Probate

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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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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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 http://www.regulations.gov (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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Next Month: Estate Planning & Probate Forum 2019

This year’s Estate Planning & Probate Forum to be held at the Embassy Suite Cool Springs on Feb. 22. 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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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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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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Trump Towers Sues Estate of Man Who Died in April Fire

Trump Towers is seeking nearly $90,000 from the estate of an art collector and resident who died after an overloaded electrical board ignited his midtown Manhattan Trump Tower condo in April, The Washington Post reports. The Residential Board of Trump Tower Condominiums is suing Todd Brassner’s estate for more than $64,600 in unpaid common charges — an amount that includes fees accrued in the months after Brassner died — and another judgment of at least $25,000 for related fees according to a complaint filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The fire became a point of controversy because of a lack of sprinklers in the building since Trump had in the late 1990s lobbied to persuade city officials to drop a proposal that would have required additional and retro-fitted sprinklers in older apartment buildings.

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