Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Senior Citizens Battle Credit Card Debt

Elder in debt The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College concluded that 30% of unemployed individuals over age 55 have less retirement savings than credit card debt. In addition, the average credit card debt for individuals over 65 is currently $10,235, and this age group outpaces any other age group in new credit card acquisitions. Some of these elderly individuals aren’t afraid to ask for help and designate an agent under a power of attorney. However, most are too embarrassed to ask for help and remain too impoverished to pay off the debt.

Bankruptcy might be a good option in some situations, but the elderly segment of the population tends to feel a moral obligation to repay their debts. Only 9% of all bankruptcy petitioners are senior citizens. Another option is to seek credit counseling. For example, the Institute for Financial Literacy has developed a new course entitled “Senior Financial Safety,” which addresses post-retirement planning, consumer fraud, and money management. Approximately 12,000 seniors around the world are expected to take this course this year.

See Sherisse Pham, Retirements Swallowed by Debt, N.Y. Times, Jan. 26, 2011.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (WealthCounsel) for bringing this to my attention.

January 31, 2011 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

ACTEC Announces Mary Moers Wenig 2011 Student Writing Competition

ActecThe American College of Trust and Estate Counsel has officially announced the Mary Moers Wenig 2011 Student Writing Competition.

Here are some of the key features of this competition:

  • Large cash prizes (first place = $5,000; second place = $3,000; third place = $1,000; honorable mention cash awards may also be made).
  • Winners published by ACTEC.
  • A broad range of topics in the trusts and estates and related taxation areas.
  • Attractive page requirements -- the body of the paper must be 20 double-spaced pages and may not exceed 30 double-spaced pages.
  • Use of original (but unpublished) papers, including papers prepared for law school credit.
  • June 1, 2011 deadline which will allow for work over two semesters and spring break.
  • No limit on the number of Honorable Mention Prizes allowing entrants to have a greater chance of receiving recognition and monetary awards.
  • Papers may be coauthored.

The official rules may be found here.

January 31, 2011 in Writing Competitions for Students | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prof. Charles Galvin Dies

It is with a heavy heart that I report that Prof. Charles "Charley" Galvin died on January 27, 2011.

I had the good fortune to know Charley for many years and to work with him on the Texas Will Manual Service.  He was an outstanding lawyer and wonderful person.  He will be missed.

Below is an excerpt from his obituary.

Born in Wilmington, NC on September 29, 1919, his family moved to Dallas in 1921. Charley graduated from Highland Park High School, received his B.S. in Commerce from Southern Methodist University, an MBA and Juris Doctor from Northwestern University, Doctor of the Science of Law from Harvard, and honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Capital University and SMU.

From 1947 to 1952, Charles practiced law with the Dallas firm of Leachman, Matthews, and Gardere.

He was professor of law at SMU from 1952-1983 and Dean of the Law School from 1963-1978.

Dr. Galvin was also the Centennial Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University from 1983-1990, and thereafter Centennial Professor Emeritus. He also served as Executive in Residence, Vanderbilt, 1990-1994.

Dr. Galvin has taught at the law schools of Michigan, Harvard, Duke, Pepperdine, Kansas, Texas as well as the Business Schools of Northwestern University and SMU.

He was a Distinguished Professor of Law, Emeritus, SMU Law School and most recently was of counsel to the Dallas law firm, Haynes and Boone, LLP.

Dr. Galvin['s] honors include: * * * the Equal Justice Award of Legal services of North Texas; the John Rogers award from the Southwestern Legal Foundation; and the Outstanding Tax Lawyer of the Year 2010 Award from the State Bar of Texas. Also, in 2004, Dr. Galvin was one of five lawyers honored by the Texas Bar Foundation for 50 years of practice.

January 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top SSRN Downloads

Ssrn_2 Here are the top downloads from November 30, 2010 to January 29, 2011 from the SSRN Journal of Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law for all papers announced in the last 60 days.

Rank Downloads Paper Title
1 740 2010 Federal Tax Update
Samuel A. Donaldson,
University of Washington - School of Law,
Date posted to database: November 28, 2010
Last Revised: November 28, 2010
2 332 High Volatility, Negative Correlation, Roth IRA Conversions, and the Codified Economic Substance Doctrine
Gregg D. Polsky,
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law,
Date posted to database: November 30, 2010
Last Revised: November 30, 2010
3 254 Lady Bird Deeds: A Primer for the Texas Practitioner
Gerry W. Beyer, Kerri M. Griffin,
Texas Tech University School of Law, Estate Planning and Community Property Law Journal,
Date posted to database: January 9, 2011
Last Revised: January 9, 2011
4 236 The Basics of Texas Intestate Succession Law
Gerry W. Beyer,
Texas Tech University School of Law,
Date posted to database: November 20, 2010
Last Revised: November 20, 2010
5 125 Educational Tax Benefits: More Please
Bridget J. Crawford, Shamik Trivedi, Kimberly Bliss,
Pace University School of Law, Tax Analysts, Pace University School of Law,
Date posted to database: January 12, 2011
Last Revised: January 12, 2011
6 114 Analyzing the Impact of the New Health Care Reform Legislation on Older Americans
Richard L. Kaplan,
University of Illinois College of Law,
Date posted to database: January 22, 2011
Last Revised: January 26, 2011
7 87 The Effects of Marital Property Rights, Alimony, Child Support, and Domestic Relations Orders on Top-Hat Plans, Excess Benefit Plans, and Bonus Plans
Albert Feuer,
Law Offices of Albert Feuer,
Date posted to database: December 5, 2010
Last Revised: December 6, 2010
8 68 Caering About the Credit for Prior Transfers
Wendy C. Gerzog,
University of Baltimore - School of Law,
Date posted to database: December 3, 2010
Last Revised: December 3, 2010
9 54 Shades of Gray: Applying the Benefit-the-Beneficiaries Rule to Trust Investment Directives
Jeffrey A. Cooper,
Quinnipiac University School of Law,
Date posted to database: November 16, 2010
Last Revised: January 4, 2011
10 48 Mistaking the Trust
Lionel Smith,
McGill University - Faculty of Law - Quebec Research Centre of Private and Comparative Law,
Date posted to database: November 14, 2010
Last Revised: December 22, 2010

January 31, 2011 in Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Poetry Foundation Struggles to Spend $185 Million

Ruth Lilly In 2002, reclusive pharmaceuticals heiress Ruth Lilly gave $185 million to the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Other than rejection letters for her poems, Lilly had virtually no contact with Poetry Foundation prior to the gift.

John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation, was unsure what to do with the money. First, he commissioned a $700,000 study to find out who reads poetry and how to attract new people. Next, he commissioned $1 million a year for a website. He then angered critics when he approved a new headquarters building for $21 million.

Lilly’s money seems to be working. The Poetry Foundation, which now has a $7 million annual budget, reached 19 million new poetry readers in 2009. Barr says that they may not see the obvious impact of the gift for ten or twenty years, “but there are hopeful signs.”

Daniel Fisher, No Rhyme or Reason, Forbes, Dec. 30, 2010.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (WealthCounsel) for bringing this to my attention.

January 30, 2011 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Book on How to Deal with Exploitation of Older Adults

Pennsylvania Trisha E. Cowart (Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor, Penn State Law) and Katherine C. Pearson (Professor of Law, Penn State Law) recently published their book entitled A Pennsylvania Guide for Older Adults, Families, Counsel & Courts (George T. Bisel Co., Inc. Law Publishers Jan. 2011). The publisher’s description is below:

"An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." As the state with the third highest percentage of older adults, Pennsylvania is often the arena for financial abuse or exploitation. This timely new book presents the legal consequences of financial exploitation, both in criminal and civil terms. By focusing on the law of exploitation, this essential guide will give those who assist older adults and dependent persons, including attorneys, courts, financial advisors, banks, social workers and families, clear guidelines for prevention of financial exploitation. The step-by-step analysis of alternative remedies will be useful to legal advisors, whether in or outside of the Commonwealth, especially when pursuing a timely, full recovery.


  • What is financial exploitation?
  • How do you report financial exploitation?
  • What civil causes of action apply in an exploitation case?
  • What criminal causes of action apply in an exploitation case? 
  • How can attorneys, banks, and courts reduce the potential for exploitation?

Many Sample Forms, including Attorney General Complaint forms, sample civil pleadings, sample criminal pleadings and sample correspondence.

Special thanks to Neil E. Hendershot (Attorney at Law, Harrisburg, PA) for bringing this to my attention.

January 30, 2011 in Books, Books - For Practitioners, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Top Ten Estate and Gift Tax Articles of 2009 and 2010

Bridget crawford Bridget J. Crawford (Professor of Law, Pace Law School) compiled lists of the top ten estate and gift tax articles of 2009 and 2010. Here is the 2009 list:

      1. Gerry W. Beyer (Texas Tech) & Jonathan P. Wilkerson, Max's Taxes: A Tax-Based Analysis of Pet Trusts, 43 U. Rich. L. Rev. 1219 (2009).
      2. Paul L. Caron (Cincinnati) & James R. Repetti (Boston Colege), The Estate Tax Non-Gap: Why Repeal a 'Voluntary' Tax?, 20 Stan. L. & Pol'y Rev. 153 (2009).
      3. Joseph M. Dodge (Florida State), Replacing the Estate Tax With a Reimagined Accessions Tax, 60 Hastings L.J. 997 (2009).
      4. Wendy C. Gerzog (Baltimore), Families for Tax Purposes: What About the Steps?, 42 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 805 (2009).
      5. David Horton (Loyola-L.A.), Unconscionability in the Law of Trusts, 84 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1675 (2009).
      6. Charles P. Kindregan Jr. (Suffolk), Considering Mom: Maternity and the Model Act Governing Assisted Reproductive Technology, 17 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol'y & L. 601 (2009).
      7. Kristine S. Knaplund (Pepperdine), The Right of Privacy and America's Aging Population, 86 Denv. U. L. Rev. 439 (2009).
      8. Kevin Noble Maillard (Syracuse), The Color of Testamentary Freedom, 62 SMU L. Rev. 1783 (2009).
      9. Paula A. Monopoli (Maryland), Marriage, Property and [In]Equality: Remedying ERISA's Disparate Impact on Spousal Wealth, 119 Yale L.J. Online 61 (2009).
      10. Kent D. Schenkel (New England), Trust Law and the Title-Split: A Beneficial Perspective, 78 UMKC L. Rev. 181 (2009).

 Here is the 2010 list:

  1. Paul L. Caron (Cincinnati), Jennifer M. Kowal (Loyola-L.A.) & Katherine Pratt (Loyola-L.A.), Pursuing a Tax LLM Degree: Why and When?, U. of Cincinnati Public L. Research Paper No. 10-11 (2010).
  2. Paul L. Caron (Cincinnati), Jennifer M. Kowal (Loyola-L.A.), Katherine Pratt (Loyola-L.A.) & Theodore P. Seto (Loyola-L.A.), Pursuing a Tax LLM Degree: Where, U. of Cincinnati Public L. Research Paper No. 10-18 (2010).
  3. Francine J. Lipman (Chapman) &  James E. Williamson (San Diego State), Social Security Benefits Formula 101: A Practical Primer, 29 ABA Section of Taxation News Quarterly (Summer 2010).
  4. Andrew B. Delaney (J.D. 2010, Vermont), Taking a Sack: The NFL and Its Undeserved Tax-Exempt Status, U. of Michigan Bus. School, Working Paper No. 98006 (2010).
  5. David Joulfaian (Office of Tax Analysis, Treasury Department), The Federal Estate Tax: History, Law, and Economics, Working Paper Series (2011).
  6. Ellen P. Aprill (Loyola-L.A.), An Overview of Tax Issues for Synagogues (and Other Religious Congregations), Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2010-24 (May 2010). 
  7. Samuel A. Donaldson (U. Washington), 2010 Federal Tax Update, Working Paper Series (2010).
  8. Michael Hatfield (Texas Tech), The Ethics of Tax Lawyering: An Introduction, Working Paper Series (2010).
  9. Paul L. Caron (Cincinnati), The Costs of Estate Tax Dithering, 43 Creighton L. Rev. 637 (2010).
  10. Laura E. Cunningham (Cardozo), The FLP, the Transfer Taxes, and the Income Tax, Tax Notes (May 2010).

Bridget J. Crawford, Law Review Articles You Should've Read (but Probably Didn't) in 2009, 126 Tax Notes 397 (Jan. 18, 2010); Bridget J. Crawford, 2010’s Popular Reading for Estate and Gift Tax Professionals, 130 Tax Notes 469 (Jan. 24, 2011).

January 29, 2011 in Articles, Estate Tax, Gift Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Donating Organs Can Provide Comfort

Organ donation Andrew, 13, and his sister Erin, 16, died on their way to school in a car accident. Their parents donated their organs and tissues and find comfort in the fact that their children saved the lives of others.

James Rodrigue, a psychologist in Boston, says that parents agree to donate their child’s organs 2/3 of the time compared to family members agreeing to it about half the time when the deceased is an adult. He says parents have a great sense of urgency to find some meaning in this premature death, and they are accustomed to making decisions for their children. Further, parents want to help other parents avoid going through the experience of losing a child, so they’re more inclined to donate organs.

See Rita Rubin, Transplants Offer Solace in Time of Heartache, USA Today, Jan. 23, 2011.

January 29, 2011 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Unwanted Inheritance of a Whole Lot of Nothing

Hoarders 2Children of hoarders are burdened with far more than probate, funeral arrangements, and grief. They also must deal with overwhelming piles of stuff their parents accumulated over the years.

Greg Martin was forced to return to his childhood home when his mother passed away, only to find six-foot stacks of stuff everywhere. He took a leave of absence from his job, estimating that he would need six months to clean out the house. It’s now been eight, and he’s not even close to finishing.

The problem is that the hoarder is the only one who knows how things are “organized.” Children may find diamonds amid a pile of junk jewelry or stock certificates amid old receipts. The stress of going through it all may outweigh the potential of finding sentimental or valuable items.

There is help, but it’s expensive. Hoarding-remediation specialists typically charge between $5,000 to $20,000 for a home cleanup. Crews sometimes recover valuable items to help with the cost of the cleanup, but most of the time it’s a whole lot of nothing.

Hoarders believe that they’re leaving behind their treasures for their family members, but most of the time the family just wants to walk away. “For many who inherit the hoard, there’s simply no room left to grieve.”

Hannah Buchdahl, An Unwanted Inheritance, Newsweek, Jan. 26, 2011.

Special thanks to Karen Boxx (Associate Professor of Law, University of Washington School of Law) for bringing this to my attention.

January 28, 2011 in Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Funeral Operator Sentenced for Stealing from the Deceased

Funeral home Kevin Riley ran a funeral home in Coventry, Connecticut. He had himself appointed administrator of the estates of dead people with no relatives. Afterward, he and Yolanda Faulkner stole paintings, jewelry, and money from their homes and sold the items at an auction house where Faulkner did the bookkeeping.

On Tuesday, Riley was sentenced to eight months in prison and three years of probation. He was also ordered to pay $63,000 to victims’ families and state agencies. Faulkner was sentenced to probation for three years and 300 hours of community service.

See Dave Collins, Conn. Funeral Operator Gets 8 Months for Stealing, The Washington Post, Jan. 25, 2011.

January 28, 2011 in Death Event Planning, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)