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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes That Everyone Can Learn From

James Gandolfini: No Need to Pay Extra Taxes

The actor and producer most renowned for his role as mafia boss Tony Soprano left only 20% of the estate to his wife. The remainder was left to his children, friends, and relatives. Since his estate was above the estate tax threshold, the result was that approximately 55% of the estate's money went to pay the taxes and fees! 

He could have avoided this onerous payment. It would have been done by gifting assets during life, leaving more money to his wife directly (there is an unlimited marital deduction for a US citizen spouse) or by setting up a specialized trust which gave income for life to his spouse but left her with no control to dispose of the assets upon her death. 

Either way, with proper planning, millions of taxes could have been avoided. 


Read more . . .


Monday, August 6, 2018

Notable 2018 Supreme Court Decisions: Collection of State Sales Tax on Internet Retailers

When you buy goods on the internet and the seller is located in another state, should you pay tax? As a consumer, you’d like to say no. But the Supreme Court tackled this question in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.

The Court had to decide if the dormant Commerce Clause prohibits states from requiring sellers with no physical presence in the state to collect and remit sales tax for goods sold within the state. In the past, in the 1992 Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Court ruled that states could not impose tax on businesses with no physical presence in the state.


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Friday, August 3, 2018

Notable 2018 Supreme Court Decisions: Compelled Speech

Can the government force private organization to express messages they disagree with?

The issue of compelled speech and viewpoint discrimination was reviewed by the Supreme Court in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra. The Court ruled that the government cannot force private organizations to express messages that they disagree with.

National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) is a religious, pro-life organization that provides pregnancy related services in the State of California. Per California Reproductive Freedom statue, certain clinics that provide family planning services to pregnant women must notify them of free or low-cost abortion services.


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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Notable 2018 Supreme Court Decisions: Freedom of Religion vs. Anti-Gay Discrimination

Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was one of the most awaited decisions of the year. The Supreme Court had to balance the interests of freedom of religious expression vs. anti-gay discrimination.


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Friday, July 27, 2018

Notable 2018 Supreme Court Decisions: Expectations of Privacy in a Digital Age

In Carpenter v. United States, the Court had to grapple with modern technology and expectations of privacy in a world of shared data. Some called this decision “the most consequential privacy decision of the digital age”.


Read more . . .


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Notable 2018 Supreme Court Decisions: Travel Ban

Trump v. Hawaii was one of the most divisive decisions of the Supreme Court during the 2017 term. President Trump’s Proclamation No. 9645 called for temporary travel restrictions to the United States for aliens from eight countries (Chad, Iran, Lybia, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen). The media called it the “Muslim ban”. But was it? And  did it fall within presidential authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and did it violate the Establishment Clause?


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Friday, July 20, 2018

Notable 2018 Supreme Court Decisions: Partisan Gerrymandering

One of the most interesting cases decided this year by the US Supreme Court was Gill v. Whitford. The case concerned redistricting and gerrymandering. It was a unanimous decision by the court (9 to 0).  In the opinion of most analysts, the Supreme Court wasted a historic opportunity to correct a wrong that cannot otherwise be solved by a political process.


Read more . . .


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Must an Executor or a Trustee provide an Accounting?


Being an Executor of an Estate or a Trustee of a Trust comes with having fiduciary responsibility to the ultimate beneficiaries. One such responsibility is to provide an accounting: a report of all the revenue and expenses.

There are several instances where an accounting might be done:

  1. Usually, the Executor or a Trustee will provide an informal accounting prior to making the final distribution from the Estate or the Trust. As part of this process, the Executor or Trustee will ask the beneficiary to sign a Release and Waiver Agreement, designed to protect the Executor or Trustee from liability.

  2. Sometimes, the beneficiaries may request an accounting.
    Read more . . .


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Was your aunt unduly influenced by her neighbor when she transferred her house to him?


Issue of undue influence comes up often in the context of contested probate proceedings. A relative dies, and when the heirs start going through the estate of the dearly beloved, it turns out that there is not much left. Apparently 3 months before her death the aunt transferred her $2MM Manhattan apartment to a next door neighbor. And she named that same neighbor as a beneficiary on her $1MM IRA account and on her $500K life insurance policy. The question then arises – were these transfers made out of free will or were these the result of undue influence?

Undue influence requires a finding that a person was restrained from acting independently, or was constrained to do that which was against her free will and desire.
Read more . . .


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Are you at risk to have your Will invalidated?

A Will execution has many formalities - ensure that your attorney actually knows them!

Most people think that writing and signing a Will is easy. I often hear from friends "Any attorney can do it", or better yet "It's so easy, I don't need an attorney, I will do it myself".

Well, do so at your own peril. Remember that the content of your Will is only half of the calculation for getting a Will probated, since Wills can and often do get invalidated based on improper execution, particularly when the Will is executed without an attorney being present. The latest case in point: Matter of Costello, 136 A.


Read more . . .


Friday, July 15, 2016

Rich and Famous Planning: Lessons learned from Prince’s mistake


As most people by now know, the artist Prince died without a Will. The family is now set up for tens of thousands in legal costs and years of delay before the money gets distributed.

When a person dies without a Will, regardless of the size of his estate, numerous problems come up. These include:

  1. Executor. The person who will be named in charge of your estate may not be the person that you would have liked.


Read more . . .


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