Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Odds of Dying

AccidentIt is normal for us to fear things—like death. These fears can help us respond more quickly to dangerous situations, or avoid them entirely. The worry and fear associated with these dangerous situations allow us to assess risk. 

However, it is important that we do not overestimate, or underestimate these risks. Quite frankly, there are a lot of ways to die, so accurately assessing the risks of danger and the possibility of death could prove to be difficult. 

One way to start is to know the odds, which will help you identify the ways—and your chances—to beat them. 

One interesting fact is that your odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose is greater than your odds of dying in a motor-vehicle crash. 

The National Safety Council recently published a brief that contains helpful statistics, and even an informational video that provide information on the lifetime odds of death for selected causes. 

See Odds of Dying, The National Safety Council: Injury Facts, last visited April, 14, 2021. 

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

April 14, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Democrats Weigh Capital Gains Tax Hike For Millionaires At Death

Tax"Senate Democrats are circulating a plan that would trigger tax bills on the assets of the wealthy after they die as the lawmakers seek new sources of revenue to fund trillions of dollars in infrastructure spending and social programs." 

The legislation seeks to end a part of the tax code that allows assets to be passed onto heirs without "immediately generating tax bills." Democrats have long been aiming at these assets to be taxed. Joe Biden's campaign has encouraged the idea. 

Under current tax law, people are able to pass assets to their heirs without transferring capital gains from the property's appreciation, referred to as "stepped up basis at death." Basically, heirs will not have to pay taxes "on any of the gains that accused under the previous owner." 

Under the new plan, taxes would be levied on those assets of the wealthy at death subject to a $1 million exemption. 

According to Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, “The stepped-up basis loophole is one of the biggest tax breaks on the books, providing an unfair advantage to the wealthiest heirs every year. . . “It’s time to stop subsidizing massive inheritances for the rich and start investing in everyday Americans.”

This stepped up basis tax provision has become increasingly popular for the Democratic Party, although, under President Barack Obama, the proposal was blocked by Congress. 

With recent changes in the Senate and the House, it'll be interesting to see where the new proposed legislation goes. 

See Laura Davison, Democrats Weigh Capital Gains Tax Hike For Millionaires At Death, Financial Advisor, March 30, 2021. 

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

April 1, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Income Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

VANESSA BRYANT PLEASE JUDGE, CANCEL MY MOM ... Her Claims For Lifetime Support Are Bogus

VanessaVanessa Bryant's mother, Sofia Laine, filed a lawsuit against Kobe's estate alleging that Kobe Bryant promised to take care of her financially for the rest of her life. 

Vanessa Bryant asked the judge to dismiss her mother's claim, alleging that her mother's claims are "bogus." 

Vanessa Bryant used previous documents to shed light on a legal fight her mother had with her ex-husband in 2004 and 2008 over spousal support. Sofia's ex-husband claimed that he should not have to pay her because Kobe and Vanessa were supporting here. Sofia rebutted by saying that Kobe and Vanessa had no obligation to support her and anything they provided for her was "simply out of the goodness of their hearts." 

Vanessa Bryant also claims that even if Kobe had made the oral promise to Sofia, its too vague to be enforced. 

Sofia has also claimed that Vanessa and Kobe violated California labor laws by not giving her "meal breaks, rest periods, and giving her minimum wage for babysitting services." Vanessa rebutted these claims by saying Sofia was never an employee but is instead a grandmother who helped Kobe and Vanessa by spending time with her grandchildren. 

Vanessa Bryant's legal team has also stated that Sofia did not file a creditor's claim within a year of Kobe's death so she cannot go after Kobe's estate. 

The judge has not made a ruling yet. 

See VANESSA BRYANT PLEASE JUDGE, CANCEL MY MOM ... Her Claims For Lifetime Support Are Bogus, TMZ, March 29, 2021. 

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

March 31, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Can you catch COVID from a corpse? It’s possible, but experts say not to worry

COVIDExperts have had their hands full in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its contagious, and deadly nature. 

Of course, it did not take experts long to learn that the virus could be easily spread among living people. However, one question that remains is how long the virus can live in the body after a person has died. Experts have said it could live in the body for several days. 

According to Dr. Prakash Shrestha, an infections disease physician with Covenant Health said, “[i]f somebody were to go and touch, hug or kiss a dead corpse [of someone who died of the coronavirus], then yes, there is a chance that they might catch the virus from contact.”

However, Dr. Shrestha said there is no need to worry because the chance of this kind of infection happening is low. 

It is actually the "last responders" that are the most at risk for this type of infection. Examples of these last responders are forensic pathologists and funeral directors. 

Mike Box, an Associate Funeral Attendant for Krestridge Funeral Home in Levelland, TX, stated, “Those droplets [from those who’ve died of COVID-19] can still come out of their mouth and nose and form a vapor that you can be exposed to.”

Due to the danger of contracting the virus from corpses, funeral workers have had to take extra precautions when handling the dead bodies of those that have died from the virus. The danger is much more prevalent in open-casket funerals for virus patients, especially because family members may not know the potential risk. 

Dr. Shrestha said that the greatest risk at a funeral is actually the potential for the virus to spread among the living. So, there is not much to worry about in regard to contracting the virus from a corpse, but people coming in contact with the living—and the dead—should be extra cautious. 

See Can you catch COVID from a corpse? It’s possible, but experts say not to worry, Everything Lubbock, March 25, 2021.

March 28, 2021 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, 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)

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)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Ashes in the mail: Dealing with the loss of a loved one has changed in the covid era

Cremation
Jason Oszczakiewicz, a Pennsylvania funeral home director known as "Oz," has become accustomed to delivering the ashes of recently deceased person as it has begun to occur about 9 or 10 times a month. 

Oz stated, “I seem to be mailing a lot to Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, New York.”

The pandemic has changed not only changed how things are done during in, but also in death. 

Memorial services have been postponed, eulogies delivered over zoom, and many people are moving towards cremation in order to skip the process of burying bodies. Since out-of-state relatives have been unable to travel and pick up remains, the U.S. Postal Service has become the middle man in delivering ashes to doorsteps. 

In order to safeguard the remains, you must send them Priority Express Mail, and they require a signature. 

This process has become so popular that the USPS is having a hard time keeping up with their bright orange sticker that reads "CREMATED REMAINS." 

See Mary Jordan, Ashes in the mail: Dealing with the loss of a loved one has changed in the covid era, The Washington Post, March 3, 2021. 

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

March 16, 2021 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Oregon could become second state to allow human composting

BodycompostingOregon is known for being environmental friendly and implementing plans that have a positive impact on the environment, like recycling. 

It is quite possible that Oregon takes these commitments to the next level. State lawmakers are considering a bill that, if passed, would allow human composting as an alternative to traditional burial or cremation. 

"House bill 2574, sponsored by representatives Pam Marsh and Brian L. Clem, would allow bodies to be disposed of by alternative processes, including natural organic reduction — colloquially known as human composting. It also clarifies rules surrounding alkaline hydrolysis, known as aqua cremation, and extends other funeral industry privileges and responsibilities to include reduction." 

As of Monday, close to 100 people submitted written testimony in favor of the bill, with most of them citing environmental reasons. Apparently, composting is more resourceful as it uses less energy than cremation and traditional burials "involve harsh chemicals and take up land." 

If the bills is passed, Oregon will be the second state to allow human composting (Washington being the first). 

See Hannah Ray Lambert, Oregon could become second state to allow human composting, KOIN, March 2, 2021. 

 

March 11, 2021 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aretha Franklin’s Estate Signs Tentative Deal Over Back Taxes Owed

ArethaSince Aretha Franklin's death in 2018, there has been a looming debt ganging over her estate. After three years, Franklin's estate is moving toward an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to repay this debt which is comprised of "thousands and thousands of [dollars] in federal revenue taxes that the singer owed throughout her life. . ." 

The settlement requires the estate to put aside 45% of all income it receives to repay the tax responsibility that Franklin accrued from 2010 to 2017. Also, $800,000 is to be paid to the IRS within 5 days of the deal's approval. 

A document submitted in court on February 19, states that the IRS has declared that the state owes $7.8 million, but apparently, this determination did not include about $3 million that the estate alleged it paid at the end of 2018. 

Under the deal, 40% of the estate's revenues will be put toward ongoing taxes and funds to Franklin's heirs. This 40% will be generated by music royalties and licensing and is allowed to be held in escrow. 

If a deal is reached, the estate will have room to breathe and bring in revenue. 

The worth of Franklin's estate has not been fully determined but it has been estimated to be around $80 million. 

There were also multiple wills found, which has lead to a stark divide between Franklin's alleged heirs as members of Franklin's family have been battling to prove which documents should be probated. 

See Ben Sisario, Aretha Franklin’s Estate Signs Tentative Deal Over Back Taxes Owed, N.Y. Times, March 2, 2021. 

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

March 11, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduces "ultra-millionaire" wealth tax bill

TaxSenator Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill in the senate that looks to impose a new tax on the assets of "America's wealthiest individuals." 

This plan is very similar to a proposal that was the a big talking point of Warren's campaign when she ran for president in 2020. Warren's want of a tax increase on millionaires and billionaires in the U.S. is not new. 

The plan would place a 2% tax on those with a net worth between $50 million and $1 billion. Anyone with a net worth over $1 billion would be subject to a 3% tax. Anyone with a networth below $50 million would be safe from the tax. 

According to the tax bill's sponsors, the tax would raise $2.75 trillion in tax revenue over a ten-year period. 

Warren claimed, "The ultra-rich and powerful have rigged the rules in their favor so much that the top 0.1% pay a lower effective tax rate than the bottom 99%, and billionaire wealth is 40% higher than before the COVID crisis began."  Warren also stated, "A wealth tax is popular among voters on both sides for good reason: because they understand the system is rigged to benefit the wealthy and large corporations."

See Ursula Perano, Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduces "ultra-millionaire" wealth tax bill, Axios, March 1, 2021. 

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

March 9, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)