News

TBJ: Gift-Tax Exemption Expiration Explained

On Dec. 31, the $5.2 million gift-tax exemption expires, making your job helping your clients with year-end gifts even more important. Hunter Mobley and Jeffrey Mobley help you know the details for this year in the November Tennessee Bar Journal. The issue also gives a glimpse into the history of Nashville's Supreme Court Building in preparation for its 75th anniversary celebration next month. Read these and much more -- and don't miss Jackie Dixon's president's column and Bill Haltom's humor column as they both give their takes on being thankful -- and how cornbread figures in.

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Conservatorship Hearing in Memphis Tuesday

The second Conservatorship Hearing conducted by the Tennessee Bar Association will take place Tuesday at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law’s Historic Courtroom. The hearing will give lawyers, community leaders and citizens a chance to discuss what works with the present conservatorship law and how practice and procedure in conservatorships could be improved. The event is from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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Brentwood Man Sentenced in Ponzi Scheme

The former financial advisor and owner of A.D. Vallett & Co. has been sentenced to 120 months in prison for running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 30 victims of over $5 million, BrentwoodHomePage reports. Aaron Vallett pleaded guilty to orchestrating the Ponzi scheme. His sentence was announced as the Department of Justice kicks off a series of investment fraud summits in cities across the country, including Nashville. The event was held at Vanderbilt School of Law this morning.

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Conservatorship Hearing Draws Substantial Interest

A public hearing to gather information about how current conservatorship law is working or could be improved drew about 70 people to the Tennessee Bar Center today, including more than a dozen who spoke of problems they or their family members have had with conservatorships. The hearing was the first of four scheduled across the state to provide an opportunity for lawyers, community leaders and citizens to discuss what works with the present conservatorship law and how practice and procedure could be improved. The Associated Press provided coverage to the Knoxnews.com and others. See photos from today's hearing or find out more about the upcoming hearings.

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Conservatorship Hearing Draws 70 in Nashville

A public hearing to gather information about how current conservatorship law is working or could be improved drew about 70 people to the Tennessee Bar Center today (Sept. 20), including more than a dozen who spoke of problems they or their family members have had with conservatorships.

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Songwriter Loses Home Over Outstanding Legal Fees

Songwriter Danny Tate’s Belle Meade home was auctioned to cover more than $150,000 in fees amassed during a two-year legal battle with his brother, WSMV Nashville reports. Tate’s brother alleged Tate was a drug addict and sought a conservator to safeguard his wealth. Tate fought the conservatorship but was ordered to pay his own and his brother’s legal fees.

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Parties Anticipate Conservatorship Hearings

Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, says he is looking forward to the recommendations that come out of the hearings on possible reforms to conservatorship law, which begin next week and are sponsored by the Tennessee Bar Association. Probate Judge David “Randy” Kennedy, whose court handles conservatorship cases in Davidson County, told the Tennesseean that he was “delighted” the bar association was holding the hearings. William Barrick, a Carthage attorney who handles cases involving persons with mental or intellectual disabilities, is on the panel that will be conducting the hearings. He said he personally would like to see some major changes, especially in the medical standards being used to determine if a person should be declared incompetent. Other areas that need to be improved, Barrick said, are training for those appointed as conservators, bringing uniformity to the way the existing law is applied, and making it less difficult to transfer a case from one county to another. The Tennessean has more

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Hearings Set to Discuss Conservatorship Law

A series of hearings across the state will give lawyers, community leaders and citizens an opportunity to discuss what works with the present conservatorship law, and how practice and procedure in conservatorships could be improved. The series begins on Sept. 20 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville, with a 1 to 5 p.m. hearing. Other events are scheduled in Memphis Oct. 23,  and East Tennessee locations Nov. 13-14. Hearings are being conducted by the TBA Special Committee on Conservatorship Practice and Procedure under the leadership of chair and Jackson lawyer Pam Wright. The committee welcomes written comments and brief testimony on the merits of the present conservatorship law found at TCA Title 34, Chapters 1 and 3, as well as suggestions for modifications that could improve its fairness, respect for rights, administration and procedure. Learn more about the hearings

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Attorneys from Merger to Work in East Memphis Office

A story in Tuesday's TBAToday about Williams McDaniel PC merging with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP incorrectly stated the number of the Williams McDaniel lawyers who would work from Wyatt's East Memphis office. All nine of the attorneys involved will practice in that office. Wyatt now counts about 200 lawyers in offices in Memphis, Nashville, New Albany, Ind., Jackson, Miss., and Lexington and Louisville, Ky. Learn more from the firm

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Agreement Finalized over Stieglitz Collection

After seven years and several court appeals, an agreement between Fisk University and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton to sell a half-share of the $60 million Alfred Stieglitz Collection was finalized in Davidson County Chancery Court yesterday afternoon. The plan calls for rotating the collection between Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Fayetteville, Ark., and Fisk every two years. Fisk will receive $30 million in cash in exchange for the half-share but will set aside $3.9 million in a charitable fund to cover costs of maintaining the collection. State Attorney General Robert Cooper had challenged the agreement, claiming it violated the will of artist Georgia O’Keefe who donated the collection to Fisk in 1949. The Nashville City Paper reports

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Judge Rejects Widow's Settlement Transfer as 'Shocking'

A 66-year-old Anderson County widow would have wound up with just $1,621.16 in exchange for an annuity valued at $65,400 under a proposed transfer of a structured settlement agreement. The payout would have been $3,821.16, but the firm handling the matter was proposing to hold out $2,200 in fees. The transfer was denied in a scathing order issued by Anderson County Circuit Court Judge Don Elledge. "The Court has never seen a proposal submitted as outrageous and shocking as this one is," Elledge wrote in his June 29 order. The judge ruled it wouldn't be in the client’s best interest for the transfer to be approved. The News Sentinel has the story

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Case of Woman Who Inspired Conservatorship Law Dropped

A lawsuit filed by 82-year-old Jewell Tinnon over the loss of her home and possessions in a conservatorship has been dropped following a dispute with her two attorneys. The suit, which was filed earlier this year in Circuit Court, had charged that her attorney in the conservatorship had acted against her wishes when all her possessions were auctioned off. Tinnon said Tuesday that the suit was dismissed after she refused to turn over her financial records for use in the suit. Rachel Odom, one of Tinnon’s lawyers, declined to comment, but Michael Hoskins, who was co-counsel on the case, said Tinnon “was refusing to cooperate with counsel. I’m not going to take a case where the client won’t take my advice.” Tinnon’s widely publicized case helped prompt the General Assembly to approve a new law requiring those seeking to place someone in a conservatorship to disclose their relationship to the proposed ward and whether he or she had a criminal record. Read more in the Tennessean

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Request Denied, File Remains Sealed in Witherspoon Case

Nashville Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy Monday dismissed Reese Witherspoon’s request for an emergency conservatorship for her father and ordered that the court file remain sealed from the public. The Tennessean and WSMV-Channel 4 had sued to unseal the proceedings and records. “Should the First Amendment … be used as a battering ram to embarrass and humiliate, or to cause harm and discomfort to a private citizen when no public good will come of it?” Kennedy asked. In arguing to open the case, attorney Robb Harvey, who is representing the two media outlets, said there was no compelling reason presented by any of the parties to keep the hearings secret. Both media companies are deciding whether to appeal the decision, the Tennessean reports.

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Hearing Set to Argue Opening Witherspoon Case

Davidson County Probate Court Judge Randy Kennedy indicated Monday that he may be willing to open at least portions of a conservatorship case involving actress Reese Witherspoon’s father. Kennedy set a June 1 hearing for arguments from the Tennessean and WSMV-Channel 4, which are both seeking to have the case opened to the public. On May 11 Kennedy ejected the news media from court and ruled that all files and proceedings involving Witherspoon would be closed to the public as his daughter sought to have him placed under a conservator. In an editorial, the Tennessean says the public's right to know is more important than privacy, and closing the proceedings was "an attempt to skirt the First Amendment."

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Witherspoon Family Drama in Court Today

Actress Reese Witherspoon and her parents appeared in a Davidson County courtroom this afternoon for an emergency hearing before Probate Judge Randy Kennedy. Earlier this week, her mother, Betty Witherspoon, filed a lawsuit saying that her husband John D. Witherspoon had married another woman even though they are still married. Betty Witherspoon accuses John Witherspoon and Patricia Taylor of bigamy and is seeking to have the new marriage annulled. In court documents, Betty Witherspoon has said she fears her husband suffers from early onset dementia and has a drinking problem. The Tennessean has the story

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Opinion: Why You Must Have a Will

A Washington Post columnist explains what happened when her brother and grandmother died without having wills. Michelle Singletary knows excuses -- to expensvie, too much paperwork -- and points out why those things are not true. The News Sentenel has it

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Conservatorship Bill Passes House, Goes to Governor

The state House voted unanimously Monday for a bill designed to protect citizens targeted to have their lives placed under the control of conservators. In brief discussion before the 95-0 vote, Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, said the bill would require those petitioning to place someone in a conservatorship to disclose their relationship to the target of the petition and to disclose whether they had a criminal record. The bill already has passed the Senate and is expected to go to the governor later this week. Read more in the Tennessean

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Conservatorships Under Scrutiny

Concern over possible abuses in the conservatorship process is prompting some elderly advocates to call for reforms and model laws across the country that grant more rights to the individual and offer more protection. The Tennessean reports on one recent case where an 82-year-old Nashville woman lost all of her possessions in a conservatorship case. State Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, has filed a bill that would provide additional protection to people facing conservatorship, the newspaper reports. “We’ve got to make sure that people aren’t put into conservatorship without due process,” Odom says. His bill would set new notice requirements before a conservatorship could be imposed. It also would require additional medical proof, including sworn statements from three physicians, that an emergency conservatorship was justified.

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Subcommittee Approves Inheritance Tax Bill

In a last-minute move today, Republican legislators took a big step toward fully repealing Tennessee's inheritance tax  when the House Finance Subcommittee voted by unanimous voice vote to increase the exemption on the tax from $1 million to $1.25 million. But rather than increase the exemption over one year, as originally proposed, legislators opted for a multi-year approach, phasing in the full increase through 2016. The Nashville Business Journal reports

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Estate Planning Forum is Friday; Late Fee Waived

The Tennessee Bar Association’s annual Estate Planning Forum is this Friday at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Nashville. Produced by the TBA’s Estate Planning Section, this is THE EVENT to attend to learn from Tennessee's top attorneys on estate planning techniques and probate considerations, as well as gain insight into the new legislation and case law rulings affecting these areas. Topics will include:

•Clayton Trust
•Planning for Nontraditional Couples
•Charitable Trust
•Fiduciary Duties
•Ethical Considerations of Estate Planning
•Legislative Update

Because of technical problems with the TBA’s website this week, late fees will be waived for those registering now

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Estate Section's Annual Forum is Today

The TBA’s Estate Planning Section's Annual Forum has grown to become a major event for Tennessee attorneys who work with clients on their estate and probate planning. This year's event -- this Friday, February 24, at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Nashville -- will feature some of Tennessee's top attorneys speaking on estate planning techniques and probate considerations, as well as providing insight into new legislation and case law rulings affecting these areas. There is still time to register. Late fees have been waived!

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