Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cut Costs with Joint Life


First-to-die life insurance, or “joint life,” may be a more cost effective way for a couple to concurrently get life insurance. 

The policy pays off when the first of the insured couple dies.  It generally costs less than individual coverage because underwriting two people is cheaper than one, especially if they are in good health. 

There are not many companies that sell this product, but in today’s volatile markets, people want insurance products that offer an economical approach paired with flexibility and an opportunity for constant cash accumulation. “[T]he policy builds account value from which loans and withdrawals are available.  It gives customers the flexibility of a permanent life insurance product with living benefit features at a more affordable price to households, business owners and others.”

The coverage can also provide for an orderly transfer of a business interest.  For a family owned business, it can help those interested in continuing the business, while also providing for heirs who are not interested in the business.

However, some professionals are skeptical of first-to-die coverage.  “We might recommend first-to-die in a circumstance where we have a prosperous, relatively young and healthy couple and we want to protect estate value at the lowest cost, although, to be candid, we would probably load them up with separate term policies.”  One of the major drawbacks of joint life is that a couple can get more term insurance individually at a lower cost or they could find universal life policies for about the same price as first-to-die coverage. For high net worth families, second-to-die insurance can be used for wealth replacement or to pay taxes.

See Alan Lavine, Insuring Two Lives is Cheaper Than One, Wealth Management, Nov. 18, 2014.

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

November 23, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Car Wreck Victim's Organs Removed Too Soon According to Family

HospitalThe family of 26-year-old Martha Perez is questioning the actions by doctors in connection with the removal of the woman's organs after she was involved in a car accident that occurred Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. Perez's family says her heart and lungs were still functioning when she was declared brain dead and her organs removed. The family is seeking legal advice on their options related to the incident.

See, Family Says Doctors Removed Deceased Girl's Organs Too Early, Fox News, Nov. 17, 2014.

Special thanks to Joshua Dietz (Dietz Law Firm, PLLC) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

University Addresses High Local Rates of Alzheimer's With Workshops for Children

SchoolThe University of Antioquia in Medellin, Columbia offers workshops to grade-schoolers to help them prepare for the devastating realty that they may be required to step into a caretaker role for their parents while still children. In the region, familial Alzheimer's rates are the highest in the world and is almost certain to pass to the younger generation even if only one parent has the genetic mutation that causes it. This devastatingly common form of Alzheimer's has an early onset and often begins to affect an individual slightly before they reach the age of 50, and the life expectancy for an individual that begins showing symptoms is roughly 10 years. The workshops are intended to prep children for what will happen if one of their parents begins to show symptoms, and prep the family as a whole on what to expect and how to handle the situation when it surfaces.

See Gary Stix, Learning About Your Family's Elevated Alzheimer's Risk--As Early as Age 8, Scientific American, Nov. 15, 2014.

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

November 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Brittany Maynard 'Poster Girl' For Right to Die Laws

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After being diagnosed with brain cancer, 29 year-old Brittany Maynard ended her own life under Oregon’s “Death With Dignity” legislation.  Right to die campaigners will use Brittany Maynard as a “poster girl” for a worldwide push for right-to-die laws. 

Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, played a vital role in drawing up the state’s Death With Dignity Act, and wanted people around the world to follow in Oregon’s footsteps.  “So many people across the world share broken hearts now because they came to admire Brittany Maynard and get close to her.  People who are grieving want to turn to action so I think there are millions and millions of people throughout the world who are looking to make a difference.”

Yet, Maynard’s assisted dying advocacy has sparked controversy.  A senior Vatican official commented that there is “no dignity in assisted dying.”  While few countries have such legislation, attempts to introduce it are currently under way.  In Britain, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former Labour lord chancellor, is attempting to see legislation through the House of Lords. 

See Ryan Parry, Right-to-Die Newlywed Brittany Maynard to become ‘Poster Girl’ for Assisted dying in wake of her death, reveals activist group for ‘Dignity’ for Terminally Ill, Daily Mail, Nov. 10, 2014. 

November 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Passing Peacefully

End of life scene

Paul Scheier knew exactly how he wanted to die long before it happened: at home, with his wife and children.  Last July, that is exactly how it occurred.  After succumbing to lung cancer, the retired dentist from Orchard Park, New York passed away in his bedroom with Lorraine, his wife of 62 years, and their four grown children. 

Unlike many Americans who pass away in the clinical, often chaotic atmosphere of a hospital, Paul died peacefully at home.  A recent Consumer Reports survey of 2,015 adults suggests that Americans would prefer to die at home.  However, good death can be difficult to achieve.  According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, the U.S. healthcare system is poorly designed to deal with end-of-life concerns, particularly when it comes to considering the wishes of terminal patients. 

This is why Americans must think about end-of-life concerns before a crisis arrives.  This should start with a conversation with your family about the care you want during your final months and days.  It should involve creating a living will and you should appoint a health care proxy. 

Families should also consider hospice and palliative care programs.  Six months after he learned his cancer had returned, Paul entered a hospice program in Buffalo.  Paul was grateful to lean that Medicare covered his hospice expenses and his wife would not be left with financial burdens.  “We always complain about government programs, but this one is just so wonderful.  The hospice workers walked into our home and became part of our family and we know they’re going to take care of us until my last breath,” said Paul. 

See A Beautiful Death, Consumer Reports, 2014. 

November 10, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spotting Elder Abuse


Seniors wear a large target for financial abuse and exploitation.  Telemarketers sell auto-club memberships to seniors who no longer drive, caregivers who help with banking withdraw cash for themselves, and adult children drain their elderly parent’s retirement savings and change their wills. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, people 60 and older accounted for 27 percent of fraud complaints last year, up from 22 percent in 2011.  Scams against the elderly ranked as the worst complaint category in 2013.  Yet, these statistics illustrate only a fraction of the problem because most senior financial abuse goes unreported.  However, an array of new tools and techniques are helping seniors with financial abuse and prevent it from occurring. 

New research is pinpointing which seniors are most susceptible to financial scams.  Health problems, primarily those involving cognitive impairment, make seniors vulnerable to cons.  Because of the links between physical and financial health, investor-education groups have begun training doctors and pharmacists to spot elder financial abuse.  Family members can also look for many of the red flags that doctors are taught to evaluate.

Planning can go a long way toward protecting your finances in the event of declining health.  Tell trusted relatives where to locate your financial documents in case you fall seriously ill.  Set up direct deposit of any income and benefit checks you receive regularly.  If you designate a power of attorney for finances, put safeguards in place to prevent abuse. 

See Eleanor Laise, Retirees, Protect Yourself From Fraudsters, Kiplinger, Nov. 2014. 

November 6, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Study Shows Link Between Height and Dementia

HeightAn increased likelihood of developing mental disability or illness later in life can increase the importance of planning for disability. A recent study out of the Alzheimer's Scotland Dementia Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh that will be published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reveals factors that increase the risk of dementia. According to the study, a person’s height can be a predictor of dementia risk. Researchers found that shorter individuals have a higher rate of developing dementia. This increased rate is attributed to other health risks that are believed to influence height, such as poor nutrition, health habits, and stress.

See Jo Willey, Shortness Can Increase the Risk of Dementia, Express, Nov. 4, 2014.

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

November 6, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Exploitation by Court-Appointed Conservator Fuels Reform Discussion

Gavel2The exploitation of 96-year-old veteran Louis Russo by his court-appointed conservator has supporters and advocates calling for reform of how Connecticut probate courts appoint conservators. Russo was appointed a conservator that he did not know because he did not have any family that could care for him. The conservator put Russo in a nursing home instead of a veterans home, which incurred additional cost, spent his life savings and Social Security, and rented out Russo’s home without permission. Russo now has a new conservator that is working to get Russo back in his home. Advocates are calling for reform to the court-appointed conservator system, including monitoring systems, training for conservators, and requirements such as social work experience

See Rob Ryser, WWII Veteran’s Plight Brings Call for Probate Court Reform, Connecticut Post, Oct. 25, 2014.

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

November 5, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Amanda Bynes Plans to Fight Reinstated Conservatorship

Amanda_BynesLast Monday, a judge reinstated the temporary conservatorship over actress Amanda Bynes. Bynes mother, Lynn Bynes currently has control of Bynes’ financial and medical decisions. Bynes is currently out of the psychiatric hospital that she was involuntarily admitted to on October 10. Bynes plans to attempt to have the conservatorship removed at a hearing scheduled for February 24, 2015. The psychiatric hold and conservatorship come after a series of angry tweets and extravagant shopping sprees.

See Natalie Finn, Wait, So Why Was Amanda Bynes Released From a Psychiatric Hold Right After It Was Extended?, E Online, Oct. 31, 2014.

November 4, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Brittany Maynard Sparks Assisted Dying Debate

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At age 29, Brittany Maynard died peacefully in her Portland home after suffering from terminal brain cancer.  Unlike so many other Americans who are faced with death, Brittany chose to abridge her dying process by taking the aid-in-dying medication, authorized under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. 

The case of Brittany Maynard may finally signal a shift in the debate on assisted dying.  “Whereas hastening an inevitable death was once regarded almost exclusively as a medical issue, we are beginning to focus on what patients want, on their right to self-determination.  And people are increasingly asking why anyone—the state, the medical profession, religious leaders—would presume to tell someone else that they must continue to die by inches, against their will.”

While the Supreme Court has twice maintained that assisted dying is a medical question that should be left to the states, the medical profession has been among the main obstacles in enacting more laws like Oregon’s.  The American Medical Association’s official policy is that physician assisted suicide is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” 

Yet proponents of assisted dying say this stance puts the focus in the wrong place.  This is not about physicians or their self-image; it is about patients—specifically those where healing is no longer possible.  Patents have the right to hasten their deaths by refusing dialysis, ventilation, antibiotics, or any other life sustaining treatment.  Furthermore, there is not requirement in any state for physicians to participate if they do not wish to do so.  The laws provide one more choice for physicians and patients as they deal with terminal illness. 

Many patients say that merely having the prescription provides peace of mind and a sense of control. “Now that I’ve had the prescription filled and it’s in my possession, I have experienced a tremendous sense of relief,” Maynard wrote. 

See Marcia Angell, The Brittany Maynard Effect: How She is Changing the Debate on Assisted Dying, The Washington Post, Oct. 31, 2014.

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

November 3, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)