Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, June 30, 2008

Evil probate lawyer faces life in prison


Terry Erwin Stork, an Austin, Texas lawyer, has recently pled guilty to felony theft for conduct relating to various estates.

Here is some of the conduct in which Stork is accused of engaging:

    • Mismanaged or stole property worth over $800,000.
    • Engaged in the evil conduct for over 20 years.
    • Lived in the home of a deceased client for 15 years.
    • When he sold the home, he deposited the proceeds in his personal account.
    • Drove a deceased client’s car.
    • Used a deceased client’s money to purchase china for his collection.
    • Failed to deliver property to beneficiaries.

Stork had previously resigned from the practice of law.

See Tony Plohetski, Longtime attorney pleads guilty to estate thefts, American-Statesman, June 28, 2008.

See also Tony Plohetski, Fighting the touchy battle of estate theft, American-Statesman, June 27, 2008. (Special thanks to David S. Luber (Attorney at law, Florida Probate Attorney Wills and Estates Law Firm) for bringing this article to my attention.)

June 30, 2008 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Iowa enacts Viatical Settlement Act

IowaOn May 10, 2008, the Iowa governor signed into law the "Viatical Settlements Act" to regulate these settlements and to provides penalties and fees.

See 2008 Ia. Legis. Serv. S.F. 2392.

June 30, 2008 in New Legislation, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Is Maringo suffering from an insane delusion?

DelusionThe following excerpt is from Maringo v. McGuirk, 2008 WL 631304 (5th Cir. 2008).  The case is actually about whether an attorney was guilty of harassment but the facts certainly make one wonder whether Maringo was suffering from an insane delusion which would render him unable to execute a valid will.

Maringo alleged that Erica McGuirk, an attorney for United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and her ghost, “the reincarnated Jezebel Princess of Evil,” have caused him mental distress by appearing before him, particularly while he is sleeping at night or showering. According to Maringo's complaint, McGuirk and her ghost sexually harassed him by exposing themselves and “forcing [him] to watch or participate”; forced him to read ghost and horror literature with them; insisted that he listen to a ghost-themed radio show; and appeared with “Santa Claus hats, wings and [a] horn with shaggy, black feathers.” He alleged that after complaining about this matter, ICE officials retaliated against him by placing him in a single-person cell, where they could more easily kill him by poisoning his food. 

June 30, 2008 in Humor, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Idaho grants spouses the ability to hold community real property with rights of survivorship


Starting tomorrow (July 1, 2008), the Idaho spouses may now hold community real property with rights of survivorship.

Here is the statement of the new law's purpose prepared by the Idaho legislature:

Idaho law allows for real estate to be held as "Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship" ("JTWROS") and that method is widely used in this State.  This allows transfer of the real estate to the surviving joint tenant by recordation of a death certificate in the county where the real estate is held, thereby avoiding a probate of such real estate.  However, there are clear tax and other advantages to holding real estate in community property status.  Holding property as JTWROS can be interpreted to lose the community property status of the real estate and therefore holding community property as JTWROS property to avoid probate is risky.  A husband and wife can record a Devolution Agreement to pass the real estate at death, somewhat like JTWROS property, but the method is cumbersome and limited, and does not cover all potential questions that may arise.  Arizona, like Idaho a community property state, has had "Community Property With Right of Survivorship" for a number of years, without problems being created.  The language of this statute is taken almost verbatim from the Arizona statute, with modifications as proposed by real estate professionals in Idaho.

This Bill will allow spouses to pass property at the death of the first to die spouse without a probate or summary administration, while keeping the community property status of the property clear.

See 2008 Idaho Laws Ch. 175.

June 30, 2008 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Hampshire to examine guardians for the elderly

New_hampshireNew Hampshire is wisely studying how to care for the state's aging population anticipating that the number of its citizens over age 65 will double by 2030.

Administrative Judge David King has created a "Task Force on Professional Guardians" which will be chaired by Hillsborough County Probate Judge Raymond Cloutier.  The key things which the force will examine will be the qualifications and training of professional guardians and how the courts may be able to assist family members who serve as guardians.

See AP, Aging NH population prompts look at elderly guardians, Boston.com, June 25, 2008.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Attorney at law, Florida Probate Attorney Wills and Estates Law Firm) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 29, 2008 in Elder Law, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top SSRN Downloads

Ssrn_2 Here are the top downloads from April 30, 2008 to June 29, 2008 from the SSRN Journal of Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law for all papers announced in the last 60 days.

Rank Downloads Paper Title
1 201 2007 Developments in Connecticut Estate and Probate Law
John R. Ivimey, Jeffrey A. Cooper,
Author - Affiliation Unknown, Quinnipiac University School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 5, 2008
Last Revised: April 5, 2008
2 142 Ask Not What Your Charity Can Do for You: Robertson v. Princeton Provides Liberal-Democratic Insights into Cy Pres Reform
Iris Goodwin,
University of Tennessee, Knoxville - College of Law,
Date posted to database: April 24, 2008
Last Revised: May 29, 2008
3 120 Result-Selectivism in Private International Law
Symeon C. Symeonides,
Willamette University - College of Law,
Date posted to database: May 20, 2008
Last Revised: June 26, 2008
4 82 Limited Liability Companies as Exempt Organizations
Bradley T. Borden,
Washburn University - School of Law,
Date posted to database: June 11, 2008
Last Revised: June 11, 2008
5 76 Portability of Exemptions
Wendy C. Gerzog,
University of Baltimore - School of Law,
Date posted to database: May 5, 2008
Last Revised: May 5, 2008
6 60 Rediscovering the Duty of Obedience: Toward a Trinitarian Theory of Fiduciary Duty
Rob Atkinson,
Florida State University College of Law,
Date posted to database: May 22, 2008
Last Revised: May 22, 2008
7 36 Marilyn Monroe's Legacy: Taxation of Postmortem Publicity Rights
Joshua C. Tate,
Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law,
Date posted to database: May 15, 2008
Last Revised: June 2, 2008
8 34 Marketing Wills
Michael McCunney, Alyssa A. DiRusso,
Author - Affiliation Unknown, Cumberland School of Law, Samford University,
Date posted to database: April 2, 2008
Last Revised: April 5, 2008

June 29, 2008 in Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rest in Peace??

RipNoah, Louisa, and Martha Aldrich died over 150 years ago in Vermont.  They were buried in a private cemetery in Hartland.

J. Michel Guite petitioned the Woodstock Probate Court for permission to move the graves from the farm Guite is in the process of purchasing.

At first, Marcia Neal, the great-great-great granddaughter of Noah objected but later withdrew her objection after reaching some type of agreement with Guite.

Then, Jerome B. King object because he buried his parents' cremains in the cemetery over 25 years ago when he owned the farm.

Judge Joanne M. Ertel rejected King's petition because Guite was not asking permission to move the cremains of King's parents.  Thus, King lacked standing to object to Guite's petition.

Nonetheless, Judge Ertel chastised Guite as follows:

This court finds it difficult to fathom his persistence in the face of such widespread and heartfelt opposition. It's hard to imagine introducing yourself to a community with an action the community finds abhorrent. Nonetheless, if he can find a legal basis, Mr. Guite seems to remain committed to obliterating the burying ground as it currently exists, grave by grave, legal issue by legal issue, until no semblance of it exists at its current location. * * *

Perhaps it is time for the Vermont Legislature to consider protecting the sanctity of old cemeteries because of the strong community sentiment expressed so eloquently by so many Vermonters who continue to have that strong sense of community, faith and tradition.  Consequently, the court will be sending copies of this decision to local legislators so that they may become aware of the communities concerns and consider addressing them.

See Gosh O'Gorman, Court OKs grave removal, Rutland Herald, June 27, 2008.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Attorney at law, Florida Probate Attorney Wills and Estates Law Firm) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 28, 2008 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charitable Gift Planning

Ray_bookThomas J. Ray, Jr. (attorney, St. Louis, Missouri) has recently published his book entitled Charitable Gift Planning: A Practical Guide for the Estate Planner (2nd ed.).

Here is a description of this book:

When Congress passed the Pension Protection Act of 2006, they created what some have called "the most significant reform to charitable tax planning since the Tax Reform Act of 1969." Now Thomas J. Ray, Jr. has updated and revised his bestselling deskbook, Charitable Gift Planning, to clearly explain the impact of the Pension Protection Act as well as the Tax Reform and Health Care Act of 2006 on all aspects of charitable gift planning. As with the first edition, this is a truly practice-focused book that provides clear and insightful explanations of all relevant tax law, financial considerations, drafting guidelines, and forms for practitioners interested in planning for clients' charitable giving needs as part of a comprehensive estate and financial plan.

This completely updated and revised edition contains important updates indicated throughout the text that are occasioned by the Act. In addition to changes wrought by these legislative enactments, the second edition contains updated information that reflects new court opinions and rulings by the Internal Revenue Service. The new edition now also includes tables reflecting the Code Sections, Treasury Regulations, and IRS rulings cited in this text, making it even more useful as both a practice and research tool. As before, it includes a valuable CD-ROM containing the book's forms in a downloadable format.

Comprehensive in its coverage, Charitable Gift Planning begins with the income tax rules and the gift and estate tax deduction, the foundation of all charitable giving. It explains in detail the rules governing two key kinds of trusts: charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts, examining the pros and cons of each and when each trust is most useful. Further discussion covers planning options available, transactions involving diverse property, and trustee issues.

Both technical and practical in format, the book thoroughly explains the rules and requirements for using these tools in estate planning. Because calculations form a considerable part of a planning practice, it includes relevant flow-charts, spreadsheets and calculations to explain numerically and visually how these concepts work. At the same time, Charitable Gift Planning features many useful practice pointers to answer common questions that arise in charitable planning. It also includes numerous case studies that explain how to use these tools in a variety of planning situations. The appendix features sample forms and other materials useful in assisting clients with their charitable planning needs, including gift annuity tables and drafting tools.

Among the topics covered in Charitable Gift Planning are:

  • How to make basic charitable gifts with retirement plans and IRAs
  • Planning options available with charitable remainder trusts
  • Using private foundations and supporting organizations to maximize donor control
  • Using a family business as a source for a donor to make charitable gifts
  • "Grantor" and "super-grantor" lead trusts
  • Terminating charitable remainder trusts

June 28, 2008 in Books - For Practitioners, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Eastern Michigan University receives $2.2 million gift from estate of Jean Noble Parsons

EmuThe following announcement is from EMU receives largest estate gift in school history, Feb. 5, 2008:

Eastern Michigan University has received $2.2 million from the trust of renown sculptor and potter Jean Noble Parsons (1929-2000).

The estate gift is the largest of its kind in the history of EMU. * * *

The trust includes $1.75 million in cash and $489,000 in property. The Parsons’ trustees solicited proposals following her death to establish a center in her name.

EMU will use the gift to establish the Jean Noble Parsons Center for the Study of Art and Science on 86 wooded acres near Traverse City and Interlochen. Programming for the center will maintain the natural state of the land and will be designed to foster interdisciplinary exchanges between artists and scientists.

According to the trust, Parsons outlined five activities to be accomplished with the money:

  • establishment of a research center and wildlife sanctuary,
  • an integrated artistic and scientific program for graduate students,
  • use of the dwelling and property for intellectual discussion by researchers, professors and scientists,
  • nature walks for observation and identification of flora and fauna,
  • and public seminars on a range of artistic, environmental and spiritual topics.

June 27, 2008 in Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

More on Millionaire Growth

Money5Earlier on this blog, I reported the despite what some people deem a time of economic downturn, it appears that more individuals then ever are being financially successful.

Here is additional substantiation from Nicholas Fang, There are 77,000 S'porean millionaires, Straitstimes.com, June 25, 2008:

The number of wealthy Singaporeans, defined as those with net assets of at least US$1 million, swelled by 15.3 per cent last year to 77,000, or 1.7 per cent of the population.

This surge in millionaire population puts Singapore sixth in the world, in terms of growth of high net worth individuals * * *.

The report revealed that the sharpest gains were recorded in emerging market powerhouses India, China and Brazil, reflecting the rising clout of emerging market countries on the global financial stage.

It said assets held overall by the world's millionaires soared to US$40.7 trillion (S$55.6 trillion) last year from 2006, with the average exceeding US$4.0 million for the first time.

See also Sam Zuckerman, Ranks of Millioniaires Still Swelling, SFGate.com, June 25, 2008:

In the Bay Area, 123,621 households had $1 million or more in financial assets in 2007, up 10.8 percent from the year before, according to Claritas, the market research firm that helped analyze data for the report. When total net worth is considered, including the value of homes and other real assets minus debt, 163,124 households in the Bay Area had $1 million or more. * * *

Of course, the value of a million dollars has been eroded by inflation. It no longer signifies great wealth and doesn't have the cachet it once had. But it is still a benchmark that indicates a significant level of affluence and a high standard of living.

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

June 27, 2008 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)