Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

American-Born Countess Leaves $41M Fortune to Interior Designers, Not Husband's Son

ParkGloria Clary was the second wife of the eighth Earl Bathurst, and after his death became the Dowager Countess Bathurst. She decided to forgo her American citizenship in 2008, allegedly to get out of paying U.S. taxes, and reportedly had a sour relationship with her late husband's son, Lord Allen Bathurst. But recent news still came to a shock to the estate: Dowager Countess Bathurst completely wrote her step-son out of her will, opting instead to give her $41 million fortune to two interior designers. She had passed away in 2018 at the age of 90.

After the Earl "Barmy Bathurst" died in 2011, his son inherited a tony 15,000-acre estate in Gloucestershire called "Cirencester Park," where the Countess and the late Earl had lived. Allen said that there were legal battles recently over whether or not she would have access to the sprawling home for the "use and enjoyment" of the family's collection of heirlooms, which was worth £13 million, or approximately $16.7 million.

"Having married into the family, she was happy to use the family name," the Lord added. "It was just disappointing that she could not follow in the manners, standards and loyalty of the family of the past."

See Stephanie Pagones, American-Born Countess Leaves $41M Fortune to Interior Designers, Not Husband's Son, Fox Business, November 13, 2019.

November 13, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

CLE on Current Developments in Estate and Tax Planning 2019

CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a webcast entitled, Current Developments in Estate and Tax Planning 2019, on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Provided below is a description of the event.

Why You Should Attend

Do you want to provide your estate planning clients with the best possible advice going into the new year? Are you up-to-date on the most significant developments to have come out of 2019? Set aside just 90 minutes to gain valuable insights on emerging trends in estate and tax planning, and learn how the newest cases, IRS guidance, and proposed regulations will impact your practice and your clients’ estate plans.

What You Will Learn

The faculty, all Fellows of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and highly-experienced estate and tax planning practitioners, anticipate discussing:

• Inflation adjustments
• IRS Priority Guidance Plan
• Court decisions of significance, including: Kress, Jones, Dieringer, Kaestner / Fielding
• Presidential candidate proposals
• SECURE Act
• Anti-clawback regulations
• Estate and gift tax proposed legislation
• Uniform basis PLRs
• PLR on §1041 & grantor trusts
• Regulations on 170 SALT limitation workaround
• IRS Chief Counsel Advice on high/low trading prices

Additional breaking topics may be added as we get closer to the date of the program.

All registrants will receive a set of downloadable course materials to accompany the program.

Who Should Attend

Estate planners and other related professionals will benefit from this CLE on estate and tax planning developments jointly offered by the ALI CLE and ACTEC.

November 13, 2019 in Conferences & CLE, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, New Cases, New Legislation, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Article on Fixed Intentions: Wills, Living Wills, and End-of-Life Decision Making

WillJane B. Baron recently published an Article entitled, Fixed Intentions: Wills, Living Wills, and End-of-Life Decision Making, Elder Law eJournal (2019). Provided below is an abstract of the Article. 

Contemporary trusts and estates law is built on the premise that individuals can and should have fixed intentions with respect to the disposition of their property at death. These intentions can and should be fixed in a written document, and that document can and should be fixed against other outside evidence of intention. Experience with end-of-life health care decision making gives reason to question these premises. In the health care context, intentions have proven to be fluid, and the documents purporting to record individuals’ wishes have often proved unreliable.

This paper examines the implications for wills of the literature on end-of-life health care decision making. Advance health care directives and property wills are alike pre-commitments, attempts in the present to bind the future, but studies in the end-of-life health care decision making context show there are serious issues with this process. Individuals simply do not care to decide about post-competency treatment, those who do make such decisions often change their minds, and cognitive biases operate to limit individuals’ ability to predict accurately in the present what they will want in the future. Many of these issues arise also in the context of end-of-life property decision making and unsettle many of wills law’s fundamental premises about intention.

The final part of the paper suggests avenues for further empirical study and explores the practical significance of this potential research for estates law, particularly the potential to displace the vision of the estates attorney as a passive scrivener who simply asks what the client wants and writes it down. It may be that the wishes expressed in a will may be formed in response to, and shaped by, the attorney’s questions rather than being brought out by those questions. The paper concludes by asking whether there might be a way to honor fluid intentions in the property context that does not destroy the utility of testamentary documents as a safe harbor.

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

Season Ticket Transfers and Estate Planning: Football [Michigan]

FootballWhen putting together a will, often times people diligently lay out a laundry list of specific requests that have immense sentimental value. The gifts could involve cars, jewelry passed down through the family, or pieces of art. But for those that share a special pastime of watching sports with a child or other beneficiary, the ability to pass on season tickets might be one of the most memorable and meaningful component of an estate plan. Depending on the sports program, this ability could be attainable.

  • Detroit Lions
    • Season tickets can be transferred with prior approval of the ticket office, but partial transfers or subdividing accounts are generally not approved.
  • Michigan Wolverines
    • Officially, only a surviving spouse can be transferred season tickets, but the office may be willing to work with other family members. Since 2015, tickets can be transferred while alive during the month of December, with a nonrefundable transfer fee. Parking and priority points (used for bowl and away games) are not transferrable.
  • Michigan State Spartans
    • During life or at death, season tickets can only be transferred to the ticket holder's spouse, unless the holder has acquired special permission.

For other states' professional and collegiate teams, be sure to inquire about their season ticket policies.

See Rebecca K. Wrock, Season Ticket Transfers and Estate Planning: Football, Varnum Law, November 11, 2019.

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

November 12, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Sports, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Cars Singer Ric Ocasek Cuts Supermodel Wife Paulina Porizkova Out of Will

Ocasek-divorce-2Cars' front man Ric Ocasek, 75, passed away in September while recovering from a recent surgery and was found by his estranged wife, Paulina Porizkova, when she was bringing him coffee. Though this act is undeniably sweet, the two were in the middle of a divorce after being married for 28 years. Citing this, Ocasek laid out in his will that his wife was not to receive any portion of his estate, “Even if I should die before our divorce is final … Paulina is not entitled to any elective share … because she has abandoned me.”

A filing listed with Ocasek’s will show that his assets include $5 million in “copyrights," just $100,000 in tangible personal property and $15,000 in cash. This amount may seem low for a rock legend, but the copyrights were not detailed, and there may more stashed away in trusts to protect his privacy. 

His wife was not the only one that appeared to get the short end of the stick - two of his six sons also were not designated as beneficiaries. But they may have been compensated in other ways, either before his death or through a trust. 

Ocasek signed the will on Aug. 28, less than a month before his death, and the executor is named as his “friend and business manager,” Mario Testani.

See Priscilla DeGregory and Aaron Feis, Cars Singer Ric Ocasek Cuts Supermodel Wife Paulina Porizkova Out of Will, Page Six, November 7, 2019.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) and Jim Hartnett, Jr. (Dallas, Texas Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 11, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Why Ashton Kutcher is Leaving Nothing to his Kids

AshtonAshton Kutcher and his wife, Mila Kunis, stated recently that they plan to leave their children nothing, instead giving any money they have earned from Hollywood or their investments to charity, including sex-trafficking causes. Kutcher has invested in several tech companies with his venture capital firm A-Grade Investments, so he understands that his children are already living what he believes is a "privileged life." He specifically said that they will not be receiving any trust funds.

Half of people that are destined to receive an inheritance receive $50,000 or less, and 30% will receive between $50,000 and $249,000 according to Federal Reserve data. Completely cutting off children is an unorthodox approach; teaching them positive life-long habits that can contribute to more beneficial payoffs may be more proactive, and could bloom into long-term financial security.

See Mitch Tuchman, Why Ashton Kutcher is Leaving Nothing to his Kids, Market Watch, November 9, 2019.

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

November 10, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Television, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Book on Wills, Trusts, and Estates: A Contemporary Approach

WillsbookLloyd Bonfield, Joanna L. Grossman, and William P. LaPiana recently published a Book entitled, Wills, Trusts, and Estates: A Contemporary Approach, West Academic (2019).  Provided below is a summary of the book.

This casebook is designed to present in a comprehensive yet streamlined fashion the law of Wills, Trusts, and Future Interests to 21st–century law students. It assists the student in developing an understanding of the core legal concepts critical to a grasp of wills, trusts and future interests in a novel format that is clear and easy to understand, while maintaining the intellectual rigor of the subject. The book covers the standard topics, but is organized in an innovative fashion. It begins with an estate planning problem which introduces the student to the craft of the practitioner, providing context for the introduction of substantive law. It then presents the law of wills law by reference to the law governing the testator, the document and the property. Attention is given to non-probate transfers, and in particular, the law of trusts, private and charitable. A model trust instrument is also provided. It concludes with a comprehensive look at future interests and the rule against perpetuities. As with other books in the Interactive Casebook Series, it challenges students to think about issues raised by the cases as they are considered in the opinion through the use of text boxes. The accompanying electronic version allows students immediate access to the full text of cited cases, statutes, articles, and other relevant materials.

November 1, 2019 in Books, Books - For the Classroom, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, New Legislation, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

CLE on Shielding Estate Plans Against Litigation Webinar: Proactive Steps to Take Now

The Peak Trust Company is presenting a webinar entitled, Shielding Estate Plans Against Litigation Webinar: Proactive Steps to Take Now, on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Provided below is a description of the event.

Litigation relating to estate planning seems to be increasing all over the country, and it is not limited to large estates. Proactive steps can be taken now to drastically reduce the chances of your clients' wishes being challenged. Some of the topics we will cover include:

- Reducing the chances a disgruntled beneficiary will attack your client's estate plan

- Increasing the chances that the estate plan will be successfully defended using discretionary trusts, no-contest clauses, and conditional distributions

- Common litigation scenarios and how to avoid them

- Anticipating challenges based on dementia, lack of mental capacity, and undue influence

- Dealing with beneficiaries’ spouses and divorces

- Protecting against mismanagement by trustees and trust advisors

- Using statements of intent and overcoming adverse presumptions

October 29, 2019 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Why Can’t My Brother-In-Law Bob Be the Executor of My Estate?

FiduciarydutyStuart C. Bear recently published an Article entitled, Why Can’t My Brother-In-Law Bob Be the Executor of My Estate?, Wealth Strategies Journal, October 14, 2019. Provided below is the abstract to the Article.

Fiduciary selection is crucial to the success of an estate and disability plan. Even a great plan can go awry if a fiduciary fails to uphold his or her fiduciary duties or fails to follow the terms of the Will or Trust. Add family dynamics to an already stressful situation and things go from bad to worse.

October 29, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

How Much Inheritance Is Too Much?

MoneyhandsThere is a mindset among many that those with wealthy parents have no need to study hard, as success will be simply handed to them. On the reverse side, financially-set parents have a fear that their children will become complacent and dependent upon them, so will not become beneficial citizens to society.

In early adulthood people forge a part of their identity that stays with them. Parents and grandparents worry that if that generation of descendants acquire a vast amount of wealth, it with quash their desire to work. There is no specific study on this subject, especially since it is not that sympathetic of a view point, but many financial consultants say that an inheritance is not necessarily a worth-ethic destroyer. In fact, most of them are not extravagant, with 85% coming in at less than $85,000 and the majority under $50,000. But for some, there may be a valid fear: A wealth-management consultancy called the Spectrem Group recently estimated that about 1.4 million American households have $5 million to $25 million to their name, and another 173,000 hold wealth in excess of $25 million.

The resonating quote from Warren Buffet provides some insight into the question of how much to give to children and grandchildren: “A very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing.” Some families, such as that of Scott Nash, the founder of the East Coast grocery chain Mom’s Organic Market, want their children to believe nothing is coming their way. He wants them to make their own way, and then provide for them to maintain a "good" lifestyle.

See Joe Pinsker, How Much Inheritance Is Too Much?, The Atlantic, October 25, 2019.

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

October 26, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (2)