Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, October 17, 2021

National Estate Planning Awareness Week October 18-24, 2021

National Estate Planning week will begin on Monday, October 18 2021 and will extend to October 24, 2021. National Estate Planning week was adopted in 2008 "to help the public understand what estate planning is and why it is such a vital component of financial wellness." 

The National Association of Estate Planners & Councils (NAEPC) is the association of choice for estate planning professionals. The NAEPC is made up of 2,000 Accredited Estate Planner designated professionals, 270 affiliated local estate planning councils, and 30,000 members with ongoing education and a forum for networking within the estate planning community. 

The NAEPC had this message for Councils: 

NAEPC's goal is to work with affiliated local councils to reach every American annually with a reminder about the need for estate planning. It is our hope our councils will host education events, call-in phone banks, and seminars each and every October to help spread the word: YOU need estate planning TOO!

As leaders in the estate planning community, your members have first-hand experience with the challenges Americans face with regard to saving, investing, and planning for their future. As an estate planning council, you have the ability to make a significant impact in your home community. 

See NAEPC, National Estate Planning Awareness Week October 18-24, 2021, naepc.org, last visited October 17, 2021. 

October 17, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Cher Sues Sonny Bono's Widow, Mary, for Withholding Royalties

CherCher has filed suit against Sonny Bono's widow, Mary Bono, alleging that Sonny's widow has "been withholding royalties from Sonny and Cher's 1960s hits. . .such as 'I Got You Babe' and 'The Beat Goes On." 

According to the legal documents filed in Federal Court, Cher claims that she and Sonny agreed to an equal split of their music royalties when they divorced in 1975. Cher claims that she and Sonny executed a deal when the couple settled the divorce in 1978. 

Cher alleges that Mary has been trying to "undo her ownership of those rights and royalties in recent years." 

Cher and Sonny married in 1964 and were very successful as a couple in the early '70s before they divorced. Cher went on to have a successful solo career, while Sonny became a California politician. Sonny was married to Mary when he died in a skiing accident in 1998. 

According to reports, Cher and Mary got along well after Sonny's death, but their friendship has clearly ended as Cher is now suing for at least $1 million in damages and is asking a judge to declare the 1978 divorce settlement enforceable. 

See Cher Sues Sonny Bono's Widow, Mary, for Withholding Royalties, TMZ, October 14, 2021. 

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

October 16, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 15, 2021

Top state court upholds trust provision requiring beneficiary to be unmarried

TrustOn October 8th, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld a trust provision that made distribution of an inheritance contingent on the beneficiary being unmarried. 

The Court held that the provision "is not an unlawful restraint on marriage." The provision was part of a revocable trust that "resulted in the estate of Marcille Borcherding to her son, daughter and four stepchildren after her death." 

The trust stated that Marcille's son, Roger Rotert, would get his share of the estate outright if he was unmarried at the time of her death. If Rotert was to be married, the assets would remain in a subtrust. 

Rotert's third wife filed for divorce before Marcille Borcherding executed the trust, but the couple reconciled and were still married when Marcille died in 2016. Marcille's daughter Connie Stiles, who served as a trustee for the subtrust, came to an agreement with Rotert in which Rotert agreed to receive the subtrust's cash assets and agreed to keep the real property in the trust. Rotert later brought suit. 

Indiana law voids will provisions that condition a spouse's inheritance on remaining unmarried, but the Indiana Supreme Court stated that the rule does not apply to trusts, which can set marriage conditions on spouses and others.

See Debra Cassens Weiss, Top state court upholds trust provision requiring beneficiary to be unmarried, ABA Journal, October 13, 2021. 

October 15, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Article: Trustee Decision-making in the Australian Superannuation Context

Tobias Barkely recently published an article entitled, Trustee Decision-making in the Australian Superannuation Context, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

The Australian compulsory superannuation system contains $AUD 3 trillion in funds, which is a substantial share of the personal wealth held in Australia. This means decisions made by superannuation trustees are important for everyone in Australia, both as beneficiaries and as participants in the Australian economy. The regulation of trustee decision-making, like the superannuation system as a whole, is founded on the equitable principles of trust law, but with an extensive overlay of legislative and regulatory intervention. Examining the regulation of decision-making in this context provides important insights into foundational trust law principles as well as a major component of wealth management in Australia.

October 14, 2021 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pandora Papers: Secret wealth and dealings of world leaders exposed

The Pandora Papers revealed the secret wealth and dealings of world leaders, politicians and billionaires. About 35 current and former leaders and more than 300 public officials are named in the files from offshore companies, which are being referred to as the Pandora Papers.

PandoraThe examination of the files, organized by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), is the largest examination by the ICIJ with more than 650 reporters taking part. 

In what has been called one of the biggest leaks of financial documents, exposés include the King of Jordan who secretly amassed £70m of UK and US property, ex-UK PM Tony Blair and his wife who saved £312,000 in stamp duty when they bought a London office and bought an offshore firm that owned the building. 

Also included in the leak is information on secret assets in Monaco that belong to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leak also shows the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase to villas for £12m in the south of France. 

The joint investigation is made up of access to nearly 12 million documents and files from 14 financial services companies in countries including the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Belize, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Switzerland. 

Among the allegations brought against some figures are corruption, money laundering, and global tax avoidance. 

See Pandora Papers reporting team, Pandora Papers: Secret wealth and dealings of world leaders exposed, BBC News, October 3, 2021. 

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

October 14, 2021 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Article: Incentivizing Wills Through Tax

Margaret Ryznar recently published an article entitled, Incentivizing Wills Through Tax, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Estate planning

There have been recent calls to loosen will formalities in order to allow more people to execute wills, the importance of which has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduction of necessary will formalities can be successful in expanding the use of wills, as can potential tax incentives for creation of wills, such as a tax credit. However, there are numerous advantages to using tax to initiate change, as considered in this Article.

October 13, 2021 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sean Lennon has taken control of John Lennon’s estate

LennonFor around 30 years, John Lennon's estate had been managed by Lennon's widow Yoko Ono. However, Ono has "retired from public life in recent years," with her last formal appearance being in 2017. 

Due to Ono's "retirement," Sean Ono Lennon has taken control of John Lennon's estate. Sean Lennon mentioned to an audience at the National Music Publisher's Association Awards that Ono had an "illness" but did not disclose any further information. 

Sean was appointed as the director at eight companies linking to Yoko Ono and the Beatles. Companies include multimedia company Apple Corp, "which was founded by John Lennon alongside bandmates Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in 1968." 

Sean Ono Lennon will also oversee Lincoln, a company that manages the publishing rights of some of John Lennon's music. 

Taking control of Lennon's estate will not be a simple task. Lennon's estate was estimated to be worth around $800 million at his time of death, and it is safe to assume that it has grown since then. 

In 2019, Forbes reported that Lennon's estate had earned more than $14 million. At the time, Lennon was the world's 7th top-earning dead celebrity. 

Sean is motivated by his dad's music and looks to make sure the music is not forgotten. 

See Riley Fitzgerald, Sean Lennon has taken control of John Lennon’s estate, Cosmic Magazine, last visited Oct. 12, 2021. 

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

October 12, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 11, 2021

Estate of Henrietta Lacks sues biotechnical company for nonconsensual use of her cells

LACKSIn 1951, Johns Hopkins Hospital took tissue from the cervix Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman diagnosed with cervical cancer, without her consent. Using the tissue sample, a doctor at the hospital was able to create the first human cell line to reproduce outside the body. Lacks died in 1951 from cancer at the age of 31. 

The family of Henrietta Lacks filed a lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. for "unjust enrichment from the nonconsensual use and profiting from her tissue sample and cell line."

In the lawsuit, the family alleges that Thermo Fisher Scientific is "knowingly profiting from the 'unlawful conduct' off the Johns Hopkins doctors and that its 'ill-gotten gains rightfully belong to Ms. Lacks'  Estate,'" and that the company is "making a conscious choice to sell and mass produce the living tissue of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman, grandmother, and community leader, despite the corporation's knowledge that Ms. Lacks' tissue was taken from her without her consent by doctors at John Hopkins Hospital and a racially unjust medical system." 

The Lacks family have requested that the company disclose the amount of profits made by the commercialization of the HeLa cell line—along with reasonable costs and expenses—which is estimated to be around $250 billion. 

Additionally, the family has asked the court to order Thermo Fisher Scientific to permanently stop the use of HeLa cells without the permission of the Lacks' estate. 

Attorneys say that Thermo Fisher is not the only corporation making profit off of Lacks' cells. 

John Hopkins Medicine released a statement in which it said that what happened to Lacks in 1951 "would not happen today" and that it was once common practice to researchers to collect extra cell samples from cervical cancer patients. Further, John Hopkins Medicine stated that it worked with member of the Lacks family and the National Institutes of Health to "help broker an agreement that requires scientists to receive permission to use Henrietta Lacks' genetic blueprint, or to use HeLa cells in NIH funded research." 

See Taylor Romine, Estate of Henrietta Lacks sues biotechnical company for nonconsensual use of her cells, CNN, October 5, 2021. 

October 11, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Article: Mega-IRAs, Boon or a Bane?

Albert Feuer recently published an article entitled Mega-IRAs, Boon or a Bane?, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

Peter Thiel reportedly converted a 1999 Roth IRA investment of $1,700 in PayPal “founder’s shares,” into assets that appeared to be worth $7 billion on June 30, 2021. There are serious questions whether this IRA and other Mega-IRAs are entitled to the IRA tax benefits. The IRS should have the resources to challenge the tax exemption of any Mega-IRAs appearing to violate the current law. These Mega-IRAs will disappear when the IRS prevails. There should also be statutory changes to direct tax incentives not at Mega-IRAs and their owners, but at improving the retirement readiness of American working families. This was why traditional and Roth IRAs were introduced and why they are called individual retirement accounts. The following common-sense changes would help achieve this goal by narrowing the retirement savings focus of retirement tax incentives:

(1) All the IRAs of an individual whose traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and designated Roth 401(k) IRAs have an aggregate value in excess of $5 million at the end of any calendar year shall be called Mega-IRAs and should lose their tax qualification if the Mega-IRAs do not distribute half of the excess by the end of the following year;

(2) All of an individual’s Mega-IRAs should lose their tax-qualification if the individual makes any contributions to any Mega-IRA for the following calendar year;

(3) The minimum required distribution rules applicable to traditional IRAs and designated Roth 401(k) IRAs should apply to Roth IRAs, i.e., annual distributions should start by April 1 of the year following the year, if any, the participant reaches age 72; and

(4) The annual excise tax for excess contribution to any IRA should be increased from 5% to 10% and should apply to the earnings associated with any excess contributions for the year at issue, rather than only to the excess contributions, as is now the case.

October 10, 2021 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Article: Singapore Trusts Law

Christopher Hare and Vincent Ooi recently published an article entitled, Singapore Trusts Law, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Trust

The development of an autochthonous legal system and jurisprudence in Singapore has meant that Singapore law has come a long way from its English roots. This is manifestly the case for the legal principles relating to trusts, where the efforts of our local judges, academics, lawmakers and practitioners have resulted in a rich jurisprudence that draws on the best legal thinking throughout the Commonwealth, while still retaining its own distinctive character. Developments in English law remain persuasive, although the Singapore courts have shown themselves ready to depart from these where they are inappropriate for the local context or where there are disagreements on principle. This is evident on such fundamental issues as the theoretical underpinnings of the express trust, the recognition of remedial constructive trusts and the approach to charitable trusts. Not only can legal divergence be important at a local level, but it can also give Singapore its own unique voice on the comparative and international plane.

As Singapore trusts law continues to develop, practitioners and students alike may increasingly find that scholarly works produced for the English legal market may not always accurately reflect the position adopted by Singapore’s higher courts nor advocate for policy positions that are appropriate for this jurisdiction. Accordingly, there was self-evidently the need for a textbook specifically addressing the legal principles and policies applicable to trusts in Singapore. Whilst other jurisdictions have been drawn upon in the absence of local precedent (unsurprisingly, English law still casts a rather long shadow), special care has been taken in writing this book to analyse local judicial precedents, legislation and academic writings where these are available.

This first edition of this book has been written with the syllabuses of the three local law schools in mind, focusing on the principal areas of trusts law as taught in these schools. Accordingly, the aim is that readers should find this book a helpful and accessible introduction to the principles of trusts law operating in Singapore, as it aims to lay out the fundamental concepts in a structured manner, without presuming prior knowledge of the subject matter. It is hoped that that the book may even act as useful refresher for the more seasoned practitioner and provide some additional insights in those areas where the book seeks to delve more deeply. Naturally, however, a book must be selective in its coverage. That said, it is envisioned that the book’s scope will be expanded in subsequent editions to include more detailed coverage of those areas that have greater practical significance, such as the private international law issues applicable to trusts, the use of trusts in the private client and wealth management contexts and the tax treatment of trusts. For this first edition, the authors have chosen to focus more on analysing the fundamental legal principles and theoretical foundations for trusts, rather than the myriad of issues that arise in practice. The law is stated as of 1 February 2021, although later developments have been included where possible.

October 9, 2021 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)