Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Update on Estate of Former Fiat Chairman

Fiat I previously reported the legal battles surrounding the estate of Gianni Agnelli, former chairman of Fiat.  Agnelli's daughter, a primary beneficiary of Agnelli's estate, claims that the estate contains undeclared assets held in Swiss accounts, worth as much as $1 billion.  Agnelli's daughter sued three advisors for an estate accounting. 

Lawyers presented closing arguments in court last week and a final decision is not expected until next year.  While the trial has remained closed to the public, the proceedings have exposed the family to unprecedented levels of publicity, what some call a demonstration that the dynasty that was once the "very definition of elegance and style" is finished.  Stacy Meichtry, Lawsuit Draws Rift Among Agnellis, Nov. 19, 2009. 

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

November 18, 2009 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Estate Tax Legislation Introduced

Estat tax On Nov. 18, Senators Tom Carper (D-Del) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) introduced S2784, which would freeze the federal estate tax at 2009 levels. 

For more information, see Sens. Carper & Voinovich Introduce Bill to Fix Estate Tax, Press Release, Nov. 17, 2008. 

Thank You to Hani Sarji (LL.M in Tax candidate at New York Law School) for this information.

November 18, 2009 in Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate Planning & Community Property Law Journal Announces 2010 Seminar

EPJ The Estate Planning & Community Property Law Journal has announced the program for its 2010 Seminar to be held on February 5, 2010 at the Texas Tech University School of Law.

Here are some of the topics and speakers scheduled to appear:

  • THE NEW IMPORTANCE OF SURROGATE DIRECTIVES Rebecca C. Morgan, Boston Asset Management Faculty Chair in Elder Law, Stetson University College of Law
  • THE SLIP AND FALL OF THE CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE IN CLASSIFICATION OF PERSONAL INJURY DAMAGES AT DIVORCE AND DEATH Helen Y. Chang, Associate Professor of Law, Golden Gate University School of Law
  • POST-MORTEM SPERM RETRIEVAL AND THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: HOW MODERN REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY MAKES STRANGE BEDFELLOWS Mary F. Radford, Catherine C. Hanson Professor of Law, Georgia State University School of Law
  • COURTHOUSE MORALS AND LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS: A REVIEW OF RECENT CASES AND LEGISLATION IMPACTING TEXAS ESTATE PLANNERS Gerry W. Beyer, Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law
  • AD LITEMS AND DNR’S: OR WHO WOKE THE SLEEPING FIREFIGHTER The Honorable Rory R. Olsen, Probate Court No. 3, Houston, Texas
  • ETHICS AND THE LAW David Lanehart, Former Chair of the District 16A Grievance Committee, Solo Practitioner Lubbock, Texas
  • PROTECTING TRUST ASSETS FROM THE FEDERAL TAX LIEN Bryan Camp, George H. Mahon Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law
  • CUTTING EDGE V. OVER THE EDGE: ETHICS AND MALPRACTICE ISSUES FOR MEDICAID PLANNING Patricia F. Sitchler, Shareholder, Schoenbaum, Curphy & Scanlan, P.C.
  • CAN ESTATE PLANNERS AND TRUST ADMINISTRATORS OFFER HELP TO TRUST BENEFICIARIES WHO WANT TO LEARN TO MAKE POSITIVE LIFE PLANNING DECISIONS? Robert Whitman, Professor, University of Connecticut School of Law

 Follow this link for the seminar brochure which contains registration information and additional details.

November 18, 2009 in Conferences & CLE | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nicolas Cage's Financial Woes Cost Him Two Homes, So Far

Cage A foreclosure auction last week cost Nicolas Cage two of his homes in New Orleans.  Cage, who reportedly owes $6 million in back taxes, has sued his former business manager as a result of his poor financial situation. Properties in California and Vegas will be auctioned this month as well.

Perhaps a good sign, Cage has five projects slated for 2010.  

See Hibah Yousuf, Nicolas Cage loses 2 homes in foreclosure auction, Yahoo News, Nov. 13, 2009.

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

November 18, 2009 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prosecuting and Defending When A Decedent or Ward is a Party

Scales of justice Rudolph M. Culp (associate, Horrigan & Goehrs, L.L.P.) & Joseph S. Horrigan (partner, Horrigan & Goehrs, L.L.P.) have published their article entitled Decedents or Wards as Parties, The Advocate, Fall 2009, at 68.

An excerpt from the introduction of the article is below:

Identification of the proper parties to litigation involving decedents or wards is essential to personal jurisdiction.  Woe to plaintiff's counsel who first learns on appeal that the proper defendant was not a party to the judgment.

This paper surveys the Rules of Procedure, the Probate Code, and the Trust Code concerning the effect on pending litigation of death or disability, as well as the requirements for prosecuting or defending suits initiated after death or disability.  

November 18, 2009 in Articles, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Over 14,000 Seek Amnesty for Offshore Accounts

Financial Over 14,000 Americans have taken advantage of the IRS amnesty program by disclosing secret offshore accounts.  It is estimated that 12,000 of those disclosures came after the Swiss government agreed to reveal information about UBS accounts, which I reported here.  

According to Ryan J. Donmoyer and David Voreacos, IRS Gets Secret Account Data From 14,700 Americans, Bloomberg, Nov. 17, 2009, the voluntarily disclosed accounts will translate into billions in income for the U.S. government: 

The partial amnesty program, announced in March, let taxpayers repatriate offshore assets and avoid jail by paying back taxes, interest and reduced penalties. The tax agency will take 20 percent of a disclosed account’s assets based on its peak value in the previous six years. In cases of inactive accounts, the agency will confiscate as little as 5 percent.

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

November 17, 2009 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Attorney disbarred for lying to probate judge

Disbarred The following behavior by a Texas attorney resulted in his disbarment.  Here are the details from Disciplinary Actions, 72 Tex. B.J. 884 (2009):

The 162nd Judicial District Court found that during a probate court hearing, [attorney] knowingly made a false statement of material fact to a tribunal concerning the residence of his client and, once it became clear the judge misunderstood [attorney's] statement, [he] did not correct the false statement. [He] subsequently filed a document with the probate court containing a false statement of what he told the judge at the hearing. [Attorney] knew or should have known that he might be a witness necessary to establish essential facts on behalf of his client relating to a will contest. Despite this knowledge, [he] failed to withdraw from representing the client. [Attorney] engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. [His] appeal deadline was June 8.

[He] violated Rules 3.03(a) and (b), 3.08(a), and 8.04(a)(1) and (a)(3). He was ordered to pay $10,732.70 in attorney’s fees and costs.

[Attorney] has filed an appeal.

November 17, 2009 in Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Texas Wills & Trusts Case Law Survey

Texas Gerry W. Beyer (Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law) has recently posted on SSRN his article entitled Wills & Trusts, 62 SMU L. Rev. 1499 (2009).  Here is the abstract of his article:

This article discusses judicial developments relating to the Texas law of intestacy, wills, estate administration, trusts, and other estate planning matters during the Survey period of November 1, 2007, through October 31, 2008. The discussion of most cases includes a moral that is the important lesson to be learned from the case. By recognizing situations that have resulted in time consuming and costly litigation in the past, the reader may be able to reduce the likelihood of the same situations arising with his or her clients.

November 17, 2009 in Articles, Estate Administration, New Cases, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article Discusses 2009 Estate Planning Legislation in Texas

Karisch Glenn M. Karisch (attorney, Austin, Texas) has published his article entitled 2009 Texas Probate, Guardianship and Trust Legislation, The Advocate, Fall 2009, at 15.

The introduction to the article is below:

Texas probate and trust practitioners will find a few gifts in their legislative stockings this year, as well as one or two lumps of coal.  They won't have to wait until Christmas to open these packages, since most of the changes are effective September 1, 2009.

As usual, our friends in the Texas Legislature have done their best to improve our laws and our lives, with mixed results. 

November 17, 2009 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Testing Online Wills Causes Reaction From Estate Planners

Estate plan A recent Wall Street Journal article has caught the attention of the estate planning world.  The article is entitled Before It's Too Late: A Test of Online Wills.  In the article, the author uses four online will-writing tools to plan for a hypothetical married and childless couple.  The author discusses various planning techniques used by the online planning sites, such as a living trust, revocable trust, living will, and advanced medical directive. 

For a thorough critique of the article and the hypothetical couple's reliance on the documents, see the comments posted in response to the article and the blog post published by the Law Offices of David A. Shulman in South Florida entitled The Wall Street Journal Totally Blows it on Online Wills.

Or, you could just read the last paragraph of the article

Which program produces the superior will? Each site purports to yield documents that clearly outline our intentions in the event of our demise or death, although we didn't hire a lawyer to review them. 

Maybe the real test will come when the hypothetical couple hypothetically passes away. 

See Jane Hodges, Before It's Too Late: A Test of Online Wills, WSJ, Nov. 12, 2009. 

Special thanks to Michael S. Knowles (J.D. candidate 2011, Creighton School of Law), Patrick S. Sylvester (Attorney & Counselor at Law, Sylvester Law Firm, PC), and  Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 17, 2009 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)