Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, June 17, 2024

The World’s Richest Will Transfer $31 Trillion—Mostly to Gen X—by 2033, Study Finds

Screenshot 2024-06-16 at 9.33.40 PMWithin the next decade, 1.2 million people worth at least US$5 million will transfer an estimated US$31 trillion to their heirs, according to a new study. Most of this money is going to individuals in their mid-to-late 40s, who are at the tail end of what is known as Generation X, Altrata said in the report. That’s contrary to a common view that much of the upcoming wealth transfer will affect millennials—those born from the early 1980s to mid-1990s—or even Gen Z, those born in the late 1990s to the early 2010s, the report said.

In North America, the average age of children who are inheriting wealth from ultra-wealthy parents (those with at a net worth of at least US$30 million) is 46.1 years, while those inheriting from the very wealthy (those with a net worth of US$5 million to US$30 million) is 47.6 years, the report said. According to the firm’s research, the average age of those expected to transfer their wealth within the decade is 75, with 25% aged 80 or more. Only about 10% of the individuals passing on their wealth are women, the report said.

“Family dynamics will tend to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in the transition process, given often contrasting intergenerational worldviews, business outlooks and legacy aspirations,” the report said. “More often than not, succession will not only involve the handover of family wealth but also a transfer of values.” Those issues promise to be thorny given the current backdrop of “more frequent geopolitical conflict, rising political populism, heightened trade restrictions, widespread anti-elite and anti-immigrant sentiment, more extreme climate events, and growing fiscal pressures from aging populations,” Altrata said.

For more information see Abby Schultz "The World’s Richest Will Transfer $31 Trillion—Mostly to Gen X—by 2033, Study Finds", June 12, 2024.

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

June 17, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Valve confirms your Steam account cannot be transferred to anyone after you die

Screenshot 2024-05-27 at 9.43.07 PMValve has confirmed that Steam accounts cannot be transferred to another person after the account holder's death. This policy means that the ownership of a Steam account and its associated game library remains non-transferable, even if specified in a will. Users are prohibited from sharing account access, merging contents with another account, or providing another person with their login details according to Steam's Terms of Service​.

This confirmation has sparked discussions among gamers regarding the implications of digital ownership. Many users express frustration, noting that significant investments in game libraries are effectively lost upon death. Some have suggested informal solutions like leaving login credentials to family members, although this technically violates Valve's policies and could result in account deactivation​.

The policy highlights a broader issue in digital asset management, contrasting with some other digital services that offer legacy options. As digital ownership becomes more prevalent, there may be increasing calls for legal and policy changes to address these concerns and provide clearer solutions for digital inheritance​.

For more information see Kishalaya Kundu "Valve confirms your Steam account cannot be transferred to anyone after you die", TechSpot, May 27, 2024.

May 28, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

What Attorneys Need to Know About Handling Pet Care in Wills

PetsIn recent years, pets have become integral members of countless families, prompting many pet owners to include their beloved companions in their estate planning. However, navigating the complexities of pet trusts within wills can pose challenges for both attorneys and pet owners alike. 

One of the primary obstacles in addressing pet trusts within wills is the lack of proper oversight and implementation. Many wills lack clear instructions, leading to disputes and confusion among designated caregivers. To mitigate these issues, attorneys must draft pet trusts with precise instructions and establish clear responsibilities for caregivers. By doing so, they can ensure that the welfare of pets remains a top priority even after the owner's passing.

The notorious case of Leona Helmsley’s pet trust serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the potential complications that can arise without proper planning. Helmsley left $12 million in a trust to her dog but excluded two of her grandchildren. The court decided to take $6 million from the pup’s trust and give it to the disinherited grandchildren. To avoid similar situations, attorneys must include contingency plans and designate alternative caregivers in pet trusts. By anticipating potential challenges and providing clear instructions, attorneys can safeguard the well-being of pets and minimize conflicts among beneficiaries.

The case of Nancy Sauer sheds light on the difficulties in handling pet care in wills, particularly when resource constraints come into play. Sauer left $2.5 million to her seven Persian cats to ensure they were kept together. However, after difficulty in completing this request, the cats ended up in the humane society. To address these concerns, attorneys should ensure adequate funding is provided in pet trusts to cover the pets’ lifetime expenses. Additionally, establishing mechanisms for regular oversight and consulting with pet care administration professionals can help navigate the complexities effectively.

For pet owners seeking to include their furry friends in their estate plans, there are several options to consider, including pet trusts, testamentary gifts, and planning for incapacity. By taking proactive steps to address their pets’ future care, pet owners can ensure a lasting legacy and peace of mind.

Recognizing the growing demand for pet-centric estate planning, pet care administration companies have emerged to provide specialized services in this niche area. These companies offer a wide range of services, including caregiver evaluation, sourcing pet caregivers, and overseeing pet trusts, making it easier for attorneys and pet owners to navigate the complexities of estate planning involving pets.

Incorporating pets into estate planning requires careful consideration and strategic planning to ensure their future well-being. By addressing key issues, learning from cautionary tales, and seeking assistance from pet care administration companies, attorneys and pet owners can navigate the complexities of pet trusts with confidence, safeguarding the welfare of their beloved companions for years to come.

For more information see Robert Greene What Attorneys Need to Know About Handling Pet Care in Wills”, American Bar Association Probate & Property, May 8, 2024.

May 15, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Article: Regulation of Electronic Wills in Kenya: A Case for Reform?

Mitchelle Musyoka (Independent) recently published, Regulation of Electronic Wills in Kenya: A Case for Reform?, 2024. Provided below is an Abstract:

We live in what has been termed ‘a quicksilver technological environment’. Regardless of perceived ethical or enforcement limitations, laws have become increasingly significant in applying general principles to the electronic environment. Some people will argue that ‘technology can be just as powerful as the law in constraining or regulating digital activity.’ Legal technology has a low penetration in succession laws in Kenya. The place of legal technology in Kenyan succession laws and the accompanying role of technology in succession will be examined in this paper. The paper will then present recommendations for reforms in the Kenyan succession laws to accommodate legal technology.

May 7, 2024 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Sorry, Boomers, your kids don’t want your beloved china

Istockphoto-503375581-612x612A change in attitude towards family heirlooms and collectibles, adds a new emphasis to the importance of estate planning to make sure that these timeless items find suitable homes. A social media post about a woman devastated by her children's lack of interest in her valuable china and silverware illustrates how generational shifts and lifestyle changes can alter the significance of family heirlooms. Fox’s Dan Gainor advises against leaving such items to disinterested heirs, advocating for their sale while the owner is still able to secure the best value.

The best solution is proactively planning, especially regarding collections, by identifying which family members will actually appreciate the value and cherish your belongings. Leaving clear instructions in your will is essential in ensuring your items are treasured long after your passing. 

Check your will! Where are your precious heirlooms going? Who actually wants them? This article dives into what estate planning strategies you can use to make sure your belongings are possessions are passed on to those who will appreciate and treasure them, thus preserving their legacy for future generations.

For more information see Carol Roth “Sorry, Boomers, your kids don’t want your beloved china”, Fox News, April 8, 2024.

April 23, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 22, 2024

Meghan Trainor's will ensures her voice can't be used by 'spooky' technology after her death

Meghan-trainor-tout-032124-fbf0aa6905584dde9701d91420c4fffdWith the rise of AI technology, Meghan Trainor found a solution to control the use of her voice and likeness after her death. After voicing her concern about what AI can create, she told Fox News Digital that she added a clause in her will stating that no one can use her voice after her death.

Other celebrities, like Robin Williams, have included clauses in their wills that prevent the use of their likeness for a certain number of years in their will. Paul McCartney told BBC Radio 4 that another Beatles song is in the works thanks to an AI generation of John Lennon’s voice. Even though Lennon passed over 40 years ago, AI technology can use a demo of Lennon’s voice and “get it pure” so the band can mix the record as they normally would.  

Though some celebrities are embracing the new advancements of AI and what it can do to bring artists' vocals back to life, others are afraid of their voices being used without their knowledge. Addressing this concern by putting a clause in their will is a definite way to ensure they are in control of their sound and what is created of them after they die.

For more information see Larry Finks “Meghan Trainor's will ensures her voice can't be used by 'spooky' technology after her death”, Fox News, April 19, 2024.

April 22, 2024 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Article: When Helping Hurts: Issues With Texas' New Statutory Fill-In-The-Blank Wills

Craig Woody (Texas Tech University School of Law)  recently published, When Helping Hurts: Issues With Texas’ New Statutory Fill-In-The-Blank Wills, 2024. Provided below is an Abstract:

Societies that promote testamentary freedom have always sought to address the challenge of providing access to estate planning for impoverished individuals. One solution that many states began implementing in the latter part of the twentieth century was statutory form wills. However, the trend quickly fizzled out as legislatures weighed the benefits with the realization that statutory forms are not necessarily user friendly. Studies found that most of the form wills are filled out incorrectly which results in probate issues and estates being resolved through intestacy laws. After a long hiatus, Texas renewed the focus on statutory form wills when it passed legislation in 2015 which directed the Supreme Court of Texas to draft fill-in-the-blank wills. This comment aims to demonstrate that the push for form wills in Texas causes more issues for indigent Texans than it solves. The solution is to either repeal the legislation, amend the implementation to an online format, or loosen parole evidence laws to facilitate the probate of incorrect form wills.

April 17, 2024 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Article: The Viability of Inserting Descriptive Photos in Wills: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Gerry W. Beyer and Scout S. Blosser (Texas Tech University School of Law) recently published, The Viability of Inserting Descriptive Photos in Wills: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, ABA Probate & Property, March/April 2024. Provided below is an Abstract:

Specific testamentary gifts are a very important component of a will. They help clients pass important family heirlooms as well as transfer assets of high value. A specific gift can invoke a complicated and tedious process for the estate planner and for executors. Specific gifts of tangible personal property require precise descriptions with sufficient detail so that a person completely unfamiliar with the testator’s property may determine exactly what property is being gifted.

The necessity for specific detail is enhanced when gifts of similar nature are being gifted to multiple beneficiaries. For example, assume a client has 10 rings and she wishes to give them to 10 different grandchildren. Each ring would require a description with sufficient specificity to ensure that the executor transfers the correct ring to the correct grandchild.

Traditionally, the estate planner needs to include lengthy and tediously-drafted descriptions in the will. But could an estate planner alleviate the uncertainty surrounding specific gift descriptions through the insertion of photographs of the property being described? An insertion of a photograph of the item, coupled with the description, would provide an additional layer of assurance to the testator that the gift will take effect as intended.

This article discusses the viability of this technique and the steps estate planners should take if they elect to try this untested technique.

March 24, 2024 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Ante-Mortem Podcast Released by ACTEC

Prof. Gerry W. Beyer’s podcast entitled A Discussion of Ante-Mortem Probate, a process of validating the will of a living person available in some states, was released as the March 19, 2024 issue of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel’s Trust and Estate Talk.

March 20, 2024 in Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Is a Will Better than Intestacy?

Professor Emerita Kris Knaplund of the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law recently published her article entitled Is a Will Better than Intestacy?, 92 U. Cin. L. Rev. 631 (2024).  "The article asks and answers 5 questions: Are deathbed wills rare, obviating the need for strict attestation requirements? Does having a will mean a shorter probate period than dying intestate? Less litigation? Fewer abandoned cases, because the testator has chosen the personal representative? These are all arguments of the fundamentalism crowd to encourage the probate of more wills."

March 13, 2024 in Articles, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)