Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ME Destroys Wedding Ring

Gary's ring

When Gary McInich was watching the fireworks with his family on his boat on July 4, 2013, another boat slammed into them and Gary was thrown overboard and killed.  The driver of the other boat left the scene but turned himself in four days later.  That man goes on trial this spring. 

Gary’s widow, Linda, said the only thing she wanted of her husband’s was the wedding ring she had put on his finger.  Yet, after months of asking the Medical Examiner’s office for the ring, she was appalled when they told her it had been destroyed. 

For the past month, Linda has been trying to uncover why it was destroyed, but has gotten no answers.  “What do you do at that point? What can you do? What rights do I have? The ring’s gone.  The ring’s gone,” she said, heartbroken. 

See Lori Fullbright, State ME ‘Destroys’ Man’s Wedding Ring, Wife Wants Questions Answered, Oklahoma News 9, Feb. 25, 2015.

March 3, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NBA's First Black Player Dies at 86

Earl Lloyd

Earl Lloyd, the first black basketball player in the NBA, died last Thursday in Tennessee at age 86. 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, “The NBA family has lost one of its patriarchs.  He was known as a modest gentleman who played the game with skill, class and pride.  His legacy survives in the league he helped integrate.” 

As the only black on his team, Lloyd faced racial challenges on and off court.  He was spat on by fans, not allowed to eat in some restaurants with his team, and some hotels refused to let him stay. 

He was the Pistons’ head coach for several years, and then worked as a job placement administrator in Detroit’s city public schools.  Lloyd retired to Crossville, Tennessee with his wife, Charlita.

See Barry Stavro, Earl Lloyd Dies at 86; First Black Player in NBA, LA Times, Feb. 27, 2015.

March 3, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tougher Rules for Retirement Brokers


President Barack Obama has thrown the weight of the White House behind his plan that would make it difficult for brokers to push higher fee mutual funds or other expensive products on people saving for retirement.  The plan to be issued by the Labor Department would require brokers to act in a customer’s best interest, a change that could limit the earnings of financial advisers in the handling of Americans’ $11 trillion of retirement savings.  Labor Secretary Tom Perez stated, “I’m confident we can actually do more to help the small and moderate savers in the context of the proposal we will be putting forth.”  He further stated, “Financial advisers absolutely deserve fair compensation.  But they shouldn’t be able to take advantage of their clients.”

Former employees of companies such as AT&T, Hewlett-Packard Co. and United Parcel Service, have complained that brokers persuaded them to roll their 401(k)s into high-cost, unsuitable IRA investments.   However, some argue that subjecting brokers to a fiduciary duty will lead to more lawsuits against the industry and add burdensome compliance requirements.  Furthermore, the added costs will likely cause brokers to drop client accounts with less than $50,000 of assets, leaving those investors to manage their own savings. 

See Dave Michaels, Obama Backs Tougher Rules for Brokers on Retirement Funds, Bloomberg Politics, Feb. 23, 2015.

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

March 3, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Problems With Boilerplate Advance Directives

Hospital care

An advance directive is a legally valid form that enables a person to choose the type of medical care he or she wishes to receive.  It goes into effect when that person is no longer able to speak for himself.  Nursing homes typically highlight advance directive completion rates with pride, as an attempt to show they are concerned about patients’ preferences. 

However, advance directives that come from nursing homes are cookie-cutter similar.  Almost all indicate that a patient has stated that all attempts to prolong life should be pursued and no treatment is unacceptable—regardless of prognosis.  The witnesses are typically the admissions clerk and the social worker, hardly ever the physician. 

Unfortunately, this is the reality for many individuals.  Discussing values, preferences and goals in the event of debilitation is difficult and time consuming.  Since nursing homes are paid to care for patients in perpetuity, their employees may not be the right people to oversee the completion of these ever-important forms.  It may be time to begin questioning our blind trust in patient autonomy.  This may be in fact harming, rather than helping patients nearing the end of their lives.  Thus, in order to obtain better care, and to provide it, directives need to be created, updated, accessible and incorporated into treatment.

See Jessica Nutik Zitter, When ‘Doing Everything’ Is Way Too Much, The New York Times, Feb. 7, 2015.

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

March 3, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CLE on Effective Use of Trust Protectors

CLEThe American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education (ALI CLE) is presenting a CLE entitled, Effective Use of Trust Protectors: An Evolving Role, Tuesday March 24, 2015, 12:30 – 1:30pm, online and by phone.  Here is why you should attend:

Not all roles for trust protectors are the same.  Issues can arise that need to be clearly, directly and completely addressed when designating a trust protector to serve.

Are there drafting traps that can cause issues when using trust protectors? How can a planner deal appropriately with the question of fiduciary liability? How do state statutes affect appointments of trust protectors?

Learn the latest developments in the role and use of trust protectors in this fast-paced discussion among estate planners with decades of experience interpreting complicated trust laws.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • How state statutes affect the use of trust protectors
  • Drafting tips to outline the scope of trust protector powers and duties
  • How the use of alternate decision makers impacts the administration of trusts

March 3, 2015 in Conferences & CLE, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lawsuits Against Iowa Attorney's Estate Claim Over $9 Million

Gavel BWAs I have previously discussed, the estate of late Iowa attorney David Roth is facing multiple lawsuits from Roth's former clients. Additional claims have been brought, including a $1.89 million claim from VerJean and Eugene Walther who allege that the money from their 2012 car crash settlement is missing. The lawsuits against Roth claim over $9 million against his estate. Additional lawsuits may add to this total as those claiming to be victims of wrongdoing doing by Roth can file their cases until March 6.

See Ron Steele, Claims against Roth estate surpass $9-million-Deadline Approaches, KWWL, Feb. 25, 2015.

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

March 3, 2015 in Estate Administration, New Cases, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Learning From the Estate Problems of Robin Williams

Robin WIlliams BlogAs I have previously discussed, in spite of thorough planning, the estate of Robin Williams faces additional legal action from Susan Williams, the spouse of the late actor. The issues at the forefront concern a fund to pay for the upkeep of the home left to Mrs. Williams and the disposition of Mr. Williams' various collectable items. However, these problems may be avoided by remembering the following tips:

  • Specify who gets what item, particularly when the testator has a large or valuable collection of memorabilia.
  • Gather all the heirs for a meeting to make sure everyone is clear on the property distribution.
  • Bring in professional witnesses during the planning process to raise questions about potential problems and conflicts that might face the estate.
  • Include a will provision that will deter potential heirs from challenging the estate plan.

See Tom Nawrocki, Lessons From the Robin Williams' Estate Plan Mess, Life Health Pro, Feb. 25, 2015.

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

March 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Civil War Sword Returned to Soldier's Gravesite


In 2012 Ted Gonzalez, owner of the Pacific Diamond and Swiss Watch Exchange, bought a civil war sword from an estate dealer.  “I thought it was unusual just because I’ve never bought one before [so] I decided to buy it and decided to keep it,” said Gonzalez.

It was not until client Paul Perrone noticed the name Lt. Edwin Coe engraved on the weapon did Gonzalez know what do with the sword.  Coe was a union soldier from Worcester, Massachusetts, serving in the 57th Regiment.  He died on June 16, 1864 leading a charge during the Battle of Petersburg. 

Perrone subsequently contacted Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia, who confirmed his findings.  The sword was sold and shipped to the battlefield, and from there Chris Bryce used historical documents to pinpoint exactly where Coe died.  Bryce and his colleague took the sword to where Coe fell.  “For me, being right there where Coe was killed and fell in battle defending what he believed in, takes your breath away.  It’s certainly how I field when I was standing out there,” said Perrone. 

See Cam Tran, Civil War Sword Returned to Soldier Killed in Battle, KITV, Feb. 26, 2015.

March 2, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Texas' First Same-Sex Marriage: Product of Creative Lawyering

Gay marriage texas 2

Attorney’s who followed the tornado of legal arguments surrounding Texas’ first legal same-sex marriage said that the newlyweds’ counsel “beautifully executed a creative legal strategy to help their clients tie the knot.”

Austin lawyer Chuck Herring handled the case pro bono for his longtime friends and a 30-year couple, Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend.  After a local judge declared the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in a probate case, the women sued the Travis County clerk, whereby a judge then issued a temporary restraining order forcing the clerk to issue the women a marriage license.  Thirty-eight minutes later the women were married and the lawsuit was dropped. 

Bryant described her wedding day as surreal and nerve-wracking, but also special: “When the rabbi came and we had the religious ceremony is when it really hit me.  That slowed me down, brought me back down to earth, and I realized we were married not only with a valid marriage license in the state of Texas, but we were married in the eyes of God by our rabbi.” 

Family law attorney Michelle May O’Neil said the plaintiffs’ lawyer used “very creative lawyering.”  She explained, “It’s not something that anyone ever tried here—or been successful in trying—to get a marriage license issued.  It’s so creative: It’s like a chess game, and everyone is making different moves and seeing which ones are working out.”

See Angela Morris, The Wedding Planner: A Step-By Step Legal Analysis of State’s First Same-Sex Marriage, Texas Lawyer, March 2, 2015. 

March 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Understanding Estate Creditors


There is nothing more painful than the loss of a loved one.  During this time, it is important to understand how to handle an estate.  In deciding how to best approach any estate matter, one must first understand how the estate creditors are paid.  Consider to whom payment should be made, in what order, if the claim is valid, and whether or not the estate has the funds to make the full payment requested. 

Typically, estate liabilities are paid in the following manner: reasonable funeral expenses, estate administration, taxes, medical, debts presented, judgments entered against a decedent as well as any other claims.  If there is not enough money to pay all valid estate creditors, a document entitled, “Notice to Limit Creditors” may be filed with the surrogate’s office. 

It is important to note that all claims presented do not need to be paid.  It must be a valid claim for the estate to be required to make a payment.  A personal representative of an estate has three months after receiving a claim to accept or deny the claim. 

See Victoria Dalton, What You Need to Know About Estate Creditors, NJ.com, March 1, 2015.

March 2, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)