Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to Respond to Our Own Deaths

Spritual deathDoctors facing their own death can truly begin to understand the vital roles that spirituality and religion play in their patients’ lives. Psychological research suggests that people seek means of symbolic immortality through religion, their children, their creative work, or “experiential transcendence.” Our society has difficulty grasping the finality of death, engaging in widespread denial of life’s end. Ultimately, no one knows what happens when we die, but we should work on finding better ways to accept the finality of death either symbolically or through other means.

See Robert Klitzman, How Should We Respond to Our Own Deaths?, CNN, November 22, 2016.

November 23, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Article on Corporate and Trust Law Dimensions

Trust lawKathryn Chan recently published an Article entitled, Corporate and Trust Law Dimensions of the Trinity Western University Law School Debate (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

The dispute over Trinity Western University’s exclusionary Community Covenant raises difficult issues about the scope of the institutional autonomy to which various religious entities may be entitled under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the balance that should be struck between institutional religious freedom and equality rights in cases where the two collide. In this piece I argue that we cannot fully address these conflicts without engaging more deeply with the institutions at their heart.

I begin by outlining several principles relevant to the ascertainment of the legal personality of a corporate charity, and making the case for the stronger application of these principles in proceedings involving TWU (Part II). I then identify three significant features of the institution at the heart of the dispute over the Community Covenant, noting that (1) TWU has a sole corporate object, (2) TWU has a very small membership, and (3) TWU must act for the public benefit. I analyze the legal incidents of these features of TWU’s corporate personality, and reflect on their possible relevance to its religious freedom claim (Part III). I conclude that if we want to engage seriously with the institutional dimensions of religious freedom claims, we must be attentive to the legal personality of the institutions that bring them, and the legal rights and obligations they enjoy.

November 23, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Articles on Legal & Religious Perspectives on Elder Care

Religion elder careAmy Ziettlow & Naomi Cahn recently published an Article entitled, Symposium: Global Legal and Religious Perspectives on Elder Care, 31 J. L. & Religion (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

What role does the honor commandment play in contemporary law and culture? Answering this question is especially pertinent in the early twenty-first century. With advances in longevity and declining birth rates, a growing percentage of the population is graying. In 2015, there were 901 million people aged sixty or over worldwide; a number projected to rise to 1.4 billion in 2030. By 2050, there will be more persons over the age of sixty than children under the age of fifteen. As the number of our global elders grows, so too will the number of those needing and providing physical and financial care.

November 6, 2016 in Articles, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Vatican Publishes New Guidelines for Catholics Wishing to be Cremated

Burial v. cremationOn Tuesday, the Vatican published guidelines for Catholics who want to be cremated, requiring their remains not be scattered, divided up amongst relatives, or kept at home. Any remains must be stored in a sacred, church-approved place in order to remember the dead properly and prevent the appearance of “pantheism, naturalism or nihilism.” The guidelines, however, state that burial remains the preferred method due to resurrection beliefs. 

See Vatican: No More Scattering of Cremation Ashes, Yahoo!, October 25, 2016. 

Special thanks to Logan Fuzetti (Attorney, The Woodlands, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  


October 26, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Article on Religion and End-of-Life Care

Religion end of lifeNaomi Cahn & Amy Ziettlow recently published an Article entitled, Religion and End-of-Life Decision-Making, 2016 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1713 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This Article analyzes the relationship between religion and end-of-life care. We examine the private role that religion plays in individuals’ decision-making processes and the public role that religion plays through state support. We first discuss how the law approaches these issues by looking at both the legal grounding and ratification of surrogates’ decisions, and at public funding for hospice chaplains, showing that the law supports an individual’s choices concerning the desired impact (or nonimpact) of religious beliefs and practices. We then show how these laws are interpreted and lived, specifically in how surrogates handle end-of-life decision-making, based on empirical data obtained directly through in-depth interviews with those who have experienced the death of their parents. Religion profoundly affects end-of-life decision-making on a personal level, and various laws support religious-based reasoning. On the other hand, the present uncertainties surrounding the application of Hobby Lobby can compound the traumatic experiences of those involved, regardless of their religious (or nonreligious) beliefs and practices. Solutions involve additional legal support for end-of-life conversations.


October 4, 2016 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Article on Privatizing Religious Matters in Divorce and Inheritance

Family religionRobin Fretwell Wilson published an Article entitled, Privatizing Family Law in the Name of Religion, 18 Wm. & Mary Bill of Rts. J. 925 (2010). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This Essay examines a movement across the world to allow fundamentalist religious norms, rather than state law, to govern family matters associated with divorce and inheritance. Such religious norms often depart significantly from the state’s protections for vulnerable dependents at two significant points: in divorce and in death. 

This Essay explores the risks to women and children, two particularly vulnerable groups, when religious couples enter into marriages that are recognized religiously, but not civilly, leaving little opportunity for state oversight. Without state oversight, women are bound by a religious community’s norms, a phenomenon now occurring in the Sharia courts that operate in Great Britain. These courts apply Islamic, not British, law to divorce and inheritance. The Essay also examines the system of shared jurisdiction in Western Thrace, where three Mufti decide family disputes for a Muslim minority. In both systems, the fundamentalist religious norms provide considerably less protection to individuals in two periods of great need, upon divorce and the death of a spouse. 

The Essay contends that the state plays a crucial role in protecting traditionally vulnerable groups. It shows that if certain schools of Islamic law govern divorce proceedings, women face the loss of custody or their adolescent children and near certain poverty. The operation of religions norms undercuts a woman’s ability to exit marital relationships, especially violent ones. Under Islamic law, women are left financially at risk upon their husband’s death. Therefore, policymakers should proceed cautiously before expanding the opportunity for the application of religious norms in instances that may leave women and children trapped in poverty or abusive relationships.


September 30, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Best Incorporate Religion into Estate Planning

ReligionEstate planners combine several aspects when working with clients, and showing sensitivity to a client’s religious concerns should be incorporated when necessary. When selecting fiduciaries, clients who seek to implement religious values into their choice often will not find the individual who best fits the fiduciary criteria. A viable solution might be to recommend an institutional co-fiduciary that will be able to fulfill those duties. Additionally, many religious clients will want to make distributions and give to charity based on their religious beliefs; it is important to understand the values that are tied to these instances of giving. The Article further discusses several other religious considerations and how they are implemented into estate planning.  

See Martin M. Shenkman, Religion and Estate Planning, Wealth Management, September 27, 2016. 

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


September 30, 2016 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New York Allows People to Be Buried with Their Pets

Forever with fidoNew York is now allowing pet owners to be buried with the cremated remains of their pet. Governor Cuomo signed the proposal into law on Monday. Cemeteries do not have to offer the option, and religious cemeteries are forbidden from offering it. This law comes at the tail end of a series of measures that honor the bond between human and beast in New York.

See Forever with Fido: New York to Allow People to Be Buried with Pets, NBC New York, September 27, 2016. 


September 27, 2016 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

New Jersey Allows Disinheritance Based on Religion

Religion confli tA New Jersey appeals court in In re Estate of Kenneth E. Jameson recently held that the law does not bar an individual from disinheriting their child for religiously discriminatory reasons. The case centered on a will contest by a woman who was disinherited from her Catholic father’s will after dating and later marrying a Jewish man.

See Howard Friedman, New Jersey Appeals Court OKs Religiously Discriminatory Disinheritance, Religion Clause, August 15, 2016.

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

August 18, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ancient Jerusalem Shrine Set For Makeover

ArticlePictureThe Church of the Holy Sepulchre was founded by Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, and is one of the oldest and most important sites in Christendom. However, the part of the church which contains the site believed to be the tomb of Jesus has been in need of repair for many years though now an agreement has been reached for a Greek company to conduct extensive renovations. The work is expected to last through the remainder of 2016 and be completed sometime in 2017. The cost of the project will be shared between the various denominations that control the church under an agreement from the 19th century. The conflict between the six controlling denominations is notorious, with the most famous example being the "immovable ladder" which has been in place for over 250 years due to an inability to agree, which makes news of the renovation a pleasant surprise. Let us see if this ushers in a new era of cooperation in the management of one of the most historic sites in the Levant.

See Hili Perison, Tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem To Undergo Major Restoration, Art Net News, March 24, 2016.

March 25, 2016 in Current Events, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)