Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Learn from These Celebrities' Estate-Planning Mistakes

Celebrity deathsAverage Americans make estate-planning mistakes all the time, but when a celebrity makes them, we are sure to hear about it, and each story can leave us with some estate-planning wisdom. The biggest lesson of 2016 is one that we can all learn from Prince—you must have an estate plan! The singer died without his own estate plan, which gave large sums of money to attorneys, banks, and the government. Further, it is important to update your estate plan to account for your beneficiaries’ life situation. Whitney Houston never updated her estate plan after her daughter was born, which left her daughter with large sums of money at an early age, and she died shortly after. Another lesson for your estate plan is that when you create a trust, you must retitle the assets in the name of the trust. Michael Jackson’s estate dealt with this issue for many years because he did not properly “fund” his trust. Also, you must plan for the possibility of new heirs in your estate plan. Heath Ledger had an estate plan, but after his sudden death, all of his fortune went to his parents and sister, not his daughter. Finally, you must keep your estate plan in a safe place and communicate to your family where that is. Florence Joyner had a will but never told anyone where it was located, so her family spent the next four years in litigation before coming to a settlement. These are just some of the many estate-planning lessons we can learn from celebrities. 

See Matthew Talbot, Avoid These Celebrity Mistakes with Your Estate Plan, Lamorinda Weekly, December 28, 2016. 

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


December 29, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Intestate Succession, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

More Americans Are Retiring Outside the United States

Retiring abraodThe number of Americans retiring outside the United States has grown 17% between 2010 and 2015 with the percentage only expected to increase over the next ten years due to the baby boomers. These retirees most often choose to live in Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany, and the United Kingdom, citing the cost of living in America as the reason for moving elsewhere. However, the biggest obstacle of moving to another country at retirement is not speaking the language or knowing the culture. Also, while still being able to receive Social Security, these retirees are not afforded access to Medicare, which can make health care a challenge. 

See Growing Number of Americans Are Retiring Outside the US, Fox News, December 27, 2016. 


December 28, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oklahoma Family Spans Six Generations

Great great grandchildA 107-year-old woman recently welcomed her first great-great-great-granddaughter, which makes a total of six generations. Oleane Young Mulkey raised twelve children and currently has nine living children, twenty-four grandchildren, thirty-seven great-grandchildren, and her newest great-great-great grandchild. Mulkey’s six generations is believed to be the only current one in the state of Oklahoma. Longevity certainly runs in the family.  

See Oklahoma Family Spans 6 Generations with Birth of Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter, Fox News, December 28, 2016. 


December 28, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Retirement Go Extinct?

Retirement extinctionWill retirement go extinct? Surely not, but younger people are looking for new ways to finance their survival later in life. Millennials represent a shift in attitude that shows many of them have very unretirement-like life plans. Young Americans today are misinformed about just how much it takes to survive in retirement, which leaves them behind in trying to figure out how to fund this late life stage. Additionally, 56% of Americans think they can get by in retirement on a million dollars or less—unrealistic goals, to say the least, with high costs looming, such as health care. Even more misinformed, 17% are counting on winning the lottery to fund their retirement goals. Furthermore, currently, 83% of retirees are not working, but 83% of millennials plan to work in retirement, mainly due to the gig economy, where employee benefits are less certain. However, most millennials are taking the DIY approach to saving for retirement, which is nerving considering the lack of sufficient understanding. Ultimately, we do not need to prepare for retirement extinction just yet, but we will need to look into ways of coping with evolving society.   

See Marlene Y. Satter, 9 Reasons Retirement May Go Extinct, LifeHealthPro, December 27, 2016. 

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


December 28, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nigerian Sultan Rejects Gender Equality Bill

NigeriaA new gender equality bill, proposing that men and women inherit equal shares, has been struck down by Nigeria’s most senior Muslim cleric. Mohamed Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, ensured that Muslims would not accept such a violation of Islamic law that guarantees men a greater share. However, Nigeria is nearly equally split with Muslims and Christians.  Christian Nigerian citizens are advocating for the bill, stating that their religion permits equal inheritance. A similar bill was rejected back in March by Nigeria’s senate upon noting its incompatibility with Nigerian culture and religious beliefs. 

See Nigeria’s Sultan of Sokoto Rejects Gender Equality Bill, BBC News, December 28, 2016. 


December 28, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

George Michael's Song Streams Skyrocket After Death

George michaelGeorge Michael’s music has been on repeat for some solace fans after his death. His solo music streams have skyrocketed by 3,158%. The top five songs that have been streamed since his death announcement are “Last Christmas,” “Careless Whisper,” “Faith,” “Freedom! ’90,” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” Spotify, the music provider, compared numbers from days before and the day after Michael’s death. 

See George Michael Song Plays Explode After Death, TMZ, December 26, 2016. 


December 27, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Family Cemeteries Bind Generations for Honor and Tax Reasons

Family cemeteriesFamily cemeteries bind descendants not only to honor and remember their originators but also for tax reasons. The IRS grants nonprofit status to these cemeteries under § 501(c)13, requiring families to maintain a list of all descendants eligible for burial at that cemetery. Family cemeteries help to propagate family values and principles across several generations, but be aware, they are not cheap to maintain. However, unlike a family foundation, cemeteries have a common theme of legacy rather than ever-changing intents that can create rift and large bills. The cemetery land itself also keeps families together—a physical link to the past where families can go to reminisce about family history together. Further, a connection once created by wealth now resides in obligation of upkeep in family cemeteries, allowing members to continually remain connected with their ancestors. 

See Paul Sullivan, Family Cemeteries Bind Generations, for Remembrance and Tax Reasons, N.Y. Times, December 23, 2016.  

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


December 27, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on 10% Funding Myth for Trusts

Trust fundingRichard A. Oshins & Jerome M. Hesch recently published an Article entitled, Economic Substance and the “10%” Funding “Myth” for Trusts (forthcoming 2017). Provided below is a summary of the Article:

This article generally discusses the economic substance issue in terms of deferred sales to IDGTs. However, the analysis is equally applicable to deferred sales to BDITs. Because most BDITs are funded with $5,000, an installment note sale ordinarily will not satisfy the arbitrary 10% rule of thumb. The proper process is to comply with the “reality of sale” concept discussed at length below. Although technically not required, additional safety is obtained by supplementing that analysis with legitimate guarantees. 

The authors believe that the theoretical 10% safety net is a “myth” and unsupportable. Nowhere in any case law, published ruling, or administrative pronouncement is the 10% funding required. However, that “rule of thumb” has been cited so often that it appears to have taken on an assumed authority of its own. Many advisors view the 10% threshold as a requirement and will not proceed unless the arbitrary test is met. 

Download ETPL-17-01-17-oshins

December 27, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

George Michael's Godchildren Set to Inherit Millions

George michael2George Michael’s godchildren are expected to receive substantial inheritances from the late singer’s will. Michael was a godparent to several of his celebrity friend’s children, who could now walk away with part of his $120 million estate. He made his fortune from his singing career and royalties, investing a portion of it into properties and art. In addition, Michael was a long-term supporter of many charities, including Childline and Macmillan Cancer Support, which could see future bequests from the megastar. His two older sisters, his boyfriend, and his cousin’s two children are also expected to be named in his will. 

See Richard Spillett & Alex Matthews, George Michael’s £100m Fortune ‘Will Go to His Godchildren’: Offspring of His Celebrity Friends Could Inherit Tens of Millions EACH After Star Died Without Heirs, Daily Mail, December 27, 2016. 

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


December 27, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Article on New York Will Drafting

Will drafting2Gerald Lebovits recently published an Article entitled, Will of Fortune: New York Will Drafting – Part 2, 89 N.Y. St. B.J. 64 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Part 1 of this two-part column, which appeared in the last edition of the New York State Journal, outlined the basics of New York will drafting. This column is about the importance of clarity in will drafting.


December 26, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)