Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Laissez-Faire Estate Planning

How-to-avoid-family-feuds-over-your-inheritance-300x195More than half of Americans do not have a formal estate plan; 52% do not currently have a will in place. Among those that do have a will in place, a majority intend an equal distribution among beneficiaries, but a significant minority plan an unequal distribution. These uneven distribution schemes may be a cause of division in some families if not dealt with prior to a client’s death. Despite the possibility of litigation and familial strife after a client passes, many individuals with a will had not disclosed its contents or its whereabouts to their children or possible beneficiaries. Seemingly ignoring the possible consequences of a laissez-faire approach to estate planning, this is how many Americans are handling their estate and financial legacy.

See Christopher Robbins, Most Americans Still Avoid Estate Planning, Study Says, Financial Advisor, April 7, 2017.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 27, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Alzheimer's Deaths Occurring at Home

Brain_slicesAlzheimer’s deaths increased by more than 50% from 1999 to 2014 in the US. These numbers are expected to rise given America’s aging population and increasing life expectancy. While the number of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s has gone up, the number of these individuals being treated in a medical facility has actually declined. Over the same fifteen-year period, Alzheimer’s sufferers being treated in a medical facility fell from 14.7% in 1999 to 6.6% in 2014. Many of these individuals are instead being cared for at home with family supervision. Considering the burden placed on these families, it is likely they would benefit from services such as respite care and case management. This trend of taking Alzheimer’s sufferers into the home in lieu of a medical facility will likely continue as the debilitating disease is expected to affect 13.8 million adults over 65 by 2050.

See Julie Steenhuysen, U.S. Alzheimer's Deaths Jump 54 percent; Many Increasingly Dying at Home, Reuters, May 25, 2017.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 27, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Final Goodbye

Alg-jack-kevorkian-jpgDoctor-assisted suicide remains a polarizing and difficult issue. Despite this, countries such as Belgium, Luxembourg, and Sweden have already legalized voluntary euthanasia. Last year, Canada legalized medically-assisted death. A recent story from the US, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old from California suffering from a brain tumor, travelled all the way to Oregon to end her life. Using social media to say her final goodbye, Maynard received an outpouring of support and sympathy from the online community.

A recent study released by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the reason for terminal patients wanting to end their lives has more to do with psychological issues as opposed to physical suffering. Although discussions regarding assisted suicide commonly revolve around the unmitigated suffering endured by patients with diseases like cancer, this does not seem to be the primary impetus behind some individual’s desire to die.

While the psychological issues are complex, many terminal individuals wanting to end their lives early share similar characteristics. These people tended to be decisive and independent—in control of their lives. This attitude in life tended to correlate with a desire to control the manner in which they died.

Maynard’s final Facebook post expresses this idea as she wrote: “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more.”

See Ariana Eunjung Cha, It’s Not Pain but ‘Existential Distress’ that Leads People to Assisted Suicide, Study Suggests, The Washington Post, May 24, 2017.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

May 26, 2017 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Joliet Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Finally Will Be Laid to Rest

FuneralAfter more than 75 years, Michael Galajdik, killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor while aboard the USS Oklahoma, will finally reach his ultimate resting place. Galajdik, a Navy Fireman 1st Class, will be buried at Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. Through the use of DNA and dental records, the Navy was able to successfully identify the previously unidentified corpse. George Sternisha, Galajkik’s nephew, will travel with the body from Hawaii to Joliet. Sternisha recalls his mother’s desire to bury her brother. Despite her passage in 1993, he is still happy to be able to fulfill her wish.

Ginger Dudek, a resident of Joliet, was concerned the funeral route would be bare. But, with the aid of social media, she was able to elicit a powerful response from the local community. Dudek asked residents to volunteer to line the streets as the funeral procession traversed its route. Calls soon came in with offers of aid. Dudek expressed her amazement and gratitude for those who were willing to honor the memory of Galajdik and his sacrifice.

See Alicia Fabber, Joliet Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Finally Will Be Laid to Rest, Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2017.

May 26, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Supeme Court Refuses to Recongize Cause of Action for Tortious Interference with Inheritance Rights

TexasEarlier today, the Supreme Court of Texas declined to follow a long line of lower court cases when it refused to recognize a cause of action for tortious interference with inheritance rights.  However, the court did not preclude reconsidering the issue at a later time as the court indicated it was "not persuaded to consider it here." (emphasis added)

See Kinsel v. Lindsey, No. 15-0403 (Tex. May 26, 2017).

May 26, 2017 in New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Contributions: Festschrift Issue of the ACTEC Law Journal in Honor of Dennis Belcher (1951-2017)


The ACTEC Law Journal invites contributions to a special festschrift issue devoted to the life and work of Dennis Belcher, our colleague and Past President of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. In academia, a festschrift is a volume of writings by different authors, typically meant to honor or memorialize someone who has made great contributions to their field. The editors of the ACTEC Law Journal believe it is appropriate and fitting to honor Dennis’ contributions to our profession in this special way. 

The festschrift will consist entirely of written contributions (not a live program) and is expected to be published in early 2018. Festschrift contributions should be between 5 to 20 double-spaced typed pages (including footnotes) and are due on September 15, 2017. Essays may be on any topic of interest to the author that is relevant to Dennis’ career or interests. Topics may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Estate planning techniques or doctrines that were of particular interest to Dennis
  • Salient cases in the public record in which Dennis played an important role
  • Dennis’ role as a mentor in the profession
  • Dennis’ role as a leader in the profession
  • Service to the profession and/or community by Dennis
  • Personal reflections about working with Dennis 

Essays may be in the form of a traditional scholarly work (about a Trusts & Estates related topic) or a more reflective personal essay. Citation style should conform to the ACTEC Law Journal Guide to Citation Form, available here: http://www.actec.org/assets/1/6/ACTEC_Journal_Citation_Guide.pdf 

Contributions from ACTEC members and non-ACTEC members are very welcome. Please make submissions directly to the faculty editor, Bridget Crawford (bcrawford@law.pace.edu).

May 26, 2017 in Articles, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Walking May Help with Dementia

Brain A new study indicates that exercise may bolster the brain function and thinking skills of people afflicted with a certain type of dementia. Vascular cognitive impairment, the second most frequent form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. The condition typically stems from damaged blood vessels and is associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.

In the early stages of the disease, the brain begins to function less efficiently. Areas of the brain associated with memory, attention, and decision-making show increased levels of neural activity. The damaged brain is being forced to work harder when dealing with routine processes relative to a normal, healthy brain. Researchers at the University of British Columbia decided to see if moderate exercise might potentially alleviate these symptoms. The researchers divided previously sedentary volunteers afflicted with the disease into two groups: a group that would begin working out for one hour at the lab three times a week, and another that would remain inactive.

At the end of six months, members of the exercise group showed less activation in the portions of their brains required for attention and rapid decision-making than did the control group. While the differences were subtle, the results of the study were encouraging.

See Gretchen Reynolds, A 1-Hour Walk, 3 Times a Week, Has Benefits for Dementia, N.Y. Times, May 24, 2017.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

May 26, 2017 in Current Events, Elder Law, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Using Seniors to Help Divorcing Families

Family-Court-721Forrest Steven Mosten & Lara Traum recently published an Article entitled, It Takes a Village: Using Seniors to Help Divorcing Families, Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

The wisdom of an underappreciated elderly population can offer invaluable assistance to underserved pro-se litigants facing family conflict. This Article will uncover the confluent needs of the family court system and the growing elderly population in the United States. Section II of this Article will explain the struggles of the family court system, outline the historic role of the elderly in addressing family conflict, propose the creation of an Elder Volunteer Corps to address these communal needs, and discuss the benefits of creating such a corps. Section III will suggest logistical approaches to forming an Elder Volunteer Corps, focusing on how such a corps can address the needs of forgotten populations, including the pro-se litigant community and the growing Senior Citizen population. Section IV will conclude that the inclusion of the elderly as a volunteer corps could revolutionize American culture, teaching a society that typically “discards” the elderly to value their expertise, defer to them as wise elders, and use their assistance. The impact of such an Elder Volunteer Corps on American society has clear immediate benefits on a local level, and could “update” American culture in a way that would help the United States relate to the rest of the global community.

May 26, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fans Mourn Chris Cornell's Passing

ChrisCornellChris Cornell, best known as lead vocalist for the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, was cremated this past Tuesday. Those present included a small and select group of family and friends. The memorial service will be held on Friday and is also intended only for close friends and family. After the ashes are buried, fans will be allowed to enter Hollywood Forever cemetery in order to pay their respects. Officials at the cemetery are expecting a huge crowd after the service. Cornell joins legends like Mikey Rooney and Mel Blanc, who have also been laid to rest at the site.

See Chris Cornell Cremated, Private Service Planned but Fans Not Forgotten, TMZ, May 24, 2017.

May 25, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Estate Planning Enchiridion

NV-PeoplesBranchThe Estate Planning Enchiridion of Rushforth, Lee & Kiefer, LLP, contains up-to-date news on both trust and estate legislation in the great state of Nevada. Assembly Bill 314 passed both houses and is expected to be signed into law by the Governor shortly. This bill serves to clarify a number of Nevada laws relating to trusts and estates including clarifications in the probate code, court jurisdiction, and creditor’s claims against nonprobate assets. Assembly Bill 239 is expected to become effective in early October. This bill declares the law in respect to a decedent’s digital assets; this includes access to online financial sites and social media. Assembly Bill 413, if passed, would revise Nevada law dealing with certain electronic documents, including electronic wills. But, while not dead, Bill 413 has stalled in the Assembly and its passage is questionable.

See Layne T. Rushforth, Estate Planning News: Law Updates, Estate Planning Enchiridion of Rushforth, Lee & Kiefer, LLP, May 23, 2017.

May 25, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)