Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Will-Substitutes for Your Estate Plan

Life-Insurance trustAlexandra Braun & Anne Roethel recently published an Article entitled, Passing Wealth on Death. Will-Substitutes in Comparative Perspective, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 38/2016 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Wealth can be transferred on death in a number of different ways, most commonly by will. Yet a person can also use a variety of other means to benefit someone on death. Examples include donationes mortis causa, joint tenancies, trusts, life-insurance contracts and nominations in pension and retirement plans. In the US, these modes of transfer are grouped under the category of 'will-substitutes' and are generally treated as testamentary dispositions.

Much has been written about the effect of the use of will-substitutes in the US, but little is generally known about developments in other jurisdictions. For the first time, this collection of contributions looks at will-substitutes in a comparative perspective. It examines mechanisms that pass wealth on death across a number of common law, civil law and mixed legal jurisdictions, and explores the rationale behind their use. It analyses them from different viewpoints, including those of owners of businesses, investors, as well as creditors, family members and dependants. The aims of the volume are to show the complexity and dynamics of wealth transfers on death across jurisdictions, to identify patterns between them, and to report the attitudes towards the different modes of transfer in light of their utility and potential frictions they give rise to with policies and principle underpinning current laws.

June 24, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Estate Plan Checklist

Estate plan checklistEstate planning is an essential part of life planning. It is important to take the right steps in your delineating your estate while you are healthy and of sound mind, so the earlier the better.

The Article details ten steps to take when kick-starting your estate plan. A couple important steps are to designate a power of attorney and health care power of attorney, so that when you are unable to make appropriate decisions, you have the help necessary. Another important step is to create a list of financial accounts and documents, keeping them in a safe place for when your family members need access to them. Additionally, as circumstances and laws change, always review your estate plan yearly.

See Natalie Campisi, Your Estate Planning Checklist: How to Create a Financially Sound Estate Plan, Go Banking Rates, June 22, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 24, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Various Means of Passing Your Wealth on Death

Will substitutesAlexandra Braun & Anne Roethel recently published an Article entitled, Exploring Means of Transferring Wealth on Death: A Comparative Perspective, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 40-2016 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Will-substitutes are mechanisms that are functionally equivalent to wills and that allow the disposition of property on death outside the sphere of traditional succession law rules. This chapter provides an overview of the principal means through which property can be disposed of on death across a number of jurisdictions. It further offers a discussion of the rationale behind their use and explores the challenges these mechanisms present for the operation and functioning of succession law.

June 24, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Donor-Advised Funds Are Costing American Charities

CharitiesThe United States relies heavily on charities, and in return, those that donate receive a generous tax break on the income donated. Experts argue that this charitable relationship is at risk due to a collective, managing, and distributive fund—donor-advised fund—that is obstructing the stream of money to those who need it. Instead of the money going directly to the charity of choice, it goes to a financial firm that acts as a middleman. These funds are considered legal charities that can distribute money over a long period of time, keeping it out of the hands of those charities that sincerely rely on the funds. As donor-advised funds are on the rise, an estimated $15 billion could be delayed to American charities.

See Ana Swanson, Wall Street Is Sitting on Billions Meant for American Charities, Washington Post, June 21, 2016.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 24, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Inmate Will Not Share in Prince's $300 Million Estate

Prince33The judge overseeing Prince’s estate is not allowing cameras in an upcoming hearing to determine possible heir claims. According to the law, the media and public may also be banned from the hearing if the court pursues specific paternity matters. We now know, however, that Carlin Williams, an inmate serving eight years for unlawful transportation of a firearm, is not a potential heir after a DNA test came back with a 0% chance of relation. The prisoner will not share in any of Prince’s $300 million estate as paternity questions continue to arise. 

See Prince Is Not the Father of Man Serving Time in Prison According to DNA Results that Bar the Convicted Felon from Inheriting Any Part of $300 Million Estate, Daily Mail, June 22, 2016.

June 23, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michael Jackson's Estate Attempts to Shut Down Media Buzz on Recently Released Police Reports

Michael jacksonMichael Jackson’s estate attempted to shut down the media buzz surrounding a 2003 police report that was released detailing the singer’s pornography collection. The estate worries that this hype is undermining the upcoming anniversary of Jackson’s death. Photos of the investigation into child sexual assault were also released but quickly taken down. The police records, however, reveal Jackson’s alleged pornography collection; however, these records seem to be mixed with misguided information from the Internet.

See Michael Jackson’s Estate Fights Back at Report Detailing Singer’s Creepy Porn Stash, Fox News, June 22, 2016.

June 23, 2016 in Current Events, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Hidden Fees in Burial Plans

Burial feesAfter twelve years of payments, a Kentucky resident finally covered the cost of his burial plan, or did he? Shortly after making the last payment, he began receiving more bills for hidden fees that will cost him another estimated $3,000. Come to find out, these hidden fees were in fine print on the original contract. The funeral director told the Kentucky man that taxes and internment fees were not included because they were future services that would need to be paid on the side.

See Man Shocked by Thousands in Fees Added to His Pre-paid Burial Plan, AOL Finance, June 21, 2016.

June 23, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Digital Privacy Interests

Social mediaNatalie M. Banta recently published an Article entitled, Death and Privacy in the Digital Age, 94 N. Carolina L. Rev. No. 927 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Americans store an overwhelming amount of sensitive, personal information online. In email accounts, social networking posts, blogs, shared pictures, and private documents, individuals store (perhaps unwittingly) the secrets and details of their lives in an unprecedented manner. During an individual’s life, these accounts are seemingly under the direct control of an account holder. Privacy is occasionally threatened, but people continue to use online services and pour personal information into their online accounts.

When developers created these online services and platforms, it is unlikely that they gave much thought to what would happen to accounts when an account holder died. Yet, the treatment of these accounts after an account holder’s death is an increasingly pressing issue in today’s society as more and more Americans die with active, password-protected accounts in their name. In determining how these assets will be handled at an individual’s death, powerful principles collide — including privacy, contract, property, and freedom of information.

This Article discusses how privacy interests are traditionally terminated at death and explores how they should be revived and reshaped in a digital future. It argues that to align posthumous privacy interests with the needs of a digital future, the law must ensure that succession principles apply to privacy as well as property rights, and that decedents’ individual intent for the fate of digital assets is honored. The Article acknowledges that private contracts may be a sufficient tool to protect privacy after death in some instances, but argues that the lodestar in any discussion of posthumous privacy should be testamentary intent. In the absence of testamentary intent, state legislatures should enact default rules of digital asset succession that accord with the family-centered paradigm of inheritance.

June 23, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Academy Looks to Stop the Sale of Whitney Houston's Emmy Award

Whitney houston emmyEmmy executives are trying to block the sale of Whitney Houston’s 1986 Emmy award, claiming that all winners sign an agreement that requires heirs to release the award back to the Academy in memory of the recipient. Whitney’s estate is trying to sell the award through Heritage Auctions, who has demanded proof of Whitney’s signature on that agreement. Heritage expects to sell the award for upwards of $10,000.

See Whitney Houston Emmy Battle Heading for Court, TMZ, June 22, 2016.

June 22, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Court Finds No Informal Fiduciary Relationship

Caregiver beneficiaryIn Garrett v. First State Bank of Central Texas, a Texas court of appeals decided on a dispute over the ownership of a decedent’s account. The decedent’s estate and caregiver both claimed the account proceeds. The caregiver was a signatory on the decedent’s money market account, and she claimed that the decedent had expressed his wishes for the account to pass to her upon his death. The trial court, however, ruled that her signature did not make her the beneficiary of the account rather just a signatory to pay bills. The court of appeals affirmed the trials court’s finding because often Texas courts are hesitant to find informal fiduciary relationships.

See J. Michael Young, Garrett v. First State Bank of Central Texas: No Informal Fiduciary Relationship, Texas Probate Litigation, June 20, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 22, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)