Wills continue to be one of the principal means by which an individual directs the disposition of his or her wealth at death, and trusts and other will substitutes are used increasingly to mange and dispose of property. Nevertheless, many decedents’ assets will pass by operation of law in the absence of a will or will substitutes. This course looks at these means for transferring wealth, which makes it a bread-and-butter course for students who anticipate dealing as lawyers with probate and estate planning issues.
Wills and Trusts explores the ways by which an individual’s property passes at death; how individuals may affect that passage by creating a will or will substitute like a trust during lifetime; what the law requires for a will or will substitute to be enforceable; the extent to which the law may limit the disinheritance of a surviving spouse or child; and how fiduciaries administer estates and trusts.
The course begins with an overview of basic concepts and then proceeds to examine specific topics, including: intestacy, which provides for distribution of property by operation of law when a person fails to leave a valid will; probate estates; nonprobate transfers and will substitutes; the personal representative’s administration of a probate estate; the requirements for executing a valid will; will components; changes of circumstances after execution; revocation; interpretation; will contests; the creation of testamentary and living trusts; the trustee’s administration of a trust estate; the nature of beneficial interests under a trust instrument; rules of survivorship; future interests; the modification and termination of trusts; and powers of appointment. Estate-planning and end-of-life planning basics may be introduced as time permits.
The required textbook for this course is "Fundamentals of Trusts and Estates," 3d ed., by Roger Andersen and Ira Bloom (LexisNexis Publishing, 2007). A TWEN Course Web Site will also be used to access assigned statutes and codes, and a class calendar. This course will be graded on a 100-point scale. Students can earn points by satisfactorily drafting a will and completing various other take-home assignments during the course of the semester; in-class quizzes; and a closed book, multiple-choice final exam administered at the end of the semester.