Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Will Contested Over Flashy Looking Corpse

Funeral-trust25-crop-600x338This opinion column discusses an interesting Will contest case involving a flashy looking corpse.  When Tim O’Leary passed away “he was decked out in a red and green checkered suit, was wearing a celluloid collar that was stiffer than he was and… his broad yellow tie was held down by a flashy diamond stick-pin.”  When his widow died a year later several disinherited relatives attempted to contest her Will alleging that no sane person would choose to bury her husband in such a flashy outfit.  The judge rejected the argument put forward by the disinherited heirs, holding that “he could not say that clothing suitable for Florida was so appropriate for burial purposes as to considered an insane use thereof.”

See Jack Strauss, Case of the flashy looking corpse, The Richmond Register, August 1, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 4, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

End Of Life Counseling May Help Families Make A Difficult Choice

HospiceMaking a decision that will certainly result in death is always a terrible choice, but it is one that many American's will have to make as the elder population reaches record highs. The recent announcement that Medicare will provide counseling is a positive step forward as it allows individuals and families to seek advice when faced with a choice to continue an expensive and potentially life saving, but unlikely to succeed, medical procedure. To avoid the terrible choice between life and money, it is always advisable to create a living will and a health care directive document that outlines what measures a person wants to be taken well before the choice has to made. In the heat of the moment, individuals will often make choices that are geared towards the short term rather than long. A little preparation will allow everyone to focus on the dying process and comfort of the patient rather than the need to make hard choices that might have severe repercussions that extend many years into the future.

See Edward A. Zelinsky, Medicare and end-of-life medical care, OUPblog, August 3, 2015.

August 4, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Family Drama Unfolded At Bobbi Kristina Brown’s Funeral

Whitney houstonI have previously discussed the volatile family tensions surrounding the late singer Whitney Houston’s estate.  This Saturday the families of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown gathered in Georgia to mourn the loss of Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown.  There are reports of a confrontation between Leolah Brown and Pat Houston.  This article discusses some of the deep simmering tensions between the two families.  One of the few things the two opposing sides could agree on was banning Bobbi Kristina’s former partner, Nick Gordon, from the funeral.  Pat Houston has alleged that Nick Gordon was abusive towards Bobbi Kristina and that he stole $11,000 from her while she was in an unconscious state.  The conflict between the Brown and Houston families is likely going to continue as they fight over Whitney Houston’s $20 million dollar estate.

See Soraya Nadia McDonald, Family drama overshadows Bobbi Kristina Brown’s funeral service, The Washington Post, August 2, 2015. 

August 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alabama Supreme Court Takes Hardline On Life Insurance Contracts

GavelWhen Wanchetta Reese went to the local Alfa Life Insurance office to sign up her husband, she followed all the procedure that was required including answering all health questions truthfully. However, the two agents that sold her the policy did not follow procedure and when informed that the husband suffered from serious health problems told Mrs. Reese not to worry and never included the information in the application. When Mr. Reese died a few months later, Alfa denied the claim stating Mrs. Reese lied in the application and signed the agreement knowing the proper health information had been intentionally omitted which voided the agreement.

In Alfa Life Insurance Corporation et al.v.Wanchetta Reese, the Alabama Supreme Court held that Mrs. Reese failed to properly disclose the health issue which voided the policy under the terms of the contract. A proper verbal disclosure by Reese of the health conditions to the agents was not enough to overcome the contract provisions and the fact that she relied on the representations by Alfa's agents instead of reading the agreement did not change the issue. While it is always a good idea to read a contract, this case shows that residents of Alabama will need to take extra precautions to protect themselves when signing a life insurance agreement and never rely on verbal promises. In the end, the words in the agreement will always prevail.

Special thanks to Turney Berry for bringing this article to my attention.

August 3, 2015 in Death Event Planning, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Dionne Warwick Threatens To Boycott Bobbi Kristina Brown’s Funeral

BrownI have previously discussed the passing of Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, and the conflict surrounding these tragic circumstances.  Whitney Houston’s cousin Dionne Warwick is threatening to not attend the funeral of Bobbi Kristina Brown because she is offended by plans to hold a 'sweet sixteen’ themed funeral.  Dionne Warwick is currently involved in a bitter personal conflict with Bobbi Kristina Brown’s aunt Pat Houston.  This dispute covers a wide ranging host of issues and has even involved the use of twitter.  This article discusses much of the bitter acrimony that is breaking out between different relatives of Bobbi Kristina Brown.  This dispute is probably far from over as relatives will likely have future conflicts over the estate. 

See Laura Collins and Pat Shipp, EXCLUSIVE: How Pat Houston's 'Sweet Sixteen' themed funeral for Bobbi Kristina and a dispute over her $20m inheritance is dividing the family - with Dionne Warwick threatening to BOYCOTT the ceremony, The Daily Mail, July 31, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vincent Lambert Case Fuels French Right-To-Die Debate

VincentAn emotional right-to-die case is fueling a major debate in France over the issue of death with dignity.  Vincent Lambert is a former psychiatric nurse who became tetraplegic after suffering in a horrible car accident seven years ago.  He is now being kept alive in a vegetative state, and a dispute has broken out between Lambert’s parents who want to keep him alive and his wife who claims her husband would have wanted his feeding tube removed.  This case is bringing attention to a debate that is happening all over the world.  Similar debates are taking place in the United States.  For example, the State of California is currently considering right-to-die legislation.  As the population continues to age this issue is only going to become more prevalent.

See John Lichfield, Vincent Lambert Case: France gripped by ‘right to die’ of tetraplegic former nurse and attempt to ‘kidnap him from his hospital bed,’ The Independent, July 27, 2015.

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

July 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

For-Profit Hospice Care Centers Booming Financially

Old WomenThe idea of hospice care, when the focus shifts from keeping a person alive to making sure they pass away with a minimum of pain and maximum of comfort, has been increasing in popularity in recent years. But what started as a loose network of non-profits offering the service out of compassion has now turned into a massive money generator with many nationwide hospice chains becoming the dominant players.

This change has not been met with joy in all circles as the corporatization of death has lead to accusations of substandard care and fraud as companies stop at nothing to reach new clients. The problem, as the critics point out, is that Medicare pays for almost all hospice care at a flat rate which has encouraged companies to bring in patients that are relatively healthy in order to milk the daily rate. While the major hospice chains deny wrong doing, they have spent large amounts of money to settle court cases in recent years and are being investigated by the federal government. Recent changes have been proposed that would restrain the worst abuses of the system but, as of now, no new regulations have been formally issued.

See Ben Hallman & Nicky Forster, The Business Of Dying Has Never Been More Lucrative, Huffpost Business, July 24, 2015.

July 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Family Receives $115,000 After Woman’s Body Was Mistakenly Sent To Medical School

Funeral-trust25-crop-600x338A family has received $115,000 from New York City after an elderly woman’s corpse was mistakenly sent to a medical school.  When Aura Ballesteros died in May 2014 the city medical examiner’s office told her son that they would hold his mother’s remains until June 16 so that he could have time to make funeral arrangements.  Hector Ballesteros was later in shock when he learned that his mother’s body was sent to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.  The medical examiner’s office had previously called the morgue to tell them of the arrangement but someone at the morgue did not make a note of it.  There is a new state law pending in New York that would require family consent before releasing a body to a medical or embalming school. 

See Associated Press, Family Wins $115,000 From NYC After Morgue Mistakenly Sends Woman’s Body To Medical School, July 23, 2015. 

July 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tips To Preserve Key Estate Documents

TrustEstate planners are forced to cope with the fact many important documents must be held by various parties and that the safety of these key papers is not always a priority of the holder. Losing a document, such as a will, could throw even the best planned estate into turmoil that could lead to years of litigation. Here are some tips on how to make sure original documents are well protected:
  • Make sure original documents are easy to find. This is particularly important for wills since they are documents that often must have an original presented in order to gain a presumption of validity.
  • Make copies of an unaltered original to provide extra safety. However, this may be a risky tactic for wills since copies may complicate matters if the original was revoked or altered.
  • Use a safety deposit box that is set up for easy access after death. Placing documents in a safety deposit box offers unequaled protection from theft or casualty and easy access for the holder of the documents or estate representatives.
  • If a person is using a health care directive, make sure it indicates the location of the original will document and copies plus the name of the primate care physician. Those three pieces of data will help by making all final wishes know to the necessary parties.
See Tom Nawrocki,  5 tips for keeping original paperwork of key estate planning documents, Life Health Pro, July 14, 2015.

July 17, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Make End Of Life Plans Now To Make Sure You Die Under Your Own Terms

DeathDeath is not a subject many wish to dwell upon, but nature will make us all contemplate the fact when it comes time to unspring the mortal coil. Before that time, however, much can be done to make sure that a person departs on as many of their own terms as possible. An advanced care directive is one way as it clearly states a person's wishes concerning life support which may not be the same as the person who would otherwise make the call. In addition, explicitly stated wishes about the location of death should be given; a large majority state they wish to die in their homes though facts show only a minority will have the privilege. Ultimately, planning for death is about taking as much control over the inevitable as possible and should always be encouraged for all people.

See, A Better Way to Die, Bloomberg, July 12, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

July 14, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)