Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cleaning the Mess Hoarders Leave Behind

Hoarders Children of hoarders are often left with the task of cleaning up and shifting through a home filled with possessions after their hoarding parent passes away. A typical clean-up of a hoarder’s home can cost from $5,000 to $20,000 or more depending on regulations regarding disposal of hazardous materials, the condition of the home, and the severity of the hoarding. Typically, the sheer amount of hoarded objects makes finding specific objects of sentimental or financial significance virtually impossible. Clean-ups can last months, requiring the hoarder’s children to take time away from work and forcing them forgo participating in social and family activities.

See Hannah R. Buchdahl, An Unwanted Inheritance: For children of hoarders, the mess remains after the parents pass away, Newsweek, Jul. 26, 2011.

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

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


ThumbnailCAYRNAFBAccording to the Gerontology Research Group, only seven people have ever lived past age 115 (only two of those seven lived in the 21st century). Eight of the last nine individuals to hold the title of “world’s oldest living person” were 114 at the time they acquired the title, and all but two were still 114 when they passed on. The two “world’s oldest” title holders who lived past 114 died at age 115. This morbid trend has left many to question why we are failing to get any older.

Though life the expectancy in most countries has increased gradually over the last decades, the global count for people 110 and older (supercentenarians) has leveled off at around 80. In other words, the more individuals who turn 110, the more individuals die at 110. Some scientist believe this age barrier may one day increase, though many scientist agree that individuals who make it past the 110 mark likely owe their supercentenarian status to their genes as opposed to scientific discoveries.

See William Oremus, The World’s Deadliest Distinction: Why aren’t the oldest living people getting any older?, Slate Magazine, Jul. 19, 2011.

July 28, 2011 in Elder Law, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mysterious Tombstone Appears in Dog Park

63520101 A tombstone reading "Loving Husband Father and Physician Jeffrey Lang, 1976-2012" appeared in a local dog park in Sherman Oaks, California last week. Nobody knows the exact date the tombstone arrived, and no effort has been made to remove it. No one by the name Jeffrey Lang lives in the area, and the state’s Medical Board has no records of a physician with that name.

See Mystery Tombstone Has Residents Searching For Answers, KTLA, Jul. 26, 2011.

July 28, 2011 in Current Events, Humor | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Singer Amy Winehouse Leaves Behind Iron Clad Estate Plan

Obit-amy-winehouse-240cs072611_186x136The body of twenty-seven year old singer Amy Winehouse was found in her London flat Saturday. An autopsy performed two days later proved inconclusive as to the exact cause of death. Though the singer lead a tumultuous life, she left behind a straightforward, iron clad estate plan. Winehouse’s will likely leaves her estimated £10million fortune to her mother Janis Winehouse, father Mitch Winehouse, and brother Alex Winehouse. Missing from the list of beneficiaries is Winhouse’s ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, who is currently incarcerated.

After a ceremony held yesterday for close friends and family of the deceased singer, Winehouse’s body was cremated in North London. After the cremation, Winehouse’s bodyguards (including Andrew Morris, the bodyguard who called for help after finding Winehouse’s lifeless body) posed for a picture with the box containing the singer’s ashes.

See Ron Dicker, Amy Winehouse’s Will: Singer-Songwriter Played It Smart, Daily Finance, Jul. 26, 2011; Cliff Renfrew, Amy Winehouse’s Jailed Ex-Husband Cut Out of Her $16 Million Fortune; Radar Online, Jul. 26, 2011; Sara Nathan and Simon Cable, Amy’s drug-addled ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil left out of her £10million will, Daily Mail, Jul. 27, 2011; Winehouse’s Bodyguards—Posing with Amy’s Ashes, TMZ, Jul. 26, 2011.

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

July 27, 2011 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Trust Assets Excluded From Cotrustee's Gross Estate

IRS Lester M. Chancellor passed away in 1989 and a portion of his property was placed in a trust established in his will. The cotrustees of the trust were Mr. Chancellor’s wife (Mrs. Chancellor) and a bank. The trust’s terms stated that the cotrustees were authorized to apportion trust income among Mr. Chancellor’s grandchildren, his children, and Mrs. Chancellor during Mrs. Chancellor’s life for their respective needs. The cotrustees also had the power to invade the corpus for the “necessary maintenance, education, health care, sustenance, welfare or other appropriate expenditures needed by” the above named individuals.

From the date the trust was opened and funded to the date Mrs. Chancellor died, she never received or requested any trust corpus. Mrs. Chancellor’s estate’s estate tax did not include the value of the trust assets at the time of her death. The Commissioner’s notice of deficient determined that Mrs. Chancellor’s gross estate included the trust assets because she had a general power of appointment over them.

In Estate of Chancellor v. Commissioner, United States Tax Court No. 7973-09 (July 2011), the court disagreed with the Commissioner, holding that Mrs. Chancellor’s gross estate did not include the value of the trust assets. The court stated that Section 2014 excluded the assets because the trust created an ascertainable standard that served to limit Mrs. Chancellor’s power of appointment over them.

See Associate Editor, Trust assets not includable in decedent's gross estate, Tax Court holds, Wealth Strategies Journal, Jul. 21, 2011.

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

July 27, 2011 in Estate Tax, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charitable Lead Trusts

Trust Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis created a charitable lead trust, structured to last twenty-four years with annual charitable contributions. In 2018 her heirs will receive whatever money remains in the trust.

Charitable lead trusts work by making annual contributions to charity for a set number of years with any remaining assets passing to heirs potentially free of estate tax. The trusts are created so assets appreciate substantially over time. The use of charitable lead trusts has recently increased, in part due to the gift and estate tax exceptions’ $5 million cap. Record low interest rates have also lead to the resurgent interest in these trusts.

Charitable lead trusts tend to be very confusing, however, and the trust assets are untouchable for the set amount of time. In the early 90’s many of these trusts were deemed failures, partially due to the high hurdle rate (8.4% in August 1994). Today the hurdle rate is 2.2%, increasing the chances that money will remain in the trust for the benefit of the heirs.

For more information on charitable lead trusts, see Paul Sullivan, A Trust Surges, Heirs and Taxes in Mind, but Mind the Details, The New York Times, Jul. 22, 2011.

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

July 27, 2011 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Mortgages and Conservation Easements

Gerzog Wendy C. Gerzog (Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law) recently published her article entitled Mortgages and Conservation Easements: Not a Good Mix, University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper (2011). The abstract available on SSRN is below:

This article reviews Kaufman and the Tax Court’s reconsideration of its summary judgment decision that rejected the taxpayers’ deduction for a facade easement charitable deduction. The issues newly considered are the deductibility of the taxpayers’ required cash payments to the charity in connection with obtaining a facade easement charitable deduction and the application of various penalties.

July 27, 2011 in Articles, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

South African Man Wakes Up In Morgue

ThumbnailCAMFM5S7 A fifty-year old South African man woke up in a morgue twenty-one hours after his family reported him dead. The man’s family called an undertaker to take the man to the morgue after he had an asthma attack and appeared dead. The undertaker confirmed the man's death. The man is now back at home with his family.

See South African man thought to be dead wakes after 21 hours in morgue fridge, The Associated Press, Jul. 25, 2011.

July 27, 2011 in Current Events, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Legal Battles Over James Brown’s Estate Continue

James brown is dead Before his death in 2006, James Brown created a trust valued at almost $100 million for the benefit of underprivileged children. In 2009, after years of legal battles between his fourth wife and seven children, the Attorney General created a deal that affirmed Brown’s will but split his estate between his family and the trust (the trust bore the legal expenses).

As a result of pending appeals, however, neither Brown’s family nor the trust have received any money. The trust’s current court-appointed trustee declined to state how much money remained in the trust, citing his fiduciary duty.

See Mat Birkbeck, Years After Death, Battle for James Brown’s Estate Rages On, Rolling Stone, Jul. 20, 2011.

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

July 26, 2011 in Estate Administration, Music, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Remains of Hitler’s Deputy Exhumed, Cremated, and Scattered at Sea

Hess Last Wednesday workers snuck into the cemetery that held the remains of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. The workers secretly exhumed the remains, cremated them, and scattered them at sea.

See, Remains of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, secretly exhumed and cremated, The Associated Press, Jul. 22, 2011.

July 26, 2011 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)