T&E Litigation Newsletter - 7/31/12

July 31, 2012Advisories

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.

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.

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 [email protected] or contact any member of the Probate & Fiduciary group.

This newsletter should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer concerning your situation and any specific legal questions you may have.

Pursuant to IRS Circular 230, please be advised that, this communication is not intended to be, was not written to be and cannot be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under U.S. federal tax law or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another taxpayer any transaction or matter addressed herein.

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