Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New York Allows People to Be Buried with Their Pets

Forever with fidoNew York is now allowing pet owners to be buried with the cremated remains of their pet. Governor Cuomo signed the proposal into law on Monday. Cemeteries do not have to offer the option, and religious cemeteries are forbidden from offering it. This law comes at the tail end of a series of measures that honor the bond between human and beast in New York.

See Forever with Fido: New York to Allow People to Be Buried with Pets, NBC New York, September 27, 2016. 


September 27, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

First Minor Granted Euthanasia in Belgium

EuthenasiaTwo years ago, Belgium rescinded the age restrictions on euthanasia, and now, the first terminally ill minor has been assisted to die. Currently, Belgium is the only country that allows minors to be assisted in dying. The law, however, is quite strict, requiring the minor to be in the final stages of terminal illness; understand rationally the difference between life and death; and ask to end their life on repeated occasions. Additionally, another requirement for these minors is to have parental consent along with the consent of two doctors. Not surprisingly, this law comes with much opposition. 

See Belgium Sees First Case of Minor Being Granted Euthanasia, Fox News, September 17, 2016.

September 19, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Writing Your 'Last Letter'

Last letterA geriatrics and palliative care doctor has conversed with countless patients near the end of their lives. The most common emotion expressed? Regret. They regret broken relationships, unexpressed feelings, and how they will be remembered. Consequently, this doctor has come up with the idea to write a last letter to loved ones, expressing those harbored feelings. A free letter template was developed with seven life review tasks: acknowledging important people in our lives, remembering treasured moments, apologizing to those we have hurt, forgiving those who have hurt us, and saying “thank you,” “I love you,” and “goodbye.” Seemingly intuitive, most often individuals leave these questions unanswered, and family members wind up with regret. Undoubtedly, this may be the most important letter you will ever write.

See VJ Periyakoil, Writing a ‘Last Letter’ When You’re Healthy, NY Times, September 7, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) & Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 13, 2016 in Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tube Feeding Decline for Dementia Patients

Tube feedingA new national study has found that advanced dementia patients receiving a feeding tube has dropped more than 50%. It is becoming less controversial for surrogate decision makers to decline tube feeding and rely on hand feeding. Now, families and physicians are beginning to understand the negative effects of feeding tubes for those patients with the terminal disease. Feeding tubes do not keep dementia patients alive longer, and they cut out the needed social interaction of hand feeding. Today, more and more terminally ill patients are focusing on end-of-life quality rather than just being kept alive.

See Paula Span, The Decline of Tube Feeding for Dementia Patients, NY Times, August 29, 2016.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) & Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 30, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

For-Profits Join PACE Program

InnovageInnovAge is a company that uses private equity money to aggressively expand a Medicare program, Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), that keeps older and disabled people out of nursing homes. Before, only nonprofits were allowed to run this type of program, but the gates have opened to for-profit companies with the hope of expanding the services faster. In exchange for monthly payments from Medicare and Medicaid, PACE programs pay for all doctor’s visits, medications, rehabilitation, daily needs, and hospitalization. This capped monthly payment forces organizations to invest in maintaining a patient’s health to avoid large hospital bills. Critics, however, note that caring for elders is full of abuse, something that is correlated with increased commercialization of the industry.

See Sarah Varney, Private Equity Pursues Profits in Keeping the Elderly at Home, NY Times, August 20, 2016.

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

August 24, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Article on Advance Directives in Arizona

Advance directiveWendy Metcalf Anderson recently published an Article entitled, A Good Death: Increasing the Adoption and Effectiveness of Advance Directives in Arizona, 8 Ariz. Summit L. Rev. 447 (2016). Provided below is a summary of the Article:

Advance planning for an end-of-life situation can be an effective way to ensure that we live our final days on our own terms. Advance directives, in various formats, outline the patient's desired treatment options, expressed when he is competent to make such decisions, and would be effective in the event that he loses the capacity to adequately communicate or participate in decisions regarding his own care. Dying patients who have discussed their end-of-life wishes with their physician are more likely to choose fewer life-sustaining treatments and more likely to spend their final days in hospice, rather than a hospital, than those who have not engaged in this type of conversation.

Americans, however, generally do not die in a way they would like. Overall, patients and their families have expressed the desire for quality of life and to avoid artificially prolonging their dying process. While the majority of Americans would prefer to die at home or at hospice with less aggressive care, studies have shown that seventy-five percent die in a hospital or nursing home, with nearly twenty percent of them in the intensive care unit. As a result, chronically ill and dying Americans are receiving medical care far in excess of what they and their families want. Yet fewer than twenty-five percent of Americans have executed advance directive documents that clearly specify their wishes.

This paper will discuss various advance directives currently in use and the landmark legal cases that created national awareness and debate over the last 40 years. Additionally, this paper will consider the current state of legislation regarding advance directives nationally and in Arizona and will explore the reasons that the laws inadequately serve to better encourage the use and effectiveness of these documents. As its primary purpose, this paper will propose several statutory changes designed to increase the rate of adoption of advance directives in Arizona and improve the availability of such documents when they are needed most - when a patient is physically or mentally incapable of communicating their end-of-life wishes.

August 22, 2016 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Good Death

Good deathWe may never know what the future holds for our death; however, in its progression, experts argue that our nation’s nursing home and medical system play a role in attempting to add days with little consideration for the quality of those days. The argument is for quality over quantity, making our last days less miserable and frightening. A recent study has outlined the factors that contribute to a “good death,” including being pain free, feeling at peace, and dying in an ideal location for the patient. The ultimate goal “is not a good death, but a good life to the very end.” 

See David G. Allan, A ‘Good Death’ by Going Gentle into That Good Night, CNN, August 16, 2016.

August 18, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Women Has "Rebirth" Party One Month After California Passes Physician-Assisted Suicide Law

Betsy davisIn July, Betsy Davis sent out invitations to her “rebirth” party, one that required emotional stamina, centeredness, and openness. The party would conclude with a physician-assisted suicide. For the past three years, Betsy had been losing control of her body due to ALS. Her party came one month after California passed a law that gave terminally ill patients the option to hasten death. Her friends and family were at peace knowing she was able to turn her departure into a work of art.

See Karen Mizoguchi, Terminally Ill California Woman with ALS Throws One Last Party Before Ending Her Life, People, August 11, 2016.

August 15, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Do Doctors Make the Same Dying Mistakes that We Do?

Doctors dyingIt is often thought that physicians avoid that end of life mistake that most of us make—they do not die in the hospital rather in the comfort of their own home with hospice or palliative care. We cannot believe that they would make the same mistakes we do by spending depressed energy levels on futile high tech medicine. However, they often do. Really the only difference is that they might use hospice care for longer than regular folks. Generally, though, their experience is much like ours at the end of our lifetimes.

See Howard Gleckman, Doctors Die Like the Rest of Us, Forbes, July 20, 2016.

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

July 26, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Death Doulas Making Dying Easier

Death doulasA death doula primarily works to be a presence at the end of life, easing the passage from living to dying. Their job is to assist and accompany those who are facing death and make this last chapter less scary. Death doulas are emerging as the baby boomers grow closer to this stage and as the recognition grows, presenting how the spirit needs to be attended to just like the body. These doulas job consists of helping with strategies to relieve burdened family members, organizing legacy projects that capture the patient’s life, assisting at the moment of death, and helping loved ones process grief.

See Ellen McCarthy, Dying Is Hard. Death Doulas Want to Help Make it Easier., Washington Post, July 22, 2016.

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

July 24, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0)