Wednesday, February 27, 2013


When it comes to so-called ‘rejected’ adopted children, many of us are most familiar with the outrage in 2010 when a Tennessee woman sent her adopted son back to Russia on a one-way flight after claiming the 7-year-old had bouts of violence.  But what about the inheritance rights of these adopted children?  Do they have any? (more…)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What to do when you have no friends or family to whom to leave your estate? Why not do what Ray Fulk of Illinois did? Fulk had no family to which he wanted to leave his estate, so he executed a Will leaving $5,000 to his favorite charity, and the rest of his nearly $1,000,000 estate to his two favorite actors, Kevin Brophy (perhaps most famously known for his role in the 1977 television show, Lucan) and Peter Barton (who spent five years on The Young and the Restless in the 80s and 90s and starred in Linda Blair’s 1981 movie, Hell Night), whom he had never met. (more…)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Private Client is happy to welcome two new attorneys to our Irvine office, Partner Renee Gabbard and Associate Megan Acosta, and Of Counsel Ed Peck joins our New York office.

Friday, February 15, 2013

It is no secret that when it comes to inheriting money, people have been known to dream up some creative schemes to get rich. Recently, however, an Illinois Appellate Court nixed the idea that marrying a man and persuading him to adopt—at the age of 94—your 50-plus year-old children could be a successful means to that end.

In November, the court in Dixon v. Weitekamp-Diller held that to allow the four adult adoptees, at least one of whom was a grandmother, to inherit under several trusts created to benefit descendants of the settlor would be to give judicial approval to an act of “subterfuge.” Where an adult adoption is undertaken solely to make the adoptee an heir or a beneficiary of a trust, the court ruled, the adoptee will not be permitted to inherit.

At issue in the case were three trusts created by ancestors of William Hughes Diller, Jr. (“Hughes”). Under the terms of each trust, upon the death of Hughes, the trust corpus was to be distributed, in part, to Hughes’ children. If Hughes died without any children, the shares of the trusts for his children would instead be distributed to the children of his two sisters. Hughes had no biological children of his own. At his death, his only purported children were the four daughters of Barbara Weitekamp (“Barbara”), who Hughes married in 2004, when he was 87 years old and she was 71 years old. In 2010, at the age of 94, Hughes adopted Barbara’s daughter Judith, then 55 years old. The next year, he adopted Barbara’s three other daughters, Brenda, Margaret, and Susan, all of whom were also in their 50s. At the time of the latter three adoptions, Hughes was in an assisted living facility. He died just two months after those adoptions were completed.

It is not clear whether the court believed the adoption of four adults at Hughes’ advanced age of 94 was alone sufficient to find that the adoptions were acts of “subterfuge.” (more…)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

In 2012, the federal estate and gift tax exemption, which is the amount a person can give in life or pass at death before having to pay estate and gift tax, was $5,120,000 per individual. As the infamous “fiscal cliff” approached, the federal exemption was set to drop back to $1,000,000 per individual on January 1, 2013 if Congress did not pass new tax legislation. At that time, most commentators believed that Congress would compromise by lowering the exemption to $3,500,000, which was part of the Obama Administration’s tax plan.

Based on these assumptions, many clients entered into gifting plans in 2012, the primary goal of which was to use as much of the $5,120,000 exemption, or combined exemption of $10,240,000 for married couples, as possible before it was lost. Many married couples who could not give $10,240,00, transferred assets to a single spouse to allow that spouse to give close to or all of the spouse’s $5,120,000 exemption. This strategy would reduce the couples’ total estate and gift tax exposure if the exemption was reduced.

Then, Congress surprised us and passed The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. (more…)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Best Lawyers in America, the oldest lawyer-rating publication in the U.S., has selected 156 Bryan Cave lawyers for inclusion in the 2013 edition. Selection is based on a peer-review survey in which leading attorneys cast almost 4.4 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their specialties.

Included in the rankings are the following attorneys from the Private Client group:


William Linkous Jr.

Frank S. McGaughey

St. Louis:

Lawrence Brody

Michael N. Newmark

John D. Schaperkotter

Kathleen R. Sherby

Franklin F. Wallis


Friday, February 1, 2013

St. Louis Partner Steve Daiker was quoted at length Jan. 25 by the Ladue News concerning when, why and how to modify life insurance policies in order to protect yourself and your family. Life insurance should be obtained at a young, healthy age to qualify for a lower premium, then policy holders should be mindful of when to update policies, Daiker said. Marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, retirement, even changes in the growth of a business all are events that may warrant a change in life insurance, he said.