Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

There Will Be No Premium Increases For Medicare Advantage Plans

MedicareThe Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have put out a statement on Monday that people with Medicare Advantage plans will not see an increase in their premiums next year.  The statement also claims that some people will have a slight drop in the premiums that they have to pay.  Many of the Medicare beneficiaries will have to wait until October 1 to learn about the specific nuances of their health insurance plans.  Out of the 55 million American Medicare beneficiaries about 1/3 of them use the Advantage programs.  These programs let commercial health insurance providers craft plans that are supported by the government.  Even though federal rules currently prevent insurance providers from publicly discussing their advantage plans until October, there is currently a Medicare website offering a limited preview. 

See Adam Smeltz, No increases for Medicare Advantage plans, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 22, 2015. 

September 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. District Court Rules That FNHRA Does Not Create Private Rights

New gavelThe U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin has recently held that Section 1983 of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA) does not create private, enforceable rights for residents.  This column discusses a case involving a plaintiff that sued Lakeview Health Center in West Salem, Wisconsin, seeking negligence and punitive damages on allegations that her brother died from injuries sustained from a fall. 

The plaintiff alleged that the nursing home violated her brother’s resident rights that are outlined in Section 1983 of FNHRA.  The Court dismissed the claim of a Section 1983 violation holding that the section in question was written to describe what a nursing home has to do to receive government funding and does not describe rights that nursing homes must provide residents.  The District Court opinion can be read here

See Emily Mongan, Court: Federal Nursing Home Act doesn’t create private rights, McKnights, September 22, 2015.

September 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Unexpected Bidding War Ensues Over Potential Rembrandt Painting

ArticlePictureA small New Jersey auction house found itself in the big time for one item after a bidding war erupted on a piece that is suspected to have been painted by Dutch master Rembrandt. The painting is thought by some experts to be from a series of paintings made while Rembrandt was a teenager and under the tutelage of a fellow Dutch painter. By the time bidding ended the piece was standing at just over $800,000 which blew past the pre-auction estimate of $500-$800 based on the then unknown nature of the painting. While the identity of the painting has not yet been confirmed, if it turns out to be genuine than the price tag will prove to be a bargain.

See Eileen Kinsella, Experts Believe Painting Valued at $800 at Auction Is a Real Rembrandt, Artnet News, September 23, 2015.


September 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trump Tax Plan Mostly Party Orthodoxy With Dash Of Unusual

ArticlePictureThe campaign of Donald Trump finally released its tax plan amid great pomp at the Trump Towers but offered little in the way of new policies. The plan calls for slashing the number of tax brackets and cutting the top rate to %25 while allowing those with incomes under $25,000 to live tax free. In addition, the plan calls for the end of the estate tax and alternative minimum tax while allowing companies to pay a onetime fee to repatriate funds from outside the United States that might otherwise be taxed. However, aside from one over the top requirement that requires non taxpayers to send “I win” forms to the IRS, the plan offers little in the realm of new policies although it firmly entrenches Trump’s rightward shift from his more liberal positions. Only time will tell if the policy proposals will help propel Trump to Washington.

See Russell Berman, Donald Trump’s Amazingly Conventional Tax Plan, The Atlantic, September 28, 2015.


September 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Tax, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Estate Of Pistons Owner Sues Deloitte Over Flawed Tax Plan

ArticleThe estate of late Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson is suing Deloitte Tax LLP over what it calls a risky and flawed estate plan. The suit claims that the tax planner intentionally used dubious planning techniques to create the perception of savings in order to draw in Davidson in as a high profile client they could use to lure other high net worth individuals. The estate seeks in excess of $500 million in damages to cover the increased tax the estate was forced to pay plus interest and penalties. As of now, no trial date has yet been set.

See Mark Hicks, Davidson estate sues Deloitte Tax over $2.7B IRS bill, The Detroit News, September 24, 2015.

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

September 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Forgotten Legal Status In America Could Lead To Big Implications Down The Road

PassportAs the world grows more globalized, it is inevitable that there will be some people that have complicated national identifications and will hold citizenship in multiple countries. As a result, negative tax and other legal implications may come into play as countries that an individual has had little contact with in years come calling. The United States in particular can be a thorny problem due to the claims on income earned overseas that the government has a history of pursuing and the fact that any past legal status, such as a green-card, must be formally renounced to become invalid. When faced with a client with multiple nationalities explore the options that are available including renouncing citizenship or special entities, such as trusts, that can protect a client's assets.

See Abby Schultz,  U.S. Tax Laws Could Snag “Accidental Americans”, Barron's, September 24, 2015.

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

September 29, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Large Majority Of People Do Not Have An Estate Plan

Estate planningThis column discusses the alarming problem of people not having an adequate estate plan.  Only 34% of Americans actually have a valid Will.  Most people do agree that it is important to have an estate plan, but many of these people have not taken action.  One of the biggest obstacles to estate planning is a lack of information and organization.  Many people do not want to take the time to organize and search through all of their financial information.  It is extremely important for people to discuss these estate planning issues with their family members and loved ones.  Seeking out the advice and assistance of a competent estate planning attorney is also very important for any person creating a Will or an estate plan.

See The Sad State of Estate Planning: Why Only 34% Have a Will in Place, Fox Business, September 28, 2015.

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

September 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wisconsin Estate Planning Attorney Facing Prison Time For Fraud

JudgmentA former estate planning attorney that is facing an extensive 33-count Federal indictment will likely face prison time after making a plea agreement to five of those counts.  Sarah E.K. Laux faces allegations that she took advantage of elderly clients that came to her for estate planning and trust services.  Federal investigators got involved in this case when allegations surfaced that she had stolen up to $3 million from two wealthy clients.  More lawsuits and investigations followed leading to the current plea bargain agreements.  “Laux will plead guilty to five of the 33 counts in the indictment, one each of bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and filing a false tax return.”  Prosecutors are agreeing to a below the guidelines sentence provided that Laux reveals everything she stoles and assists them with recovering the lost assets. 

See Bruce Vielmetti, Estate planning lawyer facing prison in fraud plea deal, Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, September 27, 2015.

September 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Setting Up An ABLE Account The Right Strategy To Take?

Able accountThis article discusses the impact that ABLE accounts can have on estate planning for people with disabilities.  It is very important that clients understand how a special needs trust will effect a person’s access to Medicare or Medicaid benefits.  The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into Federal law on December, 19, 2014, to make it easier for people with disabilities to save money without risking their Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits.  Currently each state must pass legislation that create a vehicle for ABLE accounts to be set up and administered.  Clients considering an ABLE account should consult with a competent estate planning attorney and should also review the policies of their state. 

See Holly Nicholson, Money Matters: Is an ABLE Act account right for you?, The News & Observer, September 26, 2015.

September 28, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bitter Legal Battle Over Guardianship Issue Spills Into Street

AutismProtesters have recently showed up to Munson Medical Center holding signs reading “Free Hannah G.”  Savannah Garcia, known as Hannah G, is an autistic person that has been a patient at the Munson Medical Center for over a month.  There is currently an ongoing legal battle in the local probate court between the center and Hannah G’s mother over guardianship.  Professionals at the center are concerned that Hannah G would suffer if her mother is involved in her care and have successfully entered an emergency petition that removed Samantha Garcia as guardian and named a replacement temporary guardian.  Doctors are concerned that Savannah might be experiencing Munchausen by proxy, a type of abuse that involves a caregiver adding to a person’s illness to gain attention.

See Matt Troutman, Guardianship battle spills to street, Traverse City Record Eagle, September 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.

September 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (2)