Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

Rise in Cohabiting Couples Choosing Death Bed Marriages [UK]

MarriageMany couples are wedding shortly before one partner dies, presumably for the tax and probate benefits of such transactions. In the United Kingdom, everything that passes to a surviving spouse is exempt from inheritance tax. The spouse also inherits at the probate value, meaning when a major asset is sold the capital gains tax will only apply on the increase of value from when the person passed away.

The Passport Office released a report in May 2018 that there were 190 urgent applications for a Registrar General’s License to get married or enter a civil partnership, an 11% increase from the year before. This can be highly beneficial for those that believe that common law marriages have the same right of inheritance as formal ones. This is not the face, and unfortunately many people do not find this out until it is too late - and the inheritance tax bill is due.

Adult children may dispute a marriage performed in the throes of illness, especially if a will is written that disinherits them entirely or removing a portion of what they believed they were due. They may question if their parent had the capacity for either contract or whether there was undue influence. A last minute marriage will certainly protect the spouse or civil partner, but having a watertight will is also essential to clear up any confusion.

See Kate Saines, Rise in Cohabiting Couples Choosing Death Bed Marriages, Money Pages, January 11, 2019.

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

January 21, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Significant Increase in Use of Property Tax Deferral, Decrease in Home and Community Care for Seniors

NursinghomeSeniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie released an annual report called Monitoring Seniors Services 2018, showing that the number of seniors using property tax deferral increased by 53% in the last 4 years. The last year alone showed an increase by 21%, with 57,305 seniors deferring their property taxes, of which 13,179 were new users of the program.

Though there was a 4% increase in seniors over the age of 65 and 5% increase in those over 85%, there was a 1.4% decrease in the number of seniors receiving home support service. More hours were delivered as the total number of hours delivered remained about the same resulting in a 2% increase in the average hours of care. There may be shift moving assisted living into the private sector, a there is a 2% decrease in publicly subsidized registered assisted living units, but a 7% increase in privately funded registered assisted living units. Long-term care facilities saw a 2% reduction in turnover with an 8% reduction in new admissions with 1,379 people awaiting placement. Waitlists for these facilities as of March 2018 were 7% longer than March 2017, but 23% shorter than September 2016. 

Mackenzie noted, “As always this report highlights there are a significant number of supports for seniors, and while some services increased in tandem with the growing seniors’ population, others are not keeping up with demand."

See Rattan Mall, Significant Increase in Use of Property Tax Deferral, Decrease in Home and Community Care for Seniors, Voice Online, January 9, 2019.

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

January 21, 2019 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Disposition of Digital Assets in Georgia

UgaClint A. Guillebeau published a Note entitled, Disposition of Digital Assets in Georgia, 25 J. Intell. Prop. L. 29-40 (2017). Provided below is an introduction of the Note.

Estate planning law tells us that following an individual’s death, the disposition of that individual’s tangible property, such as a car or a house, whether he died intestate or with a thorough estate plan, will pass on to his or her heirs. Probate and estate issues are governed by state law and Georgia’s laws are codified in the Georgia Code in Section 53 where the disposition of tangible property can be found. What is lacking in Georgia’s wills, trust, and estate laws is what happens to other forms of property such as digital assets. With the ever-increasing reliance and usage of the internet this issue needs to be addressed. Currently, there is no federal law with regard to the disposition of digital assets, and state law that has thus far been adopted is scarce. However, in 2015 the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) drafted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) with a twofold purpose expressed in a prefatory note. 

First, it gives fiduciaries the legal authority to manage digital assets and electronic communications in the same way they manage tangible assets and financial accounts, to the extent possible. Second, it gives custodians of digital assets and electronic communications legal authority to deal with fiduciaries of their users, while respecting the user’s reasonable expectation of privacy for personal communications.

This Note will support the position that states, and Georgia in particular, should adopt a version of RUFADAA but should first strongly consider and redraft some of the language. This Note will advocate in part on the potential adoption of federal law requiring users to sign an online tool before gaining access to a website. Further, this Note proposes a reorganization of the three tier distribution system of digital assets found in the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act which would allow estate planning documents, if drafted later in time, to trump the online tools articulated designations.

Part II of this Note will provide the background needed for a thorough understanding of the problem. This section will provide the definition and examples of digital assets, provide the history of how digital assets have been handled over the years, as well as provide an understanding of current federal and state law regarding this issue. This section will also analyze how Georgia in particular has dealt with digital assets. Part III will outline important aspects of RUFADAA and analyze the benefits as well as potential consequences of a strict adoption of RUFADAA. Part IV will advocate for Georgia to adopt RUFADAA but with a few changes to better handle possible issues. Part V will be a conclusion summarizing this Note. 

January 21, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

An Amazonian Divorce

AmazonAs the shock wave of the news expanded over the last couple weeks, it would have been hard to miss that Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, has announced that him and his wife of twenty-five years were divorcing. 

The couple lived in Washington, a community property state, and with Amazon being founded during the marriage it could mean that MacKenzie would be entitled to half of the value of the massive company. Stocks, personal property, and other forms of Bezos's wealth would need to be accounted for as well. But many say that it would be in MacKenzie's ultimate best interest to have Amazon continue to be successful and thrive, so diluting her soon-to-be ex-husband's share of the company would be counter-productive.

The couple created a charitable fund in late 2018 called the Day One Fund, which helps homeless families and creates preschools in impoverished areas. It started with a $2 billion from the Bezos’s, and it unclear as of yet how the fund will be impacted by the divorce.

See Emily C. Jeske, An Amazonian Divorce, Smith Debnam Law, January 9, 2019.

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

January 19, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Article on More Moves in Constructive Trusts and Estoppel

Trusts2Martin Dixon recently published an Article entitled, More Moves in Constructive Trusts and Estoppel, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

Analyses the law of constructive trusts and its connection to statutory formalities, including the Pallant v Morgan equity.

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

Police Investigating Theft of Assets from Aretha Franklin's Estate

ArethaIt appears that the drama of the late soul diva is continuing, with police in Chicago stating that there is an active theft investigation involving Aretha Franklin's mansion, and that it began before her death in August. It is also reported that the investigation involves someone using her funds inappropriately, but was unclear of how much.

Franklin's son Edward, 61, is also in a court battle with the estate in an effort to attain a court order for the estate to hand over monthly financial documents to her heirs. The estate is withholding the statements because it could allegedly have a negative impact on the criminal investigation of the missing assets.

The estate is also being audited by the IRS, claiming that the diva owed the Service more than $6.3 million in back taxes and $1.5 million in penalties. The estate is contesting the claim, stating there is a dispute over what was and was not income for the singer.

See Leah McDonald, Police Investigating Theft of Assets from Aretha Franklin's Estate, Daily Mail, January 11, 2019.

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

January 14, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Intestate Succession, Music, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

6 Painless Financial New Year's Resolutions You Can Stick To

NyeAfter the champagne and midnight kiss, many merry parties decide on their New Year's resolution. Creating a budget seems like a simple one of its face, but so does eating right and getting adequate sleep. Yet some still struggle with these tasks.

Here are six resolutions that can keep your financial resolutions of track.

  • A New Financial Planning Lens
    • Personal financial planning expert Nicole Lapin likes to frame money management through the lens of a "spending plan" instead of a budget, because it allows for little indulgences. Just like a cheat day in a diet.
  • Check 401(k) Contributions, Try to Boost Them
    • When was the last time you checked in on your retirement accounts? If you have some room to bump up your contributions, financial planning experts say you should do so. If you're able to max out on your 401(k), think about setting up an IRA in addition to your 401(k).
  • Check Your Credit Score
    • You should remember to monitor your credit score, which can hold either the lock or the key to your financial planning goals. If your score is lower than you had hoped, do not slice up your credit cards. Instead put a recurring bill on them, and remember to pay your bills on time.
  • Assess How You're Tackling Debt
    • Confront your debt with the highest-interest rate first, or an alternate strategy is paying off the smallest amount first.
  • Adjust Short-Term Savings Goals
    • If you're saving for something in the near future, such as a car or a down payment on a house, consider whether your money is in the vehicle best equipped to help you reach those goals.
  • Consider Your Stock Investments
    • Factor in your age and your risk tolerance. Christine Benz, Morningstar's personal finance director, says "If you're getting close to retirement and haven't checked your asset allocation recently, it may in fact be time to lighten up on stocks."

See Elaine Low, 6 Painless Financial New Year's Resolutions You Can Stick To, Investors, January 7, 2019.

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

January 14, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book on International Estate Planning: A Reference Guide

Int-Estate-Plan-2015-HC_CDBarbara Hauser & Melissa Langa recently published a book entitled, International Estate Planning: A Reference Guide (Updated ed. 2018). Provided below is a summary of the book.

International Estate Planning: A Reference Guide, is a practical and authoritative resource for those seeking key information in the estate planning field. Practitioners and foreign advisers, [moved a phrase to later] whose clients have assets, children, parents or a spouse in other countries, or whose tax liabilities are difficult to define because of nationality, employment, or residence issues, and U.S. executives working in foreign countries will find straightforward, useful information in this guide. Equipped with a companion CD the appendix to the book contains copies of fillable tax forms and notices, relevant treaties and Hague conventions, as well as a list of organizations and resources to quickly help the reader obtain the answers they need.

International Estate Planning addresses questions such as:
- “I just bought a vacation home in France. Should I do anything?”
- “My daughter married someone in Italy. Should I change my trust?"
- “Can an American save taxes by using off-shore trusts?”

These are not easy questions. Mistakes and pitfalls are pointed out throughout the book and ways to prevent them are explained. The authors have spent more than 20 years in private client practice and have a firsthand appreciation of the need for authoritative information.

January 14, 2019 in Books, Books - For Practitioners, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Article on Happy New Year: Reconsidering the Tax Treatment of Alimony

HappynewyearTyler Hardcastle & Margaret Ryznar recently published an Article entitled, Happy New Year: Reconsidering the Tax Treatment of Alimony, Tax Law: Tax Law & Policy eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article. 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has significant implications for the more than one million Americans divorcing each year. One such consequence taking effect in the New Year is the repeal of §§ 215 and 71, which allowed the deductibility of alimony payments by the payor and included them in the payee spouse’s income. However, these code provisions were good public policy for divorcing couples by incentivizing alimony, and their repeal should thus be reconsidered.

January 13, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Article on Elder Law Issues and Recent Developments 2018

ElderlawElizabeth Ruth Carter recently published an Article entitled, Elder Law Issues and Recent Developments 2018, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

These CLE materials provide an overview of the recent developments in Elder Law that occurred between 2017-2018. Topics include legislative and jurisprudential developments in consumer protection, crimes against the elderly, mandate and interdiction, and medical law changes. Attention is also given to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 12, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)