Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Inheritance Reduces Inequality"

Who says economists can't have fun? The author of this op-ed piece in Financial Post is probably Canadian. Maybe that helps.

William Watson's thesis: inheritance eases rather than exacerbates inequality.
The raw data on the pattern of who’s left money is not at all encouraging for egalitarians. Inheritances are both bigger and more common the higher you move up the income scale. They also go disproportionately to the more educated and to white Americans rather than Afro-Americans and Hispanics. ***

All that suggests inheritances can only make inequality worse. What turns this presumption around 180 degrees is that as a percentage of recipients’ net worth, inheritances are bigger at the bottom end than the top. Thus the average increase in net worth from receiving an inheritance is 66% for people making less than $15,000 a year (this time in 1998 dollars), but only 16% for people making at least $250,000 a year. Rich people do leave more total dollars to their kids (many of whom aren’t actually “kids” when the transfer takes place, but are in their 50s or even 60s), but the proportional effect isn’t as great. By causing this disproportionate boost at the bottom end, inheritance’s effect is equalizing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's holding up 1099 enhanced reporting repeal?

Everybody, literally everybody, in DC says that the ridiculous expansion of 1099 reporting has to be repealed.  But no one wants to actually do it.  Evidence? The ongoing kabuki over how to "pay for" the repeal.  See if you can understand this, from Tax Notes ($):
Menendez's language would task the Department of Health and Human Services with studying the offset in the Johanns amendment to determine if it would raise health insurance costs for small businesses or cause them to cut coverage. If so, then the offset provision would be blocked from going into effect. 

Johanns's offset would raise money by increasing the recapture rate for a health insurance tax credit enacted in the 2010 healthcare reform law. Some Democrats have objected to the offset, saying it would raise taxes on middle-income earners. The House and Senate have each passed separate legislation to repeal the reporting requirements, but a deal to reconcile the two bills has been elusive. 
Does that make any sense?  These are entirely hypothetical future provisions, which will might or might not raise some amount of revenue based upon some undisclosed econometric model, and we have to hold up the repeal to see if some other model predicts adverse behavioral response? 

Obviously none of these tax writers are serious. Or maybe they really are serious about retaining the 1099 provision while being able to deny responsibility for it, in which case they are dishonest.  Boy, I miss the Rostenkowski days.  Heck, I even miss Wilbur Mills!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Matter of Death and Life

Men who have died can do more than continue making money. Some can sire children.

Fox News reports these children may face an uphill battle for inheritance rights.
The use of assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, is becoming more widespread among U.S. troops and cancer patients as they are increasingly banking their sperm to prevent a premature death or sterility-inducing injury from allowing them to have children, observers say.

Yet only 11 states recognize the biological relationships of children conceived posthumously: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

Other states grant inheritance rights to children born after one parent dies only if conceived naturally. And although the Social Security Administration generally oversees benefits, it defers to states when determining parentage and children's inheritance rights.

Monday, March 28, 2011

“Albert Einstein, Income Hectomillionaire!*

Einstein has earned $75 million over the last five years. Not bad for a gent who died in 1955.

More specifically, Einstein's right of publicity has earned that fortune for his estate and heirs. In her op-ed for The New York Times, The New Grave Robbers, Ray Madoff writes that the tendency to treat the identity of people long dead as private property has gotten out of hand.

In some states, such as New York, a person's right of publicity ends with the person's death. In others, heirs may possess and profit from that posthumous right for a limited time. In a few, "control over the identities of the dead has been secured for terms ranging from 100 years to, potentially, eternity."

A celebrity who who does not wish heirs to profit from his right of publicity has little say in the matter: "It is a basic tenet of wills law that a person cannot order the destruction of a valuable property interest." That's good news for the Internal Revenue Service:
[R]ights of publicity, like all other property interests, are subject to estate taxes at their highest market value. This means that even if heirs choose not to market a person’s identity (perhaps to protect their loved one’s dignity), they nonetheless must pay taxes on the right. In some cases, that could compel heirs to market their loved ones’ identity in order to pay the taxes associated with it. Paradoxically, the values would likely be highest for those individuals who most coveted their privacy while alive (think J. D. Salinger).
Madoff wishes Congress would deal with the right-of-publicity mess:
In doing so, it should establish clear First Amendment protections and set forth a relatively short term for the right of publicity to survive death (perhaps 10 years). Most important, the law should provide a mechanism that allows people to opt out of marketing their identities after death.
Update: Add Elizabeth Taylor to the list of dead people who will keep on getting richer. That could be a problem. "Much like Elvis and Michael Jackson," the Wills, Trusts and Estates Prof observes, "Taylor failed to understand and plan for money made after death."

*My bad. Forgot hectomillion meant 100 million, not 10. Still, Einstein is racking up a genuine hectomillion every decade or so, and that's impressive moneymaking.

Related post: Return of the Dead Hand

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Multimillionaires* Have Multiple Advisers

Households with investable assets of $10 milion or more typically work with five or more advisers, according to a Cerulli Associates study previewed by Investment News. Only 18% work with just one adviser. That's not surprising. After living through 2008-2009, only the bravest of multimillionaires would keep all their eggs in one financial organization's basket.

Even investors not rich enough to pay for advice often divide their holdings into two or three piles. Your humble blogger's T-bonds, for instance, reside in a retirement account at a Connecticut bank. Equities and munis sit in an online brokerage account. A mutual fund company holds a small emergency fund for us.

Here's how one multimillionaire arranges things, courtesy of The New York Times:

Reginald K. Brack Jr., former CEO of Time and a member of Tiger 21, took on his first adviser ( a broker?) when he needed to diversify out of Time Inc. stock. For munis he turned to Royal Bank of Canada. His third source of advice, on investing and estate matters, works for Fieldpoint Private Bank and Trust. Mr. Brack is one of the bank's founders.

One surprising finding from the Cerulli survey: "44% of wealthy households had changed their primary financial adviser over the past 12 months." If so, picking up new business from investors with $10 million or more should be easy. Hanging onto their business? That's the challenge.

*Original post erroneously read "Hectomillionaires." See footnote here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Target Trust Market: The Salaried Man

In its last decades The Irving Trust Company concentrated its print advertising on commercial banking. Here's a rare exception – a trust ad from the spring of 1966. The illustration presumably looked arty forty-five years ago. A bit spooky now.

Note that Irving wasn't looking for Old Money. The ad is addressed to those Earl MacNeill identified eight years earlier as 'The Salaried Man."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Hampshire: Trustwise, It’s Delaware North

H/T to the Wills, Trusts and Estates Prof for spotlighting my State's surge as a trust location.

From the Trust Advisor blog:
Until recently, finding a truly hospitable trust jurisdiction on the East Coast was a tough choice between reigning champion Delaware and everywhere else. Delaware guarded its exclusivity, but since it had the best statutes, everyone in the business wanted to get in.

However, New Hampshire — famous throughout the country as one of the original income tax havens — has been working hard to establish itself as an interstate trust company destination as well.

Since the last piece fell into place back in July, the state has been quietly enticing trust companies from old money Boston to move across the border. Now, it’s got its sights on capturing out-of-state business from all over the country.

Estate Planning Made Not Too Scary

SmartMoney's estate planning coverage includes a federal estate tax calculator and tax tips for singles and marrieds. (Whether viewable by nonsubscribers to the WSJ I'm not sure.) When thoughtfully arranged, as in this case, a good bit of info can be presented without intimidating the viewer.

But taxes aren't the hard part of estate planning. For instance, as noted elsewhere on SmartMoney, "while the overall divorce rate has decreased slightly over the past two decades, for those over 50 it has doubled …."

Monday, March 21, 2011

An Entertaining Estate Tax Lecture

In January Michael Graetz delivered the inaugural Lloyd Leva Plaine Distinguished Lecture at the Heckerling Estate Planning Institute. Readers of Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight Over Taxing Inherited Wealth, co-authored by Graetz, may find much of the content familiar. For the rest of us, The Politics and Policy of the Estate Tax—Past, Present and Future, offers an informative, entertaining backgrounder on the temporary (so far) death of the Death Tax.

Graetz introduces us to Pat Soldano, the death-tax opponent and family-office entrepreneur, lobbyists and their wealthy sponsors, and individuals who did or did not die timely deaths.
… Ruth Lily, a well known philanthropist and the sole heiress to the founder of Eli Lily & Co, died on December 30, 2009, so her estate, estimated at more than $1 billion was subject to the tax. Clara Laub, a widow who owned a Fresno, California grape farm worth several million dollars, was diagnosed with advanced cancer in October 2009. She made her grandson tell her every day what day it was. She passed away on New Year’s morning, 2010.
What next? Graetz sees no reduction in the current $5-million exemption or its portability for married couples. Rates are another question. "Most importantly, it would be a mistake to believe that the tax’s opponents have given up on repeal …."

H/T to the Wills, Trusts and Estates Prof for directing me to this lecture in print.

When Your Will Is Contested, Talk Back!

"A small but growing number of states," writes Anne Tergesen in The Wall Street Journal ($), "are enacting laws you can use to force individuals to file legal contests while you're still alive and able to defend your estate plans in court."

If you don't live in those states, your will still could be questioned when probated in your home state. Safest bet: a simple pour-over will linked to a living trust set up in Alaska, Delaware or Nevada.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

“I sincerely ask that all beneficiaries … do not argue”

Ken Talbot, Australian mining billionaire, died in a plane crash last year. Could he avoid arguments over his estate, even though he left more to the children from his first marriage than he left to his younger offspring? In a word, no.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Can't Read Enough About Estate-Tax Planning?

Is Your Wealth Safe Under New Estate Tax Laws? Based on an interview with Deborah Jacobs, this Morningstar article offers a readable guide to planning under the 2011-12 estate tax rules.

Estate Tax Tips for Married Couples
. Includes a plug for irrevocable life insurance trusts.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celebrity wills

Just discovered Trial & Heirs, a the website and blog of Danielle and Andy Mayoras. They met at the University of Michigan Law School, and now they specialize in elder law and probate matters. They've just published a book based upon their blog, which is now a bit over two years old.  I'm surprised I hadn't come across it before.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Curious Irish Will

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem are singing on the telly. Time for a St. Patrick's Day post. Google came up with this:

[To The Editor Of The Spectator.]

Sir, — So recently as the year 1874, a professional gentleman in the south of Ireland made a will some extracts from which are here given. The will was lent to me by a parishioner; but for obvious reasons I do not give the name and address of the testator: —

I leave and bequeath an annuity of £120 a year, an ample provision for an irreclaimable booby, to my nephew, I. L. C, to be paid him only in Australia or any British colony, where he may desire it to be remitted to him. . . . Should the said I. L. C. return to Ireland, England, or Scotland, I then revoke this annuity, and he has my leave to die in the Poorhouse.


I leave and bequeath to Mr. J. M. an annuity of ,£10 a year, to be paid half-yearly, as he is the most distressed of all his respectable relations, not from any regard for him, but because he was a near relative of my deceased wife.

Educate! Inform! Communicate!

I wasn't taking notes at the Wealth Management and Trust Conference in Miami, but Ruthie Ackerman of Bank Investment Consultant was.

Joe Navarro, the guru of non-verbal communications, cited a study that found guys wearing three-button suits appeared "less honest" than those who wore two-button suits. Sorry about that, J. Press.

In another dispatch Ackerman reports that Alvi Abuaf of FIS criticized large institutions for their efforts to "rebuild trust" after the hit that the Great Recession delivered to the investment markets. Ploys like rebranding don't cut it, Abuaf advised. He urged institutions to deliver more faithful client service, and to "educate and inform … communicate and connect."

That sounds like good advice, although the description of the problem is a bit off. No wire house, no trust company and no family office can be "trusted" to prevent another market downturn. It can't be done. Even the great J. P. Morgan himself couldn't stop the stock market from fluctuating.

For trust departments and other investment advisers, the point of educating and informing is to help present and future clients gain a better understanding of the real investment world, together with the steps that can be taken to cope with unwelcome fluctuations.

Education and communication on taxes, retirement and estate planning helps, too. The broader an adviser's skills and knowledge appear, the more likely that clients won't judge his or her worth solely by what the market does.

Today the giant institutions of the wealth-management business post plenty of financial info and planning guidance on their web sites. Now community institutions can do the same, easily and at what I would describe as 1991 prices. See the Wealth Management Articles Library.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Boston's Italian Inheritance

Boston, Massachusetts has been left $700,000, plus a house and pets needing care, by an Italian from Atina. There's also a will dispute.

Atina, Italy

Americans, too, sometimes name foreign cities or towns as beneficiaries. Last year a Boston-area economist left a surprise bequest to a town in Sweden.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, March 13, 2011

For Investment Success, Don't Just Do Something

From Paul Sullivan's Wealth Matters column in The New York Times:
[A study by Philip Z. Maymin, an assistant professor of finance and risk engineering at Polytechnic Institute of New York University] found that the value of investment advisers was not in the stocks or mutual funds they recommended but in their ability to restrain investors from impulsively trading at the wrong time. It cites data showing that aggressive orders by individuals can cost them about four percentage points a year.
Four points! Consider a $1 million portfolio that's underperforming by four percentage points. Suppose a professional investment adviser shrinks that lag by two percentage points (the adviser needs a 1 percent fee, and the client demands a little action, so sector rotation and tactical asset allocation take away a second percentage point). Over ten years, that improvement in the return from a $1 million account will enrich the investor by over $218,000!

In theory that kind of difference ought to make it easy to market the "Don't just do something" approach. The reality? Never happen. "Big gain!" sells. "Smaller loss!" doesn't.

The best we hapless marketers can do is dissemble, touting benefits ranging from irrelevant to fanciful. But when we do our job successfully, we save investors a bundle.

Related posts:

What Can You Promise?

How Investment Advisers Earn Their Keep

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why the Estate Tax Is So Hated?

The NY Times gives Frances Fukuyama's upcoming book a plug. This time the author of "The End of History" tackles "The Origins of Political Order." In academia some are already hailing the work as a magnum opus.

Dr. Fukuyama examines ways in which various societies evolved from families to extended families or tribes, and from tribes to states. The latter step is difficult because the power of kinship is strong. (Current news analysis describes Libya as a group of tribes held together only by a take-no-prisoners ruler.)

States emerged by means of several practices that broke family and tribal ties. according to Dr. Fukuyama. Islam in its heyday enslaved boys captured from Europe, raised them as Muslims and trained them for war. One such group, the Mamluks, defeated the Crusaders. Feudal kings in Europe removed promising young people from their family homes and brought them to court.

(Don't know whether Dr. Fukuyama mentions the Scots; they did not proceed to invent everything until the Highland Clearances dispersed the clans, replacing them with flocks of sheep.)

Does the strong and enduring power of kinship explain why we find the estate tax so hateful? How dare the State place its revenue requirements above the family's!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Muni bonds

An interesting note, via Yahoo, from The Wall Street JournalVery low issuance (lowest since 2000) of new muni bonds this quarter.  Seems surprising in the face of the deficits. 

One thought is that there was a year-end rush to issue Build America Bonds before they expired.   So some of the bonds that might have been issued this quarter were advanced into late last year. My thought is that taxable investors may have lost their taste for tax-free muni bonds, or they are worried about default.  The Build America Bonds brought tax-free investors (endowments and pension funds) on the buying side, propping up demand.  With those potential buyers gone, there's less chance to move the product.

Where the Millionaires Are

The Center for Responsive Politics calculates that 60 percent of Senate freshmen and 40 percent of new House lawmakers are worth $1 million or more.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Why Some U.K. Parents Spend the Kids' Inheritance

From Bank of mum and dad shuts up shop in The Telegraph:

One in three parents is unwilling to leave an inheritance – or even offer financial help to married children – in case the gift becomes part of a future divorce settlement, according to research by Rensburg Sheppards, the financial planners.

The firm said ageing parents did not want to see a disgruntled ex-son or daughter-in law walk away with money or assets they were keen to keep within the immediate family.

The research found that almost a third of those surveyed (27pc) said they were not confident that their children's marriages would last, and the majority called for prenuptial agreements to be made legally binding to help keep inheritances outside a divorce settlement.

The Telegraph article offers a brief intro to estate planning, U.K. style – transfers at death and "giving from warm hands."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Status Symbol: A Living Trust

Big money is mostly held in trust, according to the graphic in this Millionaire Corner article.

Euphemism of the Week: “Poor Phone Management”

What's the number one reason for high-net-worth clients to drop their investment advisers? As Investment News describes the findings from a Spectrem survey, it's "poor phone management."

It's "cuckoo," says Investment News, but millionaires really don't like it when their advisers don't return phone calls promptly.

Guess what? That's no cuckoo. Anyone who has worked in advertising and marketing knows clients will give you another kind of bird if you don't get back to them promptly.

Investment clients expect calls to be returned ASAP because

1. They actually may need you to do something.

2. They want to feel their business is important to you.

Most will make allowances if you're tied up in an all-day meeting or on vacation. But if you're on the job, you better respond promptly. Returning a client's call within the hour may not make the client forget you thought Apple was a "sell" at 150, but it should help the healing process.

Need another reason to treat every client like a VIP? Millionaires aren't as plentiful as they used to be. Spectrem counted 7.8 million households with investable assets of $1 million or more in 2009. That's down from 9.2 million in 2007.

End of tax patents?

Tax Notes ($) reports:
In an 87-3 vote, the Senate chose to end debate on S. 23, the America Invents Act. The bill, formerly called the Patent Reform Act of 2011, would make any strategy for reducing, avoiding, or deferring tax liability ineligible for a patent. Pending patents at the date of enactment would be made ineligible, but existing patents would not be affected. 
This is long overdue.  I'm still shocked by the notion that I could be legally forced to choose between paying more tax than the law demands or paying a royalty to the holder of a tax patent for the privilege of obeying the law to the letter.  Allowing tax patents was a deeply subversive idea.

Also, the Senate may act soon on fixing the 1099 debacle. Another seriously flawed idea that undermined confidence in the legitimacy of the tax system.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Are 90 years without transfer taxes enough?

TaxProf points to a WSJ piece that reports the Obama administration would like to limit the tax freedom of dynasty trusts to 90 years.  The trust could remain perpetual, it's just that some sort of transfer tax would be due.  I wonder how the CBO will score this tax increase? Perhaps we could use it to pay for Obamacare?

Current dynasty trusts would be exempt, so the Kennedys and the Rockefellers can rest easy.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

How Investment Advisers Earn Their Keep

Most investment advisers can't beat the market. Good advisers earn their keep, in part, by helping their clients make better decisions.

This train of thought started with a scheduled speaker tomorrow at the Wealth Management and Trust Conference. Legg Mason's Michael Mauboussin, author of "Think Twice, Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition." will talk about the mental blocks that inhibit good decision-making. Forgetting the existance of black swans, for instance.

Or allowing context to influence a decision. An example that would have alarmed Vance Packard involves wine sales. Play German or Italian music in a store that sells mostly French wines and … sales of German or Italian wines soar.

In this NY Times op-ed piece, Joseph Hallinan illustrates the dangers of jumping to conclusions by explaining why some musicians sight-read so easily. They don't read every note; they recognize patterns in strings of notes. Their gift serves them well. But what if there is one wrong note in the printed score? Will they notice?

No, Boris Goldovsky (long a familiar voice on Metropolitan Opera broadcasts) discovered that only a child, looking at the score without preconceptions, could see the misprinted note.

Goldovsky’s experiment yielded a key insight into human error: not only had the experts misread the music — they had misread it in the same way. *** In short, they don’t read; they infer. Moreover, this trait is not unique to musicians: pattern recognition is a hallmark of expertise in any number of fields; it is what allows experts to do quickly what amateurs do slowly.

Goldovsky’s insight offers a useful metaphor for understanding the crisis on Wall Street: Not only did hedge-fund managers, bankers and others misread the danger involved in many of their investments, but they misread them in the same way.

As Paul E. Kanjorski, a former congressman who served on the House Financial Services Committee, put it, “Why does it appear to the general public that all the finest minds in finance missed the most obvious?”

It appears that way because they did miss it.

Unfortunately, most investment advisers are not 10 years old. Fortunately, even grown-up advisers can help their clients avoid emotional decisions and – think twice. When you consider how much investors would otherwise lose buying high and selling low, that impartial second opinion is a bargain.

The Good Old, Bad Old Days

Wealthholders 65 and over may remember 1961 for the bad news. Berlin Wall. Bay of Pigs.

Here's a memory jogger to get them reminiscing about the happy side of the year:

In 1961 Jaguar unveiled every trust-fund baby's dream – an art object that doubled as a motor car. Today The New York Times commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the E-Type's arrival.

Below, a page from the Jaguar ad that ran in The New Yorker fifty years ago this April.

Another good thing from 1961? The Beatles' first concert!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Banks That Write Wills

In the U.K., four major banks offer inexpensive will-drafting services. In about 40 percent of the wills, a solicitor or the bank is named as executor. That has led to complaints, the Daily Mail reports:
[B]anks can charge up to 4.5 per cent of the deceased's estate for these services, meaning the bill can quickly run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Banks often lure in vulnerable elderly people with the promise of a cheap will-writing service, then persuade them to sign up to the executor service without explaining how expensive it is.
After Britain's Office of Fair Trading stepped in, the banks have agreed that customers will be:

- TOLD that appointing a bank executor is not essential;

- SHOWN that alternative executor services are available;

- GIVEN a clear breakdown of fees.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Man Who Liked Taxes

This ad appeared in the March 17, 1956 issue of The New Yorker. Until the previous year, income-tax returns had been due on March 15. The change to April 15 was a disaster for financial journalists: no more reiterations of "Beware the Ides of March."

iPad Time – Faster Than a New York Minute

Remember a year ago? In early April Apple was scheduled to introduce a new tablet computer – what the world now knows as the iPad. Then production glitches caused a brief delay. Bearish commentators warned Apple wouldn't have time to achieve significant sales in 2010.

Actual iPad sales last year? Almost 15 million! The world hadn't known what an iPad was, but everybody in the world instantly seemed to want one. By summer tourists at the Eiffel Tower were taking their guided tours on iPads. By fall tourists were joined by kids, boomers, seniors, warehouse workers …

… and, of course, wealth managers.

How much of iPad's speedy success, one wonders, was due to digital word of mouth? Via texts, tweets and Facebook, news of the Next Big Thing could spread across continents in minutes. It's not a fair comparison ( Steve Jobs doesn't have brokers working on commission as competitors) but we'll make it anyway: in the last century it took no-load index funds, Jack Bogle's Next Big Thing, a generation and more to gain traction.

Don't you love the cover-converting-to-stand for the iPad 2?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Executor: A Bank to be Named Later

From Choosing the Right Executor for Your Estate in the NY Times:
Considering the changes in the financial services industry, Alan Gassman, a lawyer with Gassman, Bates & Associates in Clearwater, Fla., advises clients not to name a specific bank or trust company in their will. Instead, he advises them to appoint someone they trust to interview trust companies, negotiate fees and select one when the need arises.

Elder Abuse with Principal-Protected Notes?

You would never know it from the online version of the March/April issue of AARP's magazine, but the print edition contains a scathing article on structured products – principal-protected notes. Pick up a copy and read "The Time Bomb in Your Nest Egg."

Brokers at major banks and Wall Street firms sold over $51 billion of the derivatives last year, typically to elderly investors seeking more income. One commentator refers to the structured products as the consumer version of the toxic derivatives Wall Street used to sell to institutions.

Sold under such fancy names as reverse-convertible or return-optimization securities, the products are so profitable for banks that in-bank brokers can earn commissions of from 3 percent to 10 percent, according to the AARP article. Seniors tend to be easy marks because "elderly people are often more comfortable with brokers who work in their banks."

The in-bank brokers I've run into over the years have seemed pleasant enough. I hate to see their brethren getting more bad press. Come to think of it, though, our local bank branch (TD Bank) recently cleared away the marketing materials for in-bank investment sales. Now the brochures promote TD Ameritrade.

Are some banks deciding that in-bank sales of investment products are not worth risking charges of elder abuse?

Today's poster child for elder abuse was Mickey Rooney. This article on Mickey's Senate appearance includes a troubling statistic:
About 7.3 million older Americans — or one of every five people over 65 — have been financially swindled, according to an Investor Protection Trust survey ….
Such statistics seem to vary widely, along with definitions of a swindle.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

“Ancient, Curious and Famous Wills”

Roman wills were sealed, after they had been securely fastened and other precautions taken against forgery.

In the seventh century wills were written on bark or wood.

Anglo-Saxon wills were made in triplicate, and consigned to separate custodians.

Welcome to "Ancient, Curious and Famous Wills," authored by Virgil Harris, published in 1911 and, thanks to Google's scanning, now available to read online. Or, in my case, available as a free download to my new Kindle. (Yes, we retirees can do 21st-century. Sometimes we even do it without the help of our grandchildren.)

Anyone seeking to add flavor or seasoning to estate-planning articles knows this classic work, or should. For the uninitiated, a sample:

The disposition of property by will does not show that the good men do is "oft interred with their bones," but rather that … humanity broadens and grows kindlier with the years. It may be observed that the mean and hateful traits of human nature are more frequently shown by heirs and legatees than by testators.

It is true that … many testators evince a strong desire to take with them to the next world the substance collected in their dusty lives; but the law has placed hindrances, and as Pope says:

"The laws of God as well as of the land Forbid a perpetuity to stand."

Your homework: Compose the couplets Alexander Pope might have written had he known the future would include dynasty trusts.

Was it financial terrorism in 2008?

A disturbing report from the Defense Department suggests that the financial debacle of 2008 was magnified by foreign traders, who used oil speculation (driving up prices), derivatives trading and bear raids to make our bad situation worse.  We may be entering a final phase, an attack on the dollar and the U.S. Treasury.