Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, January 30, 2015

Finding Forever After Death


Who owns what is left of you after you die, and what can they do that is out of the ordinary? 

Although a strange idea to ponder, one idea is to press your ashes into a vinyl record.  This record will play twelve minutes on each side.  You can record your voice, your favorite songs, your will, or just opt for silence.  The company advertises that its basic package will give you up to thirty discs and you can choose your own album covers. 

If you rather have something more permanent, consider a company called “LifeGem,” which takes your remains and turns you into a diamond.  The company states, “diamonds from ashes are created from a very specific source of carbon—your loved one.”  While you can choose among different colors and sizes, the company warns that the diamond they produce is not flawless. 

Other companies will mix your ashes with seeds and pot you in a biodegradable urn that gets planted, so you will eventually become a tree. 

See George M. Fox, Diamonds (and you) Can Be Forever, Big Canoe News, Jan. 10, 2015.

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

January 30, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Green Burials and Cremations


Unlike other living creatures on this earth, humans treat dying as a solemn rite of passage.  Many of us bury our dead with a ceremony, and many of us believe in an afterlife. 

This idea is reflected upon in the Green Cemetery Initiative, a nonprofit trust in rural central Massachusetts.  The main idea motivating the Green Cemetery Initiative is that instead of caring so much about preserving our own dead bodies, why not care more about preserving the natural environment—“the unspoiled beauty of God’s creation.”  According to the Green Burial of Massachusetts, a partner with the trust, “Each year we bury approximately 827,060 gallons of toxic embalming fluid, 104,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, 30-plus million board feet of hardwood, and 1,636 tons of reinforced concrete.” 

The key feature of the initiative is that the deceased would be buried in biodegradable coffins, without embalming fluids and concrete fortresses.  Engraved organic flagstones would serve as grave markers. 

See Michael Guillen, Final Gestures, U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 28, 2015.

January 29, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Arkansas Funeral Home Accused of Neglecting Bodies

CasketA funeral home in Jacksonville, Arkansas is facing a $10,000 fine and loss of their crematory license at the direction of the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors in connection with a failed inspection of their practices of storing bodies. The funeral home, Arkansas Funeral Care, is also facing a lawsuit filed on Monday by Cheryl Cross-Smith. Cross-Smith claims that she suffered emotional distress and mental anguish after viewing her late husband's decomposing body in his casket in November due to lack of refrigeration and neglect by the funeral home.

See Noel Oman, Widow Sues Funeral Home, Arkansas Online, Jan. 27, 2015.


January 28, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Back Yard Burials in UK, Calls for Social Reform of Funeral Costs

CemeteryThe rising cost of funerals in the UK is resulting in poor families going into debt or turning to self remedies such as burying their loved ones in their backyard, according to Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck. Lewell-Buck introduced a bill that calls for a review of the issue of funeral poverty and would introduce a simple funeral concept into the funeral payments social fund system. The average funeral cost is currently £3,551, and a report by the Royal London insurance company revealed that one-in-five families that face the loss of a loved one are incurring debt from the funeral expenses.

See Press Association, Rising Funeral Costs 'Causing People to Bury Loved Ones in Back Garden', The Guardian, Dec. 9, 2014.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Law Office of Lewis J. Saret, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 23, 2015 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Charlie Hebdo's Girlfriend Denied Funeral Access


Lawyer Jeannette Bougrab became the face of mourning after Islamic extremists attacked the offices of French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo last week.  The girlfriend of its late editor Stephane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier, gave a series of interviews to reporters at the scene of the shooting that claimed the lives of ten journalists and two police officers.  “My companion is dead because he drew in a newspaper,” she said. 

Since then, Ms. Bougrab has declared she will not be attending the funeral of her boyfriend, after his family denied the two were ever in a committed relationship and ordered her to stay clear of the ceremony.

Charb’s brother, Laurent Charbonnier issued a statement, “We formally deny any rational commitment from Charb with Jeannette Bougrab.  We do not want her to express herself in the manner in which she has done.  We ask for respect for our family’s mourning.” 

Ms. Bougrab responded to Laurent’s words, stating, “We didn’t do a press release to announce our relationship but we weren’t hiding it.  He had met my mother, my daughter called him dad.”  Several friends of the couple have corroborated her claims.    

See Jenn Selby, Why Jeannette Bougrab, the Girlfriend of Late Charlie Hebdo editor ‘Charb’, Has Been Ordered to Stay Away From His Funeral, Independent, Jan. 13, 2015. 

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

January 14, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Church of England Entangled In Suicide Debate

Church of England

The Church of England is embroiled in a debate over proposals to sweep away laws that prohibit a full Christian funeral to people who have commit suicide. 

Although clergy are more sympathetic to suicide than when “self murder” was still a crime, critics within the Church believe the reforms will “legalize” suicide, which is something that should still be regarded as a serious sin.  “The Church has always opposed suicide on the basis of the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill, and that includes yourself.” 

The move comes as Labour peer Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, which says terminally-ill patients must make a voluntary and informed decision to end their lives before they can helped to do so, faces further debate in the House of Lords later this month. 

The Church of England’s General Synod meets next month, when members will call for Canon law to be reformed so that clergy who use the Church’s rites to bury those who have taken their own life in any circumstances are no longer in breach of the law.  Under current Church law, clergy should use a modified funeral service for people who have taken their lives in order to reflect the Church’s concerns about suicide. 

See Jonathan Petre, Church of England to ‘Legalise’ Suicide in Historic U-Turn On Funerals, Daily Mail, Jan. 3, 2014. 

January 6, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Incorporating Faith and Values Into Your Estate Plan

TrustRather than worrying about where assets will go, some people put more emphasis on incorporating faith and values into their estate plan.  Fortunately, there are several different ways this can happen. 

For some people, this means including one or more charities into their plan as a beneficiary.  It could be a charity you have supported during your lifetime that you want to continue to support.  You could leave a dollar amount or percentage, or establish a trust to provide income or principal distributions to the charity for years to come. 

Establishing distribution provision for loved ones is another way to add faith and value to your plan.  You may want distributions to your children or grandchildren to be for education or something important to you, thus, personalizing the way the money can be used.  Some people choose to limit distributions to encourage hard work and self-sufficiency. 

If your medical and end-of-life wishes are tailored around your faith or other values, it is important to name an agent who shares those same values.  It is also a good idea to put those wishes in writing and discuss them with your agent. 

See Carissa Giebel, Ways to Incorporate Faith, Values Into Your Estate Plan, Green Bay Press Gazette, Dec. 29, 2014.

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

December 30, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Man Resurrects Minutes Before Cremation

Deepak Singh

A man in India believed to dead stunned his relatives when he unexpectedly woke up during his funeral. 

Deepak Singh, 72, was thought to have died after he collapsed while tending his cattle.  “I rushed over and couldn’t see any signs of life.  I couldn’t feel a pulse and his heart seemed to have stopped,” said Banda Nalwa, Singh’s grandson.  A local doctor was later called and confirmed his death. 

Relatives arranged a proper send off for Singh.  His siblings were almost ready to light the wooden funeral pyre when Singh jolted back to life.  “As the volume of the wailing increased, I suddenly saw my grandfather’s body move.  At first I thought it was my imagination, but then he opened his eyes and sat up.”

See Chris Perez, Man Jolts Back to Life Minutes Before Cremation, New York Post, Dec. 23, 2014.

December 26, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Combined Burials For Pet Owners and Their Animal Friends

CemeteryWhile the majority of states do not allow for humans and their animal companions to be buried together, three states allow for remains of pets and their owners to rest together after death. The states that allow human-pet combined burials are:

  • New York: The cremated remains of humans may be buried with their pets in a pet cemetery.
  • Pennsylvania: Human and pet remains may be buried in a combined burial section of a cemetery, without the cremation requirement.
  • Virginia: Human and pets may be buried together as long as the pet fits the state's legal definition of a companion animal, the pet is in a separate casket, and the section of the cemetery for combined burials is clearly marked.

See Bonnie Kraham, Bonnie Kraham: You Can Be Buried With Your Pets, Times Herald-Record, Dec. 3, 2014.

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

December 5, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Billionaire Spanish Duchess Leaves £2.2 Billion Estate to Children

WillThe funeral of the Duchess of Alba was attended by thousands including dignitaries, and members of the public filled the streets to watch her funeral procession. The Spanish Billionaire and direct royal descendent of King James II of England, died at 88-years-old due to pneumonia. The Duchess left her £2.2 billion estate to her six children. Each child is expected to receive a palace of their own. Her third husband Alfonso Diez, who is 24 years younger than the Duchess, was not included in her will and signed an agreement prior to the wedding that he would not receive any of her fortune. The agreement is believed to have been used to resolve a family feud over disapproval of the marriage.

See Ted Thornhill & Emma Glanfield, Duchess of Alba, Who Died Aged 88, Leaves Nothing to Her 64-Year-Old Toyboy While Her Six Children Get the £3 Billion Fortune, Daily Mail, Nov. 21, 2014.

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

November 22, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)