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Curriculum

To obtain the degree, each student will be required to complete 10 credit hours in required courses and 14 hours in on-ramp and elective courses.  Prior to beginning the MS in Elder Law and Estate Planning Degree Program you will be required to complete three On-Ramp Courses listed below.

 

On-Ramp Courses

Introduction to Law

This course is a 12 hour introductory course to be taken prior to the start of the semester.  There is no charge for this zero-credit course.

Introduction to the Law is required for all entering MS in Elder Law and Estate Planning students, offered prior to the beginning of the first term, and graded on a pass-fall basis. This class introduces students to the study of law. It is designed to give students the knowledge and skills that will enable them to get the most out of their other courses.  Students will gain an understanding of the American legal system, explore the function of case law and how it relates to other sources of the law, and learn to actively engage in case analysis.

Introduction to American Law

This course is survey of select topics in American law for non-lawyers beginning to earn their degree of Master of Science in Elder Law and Estate Planning. Successful completion is required prior to students registering for LLM classes in elder law and estate planning.

While many of the subject areas of law covered in this course are not directly related to elder law and estate planning, some familiarity with these subjects is necessary to enable the student to navigate without being lost at sea. For example, without some understanding of civil procedure, a student might well be confused about just why a case assigned in an LLM course was up on appeal. Subject areas covered in this survey include: Constitutional Law, Tort Law, Property Law, Contract Law, Business Law, Family Law, Civil Procedure, and Administrative Law. The text is technical, but nonetheless suited as an introduction to non-lawyers.  2 credits. Prerequisite: 0 credit Introduction to Law.

The Law of Trusts & Estates

This course is an introduction to the law of trusts and estates for non-lawyers beginning to earn their degree of Master of Science in Elder Law and Estate Planning. Successful completion is required prior to students registering for LLM classes in elder law and estate planning.

Trusts are pervasive in elder law and estate planning, and so a solid understanding is critical to success in the field. The course begins with estates, covering intestacy and the requirements for a valid will such as execution formalities, competence, and lack of duress. The course then discusses will and trust construction issues, such as when a will or trust is ambiguous, and when there are changes in people or property not anticipated by the drafter. We then move into requirements for a valid trust, and the all important uses, properties, and administration of trusts, including such topics as asset protection and powers of appointment. Also covered are non-probate non-trust means of disposing of property at death, including joint tenancy and death beneficiary designations. The text is technical, but nonetheless suited as an introduction to non-lawyers.  2 credits. Prerequisite: 0 credit Introduction to Law.

 

Required Courses

Fiduciary Administration

This course is a survey of the fiduciary powers and duties of executors and trustees in the administration of estates and trusts. Topics will include qualifications of a fiduciary, potential liabilities, and conflicts of interests of a fiduciary. Special consideration will be given to an attorney's role in representing the estate, the trust, and/or the fiduciary. 2 credits

Federal Wealth Transfer Taxes

This course is a study of the basic principles of the federal transfer tax system, including estate tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping tax.  The topics included in this course are retained interests, powers of appointment, lifetime transfers, life insurance, marital deduction, definition of gift, transfers to revocable and irrevocable trusts, and gifts to minors. 2 credits

Income Taxation of Trusts & Estates

This course studies the income tax issues for estates, trusts, and beneficiaries. Topics that will be examined include grantor trust rules, simple trusts, complex trusts, distributable net income, distributions in-kind, assignment of income, and income in respect of a decedent. 2 credits

Wealth Planning with Life Insurance

This course will consider the various uses of life insurance in wealth planning, including funding buy/sell agreements, providing liquidity for the estate, and restoring capital used for taxes. Areas of study will include the use of irrevocable life insurance trusts, as well as various life insurance products. 2 credits

Elder Law

This course concentrates on the legal problems associated with the elderly and issues of aging. Topics of discussion will include social, psychological, legal, and financial aspects of planning for the elderly. Issues will include Medicare benefits, Medicaid benefits, nursing home institutionalization, social security, and estate planning. 2 credits

Elective Courses

Income Taxation for Estate Planners

This course will focus on income tax issues that are essential for estate planning. The topics in this course will include the income tax treatment of bequests and inheritances; the income tax treatment of gifts; basis rules; income taxation of life insurance and annuities; tax rules for sale of a personal residence; taxation of exchanges; fundamentals of capital gains; tax deferred like-kind exchanges; concepts concerning the time value of money, imputed interest and the original issue discount rules; installment sales; income in respect of a decedent; assignment of income and the income taxation of deferred compensation. 2 credits

Tax Procedure

This course will focus on the preparation and planning of gift and estate tax returns; the administrative process involved in an audit, including settlement procedures and administrative remedies; interest and penalties; the tax collection process; ethical considerations relating to estate tax matters; and the most current issues and how they are addressed at the audit level. 2 credits

Business Succession Planning

This course will consider the issues that owners of closely held businesses face in the operation and disposition of their business interests. The course will consider the operational and transfer problems for unrelated business owners as well as the operational and transfer problems for family owned businesses.  Areas of study will include buy/sell agreements, life insurance, and alternative methods of succession. Note: This course was formerly called Business & Estate Planning/Closely-Held Business Entities. 2 credits

Estate Planning for Retirement Benefits

This course will examine the income tax, estate tax, gift tax, and generation-skipping tax consequences of the distribution of benefits from qualified and non-qualified plans. Areas of discussion will include spousal rights, designation of beneficiaries, rollover options, and minimum distribution requirements. 2 credits

Income Taxation of Pass-Through Entities

This course focuses on the income tax treatment of partnerships, limited liability companies, and Subchapter S corporations. Areas of study will include tax consequences from the operation of the entity, the tax consequences from retirement or death of an owner, from the redemption of an owner's interest, and from the liquidation or sale of the entity. 2 credits

Advanced Issues Elder Law II

This course will be an in-depth study of a selective number of advanced topics in Elder Law that have not been covered in the basic Elder Law course, including legal capacity issues, governmental benefits, and financial and estate planning. Prerequisite is Law 807 Elder Law. 2 credits

Special Needs Planning

Special needs trusts and supplemental needs trusts [both commonly known as SNTs] allow a disabled beneficiary to receive gifts, inheritances, lawsuit settlements, or other funds and yet not lose his or her eligibility for certain government programs such as Supplemental Security Income [SSI] and Medicaid. SNTs can be set up by parents or other persons for a disabled child or relative or by an individual who has become disabled as the result of an accident or medical malpractice and later receives the proceeds of a personal injury award or settlement. This course is designed to provide a practical guide to using different types of SNTs each with its own eligibility standards-planning for and administering the trusts, integrating them into larger estate plans, and drafting tips and common traps for the planner and clients. 2 credits

Elder Law Simulation

This course will explore advanced will and trust drafting; how to read existing trusts and spot problem issues; how to draft to meet clients' goals, address foreseeable changes in circumstances, and avoid latent and patent ambiguities. Students will study individual clauses to understand its rationale and how and why it might be written in a particular way. The estate, tax and medicaid ramifications of various instruments will be explored. Prerequisites are Elder Law and Elder Law II. 2 credits

International Estate Planning

Clients with international interest are on the rise. This course examines the profile of a multnational client in need of estate and income tax planning. Foundational concepts, such as the reach of the U.S. transfer and income tax system outside U.S. borders are covered, as well as the situs rules for various types of assets and the concept of residency. The operation of both credits and deductions available in an international context are explored as well as a focus on charitable planning for charities overseas. Pre-immigration planning for the multinational coming to the U.S., as well as expatriation planning for the U.S. citizen or resident is explored, along with a focus on the recent exit tax and federal "inheritance" tax laws. Income tax planning for both of these populations will also be covered, as well as the recent foreign bank account income and reporting issues common to these populations. Foreign trusts, estates and beneficiaries will be discussed. The use of tax treaties throughout all of the topics will be discussed. 2 credits

Medicaid Planning

This course covers Community and Institutional Medicaid; Medicaid Waivers; Rules regarding Categorical, Medical, and Financial Eligibility; Relationship to Social Security Supplemental Security Income; Rules regarding Asset Transfers, Liens and Estate Recovery; Treatment of Spouses and other Special Individuals; and Rules regarding Trusts; Use of Trusts and Trust Drafting. If time permits we will examine the relationship with VA Aid & Attendance benefits and how VA benefits influence Medicaid trust drafting. There is a final paper, but a significant emphasis on class participation (especially student discussion of hypotheticals via non-real-time posts to Kodiak in between classes). Helpful but not required: Law 807 Elder Law; Law 804 Federal Income Taxation of Trusts & Estates; Law 803 Federal Wealth Transfer Taxes; Law 801 Wills and Trusts: Design, Drafting and Implementation. 2 credits

The Grantor Trust Rules

The Grantor Trust Rules govern when a transfer to trust is a completed transfer for income tax purposes; if the transfer is incomplete, the trust is a “Grantor Trust” and the trust income is taxed as though belonging to the grantor. From this simple concept flows powerful consequences. But while the concept is simple, the rules are not. This class walks through the Grantor Trust Rules more slowly and in much greater depth than possible in a one-semester class on Income Taxation of Trusts & Estates. In addition, students will learn the advantages and disadvantages of Grantor Trust Status as well as pitfalls and opportunities in drafting and trustee selection. We will compare & contrast the Grantor Trust Rules with the less complex rules for when a transfer is complete for gift & estate tax purposes, as well as Medicaid and SSI purposes, and thereby derive methods of drafting so that a transfer to trust is incomplete for some purposes while being complete for other purposes. Knowledge of the Grantor Trust Rules permits one to become truly a virtuoso draftsperson! Course grading is based on a combination of class participation, informal homework, and a take-home final examination.  Prerequisites:  LLME 804: Federal Income Tax of Estates & Trusts; LLME 803: Federal Wealth Transfer Taxes. 2 credits