Planning for the Rest of Us, 95 Ill. B.J. 520 (Oct. 2007).

Here is the introduction to her article:

Most people don't own enough to owe estate tax when they die. But they still need the kind of estate-planning advice you get from a competent lawyer.

Articles and presentations on estate planning usually focus on clients with substantial resources, as Bloomington attorney Paul Meints observes. "Wonderfully creative and complex arrangements are possible for [these] people.... Trust departments, attorneys, CPAs, CFPs, ChFCs and other professional advisers joyfully extend their services to clients with wealth." And historically, counseling wealthy clients on lawful methods of managing their estates so as to minimize or avoid federal estate taxes has been a prime reason for these services.

Most people today, however, have no need of estate-tax counseling because they don't own enough property to be subject to the federal estate tax. In fact, for most people, two million dollars - the current estate amount excluded from federal estate tax - would be riches almost beyond imagining.

With federal estate taxes of no concern, and with less money available for the expenses of estate planning and management, does it make any sense for attorneys to encourage clients in humbler circumstances to create estate plans? Or should lawyers abandon this market to the purveyors of do-it-yourself living-trust and will kits?

Estate planning isn't just minimizing federal estate taxes for rich people, say Meints and other experienced attorneys with estate planning practices, and lawyers should absolutely court and welcome the business of those of low to moderate wealth. Pretty much everyone, whatever their level of prosperity, wants to be able to remain independent and in their home as long as they wish, not to have their family members impoverished in the event that they must enter a nursing home, and to make sure that the persons of their choosing will receive their property on their death without costly and unpleasant disputes.

Those who have minor or disabled children also want to know that they've done what they can to ensure that those children will be cared for in the event that they are no longer able to do so. Too, everyone wants to achieve their goals while maintaining their privacy - and in as cost-effective a manner as possible.

November 26, 2007 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cremains as Breast Implant Filler

DeneuveAlthough this is "old news," I just learned that the November 21, 2006 installment of the television series Nip/Tuck starred Catherine Deneuve in an episode entitled Diana Lubey.

The plot of this episode revolved around a patient, played by Ms. Deneuve, who wanted to have her deceased husband's cremains placed into her breast implants so she can always be close to him.

This time, at least, fiction may be stranger than truth.

November 26, 2007 in Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top SSRN Downloads

Ssrn_2 Here are the top downloads from September 27, 2007 to November 26, 2007 from the SSRN Journal of Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law for all papers announced in the last 60 days:

Rank Downloads Paper Title
1 175 Federal Tax Update: Important Developments in Federal Income, Estate & Gift Taxation Affecting Individuals - August, 2006 to August, 2007
Samuel A. Donaldson,
University of Washington - School of Law,
Date posted to database: October 19, 2007
Last Revised: October 19, 2007
2 73 The Trustee's Duty to Inform
Thomas P. Gallanis,
University of Minnesota Law School,
Date posted to database: October 10, 2007
Last Revised: October 17, 2007
3 62 The Fiduciary Accountability of Ordinary Employees
Robert Flannigan,
University of Saskatchewan,
Date posted to database: October 15, 2007
Last Revised: October 15, 2007
4 61 Introducing the Law of Nonprofit Organizations and Philanthropy
David A. Brennen,
University of Georgia School of Law,
Date posted to database: October 3, 2007
Last Revised: October 26, 2007
5 60 Leaving More than Money: Mediation Clauses in Estate Planning Documents
Lela P. Love, Stewart E. Sterk,
Yeshiva University - Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University - Cardozo Law School,
Date posted to database: September 25, 2007
Last Revised: September 25, 2007
6 51 The Section 67 Question: Are Fees for Investment Advice Fully or Partially Deductible by Trusts?
James Loebl,
Valparaiso University - School of Law,
Date posted to database: October 16, 2007
Last Revised: November 6, 2007
7 49 The Uniform Acts' Loophole in Fraudulent Conveyance Law
Adam J. Hirsch,
Florida State University College of Law,
Date posted to database: September 15, 2007
Last Revised: November 5, 2007
8 38 Tax Losses
Lester B. Snyder,
University of San Diego School of Law,
Date posted to database: October 3, 2007
Last Revised: November 1, 2007
9 34 SRI-Shibboleth or Canard (Socially Responsible Investing, that is)
Joel C. Dobris,
University of California at Davis School of Law,
Date posted to database: September 27, 2007
Last Revised: November 12, 2007
10 30 An Attempt to Legislate?
Wendy C. Gerzog,
University of Baltimore - School of Law,
Date posted to database: October 3, 2007
Last Revised: October 26, 2007

November 26, 2007 in Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Plan Now, While There is Still Time!

David A. Berek (Credit Suisse Family Wealth Management) has recently published his article entitled Year-End Planning for Trust-and-Estate Clients, 95 Ill. B.J. 606 (2007).  Here are some of his recommendations:

  • Clients should be encouraged to make annual exclusion gifts early in the year to maximize the potential for appreciation of the gifted property.
  • Year's end is also a good time to make a periodic review of your client's overall financial situation to confirm that the estate plan in place compliments the client's current net worth and is consistent with your client's estate planning goals and objectives.
  • Making charitable contributions at the end of the year will maximize your client's use of funds during the year and still provide an income tax deduction for the tax year.
  • The end of the year is also a good time to work with your client's accountant to discuss minimizing capital gains and harvesting capital losses.
  • You may also recommend that your client consider giving appreciated property to children or grandchildren if they are in a lower tax bracket than your client.  * * *  While the newly enacted modifications to the Kiddie Tax are effective in 2008 and will reach children under age 19 and students under age 24, the current law (until December 31 of this year) is limited to children under age 18. Thus, there is a planning window of opportunity for all 18 to 23 year olds to be taxed at their own rate in 2007.

November 25, 2007 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Medicaid Planning In Illinois

IllinoisKirsten Izatt (The Estate Planning Group of Wheaton, Illinois) has recently published her article entitled Medicaid Planning in Illinois: Are You Ready for the DRA?, 95 Ill. B.J. 589 (2007).

Here is a description of this article:

The federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 requires estate planners to devise new ways to protect the assets of clients who face long nursing-home stays.  Illinois hasn't implemented the law, but it will.  This article looks at what will and won't change when that happens.

November 25, 2007 in Articles, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How Banks Get Business

Because for many private banks getting new customers can be an arduous task, they employ various techniques to facilitate this process.

Ian Driscoll, How to hook prospective clients, FT.com, Nov. 20, 2007, provides examples of the marketing techniques employed:

Once a year, the Cleveland office of private bank The Glenmede Trust invites clients and prospective clients fly-fishing at an exclusive club in north-western Ohio. The all-day outing and lunch comes with the imprimatur of the bank's Philadelphia headquarters, which encourages its satellite offices to sponsor locally flavoured events.***

He attributes the event's effectiveness to the mix of current and potential clients. “If your existing clients are your best referral sources, it's always good to have them mingling with prospective clients[.]”***

When it comes to wooing prospective clients and getting them to sign on the dotted line, most banks rely on three tools: intermediaries, entertaining and referrals. ***

When it comes to the ultra-high-net worth sector, Northern Trust's Mr Regan believes that referrals are the gold standard.***

One way to build that consideration is through the constant "noise" of advertising. It's especially important, say some bankers, when the sell cycle can be anything from three months to four years. And unlike smaller banks and wealth providers that may face budgetary pressures to produce content-heavy advertising, the big ones have the resources to run more subliminal campaigns.***

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

November 24, 2007 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Medicare Updates

MedicareOn November 15, 2007, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services issued a press release entitled 2008 Open Enrollment for Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage and Medicare Advantage Plans Begins Today.

Some of the highlights of the release include the following:

Medicare beneficiaries will be able to begin making enrollment changes in their health and prescription drug coverage for 2008[.]***The Medicare annual Open Enrollment Period for prescription drug plan runs from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, 2007. ***

[“]The most recent satisfaction rate stands at 86 percent; the estimated average premium is 40 percent lower than originally estimated and total estimated costs are running $188 billion below initial projections.  Part D is a program that is working well and is helping Medicare beneficiaries with their prescription drug costs.”***

Starting [November 15, 2007], www.medicare.gov also provides beneficiaries with the five-star ratings of the quality and performance of plans that offer Part C and Part D services.  The plan ratings are intended to help people with Medicare choose an MA plan, a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan (MA-PDP), or a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) by combining cost and coverage information with quality and performance information.*** Part D (prescription drug plans) plans are rated on criteria such as customer service and providing drug pricing information.***

Another focus for this year’s open enrollment period involves signing up beneficiaries eligible for extra help, known as the Low Income Subsidy (LIS), to pay for their drugs. By providing information and enrollment assistance, CMS will encourage them to apply for the extra help and enroll in Part D.  For those LIS-eligible Medicare beneficiaries who may not have enrolled in part D in the past, CMS has announced that it is once again waiving the fee for late enrollment to make it easier to get these individuals the extra help they need.***

November 24, 2007 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)