Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Early Retirement May Boost Health


According to a recent study by the Tinbergen Institute of VU University Amsterdam, male civil servants who retire earlier significantly decrease the probability of dying within the next five years.

Researchers based their findings on a one-time policy decision which allowed certain Dutch civil servants to retire at age 55 instead of the typical retirement age in the early 60s.

Although retiring earlier could make people healthier, early retirement poses a longevity risk to pension funds as well as the risk of dementia, which a recent French study shows to decline the longer a person works.

See Elizabeth O’Brien, Study: Early Retirees Less Likely to Die, Market Watch, Aug. 23, 2013.

August 31, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Zsa Zsa Gabor's Daughter Questions Conservatorship


Constance Francesca Gabor Hilton is questioning how Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, Zsa Zsa’s husband and conservator, is spending his wife’s money.

In newly filed court papers, the daughter’s attorney recommends the court should reject von Anhalt’s inventory of income and expenses realting to his court-appointed temporary conservatorship.

The 96-year-old Zsa Zsa is now ailing and bedridden.  Her daughter claims von Anhalt uses her money to throw frequent, lavish parties at her home, visit expensive grocery stores, hire personal security, lease a Mercedes-Benz, and dine at upscale restuarants. 

See Bill Hetherman, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Daughter Questions Conservator’s Use of Money, My Desert, Aug. 23, 2013.

August 31, 2013 in Current Affairs, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Official IRS Ruling Changes Federal Tax Filings

IRS-100wiAs I have previously discussed, the IRS and the Treasury Department has ruled that legally married gay couples will be recognized as married for federal tax purposes even in the states that do not allow gay marriage. Click here for the official IRS ruling.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


August 31, 2013 in Current Affairs, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gay Couple Recognition In All States For Federal Tax Purposes

FlagThe IRS and the Treasury Department has ruled that legally married gay couples will be recognized as married for federal tax purposes even in the states that do not allow gay marriage. This is the broadest change in the law since the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in June. The decision left many unanswered questions, but answered many after the IRS's ruling.

In 2013, gay married couples will no longer be permitted to file single tax returns. Gay couples can only file "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately" federal tax returns. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew explained, “this ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

However, the recent decision could have some higher tax implications. Gay couples making roughly the same annual salary will probably pay the marriage penalty, which would be much higher than if they filed a single tax return. Additionally, even though couples file federal tax returns as married couples, they may still be required to file state returns as individuals. 

See Annie Lowrey, I.R.S. to Recognize All Gay Marriages Regardless of State, New York Times, Aug. 29, 2013.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (John Theodore Fey Research Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 31, 2013 in Current Affairs, Income Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 30, 2013

CLE on Planning for International Estates


The American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education (ALI CLE) and the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) is sponsoring a telephone seminar and audio webcast entitled, Planning for International Estates 101, on Thursday, September 12, 2013.  Provided below is a description of the event:

Attend this program and get you the tools you need to take advantage of important planning opportunities for your client, as well as avoid some common pitfalls when it comes to international estate planning!

Join distinguished Fellows of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel for an enlightening discussion of how IRS statutes and regulations differ for cross-border and non-citizen spouse estate planning.

Topics include:

  •  analyzing a client's citizenship
  • domicile issues for non-citizens
  • difference between the rules governing income taxes versus transfer taxes
  • ownership and titling of assets - beware the traps!
  • importance of treaties
  • forms of asset ownership between husband and wife

August 30, 2013 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

You Can Be a Shooting Star (Literally)


Elysium Space recently debuted another method of handling your loved one’s ashes.  Elysium will launch their ashes into space in a special capsule with an optional engraved message, which will then orbit our planet for several months before reentering the atmosphere and burning up into a shooting star.  While in orbit, you can track the capsule using the company’s app.

The first launch is planned for Summer 2014.  The company hopes to eventually offer customers the option to send all of the ashes of their loved ones (instead of just a portion) as well as the option to choose a specific destination like the sun.

See Colette Bennett, Out of This World! From Ashes to an Afterlife in Space, HLN, Aug. 24, 2013.

August 30, 2013 in Death Event Planning, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Pennsylvania's Assisted Suicide Case


As I have previously discussed, Barbara Mancini is awaiting trial for allegedly providing her terminally ill father with a vial of morphine in order to assist with his suicide.  The nonprofit organization Compassion & Choices is now campaigning for the Pennsylvania Attorney General to drop the case.

For more information on this controversial case, please see Katherine C. Pearson’s article entitled, Case Watch: Pennsylvania Daughter/Nurse Charged with Unlawful Assisted Suicide in Elderly Father’s Death, found on the Elder Law Prof Blog.

August 30, 2013 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Empty Mansions" -- A Great Read!

Empty_MansionA mystery never to be solved?

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. is a well written and thought provoking attempt to objectively relate the life journey of American heiress Huguette Clark.

Her solitary life makes it difficult for the court to determine the legality of her wills or her true last desires.

I recommend this intriguing book to those who are interested in Ms. Clark and/or those who simply enjoy solving true life mysteries.

More infomation about this book can be found at www.EmptyMansionsBook.com.

August 30, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Houston Estate Sale Company Under Fire


An Elegant Estate Sale, a Houston area estate sale company, is accused of selling a family’s mementos and keeping the cash.

Charles Francis hired the company to sell his deceased parents’ possessions from the home they lived in for 43 years.  The contract stated Francis would be paid 10 to 30 days after the sale.  Two months have passed and Francis still hasn’t received the uncertain sum. 

Francis received a text after the sale saying he was owed $11,820.37, but two weeks later, another text was sent saying it was instead $5,832.45.  When contacted for comment, owner Rena Head stated Francis was owed a mere $1,300.

The contract gave Head a 35% commission on gross sales after subtracting expenses like advertising and cleaning.  On top of waiting for his money, Francis has learned that both Head and her husband have criminal records.

See Amy Davis, Estate Sale Company Under Fire for Allegedly Keeping Cash, Click 2 Houston, Aug. 23, 2013.

Special thanks to Ryan Kellus Turner (General Counsel & Director of Education, Texas Municipal Courts Education Center) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 30, 2013 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

WWI Soldiers Wills Made Public

AmericanflagRecently, the wills of thousands of WWI soldiers have been published online and can be seen by the general public. Before leaving their families and preparing for battle each soldier drafted a will and put it in his uniform pocket. Now, years later these pieces of history tell the personal stories of thousands. The wills were published by Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) a new online service. The goal for the site is for the nation to have access to these last requests. A spokesman explained “These wills would have been the last words from soldiers to their relatives.”

See Justine Halifax Brummie WWI Soldiers' Lost Voices Being Heard, Birmingham Mail,  Aug. 28, 2013.

August 30, 2013 in Current Events, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)