Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Probate Litigation And The President: Mary Trump Sues President Donald Trump and Estate of Late Brother Over Alleged Fraud

MaryDonald Trump's niece, Mary L. Trump has filed a lawsuit against the President, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, and the executor of the estate of their late brother Robert Trump. Mary has alleged that: “For Donald J. Trump, his sister Maryanne, and their late brother Robert, fraud was not just the family business—it was a way of life.”

Mary has also alleged that when her father Fred Trump Jr. died, she inherited valuable minority interests in the family business and that Donald, Maryanne, and Robert committed to watch over those interests as fiduciaries. 

Mary has alleged that “they designed and carried out a complex scheme to siphon funds away from her interests, conceal their grift, and deceive her about the true value of what she had inherited.”

Mary specifically has alleged three fraudulent schemes that were committed against her:

  • The Grift:  “Defendants fraudulently siphoned value from Mary’s interests to entities Defendants owned and controlled, while disguising those transfers as legitimate business transactions.
  • The Devaluing: Defendants fraudulently depressed the value of Mary’s interests, and the net income they generated, in part through fraudulent appraisals and financial statements.
  • The Squeeze-Out: Following Fred Sr.’s death, Defendants forced Mary to the negotiating table by threatening to bankrupt Mary’s interests and by canceling the healthcare policy that was keeping Fred III’s infant son alive, and once at the table Defendants presented Mary with a stack of fraudulent valuations and financial statements, and a written agreement that itself memorialized their fraud, and obtained her signature.

Mary also asserted eight causes of action in her complaint:

1.  Fraudulent misrepresentation;

2.   Fraudulent concealment;

3.   Fraudulent inducement;

4.   Negligent misrepresentation;

5.   Civil conspiracy to commit fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment;

6.   Civil conspiracy to commit fraudulent inducement;

7.   Breach of fiduciary duty; and

8.   Aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty.

See Probate Litigation And The President: Mary Trump Sues President Donald Trump and Estate of Late Brother Over Alleged Fraud, Probate Stars, September 24, 2020. 

September 24, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

The ACTEC Foundation Announces Mary Moers Wenig 2020 Student Writing Competition Winners

The below material is from an ACTEC Foundation press release:

Washington, DC, Sept. 24, 2020 --The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) Foundation today announced the 2020 winners of the Mary Moers Wenig Student Writing Competition. Five students were selected among 14 entries received and reviewed by a panel of judges appointed by the Legal Education Committee of the College.

The ACTEC Foundation supports the annual legal writing competition to encourage law students to create scholarly works in the area of trusts and estates. The first place winner receives a full tuition scholarship to the Heckerling Graduate Program in Estate Planning at the University of Miami School of Law for either the 2020-2021 or 2021-2022 academic year, a $5,000 cash award and will have their work published in the ACTEC Law Journal. Candidates must apply and be admitted as full-time students to be considered for the scholarship. The second place winner receives a $3,000 cash award, online publication — featuring their work on ACTEC Foundation’s website —and possible publication in the ACTEC Law Journal. The Competition’s third place recipient is awarded $1,000, online publication on ACTEC Foundation’s website and possible publication of their work in the ACTEC Law Journal. Honorable mentions usually receive a $500 cash award. The ACTEC Foundation has awarded more than $142,000 to the competition over 15 years.

First place winner Jack Spencer, who received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2020, graduating cum laude, said, “It is a great honor to win the 2020 Mary Moers Wenig Student Writing Competition. I enjoyed researching and writing about partnership interest situs determination and hope to continue exploring this topic while working as an Associate in Dechert LLP's Private Client Group in Philadelphia, PA. I am grateful to the excellent faculty and research librarians at Georgetown University Law Center who helped navigate this area of the law and to The ACTEC Foundation for their generosity and continuous support for law students interested in the field of trusts and estates.”

The 2020 Mary Moers Wenig Student Writing Competition Winners are:

First Place: James (Jack) Spencer — Georgetown University Law Center

“An Alternate Approach to Situs Determination for Partnership Interests”

Second Place: Linda Nelte— University of San Diego School of Law 

“Advancement and Ademption by Satisfaction: An Empirical Study of Parental Intent”

Honorable Mention: Michelle Huggins King — Georgetown University Law Center

“When Opportunity Funds an Estate: Issues Presented in Estate Planning by an Interest in a Qualified Opportunity Fund Passing Due to an Investor’s Death Prior to December 31, 2026 or an Inclusion Event and a Comparison of Planning Vehicles to Alleviate Tax Burdens to Beneficiaries”

Honorable Mention: Drake Frikken and Nabeal Sunna — Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University

“Unjust Enrichment - Another Unfortunate Effect of Suicide in the United States?”

The Mary Moers Wenig Writing Competition is now accepting submissions for 2021. The contest deadline is June 30, 2021. For details, visit https://actecfoundation.org/resources-for-law-students/law-student-writing-competition/.

About the ACTEC Foundation:  The ACTEC Foundation is the philanthropic arm of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel or ACTEC. The Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) that offers education to families and professionals and supports students interested in the trust and estate area of the law. Through continued financial support, The ACTEC Foundation offers professional development, scholarships and education for a number of important efforts, including legal education, educational support, public initiatives, legal publications and the student editorial board.

About the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC): Established in 1949, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) is a national, nonprofit association of approximately 2,500 lawyers and law professors from throughout the United States and abroad. ACTEC members (Fellows) are peer-elected on the basis of professional reputation and expertise in the preparation of wills and trusts, estate planning, probate, trust administration and related practice areas. The College’s mission includes the improvement and reform of probate, trust and tax laws and procedures and professional practice standards. ACTEC frequently offers technical comments with regard to legislation and regulations but does not take positions on matters of policy or political objectives.

September 24, 2020 in Writing Competitions for Students | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Lawyer who 'almost got away with the perfect crime' convicted of throwing his wife overboard on luxury cruise

LawyerLonnie Loren Kocontes, a former California lawyer, was convicted and sentenced top life for throwing his ex-wife-s body off a cruise ship. 

The incident occurred in 2006, and Kocontes was convicted in June of "first-degree murder for financial gain." 

Kocontes and his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki, were on a holiday vacation together on the day the incident occurred. Prosecutors argued that Kocontes killed Kanesaki in order to inherit more than $1M.

During the trial, Kocontes testified that he and Kanesaki had rekindled their relationship and planning to get remarried. Prosecutors did not believe this testament and instead stated that Kocontes was instead planning to kill his ex-wife and "make it look like an accident."

Kocontes claimed that he had taken a sleeping pill and Kanesaki was gone when he awoke. Kocontes reported his ex-wife missing later that evening and had already returned back to the U.S. by the time his wife's body was found. 

The FBI began investigating Kocontes in 2008, when he attempted to move $1M between bank accounts that he shared with another wife. 

"After a long investigation, which included Ms Nguyen telling the authorities that Kocontes had said he had asked a friend to kill his ex-wife, the 62-year-old was indicted for Kanesaki’s murder in 2013 and has been in police custody since then."

See James Crump, Lawyer who 'almost got away with the perfect crime' convicted of throwing his wife overboard on luxury cruise, The Independent, September 21, 2020. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 23, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

IRS Expands E-Signature Policy to Include Gift and Estate Tax Returns and Foreign Trust Reporting Forms

IRSThe IRS announced that it would temporarily accept e-signatures on certain forms. These forms included Form 8832, Entity Classification Election. Also, on September 10, the IRS expanded the list. The forms added to the list included:

Form 706-NA, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return; Form 3520, Annual Return To Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts; and Form 3520-A, Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner.

The e-signature policy will only apply to forms submitted on or before December 31, 2020. 

See Paul J. D'Alessandro, Jr., IRS Expands E-Signature Policy to Include Gift and Estate Tax Returns and Foreign Trust Reporting Forms, Bilzin Sumberg, September 11, 2020. 


September 22, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Woman declared dead found alive inside Detroit funeral home

Detroit"A 20-year-old woman who was declared dead by fire officials was found alive inside a Detroit funeral home. . ."

The woman was found unresponsive by Southfield Fire Department. After performing CPR and other life reviving methods for 30 minutes, the paramedics determined that there was no signs of life and she was declared dead. 

"The fire department contacted the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office and provided the woman's medical data."

“The patient was again determined to have expired and the body was released directly to the family to make arrangements with a funeral home of their choosing,” Chief Menifee said in the statement.

The staff at James H. Cole funeral home later determined that the woman was still breathing.

The woman's name has not been released and no other information has been provided. 

See Woman declared dead found alive inside Detroit funeral home, Nexstar Media Wire, August 24, 2020. 

September 22, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 21, 2020

Sperm donor fathers 36 children, parents later realize his bio was a lie

Chris-aggelesA whirlwind resulted from a Georgia sperm bank accidentally released information on children's sperm donors. 

Sperm donor 9623 had an impressive resume which stated he had "an IQ of 160, fluency in four languages, a doctorate in neuroscience engineering — and a resemblance to Tom Cruise." 

This accidental revelation has lead to an onslaught of lawsuits from parents. It has been revealed that the company did not attempt to verify the claims, which were false. 

The sperm donor, Chris Aggeles, actually did not finish college and had actually been convicted of burglar and was diagnosed with and hospitalized for schizophrenia. 

This has lead to parents being afraid that their children have been predisposed to mental illness. 

"Aggeles explained his remorse to Fox in the interview, saying that it began when he saw an advertisement in a student newspaper and thought it would be a good way to earn income as a struggling waiter and aspiring drummer."

He added, “I hope that the families involved, and particularly the children involved, can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”

See Russell Falcon, Sperm donor fathers 36 children, parents later realize his bio was a lie, Austin TX KXAN, September 12, 2020. 

September 21, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

You need to have a will: Here are some things to consider in getting one

EstateThe coronavirus has proven deadly and there are no signs that it will slow down anytime soon. Given the great risks that the coronavirus holds, there is a very important question you should ask yourself: Do you have a legal, written will? 

One common misconception is that you don't have to begin estate planning until you are old. However, according to Elizabeth R. Carter, professor at the LSU Law Center, "You should not wait until you are old to engage in estate planning."

With the many threats within our Country, you should begin strategizing your estate plan. But first, there are a few things you should consider.

First, you should not try to estate plan on your own. Although it's possible, it is not encouraged. You should seek out an attorney that has experience in estate planning. 

You should also avoid using fill in templates for wills that you may find online. Avoid this method at all cost. Many of the templates you will find may not be legally enforceable in your state. These templates are also not worth the money even if they are free!

You should also be sure to check if your state requires wills to be notarized. 

Your strategy may be different if you are creating a living will. These documents typically involve your wishes on end-of-life treatment. 

Overall, you should be very careful and strategic in your estate planning process.

See George Morris, You need to have a will: Here are some things to consider in getting one, The Advocate, August 24, 2020.

September 21, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yale Law Journal Seeks Articles & Essays

Yale LJI am posting the below as a courtesy to Jenny Choi:

My name is Jenny Choi and I am the current Executive Editor for Articles & Essays at the Yale Law Journal.  We are writing to share with you that our deadline for Articles & Essays submissions is September 23, 2020 (this Wednesday), and to ask [you] to publicize the date to fellow scholars and colleagues.  As always, we are eager to consider exciting legal scholarship across the nation, and would be grateful for your help in getting the word out.  Here is the tweet we put out about our Wednesday deadline.

September 21, 2020 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Billionaire Aldi Family Fortune To Hit German Court As Son Sues Mother For Embezzling Funds: Reports

TheoTheo Albrecht, cofounder of Aldi supermarket, passed away in 2010 and was ranked the 31st richest person in the world that same year. Albrecht's grandson Nicolay Albrecht has accused his mother Babette Albrecht and his three sisters of embezzling money from the trust. 

Nicolay Albrecht has has brought the action to a German court where the family members will argue over the fortune. Nicolay alleges that his mother and sisters have withdrew millions from a family trust that holds the family fortune. 

Nicolay's father, Berthold Albrecht was the beneficiary of the trust before his death in 2012. Babette is the widow of Berthold. 

"The conflict, which has been through many chapters, pits the cost-conscious elders who built Aldi against the younger generation who inherited the wealth."

Berthold's brother, Theo Jr., has already accused Babette and her children of "helping themselves to the assets" in the past. An alleged $88 million had already been withdrawn from the foundation in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

It appears that the elder generation felt that the younger, money-hungry generation, is disrupting the philosophy that the Albrecht family founded its success on. 

See David Dawkins, Billionaire Aldi Family Fortune To Hit German Court As Son Sues Mother For Embezzling Funds: Reports, Forbes, September 20, 2020. 

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  

September 20, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 19, 2020

How to Divide Up Personal Possessions Without Dividing the Family

EstateWhen creating an estate plan, allocating and dividing your assets can be very difficult. You are more than likely trying to figure out how to allocate your possessions in a way that will not create tension between your family members after you are gone. When creating your estate plan, it is very important that you make your intentions clear and have your estate planning strategy in line with those intentions. 

Although possession that can be turned into cash are easy to divide, tangible things like jewelry and heirlooms will not be as easy to divvy up. You may also have items that hold sentimental value that multiple family members are hoping to get their hands on. The family fights are likely to be centered around these types of objects. 

It will likely be a tough decision, but whoever you decide to give these items to, you should make it very clear who you choose and why you have chosen them. 

Below are a few steps to help you along the way:

  • List the most important or valuable items in your will
  • Direct that certain items be sold
  • Write a memorandum 
  • Give everything away now
  • Get an appraisal
  • Use a letter 
  • Bidding 

If you make these decisions instead of leaving them in the hands of your family, the process will be much smoother.

See Randy M. Lish, How to Divide Up Personal Possessions Without Dividing the Family, Elder Law News, September 18, 2020.

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

September 19, 2020 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)