Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Under Pressure: David Bowie’s Estate Plan

Download-1“Under Pressure.” These two words were said by the iconic David Bowie along with Queen singer, Freddie Mercury. Sadly, Bowie died back on January 20, 2016 from liver cancer at the age of 69 in Manhattan, New York City. Many celebrities, including Kanye West and Madonna, reacted with deep sorrow because they had lost the “Chameleon of Rock.” Bowie’s legacy still lives on through his children, Lexi and Duncan, along with his wife and now widow, Iman.

Bowie, initially, left the rest of his residuary estate and the remainder of Iman’s trust to Duncan and Lexi. Lexi was also subjected to her own separate trust until the age of 25. After the age of 25, she would be able to possess all the trusts assets. In the case of Iman’s trust, it did qualify for a full marital deduction, which created Bowie’s estate taxes that were to be managed by the children’s shares of the residuary estate.

Even though Bowie was iconic, his estate plan did suffer some consequences. With the $100 million value of his estate, Bowie did not create lifetime trusts that would have benefited his children. If he had created that trust, his children would have been protected from creditors for either his or her lifetime. It would have also given Bowie the power to use his full GST exemption. Since he did not achieve this step, both Lexi and Duncan did not have a special power of appointment over the trust.

One other mistake that David Bowie made in his estate plan was that he did not institute the decanting procedure, which an authorized trustee, not the grantor, transfers assets from one trust into another trust which contains the necessary changes that will achieve the intended purpose. Since he did not use this process, Iman’s trust could not be transferred from one to another.

When creating an estate plan, make sure to use the decanting process. The decanting process can be a powerful tool for post- mortem estate planning and should always be considered whenever testamentary trusts are created. Don’t be under pressure! Create your estate plan today!

Michelle Profit is an estate planning attorney serving Maryland and the District of Columbia. A Harvard Law School graduate, she has worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years. A dedicated advocate for all of her clients, Michelle Q. Profit personally handles each client case from start to finish to meet the client’s needs and objectives. Michelle listens in the consultation sessions and works with any other client accountants or financial planners to create a comprehensive estate plan.

Changing a Special Needs Trustee

Special Needs TrusteeSpecial needs trusts offer substantial benefits for those people who have them.

They allow a beneficiary to have access to income, while remaining eligible for government benefits.

However, in exchange for that benefit, the trusts are very restricted. They must be created in hyper-specific ways and the beneficiary's ability to control the assets in the trust is limited.

Technically, the beneficiary cannot distribute or manage the trust assets.

That means a third-party trustee is needed.

If the trustee is not up to the job or intentionally mishandles the trust, it can be difficult for the beneficiary to change the trustee, as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog discusses in "Can the Beneficiary of a Special Needs Trust Change the Trustee?"

Special Needs TrusteeA beneficiary of a special needs trust can petition a court to have the trustee removed and another appointed. However, this can be a difficult process and many people with special needs are not able to handle the complex legal issues of filing a petition with the court, let alone arguing for a trustee change.

This could potentially stick a beneficiary with a bad trustee and no recourse.

It is, therefore, important that special needs trusts be drafted with this problem in mind.

Trustees must be chosen carefully and, in cases where the beneficiary is of diminished capacity, it should be clear on who else can petition to change the trustee.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Sep. 27, 2017) "Can the Beneficiary of a Special Needs Trust Change the Trustee?"


Estate Attorney

Daughter Sues Mother for Wasting Her Inheritance

MP900442456[1]A case in New York is a good reminder that it is very important to make sure that trusts details are specific, in order to make the settlor's wishes crystal clear.

The story had a Hollywood beginning. A schoolteacher and a wealthy real estate investor met through a singles ad, fell in love, got married and had a child.

From that beginning, things quickly turned south.

According to court records filed by the child of that marriage, Elizabeth Marcus, her mother refused to sleep with her father after she was born. The two divorced after a few years and the father passed away, when Marcus was nine years old.

The father did not want his ex-wife to receive any of his assets and instead left half his estate in trust to Marcus. Another child from a previous marriage received the other half.

The trust was originally overseen by Citibank, but after fighting for several years, the mother took control of the trust in 2003, according to the Daily Mail in "Daughter sues her 'self-involved' mother for 'frittering away more than $13m of her inheritance – so she could buy cars and a $6m mansion next to Gwyneth Paltrow in the Hamptons'."

Marcus is suing her mother now, claiming that her mother has stolen her inheritance to buy expensive items for herself, including a mansion and fancy cars. Most of the original inheritance is now alleged to be gone.

The mother, of course, denies the accusations.

The missing piece of the puzzle from the reports is how the mother was able to gain control of the trust, if the father did not wish her to have it. He might have neglected to be clearer about his wishes in the trust documents.  Profit Law Firm can help make your issues crystal clear in our documents.

Reference: Daily Mail (April 23, 2017) "Daughter sues her 'self-involved' mother for 'frittering away more than $13m of her inheritance – so she could buy cars and a $6m mansion next to Gwyneth Paltrow in the Hamptons'."