Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rochelle Sterling Victorious in Court

SterlingOn Monday, Judge Michael Levanas of Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that Rochelle Sterling had properly followed the directions of the family trust in removing Donald Sterling as co-trustee and that the sale of the team could be completed.  “This is a new day in Los Angeles and a new day for the Los Angeles Clippers . . . And we want to go forward understanding that it was one woman who stood up against her husband, who had the courage to go to court and prevailed.  So for the cynics out there, sometimes it works out O.K.  This is a Hollywood ending.” 

While the ruling itself was a victory, Ms. Sterling’s lawyers concede that this is not necessarily the end, given that Donald Sterling has two other lawsuits pending and can contest this ruling next month. 

Rochelle Sterling said that she would attend Clippers games and hopes her husband will be able to join her one day in courtside seats.  If the remaining obstacles are cleared, the sale to Ballmer could be approved by N.B.A. owners as soon as September 15th

See Billy Witz, Donald Sterling Loses Bid to Block Sale of Clippers, The New York Times, July 28, 2014.

July 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Roth IRA Conversions

Roth ira

When the income limits on Roth IRAs were lifted in 2010, they grew significantly in popularity.  As a result, the ability to recharacterize a conversion is being used proactively.  To take advantage, advisors help clients convert traditional IRAs into Roth IRAs, then watch the investment.  If it is up, the conversion stays, and if it is down, the account becomes recharacterized, available for a future conversion. 

When an entire traditional IRA is converted into a Roth and subsequently recharacterized, the entire Roth IRA is transferred back to a traditional IRA, since it will already include any gains or losses that occurred during the temporary conversion period.  When the original conversion becomes only a portion of the account, Treasury regulations stipulate that the recharacterizaiton must include a pro rata share of the gains or losses of the entire account. 

See Michael Kitces, Roth IRA Conversions: How to Profit from Hindsight, Financial Planning, July 28, 2014. 

July 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tools to Calculate Benefits Online

Social security 1

Individuals on the cusp of retirement are turning to a growing number of free online programs to help them maximize their Social Security benefits.  Yet before implementing these recommendations, it is important to verify the results with a financial advisor or service with expertise in Social Security.

Online tools typically generate similar results, however, some of the tools do not handle projections for widows, widowers, divorcees and spouses with age gaps.  Provided below are a few of these tools and their overall effectiveness:

  • Social Security Calculator. User friendly but does not allow you to input estimates of your future salary or longevity.
  • SSAnalyze! User friendly and easy to customize.
  • Social Security Planner.  Easy to use, but it is not as customizable as some.
  • Social Security Benefits Evaluator.  Easy to use, but it does not always produce optimal results.
  • Social Security Maximizer.  Deals with many situations, but the system has various glitches.

See Anne Tergesen, Free Online Tools for Optimizing Social Security Benefits, The Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2014.

July 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Estate planning and Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry

Sibling rivalries often emerge in disputes concerning wills or trusts.  Siblings of all ages and economic statuses tend to fight for control and can be stubborn when legal and family matters collide.  When probate disputes are concerning money, most probate litigation revolves around complex and emotional family issues. 

Siblings become involved in probate litigation in various ways.  A sibling may try to contest a parent’s will or set aside a conveyance of real estate.  Conflicts can arise when a parent treats children unequally in a will or trust, or when one sibling cares for an aged parent while another sibling remains distant. 

Communication among siblings is key to avoiding combat.  No matter how complicated the issues are, it is important to try and talk through the issues early in any type of a probate matter.  Furthermore, it is important to have knowledgeable attorneys who can work with parties to explain their rights and represent their interests in any adversarial proceedings. 

See Patricia L. Davidson, Sibling Rivalry in Probate Disputes, The Metro West Daily News, July 27, 2014.

July 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Uniform Voidable Transactions Act Attempts to Clear Up Who Carries Burden of Proof

Burden of ProofAs I have previously discussed, the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act (UVTA), adopted July 16, 2014 by the Uniform Law Commission, amended the 1984 Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA).  One of the changes to the UVTA attempts to address the complicated issue of how burden of proof works in a case when creditors are trying to collect from debtors, and make it clearer than previous versions of the UFTA who has the burden. One addition made by the UVTA is a rebuttable presumption of insolvency if the debtor was not making timely payments.

See Jay Adkisson, The Uniform Voidable Transactions Act and The Shifting of Burdens, Forbes, July 27, 2014.

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

July 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Millionaire Dies Intestate With 30 Possible Heirs

Payment2After the death of Truong Dinh Tran in 2012, the legal battle to distribute his $100 million wealth began and will likely continue for years. Tran left no will, and at least five women had children with Tran for a known total of 16 children. One of the women who is the mother of Tran’s children claims she was married to Tran and a court awarded her half of his estate in May, even though she filed as single on her tax returns. Now, roughly 30 heirs are battling it out over Tran’s millions.

See John Leland, Mr. Tran’s Messy Life and Legacy, The New York Times, July 24, 2014.

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


July 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Funding GRATs With Bitcoins

BitcoinAs I have previously discussed, the IRS issued a notice in March that announced that for tax purposes bitcoins and other virtual currency will be treated as property. This notice created more certainty for using bitcoins for financial planning purposes, but many details are still unclear. Since bitcoin value can increase greatly and rapidly, some grantors wish to fund grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) with bitcoins. However, this same value fluctuation that can result in spikes in value, also makes funding trusts with bitcoins risky. Bitcoins are also an attractive funding source because administration of bitcoin GRATs are relatively low maintenance since transfers are simple and inexpensive.

See Ivan Taback & Nathaniel Birdsall, The Bitcoin GRAT, Wealth Management, July 2, 2014.

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

July 29, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Trusts, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jackson Estate Center of Documentary

JacksonFilm Producer Edward Bass’s new project turns an investigative eye toward the executors of Michael Jackson’s estate. The documentary titled “Follow the Money” will likely cover the continuing legal battles by the estate, which have resulted in $17 million in legal fees. One such lawsuit the estate is currently involved in is with Bass over a previous movie about Jackson.


See Richard Johnson, Jackson Documentary Tangled in Lawsuit, Page Six, July 26, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Planning For Your Kids

Children2It is important to have a plan in place for your children in the event of your death.  Who will be your child’s guardian and who will be the guardian of your estate?  While these difficult decisions may not have one right answer, there are several important considerations to take into account when you are making your will and planning your child’s future.

Although you are allowed to designate someone as the guardian of your child, in most states the court has the final decision as to who will be the most appropriate caregiver.  “It’s at the discretion of the court as to what’s in the best interest of the child.”   When drafting your will, it is important to take into consideration that your money and your child can go in opposite directions.  Two types of guardians can be specified in your will—the guardian of the child, and the guardian of the property of the estate.  Though they can be the same person, that is not a requirement.  “Naturally, the answer is different for everyone and depends on what you want for your child as well as his or her caregiver . . . The person who looks after and cares for your child may not be the same person you’d want handling his or her financial life, as they may require a different skill set.  To control risk, some people decide to keep the roles separate.” 

The best way to do this is by creating a trust.  In establishing a trust, you can be explicit about how those funds are to be used for the care and education of the child.  When thinking about the appropriate dollar amount to leave for your child’s care, remember that children are expensive.

See Kathryn Tuggle, How to Give Away Your Kids, The Street, July 28, 2014.

July 28, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

University of Montana School of Law seeks Property Professor

Montana University

The University of Montana School of Law invites applications for a tenure-track ssistant Professor of Law in property law.  Below is the official announcement of the position.

Best place to live and teach in the U.S.:  The University of Montana School of Law anticipates hiring a full-time, tenure-track professor beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year to teach in the area of property and related courses.  We are committed to integrating theory with practice, making substantial practice experience in the areas to be taught particularly valuable.

Title: Assistant Professor
Position Type: Academic
Closing Date: Screening begins 9/12/2014; applications accepted until further notice or the position is filled
Full time academic year position (10 month contract) beginning fall semester 2015
Entry Rate: $72,000-$76,000
Benefits: Medical Insurance/Mandatory Retirement/Professional Development/Partial Tuition Waiver/Wellness

Primary Duties: Primary duties include teaching, scholarship and service, as set forth in the University of Montana School of Law Faculty Handbook. UM Law faculty may also be asked to assist with clinical course supervision.

Specific duties include: Teaching a required Property Law course to ~83 students, along with related elective courses such as intellectual property; advising students with questions about the practice and study of property law; interacting with state, tribal, and federal constituencies; producing scholarship and other written creative achievement; and engaging in professional service, including participation on law school and university committees. 


  • Juris Doctorate degree from an ABA accredited law school
  • a superior academic background
  • substantial relevant practical experience in property law
  • potential for effective teaching
  • potential for scholarship
  • the ability to work collegially with students, staff, faculty, and external constituencies of the law school
  • creativity, resourcefulness, fairness, compassion, and initiative

Application review will begin September 12, 2014, and continue until the position is filled.  

Apply online only at http://umjobs.silkroad.com

IMPORTANT: Please do not send applications directly to the University of Montana School of Law.  Applications sent directly to the School of Law will not be considered or forwarded to Human Resource Services.  Only applications submitted through the UM online applicant system will be considered. No exceptions.  For a full position description, list of materials & instructions to apply, visit https://umjobs.silkroad.com/   

July 28, 2014 in Faculty Positions -- Permanent | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)