Last Week in Estate Planning (July 24 to July 30, 2011)

August 2, 2011
300px USDebt1 Last Week in Estate Planning (July 24 to July 30, 2011)

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The possibility of the U.S. government defaulting on its obligations dominated the news last week.  Two links below, including the Post of the Week, discusses the future effects of the raised debt ceiling that is now signed law.

Top Posts and Articles of the Week

Post of the Week

Making a Deal in Washington (Capital Letter No. 28), Ronald D. Aucutt, Esq., – cited by Making a Deal in Washington, William Alan Nelson II, Wealth Strategies Journal 2.0.

  • Mr. Aucutt is a nationally recognized estate planning attorney with McGuireWoods in Virginia.  His article draws fascinating parallels between the debt ceiling debate and previous and future estate tax debates.

Honorable Mentions

Beneficiary Can be Trustee Without Estate Tax Inclusion, Bryan Howard, Esq., Tennessee Estate Planning Law.

  • Mr. Howard on the importance of using proper phrasing when leaving a gift in trust to a beneficiary.  He shows an example of the impracticality of deviating from the IRS definition of “ascertainable standards”.

DAP Trust: Dealing with your Digital / Online Rights and Propert Correctly, David Goldman, Esq., Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Blog.

  • In this post about digital estate planning, Mr. Goldman writes a detailed list of the different types of online assets we should pay particular attention to when drawing up an estate plan. 

When Estate Plans Fail, Estate of Denial – citing When Estate Plans Fail, Saabira Chaudhuri, The Wall Street Journal

  • Ms. Chaudhuri discusses what can happen if you forget to include your pets and children posthumously conceived in your estate plan.

Top Stories of the Week

State Developments

In Mississippi – Transfers to Spouse Not Presumed to be under Undue Influence, Ronald C. Morton, Esq., Ronald Morton’s Elder Law Blog.

  • A recent Mississippi Supreme Court case states that a gift from one spouse to another spouse is presumed not to be a result of undue influence.  Therefore, in Mississippi, a person who challenges a will against a gift to a decedent’s spouse, the challenger has the burden of proving the spouse’s undue influence over the decedent.

In New Jersey – Trial Court Decisions Concerning The Choice Of An Appropriate Guardian Most Often Upheld On Appeal, Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq., Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli Blog.

  • Most appellate courts throughout the country do its best not to challenge factual findings of the original trial court.  This post provides a New Jersey Appellate Division case that applies this standard in a state probate matter.

In New York – Decanting From Irrevocable Trusts, Beth D. Tractenberg, Esq., Trusts & Estates.

  • Nearly 20 years after passing the nation’s first decanting trust law, New York has recently modernized its statute to allow more flexibility for trustees.
  • Basically, a “decanting power” in a trust is one that allows a trustee to appoint trust property into another trust.

Federal Developments

Democrats Can Lose Debt Fight, Win on Bush Tax Cuts, Ezra Klein, – cited in Democrats Can Lose Debt Fight, Win on Bush Tax Cuts, Brian Spring, Wealth Strategies Journal 2.0.

  • Mr. Klein posits that Democrats will be able to use the debt ceiling compromise against Republicans in late 2012.

Entertainment and Human Interest

Singer Amy Winehouse Leaves Behind Iron Clad Estate Plan, Prof. Gerry W. Beyer, Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog.

An Unwanted Inheritance, Hannah R. Buchdal, The Daily Beast, Newsweek – cited in Cleaning the Mess Hoarders Leave Behind, Prof. Gerry W. Beyer, Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog.

Judge rules in favor of Marvel in suit brought by Jack Kirby’s heirs, Dawn C. Chmielewski, Company Town Blog, Los Angeles Times – cited in Judge Rules in Favor of Marvel Comics, Prof. Gerry W. Beyer, Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog.


Article on Schafer v. Astrue, Prof. Gerry W. Beyer, Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog.

  • Professor Kristine S. Knaplund of Pepperdine University School of Law summarizes a 4th Circuit suit regarding whether a child born seven years after the death of the father is entitled to Social Security benefits.
  • The article also includes a helpful list of cases involving postmortem conception children and inheritance rights.

Reform the Gift Tax Annual Exclusion to Raise Revenue, Prof. Bridget J. Crawford, Pace University School of Law, Tax Notes, Vol. 132, p. 443, 2011.

  • Professor Crawford proposes to eliminate the “present interest” requirement of section 2503 of the Internal Revenue Code, and to equalize the annual exclusion amounts for the gift tax and generation-skipping transfer tax.
  • The effect of implementing these strategies would be to keep individuals giving large annual gifts from having to keep close track of smaller birthday and winter holiday gifts and otherwise simplify estate planning.

Please feel free to nominate any top estate planning posts or articles for the week of July 31 to August 6, 2011 in the Comments section below.  Enjoy your week!

 Last Week in Estate Planning (July 24 to July 30, 2011)
 Last Week in Estate Planning (July 24 to July 30, 2011)


Scott R. Zucker, Esq. is the owner of The Zucker Law Firm PLLC, located just outside the Capital Beltway in Annandale, within five miles of the City of Fairfax, the county seat of beautiful Fairfax County, Virginia. The firm focuses mainly on estate planning services for Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania clientele, and seeks to do so in an affordable and approachable way. People interested in learning more can contact Scott by phone or email.

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