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Todays topic: rights of spouses and children Can individuals write their spouses out of their estate plans? Does it matter whether they use a will or non-probate.

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Presentation on theme: "Todays topic: rights of spouses and children Can individuals write their spouses out of their estate plans? Does it matter whether they use a will or non-probate."— Presentation transcript:

1 Todays topic: rights of spouses and children Can individuals write their spouses out of their estate plans? Does it matter whether they use a will or non-probate transfers, like trusts, to dispose of their assets? You cant take your money with you, but can you at least make sure it doesnt go to an estranged spouse? What about descendants? Can they be intentionally omitted from a will? What if they are unintentionally omitted from a will? 1

2 Presidents Day George Washingtons will Abraham Lincolns will 2

3 Rights of surviving spouse to support Social Security Surviving spouse receives worker's monthly benefits. Employee Pension Plans ERISA gives spouse of employee survivorship rights to pension plan. Homestead Right to occupy family home for lifetime (UPC=$22,500). Personal Property Set-Aside Right to tangible personal property up to a certain value (UPC=$15,000). Family Allowance For support of surviving spouse during probate (UPC = reasonable allowance). Automatic $25,000 in Indiana. Dower and Curtesy Life estate in one-third (dower) or entirety (curtesy) of land (abolished in Indiana). 3

4 Marital property systems Community PropertySeparate Property All property acquired during the marriage is community property, unless both spouses agree to separate ownership. Sharing of acquisitions as equals in marital economic partnership. No automatic sharing of earnings; whatever individual earns is his or hers. Protection against disinheritance provided through elective share. Individual autonomy over acquisitions. 4

5 Community property states MT WY ID WA OR NV UT CA AZ ND SD NE CO NM TX OK KS AR LA MO IA MN WI IL IN KY TN MS AL GA FL SC NC VA WV OH MI NY PA MD DE NJ CT RI MA ME VT NH AK HI 5

6 Are surviving spouses elective share rights based on partnership or support? Under a partnership theory, the elective share should be greater for the 50-year marriage than the one-week marriage property acquired during, rather than before, marriage. Under a support theory, the elective share should be greater for a younger spouse with young children a surviving spouse with lower income Generally, the elective share does not depend on any of these variables 6

7 Are surviving spouses rights based on partnership or support? What if after the testators death, the spouse dies before electing a forced share? May the spouses estate exercise the right to a forced share? A partnership theory would say yes; a support theory would say no Most states say no Can the elective share be satisfied with a life interest in property held in trust? The support theory would say yes; the partnership theory would say no Only CT and RI limit the surviving spouse to a life estate 7

8 The elective share Traditionally applied to probate estate. Can a testator evade the elective share by using revocable trusts or other nonprobate transfers? Courts and legislatures have started to extend the elective share to revocable trusts and other nonprobate assets The elective share traditionally was less than the intestate share (one-third versus one-half) With the intestate share, we rely on presumed intent while with the elective share, we override actual intent In an era of nonprobate assets, the elective share may be greater than the intestate share Surviving spouse may choose elective share for an intestate decedent 8

9 What were the facts in Sullivan v. Burkin, p.488 Ernest Sullivan died after having transferred his house to a revocable inter vivos trust that would benefit him during his life and two friends after his death In his will, he wrote that he intentionally did not make any provisions for his wife and grandson His wife claimed that she should be able to reach the house to satisfy her forced share 9

10 Real Estate Sullivan v. Burkin Ernest Mary Trustees (Ernest, then friends George and Harold) Sullivan v. Burkin 460 N.E.2d 572 (Mass. 1984) Harold Cronin George Cronin Questions Presented: 1)Is the trust valid without Wills Act formalities? 2)Do the trust assets qualify as part of the estate of the deceased for Marys elective share? Residue Trust Property Mary elects to take forced share. 10

11 Questions for the court in Sullivan Do we have an invalid will or a valid trust? We have a valid trust It doesnt matter that Ernest retained full power over the trust property during his lifetime (pages ) 11

12 Questions for the court in Sullivan Do the trust assets qualify as part of Ernests estate for purposes of Marys elective share? Under clear precedent, the trust assets are not counted, and it would not be fair to apply a new rule retroactively However, times have changed, and greater recognition has been given to the interests of spouses Under current law, a divorced spouse has a greater claim than a widowed spouse For the future, trust assets are considered part of the estate for purposes of the forced share if the decedent created the trust during the marriage and retained a general power of appointment or a power of revocation 12

13 In Sullivan, the decedent created the trustwhat if a third party created the trust? What are the facts in Bongaards, p. 492? Jean Bongaards held a general lifetime power of appointment over a trust established by her mother (and a limited power of appointment over the remainder) 13

14 Bongaards v. Millen Jean Nina George Josephine Bongaards v. Millen, 793 N.E.2d 335 (Mass. 2003), p.492 Exercise of Power of Appointment Do the trust assets qualify as part of the estate of the deceased for Georges elective share? 14 No

15 Why did Bongaards come out differently than Sullivan ? If George and Jean had divorced, George would have had a right to a share of the building In Sullivan, the court closed a loophole by which a testator tried to shelter assets and evade the elective share George tried to enlarge the class of property that would be considered part of the decedents estate Jeans mother wanted to keep the property in her family, so she set up a trust to do just that. 15

16 Does Bongaards make sense? Under a partnership theory of the forced share, the courts decision makes sense, just as did the Sullivan courts decision under the partnership theory. On the other hand, because Jean essentially had full ownership of the property, the UPC and a few states take the position that the trust should be included in the elective share calculation (page 809, note 4). 16

17 Elective shares and nonprobate assets States apply different tests for deciding whether to include nonprobate assets (e.g., illusory transfer test, intent to defraud test, pp ) Almost all states count revocable inter vivos trusts in calculating the elective share Indiana is in the minority except when testators execute a trust in contemplation of their impending death and do so in order to defeat the surviving spouses statutory shareminority Dunnewind v. Cook, 697 N.E.2d 485, 489 (1998) 17

18 Elective shares and nonprobate assets, problem 1, page 494 a)In theory, life insurance policies could be illusory since beneficiaries have no meaningful rights until H dies. Nevertheless, courts rarely hold life insurance illusory since H cannot access the payoff value b)POD accounts could easily be considered illusory since H has complete control (but could be non-illusory if designed for childrens educations and other assets to go to spouse) c)POD account looks illusory but a joint account does not since the daughter can withdraw from the accountH does not have complete control d)A joint tenancy is not illusorythe daughters own a fractional share when it is created 18

19 Elective shares and nonprobate assets You should advise clients to exercise extreme caution in making nonprobate transfers without spousal consent that might have the effect of diminishing the spouses elective share (p. 494) 19

20 Greater of $50,000 or one-third of decedents net estate. All property includible in the decedents gross estate under the federal estate tax law. Probate estate and specified nonprobate transfers, such as: gifts made within one year of death; savings account trusts; POD accounts not payable to spouse; lifetime transfers in which decedent retained certain powers. One-third of the decedents net estate. The elective share: State statutory approaches New YorkDelaware Elective Share Amount Property subject to elective share 20

21 The elective share: Uniform Probate Code 1969 UPC Designed to prevent the testator from deliberately trying to defeat the right of the surviving spouse to the elective share Includes in the estate a schedule of nonprobate transfers UPC as amended in 2008 Designed to bring elective-share law in line with the partnership theory of marriage. Includes in the augmented estate a schedule of nonprobate transfers (§2-203(a), §2-205 ); Elective share is 50 percent of the marital-property portion of the augmented estate (§2-202) Marital-property portion is based on the length of the marriage (§2- 203(b)) Elective share reduced by nonprobate transfers and marital assets owned by surviving spouse (§2-209). 21

22 Prenuptial/postnuptial agreements and the elective share You may not be able to evade the elective share rights of your spouse by using nonprobate transfers, but you can ask your spouse to waive elective share rights via a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement Prenuptial agreements permitted in all states; postnuptial in most states Subject to requirements of fairnessrequirements of fairness 22

23 Reece v. Elliott Reece v. Elliott, 208 S.W.3d 419 (Tenn. App. 2006), p. 503 Nov. 29, 1999 Plaintiff and Reece execute premarital agreement. Plaintiff had independent counsel. Disclosure of assets, some without values. Wedding. Reece dies. Dec. 4, 1999 July 5, 2003 Plaintiff challenges premarital agreement for lack of disclosure of value of Routh Packing Company stock. 23

24 What was the basis for the challenge to the prenuptial agreement in Reece ? The decedent didnt make a full disclosure regarding his assets. He disclosed a substantial stock holding, but not the value of the stock. Why did the court uphold the agreement? The spouse received a fair disclosure of his assets (the decedent disclosed all of his assets, even if not the value of all of them, and she had adequate notice of the nature of his wealth) She had the opportunity to ask questions or investigate further but didnt because she knew she would have no interest in the assets She was represented by independent counsel, and she acknowledged that she understood the agreement 24

25 Reece and prenuptial agreements What if the surviving spouse had not been represented by counsel? Not fatal in most states, but an important consideration in judging whether the agreement is unconscionable. If youre negotiating one of these agreements, you want to make sure that there is full disclosure of all assets with good faith valuations of each asset and that both parties are represented by independent counsel (pages ). 25

26 Protection of pretermitted spouses Weve seen that surviving spouses receive protection when decedents intentionally decline to devise property to them What happens when a decedent married after executing a will but failed to update the will? States assume that the failure to update was an oversight and that the decedent would have wanted to provide for the spouse. Hence, the surviving spouse receives an intestate share of the estate But maybe the decedent intentionally failed to update the will, in which case the spouse would be entitled to an elective share rather than an intestate share When does a court conclude that the omission was intentional rather than inadvertent? 26

27 In re Estate of Prestie Maria and W.R. Prestie marry in Las Vegas, Nevada. Maria and W.R. divorce. W.R. moves from California to Nevada. Maria also moves to Nevada. W.R. executes, in California, a pour- over will and an inter vivos trust. Neither provide for Maria. Maria moves in with W.R. and cares for him. W.R. amends the inter vivos trust, granting Maria a life estate in his condominium. Maria and W.R. marry again. W.R. dies Ray In re Estate of Prestie 138 P.3d 520 (Nev. 2006), p. 516 W.R. Maria 27

28 Prestie Was Maria an intentionally omitted spouse? Nothere was neither a marriage contract nor any provision in the will either providing for her or manifesting an intent not to provide for her What about the amendment of the inter vivos trust a few weeks before they remarried? Wasnt this like Erickson (p. 345)? The Nevada statute requires language in the will But as fn 23 recognizes, testators amend their pour- over wills by amending their trusts 28

29 Notes for Prestie, pp What result under the UPC? Under 2-301(a)(3) (p.518), W.R. provided for Maria by transfer outside the will when he amended his inter vivos trust (an amendment he described as a codicil, fn 22) What if W.R. had included a bequest in the will he executed before marrying Maria? She would not be considered an omitted spouse under the Nevada statute 29

30 Elective shareElective share in Indiana Ind. Code § (a)... The surviving spouse, upon electing to take against the will, is entitled to one-half (1/2) of the net personal and real estate of the testator. However, if the surviving spouse is a second or other subsequent spouse who did not at any time have children by the decedent and the decedent left surviving a child or children or the descendants of a child or children by a previous spouse, the surviving second or subsequent childless spouse shall upon such election take one-third (1/3) of the net personal estate of the testator plus an amount equal to twenty-five percent (25%) of the remainder of: (1) the fair market value as of the date of death of the real property of the testator; minus (2) the value of the liens and encumbrances on the real property of the testator. In determining the net estate of a deceased spouse for the purpose of computing the amount due the surviving spouse electing to take against the will, the court shall consider only such property as would have passed under the laws of descent and distribution. 30

31 Waiver of rightWaiver of right to elect and of other rights: UPC §2-213 (a) The right of election of a surviving spouse…may be waived,… by a written contract, agreement, or waiver signed by the surviving spouse. (b) A surviving spouses waiver is not enforceable if the surviving spouse proves that: (1) he…did not execute the waiver voluntarily; or (2) the waiver was unconscionable when it was executed and, before execution of the waiver, he…: (i) was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the decedent; … and (iii) did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the decedent. (d)... A waiver of all rights, or equivalent language [includes rights that would exist by virtue of intestate succession] 31

32 Rights of descendants intentionally omitted from a will While spouses are protected when intentionally omitted from a will through the elective share, children are not (except in Louisiana) That said, testators invite challenges to their estate plan when they omit children (unless the estate goes to the childs surviving parent), and juries and judges tend to be sympathetic to the children (p. 520) 32

33 Protection of descendants inadvertently omitted from the will While testators are permitted to deny their children a bequest, the law also protects their children from being left out of the will unintentionally Usually, the statutes apply to children born or adopted after execution of the will Sometimes, though, they also apply to children alive when the will is executed alive When is an omission considered intentional and when is it considered unintentional? 33

34 Gray v. Gray John Robert Gray v. Gray 947 So. 2d 1045 (Ala. 2006), p.528 Mary Rose Monica Jack John executes a will devising his entire estate to his wife Mary. Jack is born. John and Mary divorce. As part of settlement, John creates a trust for Jack. John dies

35 What was the effect of Johns will after he died? The divorce revoked the provision in the will in favor of Mary, so Johns estate would either pass through intestacy or go to a contingent beneficiary If it passed through intestacy, what would happen? The three children would share Since Jack would have no reason to sue if the estate passed through intestacy, there must be a contingent beneficiary It was Johns brother (footnote 28) Jack takes only if he was unintentionally omitted from the will 35

36 Was the omission of Jack unintentional under Alabama law?Alabama law No. Under provision (a)(2), Jacks omission is considered intentional Whats wrong with viewing Jacks situation as an (a) (2) situation? The provision contemplates a situation in which the other parent of the omitted child will provide for the child with the bequest from the decedent In this case, the other parent will not receive a bequest because of the divorcethe statutory provision assumes that the other parent actually takes under the will This point is made explicitly in the 1990 UPC, page 531, under (a)(1)1990 UPC 36

37 Would Jack take under the 1990 UPC?1990 UPC No. Under provision (a)(2), Jacks omission is considered intentional because John had living children when he wrote his will.(a)(2) What would have been a better way for the court to reach the result it reached and which was probably the correct result? Use provision (a)(3) of the Alabama pretermitted child statute (note 1, page 532). John did provide for Jack with the trust. Why didnt the court go this route?(a)(3) Because it requires an assessment of intent and that becomes more complicated. Was the trust actually intended as a transfer in lieu of a testamentary provision? 37

38 Note 3, p. 532 Under the second example, C receives $5,000, two-thirds from A and one-third from B(2(ii) and 2(iv), pages ) (so A takes $6,667, B takes $3,333, and C takes $5,000) Unless the second or third provision of the 1969 UPC is satisfied, C would receive an intestate sharewhich could be a lot more than A or B would get1969 UPC 38

39 Pretermitted child Pretermitted child (1969 UPC) a) If a testator fails to provide in his will for any of his children born or adopted after the execution of his will, the omitted child receives a share in the estate equal in value to that which he would have received if the testator had died intestate unless: 1)It appears from the will that the omission was intentional; 2)When the will was executed the testator had one or more children and devised substantially all his estate to the other parent of the omitted child; or 3)The testator provided for the child by transfer outside the will and the intent that the transfer be in lieu of a testamentary provision be reasonably proven.... Ala. Code in Gray (pages ) Ind. Code § (a) follows 1969 UPC through (a)(2) 39

40 Pretermitted child Pretermitted child (1990 UPC, § 2-302(a)(1)) Except as provided in subsection (b), if a testator fails to provide in his [or her] will for any of his [or her] children born or adopted after the execution of the will, the omitted after-born or after-adopted child receives a share in the estate as follows: 1)If the testator had no child living when he [or she] executed the will, an omitted after-born or after- adopted child receives a share in the estate equal in value to that which the child would have received had the testator died intestate, unless the will devised all or substantially all of the estate to the other parent of the omitted child and that other parent survives the testator and is entitled to take under the will. 40

41 Pretermitted child Pretermitted child (1990 UPC, § 2-302(a)(2)) Except as provided in subsection (b), if a testator fails to provide in his [or her] will for any of his [or her] children born or adopted after the execution of the will, the omitted after-born or after-adopted child receives a share in the estate as follows: 2)If the testator had one or more children living when he [or she] executed the will, and the will [made a bequest] to one or more of the then-living children, an omitted after-born or after-adopted child is entitled to share in the testators estate as follows: 41

42 Pretermitted child Pretermitted child (1969 UPC) a) If a testator fails to provide in his will for any of his children born or adopted after the execution of his will, the omitted child receives a share in the estate equal in value to that which he would have received if the testator had died intestate unless: 1)It appears from the will that the omission was intentional; 2)When the will was executed the testator had one or more children and devised substantially all his estate to the other parent of the omitted child; or 3)The testator provided for the child by transfer outside the will and the intent that the transfer be in lieu of a testamentary provision be reasonably proven.... Ala. Code in Gray (pages ) Ind. Code § (a) follows 1969 UPC through (a)(2) 42

43 Pretermitted child Pretermitted child (1969 UPC) a) If a testator fails to provide in his will for any of his children born or adopted after the execution of his will, the omitted child receives a share in the estate equal in value to that which he would have received if the testator had died intestate unless: 1)It appears from the will that the omission was intentional; 2)When the will was executed the testator had one or more children and devised substantially all his estate to the other parent of the omitted child; or 3)The testator provided for the child by transfer outside the will and the intent that the transfer be in lieu of a testamentary provision be reasonably proven.... Ala. Code in Gray (pages ) Ind. Code § (a) follows 1969 UPC through (a)(2) 43

44 Will of Calvin Coolidge The White House Washington Will of Calvin Coolidge of Northampton, Hampshire County, Massachusetts Not unmindful of my son John, I give all my estate both real and personal to my wife Grace Coolidge, in fee simple – Home at Washington, District of Columbia this twentieth day December, A.D. nineteen hundred and twenty six. /s/ Calvin Coolidge____ Signed by me on the date above in the presence of the testator and of each other as witnesses to said will and the signature thereof. /s/ Everett Sanders___ /s/ Edward T. Clark___ /s/ Erwin C. Geiser___ 44


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