Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Will Karl Lagerfeld Make his Pet Choupette the World's Richest Cat?

LagerfeldChanel icon Karl Lagerfeld passed away yesterday at the age of 85 in a Paris hospital, and the entire fashion world mourned and continues to mourn his death. Many people are curious as to whom his fortune will go to. Though two heirs may are surely to be his male muse Brad Kroenig and his son Hudson, who is also Lagerfeld's godson, the beneficiary that could get the bulk of the estate may be his beloved cat, Choupette.

The feline has over 128,000 Instagram followers and is already worth a surprising 2.5 million pounds, but with Lagerfeld's passing it may increase to over 100 million pounds or more. Under German law such an arrangement could be feasible if the cat were to be named an "heir" under association or foundation. Originally belonging to Baptiste Giabiconi, after two weeks of house sitting for the French model in 2011, Lagerfeld told him, "I'm sorry but Choupette is mine." He would later joke that he abducted her before turning her into an international model.

Choupette has been living the luxurious life ever since her "abduction." She has two maids that took care of her whenever Lagerfeld was gone, a chef, a hairdresser for her long white coat, her own bedroom suite, and even an array of diamond necklaces, aka collars.

Last April Lagerfeld mentioned that he wanted to be cremated, have no funeral, and for his ashes to be scattered - with Choupette's, if she dies before he de does. Giving rise to the current debate, the fashion designer had said that he would be giving his riches to Choupette and "others."

See Peter Allen, Sara Malm, & Ross Ibbetson, Will Karl Lagerfeld Make his Pet Choupette the World's Richest Cat?, Daily Mail, February 20, 2019.

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

February 21, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Bill Gates Says he Should Pay Higher Taxes, Doesn't 'Deserve' his Fortune

BillgatesBill Gates recently claimed in an interview with Daily Mail that he does not believe that he paid enough in taxes, though he did everything legally and has paid more than $10 billion over the years. He is worth an estimated $96.8 billion dollars today, but claims that he does not "deserve" his massive fortune, that "nobody does."

“It has come through timing, luck, and through people I worked with. I certainly worked hard and I think software has been a beneficial thing, but I benefited from a structure too,” Gates said. He does not plan to pass on the entire amount to his children; instead, Gates and his wife to donate to their charity that helps fight disease and poverty in other countries.

The Microsoft co-founder says that he was in favor of raising the inheritance tax, but not necessarily to the point of what some politicians have proposed. Independent Vermont Senator and now Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants to propose an increase the estate tax to a rate of 77% for those passing on assets in excess of $1 billion. Under this proposal, Gates would owe $73.54 billion, compared to $38.31 billion under current law.

The billionaire businessman, however, does believe there are ways to make the current tax code more progressive.

See Brittany De Lea, Bill Gates Says he Should Pay Higher Taxes, Doesn't 'Deserve' his Fortune, Fox Business, February 13, 2019.

February 20, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Your Aging Parents Want You to Know Before Discussing Their Driving & Housing

CastleThere is no categorical age that is deemed to be too old to drive, but when 97-year-old Prince Philip wrecked his Land Rover last month, many people were surprised that he was still behind the wheel. Three weeks later he voluntarily surrendered his driver's license amid the public discussion and debate of when the elderly should stop driving.

Attaining a driver's license and having the ability to get yourself around is a freedom that most Americans were craving when they were young teenagers. That feeling of no longer being tethered to your parents or guardians was exhilarating. Losing that freedom may be crushing to older parents and their adult children may be blind that to that loss. They love their parents and they are solely focused on their loved ones' safety. Most Americans over 50 years old live in the suburbs and rural areas, and not many forms of transportation are as responsive as hopping in your own car.

When to move your parent or parents out of their home is another large decision rife with uncertainty and conflict. A person's home is often depicted as their castle, and there is a sense of comfort within their own space and being the ruler of their own destiny. Whether it is due to physical frailty or cognitive function, the adult child-parent conversation about moving from home is as much about a parent’s identity as it is about accessible and safe housing.

See Joseph Coughlin, What Your Aging Parents Want You to Know Before Discussing Their Driving & Housing, Forbes, February 10, 2019.

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

February 20, 2019 in Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

One in Five UK Baby Boomers are Millionaires

UnionjackBaby boomers over the age of 65 are dramatically increasing in wealth in the United Kingdom with a 96% increase in the median household wealth from 2006 to 2016, according to Netwealth, a wealth manager that analyzed the Office for National Statistics’ Wealth and Assets surveys. In 2006, those over the age of 65 owned 28% of UK's household wealth and 10 years later than number had increased to 36%.

This age group appears to be getting wealthier due to time and luck. The 10 years studied coincides with the “peaks and troughs of interest rates for the UK,” according to Evangelos Assimakos, investment director at Rathbones in Edinburgh. Banks cut interest rates and provided financial stimulus, and the result was an inflation in financial assets, including property and share portfolios. In fact, now 20% of baby boomers are millionaires.

Younger households do not appear to have fared quite as well. Citizens between the ages of 35 and 44 (Generation X) saw a 5% fall, while the 25 to 34 (Millennials) experienced a 2% decrease. Though these numbers do not seem dire or extreme, they are a far cry from the extravagant increase that the older generation has seen.

With great power - or money - comes great responsibility - or planning. Experts advise that parents or grandparents wanting to assist a child decide if they want to do so with a gift or a loan. If the person decides on a gift, certain decisions should be made on when to transfer the property or cash as to avoid the inheritance tax, which follows the "seven-year rule." Though becoming increasingly expensive, trusts still remain a viable option to transfer wealth to younger generations. 

See Nikou Asgari, One in Five UK Baby Boomers are Millionaires, Financial Times, February 8, 2019.

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

February 19, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Rare Alfa Romeo Stuck in Basement for 35 Years Sold for $650,000 After Owner's Death

AlfaA rare beauty was found in a basement in Turin, Italy of a mechanic after the owner passed away in November. The mechanic appears to have lowered a rare 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ down to the basement with an elevator, and then when the elevated broke, never repaired it. Fewer than 200 of that model are believed to have been made.

The mechanic died with no will and no heirs, so the government was able to claim the rare car. Worked removed the car with a crane and promptly sold it at a nondescript auction house for an incredible $650,000. That’s one of the highest prices ever paid for the model, and above the Hagerty Price Guide estimate for a show-quality example - all of which goes straight to the Italian Treasury.

See Gary Gastelu, Rare Alfa Romeo Stuck in Basement for 35 Years Sold for $650,000 After Owner's Death, Fox News, February 7, 2019.

February 16, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 15, 2019

What Happens to My Digital Assets on Death or Incapacity?

IcloudMany states have complex and confusing laws that deal with the administration and distribution of a decedent's digital assets. In Estate of Swezey out of New York, Apple was considered about the legality of handing over access to photos on the deceased user's iCloud to the executor. The Court concluded that Apple was required to disclose those photographs.

The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act of 2014 treated digital assets that same as traditional assets. The account owners could decide what would happen to them and the fiduciaries could have control of them when the owner died or became incapacitated. If the executor or other fiduciary did not have the password to an account, they were to ask the company for access and the company would have to comply. This faced strong opposition from technological companies and privacy advocacy groups claiming that this contradicted federal and state privacy laws.

In 2015, the Uniform Law Commission revised that act to correlate with the issues raised by the companies and advocacy groups, including not allowing access to all of the different aspects of certain accounts. Now, executors will not have authority over the content of electronic communications, unless expressly disclosed, but they can get access to other types of digital assets, such as photographs or an eBay or PayPal account. Many companies now have "online tools" that allow the user to designate who the company is to release the account to when the user dies. 

Fiduciaries may request court orders if necessary. In general, access is only granted to assets that are “reasonably necessary” for wrapping up the estate.

See Stacie J. Rottenstreich and Karin Barkhorn, What Happens to My Digital Assets on Death or Incapacity?, Lexology, Februaru 6, 2019.

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

February 15, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE on Decanting Trusts: Possibilities, Pitfalls, Tax Consequences, and Fiduciary Duties

CLEThe American Law Institute is holding a webcast entitled, Decanting Trusts: Possibilities, Pitfalls, Tax Consequences, and Fiduciary Duties, on Wednesday, ‎March ‎13, 2019. Details of this presentation are not yet available; please check back two weeks before the program date for more details. 

 

February 15, 2019 in Conferences & CLE, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Article on Old Days are Dead and Gone: Estate Planning Must Keep its Head Above Water with the Changing Tide of Technology

TexasAlexandra M. Jones recently published a Comment entitled, Old Days are Dead and Gone: Estate Planning Must Keep its Head Above Water with the Changing Tide of Technology, 11 Tex. Tech Est. Plan. Com. Prop. L.J. 161 (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Comment.

Fresh out of law school, many young lawyers are eager to start their legal careers and just right into the courtroom. While they still need some practical training first, many young lawyers accept jobs that deal solely with discovery or intake until they can slowly make their way up the legal food chain. With the advancement of technology, programs like expert systems and artificial technology are taking over some of these first-year associate jobs because they are less expensive and more efficient. As a result, law firms are not hiring as many recent graduates. Eventually, technical jobs could replace the classical notion of attorneys. However, the growing concern that technology is taking over jobs in the legal field is not the only problem caused by artificial intelligence. Issues arise with how much impact technology has in transactional fields, such as estate planning, and the future role that artificial intelligence will play. An even greater issue arises with who is liable for artificial intelligence mistakes when there is very little in terms of legislation.

Tech industry experts are in stark disagreement about the means of regulating artificial intelligence. Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned the world of dangers of advancing artificial intelligence and that governments need to start creating laws and regulations. Experts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg believe that creating new regulation is not realistic because the technology has not fully developed. Some critics argue that researchers are already regulated enough, and adding more regulation will stifle innovation. This comment focuses the issue on a much smaller scale by suggesting that lawyers, law firms, and other entities that utilize artificial intelligence, or its branch of expert systems, in their estate planning practice are consistent with ethical rules of conduct for the system. Additionally, this comment will expand upon the meaning of the unauthorized practice of law as it relates to artificial intelligence.

This comment proceeds in five parts. Part I introduces the concept of artificial intelligence through practical and theoretical examples and definitions. Part II discusses the impact that artificial intelligence has on expansion. Part III considers the effect artificial intelligence have on estate planning laws. Part IV discusses the parties liable for artificial intelligence. Part V suggests methods of ensuring compliance with ethical standards to estate planning practitioners as technology becomes more absorbed in transactional fields.

February 14, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Malpractice, Professional Responsibility, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

NJ Clears 1st Hurdle to Make Assisted Suicide Legal

RighttodieThe Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee in New Jersey voted 6-3 last Thursday in favor of the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The Act would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medications to adult patients who have six months or less to live. It still must pass both house of the Legislature and be signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.

An opponent of the bill claims that there were a limited number of people against the bill actually allowed to speak. Dr. T. Brian Callister says that the hearing was "irregular" and that apart from him, only one other physician was allowed to make comments. Dr. Callister said that he attended the hearing “in hopes of educating legislators about the perverse incentives and negative unintended consequences that physician-assisted suicide carries with it.”

Currently California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C. have passed laws that allow for assisted suicide. Montana also provides physicians a legal defense or immunity from prosecution under a court ruling.

See Frank Miles, NJ Clears 1st Hurdle to Make Assisted Suicide Legal; Opposition Calls Hearing a 'Charade,' Fox News, February 7, 2019.

February 13, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parents Believe That the Instagram Account of Their Daughter Holds the Key to her Suicide

InstagramThe parents of Molly Russell have been unsuccessful in their attempts to access her social media data, which they believe will help them to understand her suicide.
The 14-year-old's father has claimed that her use of Instagram was a factor in her taking her own life.
Instagram has told the BBC it is constantly reviewing its polices regarding images about depression and suicide, and that experts have advised the company that allowing those topics could help people feel supported.

See Why Can't I See My Daughter's Data?, BBC, February 6, 2019.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 13, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)