Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

World's first digital NFT house sells for $500,000

MArsIt is a common thing to move homes in order to get an update or change in surroundings. However, you are most likely not thinking of a digital home when you are looking to move. Recently, the Mars House, the world's first digital NFT (non-fungible token) home, sold for more than $500,000. 

Conversation surrounding NFTs has been growing immensely recently. An NFT is "a unique digital token which effectively verifies authenticity and ownership. It is encrypted with the artist's signature on the blockchain, a digital ledger used in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin." 

Krista Kim, the digital artist of the Mars House, was paid with 288 Ether, which is equivalent to $514,557.79. 

See Lianne Kolirin, World's first digital NFT house sells for $500,000, CNN, March 24, 2021. 

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

March 24, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Billionaire Estee Lauder heir locked in legal battle with baby mama

LauderBillionaire cosmetics heir William Lauder is "trying to kick his baby mama out of the $7 million Bel Air mansion he gave her. . . " 

The battle was apparently ignited by their child's "innocent social media post." 

The battle is centered on the Bel Air mansion which is 6,000 square feet and looks over Los Angeles. William Lauder is working hard to kick his ex-lover, Taylor Stein out of the mansion. 

William Lauder is son to billionaire philanthropist Leonard Lauder, who has donated more than $1 billion worth of art to the Metropolitan Museum. Stein is the daughter of legendary NYC nightclub impresario Howard Stein, who has sense past away. Stein's grandfather was a loan shark who was murdered by the Westies gang. 

Lauder and Stein met in 2000 at a party at Lauder's mansion in Aspen. At the time, Lauder was still married to his wife Karen. The two strikes up an affair about a year later and Stein was pregnant by 2005. Apparently, Lauder asked Stein to end the pregnancy because he was negotiating an agreement with his wife. 

Lauder and Stein have had a rocky relationship since then that has involved legal agreements, NDAs, and restraining orders. 

The battle at issue now began last year when Lauder and Stein's 13-year-old daughter described her parents as "divorced" on social media. 

See Isabel Vincent & Melissa Klein, Billionaire Estee Lauder heir locked in legal battle with baby mama, N.Y. Post, March 20, 2021. 

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

March 23, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Texas Bill Would Provide Release Relief To Trustees Who Deliver Adequate Accountings Without A Timely Objection By The Beneficiary

Estate planningA new bill has been submitted that would "provide a trustee relief for transactions described in an accounting where a beneficiary fails to timely object to the accounting and there is no fraud, intentional misrepresentation, or material omission." 

The bill provides: 

Sec. 113.153. BENEFICIARY’S APPROVAL OF ACCOUNTING. (a) This section does not apply to a trust that is under judicial supervision. (b) If a beneficiary does not object to a trustee’s accounting before the 180th day after the date a copy of the accounting has been delivered to the last known address of the beneficiary: (1) the beneficiary is considered to have approved the accounting; and (2) absent fraud, intentional misrepresentation, or material omission, the trustee is released from liability relating to all matters in the accounting.

If this bill were passed, it would take effect on September 1, 2021 and would apply to accountings delivered on or after the effective date. 

If this new bill is passed, there would likely be constitutional challenges addressing constitutional limitations to the statute as well as public policy arguments. 

However, the new bill is similar to a provision in the Uniform Trust Code, which has already been upheld as constitutional. 

It will be interesting to see the path and effect of this proposed bill. 

See David Fowler Johnson, New Texas Bill Would Provide Release Relief To Trustees Who Deliver Adequate Accountings Without A Timely Objection By The Beneficiary, Winstead: Texas Fiduciary Litigator, March 15, 2021. 

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

March 23, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 22, 2021

A tax break for retirees is back. Here’s how to use it — and what to avoid

TaxA tax break that disappeared last year has resurfaced in full force this year. This tax break benefits retirees in their 70s and up. These tax breaks are qualified charitable distributions, "which allow individual retirement account holders to divert some of their federally taxable required distributions to charity." The deductions allow IRA holders to make donations and reduce their federally taxable income. 

Qualified charitable deductions rose to fame in 2018 when Donald Trump's 2017 tax law was enforced. 

Now, they may be even more helpful than ever since they have been revived following their disappearance due to the pandemic. More specifically, the Cares Act effectively cancelled required minimum distributions (RMDs). 

Even though you could still use QCDs, their effectiveness was almost completely eliminated due to the cancellation of RMD requirements in 2020. 

Now, retirees can take advantage of these contributions. However, if considering QCDs, you should be careful not to "trip over yourself." You should consult with your estate planning attorney and/or financial advisor to discuss the best way to take advantage of these contributions, or possibly to stay away from them. 

See Allan Sloan, A tax break for retirees is back. Here’s how to use it — and what to avoid., Washington Post, March 18, 2021. 

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Law; Nancy L. Buc ’69 Research Professor in Democracy and Equity; Director, Family Law Center --  University of Virginia School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 22, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

She lost her husband to cancer. Now, her obituary for her 'dead sexy' spouse has gone viral

SauserIn February, Crystal Sauser's husband of 13 years died of cancer. The couple had three children together. 

Crystal most likely never thought she would be looking for information about drafting an obituary so early in her and her husband's lives. Unfortunately, this is something Crystal found herself doing shortly after her hsuband's death. 

Through her research, Crystal found herself writing her Husband, Eric A. Sauser's obituary herself. In the obituary, Crystal refers to her husband as "just a rocking' dude from Omaha, NE." That obituary has since gone viral for its "illuminating humor." 

In the obituary, Eric Sauser's cause of death is categorized as "either leukemia or more likely being 'dead sexy.'" 

Crystal said that writing the obituary came to her naturally stating, "It's so easy to write something like this when you love them so much." 

See Maria Morava and Douglas S. Wood, She lost her husband to cancer. Now, her obituary for her 'dead sexy' spouse has gone viral, CNN, March 21, 2021. 

Special thanks to Margaret Beyer for bringing this article to my attention.

March 22, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 21, 2021

San Antonio lawsuit blames funeral home for dad's burial as a pauper

Funeral homeA family in San Antonio has sued a funeral home, claiming the facility "Failed to pick up their father's body from a hospital for cremation, so it was deemed abandoned and Bexar County buried him in a pauper's grave." 

The plaintiffs in the case are the daughters of Arthur Martinez, who died from complications of Covid-19 at the age of 83. In a statement released by the daughter's attorney the family stated,
“We are grief stricken about the events surrounding our father’s cremation, and how the arrangements we made were not honored.”

The lawsuit was filed against Heart of Texas Cremations San Antonio, claiming that the funeral home “intentionally, recklessly and/or negligently failed to comply with its contractual obligation and promise to secure and maintain care, custody and control of the remains of Arthur Martinez at all times." 

The family still does not know where Arthur Martinez's body and are attempting to confirm the location so they can secure the remains. 

See Elizabeth Zavala, San Antonio lawsuit blames funeral home for dad's burial as a pauper, San Antonio Express-News, March 11, 2021. 

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

March 21, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Iowa Supreme Court: You Can’t Adjudicate Validity Of a Will Before a Testator’s Death

Estate planningIn In Re Guardianship and Conservatorship of Radda, the Iowa Supreme Court addressed "whether a prospective heir can bring an action to determine the validity of a will before the death of the testator." 

Vernon Radda suffers from schizoaffective disorder and severe autism spectrum disorder. in 1989, Vernon agreed for his sister to be appointed as his guardian, and Washington State Bank to be appointed as his conservator. After Julie's death, her husband and son became Vernon's guardians. 

In 2017, Vernon's sister, Barbara, discovered that Vernon had executed a will in 1992 and another will in 2015. However, Vernon told Barbara he was not sure whether or not he signed a will, even though he remembered signing some documents. 

Barbara and her husband subsequently filed a petition for declaratory judgement to determine whether Vernon had testamentary capacity to execute either will. 

Vernon's conservator argued that the motion should be dismissed because the claim was ripe since Vernon was still alive. The conservator also argued that Barbara and her husband lacked standing because no interest had vested.

Under the Iowa Probate Code, "[p]roceedings to determine the validity of a will and will contests must await a testator's death. . ." 

The Iowa Supreme Court stated, “we see nothing in the text of this statute that creates rights in a putative beneficiary or other third party to challenge the validity of a ward’s will before the ward dies, and we have never construed this statute to allow such a challenge.”

See Iowa Supreme Court: You Can’t Adjudicate Validity Of a Will Before a Testator’s Death, Probate Stars, March 2, 2021. 

March 20, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 19, 2021

The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Elects 12 New Regents to Board of Regents

ACTECThe following is from an ACTEC press released dated March 19, 2021:

The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) today announced that 12 new Regents were elected to its Board of Regents at the College’s Annual Business Meeting held virtually Tuesday, March 2, 2021. ACTEC’s Board of Regents is the governing body of the College.

Past President Charles D. Fox, IV chaired the 2020 Nominating Committee with members Susan T. Bart, Mark M. Christopher, Randall T. Grove, Chris R. Hoyt, Cynthia Lamar-Hart, John A. Terrill, II and Stephanie M. Tuthill. The Committee nominated 12 Fellows to fill existing vacancies.

Nominees elected for a second three-year term ending in 2024 are Fellows Gerry W. Beyer, Lubbock, Texas; Lora L. Brown, Seattle, Washington; Christopher H. Gadsden, Wayne, Pennsylvania; Beth Shapiro Kaufman, Washington, DC; and Peter T. Mott, Southport, Connecticut.

And, nominees elected for an initial three-year term ending in 2024 are Fellows Leigh-Alexandra Basha, Washington, DC; Gregory V. Gadarian, Tucson, Arizona; Miriam W. Henry, New Orleans, Louisiana; Joshua E. Husbands, Portland, Oregon; James D. Lamm, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Bridget A. Logstrom-Koci, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“It is my great pleasure to acknowledge the College’s newly elected Regents,” said ACTEC President Ann B. Burns. “These outstanding individuals will help guide the affairs of the College, as we anticipate an exceptionally productive year under this new leadership.”

During the Virtual Annual Meeting, ACTEC’s Board of Regents elected the following 2021-2022 officers, each of whom serve with Burns on the Executive Committee and the Board of Regents:

ACTEC President 2020-2021, Stephen R. Akers became immediate Past President and will continue to serve on the Executive Committee and Board of Regents.

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.

March 19, 2021 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Nightmare Every Day’: Inside an Overwhelmed Funeral Home

Funeral homeThe works at Continental Funeral Home in East Los Angeles see themselves as "working-class emergency workers." 

The pews and furniture in the chapel at the funeral home have been set aside to make room for the dead as they outnumber the living that once met there to remember the dead. 

Last month, there were four bodies in cardboard boxes, two bodies in open coffins, seven wrapped in white and pink sheets, 18 in closed coffins where the pews used to be, and 31 on the shelves of racks against the walls. 

The bodies added up to a total of 62. 

People typically forget about funeral homes until they need them. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have sent the industry into "disaster mode, quietly and anonymously dealing with mass death on a scale for which it was unprepared and ill-equipped." 

California has recorded the most virus related deaths  of any state with 52,000. "At Continental, the brutal reality of the death toll hits the gut first, the eyes second." 

See Manny Fernandez, A Nightmare Every Day: Inside an Overwhelmed Funeral Home, N.Y. Times, March 4, 2021. 

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

March 18, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Vermont Supreme Court Determines Ownership Of 1979 Cadillac Eldorado In Probate Dispute

CadillacIn re Estate of Theodore George the Vermont Supreme Court had the job of determining the rightful owner of a 1979 Cadillac Eldorado. Although these types of cases are common, it is rare for them to make it all the way up to the Vermont Supreme Court. 

Theodore purchased the Cadillac in 1992 and he received the certificate of title in 1994. Theodore was the sole owner of the Cadillac. In 2006, Theodore submitted a Vermont Registration, Tax and Title application with the DMV. Theodore was listed as the owner and his daughter was listed as co-owner The form directs applicants to select rights of survivorship if there is more than one owner listed on the certificate. The form provides, "if no box is checked joint tenants will be selected. Theodore did not check the box and he was the only person that signed the certificate. 

In 2016, Theodore left the car to one of his other daughters, Christine, through both a will and a codicil. Theodore died in 2017 and both the will and the codicil were admitted to probate. The executor of the estate listed the Cadillac as an asset of the estate and Deborah contested. 

The Probate Court did not find clear evidence of ownership and that the Cadillac was properly listed as part of the estate. 

In order to transfer title in Vermont, the testator must, at time of the delivery, "execute an assignment and warranty of title to the transferee in the space provided in the certificate." 

The Vermont Supreme Court held that Theodore did not transfer the Cadillac because delivery requires "complete possession and control" to complete an inter vivid gift. 

See Vermont Supreme Court Determines Ownership Of 1979 Cadillac Eldorado In Probate Dispute, Probate Stars, March 10, 2021.

 

March 17, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)