Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, July 31, 2015

Florida Court Holds That Slayer And Undue Influence Statutes Are Strictly Construed

Florida-state-flagA Florida appellate court has held that the States Slayer Statute is to be strictly construed.  In Fiel v. Hoffman, the wife of the decedent was convicted of murdering both her husband and his mother.  The wife had a daughter from a previous marriage and that daughter had two sons.  The case centered on whether the decedent’s step-daughter and two step-grandsons were barred from inheriting under the States Slayer Statute.  The Court held that the statutes clear and unambiguous language did not extend the prohibition to inheriting property to anyone other than the murderer of the decedent.  The court’s ruling means that the decedent’s step-children would not be precluded from inheriting. The court also rejected the undue influence claims because there was no evidence that the step-children and step-grandchildren were involved.

See Anya Van Veen, Florida’s Slayer Statute and Undue Influence Statute Strictly Construed, Clark Skatoff PA, July 31, 2015. 

July 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Probate Court Clerk Pleads Guilty To Stealing $232,000

JudgmentIn Savannah Georgia the longtime Chatham County Probate Court Chief Clerk Kim Birge has plead guilty to stealing $232,000 in a scheme. The Clerk confessed to raiding certificate of deposits belonging to other people for her own benefit. The government case alleges that the clerk used U.S. Mail and private commercial carriers as a part of the scheme. Kim Birge apologized to the clerk for her role in the scheme that involved stealing more than $750,000 in a three-year period. “I have asked God for forgiveness and I am asking this court for forgiveness as well.”

See Jan Skutch, Chief clerk pleads guilty to stealing $232,000 from Chatham County Probate Court, Savannah Morning News, July 31, 2015.

July 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Malpractice, Professional Responsibility, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Approves $1.25 Million Settlement Agreement In Dispute Involving Tony Scott’s Estate

Tony scottA probate court has approved a $1.25 million settlement in a law suit filed against Tony Scott’s estate by Creative Artists Agency (CAA).  Tony Scott is well known for directing movie “Top Gun.”  According to the order signed by Las Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cunningham the funds for the settlement will come out of Tony Scott’s estate.  The director passed away in 2012 when he plunged to his death off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro.  The complaint alleges that Scott still owed the CAA commission for a number of different film projects.  There are 11 movies that are covered in the settlement agreement.

See Staff Report, Judge Approves $1.25 Million Settlement Agreement Against Estate Of Tony Scott, Santa Monica Mirror, July 29, 2015. 

July 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dionne Warwick Threatens To Boycott Bobbi Kristina Brown’s Funeral

BrownI have previously discussed the passing of Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, and the conflict surrounding these tragic circumstances.  Whitney Houston’s cousin Dionne Warwick is threatening to not attend the funeral of Bobbi Kristina Brown because she is offended by plans to hold a 'sweet sixteen’ themed funeral.  Dionne Warwick is currently involved in a bitter personal conflict with Bobbi Kristina Brown’s aunt Pat Houston.  This dispute covers a wide ranging host of issues and has even involved the use of twitter.  This article discusses much of the bitter acrimony that is breaking out between different relatives of Bobbi Kristina Brown.  This dispute is probably far from over as relatives will likely have future conflicts over the estate. 

See Laura Collins and Pat Shipp, EXCLUSIVE: How Pat Houston's 'Sweet Sixteen' themed funeral for Bobbi Kristina and a dispute over her $20m inheritance is dividing the family - with Dionne Warwick threatening to BOYCOTT the ceremony, The Daily Mail, July 31, 2015.

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

July 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE On What You Need to Know Personally and Professionally In Estate Planning

CLE PictureThe American Bar Association is presenting a CLE entitled, Estate Planning: What You Need to Know Personally and Professionally, Wednesday August 5, 2015, 1:00-2:30pm Eastern, online.  Here is why you should attend:

No matter how large or modest the estate, everyone needs a good plan in advance. Unfortunately, we can’t predict accidents, illness, or how long we will live. Good estate planning involves providing critical guidance and peace of mind for your clients. Join our experienced panel as they provide valuable advice on preserving the maximum amount of wealth possible.

Topics will include:

  • The basic nuts-and-bolts of an estate plan
  • Strategies for wealth preservation and gifting
  • Dealing with multiple representation and conflicts issues
  • Managing fiduciary responsibilities

July 31, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Doctor Allegedly Seduces Patient, Inherits Huge Estate

MedicalA New York doctor has been accused by the family of a former patient for seducing, then getting the patient to disinherit her family of a $7 million estate. Amy Blumenthal was a successful attorney but suffered from psychological troubles which prompted her to seek medical help. Blumenthal's brother alleges that the doctor, after multiple therapy sessions, gave his sister an ultimatum to enter into a sexual relationship or stop being a patient which quickly escalated into large gifts and, eventually, into the doctor being named the sole beneficiary in the will.

This case is an excellent example of how those with mental disorders might be taken advantage of by those they trust and depend upon. Every estate planner should be on the lookout for a client that starts making large, unexpected changes to an estate plan in favor of a party that has much power and influence. While this is not always a sign of undue influence, it can be warning signal that all might not on the up and up. If a planner sees a client in a potentially abusive situation, it is always a good idea to check up, that may be it all it takes to stop an evil actor from creating legal chaos down the line.

See Julia Marsh, Shrink convinced patient to be her lover, write her into $7M will: docs, New York Post, July 29, 2015.

Special thanks to Jay Brinker for bringing this article to my attention.

July 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nominations for ABA's Blawg 100 Kindly Requested

Nominate Dear Reader,

The American Bar Association is working on its list of the 100 best legal blogs.

If you enjoy this blog, I would certainly appreciate your support by completing a very short "Friend-of-the-Blawg" form by following this link.

Thanks so much for your support -- it is very much appreciated!!


July 31, 2015 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (1)

New Book On Working With Aging Clients

Article PictureThe first edition of Working with Aging Clients: A Guide for Legal, Business, and Financial Professionals by Carolyn L Rosenblatt has recently been published and is available through ABA Book Publishing. Provided below is a description of the book:

Working with Aging Clients places a special focus on financial elder abuse as well as the capacity of financial decision making for seniors.  The author provides shrewd techniques to guide professionals in identifying, preventing or simply stopping financial elder abuse.

This book is an essential aging and financial resource, providing:

  • A look at aging clients from their point of view.
  • Insights from a seasoned geriatric nurse’s perspective that has expertly cared for seniors augmented by a litigator’s experience in representing elder clients and their best interests.
  • Principles with illustrations from actual cases, particularly diminished capacity.
  • Heightened consciousness surrounding age-related biases, myths, and stereotypes.
  • Proven strategies to resolve conflicts and valuable tips for successful elder-related mediation.
  • An easy roadmap for both legal and non-legal professionals who share an interest in better serving their aging clientele.

July 31, 2015 in Books, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article On Advising Same-Sex Spouses

Article PictureDavid Valente (Bove & Langa, P.C.) recently published an article entitled, Advising Same-Sex Spouses of the Inequities That Remain, 29 Probate & Property 3 (May/June 2015). Provided below is an excerpt from the article:

As of December 20, 2014, 35 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage. The remaining states (each a “Non-Recognition” state) have passed state-DOMA statutes to ban same-sex marriage or the recognition of same-sex marriages validly performed in another jurisdiction. This dichotomy breeds tax and administrative inefficiencies at the state level and creates a maze of conflicts through which same-sex couples, estate planning and tax advisers, employers, and human resource plan administrators must sift in an attempt to reconcile.

July 31, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Investor Control Doctrine Still Has Some Bite Left

Estate taxA recent tax court decision has held that the investor control doctrine is still in effect.  In Webber v. Commissioner, the court held that because the taxpayer exhibited control over life insurance assets held in different accounts he could be held liable for taxation on those assets.  In 2003 the investor control doctrine was expanded to cover variable life insurance policies.  In the Webber case the taxpayer formed a grantor trust that purchased two variable life insurance policies that insured two elderly relatives.  The policy holder was supposed to an investment manager to make decisions and there were supposed to be restrictions on the policy holder to influence them, yet the tax court held that these restrictions were not followed.  This article discusses many of the implications of this recent tax court decision.

See John W. Weber, Jr., The Investor Control Doctrine: Alive and Well, The National Law Review, July 29, 2015.

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

July 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)