Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, February 14, 2020

Article on Avoiding Prison Bars, But Gaining a Bar to Inheritance: A Statutory Solution for the Insane Slayer Through a Comparative Approach

CourtwindowBrittany Brewer recently published an Article entitled, Avoiding Prison Bars, But Gaining a Bar to Inheritance: A Statutory Solution for the Insane Slayer Through a Comparative Approach, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2020).

If a solution cannot be found within states, it’s time to look outside our own borders. This Article does just that. With murder amongst family members slowly becoming a frequent phenomenon, comes the burden of determining inheritance. This burden grows exponentially, however, when the slayer is later found not guilty by reason of insanity as a result of a mental illness at the time of the killing. States have grappled with their treatment of the insane slayer in different ways, either by letting them inherit due to their lack of intent, or by refusing to let them inherit under public policy justifications. By arguing that the insane slayer should be able to inherit due to their lack of intent at the time of the killing and the uncontrollable genetic inheritance of their mental illness, this Article is the first to present a solution for the insane slayer through a comparative approach. Specifically, by adopting statutory language from the Forfeiture Act of 1995 No. 65 in New South Wales, Australia. This piece of legislation weighs the conduct of the offender, the conduct of the deceased, the effect of the rule on the defendant and other persons, and any other matters the court finds material. As a result, this Act exudes the discretion, subjectivity, and fairness that the traditional American slayer statute lacks. By consolidating language from the Forfeiture Act of 1995 and traditional American slayer statutes, the statutory solution proposed in this Article has the potential to protect the insane slayer in ways other laws have failed to do.

February 14, 2020 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Top 10 Tax Planning Tips for 2020


  • Evaluate the benefits of scheduling qualified charitable distributions from your IRAs. They can satisfy all or part of your required minimum distribution, and the portion transferred to the charity becomes non-taxable.
  • Your tax advisor can help ensure you have a proper amount of withholding taken out of any standard IRA distributions.
  • As you make charitable contributions throughout the year, save the documents in one spot, both cash and non-cash gifts.
  • Store tax documents in ONE SPOT as they come in the mail.
  • 1040-SR, US Tax Return for Seniors, is now available for taxpayers who are 65 or older, and feature longer fonts
  • This is the second filing season under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, expect your tax preparer to work on cleaning up and formalizing documentation rather than looking for any big changes.
  • If you are paying an individual caregiver, make sure you speak with your CPA about payroll tax reporting requirements if you haven't already. If the person receiving the care is chronically ill as certified by a health practitioner, the payments may be deducted as medical expenses.
  • Consult with your estate planning attorney about planning large gifts, as each taxpayer can gift $15,000 per year per recipient without having to file a gift tax return.
  • Payments made directly to medical providers or tuition payments made to educational institutions on another person's behalf do not count towards your lifetime gifting limit - such as paying your child's or grandchild's.

See Top 10 Tax Planning Tips for 2020, Chambliss Law, February 6, 2020.

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

February 13, 2020 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Book on Estate Planning for the Muslim Client

MuslimbookYaser Ali and Ahmed Shaikh recently published a book entitled, Estate Planning for the Muslim Client (2019). Provided below is a summary of the book.

Islamic law provides a non-discretionary system of rules that governs the distribution of a Muslim's estate. Designing an estate plan based upon these rules presents unique challenges and opportunities. As the demand for faith-based planning increases, there is a growing need for culturally competent advisors who understand how these complex rules interplay with state and federal law. This first-of-its-kind practice guide serves as an authoritative resource for practitioners on how to ethically and effectively draft and administer estate plans for Muslim clients seeking to comply with their faith.

Planning a client's estate can involve more than just the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. To draft a customized plan that achieves a client's unique goals, an estate-planning practitioner must understand the client's values and convictions and, in many cases, his or her religious beliefs. For many clients, passing on these beliefs and traditions is just as important as, if not more important than, the distribution of assets.

Estate Planning for the Muslim Client provides insights, information, and practical planning solutions for clients who wish to adhere to a set of classical religious obligations while recognizing the practicalities of daily life in America. The authors highlight various planning opportunities and identify the most common issues that arise when planning for a Muslim client. Topics include:

    • Meeting the Muslim client and understanding the pillars of their faith
    • Ethical, legal, and public policy issues
    • Estate planning during life
    • Planning for incapacity and death
    • Disposition of property at death
    • Drafting estate planning documents, with sample forms
    • Planning for individuals and assets abroad, and more

February 12, 2020 in Books, Books - For Practitioners, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Spanish Government Passes 1st Hurdle to Legalize Euthanasia

SpainflagThough it failed twice, the new Socialist-led Spanish government has crossed the first hurdle of passing a law to legalize euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide. The parliament voted in favor by a count of 201 to 140 to accept the bill for consideration. The bill will now go to a parliamentary health committee for discussion and then head to the Senate before returning to the lower house for a final vote.

If it becomes a law, Spain will become just the fourth country in the European Union to allow euthanasia, following in the footsteps of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in allowing a physician to humanely kill a patient upon the patient's request. Spain will also join Switzerland and a handful of states in the U.S. in allowing physician assisted suicide, in which the patient is prescribed the death-inducing drug by a physician but administers it themselves.

Recent opinion polls in Spain have indicated broad public support for the left-of-center coalition government’s plans. The issue of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide has met resistance from conservative politicians and the Catholic church. Doctors unwilling to be involved in the procedure can opt out as conscientious objectors, but a replacement doctor must be found.

Portugal will also debate a similar proposal next month.

See Barry Hatton, Spanish Government Passes 1st Hurdle to Legalize Euthanasia, Everything Lubbock, February 11, 2020.

February 11, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE on Advanced Estate Planning Practice Update: Winter 2020

CLEThe American Law Institute is holding a webcast entitled, Advanced Estate Planning Practice Update: Winter 2020, on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM Eastern. Provided below is a description of the event.

Why You Should Attend

Join us in February to see why attorneys across the country tune in for this must-attend program three times a year!

Now it its 25th year, this popular, advanced program covers significant recent developments and how they affect estate planning practice. Featuring a nationally renowned faculty of estate planning lawyers, as well as Professor Jeffrey N. Pennell, this webcast is designed for sophisticated practitioners who need to stay up-to-date on changes in the field!

What You Will Learn

This unique program captures late-breaking important opinions and legislative and regulatory developments, as determined by the faculty at the time of the presentation. Topics to be addressed include:

    • Over 30 recent state and appellate court decisions addressing a wide range of topics, including: charitable gifts, asset transfers, gift tax liens, discretionary vs. support trusts, undue influence, trust amendments, conservation easements, and much more
    • PLRs 201941008-23, 201943020, 201947001, and 201947007
    • The SECURE Act
    • §2010(c) Final Regulations
    • Prop. §170(c) SALT credits

In addition to superb teaching, a favorite feature of past registrants is the comprehensive outline that all registrants get ahead of the program. It provides summaries written by the faculty on every topic discussed during the program, in the order in which it is addressed!

Who Should Attend

Experienced estate planning attorneys, trust administrators, and financial and tax professionals who provide guidance and strategies for transferring wealth and reducing estate taxes should attend this valuable webcast.

February 11, 2020 in Conferences & CLE, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Gift Tax, Income Tax, New Cases, New Legislation, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Alzheimer’s Treatment Fails: ‘We Don’t Have Anything Now’

Brainscan2Scientists collected a group of candidates that were still healthy but had a genetic mutation that unfortunately guaranteed they would develop dementia. During a five year study, the candidates received monthly infusions or injections of one of two experimental drugs, along with annual blood tests, brain scans, spinal taps and cognitive tests. Contrary to the hopes of the scientists participating in the study, the medications did nothing to stop or slow the cognitive decline of the patients.

The data from the study is still being analyzed, so there could be some adjustments to get better results in the future, such as higher doses or starting the drugs on younger patients. The study was small, with only 194 participants, 52 of which took a drug called gantenerumab, made by Roche, and an equal number took solanezumab, made by Eli Lilly. The participants all carried gene mutations that cause an overproduction of amyloid, which accumulates in hard plaques in the brain and is a sure sign of Alzheimer's.

Many anti-amyloid drug trials have failed recently, and companies have spent billions of dollars of this avenue, with the company Pfizer completely bowing out of the race. But many researchers are not ready to throw in the flag. The disease always progresses in the same manner, with an accumulation of amyloid and then the emergence of another protein, tau. “Amyloid and tau define the disease. Bingo,” said Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. “To not attack amyloid doesn’t make sense.”

Dr. Randall Bateman, a neurologist at Washington University in St. Louis and principal investigator of the study, says that his heart goes out to the patients that have this genetic mutation and are destined to get Alzheimer's. We don’t have anything now to treat these people,” he said, as there are four drugs that slow the mental decline, but none that stop it.

See Gina Kolata, An Alzheimer’s Treatment Fails: ‘We Don’t Have Anything Now’, New York Times, February 10, 2020.

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

February 11, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Suffolk University seeks T&E visitor for Spring 2021

Suffolk University Law School in Boston invites applications for a position as a Visiting Professor for the Spring semester of the upcoming academic school year (Spring 2021), with the primary responsibility of teaching two sections of the course in Trusts and Estates (one day and one evening section).  Applications should be received by February 17 (although applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled) and must include a letter detailing desire and qualifications to teach Trusts and Estates, as well as a curriculum vitae.  Applications should be addressed to Professor Rosanna Cavallaro (rcavalla@suffolk.edu) and uploaded to the Suffolk University website via Jobvite.

Suffolk University is an equal opportunity employer. The University is dedicated to the goal of building a diverse and inclusive faculty and staff who contribute to the robust exchange of ideas on campus, and who are committed to teaching and working in a diverse environment.  We strongly encourage applications from groups historically marginalized or underrepresented because of race/color, gender, religious creed, disability, national origin, veteran status or LGBTQ status.

Suffolk University does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religious creed, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, age, genetic information, or status as a veteran in admission to, access to, treatment in, or employment in its programs, activities, or employment.

February 11, 2020 in Faculty Positions -- Visiting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 10, 2020

Article on The Decline of Revocation by Physical Act

RippingBarry Cushman recently published an Article entitled, The Decline of Revocation by Physical Act, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2020). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

The power to revoke one’s will by physical act was enshrined in Anglo-American law in 1677 by the Statute of Frauds. It remains the law in Great Britain, in such developed Commonwealth countries as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and in each of the United States of America. Yet the revocation of wills by physical act has become badly out of phase with the law governing nonprobate transfers, which as a general matter requires that an instrument of transfer be revoked only by a writing signed by the transferor. This article surveys the place of revocation by physical act in the law governing will substitutes, such as payable-on-death designations on bank accounts; transfer-on-death designations on brokerage accounts; life insurance and annuities; beneficiary deeds; and revocable trusts. Revocation by physical act is available with respect to none of the first four types of nonprobate transfer; meanwhile, revocation of revocable trusts by physical act is now effectively defunct in nearly half of the states. Because the donative transfer of most wealth in the United States takes place through will substitutes rather than through the probate system, the role of revocation by physical act in the law of succession is thus one of diminishing significance. Revocation by physical act is a legal institution in decline, and increasingly an anomaly within the law of gratuitous transfers. The outstanding question is whether, and if so, to what extent and in what form, that anomaly is worthy of preservation.

February 10, 2020 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Wealth and Drama of the Disney Family

DisneyBefore it was Walt Disney Studio, it was Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, founded by Walt Disney and his brother Roy O. Disney. Walt handled the creative side while Roy O. handled the business side. Walt died in 1966 of lung cancer, survived by his wife, two daughters and 10 grandchildren. Roy O. only had one child, Roy E., who would later become a senior executive for the company. Roy E. had four children - Susan, Roy P., Tim, and Abigail. Though the Disney clan raised their children in a way that was traditional and normal, their legacy is anything but simple.

In 1960, the Disney brothers owned 20% of the company that they had founded, but today the family only owns 3%. But at $130 billion, that would leave the family an investment of $3.9 billion in the company. And that of course does not include other holdings, investments, and endeavors. Some of the grandchildren became notorious, such as a granddaughter living quite lavishly, splurging on $5,000-a-night suites at the Royal Palms apartment homes in Las Vegas. Two other grandchildren fought over their portions to a trust fund, each arguing that the other was mentally incapacitated.

On the other side of the coin, a granddaughter of Roy O. was reportedly embarrassed by her family's wealth and stated that she had developed an "inferiority complex around people who have actually earned their money. She has said that if she could she would outlaw private jets, and she was one of 18 ultra-wealthy Americans to sign a letter asking presidential candidates to support a wealth tax in June 2019. Roy E. was the only heir that got involved in the business, and it is reported that though the original two brothers were close, the families have never been.

See Hillary Hoffower, A Family Feud Over a $400 Million Trust Fund, a Massive Fortune that Left One Heiress with an Inferiority Complex, and a Sprawling Media Empire. Meet the Disney Family, Business Insider, February 7, 2020.

Special thanks to Mark J. Bade (CPA, GCMA, St. Louis, Missouri) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 9, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Article on Burial Rights Within The United Kingdom

UnionjackRomaine Miller recently published an Article entitled, Burial Rights Within The United Kingdom, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2020). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

This paper outlines the application of Case and Statutory law to the final burial wishes of the deceased in order to prevent conflict amongst surviving family members.

Areas Examined and Referenced: 1.Statutory law and Probate Rules; 2.Testacy and the authority of the executor; 3.Intestacy and the rule of precedence; 4.Views and opinions of law practitioners on burial law.

February 8, 2020 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)