Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Widow, 96, preparing to celebrate her birthday was killed in alleged murder-for-hire plot at her home

Estate planningIn 2022,  96-year-old widow  Violet Evelyn Alberts was tragically killed at her Montecito, California home in an alleged murder-for-hire plot, revealing a complex scheme of financial exploitation. 

Authorities discovered Alberts dead in her bed on May 27, 2022, with evidence of a broken window suggesting forced entry. A subsequent investigation by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office unveiled a scheme where Alberts was deceived into signing over her valuable home by a woman named Pauline Macareno, who took advantage of Alberts' vulnerability and financial needs. 

Macareno, along with accomplices, engaged in financial elder abuse, including forging documents and establishing fraudulent entities to gain control of Alberts' assets. Macareno has been convicted and sentenced to six years in state prison for fraud. Three other individuals, Harry Basmadjian, Henry Rostomyan, and Ricardo MartinDelCampo, were arrested in connection to the case, facing charges ranging from murder to conspiracy and solicitation of murder. 

For more information see Minyvonne Burke “Widow, 96, preparing to celebrate her birthday was killed in alleged murder-for-hire plot at her home”, Aol., March 9, 2024.

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

March 23, 2024 in Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 9, 2023

Formal Opinion 506, Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility recently published Formal Opinion 506, Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants on June 7, 2023.  Provided below is an introduction the opinion:

Nonlawyers provide tremendous client and lawyer support for law firms. This Formal Opinion addresses a lawyer’s ethical obligations when the lawyer delegates to a nonlawyer specific prospective client-intake tasks. Lawyers may train and supervise nonlawyers to assist with initial client intake tasks if the lawyers have met their obligations for management and supervision of the nonlawyers pursuant to ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3 and prospective clients are given the opportunity to consult with the lawyers to discuss the matter.

June 9, 2023 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Article: Creditors’ Rights in Property Subject to a Beneficiary’s Right of Withdrawal

S. Alan Medlin (David W. Robinson Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law) and F. Ladson Boyle (Charles E. Simons, Jr. Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Federal Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Creditor’s Rights in Property Subject to a Beneficiary’s Right of Withdrawal, ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal, 2022. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Estate plans often give trust beneficiaries powers of withdrawal for both tax and nontax reasons. For tax reasons, these powers of withdrawal are typically limited, such as a “five or five power” or a so-called Crummey power commonly pegged to the annual gift tax exclusion amount. A central issue with limited powers of with-drawal is the right of a beneficiary’s creditor to reach trust property subject to the beneficiary’s power to withdraw. Recent uniform statutes, such as the Uniform Trust Code and the Uniform Power of Appointment Act, as well as the Restatement (Third) of Trusts, provide guidance. This Article discusses the typical reasons for creating powers of withdrawal and the historical and recent treatment of the rights of creditors of trust beneficiaries with powers of withdrawal, along with some planning considerations.

September 1, 2022 in Articles, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Article: Texas Estate Planning Judicial Update: Summer 2022 Edition

Gerry W. Beyer (Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Texas Estate Planning Judicial Update: Summer 2022 Edition. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This article discusses recent judicial developments (first half of 2022) relating to the Texas law of intestacy, wills, estate administration, trusts, and other estate planning matters. The discussion of each case concludes with a moral, i.e., the important lesson to be learned from the case. By recognizing situations that have led to time consuming and costly litigation in the past, estate planners can reduce the likelihood of the same situations arising with their clients.

August 15, 2022 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Self-described 'lottery lawyer' is found guilty in scheme to defraud his lottery-winner clients

LotteryFormer Riven Radler partner, Jason Kurland of New York, was found guilty of wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, honest services wire fraud, unlawful monetary transactions, and a related conspiracy charge due to his mismanagement of his clients lottery winnings. 

A self-described “lottery lawyer,” Kurland helped lottery winners manage their newfound wealth. However, prosecutors alleged that he convinced his clients to invest in business that he secretly owned, and then received kickbacks based on these investments.

Kurland claims that he was set up as a fall guy and was not in conspiracy with the businesses. At the time of the initial indictment, more than $80 million of his clients money had been stolen or lost. 

For more information:

See Stephanie K. Baer “Self-described ‘lottery lawyer’ is found guilty in scheme to defraud his lottery-winner clients” ABA Journal, July 27, 2022.

July 31, 2022 in Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Son writes scathing obituary for dad: ‘Evil does eventually die’

Estate planningWhile most obituaries offer a heartfelt goodbye to a loved one, a Florida newspaper recently published a scathing obituary for Lawrence H. Pfaff Sr. of Belmont, New York. Pfaff died on June 27, and according to his obituary, 81 years as “a life longer than he deserved.”

His son, Lawrence Pfaff Jr. described his father as “a ladies man,” an “abusive alcoholic,” and that “his love was abundant when it came to himself, but for his children it was limited.” 

Pfaff Jr. began writing the obituary a year before his father passed. He did so as a process of healing from his childhood trauma.

For more information:

See Marlene Lenthang “Son writes scathing obituary for dad: ‘Evil does eventually die’,” Yahoo! News, July 7, 2022.

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

July 19, 2022 in Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Betty White’s Longtime L.A. Home Lists for $10.755 Million, as Her Carmel House Closes for Well Over Ask

Betty whiteFour months after the death of Betty White, her estate sold one of her California homes for $10.775 million, well over its $7.95 million asking price. The three story home in Carmel has ocean view and sits on a 0.3 acre lot. Ms. White and her husband, the late Allen Ludden, purchased the land in 1978 for $170,000 according to property records. They finished building the home in 1981.

The estate is also listing her primary residence, a five-bedroom home in the Brentwood area of Lost Angeles. 

For more information, see Sarah Painter, Betty White’s Longtime L.A. Home Lists for $10.755 Million, as Her Carmel House Closes for Well Over Ask”, Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2022.

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

April 30, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 29, 2022

Cher's $1 Million Royalty War With Sonny Bono’s Widow Tested in Court

Cher

Earlier this week, Cher’s lawsuit against Mary Bono for unpaid royalties had its first major court hearing. Cher claims that the Bono Collection Trust is attempting to terminate her 50% share of the composition and recording royalties she was awarding in her 1978 divorce from Sonny Bono. 

According to Bono’s widow, that 50% stake expired with the rights flowing back to Sonny’s heirs. “Sonny could grant Cher his then-current rights, including a 50% royalty interest in his copyrights. Sonny could not however, have signed away his heirs’ future rights of termination.” Bono contends that the federal Copyright Act allows her to terminate the right to royalties that Sonny signed over to Cher during their divorce settlement.

U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt gave both sides two weeks to file further arguments ahead of his ruling.

For more information:

See Nancy Dillon, "Cher's $1 Million Royalty War With Sonny Bono's Widow Tested in Court", Rolling Stone, April 25, 2022.

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

April 29, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Death by Deduction: Section 2058 and the Decline of State Death Taxes

Jeffrey A. Cooper recently published an article entitled, Death by Deduction: Section 2058 and the Decline of State Death Taxes, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2022). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

This article illustrates how, and seeks to explain why, the deduction for state estate taxes (Internal Revenue Code Section 2058) seems to have had no meaningful effect on state tax policy.

Since the deduction for state estate taxes reduces the amount of federal estate taxes paid, the net effect is to shift to the federal government some of the cost of these state death taxes. Prevailing theories of tax policy suggest that state governments will structure their tax systems to maximize this type of available deduction. But theory has not borne out in practice. To the contrary, most states have responded to enactment of Section 2058 not by restructuring their existing state estate taxes to maximize this federal deduction but rather by entirely abandoning state estate taxes. While a remaining group continue to impose those taxes, they have failed to structure those taxes in a manner that would optimize the deduction. In short, the 2058 deduction seems to have had extremely little, or perhaps entirely no, effect on state estate tax policy.

This article explores state responses to Section 2058, yielding important lessons about the operation of state legislatures, the political climate surrounding progressive taxation, and the interplay of federal and state taxes.

April 21, 2022 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Article: Uncertainty About the Condonation of Formally Non-Compliant Wills, and the Rectification of Cross-Signed Mirror Wills: Is an Act-Based Model the Solution?

James Faber recently published an article entitled, Uncertainty About the Condonation of Formally Non-Compliant Wills, and the Rectification of Cross-Signed Mirror Wills: Is an Act-Based Model the Solution?, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2022). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

A recent contribution proposed a processual act-based approach to conceptualising wills in South African law. This approach regards a will as the product of a will-making process in which various parties perform specific acts with specific associated forms of intention in order to establish a will. The act-based model also paves the way for the introduction of an intent doctrine in South African law. This article tests the functioning of the proposed act-based model by applying it to two scenarios: the condonation of formally non-compliant wills in terms of section 2(3) of the Wills Act and the rectification of cross-signed mirror wills in terms of the common law. Both scenarios continue to be plagued by uncertainty as a direct consequence of the lack of a proper definition, explanation and contextualisation of testator's intention in South African law. Regarding condonation, it is found that, because the courts are often left guessing or speculating as to testator's intention, they inevitably overemphasise other aspects such as the form of the document to establish intention for the purposes of condonation in terms of section 2(3). An act-based model could ensure that the decision to condone or not to condone relies solely on whether the document embodies the act of testation. If the act of testation is found to be present (no matter in which shape or form, or by whom it was drafted), the document embodying such an act should be condoned. In terms of rectification, in turn, the act-based model highlights the important distinction between content and formality – the act of testation as opposed to compliance with the statutory formality requirements through the execution of a will. It appears that rectification is appropriate only where an error has caused a discrepancy between the testator's true intention and the intention as expressed in the act of testation contained in the will. Rectification seems less appropriate when dealing with cross-signed wills, which are the result of a flawed execution process. Instead, condonation is much better suited for correcting the formal non-compliance of cross-signed wills.

April 19, 2022 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)