News

Podcast: Introduction to Corporate Trustees in Texas

The Blum Firm attorneys Keith Morris and Stacy Kelly have released the next episode of their “Before You Go…” podcast. In this episode, Stacy and Keith are joined by Beth Owens, Trust Officer at American National Bank & Trust.

The trio dive deep into the role of a trustee, discussing their responsibilities and how they can manage a trust effectively. Tune in to hear Beth’s insightful observations about corporate trustees and their ability to manage complex situations. The conversation also discusses the importance of keeping accurate records, the necessity of clear communication with beneficiaries, protection of beneficiaries from scammers, and the benefits of appointing a co-trustee or corporate trustee as agent.

Check it out here on Youtube.

Podcast Episode 2: Understanding Guardianships in Texas

The Blum Firm attorneys Keith Morris and Stacy Kelly have released the second episode of their “Before You Go…” podcast. Episode 2 is “Understanding Guardianships in Texas: What You Need to Know.”

In this episode, Stacy and Keith discuss the basics of a guardianship in Texas, the difference between a guardianship of the person and a guardianship of the estate, and the different situations that can lead to litigation involving guardianships. They also share real-life examples, including a high-profile case involving the owner of the Houston Texans, to illustrate how complex and costly these situations can be.

Check it out here on YouTube.

Welcome Attorney Anna Rose St. Martin

Attorney Anna Rose St. Martin

We’re proud to announce that Anna Rose St. Martin has joined The Blum Firm as an Associate Attorney in our Fort Worth office.

Anna Rose earned her J.D. cum laude from Texas A&M University School of Law in 2022.

While in law school, Anna Rose was a Teaching Assistant for the Academic Support Program and Professor Fortney’s Legal Ethics Research Assistant. She also participated with the Alternative Dispute Resolution Competition Team in Mediation and served as Vice President of the Longhorn Law Student Association.

Anna Rose earned her undergraduate degree—a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies with a McCombs Business Foundation Minor—from the University of Texas at Austin with High Honors. While at the University of Texas, she earned a Certificate in Ethics and Leadership in Law, Politics, and Government as part of the Bridging Disciplines Program.

Anna Rose’s contact information can be found here.

Please join us in welcoming Anna Rose to The Blum Firm team!

New Podcast: “Before You Go…”

Attorneys Keith Morris and Stacy Kelly have launched a new podcast!

The podcast is called “Before you Go…,” and their first episode is available now—“Unraveling the Texas Probate, Trust, and Guardianship Landscape.”

Death is one of life’s certainties. Yet, it’s not easy to contemplate a world that moves on without us. It’s common to feel anxious and have questions. Attorneys Keith Morris and Stacy Kelly provide practical insights, simplify complex legal topics, and empower you in navigating Texas probate, trust, and guardianship issues.

It’s available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube. Be sure to subscribe in your favorite podcast app so you don’t miss out on what you need to know before you go.

Check it out here on YouTube.

Fiduciary litigators attorneys Keith Morris and Stacy Kelly

Welcome Attorney Lynn Waller Kelly

We’re proud to welcome Lynn Waller Kelly, former Associate Judge of Tarrant County Probate Court 2, to The Blum Firm! She joins us as Partner in our Fort Worth office.

Lynn’s practice focuses on both contested and uncontested probate matters, including estates and guardianships, throughout North Texas. As Associate Judge for Tarrant County Probate Court 2 for six years, she presided over more than 6,000 probate hearings. An experienced litigator, Lynn has tried over 100 cases to North Texas juries.

Lynn is a member of the College of the State Bar of Texas. She earned her Juris Doctor at Pepperdine University School of Law. She has practiced in Dallas-Fort Worth since 1989. She has been a featured speaker for Texas Guardianship Association, Baylor Law School, Texas A&M Law School, Tarrant County Bar Association, North Texas Probate Bar Association, and support groups for parents of children with special needs.

Welcome to the team, Lynn!

ATTENTION: Uncle Sam Wants Your Information! Act Now to Save $500 Per Day!

All U.S. entities need to know this! A new law goes into effect in less than two weeks. This law will require most business entities to file an information report on or before December 31, 2024. Failure to timely file may result in civil penalties of $500 per day. In some cases, criminal prosecution could result in a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years.

The law is called the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”), and it goes into effect January 1, 2024. It is aimed at combatting money laundering. The CTA requires that certain entities submit information about their owners and any other individuals who have substantial control of the company in a report called a Beneficial Ownership Information Report (“BOI Report”). The information will be maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) and will not be publicly available.

New entities created in 2024 must file initial BOI Reports within 90 calendar days of formation. Beginning January 1, 2025, new entities will have just 30 calendar days to file their initial BOI Report. For existing entities—companies existing prior to January 1, 2024, they must submit their beneficial owner information by January 1, 2025.

This law applies to all entity types that are formed by filing a document with a Secretary of State unless an exception is met. (A Texas trust and a Texas general partnership are examples of entity types that are not subject to the CTA because no filing with a Secretary of State is required for formation.)

There are 23 categories of entities that are exempt from the requirements of the CTA. Tax-exempt entities are exempt from the reporting requirements of the CTA. Most other exemptions apply to companies already subject to government oversight such as securities brokers, bank holding companies, and insurance companies. Large operating companies are also exempt because the principal targets of the CTA are shell companies used for illicit purposes. Therefore, legal entities that have at least 20 full-time employees in the U.S. and at least $5 million in gross receipts are generally not subject to the CTA.

For more information, read “Understanding the New Corporate Transparency Act” HERE.

Nine Blum Firm Attorneys Voted Top Fort Worth Attorneys

Fort Worth magazine’s annual Top Attorneys list is out for 2023. Join us in congratulating our Top Attorneys!

Pick up a copy of the December issue of Fort Worth magazine or check out the online list here.

R. Dyann McCully – Probate, Estates, & Trust
Julie A. Plemons – Probate, Estates, & Trust
Kandice R. Damiano – Probate, Estates, & Trust
David Bakutis – Probate, Estates, & Trust
Beth Hampton – Probate, Estates, & Trust
Len Woodard – Tax
Marvin E. Blum – Probate, Estates, & Trust
Amanda L. Holliday – Probate, Estates, & Trust
John R. Hunter – Tax

Attorneys Parisa Azalli, Ryan Vayner, and Adriana Lopez Join The Blum Firm

Please join us in welcoming Parisa Azalli, Ryan E. Vayner, and Adriana I. Lopez to The Blum Firm!

Parisa Azalli, J.D., LL.M. joins our Austin office as an Associate Attorney. Parisa earned both a J.D. and an LL.M. with a concentration in Corporate Law and Taxation at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. She is also a Texas A&M alumnus, having earned a Bachelor of Arts at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Parisa recently moved to Austin with her fiancé, Scott. She is a lifelong supporter of the Manchester United Football Club and stays active with barre and pilates exercise classes.

Ryan E. Vayner, J.D. joins our Dallas office as an Associate Attorney. She earned her J.D. at Southern Methodist University School of Law this year and recently passed the Bar. Before entering law school, Ryan worked as a dental hygienist. Ryan earned her Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene from Texas A&M College of Dentistry. Ryan and her husband Brian live in Dallas. For fun, Ryan enjoys board games, video games, and true crime documentaries.

Adriana I. Lopez, J.D. joins our Fort Worth office as an Associate Attorney. She earned her J.D. at the University of Utah Quinney College of Law earlier this year and recently passed the Texas Bar! Adriana earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin with a double major in Philosophy and Rhetoric/Writing. Before entering law school, she taught high school English in Grand Prairie.

Welcome to the team, Parisa, Ryan, and Adriana!

The “New” IRS: No Longer “Kinder and Gentler”

Ever since the Inflation Reduction Act passed allocating $80 billion to the IRS, we’ve wondered what the impact would be. I can still hear President George H. W. Bush promising a “kinder and gentler” IRS a few years ago. That’s no longer what the government is promising us. When Congress struck a debt ceiling deal in June, Republicans succeeded in stripping away $20 billion of the $80 billion. That still leaves $60 billion to beef up the IRS. How will they spend it?

On September 8, 2023, we learned the plan. Here are some highlights:

  • Increased scrutiny of those earning over $1 million or owing tax of over $250,000.
  • Full audits of the 75 largest partnerships in the U.S., as well as other large partnerships with balance sheet discrepancies, or where asset valuations appear inflated or deflated.
  • Sending compliance letters to about 500 other partnerships (hedge funds, real estate, large law firms, publicly traded partnerships) and auditing those with unsatisfactory responses.
  • Special attention to digital assets and currency exchanges through the “Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign.”
  • Added efforts to audit owners of foreign bank accounts (FBAR reports).
  • Hiring some 3,700 more auditors to do this work under a new unit for the audit of complex tax returns.
  • Using Artificial Intelligence to help select those most likely to be tax cheats (just imagine all the possibilities advanced technology provides the IRS).

The IRS is aiming to close a tax gap of $700 billion that it believes goes uncollected each year.

The Blum Firm is here for you if you are targeted by this beefed-up IRS. Indeed, we have likewise “beefed-up” our team of tax lawyers with the recent addition of Christopher Beck to our tax staff. Christopher joined us from Boston with over 15 years of experience in tax controversy work.

So, if you are contacted by someone who says, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you,” please know that The Blum Firm also stands ready to really help you.

Marvin E. Blum

In preparing this post, Marvin acknowledges the help of Susan Lipp’s Wealth Management article “IRS Targets Large Partnerships and Millionaires” as well as Barron’s article “IRS Steps Up Audits of Partnerships, Wealthy Individuals.” 

With the October 15 tax deadline just behind us, Marvin Blum warns that dealing with the “new” beefed-up IRS is about to get even more complicated.

Congratulations to our 2023 Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers has named 6 Blum Firm attorneys to the Texas Super Lawyers list!
 
Super Lawyers recognizes the top attorneys nationwide. Their selection process involves the creation of a candidate pool, evaluation of the candidates by the Super Lawyers’ research department, and peer evaluation by practice area. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Super Lawyer is a distinction earned by only 5% of the lawyers in Texas.  
 
Marvin E. Blum, Estate Planning & Probate Law
R. Dyann McCully, Estate Planning & Probate Law
Len Woodard, Business & Corporate Law
John R. Hunter, Estate Planning & Probate Law
David C. Bakutis, Estate & Trust Litigation 
Jennifer P. Sibley, Estate Planning & Probate Law
 
Congratulations to these talented attorneys!

Attorneys Blum, Bakutis, Morris, and Light Recognized by ‘Best Lawyers in America’

We are proud to announce that four of our attorneys have been selected by their peers for inclusion in the 30th edition of The Best Lawyers in America®– Marvin E. Blum, David C. Bakutis, R. Keith Morris III, and Austin B. Light.
 
The Best Lawyers in America is one of the legal profession’s oldest and most respected peer-review publications.
 
Marvin E. Blum founded The Blum Firm over 40 years ago and has broad industry experience in estate and tax planning, asset protection, business planning, business succession planning, charitable planning, and family legacy planning. This is Marvin’s ninth year being selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for his work in Trusts and Estates Law.
 
David C. Bakutis is widely recognized as a leading fiduciary litigator in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. David has consistently been recognized as among the Best Lawyers every year since 2006 in Trusts and Estates Law.
 
R. Keith Morris, III is a leading probate and guardianship litigation attorney, practicing across Texas including the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth areas. This is Keith’s third year being recognized for his work in Trusts and Estates Litigation.
 
Austin B. Light was selected for the second year in a row for inclusion in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch® in America in the areas of Corporate Governance and Compliance Law and Mergers and Acquisitions Law. Austin is experienced in advising clients on a variety of compensation-related plans as well as compensation and employee-related aspects of public and private transactions, including mergers, equity and asset acquisitions, restructurings, and private equity transactions, in addition to estate and tax planning.
 
Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. Lawyers are neither required nor permitted to pay a fee to be listed. Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America recognizes lawyers who are earlier in their careers (in private practice less than 10 years) for their outstanding professional excellence.
 
Please join us in congratulating Marvin, David, Keith, and Austin!

Welcome Shawn B. Williamson, J.D.

We’re proud to introduce the newest addition to our fiduciary litigation team—Shawn B. Williamson!

Shawn is based in our Houston office. He earned his law degree from South Texas Collee of Law cum laude. Prior to pursuing his law degree, he taught public school in the Houston area for ten years.

He is an experienced negotiator with a focus on probate/fiduciary litigation. His experience also includes probate administration, guardianship matters, a broad range of civil litigation issues, appeals, and property divisions involving agriculture and mineral rights.

Shawn’s expertise has been recognized by Houstonia magazine, most recently as Business Litigation Lawyer of the Year for 2022.

Shawn serves on the Board of Directors for the Henderson Charitable Foundation which serves to enhance the local community through performing arts.
 
Shawn and his wife Kim have two children. In his personal life, Shawn enjoys trying new coffee shops, hiking, metal detecting, competitive board games, and cheering on the Houston Astros—that is, when possible while keeping up with two young children!
 
Please join us in welcoming Shawn!

A First at The Blum Firm: Boston Attorney Christopher Beck’s Swearing-In Ceremony

We recently experienced a first at The Blum Firm. For the first time in the firm’s 43-year history, we conducted a swearing-in ceremony here to admit an attorney to the State Bar of Texas. It was a big deal, and we treated it as such.
 
Christopher Beck, a tax attorney practicing in Boston for the last 15 years, moved his family to Texas to join us at The Blum Firm. A member of the Massachusetts Bar, Christopher speedily completed the Texas requirements to add another Bar membership to his resume. Upon notification of his acceptance, the last step in the process was for Christopher to accept the oath of office to become a Texas lawyer. I was honored when he asked me to administer the oath. I’d never done that before. What a privilege to officially welcome a man of such outstanding character and skills to the Texas Bar!
 
We feel especially fortunate to add Christopher to our team. The Blum Firm specializes in estate and tax planning. As the IRS receives an $80 billion infusion to “beef up” enforcement, we saw the need to likewise “beef up” our tax controversy practice, in anticipation of a more active IRS. Christopher brings substantial experience to The Blum Firm in IRS audits and tax litigation, as well as skills in domestic and international tax planning. His expertise in cross-border transactions is especially timely and welcome, given the increase in the number of our clients engaging in inbound and outbound activities. In this digital age, it’s a smaller and more mobile world. The Blum Firm stands ready to advise on all the tax-related issues associated with that mobility.
 
The highlight of the swearing-in ceremony was witnessing the pride on the faces of Christopher’s wife, young daughter, and young son. Those kids absorbed the significance of watching their dad pledge to devote himself to an honorable career. It was a life lesson they’ll never forget and will undoubtedly influence their own career devotion someday. As I recently learned from Warren Buffett, our kids are watching us more than listening to us. Those two wide-eyed youngsters were clearly watching.
 
To top off the celebration in true Blum fashion, we ended with a dessert buffet. When I asked what his kids like for dessert, Christopher answered “anything chocolate.” Those are some smart kids! Maybe they’ll one day have their own swearing-in ceremonies at The Blum Firm. I hope I’m around to administer the oath.
 
Marvin E. Blum

Congratulations to Kandice R. Damiano and Beth Hampton

Kandice R. Damiano and Beth Hampton have been recognized as 2023 Texas Rising Stars in Estate Planning & Probate by Super Lawyers®.
 
Kandice Damiano is Partner in The Blum Firm’s Fort Worth office. She focuses her practice on a range of estate and business planning matters involving trusts, closely-held entities, taxation, and high net worth individuals and their families. This is Kandice’s sixth time to be honored as a Super Lawyers Texas Rising Star.
 
Beth Hampton is Senior Associate in The Blum Firm’s Fort Worth office. Beth represents clients in a variety of probate and guardianship matters. This is also Beth’s sixth year to be honored as a Super Lawyers Texas Rising Star.
 
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. 
 
Please join us in congratulating Kandice and Beth!

The Role of Litigation Attorneys in Estate Planning

Marvin Blum and Keith Morris, two of our attorneys at The Blum Firm, co-authored an article in this month’s issue of Trusts & Estates magazine on “The Role of Litigators in a Modern Estate Planning Practice.” 
 
The article tracks the evolution of The Blum Firm from its early days as a solo-lawyer firm to its current expansion of over 30 attorneys. With a larger team, the firm is able to offer clients more specialized services, including trust and estate litigation.
 
The addition of fiduciary litigators to our practice has proven invaluable. Their knowledge and perspective have helped fine-tune how we draft documents and how we approach delicate situations. 
 
Marvin (as an estate planner) and Keith (as a litigator) pooled their perspectives to write the article. Check out the article here or here.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s public battle with her third husband’s daughters highlights the perils of inheritance in a blended family.

Meet Attorney Christopher G. Beck

We’re proud to welcome Christopher G. Beck to The Blum Firm! Christopher is an experienced tax attorney, recently relocated to Texas from Boston. He joins us as Partner in our Fort Worth office.

Christopher’s practice focuses primarily on domestic and international tax planning, tax compliance, and tax controversy. He brings a broad range of experience representing clients on cross-border transactions, compliance issues related to foreign assets, and a wide variety of tax audits.

Christopher grew up in upstate New York as the youngest of four siblings. In addition to academics, his high school passions were baseball, soccer, and art. He was voted “most likely to succeed” and “most artistic.”

Christopher earned his law degree at New England School of Law in Boston and went on to complete a Master of Laws in Taxation at Boston University School of Law. He received his undergrad degree from the University of California at San Diego, majoring in philosophy. While enrolled at UCSD, he spent a year abroad in Bologna, Italy, immersed in great culture, art, and food.

Christopher thought about returning to California after law school, but he stayed in Massachusetts after meeting a lovely lady. They are now married with two children. Christopher says they greatly appreciate the warm welcome they have received from the wonderful people of Texas and are excited for this next chapter.

Please join us in welcoming Christopher!

The Blum Firm

The Blum Firm Expanding Tax Offerings to Help Clients Respond to New IRS Challenges

You may have already heard the IRS will be receiving an additional $80 billion over the next decade due to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. Over $40 billion is earmarked for tax enforcement. As a result, the number of IRS auditors could double to over 30,000 by 2031.

In response to the expected IRS expansion, The Blum Firm is hiring a new Partner, Christopher Beck. Christopher is a skilled tax attorney with 15 years of experience assisting clients with domestic and international controversy, compliance, and tax planning. He has represented clients in a variety of civil and criminal tax examinations and audits, collection matters, and tax controversies.

Christopher routinely advises clients on tax controversy matters connected to both income tax and gift/estate tax. He also advises businesses and individuals on the tax consequences of cross-border transactions, advises expatriate clients on compliance issues relating to tax and information reporting, represents clients facing state and local tax audits, and represents clients entering into the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs with respect to previously undisclosed foreign assets.

Even before hiring Christopher, The Blum Firm had an active tax controversy practice, successfully representing clients in front of the IRS and United States Tax Court. Christopher will add depth in those areas and broaden the firm’s ability to help our clients as they navigate the more difficult tax challenges they will face in the coming years.

The Blum Firm, P.C.

Matthew Rittmayer & Lani Sandu Promoted

The Blum Firm is proud to announce attorney Matthew Rittmayer has been promoted to Partner and attorney Lani Sandu has been promoted to Senior Associate!

Matthew G. Rittmayer, J.D., is Partner in The Blum Firm’s Dallas office. He is a graduate of Emory University and Texas Tech University School of Law. Matthew joined The Blum Firm in 2020.
 
Matthew has 13 years of experience, initially in litigation before transitioning to estate planning.
He enjoys helping clients establish estate plans that consider both the tax aspects and the non-tax aspects such as family dynamics and efficient transitions from generation to generation. He also works with clients on probate and guardianship matters. 
Outside of work, Matthew enjoys being a new parent, along with his wife Veronica.
 
Lani Payne Sandu, J.D., LL.M., Senior Associate, offices in our Fort Worth office. She has been with The Blum Firm since 2016. Lani is a graduate of Baylor University and SMU School of Law. Following law school, she went on to earn an LL.M. in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center. Lani is fluent in both Spanish and French.
 
Lani has over 11 years of experience in tax and estate planning. Prior to joining the firm, she was with Deloitte & Touche LLP and KPMG LLP. Lani enjoys working with clients to tailor an estate plan specific to their needs. In addition to the preparation of wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents, her practice also includes probate, asset protection, formation of business entities, and charitable planning.
 
When not working, Lani can be found spending time with her husband and son, traveling, and cooking.
 
We are proud of the depth of talent we have at The Blum Firm and celebrate the enormous contribution Matthew and Lani make. Please join us in congratulating them!

Marvin Blum, Kandice Damiano, John Hunter, Dyann McCully, and Len Woodard Recognized

We are pleased to announce the selection of five attorneys to 360 West Magazine’s “Top Attorneys” list for 2022. The list was released in the magazine’s July edition.
 
The annual list showcases the region’s best attorneys, as chosen by their peers, in 42 specialties.
 
The Blum Firm’s Top Attorneys are:
  • Marvin Blum The – Wills, Trusts, Estates and Probates
  • Kandice Damiano – Wills, Trusts, Estates and Probates
  • John Hunter – Tax Law
  • Dyann McCully – Wills, Trusts, Estates and Probates
  • Len Woodard – Tax Law
We are grateful to 360 West Magazine for highlighting these extremely talented attorneys.

Welcome Doug W. Harvey to our Dallas Office!

We are pleased to announce that Doug W. Harvey has joined The Blum Firm as an Associate Attorney in our Dallas office.
 
Doug has a passion for helping families and entrepreneurs protect their greatest assets: their futures. His estate planning practice involves identifying and implementing estate planning techniques to accomplish client objectives, taking into account family dynamics, potential tax implications, and asset protection strategies. Doug frequently counsels business clients on entity selection and formation, day-to-day company operations, and methods to reduce various risks faced by business owners.
 
Doug also has considerable experience in the corporate world having served for 6 years as general counsel for a commercial mortgage lending and servicing company.
 
Doug received his J.D. from Texas Tech University School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts from Texas Tech University, both summa cum laude!
 
His contact information can be found here.
 
Please join us in welcoming Doug to our team!
 
The Blum Firm

Houston Attorney Stacy L. Kelly Has Joined Us!

We are excited to announce that Stacy L. Kelly has joined The Blum Firm as Partner in our Houston office! 
 
Stacy is an experienced litigator, specializing in probate and fiduciary litigation. In addition to litigation, her practice also includes probate administration, heirship proceedings, and guardianship matters.
 
Through over twenty years as an estate litigator, Stacy has gained a full understanding of the complicated issues that can surround estate litigation and has handled several high-profile estate contests. Stacy’s extensive experience includes will contests, will and trust interpretation issues, accounting and administration issues, disputes over business succession or gifts, prosecution and defense of various fiduciary claims, heirship proceedings, simultaneous death issues, and competency and undue influence concerns in probate contests.
 
Stacy is frequently appointed by county probate courts to serve in a fiduciary capacity as Attorney Ad Litem or Guardian Ad Litem.
 
She earned her J.D. from South Texas College of Law and her B.S. in Organizational Communications from The University of Texas.
 
Prior to joining The Blum Firm, Stacy was Senior Counsel with Holland & Knight LLP.
 
Click here for Stacy’s contact information.