Friday, August 12, 2016
An obituary detailing the life and death of William Ziegler is colorful and true to self. The obituary talks about those that he left behind—four children, five grandchildren, and the potted meat industry. After war, Ziegler moved back to New Orleans to become a fireman for the next 25 years until he realized running away from burning buildings made more sense. He had no wishes for a burial service but would like everyone to drink a Schaefer Light in his honor, and hey, if he ever owed you a beer, you can buy him another in heaven.
See William Ziegler, Obituaries, The Times-Picayune, August 12, 2016.
Special thanks to Elizabeth Carter (Professor of Law, LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center) for bringing this article to my attention.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
This week, a New Jersey man’s “loving wife” and “longtime girlfriend” placed dueling obituaries in the same newspaper. The wife’s obituary states that he is survived by his wife, son, and two other children from a previous relationship. While the girlfriend’s obituary explains that he is survived by his son, six siblings, and longtime girlfriend. A funeral home spokesman clarifies that both obituaries were necessary because both significant others wanted it done their way.
See New Jersey Man’s Wife, Girlfriend Place Side-by-Side Obituaries in Newspaper, Fox News, August 5, 2016.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
When we think about preparing a will, we think about a somber, reflective experience. One where you identify your assets, name beneficiaries, and assign fiduciary duties. But does it all have to be so serious? We can certainly find some humor in accumulating enough garbage to make having a will upon your inevitable death worth it. And hey, who knows, maybe you want your remains poured out on the final drop of Splash Mountain.
See How To Prepare a Will, The Onion, May 18, 2016.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
I have previously discussed the ongoing issues surround the estate of late actor and comedian Robin Williams. One unique thing about the estate planning that was done for Robin Williams was the planning for how his likeness will be used as well as other unique personal attributes. “While Mr. Williams created a multi-tiered estate plan, he was sure to include the right to profit, or, more accurately, to curtail a person, company or entity from profiting from his likeness and publicity for 25 years following his death.” Robins Williams placed a blanket ban on the use of his likeness and other personal attributes and then bequeathed the rights to a non-profit foundation in a trust document. People often use trusts as a way of avoiding the probate process.
See Robin Williams: Not Just Another Celebrity Estate, Wealth Management, February 19, 2016.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.
Sunday, January 3, 2016
People will leave their property after death to all manner of strange causes, charities, schemes, or family members but rarely do you see property going directly to an animal. But some eccentric souls have left behind millions to their beloved pets ranging from cats and dogs to hens and monkeys. In one case, a European aristocrat left her German Shepherd $75 million which has more than tripled in value over the last 20 years and now provides for the needs of the fourth generation of the dog's line. Then there is the world famous Grumpy Cat which has a huge net worth, estimated between $1 and $100 million, although his money did not come from inheritance in this case. While millionaire animals are very rare, they still go to show that an estate can be set up in almost any way to the benefit of the person, or animal, that estate owner might want.
See Brad Tuttle, The 10 Richest Pets of All Time, Time Money, October 5, 2015.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Election season is a time of the year when everyone knows society ails and how it is the opposition's fault. But one New Jersey women took the blame game one step further and used her obituary to let the world know that Hillary Clinton must be stopped. Elaine Fydrych, a burgeoning political maven before her untimely death, took a strong dislike to the Democratic front runner when she started to research the candidates according to her husband. As a result, she became convinced that Senator Clinton would be a disaster as president and decided to make her political opinion heard from beyond the grave. While this last act might rub some the wrong way, it has brought smiles to the faces of those that knew Mrs. Fydrych who recognized her signature humor and seriousness in this last statement the world.
See Adam Shaw, 'Do not vote for Hillary': NJ woman makes last request in obit, Fox News, August 19, 2015.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
On Tuesday a Greek court convicted and sentenced a deceased man to six months in jail for stealing electricity. The man had died on April 8, but his lawyer did not find out until the day before trial. Despite the lawyer telling the judge his client had died and requesting time to produce the death certificate, the judge went forward with convicting and sentencing the dead man. The sentence is currently suspended.
See Dead Guy Sentenced to Six Months (Suspended), Lowering the Bar, May 4, 2015.
Monday, April 27, 2015
On his April 17th show, Bill Maher made an “out-of-this world” comparison to undermine the argument that the estate tax threatens the livelihoods of “family farmers.” Of the 5,000 Americans who paid the estate tax in 2013, twenty farmers paid it. Maher compared that number to the twenty-four Americans who have been to the moon. “More astronauts have been to the moon than farmers who paid the inheritance tax.”
While seemingly absurd, Maher’s claim is mostly true. According to the Tax Policy Center, an estimated 20 small farms and small businesses would have had to pay the estate tax in 2013, accounting to a total of $6.9 million of tax with an average tax rate of 4.9 percent. Alan D. Viard, scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says the estate tax has flaws, but the effect on farmers is “just not the right grounds to criticize this tax.” He believes Maher’s point was strong.
See Katie Sanders, Bill Maher Says More Americans Have Been to the Moon Than Farmers Who Paid the Estate Tax in 2013, Politifact, Apr. 23, 2015.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
After half a century of research, genealogy experts Fraser and Fraser have compiled a list of wills that include odd and humorous wishes and bequests. One will that made the list is from the late 1800s written by a husband that took revenge on his wife by leaving her with a small inheritance due to her criticizing his flatulence by calling him a ‘rotten old pig.’ Another will gifted Jesus Christ £26,000 but required positive identification be made first.
See Mike Lockley, Widow Loses Inheritance For Criticising Husband's Flatulence - And Other Wacky Wills, Birmingham Mail, Apr. 6, 2015.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
A New England Journal of Medicine article reports today that a new device developed by Hungsing Labs in China, is capable of decoding brain cell activity after a person dies. In over two hundred clinical tests conducted on individuals only moments after pronounced dead, scientists were able to “ask the deceased” several questions related to their name, family, and other personal information, and decode the correct information after stimulating cells deep within the cerebral cortex. The device known as LCR (for Latent Cerebral Recovery) has already stirred controversy in China, where its use has prompted claims from family members that their loved one is not really dead, only in a deep state of sleep.* * *
Estate Planning lawyers see the tests as encouraging. “Over 50% of Americans die intestate,” says William Wrighter, JD, of Oak Grove, IL. “Imagine being able to execute a will even after someone was previously thought dead. It could open up a completely new area of estate law.”
Mr. Russell ends with an author’s comment: “to read the full story, don’t click anything. Just take note of today’s date and smile.”