Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Epstein estate reaches deal with US Virgin Islands attorney general on victims compensation fund

OriginalAfter months of negotiations, Jeffrey Epstein's estate and the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands have reached a deal regarding a fund to compensate the dozens of alleged sex-trafficking victims of Jeffrey Epstein. The negotiations and agreement followed legal action by U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George to block the executors of Epstein's $600 million estate from setting up their own compensation fund with provisions she had objected to. According to George, the new fund has safeguards to protect the victims. 

George opposed demands from the estate that would have required victims to sign a release that would prevent them form suing others who may have participated in Epstein's alleged abuse scheme. The agreement includes funding to ensure that victims who have not yet come forward or are not satisfied with the monetary award can opt out without jeopardizing the chance of a court judgment. The agreement also includes a provision that prevents the estate from using information provided by the women to defend itself against other claims or lawsuits. 

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents some of Epstein's alleged victims, said that her clients will consider using the compensation fund if it appears fair. 

Epstein was accused of sexually abusing sizes of underage girls at his various homes as well as his private island. Authorities claimed that Epstein lured his girls onto his properties and trafficked them into sexual servitude. Epstein was facing multiple sex-trafficking charges when he was found dead in his jail cell at Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. The death was ruled a suicide. 

Daniel Wiener, one of the lawyers representing the estate said the fund will help the victims resolve their claims in a process that "is sensitive to the experiences and concerns of claimants and treats them with compassion, dignity, and respect."

See Louis Casiano & Bryan Llenas Epstein estate reaches deal with US Virgin Islands attorney general on victims compensation fund, Fox News, May 29, 2020. 

May 31, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 29, 2020

Pennsylvania women allegedly kept grandma's corpse in freezer for 15 years, collected Social Security checks: reports

5-More-Facts-You-Might-Not-Know-About-Social-SecurityA Pennsylvania woman was arrested Wednesday for allegedly keeping her dead grandmother in a freezer for 15 years while the family continued collecting her Social Security checks. The grandmother, Glenora Reckord Delahay, died in March 2004 at the age of 97. Delahay's granddaughter, 61-year-old Cynthia Carolyn Black, allegedly told police that she kept her grandmother's corpse because the family needed the money form her Social Security checks. 

Black claimed that she had even moved the the freezer to Dillsburg, more than 100 miles west of Ardmore. 

Police discovered the body in February 2019 while responding to a report regarding human remains inside a Warrington Township home. 

Black was arrested and taken into custody facing charges of abuse of corpse, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property.

See Bradford Bets, Pennsylvania women allegedly kept grandma's corpse in freezer for 15 years, collected Social Security checks: reports, Fox News, May 28, 2020. 

May 29, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Advising Pro Athletes With Their Seasons, Careers On Hold

2010s-BEST-SPORTS-4x3-1The cancellation of live sporting events has been a tough pill to swallow for those who have been stuck in their homes due to the pandemic. While many of us have been complaining about the lack of sports to distract us, we have failed to think about the pro athletes that have been put out of work. 

Over the past 10 years, sports telecasts have made up over half of the 199 most-watched primetime programs. NFL games alone accounted for 67 of these telecasts. 

With all of their assets and time on their hands, athletes are an attractive target for financial scammers. They too are able to see the market volatility and are possibly worried about the economy and may feel that their assets are threatened. The status of athletes and entertainers makes them an easy target for scammers to make new pitches and with the economy and future in limbo, it may be hard for them to say "no."

There are a few practices to keep in mind while advising clients that may find themselves in this situation. First, sometimes doing nothing is the best method of action. It sounds crazy, but sitting still and having self-control is can be the best method of staying in control. Second, run the numbers and rely on experienced due diligence. Any deals that make unrealistic assumptions about the pace of the economy should receive a high level of scrutiny. 

See Noel LaMontagne Advising Pro Athletes With Their Seasons, Careers On Hold, Financial Advisor, May 27, 2020. 

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

May 28, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Costa Rica latest country to legalize same-sex marriage

Equality-300x193Costa Rica's supreme court ruling went into effect early Tuesday morning, removing the ban on same-sex marriage. Some couples broadcasted their ceremonies, while others were held privately, but either way there was reason to celebrate in Costa Rica. 

Yaritza Araya and Alexandra Quiros were married just after midnight in an outdoor service and became the first legal gay marriage in Costa Rica. Also, gay equality activist Marco Castillo married his longtime partner before a judge on Tuesday morning. 

Castillo had fought for same-sex marriage for years and was recently sanctioned as a notary for conducting the marriage of two women, which was later annulled. 

President Carlos Alvarado broadcast the message, "Today we celebrate freedom, equality, and democratic institutions." In August 2018, Costa Rica's supreme court said the country's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and gave the congress 18 months to act, but the Legislative Assembly never acted, so at midnight, the law banning same-sex marriage was nullified. 


See Javier Cordoba, Costa Rica latest country to legalize same-sex marriage, AP News, May 26, 2020. 

May 27, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Article on COVID-19 Relief for Retirement Benefits

Albert Feuer recently published an article entitled, COVID-19 Relief for Retirement Benefits: Open Issues, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal Retirement_clock_kxdswo(2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article.

The CARES Act provides cash flow relief for “qualified individuals” with savings and retirement benefits by enhancing provisions for direct loans and indirect loans (repayable distributions) of those individual’s benefits. IRS Notice 2020-23 similarly extends due dates for pension plan loan payments and for completing rollovers of distributions, but such relief is available to all participants and beneficiaries rather than being restricted to “qualified individuals,” but many seem unaware of this relief, particularly the deferral of loan due dates.

However, despite recent IRS and DOL guidance there are still major outstanding issues preventing Covid-19 victims from obtaining better access to their own accrued benefits, when they are most in need of such access, and may impose undue compliance costs or risks on plan sponsors and administrators. Plan administrators, participants, and beneficiaries have the following needs:

• many individuals who have suffered adverse financial consequences from Covid-19 need an expansion of the set of factors defining “qualified individuals” so they may take advantage of the CARES Act relief;

• plan administrators need to understand their responsibilities and authority to make “qualified individual” determinations;

• plan administrators need to understand their fiduciary responsibilities with respect to CARES Act cash-flow relief, particularly their disclosure obligations;

• plan administrators, participants, and beneficiaries need to understand their rights and options with respect to the deferral of plan loan dues dates available under IRS Notice 2020-23 until July 15, 2020 and under the CARES Act for one year;

• plan administrators, participants, and participants need to understand when participants and beneficiaries may choose to avoid income tax withholding on plan distributions;

• plan administrators, participants, and beneficiaries need to understand the circumstances under which participants and beneficiaries may repay distributions to an eligible retirement plan (which includes IRAs) or plans within three years of receipt of such distribution; and

• plan administrators, participants and beneficiaries need states to amend their tax laws to avoid undue interference with the cash-flow relief that the CARES Act makes available to participants and beneficiaries of eligible retirement plans. 

May 26, 2020 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Arizona man's epic obituary goes viral: 'The party will never be the same'

Aec33da0-9b19-11ea-99ff-7853a5cc5e08Randall Jacobs ("RJ"), who passed away on May 4 at the age of 65, was seemingly, "one hell of a guy" given his colorful obituary that was posted in a Phoenix newspaper. The obituary was posted on twitter and has received over 116,000 likes, 17,000 shares and over a thousand comments. Needless to say, it has gone viral. Many of the twitter users that saw the obituary commented that they wished they had met this man, whom they referred to as a "legend" and "rare man." 

The obituary mentioned that Randall's friends called him RJ, while his family and those close to him called him Uncle Bunky or "The Bunkster." The tribute paints a colorful image of RJ's life; he lived his life fearlessly in a way "that would have sent a lesser man to his grave decades earlier." RJ was known for his one-of-a-kind personality that drew people towards him and rarely pushed them away. He was known as a gentle soul. 

Given the hundreds of users that sent their condolences from across the country, it is obvious that "The Bunkster" had a colossal impact on everyone, even those he did not meet.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Bunky.

See Janine Puhak, Arizona man's epic obituary goes viral: 'The party will never be the same', Fox News, May 22, 2020. 

May 25, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Five Common Financial Mistakes To Avoid During The Pandemic

E38c33e7-b470-4a69-9fe5-38cdb7a90350The effects of COVID-19, although strange, are real. Many Americans are financially unprepared, despite their economic status; whether someone is poor, rich, or in between, COVID-19 has put the world into a panic, especially America. The good news is, with all of the time you have to spend at home, you can finally address the financial projects that you have been putting to the side. If you do decide to tackle your financial projects, you should be made aware of these five common mistakes that people make during the global crisis.

Mistake 1: Making Emotional Investment Allocation Decisions

If your balance goes down, view it pragmatically and don't make decisions based off of emotion. Remember how and why you made your portfolio in the manner that you did.

Mistake 2: Not Actively Building An Emergency Savings Account

It is very important to build an emergency savings account that is NOT for large purposes. In this account you should keep three to six months of living expenses.

Mistake 3: Not Talking To A Financial Planning Professional

Talk to a professional' they will help you make informed decisions and not emotional ones. Even though google is helpful, most people lack the specialized knowledge needed to build a successful financial plan. 

Mistake 4: Assuming Estate Documents Are Adequate

Get with an attorney that specializes in estate planning to ensure that your documents are adequate. It may be uncomfortable, but all of us may face the dangers and risks of the pandemic and prepare for ourselves as well as our family. 

Mistake 5: Skipping Annual Reviews With Your Financial Advisor 

It is important to stay engaged in your financial world, so do not skip meetings!

See Meredith Moore, Five Common Financial Mistakes To Avoid During The Pandemic, Forbes, May 22, 2020. 

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

May 25, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Wealth Transfer Planning Opportunities in the Current Environment

UnknownThe current COVID-19 crisis and has created significant wealth transfer opportunities for those high net worth families who are subject to the Federal estate and gift tax. The Federal exemption, which is the amount of assets that every individual can transfer during life or death without paying an estate or gift tax is $11.58 million for 2020. Given the current low interest rates, there are a variety of wealth transfer opportunities available to those who want to pass assets down to future generations with little to no tax cost. 

Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT)

One of the wealth transfer opportunities is the GRAT, which is an irrevocable trust to which an individual transfers assets one exchange for an annuity payable over a specified term. When the term expires, the remaining assets of the GRAT pass onto the grantor's beneficiaries or trusts for their benefit. The GRAT is an effective way to take advantage of the low rates that have resulted from these uncertain times.

Sales to Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT)

For owners of closely held businesses or real estate interests, sales to IDGT for the benefit of family members is another great opportunity. The goal of this transaction id to transfer the future income and appreciation of the asset to the next generation at a reduced gift tax cost. 

Loans to Family Members

Another simple and effective way to take advantage of the times in a ways that benefits and assists the next generation is through intra-family loans. Loans to family members must bear interest at a rate at least equal to the AFR; but given the historically low rates, borrowing costs are reduced. 

In sum, these wealth transfer opportunities are not mutually exclusive and can be considered in tandem in order to achieve a significant amount of wealth transfer. 

See Wealth Transfer Planning Opportunities in the Current Environment, csglaw.com, May 20, 2020. 

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

May 23, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Modern Trust, The First Complete End-to-end Digital Service for Online Estate Planning Launches Limited Time Offer

7074702-web-technology-internet-abstract-as-a-conceptModern Trust recently announced the launch of its flagship site, Moderntrust.com, which is the first digital and comprehensive online resource devoted to creating, editing, and maintaining living trusts and estate planning documents online. With this site, preparing for your family and loved ones will be quicker and easier than it's ever been. 


The current global pandemic has created challenges that could have never been predicted. Due to COVID-19, many people have been left unprepared for the uncertain times that the country has faced. The manner in which trusts are created and estate planning is done has proven to be time-consuming, expensive, and difficult. With this new technology, Modern Trust is working to modernize and evolve the old estate planning system.

With this new site, users will have an interactive guide to help navigate through a number of planning options, make informed decisions, and virtually create their living trust online. Also, user will have unlimited access to a digital form of their trusts. Users will also be able to change beneficiaries and trustees as well as add special trust provisions. Users will have unlimited lifetime access and this access will only passed onto the designated family members upon the death or incapacitation of the user.  

As a community service, Modern Trust will provide a courtesy discount of $100 off their regular price for any users of the Modern Trust Service until June 30th. (Promo code, "SAVE100").

See Modern Trust, The First Complete End-to-end Digital Service for Online Estate Planning Launches Limited Time Offer, PR Newswire, May 20, 2020

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

May 22, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Why an Estate Freeze Makes Sense Now

Estate_freeze@2x_opt The U.S. dollar has appreciated against the Canadian dollar by close to 9 per cent. As of May 19, the S&P/TSX has recovered more than half of its losses while the Canadian dollar remains down by more than 5% compared to its value on February 21. This has caused Canadians to update their estate plans to ensure that their last will and testament is current. Further, they are learning how they can pass along their wealth to their children or beneficiaries with the least amount of tax on death. Given the global public health crisis due to COVID-19 and its economic impact, now is a perfect time for tax planning using an estate freeze.

The recent dip in the stock market and the Canadian dollar has actually sprung new estate planning opportunities. Canadian residents have begun to use a tax plan known as an estate freeze. In an estate freeze you essentially take certain assets that you own today, freezing the tax on death at today’s value, retaining the voting control while passing future growth to children or other designated beneficiaries.

In Canada, when one dies they are assumed to have sold all of their assets before they died, with the exception of spousal transfers. Even though the consequences are not as harsh in the United States, this provides plenty incentive in freezing the values of your estate today as opposed to the higher value it will be at the time of your death. 

The freeze must be valued at fair market value, which is very low at the moment given the economic crisis we are in due to the pandemic. This means huge tax savings for your future estate, which means better financial security for your family!

See David Altro & Bradley Richard Thompson, Why an Estate Freeze Makes Sense Now, Globe Mail, May 20, 2020. 

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

May 21, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)