Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Article on Old Days are Dead and Gone: Estate Planning Must Keep its Head Above Water with the Changing Tide of Technology

TexasAlexandra M. Jones recently published a Comment entitled, Old Days are Dead and Gone: Estate Planning Must Keep its Head Above Water with the Changing Tide of Technology, 11 Tex. Tech Est. Plan. Com. Prop. L.J. 161 (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Comment.

Fresh out of law school, many young lawyers are eager to start their legal careers and just right into the courtroom. While they still need some practical training first, many young lawyers accept jobs that deal solely with discovery or intake until they can slowly make their way up the legal food chain. With the advancement of technology, programs like expert systems and artificial technology are taking over some of these first-year associate jobs because they are less expensive and more efficient. As a result, law firms are not hiring as many recent graduates. Eventually, technical jobs could replace the classical notion of attorneys. However, the growing concern that technology is taking over jobs in the legal field is not the only problem caused by artificial intelligence. Issues arise with how much impact technology has in transactional fields, such as estate planning, and the future role that artificial intelligence will play. An even greater issue arises with who is liable for artificial intelligence mistakes when there is very little in terms of legislation.

Tech industry experts are in stark disagreement about the means of regulating artificial intelligence. Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned the world of dangers of advancing artificial intelligence and that governments need to start creating laws and regulations. Experts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg believe that creating new regulation is not realistic because the technology has not fully developed. Some critics argue that researchers are already regulated enough, and adding more regulation will stifle innovation. This comment focuses the issue on a much smaller scale by suggesting that lawyers, law firms, and other entities that utilize artificial intelligence, or its branch of expert systems, in their estate planning practice are consistent with ethical rules of conduct for the system. Additionally, this comment will expand upon the meaning of the unauthorized practice of law as it relates to artificial intelligence.

This comment proceeds in five parts. Part I introduces the concept of artificial intelligence through practical and theoretical examples and definitions. Part II discusses the impact that artificial intelligence has on expansion. Part III considers the effect artificial intelligence have on estate planning laws. Part IV discusses the parties liable for artificial intelligence. Part V suggests methods of ensuring compliance with ethical standards to estate planning practitioners as technology becomes more absorbed in transactional fields.

February 14, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Malpractice, Professional Responsibility, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

NJ Clears 1st Hurdle to Make Assisted Suicide Legal

RighttodieThe Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee in New Jersey voted 6-3 last Thursday in favor of the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The Act would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medications to adult patients who have six months or less to live. It still must pass both house of the Legislature and be signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.

An opponent of the bill claims that there were a limited number of people against the bill actually allowed to speak. Dr. T. Brian Callister says that the hearing was "irregular" and that apart from him, only one other physician was allowed to make comments. Dr. Callister said that he attended the hearing “in hopes of educating legislators about the perverse incentives and negative unintended consequences that physician-assisted suicide carries with it.”

Currently California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C. have passed laws that allow for assisted suicide. Montana also provides physicians a legal defense or immunity from prosecution under a court ruling.

See Frank Miles, NJ Clears 1st Hurdle to Make Assisted Suicide Legal; Opposition Calls Hearing a 'Charade,' Fox News, February 7, 2019.

February 13, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parents Believe That the Instagram Account of Their Daughter Holds the Key to her Suicide

InstagramThe parents of Molly Russell have been unsuccessful in their attempts to access her social media data, which they believe will help them to understand her suicide.
The 14-year-old's father has claimed that her use of Instagram was a factor in her taking her own life.
Instagram has told the BBC it is constantly reviewing its polices regarding images about depression and suicide, and that experts have advised the company that allowing those topics could help people feel supported.

See Why Can't I See My Daughter's Data?, BBC, February 6, 2019.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 13, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Article on Wills, Trusts, and Estates

WillJ. William Gray Jr. & Katherine E. Ramsey recently published an Article entitled, Wills, Trusts, and Estates, 53 U. Rich. L. Rev. 179-202 (2018). Provided below is an introduction of the Article.

The 2018 Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation to conform the interpretation of wills with trusts, revised the recent trust decanting and augmented estate statutes, and provided a procedure for resolving doctor/patient disputes over appropriate medical care. It also confirmed the creditor protection available for life insurance and annuities, and addressed certain entities' eligibility for real and personal property tax exemptions, annual disclosures of charitable organizations' administrative and charitable service expenses, virtual nonstock corporation member meetings, bank directors' stock holdings, the disposition of unused tax credits at the taxpayer's death, and fiduciary qualification without surety. The Supreme Court of Virginia handed down eight recent decisions addressing the presumption of undue influence, requirements for estoppel and preclusion, the signature requirement for a proper codicil, trust governing law and interpretation, the fiduciary duties of agents, the jurisdiction of Commissioners of Accounts, and appraisal requirements for state tax credits.

February 12, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Patriarch Leaves No Will and the Home he Meant for his Cambridge Family May be Lost

BarbfamilyMarcelle Harrison’s family has lived in a three-story home near Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts for close to 40 years, during which time four generations laid their heads. Now she may have to relocated because her stepfather died intestate in 2011 after the passing of her mother two years prior, meaning that legally her stepfather's blood relatives back in his native country of Barbados have a stronger claim to her childhood home.

Harrison, 64, received the news in a letter the day before Thanksgiving. The home was purchased by her parents in 1980 for $23,000 but was now worth more than $1 million. Her stepfather, Noel Aimes, never learned how to properly read or write but had every intention to leave the home to the family that lived in the house, according to Harrison. “Since you were not an heir-at-law, your appointment is in jeopardy of being set aside,” wrote Gayle Stone-Turesky, a Boston lawyer who was appointed by the state as a public administrator, who is brought in to handle estates where there is no will and no blood heir living in the state.

An attorney for the niece and nephew in Barbados said that they intend to sell the property once the case is settled.  They are the children of Noel's sister, the only family member he appeared to be close to once he had moved to Boston. According to Harrison, the aunt passed away in 2001 and the niece visited Noel once, presumably for money while passing through the Commonwealth.

Harrison's neighbors are outraged by her predicament and have started a GoFundMe page to assist in legal fees and to possibly attain a bargaining chip. She appears to have a strong case to be reimbursed at least for the taxes she paid on the property, any improvements she made to the house, and even her care of her stepfather in his final days. She may be able to work out a deal with the niece and nephew so that her and her family remain in the cherished family home.

See Maria Cramer, A Patriarch Leaves No Will and the Home he Meant for his Cambridge Family May be Lost, Boston Globe, February 7, 2019.

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

February 12, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

David Rockefeller's Estate Donates Record $200 Million to MoMA

DavidrThe estate of David Rockefeller, who passed away in 2017, is giving the Museum of Modern Art in New York City its largest gift in history - an astounding $200 million.

The Rockefeller dynasty has a long history with the museum. In fact, David's mother helped found the institution in 1929. He was longtime benefactor, donating pieces by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne and Henri Matisse. Rockefeller also served 69 years on the board of trustees until his death at the age of 101.

The Museum of Modern Art voted unanimously to named its directorship after David Rockefeller. “It’s an energizing and fitting tribute to celebrate David’s vision and passion for the museum’s mission and its collection,” Glenn D. Lowry, the museum’s first David Rockefeller Director.

See Katya Kazakina, David Rockefeller's Estate Donates Record $200 Million to MoMA, Financial Advisor, February 5, 2019.

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

February 12, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 11, 2019

The John Marshall Law School seeks Full-Time Faculty Podium Visitors for 2019-2020

John_MarshallThe John Marshall Law School in Chicago seeks two or more experienced faculty members to serve as full-time visiting professors for the 2019-2020 academic year (one or both semesters). John Marshall needs coverage in the areas of Civil Procedure, Corporations, Employee Benefits, Estates & Trusts, Income Taxation, Legal Research and Writing, and Property. Candidates must have law school teaching experience. It is contemplated that the successful candidates will be current full-time faculty members at ABA-approved law schools, although others with extraordinary credentials may be considered.

To apply, submit a current CV, cover letter, and three professional references to Associate Dean David Sorkin at 7sorkin@jmls.edu. The Committee will begin reviewing applications as they are received and will continue on a rolling basis until the positions are filled. We may conduct an interview via Skype or a similar platform or in person, and may request submission of teaching evaluations or other materials.

The John Marshall Law School is committed to diversity, access, and opportunity. Subject to the approval of our accreditors, JMLS is in the process of being acquired by the University of Illinois at Chicago, with an anticipated closing date in August 2019. For more information, visit www.jmls.edu and jmls.uic.edu. The John Marshall Law School, finding any invidious discrimination inconsistent with the mission of free academic inquiry, does not discriminate in admission, services, or employment on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, veteran status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic characteristics, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.

February 11, 2019 in Faculty Positions -- Visiting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Can Boilerplate Raise Contracts of the Dead from the Grave

TombstoneWhen death arrives, must the estate attempt to channel the decedent's skills and complete any remaining contractual duties? The outcome does not always hinge solely on whether the remaining duties are personal services. Instead, the intent of the parties is paramount. Court disagree whether boilerplate, such as clauses that the contract is "binding on successors or assigns," or is "binding on heirs, executors, and administrators," reflects the intent of the parties and cause personal service contracts to survive a party's death.

Attorneys may confront this issue when drafting contracts, reviewing contracts in connection with estate planning advising the personal representative, dealing with the surviving contract party, or seeking guidance from the probate court on the estate's responsibilities. Parties have litigated an estate's duty to complete building, farming, leasing, and many other types of contracts. If a personal representative caused an estate to complete a decedent's contract when the estate had no obligation to do so, and carried on the decedent's business without proper authorization, the personal representative could incur personal liability for any losses. In re Burke's Estate, 244 P. 340, 341 (Cal. 1926); see generally Bogart's Trusts and Trustee § 571 (regarding the continuation of a decedent's business).

See William A. Drennan, Can Boilerplate Raise Contracts of the Dead from the Grave, Property & Probate Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 1, January/February 2019.

February 11, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

After Cremation, She Got the Smoking Hot Body She Always Wanted

FireA Canadian woman did not allow her passing to slip away without expressing her humor. Sybil Marie Hicks of Baysville, Ontario, wrote her own obituary, full of comments making fun of herself, her children, and her lovable life. She passed away on February 2 at the age of 82, and her obituary appeared in the Hamilton Spectator on February 5.

Hicks wrote that she left behind her loving husband, Ron, and also her children, "whom I tolerated over the years” including her oldest son Bob, who was her favorite. She wrote about her regret that she will miss seeing her grandchildren grow up - all 13 that she named in her last writing.

But what made the humorous grandmother a bit of an internet celebrity, was a light-hearted remark towards her vanity. “I finally have the smoking hot body I have always wanted… having been cremated,” she wrote.

See Kathleen Joyce, Canadian Woman Writes Own Obituary, Says She has ‘Smoking Hot body She Always Wanted’ After Being Cremated, Fox News, February 6, 2019.

February 11, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

CLE on Digital Assets in Estate Administration

CLEThe National Business Institute is holding an auto webinar entitled Digital Assets in Estate Administration, on Monday, March 25, 2019, from 12:00 PM - 3:15 PM Central. Provided below is a description of the event.

Processes, Procedures and Legal Pitfalls
As our online lives continue expanding exponentially, your clients accumulate more and more digital assets. Some of these assets add significant financial value to the estate, some have purely sentimental value to the heirs, but all can easily slip through the cracks without the proper knowledge. Make sure the digital life your client spent so many years compiling is left to loved ones instead of being lost in cyberspace forever - register today!
Learn how to correctly incorporate digital assets into your client's estate plan, such as electronic tax returns, E-bank accounts and PayPal accounts.
Explore the ins and outs of the Terms of Service agreements you'll need to understand to gain access to the clients' data.
Understand which digital assets are often lost at death - online bank accounts, emails, domain names, etc.
Get practical tips for retrieving online information if no provisions have been made to transfer access.

Who Should Attend
This legal program is designed for attorneys looking to increase their knowledge of probate and estate planning. It will also benefit accountants and paralegals.

Course Content
Online Assets and Information at Issue
Post-Mortem Searches and Account Access
Digital Assets with Monetary Value in Estate Administration
Business Digital Assets in Estate Administration
Lessons From States Adopting Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

February 10, 2019 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)