Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, September 18, 2020

Summer wave of dementia deaths adds thousands to pandemic's deadly toll

DementiaDementia and Alzheimer’s deaths have risen to more than 20 percent above normal over the summer. Although these deaths are not included in the official coronavirus death toll, it is clear that there is a link between the true numbers. 

The pandemic has lead to isolation, which has lead to heightened stress, especially in nursing homes. The "lapses in nursing home care and missed Covid-19 diagnoses are all likely contributing factors to the unusually high dementia death toll, adding to the devastation the virus has brought to U.S. nursing homes."

Alzheimer's along with dementia, heart disease and pneumonia have lead to a spike in death tolls. Many of the deaths from coronavirus can be attributed to other underlying issues.

"The higher than typical number of deaths — which public health experts refer to as "excess" deaths — first emerged in the early weeks of the pandemic. At the time, experts blamed them on temporary disruptions to the medical system and undiagnosed Covid-19 cases amid a severe testing shortfall."

It is important that steps be taken to protect the vulnerable, like those with Alzheimer's and dementia, as they are very susceptible to the wrath of Covid-19.

See Tucker Doherty, Summer wave of dementia deaths adds thousands to pandemic's deadly toll, Politico, September, 16, 2020. 

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

September 18, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Pandemic isolation has killed thousands of Alzheimer’s patients while families watch from afar

DanDan Goerke has had to speak to his wife from the doorway of her nursing home as the pandemic has forced patients into isolation. 

Dan's wife, Denise, is 63-years-old and has Alzheimer's disease. Denise has declined dramatically since the pandemic began, losing 16 pounds and has had a hard time forming seven simple words. Denise has also stopped responding to the voices of her children. 

Dan has spoken out stating that the isolation due to the pandemic is killing his wife and that all he can do is watch her get "a little worse" every day. 

More than 134,200 people have died from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia since March. Many of these people are dying due to the strategy of isolation that is meant to protect them. Doctors have reported increased falls and depression and sudden frailty in patients that "had been stable for years." 

The isolation due to the pandemic has proven that social and mental stimulation are key tools used to slow the effects of dementia.

All Dan can do his speak to his wife, who can no longer recognize him, through the door for a few minutes a day in attempts to stimulate her memory. "I Still believe a spark of her is in there" Dan said. 

All we can do is keep the hope alive and say a little prayer for families like the Goerkes. 

See William Wan, Pandemic isolation has killed thousands of Alzheimer’s patients while families watch from afar, Washington Post, September 16, 2020. 

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

September 17, 2020 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The It List: Netflix doc tells the story of youngest person ever to be cryonically frozen, 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune' return with major changes, Janelle Monáe's time-twisting horror film 'Antebellum' heads to VOD and the best in pop culture. . .

There is a new Netflix documentary out that tells the story of the youngest person to ever be cryonically frozen. The documentary is called, Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice. The documentary focuses on a Thai Buddhist family that decided to cryonically freeze their daughter, who has brain cancer, until medical technology can save her. 

In other "It List" news, the beloved game shows Jeopardy! and the Wheel of Fortune have returned after taking a brief hiatus following COVID-19. In honor of Wheel of Fortune's 38th season, the new minimum that players can win by spinning the bonus wheel is $38,000. 

Also, Antebellum premiers this Friday. The thriller has been described as a film that ties our present to our past. Critics have compared the show to Get Out which was produced in part by Jordan Peele. The show is expected to be a hit social thriller. 

See The It List: Netflix doc tells the story of youngest person ever to be cryonically frozen, 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune' return with major changes, Janelle Monáe's time-twisting horror film 'Antebellum' heads to VOD and the best in pop culture. . ., Yahoo News, September 14, 2020. 

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

September 16, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Passage of L. Henry Gissel Jr.

GisselIt is with the heaviest of hearts that I report the passing of L. Henry Gissel, Jr. on September 15, 2020.

Henry was an absolute icon in the estate planning community. His accomplishments are legend. Here is a brief description as supplied by Eleanor M. Spuhler (Executive Manager, NAEPC):

[Henry] was inducted into the [Estate Planning} Hall of Fame in 2011, and received the Hartman Axley Lifetime Service Award in 2013.  He also served as president of the Houston Estate and Financial Forum, an affiliate of NAEPC.   Throughout his career, Henry was very also very active in ACTEC, the American Bar Association, and many other organizations.  As noted while receiving the Hartman Axley Lifetime Service Award in 2013, he was the only person to have served as head of NAEPC, the ABA Real Property Trust and Estate Law Section, and ACTEC.  His dedication to the profession was notable and recognized by all who had the pleasure of serving alongside him. 

Here is a link to his vita where you can learn more about this amazing lawyer.

Henry -- I hope heaven has good Internet access so you can see how many lives you touched in such a positive way and how much you will be missed. Cheers, Gerry

September 16, 2020 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Seven Cases to do a Roth Conversion

IRAIt may be time for your clients to convert their traditional IRA's  or 401K's to an after-tax Roth account. 

The difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA is that traditional IRAs "get a tax deduction when you contribute but pay taxes when you take it out." Roth IRAs get no tax deduction when contributions are made, but grows tax-free.

It is important to discuss all relevant factors when advising clients to move to Roth IRAs. 

There are seven situations to consider for each client when providing advice on this issue.

  1. Is the Roth pot of money small compared to the taxable and tax-deferred pots?
  2. Is the current marginal tax-bracket low? This could be the case if the client retired before taking Social Security or RMDs, or if they are starting a pass-through business (LLC or Sub-S) with very little income or even losses.
  3. Will the client have high income in retirement, such as pension income?
  4. Will the RMDs be burdensome if the client doesn’t convert some money to the Roth?
  5. Does the client have any after-tax money in their tax-deferred accounts and, if all IRAs are converted, will that allow for future backdoor Roth contributions?
  6. Will the client benefit from a possible state income tax-exemption for amounts converted?
  7. Are there some estate planning benefits from conversions?

See Allan Roth, The Seven Cases to do a Roth Conversion, Advisor Perspectives, September 14, 2020. 

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

September 15, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 14, 2020

Video wills: Leaving a legacy moves into 21st century

TechThe COVID-19 pandemic has pushed new tech adaptations in regard to wills. 

Since the Wills Act of 1837, making a will has required the physical presence of at least two witnesses, at least in England and Wales.

However, the Ministry of Justice now allows video technology to be used to witness the signing of wills. The concession has been backdated to January 31, 2020, which will cover all wills that were witnessed by video and will remain current until January 2022.

The Ministry of Justice has stated that they prefer that this method is only used as a last resort. For example, when the testator cannot meet people outside of their household. 

The pandemic has pushed many people to change their priorities, which has in turn pushed people to make wills. Will-writing organizations and law firms have seen a vast increase in the amount of wills. 

Farewill, which is the UK's largest will-writing organization saw a "three-fold" increase between May and July compared to the same period last year. 

Lorraine Robinson, head of legal at farewill, stated that she is on board with the new technological advances, but that people should be "vigilant" due to the newness and uncertainty of the new law. 

Many attorneys are urging those to only use this modern approach in the "most dire emergencies." 

See Lindsay Cook, Video wills: Leaving a legacy moves into 21st century, Financial Times (U.K.), September 3, 2020. 

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

September 14, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Britney Spears shows love for #FreeBritney in court filing

BsBritney Spears filed an objection to a motion from her father to seal a recent filing in the case regarding her conservatorship. Spears claims that the public should know what is happening to her. Spears outwardly showed her support for the #FreeBritney movement driven by her fans, which her father has shown a clear distaste for. 

“Britney’s conservatorship has attracted an unprecedented level of scrutiny from mainstream media and social media alike,” the filing says. “Far from being a conspiracy theory or a ‘joke’ as James reportedly told the media, in large part this scrutiny is a reasonable and even predictable result of James’ aggressive use of the sealing procedure over the years to minimize the amount of meaningful information made available to the public.”

Britney Spears father, James Spears, along with he conservatorship's attorneys have consistently fought to have the courtrooms closed and the filings sealed. These efforts have been mostly successful in the past. 

The arguments in favor of keeping the filings sealed is to protect Spears' children and trade secrets. However, Spears argues that these things are not revealed in most of the filings in the case. 

According to recent filings, Britney Spears' assets totaled around $50 million at the start of 2020.

The most recent motion includes a "shout-out to the fans in the #FreeBritney movement . . ." 

“At this point in her life when she is trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy,” the filing says, “Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.”

See Andrew Dalton, Britney Spears shows love for #FreeBritney in court filing, AP News, September 3, 2020. 

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

September 14, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 11, 2020

House OKs on 2nd reading bill extending estate tax amnesty by 2 more years

Amnesty"The House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill that would extend the estate tax amnesty program by another two years."

The House Bill, No.7068, will amend Republic Act No. 11213 (Tax Amnesty Act) extending the estate tax amnesty from two years to four years. 

The Bureau of Internal Revenue defines estate tax as a "tax on the right of the deceased person to transmit his/her lawful heirs and beneficiaries at the time of death and on certain transfers, which are made law as equivalent to testamentary disposition." 

On Feb. 14, 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte signed RA 11213 into law and it took effect on May 31 of 2019. 

"The tax amnesty covers the estate of decedents who died on or before Dec. 31, 2017, with or without prior assessments." 

"Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay's 2nd District and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, pointed out that only less than 24,000 taxpayers availed of the amnesty since the original deadline for the availment and payment has been extended four times, with the new deadline set on Dec. 31, 2020."

Salceda also mentioned that the availment of amnesty only resulted in earnings of $1.362 billion out of the projected $6 billion plus. 

Therefore, the two year extension is necessary in order for the Act to be effective. 

See House OKs on 2nd reading bill extending estate tax amnesty by 2 more years, CNN Phillipines, September 9, 2020. 

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

September 11, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

How To Prepare For The Greatest Wealth Transfer In History

WealthAccording to Garrett Gunderson, "the greatest wealth transfer in history will take place over the next three years." Gunderson also stated, now is not the time to blindly hand your money over to Wall Street or bury your head in the sand. Your 401(k) won’t save you in this COVID-19 world."

Few people are redistributing their wealth, which is creating a wealth gap. This means that your money is likely to end up in the hands of the people that know how to get rich. This may come as a surprise to you, but during the Great Depression, more millionaires were created than at any other time in American history. Despite the fact that one-third of Americans were financially devastated. 

Due to the current pandemic and recession, it is estimated that one-third of Americans have and will be devastated, while one-third will be able to maintain their lifestyles and the other third will get a lot richer.

If you want to be a part of the third that gets richer, you should consider these three things:

  1. Prioritize Cashflow and Reinvest
  • Plug Leaks 
    • Look to save on taxes, interest, and investment fees, and insurance.
  • Know Your Costs
    • Destructive, eliminate those.  

      2- Lifestyle, manage those and pay cash.   

      3- Protective, having cash is part of this as well as asset protection and insurance.  

      4- Productive, these are investments that when you put in a dollar more than a dollar comes back to you.

  • Accelerate Investment Income 
  • Scale Business Revenue
  • Make It Count 

2. Make Sure Your Wealth Is Sustainable 

3. You Can Become Part of The Upper Third 

See Garrett Gunderson, How To Prepare For The Greatest Wealth Transfer In History, Forbes, August 20, 2020.

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

 

September 1, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Gifting in uncertain markets

GiftWhen volatility is high, many clients consider updating their gifting plans. However, "it is important to consider the opportunities that gifting can present in uncertain markets."

We have seen historically low rates in 2020 that have resulted from consistent market volatility. Also, the current gift tax exemption ($11.58 million for individuals and $23.16 million for married couples), allow wealthy clients to transfer significant wealth while "maximizing transfer tax savings."

"One way to maximize clients’ gifting plans in a volatile market is to gift assets that are undervalued as a result of market instability, but that would otherwise be expected to appreciate in value." This is a good strategy because you would report the gifted assets at the fair market value, which would likely be low in volatile market, but would then appreciate outside of your clients' estate for estate tax purposes. However, the success of this strategy is conditioned on whether the IRS accepts the reported values. This is a good estate planning option during uncertain times, like now. 

You can also estate plan with discounted values like the discount for lack of control (minority discount) and the discount for lack of marketability. "To take advantage of these and other valuation discounts, wealthy families may want to consider contributing undervalued assets to a closely held entity, such as a family limited liability company or family limited partnership."

Now is a great time to take advantage of the historically low interest rates and the substantial gift tax exemptions. 

See Rose Watson, Gifting in uncertain markets, Investment News, August 17, 2020.

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

August 30, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)