At deconcinimcdonald.com you can read my October newsletter about how to handle distributing the contents of the family homestead. You can also read my past newsletters, going back farther than I care to think about, in the publications archive. Sometimes I get a little far afield, but most of the newsletters contain information you might find helpful about estates, trusts, real estate, or tax topics.
In this case, “comprehensive reform” means federal regulation of tax preparers and tax preparation software purveyors. Because federal regulation always makes everything work better, right? You're talking about the IRS, a government agency that can't even ensure the accuracy of the advice it gives to taxpayers. Yet giving them the power to regulate every tax return preparer and tax preparation software purveyor is going to, in the words of the people proposing this reform, “protect taxpayers and ensure a fairer and more efficient tax system?"
As I have said before, if preparing tax returns is too complicated, the fix is to simplify the tax code.
Some local government somewhere passed an ordinance outlawing clown costumes. There's a term in First Amendment law that I think inevitably means such a ban cannot stick. The term I am referring to is "content neutral." Here's my off-the-cuff, shorthand explanation of the concept: if you're going to ban a form of expression, the ban can't be based on the content of the expression. A ban of any form of expression must be content neutral to be consistent with the First Amendment.
So, as Professor Volokh points out, a ban of all masks can be enforceable. A ban of a particular kind of mask based on the content of the mask, however, is not content neutral and is therefore probably not enforceable consistent with the First Amendment.
I have written about it before, but it obviously can't be repeated too often because it keeps coming up: it just is not a good idea to make one of your children a co-owner of your bank account, for at least three reasons: (1) a co-owner can remove the contents of the account without your approval; (2) a co-owner's creditors can collect the co-owner's debts from your account; and (3) after you have passed away, the co-owner doesn't have to share the account with your other children, even if the co-owner promised to do so.
I have seen that third scenario more times than I can count. Needless to say, it destroys family harmony. Isn't the cost of a will worth avoiding that outcome?
A LITTLE MORE OF MY CLUMSY EFFORTS TO EDUCATE ON PROPERTY RIGHTS, WITH A LITTLE ECONOMICS THROWN IN
A few days ago, I wrote about a court decision denying an effort by holders of taxi operator permits to claim compensation from the cities that issued those permits. The “taking” that was supposedly the basis for the compensation claims was the cities’ decision to remove the limit on the number of permits and allow ride-sharing enterprises to operate without the same type of permit. As I said then, a government permit that limits competition is not a property right.
WHAT NOT TO DO, AND WHAT TO DO, WHEN REMOVING THE CONTENTS OF THE FAMILY HOMESTEAD
I have heard lots of stories over the years about how families have handled removing the contents of the family homestead when the time came to sell it. A blogger I read occasionally just put up a short post about how his family handled it. I think the experience he reports is fairly typical. The method he describes involves getting rid of stuff in stages as you are emotionally able to do so, That isn’t necessarily a bad technique except that it inevitably results in punting the issue to your children to some extent, as he admits.
My long-standing advice in dealing with the house contents (the term people in my line of work seem to like to use is “personal effects,” but I prefer “house contents” or simply “stuff”) is this: if another family member says, “I want that,” the correct answer is “OK.”
I KNEW THAT THE MAXIMIZING SHAREHOLDER WELFARE IS THE PRIMARY DUTY OF CORPORATE DIRECTORS, WITHOUT ANYONE EVER TELLING ME IN SO MANY WORDS
The law of corporations is one of the areas of law that is probably least understood by non-lawyers. So, a question of corporations law:
Q: What is the primary duty of the board of directors of a corporation?
A: To maximize shareholder welfare.
In other words, looking out for the interest of the shareholders of the corporation must come first. If the directors put any other interest before the interest of the shareholders, the directors are breaching their duty to the shareholders. Remember that the next time you read or hear about someone suggesting that a corporation should do something that is against the interest of the shareholders.
IS A GOVERNMENT PERMIT JUST AS MUCH OF A PROPERTY RIGHT AS A PATENT? (YOU KEEP CALLING IT A PROPERTY RIGHT, BUT I DON’T THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS)
According to a quote from an opinion by Judge Posner in a recent case, a taxi medallion owner made this argument: a permit (granted by the government) to operate a taxi is a property right that can’t be taken away by the government without compensation.
Judge Posner called that argument absurd, and I agree. Just because the government (artificially and perhaps even arbitrarily) limits the number of permits doesn’t turn the permit into a property right.
The judge also pointed out that a property right can be intangible, such as a patent, but that doesn’t mean that a government permit is a property right. The easiest way I can think of to explain why a taxi operator’s permit is different from a patent is this: with a patent, the monopoly that’s being protected is my right to use my own idea; with the taxi operator permit, the monopoly (or oligopoly) is a restriction created by the government.
You can read about the case at the Institute for Justice’s web site. If you own a patent or some other type of intangible property right, like a copyrighted work, and want to talk about how to incorporate it you’re your estate plan, we can help.
Nope, I won’t let go of the promise of driverless cars. You can’t make me, no matter how many skeptics say it’s not real, it won’t happen in our lifetime, I don’t care. It will happen. It’s just a question of when.
THE SPECIAL INCOME TAX EXEMPTION FOR OLYMPIC ATHLETES IS APPRENTLY GOING TO BECOME LAW
I guess it was just too, uh, patriotic-sounding to pass up? How else to explain that the proposed exemption of Olympic prizes from the income tax passed the House by a vote of 415 to 1? As I explained when I last wrote about it, it certainly isn’t good tax policy, as at least one (and perhaps only one) House member agrees.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.