Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Complexity Of Inheritance Tax Rules Leaves Families Exposed

RegulationUnfortunately, inheritance tax laws and their governing rules are complex and difficult for the general public to understand. This leads to investigations into estates; investigations that the owners of those estates eventually must pay for.

The most common gift to "go wrong" are gifted properties due to the lack of understanding and skillset in the area of administration of estates. With the fluctuations of house prices and stock markets, people often get caught up in the figures and the result is a failed gift. 

One solution to this problem is to ensure that the person advising you and your estate is a professional. The knowledge of a qualified person will endure that the estate is handled correctly. 

It is also important to have a professional executor, instead of a family member, which people often use to save money. One advantage to using a professional is that they can act impartially when dealing with potential disputes between family members following the grantors death. These advantages also provide the logical reasoning behind using a professional trustee. 

In sum, by using professionals to handle your estate and carry out your wishes, your estate plan is far less likely to fail and will make you more comfortable in the end. 

See Charlotte Ponder, Complexity Of Inheritance Tax Rules Leaves Families Exposed, Today's Wills & Probate (UK), October 1, 2020. 

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

October 15, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Oregon woman disputes Wells Fargo claim she’s dead: ‘It’s not funny’

WellsfargoJudy Cashner, a retired secretary, was unable to access her income because her bank had her listed as deceased. 

At first, Judy admitted that she was a bit amused when her estate received a letter from Wells Fargo claiming she was dead.

However, when Judy and her husband were unable to finance their home due to the bank's mistake, "the laughs ended."

Judy later found out that Wells Fargo shared this incorrect information to three credit-reporting agencies. Judy stated, "At first I thought they'd just cancel the credit card and it was kind of funny. But not it's not funny."

Judy also stated that "mysterious non estate charges began appearing on her credit card bill. 

Unfortunately for Wells Fargo, this only adds to the list of negative headlines that they have made in recent years. 

See Dom Calicchio, Oregon woman disputes Wells Fargo claim she’s dead: ‘It’s not funny’, Fox News, September 26, 2020. 

September 28, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 11, 2020

I'm a Coffin Confessor. I Tell People's Secrets From Beyond the Grave.

BillBill Edgar, a private investigator based in Queensland, Australia, has built a successful business of going into big businesses undercover to uncover thieves stealing from businesses. 

About three years ago, one of Edgar's clients was "being ripped off by someone within his business, but he was also terminally ill." 

Edgar made a joke to his client stating that he would crash his funeral and do the eulogy. Although it was a joke, his client called him a few weeks later to take him up on the offer. 

The client offered to pay him to do "exactly what he asked." He told Edgar to "interrupt the funeral when his best friend was reading the eulogy and to tell his best friend to sit down and shut up." Edgar was then to explain to everyone that he had something to say on the behalf of the deceased.

At the funeral, Edgar outed his client's best friend for trying to sleep with his client's wife and also asked three of the attendees to stand up and make themselves known and tell them to "get lost."

Edgar received emails from his deceased clients wife as well as his daughter. The daughter explained that her dad told her that someone was going to do something at the funeral, but he did not tell her what. 

Edgar explained that he felt good doing something for his client that made his client, who didn't have the strength to do these things himself, feel empowered. 

Edgar has now been coined the "Coffin Confessor" and has now done 22 funerals. Although Edgar still continues to say yes to funeral confessions, there are some requests he will and has said no too.  

Edgar stated, "I've actually had funeral directors tell me I have to leave, and I've told them that this is my client and if they don't let me do my job, I will take my client with me. Before they pass, I set my clients up with a separate funeral director in case, so we are ready to take the coffin and bury them elsewhere if their final wishes are not respected."

You can find Bill Edgars business at coffinconfessions.com.au

See Bill Edgar,  I'm a Coffin Confessor. I Tell People's Secrets From Beyond the Grave., Newsweek, September 5th, 2020. 

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

September 11, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Improbable Journey of Dorothy Parker's Ashes

Shapiro-DorothyParker-Secondary-1"After two decades in a filing cabinet and three next to a parking lot in Baltimore, the author returns to New York."

Dorothy Parker signed her last will and testament in 1965, with her friend Pauline Kraft signing as a witness. The signing occurred in her small suite at the Volley Hotel in Manhattan. 

Dorothy's husband had passed and she had no heirs, so she had "spent months mulling what to do with her estate." Much if her estate was made up of future royalties and licensing fees for her literary work, which was "substantial."

Dorothy Parker wrote for both Vogue and Vanity Fair in her younger years. She then wrote for the New Yorker. Dorothy was also part of the writing duo of the 1937 screenplay of "A Star Is Born" 

Dorothy Parker was also an activist during the civil-rights era. In 1965, when writing her will, she explained that she wanted to be cremated and "that her entire estate be left to Martin Luther King, Jr., then thirty-six, whom she had never met." 

Following Dorothy's passing, Lillian Hellman was named "executrix" of the estate, but became enraged when she realized she had not been left any money. "Out of spite, Hellman ordered all of Parker’s effects to be thrown away, including her papers, books, clothes, and keepsakes. She also disobeyed Parker’s wishes for a quiet cremation and organized a public memorial at a funeral home on the Upper East Side."

Parker was cremated but no one ever came to claim the ashes so they sat on a shelf for years and then was placed in a filing cabinet in her prior attorney's office. Her attorney had retired but O'Dwyer, who had taken over decided to have a little get together with some of Dorothy's friends to help decide what should be done with her ashes. 

"On August 22nd, Dorothy's birthday, her ashes were brought to Woodlawn for her reburial, where Hazel Dukes, 88, former president of the N.A.A.C.P. attended along with others.

See Laurie Gwen Shapiro, The Improbable Journey of Dorothy Parker's Ashes, The New Yorker, September 4, 2020. 

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


September 9, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

World War II veteran's wish granted: casket to be painted like pack of Juicy Fruit

GettyImages-Juicy-Fruit-gumSuttie Economy, a World War II veteran, will have his casket painted like a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. Mr. Economy has been handing out packs of Juicy Fruit gum in his Virginia Community for decades. "Economy served in the Navy on the USS English in the Pacific during the war."

Mr. Economy, 94, has been dealing with some health problems the last year and has been moved from the VA Hospital to the Virginia Veterans Care Center next door, although his health has slightly improved. 

“For decades, Suttie has been known as the guy who takes packs of Juicy Fruit to restaurants, doctors' offices, funeral homes, firehouses, etcetera, and gives them out to everyone he sees,” Oakey said. “He has probably purchased tens of thousands of packs of the gum over the years.”

In the beginning, Wrigley was not too fond of having their trademark on a casket. However, Oakey posted the request on social media, bringing in a lot of buzz. Wrigley has now decided that it will make an exception for the Veteran. 

Oakey said the casket will either be painted to look like a pack of Juicy Fruit or a pall with the logo will be laid over the casket

See Stephen Sorace, World War II veteran's wish granted: casket to be painted like pack of Juicy Fruit, Fox News, September 6, 2020. 

September 9, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Drew Barrymore confirms rumor that her grandfather's corpse was 'stolen'

Drew'A bizarre rumor spread about Drew Barrymore's grandfather, John Barrymore's corpse. Rumor has it that John's corpse was 'stolen'. 

Drew Barrymore, 45, revealed on the YouTube channel Hot Ones that the rumor was true. Barrymore stated that her grandfather's body was stolen from the morgue in May 1942 by his friends so that they could "all party together one last time". 

According to Barrymore, John's friends took his body and propped it up at a poker table. Barrymore joked as she said, "I hope my friends do the same for me. . .That is the kind of spirit I can get behind. Just prop the old bag up and have a last few rounds."

Drew Barrymore also stated that she would like her friends and family to be happy and celebrate with a party following her passing. Drew was clear that she is not a fan of the "morose sadness."

See Jessica Napoli, Drew Barrymore confirms rumor that her grandfather's corpse was 'stolen', Fox News, August 21, 2020.



September 2, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Funeral Poverty

Victoria J. Haneman recently published an article entitled, Funeral Poverty, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Funeral

Death is an expensive proposition. The economics of life do not end with death, and putting the deceased to rest carries (often-unexpected) funerary expenses for cremations, funerals, burials, and/or memorials. In 2019, the median cost of an adult funeral with viewing and burial exceeded $9,000. This number is particularly stark given that four out of ten Americans would have difficulty covering an unexpected $400 expense, and 12% would be unable to pay the unexpected $400 by any means. For the average consumer, funerary expenses will be the third largest category of expense incurred over a lifetime — and notably, this category of expenditure comes during an emotionally fraught time when the consumer may be cognitively impaired. A grief-stricken consumer is not a rational actor. This Article makes a unique contribution to the literature by drawing attention to the financial burden of death service being shouldered by those who are “relatively poor,” or those for whom everyday life may be a financial struggle. The thesis is equal parts positive, normative, descriptive, and prescriptive: it is imperative that options be made available to transition human remains in a way that does not exacerbate cycles of poverty and allows for the living to preserve dignity. This need calls for important changes to existing legal structures, including modernization of consumer protection regulation, change to laws regulating the death service industry, and re-characterization of expenses for tax purposes. The Article concludes with a cohesive framework of solutions responsive to the unique structural features of the death services marketplace (which includes information asymmetry, vulnerability of the consumer, and in-elasticity of the marketplace), by which funeral poverty issues may be comprehensively addressed in the United States.

September 2, 2020 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Death as Divorce for the Abandoned Spouse: Davis V. Combes and the Cautious and Gender-Sensitive Judiciary

SpouseSaul Levmore recently published an article entitled, Death as Divorce for the Abandoned Spouse: Davis V. Combes and the Cautious and Gender-Sensitive Judiciary, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. 

Davis v. Combes is a Seventh Circuit decision by Judge Diane Wood involving a decedent who surprises her surviving family by secretly transferring assets to her sister. This Essay suggests that the case offers an opportunity to think about alternatives to forced heirship in American law. It discusses the choice among three ways to disappoint or even cheat an abandoned spouse. These are: (1) Divorce, followed by a battle over assets and future earnings; (2) Death – where the decedent attempts to dis-inherit the surviving spouse; (3) Death – where there is no will or simply few assets, and where the abandoned spouse is surprised to learn that she or he has been removed as the beneficiary of the insurance policy. In sum, one can divorce, dis-inherit, or dis-insure, with the latter being the subject of the case under discussion. I argue that for reasons of gender equality or partnership, the three cases should be treated alike as much as possible.

September 2, 2020 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 21, 2020

When a spouse passes away

SpouseLosing a loved one is one of the hardest and devastating thing that we go through. Not only is the grieving process tough, but you typically do not have much time to grieve before you have to tackle the tasks of preparing for memorial services and taking the proper legal and financial steps following the death. 

Discussed below are five key steps that you can take to move forward financially after losing your spouse. Having a list of tasks can make the process a bit easier on you as you can separate what needs to be taken care of immediately from the things that can wait. 

  1. Don't feel as if you need to do everything all by yourself
  2. Don't think you have to do everything at once
  3. Enlist the expertise of your professional advisors
  4. Understand that life will be different 
  5. Be prepared for a lot of paperwork

See Nickolas Strain, When a spouse passes away, Investment News, August 11, 2020.

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

August 21, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

International Estate Planning

GlobalInternational travel has dropped significantly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, people around the world are still needing to travel for employment. Also, those who own or inherit assets outside of their regular homes are traveling as well. For the latter, International Estate Planning is a must. 

"International Estate Planning are the strategies and tactics used to achieve U.S. and Foreign clients objectives."

These strategic objectives include:

  • Maintaining control and ownership of wealth and property during the client's lifetime and after their death.
  • Providing financial security not only for the client but also for their spouse, children and other beneficiaries. 

International Estate Planning is also a very efficient way to enhance personal, business and family wealth management. "This most often means making your actions tax-efficient especially in regards to U.S. Income, Excise, Estate, Gift, and Generation Skipping Transfer Taxes, as well as foreign income, estate, gift and excise taxes as well as the issues raised by the conflicts of laws, the transparency of financial transactions and compliance with restrictions on the use of tax and asset protection havens."

One issue with International Estate Planning is that many clients are concerned about opening their financial accounts and tax information "not just in the context of the United States, but of any country with which the client may have a tax connection." This raises a confidentiality issues that is sure to make certain clients uncomfortable. 

Clients should be informed about the risks of International Estate Planning and should also know (1) if they are a part of the two groups that it affects and (2) when International Estate Planning is triggered. 

See, Matthew Erskine, International Estate Planning, Forbes, August 10, 2020.

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

August 19, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)