Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Advertising a probate judge on staff triggers ethics problems

Secola_josephJoseph Secola is a Probate Judge in Brookfield, Connecticut and is also engaged in the active practice of law.  His partner, Micky Fox, posted a notice on-line that his partner (Judge Secola) "is not only a Probate Judge in Brookfield, CT, but * * * also licensed in New York."

An ethics complaint has been filed.  Judge Secola states that the posting was a "complete and total mistake" and that Micky "doesn't understand the ethical restrictions I'm under."  Judge Secola also indicated that he doesn't even put on his letterhead that he is a probate judge.

See Kim Martineau, Actions Of Probate Judge's Law Partner Prompt Ethics Complaint, Courant.com, July 4, 2008.

It is interesting to note that in some states (like Connecticut), probate judges are allowed to practice law simultaneously with sitting on the bench.

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

July 29, 2008 in Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Minnesota authorizes transfer on death deeds

MinnesotaOn May 18, 2008, the Governor of Minnesota approved H.F. 3420 (Chapter 341, § 5) which authorizes transfer on death deeds (effective August 1, 2008).  Minnesota now joins the approximately ten other states that allow this technique.

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws is also working on a Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act.  This link will take you to the discussion draft of July 2008.

Special thanks to David D. Danielson (Adjunct Professor and Director of Planned Giving, Northwestern College & Northwestern Radio, St. Paul, MN) for bringing these developments to my attention.

July 28, 2008 in New Legislation, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Drew Peterson Saga Continues

Peterson_drewDrew Peterson is a former Illinois police officer who has been accused in the death and/or disappearance of two of his four wives.

Here is a brief background of Drew's situation:

  • Wife #3 (Kathleen Savio) was discovered dead in dry bathtub with a cut on the back of her head and blood-soaked hair.  The coroner's jury ruled her death accidental.
  • Wife #4 (Stacy Peterson) disappeared in late October 2007 has not yet been heard from.
  • Police are now investigating both situations.
  • After exhuming Kathleen's body, authorities now believe her death was a murder.

The following new developments have occurred in the administration of Kathleen's estate according to Stewart Warren,  Peterson's lawyers drop Savio estate probate fight, Naperville Sun, July 18, 2008:

  • Kathleen's probate case was reopened so that her family members could bring a wrongful death action against Drew.
  • Drew and his uncle requested the judge of Will County to delay the proceedings.
  • On July 16, 2008, the motion to stay the proceedings was withdrawn.

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

July 28, 2008 in Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

British tabloid claims Steve Fossett may have faked his own death

FossettEarlier on this blog, I discussed Steve Fossett’s disappearance and his wife’s petition to declare him legally dead.  On February 15, 2008, he was declared legally dead.

However, because no one has found his body or wreckage of his plan, insurance investigators and Lieutenant Colonel Cynthia Ryan of the US Civil Air Patrol believe that it is possible that Mr. Fossett may have faked his death.

Here is the evidence as reported by Douglas Wight & Graeme Massie, Did Steve Fossett fake his own death?, News of the World, July 27, 2008:

  • SECRET MISTRESSES: Fossett cheated on his wife with TWO lovers in an amazing double life.
  • BAFFLING CHOICE OF PLANE: Fossett chose a light stunt aircraft which could be easily dismantled and hidden, a type he did NOT like.
  • NO EMERGENCY KIT: Despite a lifetime's experience he supposedly set off on the three-hour flight in just T-shirt and shorts with no parachute or his regular global positioning system watch.
  • TAKE-OFF PUZZLE: The only witness who says he saw Fossett fly off has never been quizzed by the authorities.
  • TRACKER RIDDLE: The plane was fitted with a satellite rescue beacon to pinpoint its position for rescuers but no signal was ever received.

July 28, 2008 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

"Happiest UPS man" takes final ride to funeral services

UpsJeff Hornagold was a driver for the United Parcel Service for approximately 20 years.  He died recently in Crystal Lake, Illinois from lung cancer.

His friend and fellow driver, Michael McGowan, drove him on Saturday (July 26, 2008) from the Davenport Family Funeral Home to the funeral services in his UPS truck.

See AP, Co-worker drives body in UPS truck, CNN.com, July 27, 2008.

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

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dynasty Trust CLE

NccThe National Constitution Center is sponsoring a live audio conference on July 30, 2008 entitled Dynasty Trusts: Multi-Generational Drafting & Planning Techniques.

Here is a description of the program:

With a dynasty trust, a generation skipping transfer trust, estate tax savings can be enormous. When implementing a dynasty trust for multi-generations, what Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax considerations must you be aware of? How can you properly secure your clients’ assets and be sure to provide for their children and grandchildren? Join us for this 60-minute audio program where you will discover:

  • Techniques for Planning & Drafting the Dynasty Trust
  • What are the Generation Skipping Transfer Tax Exemptions?
  • How Long Can a Dynasty Trust & Specific Opportunities Last?
  • Strategies for Selecting the Jurisdiction for a Dynasty Trust

July 27, 2008 in Conferences & CLE | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top SSRN Downloads

Ssrn_2 Here are the top downloads from May 28, 2008 to July 27, 2008 from the SSRN Journal of Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law for all papers announced in the last 60 days.

Rank Downloads Paper Title
1 151 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
2 129 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
3 75 The Empty Promise of Estate Tax Repeal
Grayson M.P. McCouch,
University of San Diego School of Law,
Date posted to database: June 24, 2008
Last Revised: June 24, 2008
4 55 Like-Kind Exchanges of Personal-Use Residences
Bradley T. Borden, Alex Hamrick,
Washburn University - School of Law, Wachovia Bank,
Date posted to database: June 22, 2008
Last Revised: June 25, 2008
5 45 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: July 6, 2008
6 45 Probate Law Reform and Nonprobate Transfers
Grayson M.P. McCouch,
University of San Diego School of Law,
Date posted to database: June 24, 2008
Last Revised: June 24, 2008
7 37 Compliance with Advance Directives: Wrongful Living and Tort Law Incentives
Holly Fernandez Lynch, Michele Mathes, Nadia N. Sawicki,
Harvard University, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), University of Pennsylvania - School of Law,
Date posted to database: June 20, 2008
Last Revised: June 20, 2008
8 35 Gift Tax Effects of Substituting a Lower AFR Note for a Higher AFR Note
Jonathan G. Blattmachr, Bridget J. Crawford, Elisabeth O. Madden,
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, Pace University - School of Law, Author - affiliation not provided to SSRN,
Date posted to database: June 1, 2008
Last Revised: June 5, 2008

July 27, 2008 in Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Huge expenses approved for Denice Denton's estate

Denton_deniceDenice Denton committed suicide on June 24, 2006 during her tenure as the Chancellor of the University of California--Santa Cruz.

After her will was admitted to probate which leaves her estate to her three siblings, Denice's mother (Carolyn Mabee) was appointed as the executor.

The court has recently authorized her to spend $100,000 on attorney fees to continue a battle against Denice's same-sex partner, Gretchen Kalonji, who wants to share in Denice's estate in the amount of $2.25 million even though she is not named as a beneficiary of Denice's will.  Denice wrote her will before she met Gretchen.

Gretchen claims that she and Denice entered into an oral contract to provide for each other.  They did not, however, formalize their relationship as domestic partners.  Denice did not name Gretchen as the beneficiary of her life insurance or retirement plans.

Gretchen's attorneys want Carolyn removed as the executor claiming that she has "deep-rooted personal animosity or financial motivations" and is intentionally delaying the lawsuit.

See Jennifer Squires, Fight over late chancellor's estate heats up, MercuryNews.com, July 19, 2008.

Special thanks to Raymond Sheffield for bringing this article to my attention.

July 26, 2008 in Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Are pre-engagement agreements needed?

ShellIt is starting to appear that a pre-nuptial agreement is not enough when doing estate planning for a person involved in a long-term relationship.  Instead, it may also be necessary to have a pre-engagement/pre-living together agreement.  If not, problems may arise as happened in the case of Wayne Gibbs and RoseMary Shell.

Here is the situation as described in Bob Considine, Jilted bride calls $150,000 jury award ‘justice’, MSNBC.com, July 25, 2008:

  • Wayne and RoseMary starting dating in 2001.
  • They were going to get married in 2005 but when they didn't, RoseMary broke off the relationship and starting dating another man in Pensacola.
  • In October 2006, Wayne asked her to move back to Gainesville and proposed marriage with a 2-carat diamond ring.
  • RoseMary agreed and they set a wedding date of December 2.
  • Later, Wayne told RoseMary that he wanted to postpone the wedding.
  • In March 2007, they broke up.
  • A few months later, RoseMary decided to sue Wayne for breach of his promise to marry her.
  • During the trial, RoseMary testified that the job in Pensacola she gave up paid almost three times the job she took in Gainesville.
  • Wayne testified that he made house payments for her and gave her $30,000 to pay off credit card debt.
  • Then, Wayne learned that RoseMary was even in greater debt and that was one of the reasons he did not want to marry her.
  • The jury awarded RoseMary $150,000 in damages.
  • RoseMary has also retained the engagement ring.
  • RoseMary did not have to return any of the money Wayne gave her to pay her debts in contemplation of the marriage.
  • Hammond Law, Wayne's attorney, has indicated that Wayne will appeal.

I wonder if Wayne feels it would have been better for him to marry her and then file for divorce the next day.  Then, he would not have breached his promise to marry her.  (There was no evidence that he made a promise to remain married to her for any specific length of time.)  It may have been more economical!

Special thanks to James Korth (Associate, Cantey Hanger, LLP, Fort Worth, Texas) and David S. Luber (Attorney at law, Florida Probate Attorney Wills and Estates Law Firm) for bringing this situation to my attention.

July 26, 2008 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 25, 2008

How to motivate your child if you are wealthy

MotivateAccording to Sharlene Goff, The Wealth generation game, Financial Times, July 5, 2008:

Thousands of children of successful entrepreneurs and professionals are growing up with enough wealth around them to support them for the rest of their lives. Wealth managers say there can be little incentive for these people to go to university and find employment when they know they are going to inherit a fortune.

Yet most parents want their children to make their own way no matter how big their potential inheritance. * * *

Some parents believe their children are entitled to their wealth but question when and how to pass it on, while others – typically the more entrepreneurial – do not believe their children should benefit and plan to give most of their money away. * * *

Charrington says as a general trend the age at which children inherit is being pushed upwards. “You don’t tend to get children aged 18, 21, even 25, being given significant wealth,” he says. “We are seeing clients wanting to push it to 30-plus.”

The idea behind this is to motivate children to embark on their own careers and form goals before they receive the windfall.

Also, parents tend to prefer their children to be married, or at least in a stable relationship, before they inherit.

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

July 25, 2008 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)