Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Proper Funeral Etiquette


Tumblr has a Selfies at Funerals page that contains a collection of cell phone self-portraits taken during memorial services.  This insensitive practice raises the question of what exactly is proper funeral etiquette.  Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute provides some answers.

First of all, she says selfies at a funeral are never OK and photos in general are probably not a good idea on this somber day. As for clothing, it’s still best to stick with darker colors when attending a funeral.

A basic phrase for comfort is “I’m so sorry for your loss.”  Including a fond memory will usually comfort those closet to the departed as well.  Avoid saying things like “I hope he had life insurance,” “it was time for him to go,” and “he suffered so much.”  Also, instead of vague offers like “call me if you need anything,” extend a specific offer like “I’d love to cook for you next week” or “would you like me to take care of the kids during the funeral?”

Regarding food, it’s up to the host to decide whether to serve food or not.  Try to get a feel for how the memorial service is set up before bringing food.  And finally, turn that cell phone off! 

See Melonyce McAfee, Long Live Etiquette: ‘Selfies at Funerals’ on Tumblr Must Die, CNN, Oct. 30, 2013.

October 31, 2013 in Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Is Lantigua Dead or Alive?

Open coffin walnut web_01

The U.S. embassy in Caracas said former finance executive and Circle K Furniture owner Jose Lantigua died in April when traveling in Venezuela.  His estate, including his two furniture stores in Jacksonville, is being broken up to settle nearly $10 million in unpaid bills.

The Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Company now refuses to pay out an estimated $2.5 million life insurance policy, claiming Lantigua is alive and living in Venezuela.  Creditors are waiting for Hartford to back up its claim that Lantigua is still alive. 

See Steve Patterson, Did Duval Businessman Fake His Death, Leave Millions in Bills Unpaid?, The Florida Times-Union, Oct. 30, 2013.

October 31, 2013 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tips from Evil Millionaires


Even though you may consider some of the following millionaires evil, you can still learn a thing or two from them about how to amass a fortune.  Here are five personal finance tips to learn from observing five “evil” millionaires:

  1. It’s as important to BE something as it is to DO something.  Donald Trump has continually stressed that getting rich and being successful go hand-in-hand.  Some say that even if you haven’t yet amassed a fortune, you’ll still need to pretend to be successful.  Once you’re well-known and respected, you can amass your fortune much easier.
  2. Put your money in index funds.  Bernie Madoff may be in prison, but he has offered this solid investment advice.  “The best chance for the average investor is to put money in an index fund.  There are lower commission rates and more professional management with these types of firms.  It’s the safest and least likely place to get scammed.”
  3. Sign a prenuptial agreement.  Rupert Murdoch has been through three marriages and knows how prenuptial agreements can make the awful experience of handling money in a divorce much easier.
  4. Postpone financial decisions when possible.  Described as a villain by the New Yorker, Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman’s advice is to take time to consider financial decisions in every way.  This will allow you to overcome dumb biases that lead to poor decisions.
  5. Don’t be lazy.  Even with the countless scandals, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi remains as one of the richest people in the world.  His advice is to not sit around and wait to increase your wealth, but work for it no matter what it takes. 

See Thorin Klosowski, The Best Personal Finance Tips from Evil Millionaires, Life Hacker, Oct. 31, 2013.

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

Yahoo CEO Buys Nearby Funeral Home to Prevent Development


Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently bought a monumental funeral home near her house in an apparent attempt to stop developments from going up, a move recently pulled by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who bought four of the five homes surrounding his own.

Mayer makes $36.6 million a year, enough to buy Palo Alto’s oldest funeral home, Roller & Hapgood & Tinney mortuary.  The funeral home is surrounded by multi-family residences and was recently identified as a potential site for 21 residences.  The funeral home will close on October 31.  Mayer has not yet announced her plans for the property.

See Yahoo! Marissa Mayer Does a Zuckerberg and Starts to Buy Up Her Neighborhood . . . Starting with a Funeral Home, Daily Mail, Oct. 29, 2013.

October 31, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

John Grisham's New Book Has An Estate Planning Twist

SycamoreJohn Grisham recently released a new historical novel "Sycamore Row"  with an interesting estate planning twist. The novel is about the suicide of a rich man, Henry Hubbard. Hubbard left a will naming his children as beneficiaries. However, on the date of his suicide he supposedly changed his mind and sent his attorney Jake Brigance a holographic will, which replaced the old one. The new will left his entire estate to Hubbard's house cleaner, Lettie Lang. Additionally, Hubbard warns Brigance in the note, “These are not nice people and they will fight, so get ready, fight them, Mr. Brigance, to the bitter end.”

See Janet Maslin, More Vexing Challenges For That Mississippi Lawyer, The New York Times,  Oct. 30, 2013.

October 31, 2013 in Books, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Heirs Can File Electronic Restitution Claim For Missing Art Objects

CashAfter four years and 400 investigated institutions, an audit reveals 139 art objects in Dutch museum collections were stolen. It is suspected that the objects were taken from Jewish owners sometime during the Second World War. The institutions investigated received the art objects between 1933 and today.


Ten years ago, the first investigation was launched to look at institutions that collected works between 1940 and 1948. It is projected that over 650,000 art objects were stolen during the war.


Now, the heirs of the original owners are now permitted to file restitution claims with the Dutch Restitution Committee electronically at www.restitutiecommissie.nl.

See Pac Pobric, Nearly 140 Possibly Looted Objects Found in Dutch Museums, The Art Newspaper,  Oct. 30, 2013.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 31, 2013 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CLE on Hot Topics in Employee Benefits

CLEThe American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education (ALI CLE) and The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) are cosponsoring a telephone seminar and audio webcast entitled, Hot Topics in Employee Benefits, on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.  Provided below is a description of the event:

Learn from the experts how you should be advising your clients so that they can stretch their retirement dollars and provide for their heirs!

Our panel will offer cogent advice on navigating through IRS regulations and explore the latest developments in the taxation and management of retirement assets-especially IRAs.

Topics include:

  • planning for/with Roth IRAs
  • planning for retirement assets in second marriages
  • liability for decedent's unpaid IRA penalties
  • creditors' rights in inherited IRAs
  • IRS enforcement of minimum distribution rules

October 31, 2013 in Conferences & CLE, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Happy Halloween!

J0412052Many law school classes have one or more holidays which are especially relevant.  For example, Family Law has Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day, Labor Law has Labor Day, Environmental Law has Earth Day, Military Law has Memorial Day, and Law and Religion has Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, etc.

Halloween, with its fascination with death, may be the most relevant holiday to those who teach wills, trusts, estates, probate, and estate planning.

So, however you celebrate, have fun and be safe!

October 31, 2013 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Craigslist Sperm Donor Case Continues

GavelAs I have previously discussed, the state of Kansas asserts Marotta owes child support to the 4-year-old daughter of two women who enlisted Marotta through Craigslist to provide sperm for the couple. The arguments presented focus on if Marotta is legally considered the sperm donor or father of the four year old.


Both sides have filed summary judgment motions, after a hearing Judge Mary Mattivi stated she would issue a ruling. Marotta claims he never intended to be the girl’s father and signed a contract terminating his rights.

See Tim Hrenchir, Judge Hears Arguments in Craigslist Case, CJ Online,  Oct. 25, 2013.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 31, 2013 in Current Affairs, Guardianship, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Webinar on End of the Year Tax Planning


National Pension Partners is offering a tax planning webinar entitled, End of the Year Tax Planning Using 412(e)(3), on October 31, November 7, November 14, and November 21. 

The presentations are one hour and CE and CPE may be available in your state.  This webinar is free to the first 30 attendees.

October 30, 2013 in Conferences & CLE, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)