Estate Planning & Probate Forum Packs the House

The TBA Estate Planning & Probate Section presented its annual forum to a packed house at the Embassy Suites in Franklin on Feb. 22. Through the dedication of the section and top-notch programming, this event has become a staple for not only estate planning and probate practitioners, but lawyers of associated practices as well. Thanks to the TBA Estate Planning & Probate Executive Council members for their time and assistance with another remarkable forum. Stay tuned for more exciting events to come from this section, including the second annual Topgolf: Estate Planning Tee-Off on June 19.
Michael Goode, Section Chair, Lewis Thomason, Nashville
Newman Bankston, Vice-Chair, Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis, Knoxville
Jennifer Exum, Immediate Past Chair, Bahner & Stophel, Chattanooga
David Parsons, Attorney at Law, Nashville
Jeff Carson, Diversified Trust, Nashville
J. Barry, Elder Law of Middle Tennessee, Lebanon
Paul Hayes, Howard Mobley Hayes & Gontarek, Nashville
Chris Coats, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, Memphis
Angelia Nystrom, University of Tennessee Foundation, Knoxville
Donald Farinato, Hodges, Doughty & Carson, Knoxville
John Billings, TCV Wealth Management, Knoxville
Victoria Tillman, McKinney & Tillman, Knoxville
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Actor Luke Perry's Estate in Good Order

Tennessee resident and 90201 actor Luke Perry, who died on March 4 after suffering a stroke, bucked the recent trend of celebrities’ who do not leave a will, Forbes reports. Perry reportedly created a will in 2015, after doctors discovered precancerous growths in a colonoscopy, leaving everything in his estimated $10 million estate to his three children. The news magazine highlights that Perry likely had an Advance Care Directive, otherwise, the decision of his family to terminate life support would have been a public battle in probate court. Perry was laid to rest this week, and buried just outside of his farm in Dickson County.

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Several Organizations Fight Tennessee Family Over Estate

A Tennessee family‘s estate that has been passed down through six generations has become part of a heated battle between the family and several non-profit organizations, the Tennessean reports. The last heir, Barry Blackburn Sr., died unexpectedly in 2014, with his will specifying that properties be held in a lifetime trust for his son, then passed along to that son’s children. The will also includes a provision that should Blackburn Sr.’s son die before him, the trust would pass to his sister's three children. A failure of beneficiary clause was included stating that if there were no surviving beneficiaries, the estate would be equally divided among Nashville Christian School, Harpeth Presbyterian Church, the University of Mississippi law school and Boykin Spaniel Rescue. Blackburn Sr.’s son, Christopher Blackburn, died the following year at 21, having no children. The nonprofits now argue that the will, read literally, bequeaths property to them since the son died after the father. A Mississippi judge last year sided with nieces and nephew involved, calling the matter a "scrivener's error," however, the organizations have appealed that decision. The properties, including working farms in Mississippi and Alabama and acres of property along Pickwick Lake, are worth millions and were given to the family by President Andrew Jackson.

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LGBT Law Annual Forum 2019

Register now for the TBA LGBT Law Annual Forum to take place on June 21 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Timely topics for this year’s program will include laws concerning conversion therapy, an inside look at Vanderbilt’s Clinic for Transgender Health, ethical considerations regarding discrimination and employment law, ending the day with an LGBT community advocacy panel open to the public. The forum will be held in conjunction with the 2019 Nashville Pride Festival, allowing attendees to take advantage of the fun and activities surrounding the celebration. Don’t miss what guarantees to be an insightful forum and one of the nation’s premier Pride festivals! Here’s the key info:
When: Friday, June 21, registration begins at 11 a.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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Federal Judiciary Adopts New Ethics Rules Regarding Harassment, Reporting of Misconduct

New ethics rules adopted by the federal judiciary this week make clear that sexual harassment is banned, and that judges and their employees have a reporting obligation when such conduct happens, The ABA Journal reports. The new rules state that reliable information about judicial misconduct as well as judicial disability must be reported. Unwanted, offensive or abusive sexual misconduct is banned, as is “egregious and hostile” treatment of workers. The rules also bar intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age or disability. Retaliation for reporting misconduct is prohibited. The changes were approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States and take effect immediately.
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Family Law Forum 2019

Register now for the TBA Family Law Forum 2019. In this program, we will dig deep into recent changes affecting the practice area, including high-profile cases, legislative updates, changes in domestic violence law and best practices in Juvenile Court. We will also have a renowned psychiatrist discussing "The Scientific Basis for Parental Alienation." Don’t miss this opportunity to brush up on the intangibles, develop new tools and meet lawyers of a similar focus. Here are the key details:

When: Wednesday, May 15, Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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LAS, Belmont Partner to Host Series of Clinics

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has announced a partnership with Belmont University to offer free legal help clinics twice monthly at the Belmont Ministry Center, 2005 12th Avenue South, beginning this weekend. The McHugh Legal Help Clinic at Belmont will take place on the second Saturday of each month, 8:30 to noon, while the Legal Aid Clinic at Belmont will be on the fourth Thursday evening of each month through October, 4:30 to 7 p.m. Volunteer lawyers from the Tennessee Attorney General's office will staff both the clinics, assisted by lawyers in private practice and Belmont College of Law students. Learn more at
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General-Solo FastTrack 2019

The TBA General-Solo & Small Firm Practitioners Section has selected the dates for its annual favorite FastTrack series held in all three grand divisions. The FastTrack program allows for a 15-hour CLE opportunity, featuring diverse topics designed to be relevant to a wide range of practice areas. Attendees can receive seven hours of live credit at each forum, then enjoy eight prepaid CLE credits to use for any online programming. Stay tuned for more details!
When: Aug. 2, Memphis; Aug. 9-10 and Nov. 8, Nashville;  Aug. 23, Knoxville
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Demand to Increase for Attorneys Practicing Elder Law

As the U.S. population continues to get older, more attorneys are entering the field of elder law or expanding their practices to provide elder law services, the ABA Journal reports. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2035, for the first time in American history, there will be more adults age 65 and older than children. “As the American population grays, the need for attorneys who understand the unique aspects of planning for the elderly and people with special needs will grow,” says Michael J. Amoruso, president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Medicare and Medicaid issues, long-term care planning, age discrimination disputes, veterans benefits, guardianship issues, inheritance disputes and elder abuse, among other categories, are areas that will need significant legal attention in the coming decades.
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Court Extends Deadline for Plans to Save Aretha Franklin Birthplace

Efforts to preserve the birthplace of soul legend Aretha Franklin got another court extension today, with Shelby County Environmental Court Judge Patrick Dandridge giving parties until April 23 to finalize plans, The Daily Memphian reports. Representatives for court-appointed receiver Jeffrey Higgs and current property owner Vera House told Dandridge they're working together on plans to stabilize the house and return it to a "safe, habitable" condition. The house, located at 406 Lucy Avenue, fell into disrepair and came close to being demolished by former Environmental Judge Larry Potter. The house was eventually put into receivership, but efforts to restore it only gained momentum after Franklin's death last year.
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Gov. Lee Provides Avenue for Public Feedback on Legislation

Gov. Bill Lee has taken an additional step in his commitment to “an open and transparent government,” creating a webpage for the public to view and provide feedback on legislation that has been submitted to him for consideration. Lee maintains that involving Tennesseans into the process more directly will increase accountability in how laws are made. The site will be updated regularly, as bills pass the Legislature and land on his desk.

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TBA to Introduce Legal Document Generation

The TBA will soon launch a new subscription-based product for Tennessee lawyers — automated legal forms. The initiative will use HotDocs, a custom documentation generator that creates form templates and speeds up the preparation process based on client and case data. In order to provide this valuable resource to our members, we hope to obtain your comments and ideas on forms you deem beneficial for replication. With across-the-board participation, we can comprise a substantive, comprehensive database where subscribers will have access to forms submitted by all TBA sections. Please send suggestions and comments to TBA Membership Director Mindy Fulks.

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1-Click CLE Packages

Gain fast and easy access to annual updates with TBA's 1-Click options. Each package is listed by practice area. Updates included best practices, legislation, ethical consideration and practice tips.
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Estate Planning & Probate Executive Council Seeks Your Input

The TBA Estate Planning Forum 2019 is just around the corner and the Estate Planning & Probate Section Executive Council would like your input. Along with the top-notch presenters and timely topics, this program features a Clerk and Master’s panel where the clerks interact with lawyers practicing in their respective counties, and the panel answers questions from attendees. The council would like your help in predetermining topics that may be beneficial to address, or specific questions that you might have as a forum attendee. Please submit comments or ideas to Estate Planning & Probate Section Coordinator Jarod Word by Friday. All questions and comments are confidential unless otherwise specified by the author. 

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Michael Jackson Estate Blasts HBO Over New Documentary

Lawyers for Michael Jackson's estate have admonished HBO over the network’s decision to proceed in airing its documentary "Leaving Neverland," Rolling Stone reports. An attorney for the estate, Howard Weitzman, sent a 10-page letter to HBO CEO Richard Plepler calling the film a “one-sided, sensationalist program,” and questioned the credibility of the two accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who are the focus of the documentary. “The Estate spent years litigating with Robson and Safechuck, and had four different lawsuits by these two men dismissed with prejudice,” the letter said. “Today, Robson owes the estate almost $70,000 in court costs, and Safechuck owes the estate several thousand dollars as well.” HBO responded to the letter saying that its plans remain unchanged, and that the documentary will air March 3 and 4.

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Legislative Update: More Caption Bills Among 1,500 Filed

There was a dramatic spike in the number of bill filings this week as lawmakers rushed to introduce legislation in advance of the House and Senate filing deadlines on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. While House rules limit most members to filing no more than 15 bills, many legislators filed their full allotment, and by the close of business on Thursday approximately 1,500 bills were filed for the year. Interestingly, there was a huge increase in "caption bills," which carry a caption broad enough to cover any number of legislative topics, and certainly more or different topics than what the bill seems to address on its face. These bills can be amended at the last moment to cover any topic allowed by the caption of the bill, and are frequently used to give legislators or lobbyists a way to comply with bill filing deadlines while not revealing the true purpose of the bill. The TBA Government Affairs team will keep an eye on these bills to see whether they are amended or begin to move. Next week the committees will step up their activity and have heavier agendas. Many committee chairs are encouraging members to go ahead and place their bills on notice, with the goal of completing as much work as possible before budget presentations begin in March.
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Office on Aging to Host Knoxville Legal Clinic on March 9

The Community Action Committee's Office on Aging will host a Free Legal Advice Clinic on March 9, 9 a.m. to noon at the Knoxville-Knox County CAC, located at the LT Ross Building, WATE reports. The Office on Aging Pro Bono Legal Service Clinic is sponsored by the Rise Above Crime program of the Office on Aging, and Legal Aid of East Tennessee along with the Knoxville Bar Association's Access to Justice Committee.
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TBA Legislative Agenda – Probate Omnibus bill

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, have introduced a bill drafted by the TBA’s Probate Study Group, and supported by the TBA. SB542/HB675 addresses a variety of different issues within estates and trusts, such as allowing a trustee who has resigned the authority to petition the court for a release and discharge from all liability related to the trust and also permitting a revocable living trust that becomes irrevocable upon the death of the settlor to refer to a written statement of personal property not otherwise disposed of by the revocable trust. The TBA Governmental Affairs team will work with legislators to make this bill law.
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Estate Planning & Probate Forum Coming to Franklin on Feb. 22

The 2019 Estate Planning & Probate Forum provides six hours of CLE, including an hour of dual credit. It will focus on timely, relevant topics to help you stay on top of trends affecting this area of law. Legislative updates and the ever-popular Clerk and Masters Panel will ensure that you leave with the knowledge necessary to advance your practice. Make a plan to join us on Feb. 22.
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Senate Republicans Move to Kill 'Death Tax'

Three Republican Senators on Monday proposed a plan to repeal the federal estate tax, The Washington Post reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced the bill that aims to kill the already weakened “death tax,” of which the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel estimates only 5,000 taxpayers are expected to claim. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 currently allows married couples to gift up to $22,360,000 exempt from federal estate and gift taxes. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the estate tax is projected to account for about 0.6 percent of the federal budget in 2018, down from more than 1 percent in the 2000s. 

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TBA Weekly Legislative Update

The Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives are back in session and are referring newly introduced bills to the appropriate committees, which are primarily holding organizational meetings this week. The deadline for filing all legislation is Feb. 6, so there will be a flood of bills introduced over the next two weeks. The TBA Governmental Affairs Team will be reviewing all bills and begin the process of forwarding the legislation affecting the practice of law to the appropriate Section Executive Councils for review and feedback. Stay tuned for more info.
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Estate Planning & Probate Forum 2019

The 2019 Estate Planning & Probate Forum provides six hours of CLE, including an hour of dual credit. It will focus on timely, relevant topics to help you stay on top of trends affecting this area of law. Legislative updates and the ever-popular Clerk and Masters Panel will ensure that you leave with the knowledge necessary to advance your practice. Make a plan to join us on Feb. 22.

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Enigmatic Howard Hughes 'Beneficiary' Dies of Cancer

The man who claimed Howard Hughes left him one-sixteenth of the Hughes estate in a mysterious handwritten will died last month of cancer, The New York Times reports. Melvin Dummar was a gas station owner in Utah when he said that he rescued Hughes from the Nevada desert. After Hughes died 9 years later, Dunmar maintained that an unknown man presented the will to him, which he then anonymously took to the Mormon Church Headquarters — that was also named as a beneficiary in the will — hoping that the church would attest to the veracity of the document.  A jury subsequently decided that the document was forged, but no one was ultimately charged with a crime. Although Dunmar received none of the Hughes fortune, Hollywood took note, retelling his story in the 1980 movie “Melvin and Howard.” Several books have also been written about the case, including one by a retired FBI agent who contends that the will was legit.

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Loudon Lawyer Found Guilty of Theft from Estate

A Loudon County lawyer has been ordered to pay back $25,000 of money he stole from a client’s estate, The News-Herald reports. Arthur Wayne Henry pleaded guilty on Dec. 10, 2018, to felony theft of property related to a probate case he oversaw since 2008, agreeing to a payment plan regarding restitution and four years unsupervised probation. Henry must pay also $500 to the 9th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office Fraud and Economic Crime Fund. He was suspended from the practice of law last April.

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AG Slatery Defends Participation in ACA Lawsuit

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is defending his participation in the lawsuit that led to a federal judge to rule the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as unconstitutional, saying “the Commerce Clause of our Constitution that, according to the court, prevents Congress from compelling Tennesseans to buy insurance, especially if they can't afford it or don't want it,” The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor last December ruled in favor of the 19 Republican state attorneys general, who argued that the law was unconstitutional after the 2017 Tax Act eliminated penalties for adults without health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously upheld the mandate, saying it was constitutional because it fell under Congress's taxing power. State Democrats have blasted the ruling, warning of consequences for the 1.7 million Tennesseans with pre-existing health conditions and the quarter of a million people in the state who obtain their insurance coverage through the ACA.

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