Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Tips to Protect Finances When End of Life Planning

HospiceAs more Baby Boomers reach retirement, a plan to protect financial assets for late in life is becoming increasingly important. Here are some key issues to go over when making end of life preparations:

  • Make sure that your spouse knows all the details of your financial situation including debts and assets.
  • State your funerary wishes now so cost can be determined and money set aside.
  • Create a will with an attorney and keep it up to date in regards to assets and beneficiaries
  • Know all Social Security benefits for both spouses.
  • Always have a separate cash reserve based on your personal circumstances and anticipated expenses.

See Sharon Brandys, End of Life Planning: Five Tips to Protect Your Finances, Yahoo Finance, Apr. 21, 2015.


April 24, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Composting Human Corpses

SeedlingCurrently, many farms and some state transportation departments are composting dead animals. If the Urban Death Project is successful composting dead bodies may include human ones. A research project headed by Katrina Spade in Seattle is working on a method to compost human remains.

Spade envisions the creation of Urban Death Facilities that will include individuals ceremoniously placing their deceased loved ones in the facility where the body will be composted, and then the family can retrieve some of the compost to use in their garden or to plant a memorial tree. Each core of the facility could hold up to 30 bodies. Spade is still developing the technique, and after it is developed there will be social and legal barriers to face in order to make this environmentally friendly process a reality.

See Catrin Einhorn, A Project to Turn Corpses Into Compost, New York Times, Apr. 13, 2015.

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

April 15, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Death In Space

SpaceFor the first time since the Apollo missions, there is a serious talk regarding more manned spaceflight missions.  This is prompting the question, what do you do with the body when someone dies in space?

Prior to spending approximately six months in space, astronauts undergo an intense medical examination.  NASA is clearly focused on prevention, rather than what do if an astronaut dies in space.  Although there is no official protocol for bringing back an astronaut who dies, astronauts do practice for this worst-case scenario.  A “death sim” is designed to help prepare astronauts for what they should do if one of there colleagues should die.  The death sim forces astronauts to formulate a plan of action in the case of death. 

Now, as NASA and SpaceX work to establish human colonies on Mars, it is inevitable that someone will die.  While the easiest solution might be to send the body floating into space, there are international laws prohibiting this.  Thus, there needs to be a Plan B.  “Body Back” is a proposal that involves an airtight sleeping bag that a human corpse is zipped into and then exposed to the freezing temperatures of outer space.  The body is taken back on board and vibrated around until it shatters, generating about 50 pounds of ground human body dust that can stay outside the spacecraft until arriving at the destination.  Another idea is to use human bodies for composting and fertilizer on Mars; however, it is doubtful that idea will catch on. 

See Kelly Dickerson, Here’s What NASA Plans to Do If An Astronaut Dies in Space, Yahoo, Apr. 11, 2015.   

Special thanks to Riley Branch for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 13, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Business of Death

CasketWhat happens if a person wants to be buried toe-to-toe with a best friend?  There are many historical examples of individuals specifying how to treat their bodies upon death. For example, Timothy Leary, famous for his LSD studies, had his ashes shot into space.  However, it is a relatively new trend to use your corpse to reflect individuality.    

Funeral director and writer Caitlin Doughty has extensive knowledge of “The Death Industry,” and seeks to understand individuals' relationship with death.  She explains the “black curtain” separating people in the death industry from the rest of society.  Ms. Doughty said she believes we have become too removed from death in our daily lives.  She referenced “Denial of Death,” by Ernest Becker, when pointing out that much of everyday life is an “attempt to fight an underlying awareness of our own mortality.”

See Casey Schwartz, What’s That? You Want to be Buried How?, The New York Times, Apr. 3, 2015.

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

April 7, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Creative Burial Plans

CemeteryIt seems that the traditional funeral and burial methods are very last season, with individuals leaving detailed instructions for how their body is to be uniquely handled after they die. One man instructed his children to include a profane word on his gravestone, which they accomplished by turning the word into an acrostic. The creative post-death planning has also passed to the son, who wishes to be "turned into dog treats" upon his death.

A trend is also being seen in increased preferences for cremation, which also leaves room for creativity, such as turning a loved one's ashes into jewelry. In a spectacular display the remains of Hunter S. Thompson were dyed multicolored and then shot out of a cannon.

See Casey Schwartz, What’s That? You Want to be Buried How?, The New York Times, APR. 3, 2015.

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

April 5, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Man Jailed For Insurance Fraud After Faking Death


Before running his successful furniture business, Jose Lantigua emigrated from Cuba and had a heroic military career.  Lantigua owned a Florida beachfront condo and a new home atop a North Carolina mountain. 

Despite these luxuries, in 2012, as his Circle K Furniture store slid into debt, Lantigua and his wife began planning to fake his death in order to scam almost $8 million from insurance companies. 

Now Lantigua and his wife, Daphne Simpson, are charged with insurance fraud after being arrested by federal agents last weekend.  His arrest marks the end of a long court battle between Lantigua’s family and insurance companies that refused to pay off his life policies because they did not think he was dead. 

See Associated Press, Suspicion Surrounded Florida Businessman Who Faked His Death, Tampa Bay Times, March 27, 2015.

March 30, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Funeral Fit for a King

King RichardMichael Ibsen is a furniture maker who often crafts custom-made pieces for his clients.  Yet, a request to construct a coffin for his royal ancestor is by far his most unusual commission.  The public will soon see Ibsen’s hand-carved coffin carrying the 530-year-old remains of King Richard III.

“I’ve had the opportunity, a couple of times, to stand next to the remains, and you think ‘How extraordinary, I am standing next to this figure from history,’” Ibsen said.  “And then it filters through in your mind, and you think, ‘Wow, I’m related.’” 

Ibsen is a 58-year-old Canadian who moved to Britain 30 years ago, and is a central figure in the story of the discovery of King Richard’s remains.  His DNA helped to confirm that the skeleton excavated from a parking lot in central Leicester three years ago were indeed that of England’s last Plantagenet king.  The remains will be reburied in a televised funeral led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

See Karla Adam, England Prepares a Funeral Fit for a King, The Washington Post, March 21, 2015.

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

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PNC to Appeal $391M Verdict

PNC BankPNC Financial Services Group Inc. intends to appeal an order to pay $390.5 million in damages from the alleged National Prearranged Services Inc. insurance scheme for prepaid funeral services.  “PNC respectfully disagrees with the jury regarding the liability of its predecessor bank, Allegiant, and we intend to appeal this verdict,” said Fred Solomon, PNC senior vice president.

On Monday, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis said PNC must pay $355 million in compensatory damages and $35.5 million in punitive damages. According to the lawsuit, funeral homes and consumers were led to believe the funds entrusted to NPS, a St.Louis-based company that sold prepaid funerals, would be safeguarded in a trust and backed by life insurance policies. However, the defendants allegedly siphoned off money from the funds.

See Patty Tascarella, PNC to Appeal $390.5 Million Order for Trustee Role in Prepaid Funeral Scam, St. Louis Business Journal, March 11, 2015.

March 11, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Forgotten Body

Capital healthAfter suffering from fibromyalgia and primary biliary cirrhosis, Marlene Newhook passed away at age 66.  Yet, before these diseases took her life, the Dartmouth woman helped others who also battled health issues.  Her last wish was that her organs be harvested for donation and that her body be given to science. “Maybe I can help someone to understand and find some solutions,” she wrote in her will in 2009.

Marlene’s son, Ray Desjardins, wanted to make sure her final wishes were fulfilled.  So, one week after she died he called the Dalhousie University Medical School to see if it had received her body.  That is when he discovered her body was not there—the school’s body donation program had no record of Marlene’s death.  Desjardins says he and one of his sisters, her power of attorney and legal executor respectively, had signed the necessary paperwork the day before she died.  Yet, he was told those documents were missing from her file.  A call from the school forced the hospital to then find her body. 

Staff soon discovered Marlene was still in the hospital morgue, forgotten.  “To me it feels like she was left alone, you know.  It feels like they diminished her in some way,” said Desjardins.  “Knowing that she was lying in that morgue . . . and I could not do anything about it.  I think that’s what hurts the most.”

Shortly thereafter, Capital Health issued a statement apologizing for the “communication breakdown that resulted in a delay in notifying the patient’s family that the donation process could not be completed.”  Despite the apology, Desjardins says this whole experience has left him without closure as he struggles to grieve and honor his mother’s memory.

See Elizabeth Chiu, Capital Health Apologizes for Failure Over Donated Body, CBC News, March 6, 2015.

March 8, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Funeral Home Mix-Up

Bushbury crematorium

Shortly after Philip Bradbourn was re-elected as a conservative politician in England, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.  Sadly, Mr. Bradbourn lost his battle against the disease and died at age 63.  The politician’s funeral took place a month later at Bushbury Crematorium. 

However, it recently emerged that a mortuary had accidentally released the body of another man who had wrongly been cremated in Mr. Bradbourn's place.  This occurred after another man, named Philip Bradburn who had no close family or relatives, died at a nearby hospital around the same time.  It is thought that his body was taken to the same funeral care mortuary as Mr. Bradbourn where the mix-up occurred. 

Mr. Bradbourn’s devastated family was told about the blunder the next month, and a second funeral was held on February 23rd.

In a statement, Dr. Andrew Catto, from Heart of England NHS Trust, which runs Good Hope Hospital, apologized for the “incredibly distressing situation,” adding, “we are very sorry that this has happened - we are carrying out a full and urgent investigation between all the parties involved.”

See Hospital Apologizes After Wrong Body Was Cremated At Funeral of Conservative MEP, Express, March 6, 2015. 

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