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Joe Paterno Transfers His Interest in His House to His Wife for $1: Legitimate or Not?

The Penn State scandal has dominated media headlines in recent weeks.  While the vast majority of the coverage has been directed toward the alleged criminal acts and potential cover-ups, there has been a fair amount of buzz surrounding Joe Paterno’s July 2011 transfer of his entire interest in his home to his wife for $1.  Many have speculated that Joe Paterno had no legitimate reason to transfer sole ownership of the house to his wife, and that he must be trying to shield assets from potential civil litigation.  While I will not speculate as to Joe Paterno’s rationale for making such a transfer, I believe it is incorrect to take the position that there is no legitimate reason for doing so.  In many instances, spouses can reduce their potential estate tax burden by making inter-spousal transfers of assets.

The following is a simple example of how an inter-spousal transfer can

Georgia Court Rules That Son Did Not Unduly Influence Father

November 23, 2011

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We’ve previously noted that undue influence cases are very fact specific.  In other words, the results of undue influence estate litigation will vary greatly based on the underlying facts.  Of course, this leads to bad facts often making bad law in this area.

In Simmons v. Norton, the Georgia Supreme Court had occasion to remind us of what doesn’t constitute undue influence under Georgia law.

Grandson Failed To Satisfy Requirements For Parol Gift Of Land

November 21, 2011

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It’s probably not a good idea to try to make an oral gift of land.  There’s a reason why the law does not look favorably on oral contracts to transfer land, and there’s a reason why proving an oral transfer of property is so difficult.  Not that it’s impossible.  While the Statute of Frauds generally requires transfer of an interest in land to be in writing, there are exceptions.

In Jones v. Kirk, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed the line between what is – and what is not – a valuable improvement to the subject property so as to move the needle in favor of an enforceable oral agreement to transfer real property.  Here’s a hint – moving your mobile home onto the land isn’t a “valuable improvement.”

Georgia Executor Converted Estate Assets

November 18, 2011

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Georgia Executor Converted Estate Assets

November 18, 2011

Authored by: Luke Lantta

In In re Estate of Tapley, the Georgia Court of Appeals took on a number of procedural issues regarding litigation over the Estate of Opal Mae Tapley.

The case highlights a common problem with fiduciary litigation – estate disputes often span multiple courts and involve multiple separate lawsuits.  The case therefore serves as a good reminder to fiduciary litigators that it is their responsibility to follow proper procedure or risk losing a damage award on appeal.

Methods of Giving

Methods of Giving

November 16, 2011

Authored by: Stacie J. Rottenstreich and Karin Barkhorn

As we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season many of us turn our thoughts to gift giving to family and loved ones. The Federal gift tax system allows us some opportunities to do such “gifting” in a tax free manner. A few states impose independent state gift taxes, so an expert in your state should be consulted before considering any of these gifting transactions. Each individual has a total of $5,000,000 he can give away during his lifetime before owing any gift tax. However, there are several gifting opportunities which do not count as part of your $5,000,000 lifetime total. It is as if the Federal tax law has deemed them non gifts. Present interest gifts of $13,000 in 2011 and 2012 to any number of recipients are not subject to gift

If You Want To Bind Heirs To An Agreement, Then You Better Say So

November 16, 2011

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In contracts and settlement agreements, we usually see boilerplate defining an individual party as including that individual party’s “heirs, personal representatives, agents, transferees, servants, employees, attorneys, representatives, successors and assigns” or something similar. 

You also regularly see a paragraph stating something like “this Agreement shall be binding upon the undersigned and their respective heirs, executors, administrators, successors, transferees, assigns, agents and attorneys.”

So, how important is this boilerplate?  According to the Missouri Court of Appeals in Anderson v. Parker, very important.

Wisconsin Testator Did Not Need To Know “Mechanics” Of Will

November 14, 2011

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While a testator’s desires about how property should be divided may be easy, the testamentary schemes that actually effect the disposition of that property can be painfully complex.  Aggrieved beneficiaries and plaintiffs’ lawyers often try to exploit the complexities of actually distributing the property rather than attacking the testator’s simple overall desire as to how the property should be divided.  In other words, an aggrieved beneficiary may try to claim that the testator should know the specific mechanics of how the property will be divided rather than simply understanding who gets what.

In Cychosz v. Cychosz, the testator, Stella Cychosz, had a relatively simple testamentary scheme that involved moderately complex mechanics regarding the disposition of the property.  One of the estate beneficiaries claimed that Stella didn’t have full knowledge of significant portions of her will.  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals disagreed.

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