July was another quiet month in the sense that there were no decisions of note reported in Massachusetts. It was not a quiet month overall, however, for T&E lawyers in Massachusetts.
Most significantly, with Governor Patrick’s signature on July 8, 2012, the MUTC finally became the law of the Commonwealth. The legislation also made certain technical corrections to the MUPC and amended the Probate Court’s fee schedule. Much has already been written about the MUTC and the MUPC, and much more will be written, but on the most practical level the link to the new fee schedule can be found here.
In further news from the Massachusetts Legislature, on July 26, 2012, the House initially approved a bill that would give family members and others in charge of the estates of individuals who die in Massachusetts access to their e-mail accounts. The Senate passed the bill (S 2313) in late June, and with two more House sessions scheduled before the end of formal sessions on July 31, 2012, the House nudged the bill forward. The bill would require e-mail providers to give access to e-mails to authorized family members or representatives.
Outside Massachusetts, an interesting controversy is brewing between the IRS and the heirs of New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend. When Ms. Sonnabend died in 2007, one of the pieces she left to her children is “Canyon,” a masterwork of 20th-century art created by Robert Rauschenberg. Because the work includes a stuffed bald eagle, the heirs would be committing a felony if they were to try to sell it, and so their appraisers have concluded that it has zero market value. The IRS, on the other hand, has appraised the work at $65 million and is demanding $29.2 million in taxes. In effect, if the heirs do not pay the tax, they would be guilty of violating federal tax laws, but if they were to try to sell the work to cover the tax bill, they could go to jail for violating eagle protection laws. A link to an article from The New York Times reporting on the controversy can be found here.
This update was authored by Mark Swirbalus, a Director in the firm's Probate & Fiduciary Litigation group. For questions or additional information on this topic, please contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any member of the Probate & Fiduciary group.
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