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More on Astrue v. Capato

More on Astrue v. Capato

May 31, 2012

Authored by: Stephanie Moll and Steve Dawson

As we told you a couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Astrue v. Capato, ruling that Robert Capato’s posthumously-born twins were not entitled to receive Social Security survivors benefits as his children. Now that you’ve had a chance to read the case, we thought we’d delve a little more deeply into the Court’s ruling.

Karen Capato gave birth to twins eighteen months after her husband, Robert Capato died of esophageal cancer. Prior to undergoing treatment, Robert froze some of his sperm in case the chemotherapy rendered him sterile. Despite aggressive treatment, Robert died in March 2002, a resident of Florida. Shortly after his death, Karen began in vitro fertilization using Robert’s sperm and conceived, giving birth to twins in September 2003.

Karen attempted

Former N.H. Trust Beneficiaries Not Entitled To Jury Trial

May 31, 2012

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Probate court jurisdiction seems to give practitioners fits (see here and here).  The limited or specialized jurisdiction of probate courts certainly spills over into trust disputes.  In some jurisdictions, this can have far-reaching implications, such as whether a party has a right to a jury trial.

For example, in DiGaetano v. DiGaetano, the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that several former trust beneficiaries appealing the judgment of a probate court were not entitled to a jury trial in superior court on their appeal.  It all came down to the nature of the relief sought and the jurisdiction of the original court in which the action was brought.

New Jersey Testators Do Not Need To Read A Will Before Signing It

May 29, 2012

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As baby boomers enter their 60s, eye disease and vision impairment are likely to become more prevalent in the population.  How might that affect estate planning and will contests?  Are there concerns if a testator cannot read the will he or she is about to execute?

We’ve previously looked at a case where a testator did not need to know the ‘mechanics’ of a will for it to be valid.  Now, we turn to New Jersey, where an appellate court has concluded that a will is not invalid simply because the testator did not read the document before signing it.

The facts of In the Matter of the Estate of Betsy A. Schnitzer are worth a read.  Likewise, the court spends a good deal of time discussing how undue influence presumptions work in New Jersey, which is particularly helpful for New Jersey practitioners.  But, we want

Florida Appellate Court Distinguishes Between Two Limitations Periods For Breach Of Trust Suits Against Trustees

May 23, 2012

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Section 737.307 of the Florida Statutes provides for a limitation of actions against a trustee in two circumstances.  The first limitations period is six-months.  The second limitations period is four years.  So, what’s the distinguishing characteristic between the two limitations periods?

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Regarding Social Security Benefits for Children Conceived after Parent’s Death

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in the case of Astrue v. Capato, No. 11-159, holding that children conceived after a parent’s death through the use of in vitro fertilization are not automatically entitled to survivor benefits under the Social Security law, depending, in part, on whether applicable state law would allow posthumously conceived children to inherit from a parent’s intestate estate (that is, who would inherit under state law if the parent does not have a Will).

New reproductive technology is changing the landscape of determining who qualifies as a child or descendant under the laws of inheritance.  For a more detailed explanation about how this evolving technology could affect your estate planning, see our blog post from September 6, 2011, How Reproductive Technology Can Affect Your Estate Plan in Unforeseen Ways.

Fraud And Undue Influence In Non-Probate Transfers Of Assets

May 21, 2012

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Non-probate transfers of assets can be tough to attack.  First, they’re often hard for estate beneficiaries or heirs to find out about.  Second, even if they do know about them, in Georgia they’re often wrongly challenged in probate court or there’s a probate court ruling or order that makes them difficult to challenge in the appropriate forum. 

That’s why a case like Prainito v. Smith is unusual.  In this case, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict that a decedent’s grandson exercised undue influence and committed actual fraud with regard to a securities account to which the grandson was a joint tenant with the decedent and a certificate of deposit on which the grandson was a payable on death beneficiary.

The appellate court’s failure to flesh out some more of the underlying details of the case and failure to fully address

Where Facebook and Estate Planning Collide

As Facebook prepares to go public on Friday, many news articles, such as this Forbes article, have discussed the fact that Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz have funded annuity trusts, most likely Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), with Facebook stock.  This stock is set to increase exponentially in value with the IPO takes place on May 18.  If these annuity trusts are, in fact, GRATs, they may be transferring millions of dollars worth of Facebook stock to their beneficiaries, potentially free of any transfer tax.

For more information on the benefits of planning with Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts, see our September post by Justin Flach and Doug Stanley, GRAT Planning in a Down Market.

Parties Dispute Which Expenses Can Be Paid From Reserve Fund Created Under Settlement Agreement

May 16, 2012

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When settling a fiduciary litigation case, it’s a fairly common practice to agree to the creation of a reserve fund from which to pay various estate or trust related expenses that will be incurred in the future.  Recent litigation out of Florida reminds us that when creating a reserve fund, you will want to be specific about what expenses can be paid from the reserve.

Breach Of Fiduciary Duty And Undue Influence Complaint Against Church Elder Dismissed

May 14, 2012

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It’s not that often we see a multi-count seemingly detailed breach of fiduciary duty and undue influence complaint get tossed on a motion to dismiss, but that’s what happened in Kaiden v. Zimonja (unpublished).

In affirming the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts helps us understand what’s at the core of undue influence claims.

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