Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Creating a Durable Power of Attorney

FinancesA durable power of attorney is a document that gives someone power over another person's financial affairs.  The benefits of, and advice for creating, a durable power attorney are discussed in a recent article.  The article stresses the importance of choosing a trustworthy agent and setting out the agent's powers.  Additionally, the article points out that effective planning ensures that the power of attorney will be effective under the varied laws of all states and countries where it may be needed, and not just the state where it is created.

For more information, see Deborah L. Jacobs, Putting Your Faith in a Power of Attorney, NY Times, May 9, 2009.

Special thanks to J. Barrett Shipp (The Law Office of J. Barrett Shipp, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 31, 2009 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top SSRN Downloads

Ssrn_2 Here are the top downloads from April 1, 2009 to May 31, 2009 from the SSRN Journal of Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law for all papers announced in the last 60 days.

Rank Downloads Paper Title
1 92 Copyright's Hidden Assumption: A Critical Analysis of the Foundations of Descendible Copyright
Deven R. Desai,
Thomas Jefferson School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 27, 2009
Last Revised: April 27, 2009
2 82 How the Rich Stay Rich: Using a Family Trust Company to Secure a Family Fortune
Iris Goodwin,
University of Tennessee, Knoxville - College of Law,
Date posted to database: April 24, 2009
Last Revised: May 27, 2009
3 76 What is a Trust?
Mark Leeming,
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law,
Date posted to database: April 16, 2009
Last Revised: April 16, 2009
4 63 Trust Law and the Title-Split: A Beneficial Perspective
Kent D. Schenkel,
New England School of Law,
Date posted to database: January 23, 2009
Last Revised: February 9, 2009
5 44 The Fiduciary Duty of Departing Employees
Robert Flannigan,
University of Saskatchewan,
Date posted to database: April 16, 2009
Last Revised: April 16, 2009
6 38 The Uniform Power of Attorney Act: New Solutions to Old Problems
Gerry W. Beyer,
Texas Tech University School of Law,
Date posted to database: May 2, 2009
Last Revised: May 26, 2009
7 32 Codification of Late Roman Inheritance Law: Fideicommissa and the Theodosian Code
Joshua C. Tate,
Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 11, 2008
Last Revised: February 11, 2009
8 30 Post-Mortem Sperm Retrieval and the Social Security Administration: How Modern Reproductive Technology Makes Strange Bedfellows
Mary F. Radford,
Georgia State University - College of Law,
Date posted to database: April 13, 2009
Last Revised: April 28, 2009
9 17 Review of Federal Income Taxation of Estates and Beneficiaries
Ronald H. Jensen,
Pace University School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 16, 2009
Last Revised: April 16, 2009
10 15 Fiduciary Accountability Transformed
Robert Flannigan,
University of Saskatchewan,
Date posted to database: May 18, 2009
Last Revised: May 18, 2009

May 31, 2009 in Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Failure to draft will contributes to attorney's suspension from the practice of law

Evil On January 29, 2009, an Austin lawyer was suspended from the practice of law for three years, with the first year to be actively served with the remaining two years probated.

Here is a description of her conduct as found in Disciplinary Actions, 72 Tex. B.J. 406, 407-08 (2009):

An evidentiary panel of the District 9-A Grievance Committee found that in a civil matter involving the drafting of a will, [she] failed to draft the will, failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the case, failed to refund any unearned fee, and engaged in legal work while administratively suspended from the practice of law. The panel further found that in a bankruptcy matter, [she] engaged in legal work while administratively suspended from the practice of law.

May 30, 2009 in Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Funeral Home Lets Bodies Drip and Decay

CoffinA national funeral home corporation is under investigation for improper handling of mortal remains, including the remains of U.S. military personnel headed for Arlington National Cemetery, at the National Funeral Home in Falls Church, Virginia.   A former employee alleges that as many as 200 bodies and coffins were stored in an unrefrigerated garage on make shift gurneys and racks for weeks to months, dripping fluids on the floor as they decayed.  One witness stated that he saw naked bodies exposed in the garage. 

The corporation, SCI, operates over 1,700 funeral homes nationwide and has been under scrutiny for improper handling before.  Nationwide Funeral Home was under a three year probation for unsanitary conditions.  Multiple employees confirm the conditions.  

For more information, see Josh White,Family Asks Fairfax Prosecutor to Investigate Funeral Home, Washington Post, April 7, 2009; Josh White, 'I Never Could Have Imagined', Washington Post, April 5, 2009.  A Washington Post video is linked here.

Thanks to Lewis J. Saret (Moore & Bruce, LLP) for bringing these articles to my attention.

May 30, 2009 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Astor Estate Update

Astor_brooke I have posted multiple blogs on the trial of Mrs. Brooke Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, including here and here.

The following is an update on how the trial is progressing.  

  • The 30+ wills and amendments that were executed by Mrs. Astor were placed in bulky binders on a tri-level cart in the court room.
  • The last four weeks of trial have focused on Mrs. Astor's mental condition. 
  • Now the trial is focusing on the time period during which Mrs. Astor executed the codicil giving her son full control of her residual estate. 
  • The lawyer who helped Mrs. Astor execute a codicil just a month before she executed the codicil at issue was recently called to testify about Mrs. Astor's mental condition during the critical time period. 

See John Eligon, Focus on Astor's Many Wills, and a Lawyer in the Middle, NY Times, May 26, 2009.

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

May 29, 2009 in Articles, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate Planning Lawyer & Family Found Dead

Maryland Last month the body of William Parente, an estate planning attorney, was found with the bodies of his wife and his two daughters in a Baltimore hotel room.

Here is a time line of what occurred in this unfortunate case:

  • Parente's investment business invested at least $20 million dollars over the last 20 years in high-yield bridge loans.
  • Investors asked that their money be returned after the Madoff scam went public.
  • The family traveled to Long Island to visit thier oldest daughter who was a student at Loyola. 
  • Police say that Parente beat and asphyxiated his family and then took his own life. 
  • Checks that Parente issued to investors shortly before his death bounced shortly after his death.
  • FBI agents seized records related to Parente's investment business from his Manhattan office.

See Theo Emery, 4 Bodies Found in Maryland Hotel, The New York Times, April 21, 2009; Michael Amon, FBI raids William Parente's office, Los Angelos Times, April 29, 2009.

May 29, 2009 in Articles, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate Taxes in 2010

Estate_tax Under the Bush tax cuts of 2001, the estate tax was supposed to fully disappear for the year 2010 and resume in 2011.  Instead, President Obama is assuming that the 2009 tax levels will carry over for 2010. There are two sides, however, to the question about whether the estate-tax plan for 2010 should be changed.

  • In opposition of change: Some members of congress, who may be motivated by self-interest and/or ideology, and the very small number of Americans who will potentially be harmed by the higher-than-expected tax rate.

  • In favor of change: Those who feel the estate tax is a necessary source of revenue for a highly indebted nation and those who believe the super-rich, at the center of high-salary and big-bonus scandals, are to blame for the current financial crisis.

See David R. Francis, Tax the heirs of the rich (at least a few of them), The Christian Science Monitor, April 22, 2009.

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

May 29, 2009 in Articles, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Texas Probate Fee Survey results now available

Money2 Richard Bischoff (Attorney, El Paso, Texas) has recently compiled the results of his survey of how Texas probate lawyers charge for estate planning services.

The complete results of his survey are available here.

Here are some of key results:

  • By a significant margin (73.4% to 26.6%), respondents charge for estate planning services on a flat fee, rather than hourly basis.
  • The most common hourly fee is between $175-200 but almost 5% charge in the $400-500 range.
  • The most common flat fee for an estate plan without tax issues is between $750-1000.
  • The most common flat fee for an estate plan with tax issues is between $2,001-3,000.

May 29, 2009 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trusts -- Australian Style

Australia Mark Leeming (Faculty of Law, Univ. of Sydney Law School) has written a new article entitled What is a Trust?, 7 Trusts Quart. Rev. 5 (2009).

Here is the abstract of the article from the SSRN version of his article:

A trust is a relationship, not a legal person, popular misconceptions (reinforced by statutory fictions) notwithstanding. The trust relationship is between trustee, beneficiaries, property and third parties. It interacts with other aspects of the legal system, notably, common law and statute. This article examines some aspects of how that interaction occurs. The first half addresses how common law has long recognised trusts, and focusses in particular on assignments of choses in action prior to the judicature legislation, with a view to assessing what the real impact of that legislation was. Conversely, the second half analyses how the equitable rules in the law of trusts accommodate prohibitions and restrictions at common law and in statute upon the trust property.

May 28, 2009 in Articles, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dean John E. Cribbet dies

Cribbet_John It is with a heavy heart that I report on the passing of Dean John E. Cribbet (University of Illinois College of Law) on May 23, 2009.  Although I visited with Dean Cribbet only a few times while studying at the University of Illinois as he was the Chancellor at that time, I found him to be one of the most amazing individuals I had ever met.

Here are some excerpts from Former UI Chancellor, Law School Dean John Cribbet dies at 91, University of Illinois:

Cribbet, chancellor of the Urbana campus from 1979-84, was a well-known legal scholar and pioneer in the field of property law. His books include the widely used "Cases and Materials on Property," a law textbook now in its eighth edition [GWB: This is the only book from which I've taught Property].

"John Cribbet transformed all that he touched - the university, the College of Law, and, most importantly, his students and colleagues," said Bruce P. Smith, the dean of the college and Guy Raymond Jones Faculty Scholar. "He was a legendary teacher and scholar in the field of property law. But he was also a terrific person. * * *

Former U. of I. President Stanley Ikenberry, who worked with Cribbet during his five years as chancellor, said: "John Cribbet represents the very best of the University of Illinois. He gave a lifetime of dedication and commitment, and was a person of great talent, great intellect and great character who helped both build and exemplify the greatness of the university." * * *

Colleagues say Cribbet's first love was teaching. A perennial outstanding faculty selection by students, he returned to the law school after resisting Ikenberry's efforts to stay on as chancellor and taught for 12 years before retiring in 1988. * * *

"Cribbet was born Feb. 21, 1918, in Findlay, Ill., a son of Howard and Ruth Cribbet. He earned his bachelor's degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1940, and enrolled at the University of Illinois College of Law.

In the summer of 1941, Cribbet interrupted his studies to enlist in the U.S. Army as a private. Over the next four years, he rose in rank and responsibility, completing his military career as a major and aide-de-camp for 8th Corps Commander Gen. Troy Middleton. Cribbet's distinguished service earned him the Bronze Star and Croix de Guerre.

Cribbet earned his law degree from Illinois in 1947. After a few months in private practice in Bloomington, Ill., he was recruited to the College of Law faculty by long-time Dean Albert J. Harno. Cribbet was an assistant professor from 1947-1951, associate professor from 1951-1953, and professor beginning in 1953. * * *

Cribbet was a well-known legal scholar, writing or co-writing numerous articles and texts. He also founded the University of Illinois Law Forum, now known as the University of Illinois Law Review, and served as its first faculty editor.* * *

Cribbet is survived by his wife, Betty, and daughters Pamela and Carol Ann and their families. The couple married Dec. 24, 1941.

A memorial service will take place Saturday (May 30) in the Max L. Rowe Auditorium in the College of Law in Champaign. The service will begin at 2 p.m.

Read News Gazette article - "Life Remembered: Ex-UI dean, chancellor John Cribbet a pioneer"

Read Chicago Tribune article - "John E. Cribbet, 1918-2009: Former U of I chancellor, law dean"

May 28, 2009 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)