Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Common Myths About A Will

Will In honor of last week being National Estate Planning Awareness Week, USA Today ran an article setting out to dispel five myths about wills:

  1. Estate Planning is for the rich: Not true.  Almost everyone has some property, and estate plans cover more than just assets.  
  2. Everything will go to my spouse if I die without a will: Not true in may states that include children in intestate succession schemes.
  3. My estate won't go through probate if I have a will: False again.  The probate process validates the will. 
  4. I'm all set if I create a will or a living trust: This is only true if you expect no life changes after creating the will or living trust.  Most people experience marriage, divorce, the birth of children, and other changes in personal circumstances.
  5. I could be responsible for the debt of my deceased parent: Normally, the estate of the parent is responsible for these debts.

See Sandra Block, 5 myths about wills, and what you should do, USA Today, Oct. 26, 2009.  

Special thanks to Matthew B. Bogin, Esq., for bringing this case to my attention.

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

Howard Hughes's Heirs Hit by the Real Estate Slump

Hughes When Howard Hughes died in 1976, he left behind no will, no children, and nearly 1,000 heirs and beneficiaries. So far, his heirs and beneficiaries have collected $1.5 billion from liquidating Hughes's estate. 

The heirs and beneficiaries were hoping for one final big payout from some real estate in Las Vegas, however,the value of the real estate has dropped considerably and the company holding the real estate has filed for bankruptcy.

For more information, see Kris Hudson, Real-Estate Slump Hits Howard Hughes's Heirs, WSJ, Oct. 23, 2009.

October 29, 2009 in Estate Administration, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inheriting a Roth IRA

Nest egg Here is some advice for handling an inherited Roth IRA, taken from Kelly Greene, The Gift That Keeps on Giving: A Roth IRA, WSJ, Oct. 24, 2009.

  • Inheriting a spouse's IRA: You can roll the IRA into your own IRA, avoiding required distributions and receiving credit for the time the IRA was held by your spouse for purposes of withdrawing principal.
  • Inheriting a parent's IRA: When children are the beneficiaries of the same IRA, they can split the IRA.
  • Titling an inherited IRA: The Internal Revenue Service recognizes this format for retitling the IRA, "'The parent's name Roth IRA/ Deceased 1/1/2001/ FBO (for the benefit of) Name of child as beneficiary.'"

Special thanks to Patrick S. Sylvester (Attorney & Counselor at Law, Sylvester Law Firm, PC) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 28, 2009 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Blog Focuses on 2009 Estate Tax Reform

Estat tax Hani Sarji, an LL.M in Tax candidate at New York Law School, is the author of an informative blog entitled Future of the Federal Estate Tax, which keeps readers up-to-date on the 2009 estate tax reform.  The blog provides information about and links to estate tax bills and relevant articles.  Ann F. Thomas (professor of law, New York Law School) calls the blog promising and timely.

 The blog should keep readers up-to-date until Congress takes final action.

Thank you to Hani Sarji for sharing your research.  We greatly appreciate it!

October 28, 2009 in Current Events, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Immortality and A Super-Rich Species Predicted

Cityofthefuture American Futurologist Paul Saffo predicts that in the future, the advancements made possible by the fusion of biology and technology will only be available to the super-rich, possibly leading to the super-rich being a different species than their less wealthy counterparts.  

On a related note, an American scientists has predicted that immortality is only 20 years away. 

If these predictions become a reality, estate planning as we know it would likely change.  Until then, this blog will continue to focus on arguably more concrete predictions, such as the future of the federal estate tax. 

See Amy Willis, Rich 'may evolve into separate species,' UK Telegraph, Oct. 25, 2009. 

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

October 28, 2009 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Providing for a Client's Disposition of Tangible Property

CLE The ABA Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law is sponsoring a CLE teleconference and life audio webcast on Nov. 10, 2009, entitled Passwords and Personalty: Planning and Pitfalls in the Disposition of Tangible and Quasi-Tangible Property.  

Here is a description of the program.

Do you find the disposition of tangible personal property is an often overlooked aspect of estate planning? The disposition of tangible (and quasi-tangible) personal property often is more important to clients and their family members than other aspects of the planning. If not handled properly, it can lead to more family disputes and will contests than other parts of the plan. Have you considered the financial value of digital assets (such as eBay, PayPal, online gaming sites, etc.) and the mechanisms for pragmatically including them in estate plans?

This program will address: Drafting techniques, client-relations strategies, valuation methods to help promote a conflict-free distribution process, and the disposition of digital assets (e.g., computer passwords, email accounts and social networking profiles).

October 28, 2009 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Astor Trial Could Affect Will Execution

Astor Aside from directly affecting the lives of Anthony D. Marshall and Francis X. Morissey, Jr., the Astor trial could also affect people making a will by causing attorneys to take extra precaution when ascertaining their testamentary capacity.  This could be especially true if there any doubt regarding a client's testamentary capacity.

Marshall and Morissey were convicted of tricking Mrs. Brooke Astor into signing an amendment to her will, despite the generally low capacity required to execute a will.  

See John Eligon, In Astor Trial, a Lesson for Estate Lawyers, NY Times, Oct. 25, 2009.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Henderson and  Patrick S. Sylvester (Attorney & Counselor at Law, Sylvester Law Firm, PC) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 28, 2009 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

House Maj. Leader Predicts 2009 Estate Tax Will Become Permanent

Estat tax The following is taken from Corey Boles and Martin Vaughan, Hoyer Supports Permanent Fix for Estate Tax, Wall St. J., Oct. 27, 2009.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said Tuesday he supports a move to permanently fix the estate tax at 2009 levels and expects it will be adopted by Congress before the end of the year.

The staff on the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee is working on legislation that would set the rate of the tax at current levels. . . . and continue the 2009 estate tax parameters indefinitely. . . . 

The extension would cost the taxpayer $233 billion over the next decade, because currently the federal budget assumes the rate will increase sharply from 2011.

Special thanks to Patrick S. Sylvester (Attorney & Counselor at Law, Sylvester Law Firm, PC) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 28, 2009 in Current Events, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Consider donating to a worthy cause by texting this Halloween

CCFA The following announcement is posted as a courtesy to Sharon Brand Gardner (Shareholder, Crain Caton, Houston, Texas) who serves on on Board of Trustees of the Houston Gulf Coast/South Texas Chapter the CCFA.

Sharon explains, "Your $5.00 donation would help the 1.4 million American's afflicted with crohn's or colitus..Our goal is to get 200,000 texts by Halloween so please pass this request on to your friends, co-workers, and significant others. We are a small charity but we are gutsy.....Pun intended."


  • [Click on the announcement to see a full-size version which is more readable.]

October 27, 2009 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Italian Royalty Fight Over Inheritance for Surrogate Children

Gesine I recently reported on the inheritance battle between Italian Prince Jonathan Doria Pamphilj and his sister, Princess Gesine.  Both adopted into royalty as children, they now dispute whether Prince Jonathan's children from a surrogate mother are heirs of the Princess and Prince's mother's estate.

A recent article discusses the Italian law at the center of this dispute, providing in relevant part that "the controversial Human Fertility Bill, passed by the Italian Senate in 2004. . . bans single women and homosexual men from access to artificial insemination and outlaws the use of surrogate mothers."  Barbara Davies, Not so happy ever after . . . plucked as babies from an orphanage by an Italian princess, but now they're at war over the family's £1bn fortune, MailOnline, Oct. 24, 2009.

The article also quotes Princess Gesine as stating, "'This is not the usual family squabble over inheritance. I believe I am acting in their best interests, to give these children a secure, legal footing so they know where they stand."  Id.

October 27, 2009 in Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)