Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Article on Sign on the [Electronic] Dotted Line: The Rise of the Electronic Will

ElecGerry W. Beyer & Katherine Peters recently published an Article entitled, Sign on the [Electronic] Dotted Line: The Rise of the Electronic Will, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

The electronic will is here… almost. The last two years have seen rapid development in the area of electronic wills. As of September 2018, several states either have enacted electronic will statutes or are in the process of considering such legislation. This article provides the history of e-wills and reviews e-will statutes, both enacted and proposed, along with the Summer 2018 draft of the Electronic Wills Act.

December 15, 2018 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Article on Sustainable Trusts and Estates and Real Property Practices

SustainableMary E. Vandenack recently published an Article entitled, Sustainable Trusts and Estates and Real Property Practices, Probate & Property Magazine, Vol. 32, No. 6, November/December 2018. Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

Many lawyers  are concerned with how their practices can remain relevant and profitable as the legal industry changes. There are many reasons for such concern. Although the legal industry is changing, it is possible to design a law firm that will sustain itself both today and in the future. To achieve such a solution requires mindful attention to the current state of one's law firm and the industry as a whole. In addition to changes in the industry, changes in the workforce must be considered.

December 11, 2018 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Cremated Remains of 100 People Have Been Launched into Space on a SpaceX Rocket

ElysiumThe cremated remained of 100 individuals were launched into space in a memorial satellite by the company Elysium Space. Based out if San Francisco, the company placed samples of each person's remains on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for $2,500 each.

The remains of average citizens are joined by veterans and other aerospace enthusiasts who believed their loved ones would enjoy being "within the poetry of the starry sky," Elysium Spaces said in an emailed statement. The ashes, each in an individual capsule, were placed in a 4-inch square satellite called a cubeseat, which will orbit the Earth for 4 years before it inevitably falls back, according to Elysium Space Founder and CEO Thomas Civeit.  Sixty-four small satellites from thirty-four different companies were aboard the rocket, part of a rideshare mission organized by Spaceflight.

Families will be able to track the process of the satellite as it orbits the planet, knowing that their loved ones is above them in the stars.

See Dakin Andone, The Cremated Remains of 100 People Have Been Launched into Space on a SpaceX Rocket, CNN, December 3, 2018.

December 7, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 30, 2018

CLE on Technology and Estate Planning: the Rise of the Electronic Will

CLEThe American Law Institute is holding a webcast/telephone seminar entitled, Technology and Estate Planning: the Rise of the Electronic Will, on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Provided below is a description of the event.

Why You Should Attend
Did you know that:

A will handwritten and witnessed on a tablet was probated in Ohio
An unwitnessed will written on a smartphone was probated in Michigan
Three states now have statutes validating electronic wills, and one of those states allows the testator and the witnesses to be in different locations

Electronic wills are here, and they're headed your way! In recognition of the proliferation of technology in our lives, more and more states are now allowing for electronic wills. Further, a proposed uniform statute on electronic wills is nearing completion, and several start-up companies are clamoring to offer electronic wills on mobile phone applications.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve in your estate planning practice, join us for this 90 minute audio webcast to understand where we are now and where we are going with electronic wills!

What You Will Learn
Three fellows of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel – including the chair of the Uniform Law Commission’s Drafting Committee on Electronic Wills – will discuss:

Which states now validate electronic wills, and which states have draft legislation under consideration?
What is the status of the Uniform Electronic Wills Act?
What will electronic wills do to your practice, and what can you do to get ready for them?
What are the concerns with authentication, security, and storage?
Will other end-of-life planning documents, such as advance medical directives or powers of attorney for health care or finance, follow suit?

Who Should Attend
Any estate planner will benefit from learning the latest developments with electronic wills and how they will impact your practice.

November 30, 2018 in Conferences & CLE, Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Stan Lee Estate Tangled by ‘Magic’ of Valuing Stolen-Blood Claim

StanStan Lee, the comic genius behind such heroes as Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, passed away on November 12 at the age of 95. One of the many issues with his estate is valuing the lawsuits Lee was a part of at the time of his death, including one suit involving a claim that his blood was stolen and sold without his consent.

His former publicist, Jerardo “Jerry” Olivarez, is accused of transferring millions of dollars from Lee’s bank accounts and  engaging in a scheme to sell Lee’s blood as a collectible. The estate must place a value on the suit so that it can calculate the amount of taxes owed, which must be paid within 9 months of the person's death.

“If the lawsuit has not been resolved prior to the filing of the estate tax return there’s a big, difficult problem in how do you value that possible recovery that you might get some time in the future,” said Donald Perry, chairman of the trusts and estates department at Phillips Nizer LLP. The charges in the lawsuit are now more difficult to prove as the main witness was Stan Lee himself.

Lee’s estate will likely have to deal with other hard-to-value assets such as his postmortem image and likeness rights, especially as it was such a thrill to fans to find Lee's cameos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. New technology creates the possibility that those cameos may just continue.

See Allyson Versprille, Stan Lee Estate Tangled by ‘Magic’ of Valuing Stolen-Blood Claim, BNA.com, November 14, 2018.

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

November 22, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Film, New Cases, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Article on Sign on the [Electronic] Dotted Line: The Rise of the Electronic Will

SignatureGerry W. Beyer & Katherine Peters recently published an Article entitled, Sign on the [Electronic] Dotted Line: The Rise of the Electronic Will, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

The electronic will is here … almost. The last two years have seen rapid development in the area of electronic wills. As of September 2018, several states either have enacted electronic will statutes or are in the process of considering such legislation. This article provides the history of e-wills and reviews e-will statutes, both enacted and proposed, along with the Summer 2018 draft of the Electronic Wills Act.

November 6, 2018 in Articles, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Estate Lawyers Caution that Cryptocurrency Should not be Treated like any Other Asset

BitcoinCryptocurrency is becoming more mainstream, and with more clients appreciating Bitcoin's and other's unique investment attribute, estate planners should be aware of the potential pitfalls. Attorneys and their clients want to be sure to transfer the assets appropriately upon death while also not giving up the keys prematurely.

Pamela Morgan, an attorney and author who founded Empowered Law and trains lawyers about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, says “It’s an opportunity to grow your client base­—to attract new people who never thought about this before." Because it is such a new area, some estate planning attorneys may need to fully immerse themselves in cryptocurrency to be comfortable with the subject matter.

When a person buys bitcoin, it’s associated with crypto-graphic public and private keys. The public key identifies that specific bitcoin and all of its transactions on the blockchain—a public ledger that records transactions on a network of decentralized computers across the world. The private key is the owner’s secret and proves ownership and authorizes transfers. The private key remains secret until the owner passes away, or else anyone could steal the cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency can be held in online exchanges, software wallets or hardware wallets, each needing a slightly different planning perspective. Hardware wallets are similar to USBs and an estate plan merely needs to spell out where the device is located and the necessary seed phrase.

See Angela Morris,  With the Rise of Cryptocurrency, Estate Lawyers Caution that it Shouldn’t be Treated like any Other Asset, ABA Journal, November 2018.

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

October 31, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 29, 2018

This AI Startup Generates Legal Papers Without Lawyers, and Suggests a Ruling

AiAn artificial intelligence application (app) developed by Ignacio Raffa, a startup founder from Buenos Aires, can now draft a ruling on a non-complex case in seconds, going so far as recommending a ruling to the judge. The app was developed in collaboration with the local district attorney's office.

The app, Prometea, is being used for stuff like taxi license disputes, not murder trials, but it’s a significant automation that is beneficial to the city's overworked justice system. The Buenos Aires office says its 15 lawyers can now clear what used to be six months’ worth of cases in just six weeks. It is not meant to be used for intricate cases. “It can help legal systems around the world,” says Asha Aravindakshan, a Sloan Fellow at MIT who saw a demo of the app this summer. “Everyone has a backlog.”

Raffa trained the app using the DA office’s digital library of some 300,000 scanned court documents from 2016 and 2017 that included 2,000 rulings. So far, judges have approved 33 of its 33 suggested rulings, and it’s being used in at least 84 other pending cases. “It’s not replacing humans,” says Ezequiel González, a professor at the University of Oxford who hosted a demonstration of the app in May. “It simply comes to the rescue of judges that are buried in massive dockets.”

See Patrick Gillespie, This AI Startup Generates Legal Papers Without Lawyers, and Suggests a Ruling, Bloomberg, October 26, 2018.

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

October 29, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 26, 2018

CLE on Cybersecurity Issues for Planners and Their Clients

CLEThe American Bar Association is holding a web seminar entitled, Cybersecurity Issues for Planners and Their Clients, on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. Central. Provided below is a description of the event.

Cybersecurity issues for business owners (e.g., identifying exposure points and how to address them), as well as for lawyers themselves, in how they transmit, store and dispose of client information.

October 26, 2018 in Conferences & CLE, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

New California Law Puts San Francisco on the Path to Taxing Autonomous Vehicles

AutoThe proposed “robot tax” has taken one step closer to reality with California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent signing of Assembly Bill 1184. The bill authorizes the City and County of San Francisco to impose a tax on each ride originating in San Francisco provided by an automated vehicle, whether facilitated by a rides haring app or another person.

The automated vehicle tax would be capped at 1.5% of net rider fares when a passenger shares a ride with other passengers, and 3.25% of net rider fees when the passenger does not share the ride. The revenues from this tax would be required to be used to fund “transportation operations and infrastructure” within the city.

Though autonomous vehicles are currently in development and the technology is still out of the consumer's grasp, California and San Francisco wanted to be ahead of the economic rush and possible turmoil of switching to such a drastically different system. Drivers would no longer need to pay vehicle license and registration taxes, so the local governments would need to find an equivalent.

See Fisher Phillips, Rise of the Robot Tax? New California Law Puts San Francisco on the Path to Taxing Autonomous Vehicles, Lexology, October 18, 2018.

October 23, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (1)