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Plan of Study

Since the primary objective of the program is to prepare our students to practice elder law and estate planning, our courses will emphasize the practical aspects of planning for elders, drafting estate plans, and administering estates. To obtain the degree, each student will be required to complete 14 credit hours in required courses and a minimum of 10 credit hours in elective courses. As a final 4 credit project, every student will design and draft a comprehensive estate plan under the supervision of an experienced estate planner.

Required Courses (14 Credits) Note: required courses do not need to be completed in the order listed below.

Wills and Trusts: Design, Drafting and Implementation

In this course, students will learn to design and draft wills and trusts. The course is an intensive study of the laws of wills and trusts. Students will learn the basic skills necessary to transfer property from the owner to the beneficiary in an efficient manner and to draft the documents and presentations that are an integral part of estate planning. 2 credits

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

Federal Income Taxation of Estates & Trusts

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

Final Drafting Project

The final project is a simulation course in which the student must design and draft a comprehensive estate plan under the supervision of an estate planner. The student will be given a hypothetical problem that will require complex estate planning. The student will be required to prepare detailed memoranda to the estate planner explaining the student's proposed estate plan design. The project will culminate with the drafting of sophisticated estate planning documents. 4 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 (10 Credits) Note: not all electives are offered every semester, rather, they are offered on a rotating basis.

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

Probate Litigation

Probate Litigation is a course on how probate courts handle matters, such as admitting wills and assigning executors, guardianship and conservatorship, powers of attorney, advocate designations and living wills. 2 credits


Law Practice Management

Law Practice Management is a course that supports the lawyer to become business owner.  The course will present the practical aspects of entrepreneurship that will facilitate the growth, development and success of a Law Firm. 2 credits

Special Needs Trust Administration

A special needs trust is a mechanism allowing a disabled person to receive distributions/income without disturbing their eligibility for means tested government benefits. Just as important as properly drafting a special needs trust is the administration of the trust. This course will examine, in detail, the applicable Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Medicaid rules for benefit eligibility and special needs trusts, the different types of special needs trusts, funding a special needs trust, the unique duties of a special needs trustee, allowable distributions/payments from a special needs trust, reporting requirements, and terminating a special needs trust. 2 credits

Legal Capacity, Advanced Directives and Guardianship

Cognitive competency is the presumed foundation for all legal transactions and medical decision making.  This course guides the elder law/ trust and estates practitioner through the thorny issue of legal capacity in contractual, testamentary and medical settings. We discuss the legal definition of capacity, and the various issues and setting affecting capacity, including cognitive decline, minority, intellectual and physical disability and undue influence and duress. We will discuss the different legal standards for determining if the requite level of capacity exists and discuss the tools that can be used to make capacity determination, and advance directives and planning that can assist loved ones/professionals in caring for the temporarily and permanently incapacitated. The second part of the class is devoted to guardianship proceedings to protect and care for the incapacitated, usually in the absence of advance directives. The course work will include researching assigned reading, relevant state legislation and case law, drafting advance directives and a moot guardianship proceeding. 2 credits


Income Tax 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

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

Life and Estate Planning for Retirement Plans

This course will examine and provide solutions to the problems presented in both lifetime planning and estate planning for traditional and Roth retirement plans such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and 403(b)s.  Areas of discussion will include spousal rights, designation of beneficiaries, rollover options, with a heavy emphasis on the Required Minimum Distribution Rules and naming trusts as death beneficiaries of retirement plans.  Course instruction is newly updated for the SECURE Act which became effective January 1, 2020.  Professor Worthington wrote the Issues Brief submitted to Congress by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys which resulted in the Joint Committee on Taxation redrafting of the Act to preserve lifetime Required Minimum Distribution for Special Needs Trusts. 2 credits

Planning for Charitable Transfers

This course will explore the income, estate and gift tax consequences of gifts to charities. The course will focus on the use of both public charities and private charities. Topics will include the design and drafting of charitable remainder trusts and other split interest gifts, and the use of private foundations in the estate planning process. 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 in 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 LLME 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

Drafting Revocable Trusts

This course is a detailed and review analysis of revocable living trusts and the role they play in estate planning, including an in-depth understanding of the effective use of various tax-based clauses. 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. Helpful but not required: LLME 807 Elder Law; LLME 804 Federal Income Taxation of Trusts & Estates; LLME 803 Federal Wealth Transfer Taxes; LLME 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!  Not required but strongly recommend you have taken, or understand the topics, of: LLME 804: Federal Income Tax of Estates & Trusts; and LLME 803: Federal Wealth Transfer Taxes. 2 credits

Advanced Issues in Elder Policy and Planning

This course will provide an in-depth survey of aging and elder issues related to financial security, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, tax policies, elder fraud, and emerging technologies. The nexus between politics and policy will be examined. Moreover, we will explore elder advocacy and grassroots mobilization in states and the federal government.

Elder Abuse

This course will examine the legal implication of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as the financial exploitation of elders.  Topics will include healthcare fraud, criminal liability for intentional, reckless and negligent conduct resulting in physical harm, and a survey of State and Federal statutes, including the 2010 Elder Justice Act and the 2017 Elder Abuse and Prevention and Prosecution Act.  2 credits