Helping Families Navigate the Financial Challenges of Age Transitions

Category: Legal Issues (Page 2 of 4)

Suspension imposed after appeals judge is accused of making himself a beneficiary of ex-client’s will

The Georgia Supreme Court has suspended a state appeals judge with pay during an ethics investigation.

The court suspended the judge, Christian Coomer, on Wednesday, Law360 reports.Coomer is accused of making himself a beneficiary and his wife the executor when drafting wills for a then-client, according to, Law360 and the Daily Tribune News.

Coomer is also accused of drafting an irrevocable living trust for the client that designated Coomer as the trustee and beneficiary, with the power to transfer funds to himself while the client was still alive, according to the Dec. 28 charges by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Source: Suspension imposed after appeals judge is accused of making himself a beneficiary of ex-client’s will

Funeral and burial disputes 

Think you’ll just let your family members decide how to dispose of your body when you die? This is a burden that is accompanied by a lot of stress and pressure to make some major decisions during a very emotional time. Imagine if one of your children thinks you should be cremated, and another believes only in Christian burial.  Do you really want to leave it up to them?

It’s not uncommon for disagreements to arise between family members and loved ones over funeral arrangements, burial disputes or possession of ashes. So, who has the ultimate say and what can you do? Richard Adams, senior associate in the Contested Wills, Trusts and Estates team at Hugh James who has advised clients in a number of such cases, considers this delicate and sensitive issue.

Source: Funeral and burial disputes – Legal Futures

Can a Trustee be removed for being a Pain in the backside?

In this episode of the case files, I discuss the Texas case of Ramirez vs. Rodriguez, et. al., a case that involves four sibling co-trustees and the attempt by three of them to remove their trouble-making brother because of his hostile actions. Is being a royal pain in the derriere enough to remove a trustee from office.

This case reminds me of a scene from an episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an Amazon original series that I have featured in the video.

Both this case and the scene from the series drive home the point that sometimes mixing family and money can be an explosive combination.

Choose your trustees carefully!

Elder Law firm gets sued by client for referring her to a fraudulent advisor

It is common practice for professionals to refer clients to one another. Clients often don’t want to shop around for someone when a professional they are already working with knows another professional to whom they can refer. Many avoid referring a single professional, preferring instead to provide 3-4 references that the client can contact on their own.

A Hartford CT firm specializing in elder law is facing a malpractice lawsuit from a client who claims it referred her to financial advisor, Thomas Renison, who stole some $400,000 from her over the course of a decade.  Apparently, the law firm also received a referral fee from Renison.

The complaint states the firm knew or should have known about Renison’s “dangerous” history. Renison was barred by the SEC in 2014 but resurfaced through a 3rd party LLC and is now facing charges of “allegedly using the LLC to defraud seniors of $6 million between 2015 and 2018.”

It’s always the bad apple that spoils the bunch.

Source: Risky Business: Malpractice Suit Alleges Hartford Firm Got a Fee for Referring Client to Fraudster | Connecticut Law Tribune

Court of Appeals Affirms That Will Was Product of Undue Influence

The Law Firm of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, recently published the trial court results of a case involving a charge of Undue Influence brought by the two adult children of William Moriarty.

Mr. Moriarty was widowed in April 2016. William had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and congestive heart failure following Doreen’s death. Eve, who had been married three times previously and had met William while Doreen was alive, began dating him within weeks after Doreen’s death.

Afterward, Cathy and Paula noticed a marked change in their relationship with their father, though they did not learn of his and Eve’s relationship until soon before they were married. Eve and William married about seven months after Doreen’s death, and neither Cathy nor Paula were invited to, or attended, the wedding.

From firing William’s caregiver to procuring a new will for him through her own lawyer, Eve also was named as joint owner of a new, large home purchase shortly after their marriage, as well as of a new $60,000 Lexus.

Relying on an expert witness, the court determined that William’s physical and psychological impairments made him vulnerable to undue influence.

The trial court was convinced that Eve exercised undue influence over William due to multiple facts presented at trial, including the dramatic shift in his estate plan only one month before his death and Eve’s involvement in procuring his will and surrendering his life insurance policy. The trial court was less than impressed with Eve’s demeanor in court, noting her “flat affect during emotional testimony,” which left the court “with no confidence that Eve married William because she loved him and with the conclusion that Eve planned to take all of William’s money all along.”

Ultimately, the trial court declared that the purported will was invalid due to William’s lack of capacity and Eve’s undue influence over him, and it ordered that William’s estate be distributed as if he had died intestate.

The court also ordered Eve to transfer title of bank accounts, the house and the car — all of which she otherwise would have received as a joint owner — to William’s estate.

Source: Court of Appeals Affirms That Will Was Product of Undue Influence | Publications | Insights | Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

American Bankers Association Releases the “Mind Your Loved Ones” App

Few things sound as bad as being in the hospital alone. Healthcare workers have become surrogate mothers, fathers, friends, and children, in this new-normal of self-sequestered living. To exacerbate matters, hospitals are often in need of critical medical documents such as emergency contacts, healthcare directives, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Orders and the like.

To help with the latter problem, the American Bankers Association (ABA) has released its Mind On Your Loved Ones App that allows family members to store this critical information on their smart phone or tablet, and share it with medical professionals and hospitals if they cannot be present.

Having this information in the hands of those we’ve entrusted to carry out our wishes if we’re unable to speak for ourselves is important. Even more so now that we cannot be assured that our loved ones will be at our side if current events prevent it.

Mind Your Loved Ones, known as MYLO, is a mobile app that gives individuals the ability to store their own and their loved one’s critical medical information, health care directives, and other related data on their Apple or Android phones, iPads® or tablets. ABA members can download the app at a discounted price.

Source: MYLO – Mind Your Loved Ones

Am I liable for losses in my parents’ accounts during the COVID crisis?

If you manage your parents’ investment accounts because they are not capable, you may have watched helplessly the past several weeks as their stocks fell by thirty percent or more from the S&P 500 index highs in mid-February to its low point so far on March 23rd.

They say blood is thicker than water, but money is thicker than blood in my experience, so if you are managing your parents’ accounts, you may have concerns that either they or some extended family members may feel you should have done something to prevent the declines in your parents’ accounts.

In this video, I offer three tips to lessen your exposure to liability.

Do you really want to be an executor?

You may find that you have been named as executor (executrix if you are female) of your parents’ will. After reading the duties below, you may not want the job. It is a tiring, time-consuming, and frequently a thankless responsibility that you may want to resign from– and certainly have the right to do so.

Some of the more important duties and responsibilities of being an executor include:

  • Find the latest will and read it.
  • File a petition with the court to probate the will.
  • Assemble all the decedent’s assets.
  • Take possession of safe deposit box contents.
  • Consult with banks and savings and loans in the area to find all accounts of the deceased. Also check for cash and other valuables hidden around the home.
  • Transfer all securities to your name (as executor) and continue to collect dividends and interest on behalf of the heirs of the deceased.
  • Find, inventory and protect household and personal effects and other personal property.
  • Collect all life insurance proceeds payable to the estate.
  • Find and inventory all real estate deeds, mortgages, leases and tax information. Provide immediate management for rental properties.
  • Arrange ancillary administration for out-of-state property.
  • Collect monies owed the deceased and check interests in estates of other deceased persons.
  • Find and safeguard business interests, valuables, personal property, important papers, the residence, etc.
  • Inventory all assets and arrange for appraisal of those for which it is appropriate.
  • Determine liquidity needs. Assemble bookkeeping records. Review investment portfolio. Sell appropriate assets.
  • Pay valid claims against the estate. Reject improper claims and defend the estate, if necessary.
  • Pay state and federal taxes due.
  • File income tax returns for the decedent and the estate.
  • Determine whether the estate qualifies for special use valuation under IRC Sec. 2032A, the qualified family-owned business interest deduction under IRC Sec. 2057 or deferral of estate taxes under IRC Sees. 6161 or 6166.
  • If the surviving spouse is not a U.S. citizen, consider a qualified domestic trust to defer the payment of federal estate taxes.
  • File federal estate tax return and state death and/or inheritance tax return.
  • Prepare statement of all receipts and disbursements. Pay attorney’s fees and executor’s commissions. Assist the attorney in defending the estate, if necessary.
  • Distribute specific bequests and the residue; obtain tax releases and receipts as directed by the court.
  • Establish a testamentary trust (or pour over into a living trust), where appropriate.

If you find the task to be too over-whelming, talk to your parents about it if you can. Examine their wills to see if anyone is named as an alternate and discuss these duties with that person. You may even find that the person(s) named as executor are no longer living; or they may have named a bank trust department with which they no longer do business.  If you feel it is a duty that you can and want to do, be sure to contact a qualified lawyer in your parents’ state of residence to help you in the process.

5 Reasons I Regret Filing A Will Contest

When a family member has died, it can add insult to injury to learn that you were cut out of the will. Contesting the will is likely an initial thought. We talked to people who have filed will contests, and came up with the top 5 reasons I regret filing a will contest.  The reasons are:

  1. I was not honest about my relationship with the decedent.
  2. A will contest is more stressful than I realized.
  3. I was not realistic about decedent’s mental and physical condition.
  4. I did not have a clear idea of what I was fighting over.
  5. I did not realize how much a will contest would cost.

For a breakdown of each of these five reasons, follow the source below.

Source: 5 Reasons I Regret Filing A Will Contest | Probate Stars

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