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BCLP Team to Present on Litigation Risks of COVID-19 Remote Witnessing and Notarization

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have temporarily authorized remote witnessing and notarization of estate planning documents. These laws present a unique set of litigation risks, which can be mitigated with careful planning.

BCLP Partner, Doug Stanley, and Associates, Andrew Bleyer and Sasha Riedisser, will be discussing this topic on a Federal Bar Association webinar on Friday, May 15 at 2 p.m. CST. You can register for the webinar here.

THE TOM PETTY ESTATE: A CAUTIONARY TALE IN BUSINESS SUCCESSION PLANNING

When a celebrity’s death hits the newswires, it’s often immediately followed by reports of the size of the deceased’s estate and the identity of the beneficiaries.   In addition, not infrequently public battles among the beneficiaries ensue.  Some disputes are the result of the simple (yet, significant) error of dying without an estate plan, as in the Prince estate.  Others provide specific lessons demonstrating the need for attention to detail when creating an estate plan, such as in Tom Petty’s estate.

Tom Petty was a historically-acclaimed singer-songwriter and record producer, who performed as a solo artist and as the lead singer for the Heartbreakers.  Upon his death in October of 2017, his trust directed the trustee, his second wife, to establish an entity to be used to hold and control Petty’s sizable and valuable music catalog.  The terms of the trust ascribing control of the entity provide, as follows:

What Happens to My Digital Assets on Death or Incapacity?

What Happens to My Digital Assets on Death or Incapacity?

February 6, 2019

Authored by: Stacie J. Rottenstreich and Karin Barkhorn

 

A recent New York case, Estate of Swezey (NYLJ, 1/17/19 at pp. 23, col. 3) highlights the confusion in the laws of many states regarding the administration and distribution of digital assets at a decedent’s death.  In this case, decedent’s executor asked Apple to turn over decedent’s photographs stored in his iTunes and iCloud account.  No provision in decedent’s Will specifically authorized the executor to access decedent’s digital account.  The Court relied on the relatively new section 13-A in the New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (“EPTL”), Administration of Digital Assets which provides for different procedures for the disclosure of electronic communications, in contrast to the digital assets.  To disclose electronic communication specific user consent is required or a specific court order for an identifiable reason.  Other digital assets, such as

Need Another Reason To Avoid Mixing Family & Finances?

July 25, 2017

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You have a big heart and a little bit of money.  You want to help out a cash-strapped family member, and – “because you’re family” – you don’t put down how much you’ll loan or how it’ll be paid back.  You would hate to do it, but, in a worst-case scenario, you suppose a court could help you get it back.  Through its opinion in Roberts v. Smith, however, the Georgia Court of Appeals may have made it harder to get that money or property back from a family member through an implied trust.

Four siblings arranged to purchase a home for the benefit of one of the siblings.  All of the siblings verbally agreed to contribute money toward the purchase and maintenance of the house.  One of the siblings testified that “[n]obody had a set amount to pay,” and another testified that “we

Transferring Property To A Trust: It’s Not What You Meant, It’s What You Said

June 21, 2017

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When we put pen to paper, sometimes the words don’t come out right.  If that happens, hopefully there’s an opportunity to explain what we meant.  Most times that’s true – even in estate planning.  For example, we have seen how scrivenor’s errors can be explained.  But, for the second time in less than a year, Georgia has limited the role evidence of the settlor’s intent plays under Georgia trust law. In Gibson v. Gibson, the Georgia Supreme Court strictly applied a statute governing the transfer of property to a trust to determine that mistitled brokerage accounts were never transferred to two trusts regardless of the settlor’s intent.

In Gibson, the Georgia Supreme Court had to decide a number of issues arising out of a divorce.  One of the multitude of issues on appeal was whether

House Held In Trust Lost Marital Asset Status

December 22, 2016

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In the afterglow of a wedding, the spouses probably don’t immediately start thinking how the bliss they feel may end spectacularly and expensively.  Chances are they may even start estate planning, thinking how they can seamlessly transfer assets to the other.  In Nelson v. Nelson, a Florida appellate court reminded us that the estate planning choices spouses make, however, have far-reaching consequences if before death they doth part.

Husband and wife bought a house together in California and titled it in both of their names.  They then transferred the home into an irrevocable trust established for the benefit of the wife and her descendants, and named the wife as the sole trustee of the trust.  Husband and wife divorced and a Florida trial court characterized the house as a marital asset subject to equitable distribution.  The Florida appellate

Your Estate Planning New Year’s Resolution Checklist

(This is an updated post from December 2015)

Need a New Year’s resolutions to kick start 2017? Here is an idea you probably hadn’t considered: review your estate planning documents.

If you are like most people, you are probably thinking that reading legal documents does not sound like an even remotely enjoyable way to start a new year. But, it doesn’t have to be as unpleasant as it sounds. Reviewing your documents does not mean you have to read them cover to cover. If you know what are the most important elements, it is easy to review your will, trust, and powers of attorney regularly to ensure they still comply with your wishes. These documents not only determine who will receive your property when you die, but also likely determine who has the right to make financial and major medical decisions during your lifetime. Needless to say, it is important

How Far Can A Grantor Go In Eliminating The Duty To Account?

December 1, 2016

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Trusts are often used to transfer wealth privately without the messiness of a public estate administration.  That financial privacy can get blown, however, when trusts become the subjects of very public litigation.  In open court and in publicly available filings, dollar figures, assets, and dirty laundry can get thrown about for anyone to see.  This is especially true in trust accounting actions, which dig into the financials: income, expenses, assets, investment performance, and so on.  In Estate of Fuller, however, the Court of Appeals of Mississippi indicated that a grantor may be able to shroud a trust in greater secrecy through restrictive language in the trust instrument.

The trust at issue was a private trust that provided that the trustee would not “be required to account to any

When The Power To Amend Doesn’t Actually Mean You Can Amend

October 20, 2016

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Circumstances, laws, and taxes all change.  And, when they do, many settlors don’t want their beneficiaries to have to go into court to get permission to roll with the changes.  That’s why you often find a trust provision that permits non-judicial amendments to the trust.  The breadth of these powers to amend differ from a narrow power to amend to a broad power to amend, like the one before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Grueff v. Vito.  There, the power to amend a family trust provided:

This Agreement may be revoked, altered or amended from time to time by an instrument in writing, signed by the holders of not less than seventy-five (75%) interest herein and delivered to the Trustee.

The beneficiaries used that amendment power a number of times over the years.

THE CHOICE IS NOW YOURS

THE CHOICE IS NOW YOURS

October 6, 2016

Authored by: Kathy Sherby and Charles Lin

Rev. Proc. 2016-49

The recent issuance of Rev. Proc. 2016-49, which modifies and supersedes Rev. Proc. 2001-38, now puts the taxpayer in the driver’s seat. Recall that in Rev. Proc. 2001-38, the Service was providing relief for the surviving spouse when an unnecessary QTIP election was made, by treating such a QTIP election as though it had not been made. Practitioners began to question whether Rev. Proc. 2001-38 would render a QTIP election a nullity when made in order to qualify for a state marital deduction where such an election was not needed to reduce the Federal estate tax liability to zero. Then when portability came into the picture, the enhanced concern about basis adjustment at death drove practitioners to want to make a QTIP election even though not needed to reduce the estate tax liability, to permit the surviving spouse to make larger gifts that would not

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