Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, October 18, 2019

Article on Wealth Taxation: An Overview of the Issues

MoneyAlan D. Viard recently published an Article entitled, Wealth Taxation: An Overview of the Issues, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2019). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

Two Democratic presidential candidates, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), have proposed annual wealth taxes. Annual wealth taxes have been adopted in a number of European countries (many of which later repealed them), but not in the United States. Although the proposed wealth tax rates appear low, they are equivalent to high-rate income taxes. Due to the pronounced concentration of wealth in the United States, a wealth tax would be highly progressive. The tax would probably reduce national saving and investment to some extent, although capital inflows would ameliorate the investment reduction. Congress would likely add exemptions for selected assets, which would be distortionary and diminish the tax’s revenue yield. The tax would face compliance and administration challenges due to undervaluation and concealment of assets and it might be ruled unconstitutional in the absence of suitable modifications. Although those challenges would probably not be insurmountable, it would be simpler and more prudent to pursue any desired increase in tax progressivity through reforms of the income tax and estate and gift taxes.

October 18, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Woman Celebrates 'Death' of $102G in Student Loans with Graveyard Photo Shoot

102KMandy Velez of New York recently killed off her student debt - all $102,000 of it. She was so ecstatic that she in fact celebrated the feat with a spooky funeral themed photo shoot in Manhattan’s Trinity Church Cemetery.

Velez accrued $75,000 in debt from California University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh by the time she graduated in 2013. After moving to the Big Apple, she likened her $1,000 a month loan premium as another rent payment. She made a goal that she would be debt-free before she turned 30 so that she could start saving up for a home and a future. So when she accomplished that lofty goal at only 27 by taking odd jobs such as babysitting and dog-walking, she wanted to show the world.

"I hope that if [others with student debt] are able, they’re inspired to tackle their student loans in the best ways that they can," Velez told GMA. "Or if people don’t have student loans, I hope that they understand the burden that it is on people who have them and the ridiculous things that it takes to finally kill them."

Outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1.6 trillion in the U.S. - double what it was just a decade ago.

See Janine Puhak, Woman Celebrates 'Death' of $102G in Student Loans with Graveyard Photo Shoot, Fox News, October 15, 2019.

October 17, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh

LaughingA father from Dublin, Ireland had his family play a pre-recorded message at his funeral to lighten the mood and make a number of the attendees laugh. Shay Bradley, a Defense Forces veteran, can be heard knocking and calling out - presumably from the coffin - before jokingly calling for the priest, saying he’s stuck in the box.

His daughter, Andrea Bradley, shared the message on social media where it has gone viral, writing that this was her dad’s dying wish. The short clip has now gone viral and the family has received many heart-felt messages.

“Myself and my Family are overwhelmed with the Amazing response and comments we have received regarding my dad's funeral, he truly is a legend and was the most amazing man!!! He would be overjoyed to know how many smiles and laughs he has given to every one. Thank you all,” Andrea wrote.

See Alexandra Deabler, Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh, Fox News, October 14, 2019.

October 17, 2019 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Obituary for Michael Halloran

MHMichael Halloran of St. Petersburg, Florida passed away on October 14, 2019 after an amazing 38 and a half years of running at least a mile a day, every single day. He was inducted into the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils Hall of Fall in 2015 and was also a former president of the Association.

Mike had recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as an agent with Northwestern Mutual, where he had transitioned to a Wealth Management Advisor after roughly half his tenure. He was also an adjunct professor at the University of North Florida for the past 13 years. He received his degree from Florida State University in 1969, then topped it off with two Master's degrees from American University.

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Sue, 5 children, and 10 grandchildren, as well as a brother and a sister.

See Obituary for Michael Halloran, Legacy for Florida Times-Union, October 16, 2019.

October 17, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Article on Sour Grapes: When Decanting Gives Rise to Litigation

DecanterLydia Lee Lockett and Peter Blumeyer recently published an Article entitled, Sour Grapes: When Decanting Gives Rise to Litigation, Probate & Property, Vol. 33, No. 5 (Sep/Oct 2019). Provided below is the introduction to the Article.

By the end of 2018, there were 29 states that had enacted trust decanting statutes, with approximately 22 of those taking effect in the last decade. With the prevalence of decanting increasing, courts are increasingly being force to consider the circumstances under which decanting is permissible and, relatedly, what remedies are available in case of impermissible decanting. It behooves fiduciaries, beneficiaries, and trusts and estate practitioners to familiarize themselves with this emerging area of law, so they recognize and avoid common pitfalls associated with decanting and recognize the attendant issues associated with decanting before those issues evolve into litigation. This article provides a selective overview of decanting and common themes and issues that have arisen in decanting litigation in the United States, including the authority to decant, the intersection of decanting and family law and special needs trusts, creditor avoidance, and remedies for unauthorized decanting.

It is worth noting that the commonly litigated issues discussed in this article are not exclusive. Given the nearly unlimited ways in which a trust may be modified through decanting, it is foreseeable that a plethora of issues relating to decanting may be litigated, such as tax controversies resulting from decanting, disputes relating to decanted trust that change the governing law of the trust, or challenges to a decanting that grants powers of appointment to beneficiaries. Because these types of controversies could rise in the future, trustee, financial advisors, and trusts and estates practitioners should consider these and other potential issues could result from decanting.

October 16, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

In France, Elder Cares Comes With the Mail

MailFrance has given a new responsibility to their mail carriers: to check on the elderly. Through a program called Veiller Sur Mes Parents ("Watch Over My Parents), subscribers pay €37.90 for a month's worth of weekly visits as well as an emergency call button. The subscribers can be family members of the elderly person and the mail carrier can notify them through an app that their loved one is "well" or if they require assistance with outings or house repairs.

The program was initiated in 2017, a total of 21,000 elderly singles have been enrolled in the program across France. The visits usually last between six and fifteen minutes, and at the end the senior signs the mail carrier's tablet as a sign of life - similar to signing to accept a package.

One of the reasons La Poste has been able to fill this void for the country's aging generation is due to economic changes. The number of letters being mailed has dropped dramatically compared to a year ago, and despite the stamp prices going up, delivering mail is not supportive enough. So the definition of "postal work" has expanded to include picking up prescriptions, delivering flowers, and now providing conversations and social visits to seniors. Last year alone, only 28% of La Poste's revenue came from delivering mail.

See Zoey Poll, In France, Elder Cares Comes With the Mail, The New Yorker, October 9, 2019.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 16, 2019 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

SEALs seeking particpation in T&E discussion groups

SealsThe SEALS T&E Resource Group has developed two discussion group proposals for the 2020 SEALS Conference.  Prof. Deborah S. Gordon is inviting you to indicate your interest in one or both of the proposals.  Please feel free to share this posting with anyone else you think might be interested.

The 2020 SEALS Conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from July 30 to August 5. (More information about SEALS is available at https://sealslawschools.org/ .) A description of the two discussion groups appears below.

Prof. Gordon is collecting the information for the groups. If you are interested, please email her at dsg45@drexel.edu by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 28 (sorry for the quick turn-around). In the email, please indicate one (or both!) of the discussion group proposals you wish to join. If you need to tentatively indicate an interest subject to scheduling or travel budgets, just let her know.  Also, if you have an idea of what you would want to discuss, please include that information in the email (although doing so is not necessary at this time). 

Thanks for considering being part of one (or both) of the proposals.  

2020 SEALS Proposal – T&E Discussion Group - Teaching 

Title:  Using Technology and Creativity in the Trusts & Estates Classroom 


Trusts & Estates, as an area of law, has a reputation for being old-fashioned in its adherence to paper documents and other traditional rules.  Trusts & Estates professors, however, have harnessed the power of technology to bring the subject to life. Discussion group participants will share their ideas for how to use technology and other forms of creativity in the Trusts & Estates classroom for presentations, assignments, and assessment. Examples might include (but are not limited to): (1) polling apps; (2) remote or on-line course components; (3) video or audio presentations; (4) current events, popular culture, and interdisciplinary materials; and (6) any other uses of technology. 

2020 SEALS Proposal – T&E Discussion Group – Scholarship 

Title:  Current and Evolving Trusts & Estates Scholarship           


Scholarship in the Trusts & Estates field is dynamic and expanding beyond core topics.  Until recently, trusts and estates law primarily concerned mechanisms for the effective transfer of wealth, and was the province of dry formalities concerning the necessities for the execution of wills and, over the past century, trusts. There was widespread consensus over a series of core principles, concepts basic to the field.  New scholarship, however, seeks to challenge this traditional approach and to bring alternative perspectives to the core meanings and concepts of trusts and estates.  The scholarship today uses a variety of methodologies and lenses. In this discussion group, participants have an opportunity to present their current research and explore symmetries and differences between their various scholarly projects.

October 16, 2019 in Conferences & CLE | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wealthy Families Continue to Ditch Trusts

Trusts2In the United Kingdom, fewer and fewer wealthy families are utilizing trusts in their estate plants. According to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, there was a 6% drop in trusts that filed a tax return from 2017-18 compared to 2016-2017. 

One of the primary reasons that families have stopped placing their assets in trusts is that in 2006, then chancellor Gordon Brown announced reforms to stop trusts “being used to shelter wealth from inheritance tax”.  Trusts once upon a time were used for their privacy benefits, but as of 2017 there is now an online registry of Trusts in the UK. Mike Hodges, partner at accountancy firm Saffery Champness, admitted that, “A punitive tax regime and a host of draconian regulatory requirements [has created] a toxic combination which has compelled increasing numbers of people towards alternative options for asset protection.”

And there could be more reforms and changes to trusts in the future. “Both major parties in the last general election pledged different reform measures aimed at improving transparency and with such measures inevitably comes greater uncertainty over the future of trusts and an increased reluctance for people to use them,” Hodges said.

See Emma Agyemang, Wealthy Families Continue to Ditch Trusts, Financial Times, September 26, 2019.

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

October 15, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Article on Charitable Tax Reform For the 21st Century

Charity1Roger Colinvaux & Ray D. Madoff recently published an Article entitled, Charitable Tax Reform For the 21st Century, Tax Law: Tax Law & Policy eJournal (2019). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

The article identifies two goals of the charitable giving tax incentives: promoting actual charitable work and fostering a strong culture of charitable giving with broad participation. The recent increase to the standard deduction and the rise of donor-advised funds compromise both goals. The article outlines reform proposals to bolster the charitable sector, including expanding the giving incentive to all taxpayers in the form of a credit (subject to a giving floor), allowing some tax benefits to DAF donors upon contribution but delaying the income tax deduction until DAF funds are released from advisory privileges, closing loopholes that enable foundations and donors to skirt long-standing legal requirement, and modifying incentives to foundations to foster more spending.

October 14, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Man gets ‘DNR’ Tattoo to Prevent Coming ‘Back as Vegetable’ in Case of Emergency

DNRNigel Thwaites, of Norfolk, England, is a 52-old-man that is healthy and has not faced a recent medical emergency. But after viewing a video that shows what can occur to a body after CPR, he decided to preemptively tattoo DNR (do not resuscitate) on his chest.

Thwaites said that the video showed what can happen if someone does not perform CPR correctly, and "that the brain becomes starved of oxygen which causes a loss of faculties in that person." He also is a registered organ donor, has a living will, and his blood type is also tattooed on his shoulder. Because a DNR tattoo creates legal and ethical issues for doctors in both the US and UK, the fact that Thwaites also has a living will is important to his choice.

Honoring the tattoo alone without a witness signature and patient signature could cause a doctor to lose his medical license, or be sued by the patient’s family or estate.

See Alexandra Hein, Man gets ‘DNR’ Tattoo to Prevent Coming ‘Back as Vegetable’ in Case of Emergency, Fox News, October 11, 2019.

October 13, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)