Where There’s a Will There’s a Way: The Estate of Field

Books and films are often feature a high stakes court battle where a fortune hangs in the balance. This morning, the Kansas Court of Appeals issued its decision in a case from Hays, Kansas, the Estate of Field.

Judge Gardner wrote for the unanimous court. Field hinges on the validity of a 2013 signed (but unwitnessed) letter that claimed to change a 2010 will of Earl Field, controlling a $20 million estate (p. 4). Would Field’s estate go mainly to Fort Hays State University for athletic and music scholarships (tax free), or be left mainly to others (triggering estate taxes)? After carefully reviewing the evidence and arguments, the Court upheld the 2010 will as valid and tossed out the alleged 2013 codicil, so the college got its scholarship money, and Field’s estate didn’t owe estate taxes (p. 30).

Field hones in on requirements for a valid Kansas will (K.S.A. 59-606). The Court found that the burden of proof should shift to the will contestant to show it was “highly probable” a will was not validly signed by the testator. Field’s accountant testified he was certain that Field wanted the money to go to the college, not to others, and that “Field would be ‘rolling over in his grave’ if he knew his estate would have to pay millions in estate tax” from the money going to others (p. 27). The Court found it “highly probable” that Field’s friend (or someone else) “signed the purported codicil instead of Field,” since the “terms of the purported codicil contradict Field’s long time estate plan” (p. 30). In fact, the Court found “no evidence” “that Field ever mentioned wanting to leave any of his estate” to the friends offering the codicil for probate (p. 30). The Court also denied the will contestant’s quest for about $1 million of attorney’s fees (pp. 30-35).

No matter if you have $20 or $20 million, your wishes need to be clear to be followed. My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, works with clients on various estate planning and probate needs, including preparing wills or helping on will contests, to help clients take care of their legal needs quickly and inexpensively, and has years of experience counseling clients on a variety of legal issues. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com), the KC Estate Planner, today to schedule a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2018, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

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Ellis Trust

The Kansas Court of Appeals issued this recent opinion in the Ellis Trust

My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, works with clients on various estate planning and probate needs to help clients take care of their legal needs quickly and inexpensively, and has years of experience counseling clients on a variety of legal issues. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today to schedule a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Much Ado About Nothing?

Forbes has this article discussing the Treasury Department’s withdrawal of the controversial §7504 regulations. These regulations yielded some 30,000 comments to the IRS, many of which were quite critical about how the proposed regulations would negatively affect estate planning, and the IRS listened.

Estate planning expert Jonathan Blattmachr notes that the IRS’ proposed regulations would be “moot” if the estate tax were repealed, as the Administration wants as part of tax reform. But Blattmachr notes, the IRS withdrawing the regulations avoids adding further wrinkles or complications to gift tax plans.

My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, works with clients at all stages of life on various estate planning and probate needs, helping clients take care of their legal needs quickly and inexpensively, with years of experience counseling clients on a variety of legal issues. If you’d like to review your estate plan in light of the IRS proposal being withdrawn, call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today for a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Pet Trusts

Americans love pets. But pets are an often overlooked part of an estate plan. A pet trust can help ensure your furry friend is well cared for if something happens to you. And if a pet trust isn’t in the cards, a basic will or power of attorney provision providing for your pet is a wise idea.

You want the peace of mind that your family’s taken care of no matter what life brings, including your pets. My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, works with clients at all stages of life on various estate planning and probate needs, helping clients take care of their legal needs quickly and inexpensively, with years of experience counseling clients on a variety of legal issues. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today for a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

 

Update Your Estate Plan

If you already have an estate plan, great work! As this post from our friends at UMB reminds, be sure your estate plan is updated for your needs and current life situation. 8 things might require an estate plan update: (1) taxes, (2) marriage, (3) family changes, (4) moving to another state, (5) beneficiary designations, (6) overall financial picture/health, (7) charitable goals, (8) tying up loose ends/due diligence.

Or maybe you need an estate plan, or you’ve been putting it off, but you want the peace of mind that your family’s taken care of no matter what life brings. My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, works with clients at all stages of life on various estate planning and probate needs, helping clients take care of their legal needs quickly and inexpensively, with years of experience counseling clients on a variety of legal issues. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today for a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Trust Taxes

Trusts are a crucial estate planning tool and great way to avoid probate for families, small business owners, and entrepreneurs. But taxes can complicate great trusts. How do you use trusts to reduce (or eliminate) state and federal estate, gift, GST, and income taxes? I recently enjoyed presenting a session at the Trusts From A-Z conference where we explored how to usie trusts to reduce taxes. Check out the trust tax materials here for free, courtesy of NBI.

My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, works with clients on various estate planning and probate needs to help clients take care of their legal needs quickly and inexpensively, and has years of experience counseling clients on a variety of legal issues. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today for a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Series LLCs in Kansas and Missouri

Series LLCs are an important new business law tool. I recently enjoyed co-presenting a seminar on series LLCs in Kansas and Missouri. We had a great discussion of series LLC pros and cons, and how best to tailor a series LLC to meet a client’s needs.

Series LLCs can be a great idea for entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, and business owners, but some questions aren’t answered yet, so series LLCs should be approached carefully and thoughtfully with your attorney and accountant. Check out the series LLC seminar materials here for free, courtesy of NBI.

My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, has experience working with Kansas and Missouri clients on series LLCs, along with helping executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners with other estate planning and business law needs. We know how to tailor legal documents to meet your needs, big or small. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today to schedule a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Executive Estate Planning

Timothy Golas has these helpful ideas on executive estate planning – how should a business owner or executive do their estate plan.

Some key takeaways:

  • Who are you beneficaries are – life insurance, 401(k)s, bank accounts, etc (beneficiary designations trump your will when they conflict)
  • How does your stock pass – including stock options and equity compensation plans
  • Trust or no trust? Avoiding probate might be good, or a Will might work just fine
  • U.S. and State Estate Taxes? Kansas and Missouri residents only have U.S. estate taxes, not state estate taxes

My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, has years of experience helping executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners with their estate planning and probate needs. We know how to tailor legal documents and an estate plan to meet your needs, big or small. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today to schedule a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

 

Don’t Just Transfer Wealth – Transfer Values Too

Robert Schein has this helpful insight about transferring family values (more than just money) to children and grandchildren, to give them a more holistic inheritance. Good, open, honest commuication about expectations and the famiy’s values are a great way to transfer values (and money) from one generation to another.

Think about including children or grandchildren in talks about money, the family business, or the values that guide you and make your family unique. Mr. Schein looks at constrasting results from two wealthy families: one (Gina Rinehart, an Australian mine owner) where the children are now fighting in court over an inheritance, another (Warren Buffett, of Berkshire Hathaway) where the children are harmonious and peace and were given a limited inheritance to use for philanthropy (while the rest goes to a designated non-family philanthropy). Buffett values thrift and hard work, and has shared with his children his belief that inherited wealth can corrupt people, which he doesn’t want for them, so his estate plan (and family’s response) shows his values.

Communication about money, values, and expectations is vital – heirs often cooperate better and can help ensure the family’s  values and ethos continues  for generations if they know what they will (or won’t) get, and have had those conversations early and often with parents or grandparents. Rinehart’s children don’t appear to have had those vital conversations, while Buffett has clearly shared his value with his children.

My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, enjoys helping clients transfer their wealth and values to the next generation. My firm works with clients on various estate planning and probate needs to help clients take care of their legal needs quickly and inexpensively, and has years of experience counseling clients on a variety of legal issues. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today to schedule a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Estate of Nesler

From the Kansas Court of Appeals comes this recent, interesting unpublished opinion in the Estate of Nesler. Ms. Nesler died March 28, 2014 in Douglas County, Kansas, leaving 3 surviving adult children. The children found their mother’s Will, but submitted it for probate late (more than 6 months after their mother had died), so the Probate Court wouldn’t admit the Will to probate. And the Court of Appeals affirmed the Probate Court’s 6 month deadline application.

My law firmJohnson Law KC LLC, works with clients on various estate planning and probate needs to help clients take care of their legal needs quickly and inexpensively, and has years of experience counseling clients on a variety of legal issues. Call (913.707.9220) or email me (steve@johnsonlawkc.com) today to schedule a free, convenient consultation.

(c) 2017, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.