Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Studies on Mortality Rates

Images-7As a group of people gets older, a higher percentage of them will die in any given time period. Benjamin Gompertz was a British mathematician from 19th-century created a law of mortality that says each additional period brings a constant increase in mortality rates. 20th century researchers found his research to be true. Around 80, mortality increases, but at a slower rate. More 100-year olds will die by 101 than 80-year-olds who will die by 81, but the difference was not as great as Gompertz predicted.

A study published last year may prove Gompertz right after all though. Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova are a husband and wife team at the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago. They posit a reliability theory of aging that suggests that the body amasses more flaws as it ages. Past a certain point, layers of protection on the body fall away and mortality comes at a constant rate. Their studies have found, however, that death rates among Americans born between 1875 and 1895 have grown steadily as they aged all the way through age 106.

Their new observations call into question their idea that there would be a slowdown in mortality increases with age, so they are now trying to reconcile their theory with those findings. The pair is waiting to see whether the pattern that they discovered will be applied to another set of aging populations, but they will have to wait until those born after the 1940s continue to age.

See Death Gets in the Way of Old-Age Gains, The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 2, 2012. 

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


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Georgia Code Section 53-4-49 (Revised Probate Code of 1998)provides, in part, as follows:

"All provisions of a will made prior to a testator's final divorce or the annulment of the testator's marriage in which no provision is made in contemplation of such event shall take effect as if the former spouse had predeceased the testator ..."

So while I agree with that a client should always review his or her estate plan following a major life event like a divorce or the birth of a child, in Georgia a divorce will generally prevent a former from having any role in the estate of his or her later deceased former spouse unless it is pursuant to a will executed after the divorce. Since Whitney Houston's will was executed in and is being probated in Georgia, it is unlikely that her former spouse will have any role or interest in her estate as a result of the will she executed while they were married.

Posted by: Julian A. Fortuna | Mar 16, 2012 11:45:50 AM

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