Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Man Charged After Stealing from Disabled Uncle

Fraud 1Patrick Vincent Pecchia, 56, has been charged with one count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult after stealing over a million dollars from his uncle who was suffering from dementia. 

An agent conducting the investigation noted that as of April 16, 2007, the uncle’s assets totaled $1,890,906.28 and prior to his death, Pecchia had transferred $1,810,583.24 of the assets out.  According to the criminal complaint, Pecchia used his uncle’s money to pay his credit card bills, purchase large equipment for his work, obtain personal loans and other expenses including gambling debts. 

The court sentenced Pecchia to 72 months in prison, but stayed execution of the sentence and placed him on 20 years of supervised probation.  He was also ordered to pay $871,677 in restitution.

See Man Charged With Stealing Over $1M From Uncle With Dementia, Minnesota CBS Local, Apr. 28, 2015. 

April 29, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Will Battle After Man Leaves Inheritance to Builder

Last will and testamentA builder was left £500,000 after refusing to take payment from a pensioner for cleaning out his gutters; but now, Daniel Bryan Sharp faces a bitter Court battle.

Sharp says he struck up a six-year friendship with Ronald Butcher after cleaning his gutters.  Yet, Butcher’s family and friends say Sharp is lying and the will is not indicative of Butcher’s last wishes.  Although Sharp was shocked to discover Butcher left him his fortune in a will drawn up two months before he died, the builder insists the document is valid and was made on his own free will. 

Butcher’s family wants the court to revoke the current will, and replace it with the previous one, which left his money to them.  While family members stipulate that Butcher was of sound mind when he wrote the will, the “odd” nature of the bequest ought to “excite suspicion” that Butcher did not fully comprehend or approve of its contents.

See Paul Cheston, Will Battle After North London Man Leaves £500k to Builder Who Cleaned His Gutters for Free, Apr. 29, 2015.

April 29, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Making Your Voice Heard in Medical Care

HealthA healthcare emergency that makes the ability to communicate wishes for care can come on suddenly for both the elderly and the young. However, many individuals over age 65 do not have an advance directive, and the numbers are even lower for 18 to 29-year-olds at 7 percent. Even with an advance directive, more is needed to adequately prepare a plan for future.

A Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) can assist in giving directions for care preferences and is more detailed than a DNR, but is not available in all states. Having all needed information consolidated and easily accessible before a heath emergency can ensure that the expressed wishes will get to those who need them. This can be done by creating a ready to go packet that is kept by the front door and includes all relevant documents and contact information for family and physicians. Additionally, the My Health Care Wishes app can assist with document sharing  between family members.

See Speak for Yourself, While You're Able, Washington Post, Apr. 28, 2015.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 29, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Widow of Home Shopping Network Co-Founder Sues Investment Firm

Gavel BWLynnda Speer, the widow of Roy Speer and personal representative of his estate, has brought claims against Morgan Stanley alleging the firm boosted commissions through excessive securities trades, failed to properly supervise its brokers, and did not to act in the best interests of her late husband. Roy Speer co-founded the Home Shopping Network in 1982 and died in 2012. The case has been in arbitration proceedings since January and is expected to continue into July. Lynnda Speer is seeking over $170 million in damages.

See Suzanne Barlyn, Morgan Stanley Fights Claim by Home Shopping Founder's Widow-Filing, Rueters, Apr. 27, 2015.

April 29, 2015 in Estate Administration, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Benefit of Cloud Based Operating in Elder Law Firm

CloudsThe use of technology can ease, assist, and expand the services provided by Elder law firms. In addition to general benefits such as cost efficiency, cloud-based firms have more flexibility in being able to take their office with them for off site visits. The availability to synch work product through services like Dropbox and Google Drive can increase collaboration and productivity.

See Michael H. Smith, Practicing Elder Law in the Cloud: How One Firm Does It, Resourceful Law.

April 29, 2015 in Elder Law, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Authors: American Inns of Court Warren E. Burger Prize

Burger_PrizeThe American Inns of Court invites judges, lawyers, professors, students, scholars, and other authors to participate in its 2015 Warren E. Burger Prize.

Authors should submit an original, unpublished, 10,000–20,000 word essay on a topic that addresses the issues of excellence in legal skills, civility, ethics, and professionalism.

The winning essay will be published in the South Carolina Law Review and the author will receive a cash prize of $5,000.

The submission deadline for the 2015 Warren E. Burger Prize is July 1, 2015.

More information is available on the American Inns of Court website at www.innsofcourt.org/BurgerPrize

April 29, 2015 in Writing Competitions for Students | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Clearing Out the Files

FilesIt can be difficult to find important documents when they are needed if the amount of kept records are overflowing multiple boxes and filing cabinets. Here are some tips on which documents are the ones to hold on to:

  • Forever: Loan-discharge notices, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage license, military discharge papers, Social Security card, permanent life insurance policies, and all current versions of estate-planning documents with a note attached to update regularly.
  • Seven Years: State and federal tax returns, supporting tax documents, and charitable donation documentation.
  • One Year: Cancelled checks, check statements, and credit card statements.
  • Never: Stock certificates. A broker not a personal filing system should be holding these.

See Toss or Save?, Boston.com, Apr. 22, 2015.

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

April 29, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Will Contestants Claim Beneficiary Applied Undue Influence

Last willI have previously discussed the dispute surrounding Geraldine Webber's last will and trust.  Those contesting the will claim that “Police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin exerted undue influence over Webber, while she was impaired by dementia, to inherit her waterfront home, stocks, bonds and a Cadillac.”  Dr. Ira Schwartz, who was Webber’s physician, testified that she had been diagnosed with dementia back in 2008.  Sgt. Goodwin became Webber’s medical contact in February 2011 and he claims that he provided her with “comfort and care” up until her death in December 2012.  In May 2012, shortly before her death, Webber signed a will leaving Goodwin the majority of her estate. 

See Elizabeth Dinan, Officer's $2.7M benefactor had dementia, doctor testifies, Seacoastonline, April 27, 2015.

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

April 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Role of Trustee is Difficult and Risky

TrusteeThe position of Trustee carries with it many fiduciary duties that can be tedious, stressful, and risky.  When selecting a Trustee, the Settlor should carefully make sure the Trustee or Trustees are prepared to handle the responsibilities that being a Trustee entails.  A Trustee can be held personally liable for failing to meet the appropriate standard of care.  Settlor’s should be cautious about naming friends or family members as Trustees, as they might not be experienced or prepared for the fiduciary responsibilities.  It is better to consider choosing a Corporate Trustee who is more experienced with managing Trusts.

See Terri R. Stallard, Trustee Duties are Not for the Faint of Heart, National Law Review, April 26, 2015.

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

April 28, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Don't Forego Your Living Will

Healthcare proxyThe majority of seniors do not have a living will, also known as an advance directive.  “The ramifications of not having one are so severe that it’s bewildering that more people don’t do it,” says Howard Krooks, former president of the National Academy of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

This document enables you to communicate your health-care wishes in the event you become incapacitated.  Without a living will, loved ones must play a guessing game, and if they disagree, the problem could end up in court.  Not only are these documents important for older people, young adults should also put their wishes in writing.  At age 18, an individual should consider signing a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act release form and a health care-proxy giving a parent or relative the right to review personal medical information and make decisions in an emergency. 

Sometimes, an advance directive is not enough.  Those who are ill or frail and could pass away within a year could benefit from a “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” (POLST) form.  This is much more detailed than a DNR, for example, you can specify whether you want to be tube-fed indefinitely or not at all. 

See Speak for Yourself, While You’re Able, The Washington Post, Apr. 28, 2015.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 28, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)