Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Death Podcasts Now Available

Marsh_TanyaTanya Marsh (Wake Forest University School of Law) recently launched a new podcast called Death, et seq. (Death, and what follows).  Marsh writes about the law of human remains and teaches a course on Funeral and Cemetery Law and regards this podcast as an extension of her scholarship and teaching.  Show notes for each episode and links to subscribe to the podcast can be found on the website wwwdeathetseq.com.

New episodes are released on Monday mornings and range from 30 to 50 minutes in length.  Recent episodes include:

Episode 7: A Preview of Dark Archives with Megan Rosenbloom.  USC medical librarian Rosenbloom is writing a book about “anthropodermic bibliopegy,” or books that are allegedly bound in human skin.  This episode discusses the use of cadavers in medical education, the disposition of unclaimed human remains in the U.S. and the U.K., and the development of medical ethics. 

Episode 5: An Introduction to Funeral and Disposition Planning is a conversation between Marsh and fellow Wake Forest Professor Rebecca Morrow about the importance of planning for a funeral and the disposition of human remains in conjunction with estate planning.  The options available to American funeral consumers (including emerging choices like green burial and home funerals) and the appropriate methods for documenting choices are discussed.  The show notes contain links to resources with additional details. 

Episode 4: Caitlin Doughty and the Death Positive Movement is a conversation between Marsh and Doughty, a funeral director and author of two New York Times best-selling books about changing consumer preferences for funerals and the disposition of human remains. 

Episode 2: What Happens to Human Remains in the U.S.? addresses a number of legal doctrines relevant to the status and disposition of human remains and serves as a good overview of some of the issues that will be discussed in more depth throughout the podcast.

July 17, 2018 in Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Article on Where There's a Will, There's a Way: The US Will Registry Offers a Technology Solution to the Lost Will Problem

PrinceStacey Jerome-Miller recently published an Article entitled, Where There's a Will, There's a Way: The US Will Registry Offers a Technology Solution to the Lost Will Problem, Probate & Property Magazine, Vol. 32, No. 4, July/August 2018. Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

The death of the musical artist Prince shocked the country, but what was more shocking was the news that, although his estate is worth approximately $300 million, no will declaring the distribution of his assets can be found.

One can only guess why Prince did not leave a will. Was a will outside the scope of his religious beliefs? Did his attorneys advise him to plan for the event of his death, and he simply ignored their advice? Maybe he had not gotten around to estate planning, or perhaps he drafted a will but neglected to tell his family its location. It seems incredible to believe that such a large estate could be left unprotected. Whatever the reasoning, one cannot help but wonder what will happen to Prince's millions now. The Petition for Formal Appointment of Special Administrator, filed by Prince's sister Tyka Nelson, in the Carver County District Court on April 26, 2016, states, "I do not know of the existence of a will and have no reason to believe that the decedent executed testamentary documents in any form." A large part of Prince's estate will be needlessly wasted on legal fees, and Prince's family will be tied up in court trying to sort it ,all out. In fact, as of May 14, 2018, over 1,900 documents have been filed in the case.

July 14, 2018 in Articles, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, New Cases, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sixth Municipality in Massachusetts to Call for Death with Dignity Legislation

CapecodOn Monday Falmouth in Massachusetts became the sixth municipality in the state to agree to pass a resolution to request the legislature to legalize allowing terminally ill patients to receive life-ending medication from their medical practitioner. Commonly known as physician-assisted suicide or Death with Dignity, the practice is legal in several United State jurisdictions including Washington, Vermont, and Colorado.

It may be an uphill battle, however. In 2012 voters narrowly defeated a referendum that would have allowed the practice, and in 2017 a medical aid in dying bill did not make it past the public health committee. Right-to-life groups and the Catholic Church are also strongly opposed to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, fearing it will be used to contain expenditures of costly medical treatments.

There is support for Death with Dignity laws by the medical world, as the American Medical Society declined to reaffirm its opposition to the practice and the Massachusetts Medical Society officially dropped its stance against it.

See Cynthia McCormick, Falmouth Backs Death with Dignity, Cape Cod Times, July 10, 2018.


July 12, 2018 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Body of Dead Teen, Honored with ‘Extreme Embalming,’ is Posed with Video Games, Sunglasses, and Snacks

MatthewsA funeral home in New Orleans, Louisiana claims that have a history of unique requests and attempt to meet every grieving family's wishes for their deceased loved ones. 18-year-old Renard Matthews was sadly killed while walking his dog, but his family attempted to faithfully respect his laid-back lifestyle. The family had the teenager embalmed and positioned low in a comfy chair wearing dark sunglasses, holding a video game controller, and to the side was a small table with Doritos and soda.

The unique custom has been called “extreme embalming,” reports ABC News, and honors the deceased in personalized ways. It’s particularly popular in Puerto Rico. "In 2015, Green Lantern fan Renato Garcia, 55, died of an asthma attack and was bid goodbye in the costume he often wore around town. “It is what he would have wanted,” said sister Milagros Garcia."

See Elise Sole, Body of Dead Teen, Honored with ‘Extreme Embalming,’ is Posed with Video Games, Sunglasses, and Snacks, Yahoo, July 9, 2018.

July 11, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Preparing for One’s Final Journey: A Torah Approach

MenorahPreparing for one’s Final Journey: A Torah Approach to Preparing for your own Funeral". The lecture was given by Rav Menachem Levine of Congregation Am Echad. San Jose, CA, January 1, 2018. Topics include Life Insurance, Burial Arrangements, Halachic Living Wills/Health Care Proxies, and Wills.

July 2, 2018 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 29, 2018

What the Living Can Learn by Looking Death Straight in the Eye

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-06-30/5ae57e3c-14e6-46a1-941f-d8507eb54df9.pngThere are several books currently on the market that explain the possibilities to die with dignity, whether it be from terminal illness or simply a longed lived life. This book, Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them), by Buddhist practitioner Sallie Tisdale is different; it speaks about the sensitive subject of dying but with a refreshing realistic attitude. "But in its loving, fierce specificity, this book on how to die is also a blessedly saccharine-free guide for how to live."

Dying is not always done alone, and those around the person nearing the end of their lives may also need some guidance. To the caretaker, she writes: “You are the defender of modesty, privacy, silence, laughter and many other things that can be lost in the daily tasks. You are the guardian of that person’s desires.”

The book also recites a brief history of death as it pertains to different cultures and rituals around the world, up to the numerous options available in the present day.

See Parul Sehgal, What the Living Can Learn by Looking Death Straight in the Eye, New York Times, June 26, 2018.

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

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


June 29, 2018 in Books, Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Artist Uses Human Ashes in Art Projects

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-06-27/c1a208f6-4c98-4bf1-bb92-a978dcce2c51.pngShellena Carter is an artist in Tennessee that commonly uses materials into her paintings that are atypical, such as sand and seashells. But it wasn't until a friend passed away that she was presented with idea to use human cremations as a medium. When requested by the friend's family, she did not hesitate to find a way to incorporate the man's ashes into a painting of pristine beach - something the family could cherish and remember their loved one by. The remains were able to be part of the painting by mixing them with resin gloss.

Carter says that now she has ten other clients desiring to use a person's ashes into artwork.

See Ellie Romano, Tennessee Artist Turns Loved Ones' Ashes Into Works of Art, KLEW.tv.com, June 24, 2018.

June 27, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 25, 2018

CLE on Step-by-Step Guide to Drafting Wills and Trusts

CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a conference entitled, Step-by-Step Guide to Drafting Wills and Trusts, on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at the Wyndham Garden Norfolk Downtown in Norfolk, Virginia. Provided below is a description of the event.

Program Description

Draft Enforceable Estate Planning Documents With These Practical Techniques

Do you have all the information you need to draft customized testamentary documents for each of your clients? Don't spend years gathering precious bits of legal practice wisdom - our experienced attorney faculty are here to share their time-tested methods of identifying clients' needs and creating custom-tailored wills and trusts to fit each specific situation. This legal primer offers all the tools and sample forms to get you started. Get the fundamental skills you need to build your estate planning practice - register today!

  • Get practical will and trust drafting skills to speed up the process and give the testator's last wishes power.
  • Stave off conflicts of interest with a clear determination of who your client is from the start.
  • Learn how to deal with interested relatives who want to be present at all the planning meetings.
  • Explore the pros and cons of using a revocable living trust in the will's stead and find out when it's a better option.
  • Explore the functions and mechanics of major trust structures - and make certain you choose the right tool for each job.
  • Give each provision full power with precise word choices - get sample forms to speed up the process.
  • Make sure your remarried and unmarried clients know the default inheritance laws and help them make sure the right beneficiaries are assigned.
  • Anticipate key tax issues, including individual income tax planning and trust taxation.
  • Phrase the fiduciary and beneficiary designations to leave no room for interpretation.
  • Help your clients make the tough medical decisions regarding long-term care, end-of-life and organ donation.
  • Learn how to verify and document the testator's competency to close the door on any potential will contests.

Who Should Attend

This basic-to-intermediate level seminar offers foundational will and trust drafting skills that will benefit:

  • Attorneys
  • Paralegals
  • Trust Officers and Personal Representatives
  • Estate and Financial Planners
  • Accountants and CPAs
  • Tax Professionals

Course Content

  1. Key Elements of Effective Wills
  2. Trusts as Alternatives to Wills
  3. Basic Tax Concerns
  4. Documenting Long-Term Care, Incapacity and End-of-Life Decisions
  5. Ethics
  6. Planning for Unmarried and Remarried Couples

Continuing Education Credit

Continuing Legal Education – CLE: 6.00 *

Financial Planners – Financial Planners: 7.00

International Association for Continuing Education Training – IACET: 0.60

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – CPE for Accountants/NASBA: 7.00 *

* denotes specialty credits

June 25, 2018 in Conferences & CLE, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Positive Death Movement Comes to Life


Death has always been a morbid topic in Western civilizations, causing people to hold off on speaking about their future and their end-of-life plans. Recently, though, that mindset is changing. People are even meeting together to talk informally about death, dying, and all that is involved. Jon Underwood started "death cafes" for one method to bring people together over the subject and published guidelines for discussions and a website for other death cafes to promote their meetings. Underwood passed away last year at the age of 44. The organization’s website claims to have initiated 6,503 death cafes in 56 countries.

Ellen Goodman, a retired newspaper columnist who started the Conversation Project after caring for her mother at the end of life, likened the foment to the earlier movement for natural childbirth. "Dying is a human experience. We’re trying to put the person back into the center of the experience.”

In 2003 a social worker at a New York hospice center became disillusioned by the care that the medical staff were able to give to dying patients and their families. The social worker, Henry Fersko-Weiss, saw what midwives did for women during and after childbirth. He created a training program for end-of-life "midwives" to attend to patients’ nonmedical needs — anything from helping them review their lives to sitting quietly in witness.

See John Leland, The Positive Death Movement, New York Times, June 22, 2018.

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

June 24, 2018 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Court Reinstates Doctor-Assisted Suicide in California

CaliflagLast month Judge Daniel Ottolia of Riverside County Superior Court declared a state law allowing terminally ill patients will months or less to live to receive prescriptions to end their lives unconstitutional, but not on its merits. The judge ruled that it had been improperly passed during a special session of the legislature. The state appeals court overturned that ruling and reinstated the law by an immediate state, but gave opponents until July 2, 2018 to file objections.

The Life Legal Defense Foundation, American Academy of Medical Ethics and several physicians were among those who sued to have the law overturned, claiming that the law violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the United States and California constitutions. Proponents of the End of Life Option, law such as Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, seeing the ruling of the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside sees the stay as " [A] huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case."

The first state to allow physician-assisted suicide in America was Oregon in 1997. California's law went into effect on June 9, 2016. Vermont, Washington, Colorado, Washington D.C., and Hawaii all provide end of life option laws for terminally ill patients.

See Court Reinstates Doctor-Assisted Suicide in California, KVOA.com, June 16, 2018.

June 17, 2018 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)