Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Life Insurance Companies Getting High on Rates


As marijuana use becomes more mainstream, life insurance companies are struggling with how, and if, they should penalize customers. 

After surveying the rules of many major insurers, the results are quite inconsistent.  Some carriers apply no penalties if marijuana is used with a prescription while others penalize marijuana users who smoke a few times a month the same as a regular cigarette smoker.  One insurer goes so far to as to charge a once-a-year marijuana smoker the same rate as a regular cigarette smoker, which can be 2 to 4 times more than nonsmokers.  This is a problem for marijuana legalization activists who note that marijuana has not been definitively linked to health problems in the way that tobacco has, and that smoking marijuana isn’t the only way to ingest it. 

Because 18 states have legalized medical marijuana and Washington and Colorado have gone even further, life insurance companies may rethink harsh policies towards marijuana as decriminalization continues.

See Matthew Heimer, Why Marijuana, Estate Planning Don’t Mix, Market Watch, June 24, 2013.

June 30, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Inmate Swindles Old Man From Behind Bars


Akihiko Siegfried, 54, has been charged with seventeen counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering after allegedly defrauding an elderly victim from behind bars.

According to the indictment, Siegfried began his scheme in 2008 when he knocked on the victim’s door and pretended to be distraught.  He asked to borrow money after falsely telling the victim his parents had just died in a car accident.  He continued asking for money after again lying to the victim that he would inherit a substantial sum from his parents after probate.  Up until March 2013, Siegfried spent frequent time in the Colorado Department of Corrections where he directed the victim multiple times to wire him money to help pay probate fees and his diabetes medication.  Siegfried is believed to have taken at least $10,000 from the victim.

See Robert Garrison, Colorado Man Accused of Swindling Elderly Victim From Behind Bars, 9 News, June 24, 2013.

June 30, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Interplanetary Estate Planning


Over 60 Canadians have applied for four available spots on a one-way trip to Mars. This voyage is planned by non-profit Mars One in an effort to colonize the planet by 2023.

Estate planners may never have to advise an interplanetary traveller as a client, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to treat every client as if they were one.  Asking clients to consider what they would want to happen to their estate if they were to leave Earth tomorrow is a good way to get them thinking about their future estate plans.

If their client is leaving the country permanently, advisors need to ensure they have a disposition of their assets in place and to take steps to secure any existing life insurance policies.

See Heather Li, Estate Planning for Martian Pioneers, Advisor.ca, June 24, 2013.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 30, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Book on Probate Court Standards


The National College of Probate Judges has released the 2013 National Probate Court Standards, a project funded in part by the ACTEC Foundation.

This volume provides a detailed account of probate court principles, administrative policies, procedures, practices, and proceedings.

June 30, 2013 in Books - For Practitioners, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't Forget to Include Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan


As I have previously discussed, the disposition of a decedent’s “digital assets” is becoming ever more important.  Digital assets like email accounts, web domains, social networking accounts, photos, music, and bank accounts are gaining in number and increasing in use everyday. 

To begin planning for what you want to happen to these digital assets after you’re gone, first make an inventory of all digital accounts and assets.  Provide your successor with any important information they may need like the website, username, password, and perhaps basic instructions for suggested actions.  Update this inventory frequently and keep it in a safe place.  Also, consider taking advantage of a number of password storage services.

Next, include digital asset provisions in your estate planning documents that detail how digital assets should be managed and distributed.  There are also a number of “online afterlife” companies like AssetLock, Legacy Locker, and SecureSafe that may be helpful in disposing of your digital assets.

See Jeffrey R. Gottlieb, Introduction to Estate Planning for Digital Assets, The Law Offices of Robert H. Glorch Blog, June 25, 2013.

June 29, 2013 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate Sale Following Suspicious Death Put on Hold


A temporary restraining order has been issued barring the sale of Dawn Glanz’s estate pending a police investigation.

Glanz, 66, is believed to have died of a stroke in her Bowling Green home, although her death is considered suspicious.  When her sister, Gail Lincoln, learned Glanz’s husband, Robert Brown, was advertising an estate sale with “high-end antiques,” she sought to stop it.  Lincoln complains that Brown had not opened his late wife’s estate in probate court and that she and her brother may be entitled to some of the property Brown wants to sell.  The estate sale has since been put on hold while police investigate whether Brown had anything to do with Glanz’s death.

See Jennifer Feehan, Judge Bars Sale of Woman’s Estate Until Probe Done, Toledo Blade, June 25, 2013.

June 29, 2013 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Digital Assets can be Comforting and Overwhelming

DigitalassetsAs I have  previously discussed, it’s becoming more and more common among financial advisers to incorporate digital assets into their client’s estate plan. However, people may not realize how digital assets can comfort and overwhelm you without proper management. Courtney the caregiver lost her mother and had confided in only a few close relatives about her mother's death. She was shocked and upset when she found several people had posted facebook updates of her mothers condition she had not spoken to who were informed of the death through a flurry of social media updates. Additionally, she began receiving text messages referring to her mother in the past tense. Courtney became overwhelmed. She decided that managing her mother's and her own digital assets were too much to handle. As a result, she asked her best friend to step in as an informal digital proxy to screen some of the messages. 

See What Does Managing a Loved One's Digital Legacy Look Like?, Huffington Post, Jun. 2013.

June 29, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Preparing Children For Investing in Family Assets

AccountingJack Waymire, the author of the book “Who is Watching your Money?” has recently written about the transition of assets from generation to generation. Eventually children will be investing their parent’s finances and it is best that they be well prepared. Making wise investment decisions requires good judgment and maturity. People with more than one child should outline and detail each child’s responsibilities. Waymire suggests the child with the most financial experience be the chief decision maker. Parents should begin priming their children for their role in investing family assets in early adult hood, when children can appreciate the responsibility. Additionally, parents should clearly express the financial goals, risks, and duties the child is accountable for. Waymire notes that parents should be open to potentially changing financial strategies so that each possible technique is examined and can maximize the stride toward the ultimate goal. 

See Jack Waymire, When Kids Take Over, Wealth Managment, Jun. 2013.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 29, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Planning for Your Pet's Care


Despite the fact that many pet owners consider their pet a part of the family, only 17% of dog or cat owners have taken steps to provide for their pet following their death.  Many pets end up in shelters following their owner’s death due to the false assumption that a friend or relative will take care of them. 

Legal options to provide for pets following an owner’s death or incapacitation include stand-alone pet trusts and Pet Protection Agreements.  Pet owners should not rely on their wills to provide for their pet, as the will can be held up for weeks in probate before taking effect. 

Pet trusts are the way to go for those pet owners willing to leave a substantial sum of money for their pets.  Pet trusts cost over $1,500 to set up and make sense for owners leaving $50,000 or more.  Pet owners can specify exactly how to care for their pet in a pet trust, including when to visit the vet and what food to eat. 

A cheaper alternative to a pet trust is a Pet Protection Agreement, which serves as a contract between pet owners and designated guardians.  Pet Protection Agreements cost less than $80 on LegalZoom.com and can include details about how a pet should be taken care of as well as any money a pet owner wants to designate for care.

Pet owners should calculate the money needed to care for their pet by tallying “the animal’s food, grooming, veterinary and other basic costs, and multiply[ing] that amount by its remaining life span.”  Minimum measures a pet owner can take include finding a temporary caregiver in case of emergency and making a file containing the pet’s food, medicine, and veterinarian information.

Please see my book, Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs, for more information.

See Eleanor Laise, Put a Plan in Place to Ensure Pets’ Care, Kiplinger, June 2013.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 28, 2013 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Forgery Trial Over Nina Wang's Will Continues


As I have previously discussed, fung shui master Peter Chan Chun-chuen is currently on trial for forging the partial will of Chinachem tycoon Nina Wang, which bequeathed to him HK10 million. 

Witness Winfield Wong Wing-cheung attested the signing of the partial will in 2006.  He will likely testify that he noticed a beneficiary with the surname Chan named in the will, and also that Wang said she was clear about the contents.

Wong says he saw a similar but different will following Nina’s death containing the “appearance” of his signature.

See Nina Wang’s Partial Will Left HK$10m to ‘Chan’, Lawyer Tells Forgery Trial, South China Morning Post, June 24, 2013.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 28, 2013 in Current Affairs, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)