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November 20, 2017

IRS Can Reopen Estate Tax Return to Determine Available DSUE Upon Death of Second Spouse

by Margot Edwards

In Estate of Minnie Lynn Sower, 149 T.C. No. 11 (Sept. 11, 2017), the Tax Court held that the IRS can reopen the portability return filed for a predeceased spouse as part of its examination of the estate tax return filed for the second spouse to die.

In this case, Frank Sower passed away in 2012 and his estate filed an estate tax return electing portability of deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE). Frank’s estate received a letter from the IRS stating that it had accepted his return as filed. Minnie Sower later passed away and her estate filed an estate tax return claiming the DSUE reported by Frank’s estate. As part of its examination of Minnie’s return, the IRS reopened Frank’s return and reduced the DSUE. Read more >>

October 20, 2017

You’re Invited! 5th Annual Fiduciary Solutions Symposium

MONDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2017

7:30 – 8:00 a.m. – Breakfast and Registration
8:00 – 10:00 a.m. – Presentation

Grand Hyatt Denver
Capitol Peak A, 555 17th Street, 38th Floor
Denver, CO 80202

ABOUT THE SYMPOSIUM

Every day, the Fiduciary Solutions Practice Group at Holland & Hart addresses legal issues that impact fiduciaries and beneficiaries and litigates issues that arise in those relationships. Working to deal with conflicts arising from the transfer of wealth requires insight and vigilance. Our seasoned group of problem solvers will share their experiences, perspectives, practice tips, and wisdom to arm you with the knowledge to help improve your fiduciary relationships.

Topics will include:

  • What Can Go Wrong with Estate Plans and How to Fix It
  • Trust Modification
  • The Meaning of “Interested Person” in Fiduciary Litigation
  • Tax Considerations for Fiduciaries and their Advisors
  • Notarization and Wills in an Electronic Age
  • Recent Appellate Issues

Holland & Hart Panelists:

2 General CLE Credits Approved

For more information please contact Jennifer Mauk at jamauk@hollandhart.com or 303.295.8349

October 9, 2017

Decanting to Eliminate a Beneficiary – New York Says Yes

by Kelly Dickson Cooper

Settlors often ask whether they can change the beneficiaries of an irrevocable trust because life circumstances or relationships have changed. Often, the answer is no.  However, in a recent case in New York, the trustee was able to accomplish the settlor’s desire to disinherit one of his children through a decanting. Read more >>

September 26, 2017

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover (or Fifty Ways to Plan, Administer and Litigate Estates)

by Carol Warnick

As the old song by Paul Simon contemplates, there are fifty ways to leave your lover, and there are also fifty ways to plan, administer and litigate estates and trusts.  I have recently become aware of various situations in which attorneys assume that because things are done a certain way in the state in which they practice, they are done the same way in other states.

I am licensed in three states, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and deal regularly with the significant differences between them.  For example, Colorado tends to use “by representation” in dealing with passing assets down the generations, but Utah and Wyoming both use “per stirpes.”  Read more >>

September 11, 2017

Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty: Which Interest is Best?

by Matthew Skotak

The term “fiduciary” can be considered a vague term that encompasses many different people and several different relationships.  Under Colorado law, a fiduciary includes, without limitation, a trustee of any trust, a personal representative, guardian, conservator, receiver, partner, agent, or “any other person acting in a fiduciary capacity for any person, trust, or estate.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-1-103(2).  It is within this context that we examine a fiduciary’s duty of loyalty and how best to uphold that duty.

In the context of a trust, and as stated in the Restatement (Second) of Trusts § 2, a fiduciary relationship with respect to property arises out of the manifestation of an intention to create the fiduciary relationship and subjects the trustee “to equitable duties to deal with the property for the benefit of another person.”  From this relationship stems several inherent and implied fiduciary duties.  Generally, the fiduciary duties applicable to a trustee are: the duty of loyalty, the duty to exercise care and skill in managing the trust assets and administering the trust, and the duty to remain impartial to all beneficiaries.   Read more >>

August 28, 2017

Who are the Partners Now?

by Rebecca Klock Schroer

We are often asked as trust and estate litigation attorneys for advice on how to avoid future family disputes with better estate planning.  I want to highlight an issue that seems to be appearing more frequently in disputes involving family partnerships.  When a partner dies, the succession provisions of the partnership agreement can become an issue in litigation when the provisions are not clearly drafted or fail to coordinate with other estate planning documents.

We have had several cases involving whether the decedent’s successors are partners, or simply assignees who do not have all the rights of a partner.  Family partnership agreements may allow for the transfer of a partnership interest to another family member automatically.  Even in these scenarios, there may be technical terms of the partnership agreement that have to be complied with before the family member officially becomes a partner.  Some agreements do not allow anyone to succeed to a partner’s interest unless otherwise determined by the partnership/other partners.  Accordingly, if a partner’s will purports to unilaterally pass a partnership interest to a beneficiary, it may cause a dispute if such a transfer is not allowed by the partnership agreement.  The dispute is often fueled by a beneficiary who asserts that the will is the best evidence of the decedent’s intent. Read more >>

August 14, 2017

Good News for Surviving Spouses Seeking to Elect Portability

by Chelsea May

IRS Revenue Procedure 2017-34, effective as of June 9, 2017, increases the amount of time that a surviving spouse has to file an estate tax return (Form 706) for the purpose of electing portability of the Deceased Spousal Unused Exclusion amount (otherwise known as “DSUE”).  The portability election, which  was first introduced in 2010 and made permanent under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, offers a great way for a surviving spouse to preserve the unused estate tax exemption of their deceased spouse.  The DSUE amount can then be added to the surviving spouse’s own exemption amount and be used to shelter the surviving spouse’s lifetime gifts and transfers at death from estate taxes.

Prior to June 9, 2017, a portability election was required to be made on a timely filed estate tax return, due to the IRS nine months from the decedent’s date of death, with the availability of an automatic six month extension.  The IRS has once before provided some relief from this deadline in Revenue Procedure 2014-18, but that ruling was temporary and provided no relief for the estates of decedents dying after January 1, 2014.  The IRS claims to have been flooded with numerous requests for an extension of time to file for the portability election and has issued this new Revenue Procedure to provide a simplified method to obtain the extension to elect portability for a decedent’s estate who has no estate tax filing requirement to the later of (i) January 2, 2018 or (ii) the second anniversary of the decedent’s date of death.  Note that the regulation provides that this longer deadline is not available to the estate of a decedent if an estate tax return was timely filed.  In such case, the executor either will have elected portability by timely filing the return or will have affirmatively opted out of portability by not making the election.      Read more >>

August 2, 2017

New Uniform Directed Trust Act

by Kelly Dickson Cooper

More and more, I review trust agreements that appoint a trustee, but then appoint other individuals or institutions to perform certain tasks that are normally in the domain of the trustee.  They are sometimes referred to as trust protectors, trust advisors, trust directors, special powerholders, investment trustees, or distribution trustees.  I most often see these appointments in the areas of investments or distributions.

The trust language that attempts to divide the responsibilities of a trustee among a group is often unclear and give rise to difficult questions as to the scope of each individuals’ responsibilities.  There is also the question of whether the trustee is responsible for the actions of the other appointees and if the appointees are fiduciaries.  These problems with interpretation are often exacerbated because the laws are not clear about the division of these responsibilities and the liability of each actor.  Read more >>

July 17, 2017

Beneficiary Designations: They Aren’t Always What They Seem

by Jody H. Hall, Paralegal

As long as I have been a probate paralegal, and even prior when I worked in financial services, I have spoken about assets with beneficiary designations, including life insurance, retirement accounts and annuities passing outside of probate as if they were a foregone conclusion.  Period.  End of Story.  However, some recent situations have reminded me that the plot of the story may indeed have a surprise ending.

First of all, it bears reminding to our clients, that documents with beneficiary designations do not pass in accordance with the general instructions in the Decedent’s Will.  I recently worked with a client that became concerned when we learned that an estranged family member received a portion of an IRA account due to the beneficiary designation.  It was very confusing and upsetting to her that this family member received assets in addition to those provided for in the Will.

Secondly, there are situations where the beneficiary designation needs to be reviewed and confirmed, both at the time the designation is made and at the time of the claim. Read more >>

July 11, 2017

Where Probate Law Meets Family Law

by Rebecca Klock Schroer

I recently joined forces with family law attorney Ian Shea to co-author an article for The Colorado Lawyer.  The article highlights a few of the intersections between probate law and family law, including spouse’s property interests in trusts, the automatic temporary injunction, the revocation of spouse’s interests under the Colorado Probate Code, and representation of fiduciaries in divorce proceedings.

A link to the article is below:

‘Til Death Do Us Part – Where Probate Law Meets Family Law