Thursday, April 9, 2020
David Horton and Reid K. Weisbord recently published an Article entitled, COVID-19 and Formal Wills, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2020). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.
Most Americans do not have a will, but as COVID-19 sweeps through the country, some Americans urgently need an estate plan. Unfortunately, probate law makes it difficult to create a will during this crisis. Indeed, twenty-five states and the District of Columbia recognize only one type of will: a “formal” will executed in compliance with the Wills Act. Under this ancient statute, wills must be written on paper, signed by the testator, and also witnessed by two people who were present at the same time. Thus, the Wills Act’s insistence that parties physically occupy the same space poses an unforeseen barrier to testation during a time of widespread quarantine.
Yet the pandemic has also arrived during a period in which wills law is in flux. In the last two decades, a handful of jurisdictions have begun excusing harmless errors during the will-execution process. And, in an even sharper departure from the Wills Act’s stuffy norms, four states have recently authorized electronic wills.
This Essay argues that COVID-19 vividly highlights the shortcomings of formal wills. Indeed, the outbreak has exposed the main problem with the Wills Act: it makes will-making inaccessible. As a result, we urge lawmakers in states that cling to the statute to liberalize its requirements. Our argument proceeds in three Parts. Part I details the social value of will-making. Part II describes the Wills Act and explains why it creates formidable obstacles for testators who are caught in the jaws of a pandemic. Part III explores three ways in which policymakers can solve this problem: by permitting holographic wills, adopting the harmless error doctrine, and passing electronic will legislation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed various executive orders to address the issues faced by the state of New York and its residents during these unprecedented times as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 7, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order 202.14 which modifies the laws concerning numerous documents pertaining to a person's estate plan.
The act of witnessing for the execution of certain instruments that is required under state laws is authorized to be performed utilizing audio-video technology. Those instruments include:
- Last will and testament
- Lifetime trust
- Statutory gifts rider to a statutory short form power of attorney
- Real property instruments
- Health care proxies
- Instrument to direct the disposition of a person’s remains upon their death
See Cheryl L. Erato, The Remote Witnessing of Estate Planning Documents During the COVID-19 Pandemic, nyestatelitigationblog.com, March 8, 2020.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) and Ira Bloom (Justice David Josiah Brewer Distinguished Professor of Law, Albany Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.
April 9, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Technology, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its astounding affects on the economy and the daily lives of American citizens, the Washington D.C. legislature proposed the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 yesterday. Today, an amendment was added to allow its citizens to create wills electronically when "the Mayor has declared a public health emergency."
To read the amendment, see here.
Monday, April 6, 2020
Washington’s Supreme Court has denied Seattle’s bid to reinstate an income tax on wealthy households, declining to hear the city’s case by a majority decision. Both a King County Superior Court judge and the state Court of Appeals had ruled against the tax, and the Supreme Court denied to hear the request to overturn these decisions.
“The petitions for review are both denied,” Chief Justice Debra Stephens wrote, without elaboration and without issuing an opinion. The petitions were written by the city and by the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI), a Seattle-based progressive think tank. A Supreme Court spokeswoman declined to report the tally and how each justice voted, but a source that wanted to remain anonymous said the vote was 5-3.
The ruling means Washington and its cities will remain blocked from enacting graduated income taxes, with different rates based on wealth. John Burbank, EOI’s executive director, said that Seattle could respond to the coronavirus health and economic crisis by trying to implement a single-rate income tax with exemptions meant to help poorer people. “I’m disappointed in the denial for review,” Burbank said Friday. “Having said that,” letting the Court of Appeals decision on the 1984 law stand, “does clear the way” for new proposals. This was alluding to the fact that the Supreme Court let stand a decision by the Court of Appeals last year to void the state law that banned taxes on net income.
Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform at the conservative Washington Policy Center, described the Court of Appeals decision on the 1984 ban as “bizarre” but hailed the Court's denial on the present case.
See Daniel Beekman, Washington State Supreme Court Denies Seattle’s Bid for Income Tax on Wealthy Households, Seattle Times, April 3, 2020.
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Amidst the current pandemic, the Center for Control and Prevention has urged funeral directors around the country to move funeral services online. So for the immediate future, even for those that did not die of the novel COVID-19 virus, people cannot hold an in-person memorial for their loved ones.
"Being a millennial on the internet, I've watched my fair share of livestreamed events, but it was sad for all the wrong reasons," 27-year-old Garrett Galindo said after having to watch his 82-year-old grandmother's funeral online. Isabel Cabrera Galindo was a social woman that died of natural causes. "It was sad that my grandmother, a woman known for her love of large gatherings, parties and get-togethers, would have her final service be in front of only 10 of her loved ones. It was sad that even with today's technology it was so difficult to hear her eulogy, and it was sad knowing we couldn't share those final moments together as a family." Many of her older friends could not even attend digitally due to a lack of knowledge of the technology.
With more than 7,000 deaths in the United States each day, many do not want to delay celebrating the lives of loved ones. But the new normal of today of social distancing makes those traditional celebrations impossible. People have criticized livestreamed religious services in the past for being an unsatisfying replica of the in-person experience and some feel the same way about bringing funeral online.
See Samantha Murphy Kelly, Funerals are the Latest Part of American Life to Move Online, CNN, March 23, 2020.
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Prince’s Family Claims That They Have Not Received Any Payments From His Estate; They Are Now Asking a Judge To Intervene
Three of the six siblings of the late singer Prince are claiming that they have not received anything from the estate, though they are his legal heirs. Despite this, lawyers and advisers of the estate have been paid. Sharon, Norrine, and John Nelson, three of the singer's siblings, have filed a petition for compensation in Prince’s estate.
The estate is run by Comerica Bank and the two parties have not agreed on many terms in the past. The siblings have accused Comerica of mismanaging money and leaving them out of the loop concerning major decisions regarding the estate. Comerica has denied these allegations. The three siblings say they want to continue helping out the estate but cannot continue without being compensated. The three siblings claim they have had to heavily depend on “solely on their pension, social security, personal savings and loans from friends to cover the costs needed to support the Prince Estate despite the millions paid to advisors, attorneys and others approved by the Court.”
A judge has yet to rule on the case.
See Gibson Precious, Prince’s Family Claims That They Have Not Received Any Payments From His Estate; They Are Now Asking a Judge To Intervene, Baller Alert, March 28, 2020.
Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act last week to provide relief from many of the hardships created by the coronavirus and President Trump signed the bill into law Friday night. One of the many benefits of the Act was that it, for many borrowers, suspends their student loan payments—interest free—through September 30, 2020.
There is some confusion, however, because it does take time for legislation to be implemented. The CARES Act provides automatic suspension of payments, with 0% interest, and counts towards loan forgiveness, but the website that oversees the majority of government student loans - MyFedLoan - is displaying a message stating an optional suspension of payments that will not count towards forgiveness programs. The website's call centers have decreased staff because of the virus and limited ability to answer borrowers' questions.
Student loan borrowers should be patient, as loan servicers are working to implement the bill and it will be applied retroactively. The Department of Education echoed this message on a call yesterday where it told listeners it is directing loan servicers to make this retroactive to March 13th. So as long as the borrower would have otherwise qualified for a forgiveness program, these months of non-payment will count toward their required number of payments for forgiveness.
See Wesley Whistle, The CARES Act Helps Most Student Borrowers Seeking Loan Forgiveness, Forbes, April 1, 2020.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
The heirs to Henry Ford II - the eldest grandson of legendary Henry Ford - filed a legal challenge against their late patriarch's attorney, Frank Chopin, who is now the champion of Ford's widow, Kathleen DuRoss Ford, 80. They claimed that the man tried to control their access to her and, abused her by “[forcing] pills down her throat.” Chopin, who has power of attorney over the widow's affair, denies the allegations.
On Wednesday, a Palm Beach judge denied their request to have Chopin removed as her caregiver, and leaving her daughters, grandchildren and even her sister, Sharon, 82, distraught. Tara DuRoss, a 23-year-old granddaughter of Ford's, claimed Chopin had limited them to scheduled conference calls and meetings away from her home, and now the calls had stopped. “I used to call her every day. We just want to be able … to see her.”
Chopin remarked that it is untrue that Tara spoke to Kathleen daily. He called her an “idiot child,” and said the family were “estranged” unless “they wanted something.”
See Oli Coleman, Ford Heirs Lose Battle to Oust Mother’s Allegedly Abusive Caregiver, Page Six, March 26, 2020.
Special thanks to Reid Weisbord (Professor of Law and Judge Norma L. Shapiro Scholar, Rutgers Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
Americans are Rushing to Make Online Wills with 143% Uptake During Coronavirus Outbreak - But Lawyers Warn Some Might be Invalid
As of Wednesday, March 26, 2020, there have been 823 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus in the United States and over 60,000 confirmed cases. Spreading faster than the virus itself may be people's realization of their mortality, as many Americans are rushing to their computers to make digital wills.
Online will company Gentreo told CNBC they have seen a 143% week on week increase in business; Trust & Will has seen a 50% rise. Around 40% of Americans are thought to currently have wills place. Attorney Alain Roman, who assists with estate planning, said "Seeing in the news that so many people are passing away worldwide and here in the U.S., people are getting a little scared. It’s getting them thinking about having a plan in place in case something happens to them."
But legal experts have a warning for those signing wills online: be wary of their legality. Leslie Tayne, founder of Tayne Law Group, said the digital document will only be valid if it "meets all of the legal requirements of your state." Tayne added that "since the vast majority of DIY wills are created and executed without any oversight from an attorney, a larger number of wills (may not be) executed in compliance with the proper will formalities, and that could end up making the will invalid."
See Lauren Fruen, Americans are Rushing to Make Online Wills with 143% Uptake During Coronavirus Outbreak - But Lawyers Warn Some Might be Invalid, Daily Mail, March 25, 2020.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Daniel Craig Says he Doesn't Plan to Leave his Fortune to his Kids: 'Get Rid of it or Give it Away Before you Go'
Daniel Craig, the actor currently portraying the popular fictional character James Bond, recently said in an interview that he is not planning any of his $100 million to his children. He has an infant daughter, born in 2018, with actress wife Rachel Weisz, as well as older daughter Ella, who is in her 20s, from his previous marriage. He is also stepfather to Weisz’s 13-year-old son Henry.
Craig is far from the first celebrity to announce that he does not want to raise his children to depend on their parents for money. Elton John, along with his husband David Furnish, said in 2016 that they would be giving the bulk of their estates to charity rather than to their two sons. Simon Cowell, told the Mirror back in 2013 that he’s “going to leave my money to somebody. A charity, probably — kids and dogs. I don’t believe in passing on from one generation to another."
The next James Bond movie, No Time to Die, originally scheduled for release in April, but now delayed until November.
See Daniel Craig Says he Doesn't Plan to Leave his Fortune to his Kids: 'Get Rid of it or Give it Away Before you Go', Wealth Advisor, March 24, 2020.