Category Archives: Life Insurance

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 >>

July 5, 2017

Electronic Wills

by Morgan Wiener

As regular readers of this blog know, one of our favorite topics is digital assets, including estate planning for digital assets.  Today, we’re taking a slightly different focus and discussing developments in digital estate planning, more commonly known as electronic wills.

One of the more recent developments in estate planning is the concept of electronic wills. In general, an electronic will is one that is signed and stored electronically. Instead of signing a hard copy document in ink, the testator electronically signs the will, and it is also signed by witnesses and notarized electronically.  Not surprisingly, companies like LegalZoom are very interested in this topic.


October 7, 2014

The Fall of Colorado’s Same Sex Marriage Ban

By Kelly Cooper

Starting on Monday, marriage licenses were issued in Colorado to couples regardless of sexual orientation.

This change came because the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear cases from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.  What do these five states have in common?  Each of them had banned same sex marriage and had those bans declared unconstitutional by a U.S. Court of Appeals. 

In refusing to hear these cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld three U.S. Courts of Appeal’s decisions declaring the same sex marriage bans unconstitutional and making same sex marriages legal in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. 

The impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear these cases has reached far beyond the borders of those five states.  This is because every state in the U.S. is subject to the decisions made by one U.S. Court of Appeals.  For example, Colorado is situated in the 10th Circuit and the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declared Utah’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional.  Since Utah and Colorado are both bound by 10th Circuit’s decisions, it is likely that Colorado’s same sex marriage ban would also be declared unconstitutional by the 10th Circuit.  As a result, various county clerks began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples in Colorado.

Current status: There are 19 states that permit same sex marriages plus the District of Columbia.  Due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear these cases, five more states’ bans on same sex marriage will fall bringing the total number of states permitting same sex marriage to 24.  Due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, an additional six states’ same sex marriage bans are effectively overruled, including Colorado’s.  The other five states are Wyoming, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.  This will bring the total number of states allowing same sex marriage to 30.

 We can expect more developments and changes in this area in the near term, so stay tuned.

December 9, 2013

Probate and Trust Issues in Colorado’s Upcoming Legislative Session

by Kelly Cooper

Colorado’s General Assembly will reconvene on January 8, 2014.  At this time, it appears that at least two probate and trust related issues will be the subject of debate by the Assembly.

The first is a proposed change to the Colorado Civil Unions Act that would permit partners to a civil union to file joint income tax returns if they are permitted to do so by federal law.  Under the current proposal being considered by the Colorado Bar Association, there would be changes to both the Civil Unions Act and Colorado’s income tax statutes.  This is partly in response to the issuance of Revenue Ruling 2013-17 by the Internal Revenue Service, which permits married same sex couples to file joint federal income tax returns. 

The second is a proposal to codify a testamentary exception to Colorado’s attorney-client privilege.  The necessity and proposed scope of the testamentary exception are currently being discussed by a subcommittee of the Statutory Revisions Committee of the Trust & Estate Section of the Colorado Bar Association and will likely be discussed later this week at Super Thursday meetings.

The Colorado Supreme Court has previously recognized that the attorney-client privilege generally survives the death of the client to further one of the policies of the attorney-client privilege – to encourage clients to communicate fully and frankly with counsel.  The Colorado Supreme Court has also held that a “testamentary exception” to the privilege exists, which permits an attorney to reveal certain types of communications when there is dispute among the heirs, devisees or other parties who claim by succession from a decedent so that the intent of the decedent can be upheld.

September 24, 2013

Fiduciary Solutions Symposium Recap

by Kelly Cooper

Last week, we held our first Fiduciary Solutions Symposium.  We want to thank each of you that came and participated.  We enjoyed seeing all of you and getting a chance to catch up with you over breakfast.

For those of you that couldn’t attend, here is a brief recap.  When we discussed topics that we wanted to present at the Symposium, we kept coming back to the constantly evolving and changing nature of our practices.  Whether it is taxes, ADR or changes in state laws, things never stay the same.  As a result, we decided to discuss a variety of topics and the trends we are seeing each day in our practices.  It was difficult to narrow down the topics to two hours of content, but we ended up discussing the following issues:

  • Digital Assets
  • Social Media and Use in Litigation
  • Gun trusts
  • Civil Unions/Same Sex Marriage and related tax issues
  • Reformation and modification of trusts and decanting
  • Apportionment and allocation of taxes and expenses in administration
  • Baby boomers and the “Silver Tsunami”
  • Migratory Clients and Differing State Laws
  • Trends in Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Assisted Reproductive Technology

 We had so much fun that we are taking the show on the road and will be in Salt Lake City on November 12th.  We hope to see you there.

August 5, 2013

Real Lessons From the Gandolfini Will?

by C. Jean Stewart

In the six weeks since the death of Soprano’s actor, James Gandolfini, the web-based criticism of his will that was lodged in the New York Surrogate’s Court last month has exceeded the entire analysis of his career as Tony Soprano or genuine expressions of sympathy on his untimely death while in Italy with his son—maybe I’m just reading the wrong posts?

Much of the commentary is highly sensationalized, presumably to draw the readers’ attention to the pages where advertisements lurk, and does little to advance the dialogue about sound and sensible estate and tax planning.  The small part of the plan that is actually public, a brief will, has been described as “clumsy,” a “disaster,” and “a catastrophe” by critics who reveal how little they knew about the man, his motives or his assets.

I think there are some real lessons for the public about the actor’s death and about the small part of his estate plan that was published on the world-wide web:

  1. Death can be unexpected and untimely; take steps to prepare.  Rather than join the so-called “experts” who declared the Gandolfini will a calamity of epic proportion, I prefer to think that a busy father, who had substantial wealth and a promising future, the parent of two young children with different mothers, and a penchant for rich food and Italian wine, both engaged an attorney to prepare trusts and a will for his signature and then signed them.  Too much of the estate and trust litigation we see these days arises from the sheer neglect of those important issues in our clients’ lives.
  2. Identify a Client’s Intent and Express it Properly. One of the most common errors estate planners make is failing to learn enough about their clients’ lives, interests, assets, concerns and purposes in undertaking estate planning.  This is abundantly evident in the commentary expressing how calamitous the Gandolfini plan is or will be by people who have no apparent knowledge of his assets, his goals or his intent.  When we purport to be “experts in the abstract” we are doing a disservice to potential clients who come to believe they do not need to give actual or factual information to buy an estate plan—after all it can be done over the internet!  One commentator, after roundly criticizing Mr. Gandolfini’s attorney, suggested that a better plan than Gandolfini’s could have been accomplished by a Do-It-Yourself kit obtained online.
  3. Buy Life Insurance When You Can Get It. While we should all be skeptical about what we read in the popular press, there are reports that Mr. Gandolfini had set up a life insurance trust and funded it with a policy in excess of $7.5 million for his young son.  Depending on a lot of circumstances, this may have both avoided some estate taxes and provided a source of liquidity, and may serve as a long term vehicle for support and protection of the young man.  In any event, the purchase of life insurance while it’s available and affordable is a lesson in estate planning that is wise to note, even for clients whose wealth does not justify use of a trust to own it. 
  4. Don’t Over Sell Privacy. It’s been interesting to read criticism about the public aspects of part of the Gandolfini estate plan—the will—from people who make their living inquiring into and publicly criticizing the behavior of others.  Could Mr. Gandolfini have executed this part of his plan in a more private way? Probably yes.  Do trusts ever become public and subject to review and criticism?  Again, yes.  Just a few months ago, I blogged about another famous entertainer’s estate in that is in litigation and the public scrutiny his will and trust had suffered:  
  5. Keeping Taxes in Perspective. We don’t know and we may never know what motivated James Gandolfini and his legal advisor to make these choices.  It is possible that some of the federal, New York and Italian taxes that may ultimately be paid could have been avoided but it will always be an abstract issue of discussion.  Sophisticated and experienced estate and trust lawyers would be wise to use this sad circumstance as an opportunity to counsel with individual living clients who are still able to engage in thoughtful and informed discussions leading to appropriate decisions and implementation of plans that meet their needs and address their concerns.

April 22, 2013

Civil Unions Legislation Effective May 1, 2013

by Kelly Cooper 

In 2012, a law that would have permitted same-sex partners to enter into civil unions in Colorado failed.  In this year’s legislative session, advocates for civil unions were successful and on May 1, 2013, the Colorado Civil Union Act will become effective. 

The Act provides same-sex partners the benefits, protections and responsibilities given to spouses under Colorado law if they enter into a civil union.  In addition, the Act provides that civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal relationships between same-sex partners created in other states will be treated as civil unions in Colorado.

Even though the Colorado Constitution (by a 2006 amendment) limits marriage to a man and a woman, the Act provides that all Colorado laws granting rights to man and woman spouses will now grant the same rights to partners entering into civil unions.   

This means, for example, that if partners wish to dissolve their civil union, they will need to file for a legal dissolution and that the laws regarding maintenance, parenting time, child support and property division will apply.

The Act does not alter the impact of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which provides that marriage is only between a man and a woman.  As a result, federal laws granting rights to spouses will not apply to partners in a civil union.  The United States Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to DOMA.  An opinion is expected from the US Supreme Court in June 2013.  We can expect more developments and changes in this area in the near term, so stay tuned.