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When a Woman Loves a Woman: The Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA

US Supreme CourtThis morning, in a landmark ruling for gay rights, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), on Fifth Amendment Equal Protection grounds, in the case of U.S. v. Windsor (570 U.S. ______ (2013)). DOMA is the 1996 federal statute preventing federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Under DOMA, marriage is defined for federal purposes as a union between one man and one woman. Such definition determined who was covered by more than 1,100 federal laws, programs and benefits, including Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights and family leave, as well as federal tax benefits, including, as was the issue in Windsor, the unlimited federal estate tax marital deduction. Under the law, gay couples who are legally married in a state (or foreign country) that allows

Court Dismisses Widow’s Action for Damages Against Trustees for Filing Fraudulent Information Return

Right now we are all in the peak of tax return filing season. As part of the tax return process, many tax practitioners file information returns for the entities they represent. Any person, including a corporation, partnership, individual, estate, and trust, who makes a payment (such for as rent, wages, salaries, and annuities) must file an information return with the IRS to report the payment. But what happens if a false information return is filed with the IRS?

In 1996, Congress enacted 26 U.S.C. § 7434(a), which gives victims of fraudulent filing activities a damage remedy against the perpetrators. The provision applies whenever “any person willfully files a fraudulent information return with respect to payments purported to be made to any other person.” It allows the subject of the false information return to recover from the person filing the return the greater of $5,000 or actual damages flowing “as a

When a Woman Loves a Woman: Another Federal Judge Strikes Down DOMA — Part II

Update: The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Windsor v. United States.

Update: On Friday, December 7, 2012, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments in Windsor v. United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry. These cases, addressing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 will mark the first time the Supreme Court has addressed the question of same-sex marriage.

Update: On October 18, 2012, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion striking down the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (“DOMA”) in the ACLU and NYCLU’s Windsor v. United States case. The Court decided that when government discriminates against lesbians and gay men, the discrimination should be presumed to be unconstitutional. The Second Circuit was not the first appeals court to strike down DOMA,

Death, Taxes and Miles: Where do your frequent flyer miles go when you’re gone?

When someone passes away, usually their next of kin, agent or fiduciary will begin to compile a list of the decedent’s assets.  Rarely will such a list include the decedent’s frequent flyer miles.  However, depending upon how many miles have been accrued during the decedent’s life, frequent flyer miles can be worth hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars.  In such cases, heirs or beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate may wish to benefit from the value the decedent has amassed in frequent flyer miles.

Transferring Miles

Most airlines allow for mileage transfer among the living, but it is usually an expensive task to accomplish, often accompanied by fees and yearly limits.  The transferability of frequent flyer miles upon death is no more simple.  Susan Stellin, the author of a New York Times article entitled “The Afterlife of Your Frequent Flyer Miles,” stated “I asked six airlines if they allow transfers

Wandry v. Commissioner is a Big Win in a Defined Value Case

Wandry v. Commissioner is a Big Win in a Defined Value Case

November 13, 2012

Authored by: Tiffany McKenzie and Alan Singer

UPDATE: On November 13, in an Action on Decision (“AOD”) appearing at 2012-46 IRB, the IRS did not acquiesce to the Tax Court’s decision in Wandry upholding fixed dollar gifts of LLC interests. An AOD is a formal memorandum prepared by the IRS Office of Chief Counsel that announces the future litigation position the IRS will take with regard to the court decision addressed by the AOD.

UPDATE:  On October 17, an Order dismissing the appeal was filed, following a stipulation by the parties on October 16 that the case be dismissed with prejudice.

UPDATE:  Notice of Appeal of the Wandry case was filed with the Tax Court, with the Appeal going to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Read about the initial holding here.

For the first time, in Wandry v. Commissioner, the Tax Court approved a defined value formula clause without a charitable component. In this federal gift tax

New Article Published by Our Lawyers

Two of our Atlanta attorneys, partner Kim Civins and associate Tiffany McKenzie, recently published an article in the Summer 2012 issue of Insights Magazine entitled “Estate Planning With Conservation Easements”.  Check it out here!

When a Woman Loves a Woman (With Apologies to Percy Sledge…): Another Federal Judge Strikes Down DOMA

The year was 1963, the restaurant Portofino – an eclectic restaurant in Greenwich Village, a part of New York City known as one of the centers of the gay and lesbian liberal movement. It was this night that Edie Windsor met Thea Spyer. “We immediately just fit,” said Thea, in the award-winning 2009 documentary film, Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement by Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdotir. After sharing their lives together as a couple in New York City for 44 years, the two women wed in Canada, where same-sex marriage was legal. Two years later, Thea died of complications of multiple sclerosis. At that time the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), a 1996 federal statute, took effect, transforming Edie’s story from a personal tragedy to a public trial.

A Will Is Not Enough: An Estate Planning Lesson from Whitney Houston’s Passing

A recent Forbes.com article speculates that Whitney Houston’s estate will be worth anywhere between $10 and $20 million, or more. However, throughout her career, Houston has signed $100 million record deals and $10 million movie contracts for her roles in Blockbuster hits such as “The Bodyguard” and “The Preacher’s Wife.” Houston also completed the filming of “Sparkle” which is scheduled to be released in September of this year. Surely, with sound marketing, branding of Houston’s image, and increased record sales, her estate can bring in millions more in the upcoming years. Zach Greenburg, Forbes writer, said although Whitney Houston may not match Michael Jackson’s postmortem earnings, her artist royalties alone could bring the estate more than $10 million in the next year. Here’s an

Florida’s New Power of Attorney Act

Florida’s new Power of Attorney Act contained in the Florida Statute, Chapter 709, went into effect October 1, 2011. The new statute will affect how attorneys draft, utilize, and enforce powers of attorney (“POA”). Some of the more significant provisions of this new legislation are discussed below.

What is a POA? A Power of Attorney is a writing in which an individual (the “principal”) grants authority to another individual (the “agent”) to act in place of the principal; each act performed by the agent pursuant to the Power of Attorney has the same effect and benefit to the principal and the principal’s successors in interest as if the principal had performed the act himself.

Why have a POA?

Having an executed Power of Attorney is important in situations where an accident or illness renders an individual incapable of making decisions for themselves. By having an attorney prepare a Power of

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