There can be no better test of an estate planner's skill than with creative, focused drafting of estate planning documents to achieve client specific objectives. Tremendous value can be added to any estate plan by inventive, thoughtful estate plan drafting. And yet, whether the estate planner feels enriched and intellectually challenged may not be the correct focus. The question is what does the client anticipate and value.
When attorneys draft trust documents, it's important to include maximum flexibility mechanisms to better respond to future tax, societal and beneficiary changes. Despite our clients' and our belief in crystal ball prognosis, these situations really are unforeseeable.
The exit times from family limited partnerships are two fold, during life or at death. And the exit strategy most often applied is complete liquidation of the partnership and distribution of partnership assets. This is particularly true with a family partnership that is made up primarily of marketable assets (a “MAP,” or “marketable asset partnership”).
The article, “Should Pets Inherit?” by Frances H. Foster, is an important practical piece for estate planners. His theme, that pets should be allowed to inherit to a similar extent as individuals, is well argued, but along the way, he points out important pitfalls to practitioners when planning for pet bequests.
Insurance is often touted to be one of those rare assets free of estate tax. Not exactly. It is not free of estate tax to any greater extent than cash or marketable securities. But insurance transferred to a third party, much like cash and marketable securities transferred to a third party, is free of estate tax. And insurance, because it has no value (in the case of a term policy) or minimal value (in the case of a whole life policy) at inception of a policy, is a seemingly easier asset to gift than cash or marketable securities because the transfer of insurance has minimal gift tax concerns.
In the early 1960s, Tyrone Brown a young, tall, black man was arrested by the Chicago police for loitering. Tyrone (not his real name) was belligerent, calling the police many inflammatory names. After a few hours at the police station, the police took him to the hospital, his hands still cuffed tightly behind him. Tyrone died shortly thereafter of internal injuries, the result of severe blows to the abdomen.
Clyde Bowles, a young lawyer, was assigned by the then state’s attorney to head a special investigation to determine if the police were the cause of the injuries and Tyrone’s death.
Recently, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman sentenced TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau to 30 days in jail and fined him $5,000 for direct criminal contempt. Trudeau was found to have bombarded the judge's e-mail account with messages from supporters. The 7th Circuit is considering Trudeau’s appeal and specifically: the nature of Trudeau’s “speech”, whether Judge Gettleman exceeded his authority and whether Trudeau’s actions that resulted in a barrage of 300 emails to the judge’s blackberry should be considered “criminal.” These questions provide a backdrop to discuss the fundamental concept of contempt – civil and criminal – and the circumstances where such findings could be appropriate.