Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dead Man Convicted of Theft

  CemeteryOn 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.

May 7, 2015 in Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Estate Tax Payers Outnumbered by Moon Walkers

Bill maherOn 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.

April 27, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Humorous Wills Cataloged by Genealogists

WillAfter 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.

April 8, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Impact of Latent Cerebral Recovery Device on Estate Planners

David Russell, senior editor of The Mississippi Fiduciary blog, wrote on his blog about the Latent Cerebral Recovery (LCR) device developed in China. An excerpt of his posting is below:

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.”

 

April 1, 2015 in Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Wall Street Targets Millennials With Cartoons to Lock Down Predicted Inheritance

MillennialsBig names on Wall Street, such as Federated and Goldman Sachs, are trying to lure in millennials, which they believe will inherit a total of $30 trillion from the baby boomer generation. The companies seem to be worried though that the millennial generation's values are so different from previous generations that Wall Street may not be seeing much of the millennials' funds being poured into the stock market or other traditional investment strategies. In order to appeal to millennials, companies like Federated and Goldman have created cartoon themed websites and advertisements.

See Michael P Regan, Wall Street Has Its Eyes on Millennials' $30 Trillion Inheritance, Bloomberg, March, 3, 2015.

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

March 9, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Finding Forever After Death

Diamonds

Who owns what is left of you after you die, and what can they do that is out of the ordinary? 

Although a strange idea to ponder, one idea is to press your ashes into a vinyl record.  This record will play twelve minutes on each side.  You can record your voice, your favorite songs, your will, or just opt for silence.  The company advertises that its basic package will give you up to thirty discs and you can choose your own album covers. 

If you rather have something more permanent, consider a company called “LifeGem,” which takes your remains and turns you into a diamond.  The company states, “diamonds from ashes are created from a very specific source of carbon—your loved one.”  While you can choose among different colors and sizes, the company warns that the diamond they produce is not flawless. 

Other companies will mix your ashes with seeds and pot you in a biodegradable urn that gets planted, so you will eventually become a tree. 

See George M. Fox, Diamonds (and you) Can Be Forever, Big Canoe News, Jan. 10, 2015.

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

January 30, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

No Comeback to Hurtful Words by the Dead

Zombie TalkThe practice of scorned testators getting in the last word in disputes through their will has a rich history, is sometimes humorous, and often spiteful. In 1908 Garvey White left 50 cents to his son-in-law and directed that the purpose of the gift was to "enable him to buy for himself a good stout rope with which to hang himself, and thus rid mankind of one of the most infamous scoundrels that ever roamed this broad land or dwelt outside of a penitentiary.”

In response to the beyond the grave jabs, targets of the comments have sought remedies from courts  to either have the will redacted to save their reputation or to recover money from the estates of the angry decedents. However, few attempts at bringing a testamentary libel claim have succeeded. Currently the only states with un-overturned cases that have recognized the tort are Tennessee and New York, and the case law is 70 to 100 years old. The odds favor the dead for who gets the last word.

See David Kluft, Defamation From Beyond the Grave: Using Your Last Will to Get in the Last Word, Trademark and Copyright Blog, Oct. 27, 2014.

Special thanks to Charles A Irvin for bringing this article to my attention.

November 15, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

College Senior Elected as Register of Probate

ElectionWhen election day came, the Grafton County register of probate seat was up for grabs with no one officially running for the position. The fraternity brothers of Mick Wopinski decided to launch a day of write-in campaign to have their Alpha Delta fraternity brother elected to the position. Wopinski beat out fellow write-in contender “Keggy the Kegger,” and won the election to the position that pays $100 a year. The college senior plans to decide whether to accept the position after he researches exactly what it is and what the duties entail.

See Associated Press, N.H. College Student is Write-In Victor in Grafton County Race, Portland Press Herald, Nov. 9, 2014.

November 12, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mean Wills

Last will and testament

While Shakespeare is known for his literary brilliance, his will was a rather mean document.  In it, he did not refer to his wife by name and all he bequeathed to her was his “second-best bed.” 

What kind of message was he trying to send in his will?  Clearly, a mean one.  This sentiment could have been excluded from Shakespeare’s permanent legacy, as it tarnishes the image of his works.

The idea behind mean wills does not just stop with Shakespeare.  A recent will contained this provision, “If we’re not divorced by the time I die, make sure she gets nothing.  She already gone through all my money.”  When this man died and his will was probated, this paragraph went on the courthouse record and everyone—including his children—could see it. 

What is the point of including these seemingly mean spirited provisions?  Some people are trying to be funny.  For example, “To my nephew John, who made sure I knew he expected to be named in my will: ‘Hello John.’” 

Yet sometimes it goes beyond laughter, and is just hurtful.  “To my daughter, I leave $1.00 for the kindness and love she has never shown me.” 

It is impossible to reconcile a relationship like this after the person has died.  A mean will just leaves bitter thoughts and hurt feelings, which may not be worth it.  Sometimes meanness and sarcasm are best left buried. 

See George, Mean Wills Don’t Ever Mean Well, Fox + Mattson, P.C., Oct. 16, 2014.

October 20, 2014 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Funeral Home's Own Drive-Thru

Drive thru funeral

A funeral home in Saginaw, Michigan has added an unusual feature for mourners.  The Paradise Funeral Chapel installed a drive-thru viewing window that displays a body set up in a special area inside the building with a raised and tilted platform for the casket. 

Curtains automatically open when a car pulls up and mourners are allotted three minutes to view a body as music is played through the overhead. 

There is also a deposit opening for cars to leave donations, cards, or memory items.  Additionally, there is a retractable guest book that drive-thru mourners can sign.

President Ivan Phillips says he is trying to be sensitive to the needs of the elderly who may have mobility issues that make it difficult to get into the building.  He asserts that his drive-thru enables people who might not otherwise visit the funeral home to honor the deceased.

See Associated Press, Funeral Home Offers Drive-Thru Viewing, USA Today, Sept. 16, 2014.

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

September 17, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)