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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Office Space Available at Tennessee Bar Center

There is now office space available for lease at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville, 221 4th Ave North. The historic building is located downtown in the business district north of Broadway. It has 19,622 RSF available in several configurations on several floors. Click here for more details as well as contact information.
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The Rest of the Story: Antitrust, Estate Planning, a Tennessean on U.S. Supreme Court

There's still time to finish up the December Tennessee Bar Journal -- don't miss the look into the Tennessean who served on the U.S. Supreme Court, Edward Terry Sanford. He introduced the custom of wearing robes on the bench! Columns this month cover unilateral withdrawals from joint accounts by Dan Holbrook, and antitrust issues in bank mergers by Kathryn Reed Edge. This issue kicks off the new feature, SPARK: this month we talk with Bill Haltom as he retires from the practice of law and as humor columnist for the Journal after 25 years. Read the issue online now.

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Woman Draws Attention to Guardianship Practices

A New York woman deemed incompetent after Adult Protective Services (APS) forcefully entered her apartment is bringing attention to national guardianship practices, The New York Times reports. Phyllis Funke — who is a former freelance journalist for The Times — holds a master’s degree from Columbia University, a pilot license and what she estimates as several hundred thousand dollars in investments, however, an APS caseworker and city psychiatrist determined that she was incapable of making her own decisions after she did not respond to court motions to evict her for hoarding, and determining she was malnourished and dehydrated. The city psychiatrist testified that she suffered from “unspecified bipolar and related disorder, hoarding disorder and unspecified personality disorder,” therefore was unable to manage her personal needs and property, or to understand the consequences of her hoarding. Her own psychiatrist, however, maintains that she is stable and “perfectly competent to handle all her affairs.”  Since being placed under guardianship, Funke has been billed $16,800 by her court-appointed lawyer; $3,437 by a court evaluator and $5,000 by her first temporary guardian. “I feel as if I have absolutely no rights at all in the country in which I was born, and therefore in the rest of the world,” said Funke. “It’s worse than incarceration. At least in prison, you have rights.”

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Join Us Today: LAW TECH

Today's the day! Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville!

The flexible open house format allows you to create your own schedule. You can attend CLE sessions, enter to win prizes, network with attendees, visit with sponsors and interact with speakers. Take as many or as few CLE hours as you need. Only those seeking to be awarded CLE Credit will be charged. The registration desk will be open all day, so you can come and go for the hours you need when it is convenient for you. Attendees can earn up to 6.5 hours of Dual CLE credit.

  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show 2019: BEAT THE CLOCK
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Know When to Hold 'Em
  • Digital Evidence – A Technical Life Raft for the Legal Mind
  • Make it Rain: Ethics Guidelines and Practice Essentials

ATTEND TO WIN: Attendees will have a chance to win prizes, including an iPad Pro. The tech prize drawing will be held at the 10:30 a.m. break. Must be present to win.

TAKE A LYFT: TBA has partnered with Lyft to offer attendees a discounted ride.

  • New to Lyft?: Get $5 off 2 rides at or download the app and enter code LAWTECH5
  • Already Have Lyft?: Save 10% off 2 rides to or from Law Tech Blast with code LAWTECH



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Give the Gift of TBA Membership

Give yourself (or a friend) the gift that keeps giving — one-year of unlimited access to professional development opportunities and a number of programs and services designed to help you become a better practitioner. Founded in 1881, the Tennessee Bar Association is dedicated to enhancing fellowship among members of the state's legal community. Oh, and did we mention some of the benefits? Earn three pre-paid credits to use on any live or online course featured in the 12-days of CLE. Join now!

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Family Fights Trustees Over Control of Denver Broncos

An intrafamilial battle has erupted over control of the Denver Broncos NFL team, The New York Times reports. Franchise owner Pat Bowlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and relinquished control of the organization to three trustees in 2014, who set a succession plan regarding the transfer of ownership between his seven children. One of Bowlen’s daughters, Beth Bowlen Wallace, is at the center of the dispute, arguing that she is best suited to direct the team because of her philanthropic work, experience as a manager of various businesses, her time as a director of special projects at the Broncos and her law degree. Several of Bowlen’s family members have now filed a lawsuit against the trustees demanding an independent overseer, a move the trustees have asked the NFL to arbitrate. The Broncos are currently valued at $2.6 billion.

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Tax Changes to be Aware of in 2019

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has made sweeping changes to U.S. tax code, affecting estate planning, retirement contributions and insurance penalties. In addition, the IRS will be updating its tax brackets for 2019 to adjust them for inflation. This brief summary from CNBC puts these changes in a nutshell, offering a synopsis of issues relevant to your practice and allowing you to stay on top of these recent developments.

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Greene County Commission to Consider Resolutions Regarding Clerk and Master

The Greene County Commission will consider resolutions next week to try to quell recent controversies involving its Office of the Clerk and Master, The Daily Post-Athenian reports. Commissioner Lloyd “Hoot” Bowers has sponsored a resolution to potentially end an appeal regarding a Washington County Chancery Court lawsuit where the court ruled in favor of Greene County Clerk and Master Kay Solomon Armstrong after the commission declined to budget staff positions requested by her, with 1st Judicial District Chancellor John C. Rambo ordering Mayor David Crum to add additional employees deemed necessary by the Clerk and Master. Another resolution seeks to transfer the County’s Clerk and Master position into an elected one. The meeting will begin on Monday at 6 p.m., EST at the Greene County Courthouse.

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Dickson Lawyer Faces Federal Charges for Fraud, Theft from Trust Fund

Suspended Dickson lawyer Jack Garton was charged Thursday with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud related to a years-long scheme in which he allegedly misappropriated more than $1.1 million from a trust fund set up for the daughter of a state trooper killed in the line of duty, the Tennessean reports. If convicted of the federal charges, Garton faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge, up to three years on the tax fraud charge and an additional mandatory two-year sentence on the aggravated identity theft charge. Additionally, he faces a $250,000 fine on each count and will be required to pay restitution to the victims of his crimes, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Don Cochran.

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Elder Law Basics Programming Now Available Online

Several videos from this year’s Elder Law Basics program are now available to purchase on the Tennessee Bar Association website. Topics for these videos include:
These online programs offer an opportunity for you to brush up on essential issues related to the practice while allowing the flexibility to work around your busy schedule in the last-minute rush for CLE credit. You can view other upcoming programs and online video options on our CLE webpage.
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IRS Proposal Protects Large Gifts from Estate Tax

The IRS last week issued a proposal to suspend the estate tax on large gifts made between 2018 and 2025 that are currently exempt from the gift tax, Bloomberg reports. The proposed regulations are intended to protect those who made large gifts during a period when higher exclusion amounts applied. The IRS has scheduled a public hearing on March 19, 2019, to solicit input on the proposal. Comments can also be sent electronically via the Federal eRulemaking portal at (IRS REG-106706-18), or by mail at CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-106706-18), Room 5203, Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044.
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Tomorrow: Estate Planning & Probate Forum 2019

This year’s Estate Planning & Probate Forum to be held at the Embassy Suite Cool Springs on Friday! The annual staple allows you to learn from seasoned practitioners and top players in the field while being a beneficiary of necessary CLE credits. Topics for the forum will include:
  • Income tax planning for estates
  • Medicaid protection
  • Charitable planning
  • Legislative updates
  • Ethics in estate planning
  • A Clerk and Master’s panel
  • And more
A networking event will follow the program. Don’t sleep, missing out is irrevocable.
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TBA Members Sworn In to U.S. Supreme Court

Ten Tennessee lawyers were sworn in today to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. TBA President-elect Sarah Sheppeard was on hand to move the admission of the group, which also included TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson. The group arrived in D.C. yesterday for a reception at the historic Hay-Adams Hotel, and following this morning’s ceremony, enjoyed a tour of the Capitol conducted by staff from Sen. Bob Corker’s office. Those admitted include Laura Smith, Michele Denise Hodges, Nancy Choate, Cynthia Sellers, Laura Williams, Christopher Bellamy, Elaine Michele Youngblood, Laura Yancey Goodall, Wendy Longmire and Berkley E. Schwarz.
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Children of Murdered Brentwood Woman Sue Estate

The children of Emma Teeters — who was fatally stabbed last week by her husband Jerry Matthews in Brentwood — are now suing Matthews’ estate, the Tennessean reports. The suit, filed in Williamson County Circuit Court on Monday, seeks $200 million in punitive damages for what the children witnessed during the murder and another $200 million for compensatory damages. The children’s fathers filed the suit on their behalf.

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December CLE in 6 Cities

TBA offers CLE in six locations during December. See offerings in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, Johnson City and Jackson. Find last-minute by the hour through Dec. 31 or take any of the TBA's online CLE packages.
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Paul Allen Names Trust in Will Disposition

The will of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen does not contain any financial specifics, deferring to a trust established in 1993, The Seattle Times reports. The billionaire owned a number of businesses, NFL team the Seattle Seahawks, and oversaw a namesake charitable organization. Allen died from complications regarding his non-Hodgkin lymphoma on Oct. 15.

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Blood Feud Arises in Estate of Comic Book Legend Stan Lee

The estate of comic book cornerstone and creator of seminal superheroes Spiderman and the X-Men is mired in a web of controversy, Bloomberg BNA reports. Several ongoing lawsuits remain unresolved after Lee’s death, including a case against his former publicist Jerardo “Jerry” Olivarez, who is accused of transferring millions of dollars from Lee’s bank accounts and a conspiracy to sell Lee’s blood as a collectible. The law firm representing Lee in the case said it will file a motion to replace him with an estate representative as the plaintiff.

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