Thursday, January 29, 2009

Columbus Bar Association News Bytes

The Columbus Bar Association (CBA), as a benefit to its members, publishes Columbus Bar News Bytes. The CBA recently asked me to share my experience (albeit limited) with websites, blogs, and social networks.  The first of a two part article appears here. Feel free to let me know your comments. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

Our firm often defends will contests.  You have probably heard of the scenario.  Mom or dad treats one child better than another.  The other child, not surprisingly is hurt, and contests the validity of the will.  The complaint may contain a claim that the one child unduly influenced the parent to make the purportedly unfair will.  We wrote an article on the topic in 2006.  Occasionally, the lawsuit is accompanied by another complaint for intentional interference with an expectancy to inherit.  These scenarios often make people wonder, “what would mom think if she new this fight was going on over her will?”  Well, in at least one case, we are no longer left wondering.  The American Bar Association recently reported on a case where a son is contesting the validity of his mother’s will, and she is still alive.  Mom feels the lawsuit is “ridiculous and unnecessary and inexcusable.”  If you are wondering whether mom is near death, she was quoted as saying, “I'm not dead yet, and I don't plan on croaking soon.”

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Monday, I will be attending a breakfast celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.  The keynote speaker is Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr.  My ticket to the event proclaims that it is the "largest U.S. event commemorating Dr. King".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Quote of the Month…So Far

“It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten.”  - B. Ramalinga Raju, founder and chairman of Satyam Computer Services Ltd. in his letter of resignation.  Mr. Raju, who received a master’s in business administration from Ohio University, admitted concocting false financial data for his company, including a non-existent cash balance of more than $1 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”).

That’s What Friends Are For

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Bernard Madoff received a whopping $250 million, ten days before his arrest, from an old buddy, Carl Shapiro.  While a very nice gesture, it was insufficient to keep Mr. Madoff’s business afloat.  Mr. Shapiro lost an estimated $400 million as a result of the Madoff fraud.  No word on whether they are still pals.

No Surprise – Obama Planning to Block Repeal of Estate Tax

The federal estate tax picture is becoming clearer.  According to The Wall Street Journal, President-elect Barack Obama and congressional leaders are prepared to move quickly to freeze the exemption amount and tax rate at 2009 levels.  The Obama plan would mean that estates less than $3.5 million would be exempt from the federal estate tax.  It would also mean that the maximum tax rate would remain at 45%.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What's a Contingent Trust?

A contingent trust is a written agreement directing how a person's estate should be managed and distributed in the event of a certain occurrence. In most cases, a contingent trust is used to address the possibility that your spouse does not survive you and you have young children. You may shudder to think how your young children might use their inheritance. There are plenty of examples of a child inheriting property and quickly expending it on fast cars and a fast lifestyle. Also, if your child is a minor, it is likely that his inheritance would require a guardianship. This means that the Court would decide who to appoint as guardian and the whole matter would be public record. The guardianship would terminate at the age of majority (18 years) and the money released to the child. The contingent trust is used to not only select a trustee of your choosing, but to instruct when your children should receive their inheritance. Frequently, the trust provides for distributions at different ages. For example, you may decide to distribute 25% of the trust at age 30, 25% at age 35, and the remainder at age 40. The trustee would have discretion to distribute or expend money on your child's behalf.