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Same-Sex Marriage Legal Nationwide

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In a landmark opinion, the Supreme Court rules today that states cannot ban same-sex marriage. The majority opinion in the 5-4 decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.  Today’s ruling overturned a decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which said states had legitimate reasons for maintaining the traditional definition of marriage.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were,” Kennedy wrote. “As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.”

Trust Reformation Was Not A Remedy For Failing To Complete An Estate Plan

June 24, 2015

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With several recent cases in which Massachusetts courts have permitted trust modification, we might have started to think that trusts would be liberally reformed in Massachusetts.  The Appeals Court of Massachusetts’ decision in Lesanto v. Lesanto (Rule 1:28 decision), however, reminds us that certain requirements must be met to reform a trust.

In October 2005, Paul Lesanto executed a will and the Paul Lesanto 2005 Revocable Trust (“First 2005 Trust”).  The bulk of Lesanto’s estate would pour over into the First 2005 Trust.  In 2010, however, Lesanto executed a new trust document that retained the name “The Paul Lesanto 2005 Revocable Trust” (“Second 2005 Trust”), but specifically provided that “[t]he Grantor wishes to establish a Trust which may receive property which the Grantor may transfer to it.  The Grantor hereby revokes all prior Trusts.”  (Emphasis in original.)   The Second 2005 Trust had different

Review of Income Tax Deduction Rules for Charitable Gifts

According to area newspaper the St. Louis Post Dispatch, one of St. Louis’ wealthiest families, that of Enterprise Holdings founder Jack Taylor, is making some very large charitable donations this week–a total of $92.5 million to 13 cultural institutions and charities, most local to St. Louis.

In light of this, we thought now would be a good time to remind everyone of some of the basic income tax deductions available for gifts to charities.

Section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) governs income tax deductions for charitable contributions. In the case of an individual making a cash gift to a Section 501(c)(3) organization classified as a “public charity” (such as churches, schools, hospitals, and governmental units), the gift is deductible for federal income tax purposes so long as the aggregate gifts do not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (“AGI”) for the taxable year.

Tennessee Will Witnesses Must Sign Will Itself

June 10, 2015

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Just how strictly does Tennessee construe the formalities relating to the execution of a will?  Very.  In In re Estate of Bill Morris, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee considered what it meant for the witnesses to sign the will.  In this case, the decedent’s son filed a will contest claiming that the decedent’s will was not properly executed because the will was not signed by witnesses as required by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 32-1-104.  This statute requires the testator and at least two witnesses to sign the will.

The decedent signed the second page of the will and immediately following the testator’s signature began on the same page an “affidavit” of the witnesses, which continued onto a third page where the two witnesses signed the affidavit.  While the two witnesses signed the affidavit, they did not sign any other part of the

Mission: Possible–Saving Estate Taxes on Life Insurance

The trailers for the newest installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, are being released and, as always when we see actors performing daredevil stunts, it makes us think about life insurance.  Hazard (I use the term loosely, in light of what these guys do) of the job, I guess.  So, once again, we thought we’d remind everyone about the use of life insurance trusts to reduce estate tax by re-posting the blog we wrote in after seeing his stunts for Ghost Protocol.

And, for your viewing pleasure, share another video of Mr. Cruise’s stunts.  (I’m starting to think Tom Cruise or Mission: Impossible should start sponsoring our blog!)

It’s true, it is possible to transfer life insurance proceeds to your beneficiaries without having to pay estate tax on those proceeds.  An insured can create an irrevocable trust that is designed to be the owner and beneficiary

Time Limit For An Estate Accounting

June 3, 2015

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Estates can be left open for a long time.  Like decades long.  And during that time, an executor is going to continue to owe certain fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries of the estate, such as the duty to provide an accounting to the beneficiaries.  In In re: Estate of John Malcolm Wade, the Georgia Court of Appeals examined the time limit in which a beneficiary may bring an action for an accounting of an estate.

In this case, the estate had been open since 1987 and was still open in 2012 when one of the beneficiaries (Mary, who was also a co-executor with her four siblings) petitioned the probate court to obtain an accounting of her co-executors’ dealings on behalf of the estate.  The siblings claimed that Mary’s action was time-barred under Georgia’s ten-year statute of limitation for actions against executors while

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