Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Travel Company Apologizes for Creating Dummy of Family's Dead Son in Tribute Gone Wrong

JamaicaFaye and Andrew Stephens of Willesden, England, have a tradition of celebrating their son's birthday, even though he had been dead for 4 years. Alex Stephens passed away at the age of 22 when he fell of a balcony in Spain.

Karen Baker, Alex's godmother, was on vacation with the couple in Jamaica when she decided that she would give them surprise for the son's birthday. She arranged for the staff to put up balloons and decorations in their hotel room as a tribute, but the staff took it further. They stuff clothing into a dummy of Alex, holding a beer and a birthday cake, complete with tears on the dummy's face. "I was absolutely horrified," Baker said. "I have truly never seen anything like it. I still look at photographs now and can't believe somebody thought to do that."

TUI UK, apologized to the family and refunded their vacation. "We're following up with the hotel and believe it was a misunderstanding with no intention to cause upset," the statement read. "We are in direct contact with the group to apologize and offer a gesture of goodwill."

See Kathleen Joyce, Travel Company Apologizes for Creating Dummy of Family's Dead Son in Tribute Gone Wrong, Fox News, December 8, 2018.

December 9, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Article on #MeToo and Tax

MetooMargaret Ryznar recently published an Article entitled, #MeToo and Tax, Tax Law: Tax Law & Policy eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

Recently, legislative efforts have taken aim at sexual harassment in the workplace. Among these may be a surprising but effective approach—disallowing tax deductions for sexual harassment settlements subject to non-disclosure agreements. This essay analyzes such a 2017 tax reform provision.

December 7, 2018 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Cremated Remains of 100 People Have Been Launched into Space on a SpaceX Rocket

ElysiumThe cremated remained of 100 individuals were launched into space in a memorial satellite by the company Elysium Space. Based out if San Francisco, the company placed samples of each person's remains on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for $2,500 each.

The remains of average citizens are joined by veterans and other aerospace enthusiasts who believed their loved ones would enjoy being "within the poetry of the starry sky," Elysium Spaces said in an emailed statement. The ashes, each in an individual capsule, were placed in a 4-inch square satellite called a cubeseat, which will orbit the Earth for 4 years before it inevitably falls back, according to Elysium Space Founder and CEO Thomas Civeit.  Sixty-four small satellites from thirty-four different companies were aboard the rocket, part of a rideshare mission organized by Spaceflight.

Families will be able to track the process of the satellite as it orbits the planet, knowing that their loved ones is above them in the stars.

See Dakin Andone, The Cremated Remains of 100 People Have Been Launched into Space on a SpaceX Rocket, CNN, December 3, 2018.

December 7, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Valuable Estate Lessons from the Passing of George and Barbara Bush

BushPresident George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, passed away earlier this week. His death occurred a mere 8 months after his wife of 73 years, Barbara, died. While it may appear to be a romantic ending to their decades long relationship, the short time between their deaths can raise issues for their beneficiaries and make the estates' administrations more difficult.

“The statistics are high especially for older couples who had close marriages, dependent on each other,” says Paula Leibovitz Goodwin, partner in the Personal Planning Group at Perkins Coie LLP in San Francisco. While the quick succession of spouses' deaths is quite common, the time between can be critical as some survivorship provisions may require that a spouse survive for a specific amount of time. If the timing is close, for example less than two weeks apart, the two estates may be able to be probated contemporaneously.

This type of provision would not have benefited the Bushes. Reading the documents of both of the spouses carefully is vital to determine exactly how the assets would flow. “Does the estate pass from 1st spouse who died to survivor, and then from survivor to others, or does 1st spouse’s assets pass to their next level beneficiaries and surviving spouse’s assets pass to their next level beneficiaries?" Goodwin says.

With certain accounts, the other spouse is named beneficiary and others as contingent beneficiaries. If death occurs in quick succession, the second spouse to die likely had not yet rolled the first’s retirement account into their own account with beneficiaries. This would cause the retirement account to pass to probate with the first spouse's estate.

See Megan Gorman, Valuable Estate Lessons from the Passing of George and Barbara Bush, Forbes, December 3, 2018.

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

December 4, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Make Your Estate Plan Doomsday Ready

BombWith the news filled with stories of nature being on a rampage, it causes people that have never faced such a disaster to contemplate their own plans. What would they do if they lost everything in just one moment? How would they access the important information they needed to rebuild their life?

What type of information do you need to secure in the case of a natural disaster?

  • Account numbers and passwords.
    • For safety reasons, keep these two in separate areas.
  • Copies of legal documents.
    • This includes wills, trusts, power of attorneys, health care directives, and property deeds.
  • Contact information for your lawyer, accountant, insurance agents, and financial advisors.
    • Keeping copies of your insurance policies and tax returns can speed up the recovery process.
  • Medical information could be a literal life saver.
    • Have a complete list of all your prescriptions and contact information for your medical providers.     
  • Where to store the information?
    • Cloud based software, fireproof box, paper in wallet or purse

See Christine Fletcher, How to Make Your Estate Plan Doomsday Ready, Forbes, December 3, 2018.

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

December 4, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Glen Campbell's Children End Effort to Contest Will

GlenThree of country singer Glen Campbell's children have dropped their fight to contest the validity of two wills that exclude them from any inheritance. Glen Campbell passed away in August of 2017 after a battle with Alzheimer's. He was 81.

Travis, Kelli, and Wesley Campbell contested the singer's capacity to agree to the 2001 and 2006 wills that omit them, arguing undue influence, but agreed to dismiss their complaint in Davidson County Probate court according to the Tennessean.

A 2006 will was filed by Campbell's widow Kimberly, who was named executor of his estate. That will lists Kimberly and five other children as beneficiaries.

See Glen Campbell's Children End Effort to Contest Will, Fox News, November 21, 2018.

December 1, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, Dies at 94

BushGeorge Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States and the father of the 43rd President, George W. Bush, died yesterday at the age of 94. 

George H. Bush is survived by five children, 17 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and two siblings. He was preceded in death by his daughter Pauline, two brothers, and his wife of 73 years, Barbara.

Bush was born to U.S. Senator Prescott Bush from Connecticut, but went straight from Andover to the front lines of World War II. He flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific theater in a torpedo bomber as the U.S. Navy’s youngest pilot, survived being shot down and even was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He became an oil tycoon in Texas, and after earning his own millions he entered the realm of politics, reaching the pinnacle when he was voted into the presidency in 1988 for one term. He lost his re-election in 1992 to Bill Clinton, but it was his son George W. Bush that succeeded him after two terms in office.

Bush aged with grace, famously celebrating his 90th birthday on June 12, 2014, by making a tandem parachute jump out of a helicopter near his summer home in Maine. He was suffering from a form on Parkinson's that caused tremors in his legs and mandated the use of an electronic wheelchair for mobility.

See Stephen M. Silverman, George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, Dies at 94, People, December 1, 2018.

December 1, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 26, 2018

10 Tips to Help Protect Your Spouse

Heart-made-small-hearts-vector-32804992Married couples promised to love each other until death do they part, but there is a way for you to protect your spouse even after you pass away.

  • Gather financial papers and important documents and store them in a fireproof box.
  • Make a "must call" list comprised of your accountant, lawyer, and other important numbers.
  • Keep a master list of passwords and usernames.
  • Make sure beneficiaries are up to date.
  • Check credit cards to make sure either both names or just one name are on the accounts, in line with you and your spouse's wishes.
  • Set up advance directives.
  • Designate a power of attorney.
  • Regularly review wills and trusts.
  • Discuss funeral arrangements and plans with each other.
  • Learn how bills are paid - and make sure the other spouse knows how as well so there are no late payments.

See Leslie Milk, 10 Tips to Help Protect Your Spouse, AARP, November 11, 2018.

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

November 26, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Why We Think ESG is a Bedrock Investment Issue

Piggy-on-top-300x199The investment interest around environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria is growing among a wide variety of investors. This is not surprising, as in many ways they are the most foundational or bedrock investment issues. They matter in a real economic sense.

The Global Equity Team members at OppenheimerFunds seek to be long-term investors in above-average businesses that have significant competitive advantages, and that are beneficiaries of structural shifts in economic growth, technology, and demographics. In our experience, long-term value creation is not possible for companies entangled with ESG controversies. British Petroleum (BP) and its shareholders saw a $50 billion loss after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

The durability and trajectory of any given set of business economics can be enhanced or hindered by corporate performance on these criteria, and that is why we spend considerable time on ESG-related investment considerations. They have always been relevant, and they will continue to be so.

See Geogre Evans, Why We Think ESG is a Bedrock Investment Issue, Forbes, August 15, 2018.

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

November 24, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Estate Law--Balancing the Competing Interests of Efficiency, Finality, and Freedom of Disposition in Ancillary Administration Proceedings: Lon V. Smith Foundation v. Devon Energy Corp., 2017 WY 121, 403 P.3d 997 (Wyo. 2017)

WyKaylee Harmon recently published a Case Note entitled, Estate Law--Balancing the Competing Interests of Efficiency, Finality, and Freedom of Disposition in Ancillary Administration Proceedings: Lon V. Smith Foundation v. Devon Energy Corp, 2017 WY 121, 403 P.3d 997 (Wyo. 2017), 18 Wyo. L. Rev. 379-406 (2018). Provided below is the introduction of the Case Note.

Although you cannot take it with you when you go, American succession laws permit the next best thing—the power to decide who will receive your possessions when you are gone. This notion of fulfilling donative intent permeates American probate laws, and its breadth is nearly unparalleled by any other modern legal system. Policymakers have gone to great lengths to ensure that probate procedures accommodate the freedom of disposition, only permitting outright restraints in certain limited circumstances. So, testators can rest easy knowing their property will be dispersed according to their wishes, right? Unfortunately, there may still be cause for concern. Over time, states have unwittingly undermined donative intent by attempting to balance the freedom of  disposition with other interests. This has called into question the legitimacy of the American premise that “freedom of disposition is paramount and the courts have no power to deviate from a person’s will.”

The Wyoming Supreme Court recently grappled with this dilemma in the context of ancillary probate administration. In Lon V. Smith Foundation v. Devon Energy Corp., the Wyoming Supreme Court settled a controversy between named beneficiaries as to the rightful ownership of certain Wyoming real property listed within a testator’s will. The dispute resolution focused primarily on a determination of which instrument—the testator’s will or a conflicting foreign decree adopted during ancillary probate administration proceedings—governed the disposition of the estate’s assets. This case presented an opportunity for the Wyoming Supreme Court to examine the interplay between Wyoming’s interest in upholding the freedom of disposition and the efficient operation of ancillary probate proceedings under Wyoming Statute § 2-11-201.T he court ultimately concluded that the foreign probate decree adopted by the Natrona County District Court pursuant to Wyoming Statute § 2-11-201 controlled the distribution of Wyoming real property, notwithstanding the decree’s failure to distribute the real property in accordance with the testator’s will.

This case note examines concerns stemming from the operation of Wyoming ancillary probate statutes as seen through the Wyoming Supreme Court’s holding. It first provides a brief description of the history behind Wyoming probate laws, followed by a discussion of the ancillary administration proceedings available in Wyoming. Next, it gives a summary of the facts, holding, and analysis in Lon V. Smith Foundation v. Devon Energy Corp. It argues the court’s holding in Lon V. Smith Foundation was correct based upon the present language of Wyoming Statute § 2-11-201 and general probate principles. However, this case note further argues that Wyoming Statute § 2-11-201, as applied, incorrectly favors efficiency at the expense of accurately fulfilling the testator’s intent. Finally, this case note examines the legislative response to the principal case’s application of Wyoming Statute § 2-11-201 and proposes an amendment to the statute.

November 24, 2018 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)