Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Why We Should Not Use "Elderspeak" with Dementia Patients

ElderspeakOftentimes, names like “sweetie” or “dear” signal terms of endearment, but why might this gesture be taken as patronizing? A new study shows that elders suffering from dementia are usually exposed to “elderspeak”—a loud, slow form of baby talk for seniors—which makes them feel incompetent, leading to social isolation and cognitive decline. Communication training can help to reduce the number of diminutives, terms of endearment, and collective pronouns that caregivers often use with their patients.

See Mary Kekatos, Don’t Call Me Sweetie! Why We Should Never Use ‘Elderspeak’ to Talk Down to Dementia Patients, Daily Mail, March 24, 2017.

March 25, 2017 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Supercomputers to Increase Life Expectancy

SupercomputerProfessor Jean-Christophe Desplat, the director of the Irish Centre for High-End Computing, claims that supercomputers will speed up advances in medical technology, ultimately enabling us to live for a decade longer. More specifically, supercomputers—machines the can process information faster than a general-purpose device—will be able to analyze our genetic code in order to deliver more personalized medicine. These supercomputers, using deep artificial intelligence learning, will also allow doctors to form faster diagnoses and become more accurate over time.

See Daisy Dunne, Supercomputers Could Push Our Life Expectancy Up by a Decade, According to a Leading Expert, Daily Mail, March 17, 2017.

March 17, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why We Shouldn't Be Talking About a "Death Spiral" Just Yet

Death spiralIf you listen to the newly-in-charge Republicans, the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets are in a “death spiral,” which has sprouted change to reshape the health care system. However, new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office contradict this point, maintaining that the Obamacare markets will remain stable in the long term as long as there are no significant changes. Further, the office ensures that any recent woes in the health care system are not the same as a death spiral. On the other hand, insurers are insisting that lawmakers make changes in order for them to remain in the market, as they praise some of the early steps that the Trump Administration has taken to stabilize a volatile market. The new health care proposal as it stands will make the market less stable in the short term but equally stable in the long term, so plans of a death spiral seem premature.

See Reed Abelson & Margot Sanger-Katz, Obamacare Isn’t in a ‘Death Spiral.’ (Its Replacement Probably Won’t Be Either.), N.Y. Times, March 15, 2017.

March 17, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How Our Cells Can Teach Us About a "Natural" Death

Cells natural deahtWhat is a good death? Because our society has evolved into one with an abundant amount of life-sustaining technologies, most believe the answer is a “natural” death. When we consider a natural death, the vision represents one before the development of modern resuscitative technologies—so, perhaps a revolt again technology altogether. However, this definition of death by how medically involved it is may be shortsighted. One must imagine something even more elemental to truly understand what death is like stripped of its social context. There are three main mechanisms in which cells die—necrosis, autophagy, or apoptosis. In the cellular version, necrosis is considered a “bad” death, whereas apoptosis is considered a natural one. These three mechanisms represent life and death at a cellular level, creating a phenomena that is much more socially conscious than it is at a human level. Essentially, an appropriate death is central to the survival of an organism. Death, therefore, is not the enemy—it is the fear that death arouses. This fear forces us to make choices that defy the biological constraints of our existence, often resembling a fate like that of necrosis. So in order to have a natural death, or that of apoptosis, for the organism to survive, the cells must die and they must do it well because our cells understand that “life without death is the most unnatural fate of all.” 

See Haider Javed Warraich, What Our Cells Teach Us About a ‘Natural’ Death, N.Y. Times, March 13, 2017. 


March 15, 2017 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Article on Creating a Red File for Estate Planning

Red fileMarvin E. Blum recently published an Article entitled, Filling in the Gaps: Create a “Red File” for Clients to Cover Issues Beyond Traditional Estate Planning, Tr. & Est. 68 (Feb. 2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Most estate planners will agree that one of the most formidable obstacles to the planning process is the general reluctance of clients to discuss their own mortality. There’s one significant motivating factor, however, that drives clients to confront their mortality and plan for their incapacity and death: control. Clients want to ensure that on incapacity, they’re cared for as they wish and on death, their assets pass exactly how they would like. While crafting an estate plan, both planners and clients tend to focus on the effective and tax-efficient distribution of the client’s assets. It’s all too common for a client to walk away with a perfectly crafted portfolio of estate-planning documents that expertly disseminates the client’s property but fails to provide the control so desperately desired. How is it possible for a perfect plan to be so imperfect? The answer lies outside of the formal estate-planning documents and accordingly often goes overlooked by planners and clients alike, but the answer, itself, is simple. By adding a “red file” to the traditional batch of estate-planning documents, clients increase their level of control in two key areas: (1) incapacity, and (2) administration of the estate at death. 

As part of the planning process, estate planners should encourage clients to create a red file and guide them on how to do it. Essentially, a red file is a notebook or other centralized source of information that will not only aid an executor in navigating the waters of estate administration, but also will make very clear the wishes of a client in the event he becomes incapacitated in the future. 

While only clients can actually establish the red file, estate planners should provide their clients with a framework of guidelines for what it should contain. There’s no specific formula for what makes a red file effective, but clients should know that the more information they include, the more helpful it will be to those managing their assets or making care decisions on their behalf. 


March 13, 2017 in Articles, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Article on Virginia Filial Responsibility Law

Filial lawsSylvia Macon recently published an Article entitled, Grow Up Virginia: Time to Change Our Filial Responsibility Law, 51 U. Rich. L. Rev. 265 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

On its face, the Virginia law seems laudable, requiring private payment by family members for costs that would otherwise be incurred by the state. However, upon closer examination, significant issues regarding implementation and fairness arise. The Virginia statute has not lain dormant, but rather has been implemented without report. Other states have recognized the futility of filial responsibility laws and have preempted such abuse by repealing their laws. Virginia should act now to either repeal the statute or amend it to ensure its citizens avoid inequitable outcomes like the defendant in Pittas.

This comment discusses the background and development of filial responsibility laws in England, the United States, and Virginia in Part I. Part II explains the purpose behind implementation of such laws while Part III discusses the problems enforcing the filial responsibility law may cause. Lastly, Part IV explains why past reasons for keeping the law are no longer valid.


March 5, 2017 in Articles, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Will Alzheimer's Bankrupt Medicare & Medicaid?

Alzheimers3Alzheimer’s is the most expensive medical condition in America, and it is threatening to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid, and the life savings of millions of Americans. As the life expectancy for Americans increases, our health span, particularly our brain span, is failing to keep up. Americans eighty-five and older have a 40%–50% chance of having Alzheimer’s. In 2016, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, total health care, long-term care, and hospice care was estimated at $236 billion for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. 

Currently, $1 of every $5 in Medicare and Medicaid funding goes toward the care of Alzheimer’s patients. With the expected increase in disease diagnosis over the next decade, the number will increase to $1 for every $3, which could cause funding to collapse and prevent funding of other age-related diseases. As a result of this grim possibility, medical professionals are urgently seeking new treatments for Alzheimer’s. They also point to four areas that people can concentrate on to prevent the uprising of the disease—eat right, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction.  

See Lindsay Carlton, Could Alzheimer’s Really Bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid?, Fox News, March 1, 2017.  


March 3, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Why Super Tall Individuals Tend to Die Young

Tall peopleHistorically throughout history, significantly tall men tend to die young. These vertically extreme individuals usually gain their height due to growth hormone issues, resulting in either gigantism or acromegaly. This extra hormone surge and height can lead to heart issues, often ending the individual’s life. Specifically, the heart is stretched to supply a larger body with blood. Further, insulin production can be stymied due to increased hormone production, which leads to diabetes. However, factors like low BMI and eating right contribute more to how long you live than height alone. 

See Jenn Gidman, The Super-Tall Tend to Die Young. Here’s Why, Fox News, March 1, 2017.

March 1, 2017 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Study Finds Link Between Excess Sugar & Alzheimer's

SugaarA new study’s finding claims that scientists have found a link between Alzheimer’s disease and excess sugar. More specifically, there is a correlation between a person’s blood sugar glucose and the disease, evincing that people with high sugar diets could be at a greater risk of developing the disease. An Australian university found that excess glucose damages an essential enzyme associated with inflammation response in the early stages of the degenerative neurological condition. Glucose can damage the proteins in cells through a reaction called glycation, which in turn damages an enzyme called macrophage migration inhibitory factor. Consequently, researchers believe that this process presents the “tipping point” in Alzheimer’s progression. Further, abnormally high blood sugar levels is a characteristic of diabetes, and these patients have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 

See Excess Sugar Linked to Alzheimer’s: Study Finds a ‘Tipping Point’, Fox News, February 24, 2017. 


February 25, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Food and Drink, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Woman Wins Right to Die After Suffering from Eating Disorder

Right to die2A woman who battled a severe eating disorder for most of her life has died after winning the right to refuse forced feeding. A New Jersey judge granted her the right to “live free from medical intervention.” The legal battle began when her court-appointed guardian entered an order allowing her to join palliative care instead of being force fed through a feeding tube. The case brings attention to those who suffer from disorders and want to enforce their right to die. 

See Ellie Kaufman, Woman with Eating Disorder Dies After Court Grants Her that Right, CNN, February 22, 2017. 


February 24, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)