Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fierce Debate In Colorado As House Committee Approves Right-To-Die Bill

MedicalThe Colorado House Judiciary Committee narrowly approved a right-to-die bill for the state following a contentious hearing. Proponents argues that the bill will allow those facing certain death at the hands of often painful and debilitating diseases the dignity to die at a moment of their own choosing. They also point to the Oregon right-to-die law which has been effect for nearly two decades as an example of how the legislation will bring comfort to those facing a capricious death and allow them to pass in a place of their choosing. But critics have jumped on aspects of the bill as not offering enough safeguards against coercion by heirs who seek a quick to avoid massive medical bills for end of life care. Particularly, the ability of a witness to also be a beneficiary under the terminal patient's estate. The bill will now head to the House floor for debate although a similar measure was recently voted down in a Senate committee.

See Emma Gannon, Colorado Assisted Suicide Bill Advances, Courthouse News, February 5, 2016.

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

February 8, 2016 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 5, 2016

You Can't Take It To The Grave- So Don't

MoneyOne of the key functions of estate planning in the minds of many is manipulate assets in such a way as to leave a sizable inheritance for the next generation. But an emerging trend is to manage an estate in manner that will allow financial security until death but provide a minimal bequest to heirs. This philosophy, knows as gifting with warm hands, calls for giving while alive to family members, friends, charities, and any other group towards which the retiree is inclined. This has the advantage of allowing a person the satisfaction of being able to see the full results of their giving instead of imagining what good will might come after their death. Another benefit of the giving during one's lifetime is that it creates a certain measure of certainty that the money is being well used. A common theme of inherited wealth is irresponsible heirs blowing through the money and finding themselves broke and unable to care for themselves so giving while alive helps avoid this tragedy. But be advised, this strategy requires careful planning to make sure that the money matches a lifespan so always consult a trusted estate planner to guide the process.

See Kyle Krull, What is "Don't Die Rich" Estate Planning?, Wealth Management, February 3,2016.

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

February 5, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Nontraditional Funerals Looks To Grow In Popularity

ArticlePictureOne of the most common complaints from those that are having to plan a funeral is the high cost of using a funeral home which many assume is their only option for the disposition of remains. However, a new trend is emerging which cuts out the funeral home and instead holds a service at home in a manner that has much in common with funerals from before the Civil War. In Los Angeles, one business is looking to push the trend and offers a myriad on nontraditional services ranging from at home funeral services in which the corpse is not embalmed to witness cremations where loved ones watch the cremation process and even take part by pushing the ignition button. The owners, both former morticians, like to remind people that no state requires that a funeral home service and taking a do it yourself approach can save thousands of dollars and provide a better sense of closure for many. While it is unknown if this trend will find any permanence, the growing numbers of funerals that go hand in hand with an aging population will certainly give those seeking nontraditional methods of body disposal a chance to experiment.

See Claire Martin, Start-Ups Take Rites From the Funeral Home to the Family Home, The New York Times, January 30, 2016.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.


February 1, 2016 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Article On The Affect Of Biomarkers For Alzheimer's On End-Of-Life Choices

ArticlePictureRebecca Dresser (Professor of Law, Washington University) recently published an article entitled, A fate worse than death? How biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease could affect end-of-life choices, 12 Ind. Health L. Rev. 651-669 (2015).

For many years, scientists have searched for biological markers of the brain deterioration associated with the cognitive impairments characterizing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although the search for useful biomarkers is ongoing, there is increasing evidence that certain brain changes indicate that a person is at relatively high risk of developing full-blown AD. Much of the research on AD biomarkers is motivated by the belief that successful treatment will require very early intervention in the disease process. Unfortunately, by the time people develop the memory and other behavioral problems that are associated with AD, significant brain damage has already occurred. Biomarker tests could give patients and clinicians the opportunity to start drug and other treatments early, with the goal of slowing or stopping the deterioration that can eventually produce the clinical symptoms of AD. We can all hope that the medical promise of AD
biomarkers becomes a reality. But it will take years to determine whether biomarker testing and early intervention produce clear health benefits. Currently available AD treatments are largely ineffective, and early therapeutic intervention remains unproven. Before effective treatment becomes available, many people tested for biomarkers could learn that they are at higher-than average risk of developing AD. Some people will appreciate this early warning, for it will give them an opportunity to get their affairs in order, take a long-desired vacation, and “have the kind of heartfelt talks with their children that that people often put off.”

January 31, 2016 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cremation Pricing And Information Stuck Outside Digital Era

CremationPricing funerary services is notoriously difficult since the overwhelming majority of providers refuse to disclose rates online with only 1 in 5 providers showing the cost via the internet. Unfortunately, cremation is no different even though the process has grown drastically in popularity over the last 20 years with the service expected to eclipse burials and represent the preponderance of funerals by 2018. This is due, in no small part, to the lower cost associated with cremation and the ease with which memorials for the dead can be held at locations other than a funeral home. However, pricing the service is extremely difficult in many locals since the federal law that dictates how prices are disclosed being from 1994 and did not contemplate the internet when it was passed. As a result, the bereaved must call, or more often go in person, in order to get a price quote which allows a vast disparity in price to exist even in the same city. New York City is the most striking example with the top known price being nearly $10,000 more than the lowest. But change might be on the horizon as individual states take action to require greater transparency in pricing which will be of great assistance to those that are grieving and trying to plan a funeral.

See, How Much Does A Cremation Cost? Depends Who You Call, Priceonomics, January 27, 2016.

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

January 28, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

British Museum Seeks To Make Death An Approachable Subject

DeathDeath is a sensitive subject to many that is to be avoided as a topic of conversation whenever possible. But a new exhibit at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is seeking to make death approachable and understandable by showing visitors the reality of the subject ranging from the funerary traditions of various world cultures to a recreation of a mortuary's embalming room. The idea behind the exhibit is to allow people to see the places and things that go along with death but presented in a manner that is approachable by using, in part, colors that are not associated with death throughout the display. The museum has also jumped into the right to die debate by having a recreation of a room from a Swiss assisted-dying center complete with display of the drugs that are administered to the patient. The exhibition has been a respectable success drawing 36,000 visitors since it opened on October and runs until March 13, 2016.

See, Can good cheer and honest talk change our gloomy perspective on death?, The Economist, January 26, 2016.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.

January 28, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Impact Social Media Has Had On Grieving Death

David bowieOnline social media has changed the way society grieves death. After the passing of musician David Bowie there were many tributes and outpourings of love and support on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Public digital expressions of grief have become an important part of the healing process in modern society. People’s online memory is becoming a more important aspect of their lives. Facebook has recognized these changing trends and is allowing users to designate a person to be a “legacy contact” who would have limited control over their account when they pass away. This will permit people to memorialize their Facebook profiles for loved ones. The rising importance of social media in everyday life is changing the ritual of mourning death.

See Michael Reilly, The Internet Has Changed How We Deal With Death, MIT Technology Review, January 21, 2016.

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

January 23, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What Does A Doctor Do When Deciding On End Of Life Care?

MedicalA new study has been released and appears to indicate that doctors tend to receive different levels of end of life care than the general population. In particular, it indicated that doctors receive less aggressive levels of care when it comes to prolonging life particularly in the last six months of life.The authors suspect that is the doctor's knowledge of the realities of warding away death for short periods and instead opt to plan ahead and make sure they are not made to suffer to prolonging the inevitable. Interestingly, lawyers were also shown to chose similar paths to doctors when making end of life decisions which the researchers conjectured was due to their high level of education and tendency to clearly set out their goals and intent when making arrangements concerning end of life medical care. All this goes to show that education about the realities of end of life medical treatment is essential in allowing a person to make an informed decision about what lengths should be gone to in order to prolong their life.

See Andrew M. Seaman, Doctors get less aggressive care before death, Reuters, January 19, 2016.

January 20, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

David Bowie Was Cremated In New York City With No Friends Or Family Present

David bowieThere are reports that legendary musician David Bowie has been privately cremated in New York City with no friends or family present. The iconic British musician passed away on January 10, 2016 after an 18-month battle with cancer. According to an insider David Bowie just wanted to “disappear with no fuss, no big show, no fan-fare.” Reports show that Bowie did not want any lavish ceremony and just wanted to be remembered for his music. His producer Tony Visconti explained that Bowie’s final album Blackstar was meant to be his parting gift to fans. On February 16 there will be a tribute for David Bowie at the BRIT awards, and there will also be a memorial concert for him at New York’s Carnegie Hall on March 16.

See David Bowie cremated in secret without friends of family, Music News, January 14, 2016.

January 14, 2016 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Music, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Why Spelling Out Funeral Wishes Is A Good Idea

Funeral costsSpelling out funeral wishes in an estate plan can give a client peace of mind by making sure that their wishes are fulfilled. This article discusses a “funeral wishes” document that estate planners can have their clients fill out. People do not like to think about their own demise, but because of growing funeral costs it is a good idea to plan ahead so that loved ones do not end up being burdened with the expenses. Parents do not want to burden their children with funeral costs, and that is why it is a good idea to include funeral planning in any estate plan that is created.

See Lauren Gadkowski Lindsay, Spelling Out Funeral Wishes Keeps Clients Comfortable, Financial Planning, January 4, 2016.

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

January 4, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)