Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Monday, October 22, 2018

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

CLEThe American Law Institute is holding a webcast entitled, Technology and Estate Planning: The Rise of the Electronic Will, on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 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.

October 22, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Paul Allen May be Leaving Largest Estate in Washington History

PaPaul Allen constructed an empire over the 35 years after he left Microsoft that consists of funding local museums and arts festivals, sponsoring brain science and artificial intelligence research institutes, and even owning sports teams and an enormous real-estate portfolio. The disposition of possibly the largest estate in the history of the state of Washington poses many questions of the future of these endeavors, and the Internal Revenue Service will be poring through all of it.

There is familial continuity built in to the structure of Allen’s empire even though he was not married and had no children. His sister, Jody, helped carry out many of his endeavors. But there are early signs of how various pieces of the Allen empire have been subtly restructured to operate more independently. And rumors have already started about possible sales of Allen’s sports franchises, the Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers.

Large estates such as Allen's have their assets moved into a revocable living trust. Engineered to administer an estate, a trust serves in place of a will, but is not subject to the traditional court process of probate. But the issue of estate taxes remain, with substantial estates facing the possibility of being hit with a combined federal and state estate tax rate as high as 52%.

Douglas Lawrence, a lawyer whose practice includes planning and probate matters at the law firm Stokes Lawrence, says that “It all boils down to: What’s the value of that enterprise?” He expects the process to take a full nine months, and he would not be surprised if the estate asks tax authorities for an extension.

See Matt Day, Paul Roberts, & Benjamin Romano, Paul Allen’s Death Leaves Many Questions Around What’s Likely the Largest Estate in Washington History, The Seattle Times, October 17, 2018.

Special thanks to Jay Brinker (Cincinnati Estate Planning Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 18, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Non-Probate Assets, Technology, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Article on Digitalisation and the Future of National Tax Systems: Taxing Robots?

RoboJoachim Englisch recently published an Article entitled, Digitalisation and the Future of National Tax Systems: Taxing Robots?, Tax Law: Tax Law & Policy eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

It is generally assumed that already in the next decade, the use of labour-saving robots with implemented artificial intelligence will lead to a dramatic transition of the workforce in almost all sectors of production and services. The ensuing loss of jobs that have traditionally been performed by a human employees is likely to result at least temporarily in reduced wage tax and payroll tax revenues, increasing income inequality and a disruption of the labour market. Against this backdrop, the idea of taxing the use of robots that replace human workforce, or even taxing the robots themselves, has emerged in politics and scholarly writings. Several justifications have been brought forward by its proponents: the robot tax has been regarded, respectively, as a corollary to a soon-to-be-expected concession of civil law personhood to robots, as a tax on imputed income earned by means of the robot, as an equalisation levy to restore the level playing field regarding the taxation of robots and of human workers, as an instrument for economically efficient wage compression between winners and losers of automation among the human workforce, or as a corrective tax to slow down the disruption of the labour market.

This paper argues that upon a closer look, the case for taxing robots or their use is relatively weak, though, except when specific conditions are met. There is currently no compelling argument to make robots themselves taxable persons, neither for the purposes of income taxation nor for the purposes of indirect taxes on consumption expenditure. Moreover, significant objections can also be raised regarding suggestions to tax the use of robots. Some of the concepts advanced in literature rely on presumptions that are either conceptually flawed or lack credible empirical support. Other proposals have their merits, but when weighing in on their potential benefits, policymakers will also have to take into account that any tax on robots is liable to result in distortions, complexities, and reduced growth. Besides, proponents of a robot tax tend to underestimate how capital mobility and international tax competition could easily undermine the respective objective of such a tax. As a Pigouvian tax, a robot tax will therefore likely have a very limited field of reasonable application. Regarding income redistribution and revenue raising objectives, the taxation of robots should only be considered as a measure of last resort, and in any event a provisional one. Where politically feasible, priority should instead be given to intensified efforts to tax the return on capital investments and on profits in general, including an adequate taxation of ultimate shareholders. In any event, increasing automation should have implications for the international allocation of taxing rights.

October 17, 2018 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Dies of Cancer at 65

PaPaul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Monday afternoon. Allen was 65 years old and revealed earlier this month that he was receiving treatment for the disease, the same disease he had fought and conquered in 2009.

Allen ranked among the world’s wealthiest individuals. As of Monday afternoon, he ranked 44th on Forbes’ 2018 list of billionaires with an estimated net worth of more than $20 billion. He was also the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. He was an avid electric guitarist who enjoyed jamming with celebrity musicians such as Mick Jagger and Bono, and he funded the Experience Music Project in Seattle (now dubbed the Museum of Pop Culture), devoted to the history of rock music and dedicated to his musical hero Jimi Hendrix.

Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf said, “All of us who had the honor of working with Paul feel inexpressible loss today.” Vulcan is a network of philanthropic efforts and organizations that Allen utilized to support research in artificial intelligence and new frontier technologies. The group also invested in Seattle’s cultural institutions and the revitalization of parts of the city.

Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft with Allen, said that “personal computing would not have existed without him.”

See Christine Wang, Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Dies of Cancer at Age 65, CNBC, October 15, 2018.

October 16, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Podcast: Data Scraping

ACTEC_FoundationData Scraping sounds like something painful that you would have to experience at the dentist.  It is actually the term for aggregating information that is available on the internet and using it for research and even for commercial purposes  Listen to the latest ACTEC Trust and Estate Talk podcast to hear ACTEC Fellow Mark Parthemer of Palm Beach, Florida, discuss this timely topic.

October 11, 2018 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)