Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, October 2, 2022

JPMorgan Chase Is Phasing Out Safe Deposit Boxes

Estate planningAfter decades of offering safe deposit boxes as a way for customers to store valuables and important documents, the service is now viewed as an expensive relic of the past.  JPMorgan Chase & Co. is officially phasing them out, and customers will no longer be able to rent out new boxes.

President of Safe Deposit Specialists, David McGuinn, says that safe deposit boxes the most expensive square footage you can put in a new branch. Banks have longed viewed the program as a loss given the extensive costs that are associated with building a vault, installing security, and training employees on how to properly work within that system. 

While the cost is high, this has been traditionally overlooked due to the high net worth of individuals who typically use the boxes. These changes are anticipated to upset many longtime users, and has the potential to pose significant issues for the estate planning community, as safe deposit boxes are often used to store original estate documents.

For more information see Jennifer Surane “JPMorgan Chase is Phasing Out Safe Deposit Boxes”, Bloomberg, September 30, 2022.

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

October 2, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Is Choosing Death Too Easy in Canada?

Estate planningCanada recently changed its assisted death law, loosening the requirements for people to seek medical assistance to end their lives. The new law allows people with “grievous and irremediable” conditions to seek death, even if they are not terminally ill.

Canada is one of 12 countries and a handful of American states where assisted death is permitted, however, it is only one of three nations that permits assisted death without a condition being terminal. When the original law was suggested in 2016, it was a hotly debated issue that won broader public acceptance over time. But the new change is bringing back the debate, especially as the next expansion in 2023 will allow people with mental disorders to apply. Critics believe this is going too far.

Such critics include United Nations disability and human rights experts, who believe that this law devalues lives by suggesting disability is worse than death. Other critics point to the fact that the law makes medical clinicians the final arbiters of death despite no other jurisdiction treating end of life care as a standard medical practice. While proponents point out that any doctors who do not follow strict guidelines will face severe consequences, such as losing their medical licenses or facing criminal charges. They feel that the system is working well.

For more information see Ian Austen “Is Choosing Death Too Easy in Canada?”, The New York Times, September 18, 2022.

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

October 1, 2022 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2022

Another Inflation Stress: Rising Costs of Senior-Living Homes Strain Families

Estate planningMany long-term-care facilities are responding to inflation by raising prices and adding new fees to their residents bills. This is to cover higher costs of food, utilities, insurance, wages, supplies, and management of COVID-19 protocols, but the increase in cost of living is now putting on a strain on many older Americans.

Prices vary by region and type of care, but many have seen increases ranging from 3% to 12%, leaving monthly bills to skyrocket. A recent study by NORC at University of Chicago showed that approximately 11 million middle-income seniors may not be able to afford assisted livings while also unable to qualify for Medicaid. And even if they do qualify for Medicaid, they will have to consider the reimbursement rates which have no been rising at the same pace as the cost for food, medical suppliers, and labor. 

Angela Plea, chief executive of Assisted Living Locators, advises her clients to consider alternatives within their facilities to lower their monthly costs. This can include moving to “less desirable rooms” on higher floors or receiving medication at different times of day. She also encourages her clients to consider short-term bridge loans, looking into benefits through Vertan Affairs, or considering taking on roommates to offset costs.

For more information see  Clare Ansberry “Another Inflation Stress: Rising Costs of Senior Living Homes Strain Families”, The Wall Street Journal, September 22, 2022.

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

September 30, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 29, 2022

‘I’ve always wanted to be a tree’: Human composting starts to catch on

TreeCalifornia Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed a bill into law that requires state regulators to create a program for “natural organic reduction” by 2027, making California the fifth state to pass such legislation.

Individuals may now choose controlled decomposition by a funeral service provider, which allows them to be laid to rest in steel vessels surrounded by wood chips for the purpose of becoming compost. The process takes about two months and creates 1-2 cubic yards of compost to be used in gardens and conservation projects.

This is a prime example of how customs surrounding death are changing due to concerns about environmental impact. Proponents of human composting point out the benefits of forgoing cremation or caskets and being returned to the Earth. The idea grew from cutting down on carbon dioxide pollution required for cremation, and eliminating the amount of steel, concrete, and land required for traditional burial process.

Washington state was the first to pass this type of legislation. Four state funeral facilities are now licensed to perform these services and 252 individuals have had their remains composted. While this number is only a fraction of individuals who have passed away since the legislation passed in 2019, companies are reporting that demand for services is growing amongst those who have not yet passed away. Many have signed up for the services and begun making monthly payments in preparation for death.

For more information see  Evan Bush “‘I’ve always wanted to be a tree’: Human composting starts to catch on," NBC News, September 27, 2022.

Special thanks to Stephen Sanders (Austin, Texas Estate Planning and Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 29, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Masterworks by Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin Are Among the Treasures From Paul Allen’s $1 Billion Art Collection

Paul AllenMicrosoft co-founder Paul Allen left behind a $1 billion art collection when he passed. Several pieces from his collection are headed to auction at Christie’s New York, which will take place on November 9-10, 2022.

At least three of the works are French Post-Impressionist paintings, worth an estimated value of $100 million+ each. Amongst these are Paul Cezanne’s La montagne Sainte-Victoire and Vincent Van Gogh’s Verger avec cyprès and George Seuart’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version).

The Paul G. Allen Collection is one of the most valuable collections ever to be offered at auction and has a wide range of masterpieces. According to the Vice Chairmen of Christie’s Americas, "I can’t think of another collection that compares." The collection will be on exhibition in October, with stops in Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, London, Pairs and New York.

For more information see  Fang Block “Masterworks by Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin Are Among the Treasures From Paul Allen’s $1 Billion Art Collection," Barrons PENTA, September 23, 2022.

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

 

 

September 28, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Millennials Want to Retire at 50. How to Afford It Is Another Matter.

RetirementThe new “American Dream” for many millennials is walking away from their careers and into retirement at age 50, much earlier than their parents. This is indicative of a generational shift, where millennials prioritize careers that are in alignment with their personal interests over higher financial gain.

Many attribute this desire to watching older generations put their lives on hold to save, only to retire and become ill or have their spouse die.

Financial consultants warn that this goal is not achievable for many, given living costs and lifestyle costs. The 2022 Retirement Insights Survey from TIAA revealed that 31 percent of people ages 30 to 39 indicate that they have an above average confidence level in their retirement planning. This percentage jumps to 40 percent for younger millennials. Yes, many are not saving enough or contributing enough to their 401(k), leaving the employer match on the table.

Additional challenges facing younger generations are fewer employers offering pension plans, and 401(k) matching is not guaranteed. The lack of pension and 401(k) match puts the burden on employees to save for their future. This shows a shift from employers helping their employees prepare for retirement to employees helping themselves.

Experts advise that having a mix of traditional retirement accounts and more versatile savings accounts in addition to diverse revenue streams as ways to combat these challenges.

For more information see Millinnials Want to Retire at 50. How to Afford It Is Another Matter” New York Times, September 24, 2022.

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

September 27, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 26, 2022

Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous

StarsCelebrities are not immune to the pitfalls of having outdated or nonexistent estate plans, and even if careful estate planning has taken place, changes in family circumstances or tax laws can have negative impacts. 

This article takes a look at some famous mistakes made by famous people, including over simplistic wills (Jim Morrison), after-born children (Philip Seymore Hoffman), domicile (Heath Ledger), second families and decanting (David Bowie), and oral promises (Anna Nicole Smith.)

Ultimately, what all of these mistakes have in common is that they are preventable. Simple updates or revisions can make substantial differences for beneficiaries and it is important to take time to protect love ones with complete and updated estate plans.

For more information see Jessica Galligan Goldsmith, Shaina S. Kamen, Christiana M. Lazo, David J. Posner, and Bruce D. Steiner “Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous” ABA Probate & Property Magazine, September/October 2022.

September 26, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Why People of Color Are Less Likely to Have a Will

Estate planningAccording to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports earlier this year, high numbers responded not having a will in place. While the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call for many Americans around end-of-life planning, it is still reported that 1 in 3 Americans don’t have a will.

The Consumer Report Survey showed a noticeable difference in responses from people of color, with the top reasons cited as being too young, not having enough assets, not being sure how to create one, or assuming their next of kin will automatically receive everything. However, the most common reason is that they planned to create one but haven’t gotten around to it.

Maria Victoria Colón, a certified public accountant, told Consumer Reports that the general belief in the Hispanic community is that wills and financial planning is “only for rich people.” She teaches financial literacy on Instagram and TikTok in hopes of dispelling this myth and warns against the assumption that things will easily transfer to the next of kin. There can be difficulties if the family structure is complicated.

Another reason cited is that they prefer not to think about death, which for some cultures, is not appropriate topic of discussion and can be a big roadblock to creating a will.

For more information see Althea Chang-Cook “Why People of Color Are Less Likely to Have a Will” Consumer Reports, August 10, 2022.

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

September 25, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Queen’s clothes and jewels: Who inherits her enormous collection?

QueenWhile many have been talking about Queen Elizabeth’s $447 million fortune and how it will be divided amongst members of the Royal family, many are curious what will happen to her large collection of clothing and jewelry. Royal experts believe her wardrobe will be split primarily between Kate Middleton and Queen Consort Camilla, with Middleton having first choice.

The late Queen had a famously colorful sense of style and many of her most memorable outfits will be taken by a royal trust for future display in museums. It is anticipated that her wedding gown, coronation gown, Jubilee ensembles, and coats and hats worn for royal weddings will join the Historic Royal Palaces Collection which also preserves pieces from Queen Victoria and Princess Diana. 

For more information see Andrew Court “The Queen’s clothes and jewels: Who inherits her enormous collection?” New York Post, September 23, 2022.

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

September 24, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 23, 2022

Article: Inheritance in an Unequal Age

Jack Whiteley (Georgetown University Law Center) recently published an article entitled, Inheritance in an Unequal Age, Northwestern University Law Review (Forthcoming 2023). Provided below is the abstract to the paper:

For centuries, the common law limited aristocratic wealth. In the last three decades, that has changed. One by one, state legislatures have eliminated the Rule against Perpetuities, and now dynasty trusts can make carefully controlled payments to a trust settlor’s descendants for hundreds of years. This change occurred soon before a large and ongoing intergenerational wealth transfer in the United States. Trusts scholars have roundly criticized the Rule’s removal, and some have described it as charting a path to a new Gilded Age.

This Article draws a theoretical lesson from the Rule’s demise. I argue that part of the reason for the Rule’s end was its complexity: most lawyers, and most citizens, do not really know what the Rule is, or how it operates. Thus, in spite of its value, the Rule found too few defenders when special-interest advocates from financial industries competing jurisdictionally for trust fees sought to remove it. Complexity in inheritance law has this specific and timely cost: it can enable mechanisms for aristocratic wealth defense, even when it is meant to do the opposite. This is because rule complexity causes asymmetric information among future players. This dynamic should figure into proposals for reform.

September 23, 2022 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)