Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Increasing Use Of Online Obituaries

OnlineAs people have been increasingly living their lives online the business of dying has been changing. There are many ways that the intersection of death and the internet can be seen that can include anything ranging from estate planning for digital assets (like a Facebook account), and passing on values and morals through an online “ethical will.” Another growing trend involves the use of online obituaries. More people are opting for the online obituary as an alternative to the traditional short and sweet obituaries that have been traditionally printed in the local newspaper. The online obituary frees people of many of the constraints that existed in traditional obituaries, allowing people to go into more detail when memorializing their deceased loved ones. There have been some circumstances where these online obituaries have gone viral and as a result providing the deceased person with fame beyond the grave.

See Morgan M. Wiener, When Your Death Goes Viral, The National Law Review, November 9, 2015.

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

November 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Growing Number Of States Signing On To Digital Asset Act

KeyboardMany assume, reasonably so, that the administrator of an estate would have access to the digital material of a person that recently died. However, that is unlikely to be true in many situations since it is the agreement that the user signs when registering for the digital account that controls rather than state law. Since most user agreements explicitly deny access to 3rd parties, even if they are the legal representative of the account holder, then administrators are left out in the cold. However, more states are adopting the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act which supersedes any user agreements and specifically authorizes a fiduciary to be able to access online data and accounts. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time before more states adopt this Act or similar legislation as the problem of digital account access will only grow in the future.

See Liza Horvath, Liza Horvath, Senior Advocate: On my death, please say goodbye to my Facebook friends, Monterey Herald, November 6, 2015.

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

November 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Searching For Funeral Home Cost? Don't Use The Internet...

FuneralIn the age of the internet, consumers have gotten used to being able to look up the price of everything be it a washer or a high end sports car. However, one thing you cannot find on the internet, at least with any regularity or reliability, is the price of funeral services. This is due in no small part because the rules the Federal Trade Commission has had in effect for decades only requires funeral homes provide fee schedules to those come in person or call over the phone. Thanks to the huge disparity in cost between funeral homes, even in the same city, this is a great disservice to consumers who might not have the ability to fully compare prices when burdened with the death of a loved one. Hopefully the FTC will take to heart the increasing number of voices calling for mandatory price posting on the internet. Those that are having to plan a funeral should not have to devote a huge amount of time to discover prices, especially when there is little money, in this era of easy information.

See Michelle Singletary, Finding prices for funeral homes shouldn’t be this difficult, Washington Post, November 3, 2015.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 6, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Student Loan Debt Does Not Necessarily Disappear At Death

StudentStudent loan debt has become on of the most talked about issues in America due to the massive yoke it places around a young person's financial neck for years and potentially the rest of their life. But what happens to that debt upon the death of the obligor? That questions depends on the institute that has lent the money. For loans made through the federal government, the death of the borrower will cause the loans to be discharged as long a death certificate is provided. However, private lenders may not be so generous with many going after the estate and insurance of the deceased and some even targeting a surviving spouse in community property states. As a result, it is always important to know the death rules for any student loans that a person might have and plan accordingly. The last thing anyone wants after the death of a loved one is to face having to pay back a huge loan that is almost impossible to discharge due to the heavy statutory protections student loans currently receive.

See Rekesh Sharma, What Happens To Your Student Debt If You Die?, Investopedia, October 30, 2015.

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


November 1, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

More Americans Are Considering Environmentally Conscious Funerals

Green funeralThere is a growing trend of environmentally conscious people looking for “green funerals.”  Clients are considering green funeral options for both financial savings as well as the environmental benefits of having a funeral that has less of a negative impact on the environment than a regular funeral would.  According to the National Funeral Directors Association the number of funeral homes that offer green funeral services has been increasing in recent years.  In 2011 12% of funeral homes offered green services and burials, and that number has since risen to 32% earlier this year.  Some of the green funeral options that are available can include biodegradable caskets and the use of fewer chemicals.  Green burial options can also be more cost effective for consumers that are looking for more affordable burial options.

See Robert Schroeder, Why more Americans are considering ‘green’ funerals, Market Watch, October 29, 2015.

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

October 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Having The Difficult Talk With A Client About... Living Too Long?

Old AgeIn the estate planning world death is the variable that must always be taken into consideration. Usually, death is in regards to a sudden accident that will leave an unprepared estate scrambling to organize but the opposite can be true as well. Living longer than anticipated can have consequences when it leads to exhausted retirement and forced changes in circumstances that will not be welcome.  As a result, it is necessary to make sure that a client understands the possibility of extreme longevity and at least discuss planning for a longer lifespan. While many people cannot wrap their head around the thought of living to 85 or older, those ages are becoming increasingly common and should be considered a possibility as much as a sudden, early death.

See David Lenok, Understanding and Communicating Longevity Risk, Wealth Management, October 19, 2015.

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

October 20, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Study Ranks Hospice Care Of Nations Around The World

MedicalA recent study ranked the quality of hospice care around the world and placed the United Kingdom number one. The authors cited the integration of the hospice care system into the UK's National Health Service as a major factor in the high degree of care as it provides a smooth transition from physician care to end of life preparation. Not surprisingly the developed world lead the rankings but there were some developing nations, such as Mongolia, being praised for efforts to expand access to hospice care. One cause of concern mentioned by the authors was the looming problems in China with its aging population and small families caused by the one child policy which could cause a deterioration of end of life care in the nation.

See Kashmira Gander, UK is the best place in the world to die, according to new study, Independent, October 6, 2015.

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


October 8, 2015 in Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

California Right To Die Bill Signed Into Law By Governor Jerry Brown

ArticlePictureCalifornia Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will allow assisted suicide in the state for certain individuals with terminal illness. The legislation was a long time reaching this point when it finally cleared the legislature earlier this year after facing numerous challenges from religious groups particularly the Roman Catholic Church. The new law is based on the Oregon assisted suicide statute that was a nationwide first when it was passed in 1997. Proponents of the bill hail it as a victory for personal choice as it will ease the suffering of those that lack the means to travel out of state to escape their terminal disease. However, opposition groups can take solace from resent victories over similar legislation in other states as well as The United Kingdom where a right to die proposal was killed in the House of Commons. However, the statute will not come into force immediately as it is expected to be early 2016 before the condition occurs which will allow the legislation to take effect.

See Patrick McGreevy, Gov. Brown signs controversial assisted-suicide bill, Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2015.

October 6, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Rising Tide Supporting Doctors Right To Talk End Of Life Options With Elderly And Ill

Nursing HomeOne of the most common complaints among doctors is that many people receive end of life treatment that they would not have wanted if given the option. However, the option to choose how one will die is often left until the situation is critical and the patient will be unable to indicate their wishes which results in drastic, and expensive, measures to extend a life that is over for all intents and purposes. Because of this problem, Medicare, and private insurers, are finally moving towards reimbursement for doctors when they meet with patients solely to determine end of life care options. Supporters argue that this will be a cost effective means to make sure a person's wishes are known in advance so they die with the greatest comfort possible while not being subjected to painful attempts to save their life that will potentially destroy their estate with medical cost. While doctors are the focus on helping people make end of life decisions in advance, this is also the realm of the estate planner who may be in a better position to explain the non-medical elements of the choice including the financial toll it might take on the next generation. Ultimately, it is always a good idea to broach the subject with a client as they might never give any though to it unless prompted to do so by a trusted adviser.

See Barbara Sadick, How Doctors Can Approach End-of-Life Conversations, Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2015.

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

October 1, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Funeral Home Accused Of Taking Advantage Of The Mentally Ill

Funeral homeThis Monday a class action lawsuit was filed in Marion County, Indiana, alleging that a funeral home took advantage of people with mental illnesses.  The guardian of one of the alleged victims filed the claim against Crown Hill Management that does business as the Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery.  According to the suit the funeral home violated Indiana’s Pre-Need Act accusing it of targeting patients that reside in mental health care facilities to sell them expensive funeral service packages.  This lawsuit seeks to obtain class status for any Indiana resident that was under the care of a health facility and purchased pre-need services from Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery.

See David Wells, Funeral Home Said to Target Mentally Ill, Courthouse News Service, September 30, 2015.

September 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)