A judge in Pennsylvania has thrown out a case of assisted suicide lodged against a nurse who was charged with murder last year for allegedly giving her father a bottle of morphine pills.
The decision is the latest in a series of developments signaling that courts and states are not interested in criminalizing care that may hasten death,according to a report on NPR.org.
In this case, Barbara Mancini, 58, a nurse, was charged with assisting in the suicide of her 93-year-old father in Feb., 2013.
The father, Joseph Yourshaw, was in home hospice in failing health. A hospice nurse checked on him and found him unconscious. The hospice had him taken to the hospital by ambulance against the wishes of the family. He was revived, but died a few days later.
In a scathing 47-page opinion, the judge wrote that the state did not establish that Mancini had committed a crime — that she tried to help him commit suicide rather than ease his pain.
She said the charges were based on speculation. Mancini said she only wanted to help ease his pain but a hospice nurse and a police officer said she told them she wanted to help end his life. He had previously told hospice workers and family that he wanted to die.
The judge said there was no evidence Mancini fed him the pills and noted that the man was capable of opening the bottle and taking the pills on his own. It was ruled he died of a morphine overdose.
“This case demonstrates that the government has no business interfering in families’ end-of-life decisions,” Mickey MacIntyre of the advocacy group Compassion and Choices said in a statement. “This prosecution could have chilled end-of-life decisions and pain care for millions of future terminally ill patients who simply want to die at home, peacefully and with dignity.”
Actor Paul Walker of Fast & Furious fame, who died in a car accident in November, left his entire fortune of $25 million to his 15-year-old daughter, who had recently left her mother and childhood home in Hawaii to live with him in California.
Walker did not leave a dime to any other family members or even his girlfriend.
But Walker’s will did have one catch. His daughter, Meadow, will not be able to touch the money until she becomes an adult. Nothing unusual there, except that Walker named his own mother to be Meadow’s guardian.
According to an article on cafemom.com, this is a bit unusual and could be tricky. One wonders why he named Meadow’s grandmother as her guardian rather than Meadow’s own mother, Rebecca Soteros.
However, the matter will be decided by a judge later this month. In the meantime, Meadow is back in Hawaii living with her mother.
Walker was a very private person and not much is known about the circumstances of his breakup or the decision to have Meadow come live with him in California.
After the death of New York City legend Ed Koch on February 1st, 2013, his estate plan became the topic of public conversation. A recent article discussing the plan suggests that he could have saved his estate 3 million dollars in taxes had he set up an irrevocable trust.
Koch drafted his final estate plan in 2007. Through his will, he directed that his 10 million dollar estate be distributed mainly between his sister, three sons, and secretary of 40 years. His estate plan did not utilize any type of irrevocable trust in order to facilitate these distributions. According to Managing Director of Estate Street Partners, LLC, Rocco Beatrice, using such a trust could have eliminated the entire estate tax bill of 3 million.
Koch’s estate will be required to pay New York state taxes of 16% on the amount by which it exceeds $1 million, as well as federal estate tax of 40% on the amount by which the estate exceeds $5.25 million. Assuming his estate is worth $10 million, these taxes would amount to $1.44 million and $1.90 million, respectively.
According to Beatrice, “That is a lot of money in taxes which could have easily been avoided.” Beatrice explained that, had Koch set up irrevocable trusts, the $3 million could have gone to his family, rather than the government.
Currently, investors have over $5.7 trillion invested in stock mutual funds. This figure is more than the total amount of money investors have in bonds and money markets, combined. Investors have an additional $880 billion invested in stock-centric exchange-traded funds. These numbers show that, while investors have not forgotten the plunge of 2008, they prefer the stock market to alternative investment opportunities.
Treasury bonds, for example, are currently paying an interest rate less than the annual rate of inflation. The interest rates currently being offered on certificates of deposit average .8 percent, and the payout from money market accounts is even less. Many investors are driven to equities because they believe that equities are their best option for a comfortable retirement. According to Adam B. Scott of Argyle Capital Partners, “if your time frame is 10 years or more, you’re better off in stocks.”
Two articles about this week sought to shed some light on the estate tax developments, political positions as it pertains to the estate taxes & the “Fiscal Cliff.”
The Associated Press went the route of detailing the specifics of bills passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate in July and the Republican-led House in August:
Senate: Does not address the estate tax, allowing the top rate to increase from 35 percent to 55 percent. Currently, the first $5.1 million of an estate is exempt from the federal estate tax; the exemption rises to $10.2 million for married couples. If the tax cut expires, the exemption would be reduced to $1 million for individuals and $2 million for couples.
House: Extends the top rate of 35 percent through 2013, with the larger exemption [$5.12 million.]
A Yahoo! article speaks a little more specifically about President Obama’s views on the estate tax, divisions among the Democrats within the party and it’s impact on illiquid assets such as farms and ranches (click here for the full article.) A testament to the discord between the two parties is their inability to agree upon a label for the tax:
The divide between the political parties over the tax is so wide that they cannot even agree on a name for it. Democrats call it the estate tax, as it is described in law.
Republicans, who generally want to repeal it, have another, more provocative name. They call it the “death tax” and characterize it as a penalty on being wealthy and successful.
Ever wonder what the highest rate in history has been for the Estate Tax? Although it has fluctuated, the rate hit a high of 77% before World War II.
According to the article:
“It was a Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, that proposed the first permanent inheritance tax, arguing that inheritance of “enormous fortunes” does a society no good.
“No advantage comes either to the country as a whole or to the individuals inheriting the money by permitting the transmission in their entirety of the enormous fortunes which would be affected by such a tax,” Roosevelt said.
As reported in The Chicago Tribune, two men have been indicted in an estate-planning scheme that yielded $28 million from 120 investors. According to the Justice Department, Robert C. Pribilski and John T. Burns III fraudulently obtained the money by persuading wealthy retirees to invest in Turkish bonds. The ponzi-like scheme was in place from 2005 to 2010.
The men found investors through mass mailings that invited them to local estate-planning seminars. The investors were “absolutely and unconditionally” promised that, at the note’s maturity date, they would receive the principal and interest due on their note. In reality, the invested funds were paid out to other investors. The Justice Department alleges that Pribilski and third defendant Mahmut Erhan Durmaz – who has fled the country – took over $2.5 million of the investor’s funds to make payments to themselves, their friends, and their families. The pair also used invested funds to speculate in real estate and restaurants.
Counsel for Burns, Joseph Lopez, has stated that Burns should not have been indicted because he was simply an employee of Pribilski and Durmaz. He “didn’t get any proceeds” from the scheme beyond his usual compensation, Lopez said. The Justice Department hopes to retrieve the $28 million.