Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Sharia Guidelines Offered to British Solicitors


British solicitors now have guidelines to draw up “Sharia compliant” wills.

These guidelines, produced by The Law Society, detail how to draft wills that fit Islamic traditions while still being valid under British law.  This means solicitors will be able to draft valid Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inheritance, prevent children born out of wedlock from counting as legitimate heirs, and exclude unbelievers altogether.

The president of The Law Society says the guidance will “promote ‘good practice’ in applying Islamic principles in the British legal system.”  Others describe the guidance as “astonishing” and a step towards a “parallel legal system.”

See John Bingham, Islamic Law Is Adopted by British Legal Chiefs, The Telegraph, March 22, 2014.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 24, 2014 in Current Affairs, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Does Religion Say About End-of-Life Issues?


As I have previously discussed, the cases of Jahi McMath and Marlise Munoz raise controversial questions regarding how to proceed with end-of-life care.  So how do the world’s leading religions handle end-of-life issues?

The article below contains answers from a panel of distinguished religious leaders on questions concerning medical treatment, suffering, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, prolonging life, and hastening death.

See Rajan Zed, Faith Forum: How to Approach End-of-Life Issues, RGJ.com, Jan. 19, 2014.

January 22, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Death of Frugal Maharaja Reveals Unbelievable Treasures


The death of the head of the Indian family that once ruled the south kingdom of Travancore has revealed a temple of untold treasures.

Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma died at age 91 and was known for his frugality.  So upon his death, no one expected the fabulous wealth he had kept stored away in the vaults of the ancient Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple.

After the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the vaults should be opened, treasures worth an estimated £26 billion were discovered.  The antiques include gold ornaments, weapons, crowns, statutes of Hindu deities, East India Company coins, and bagfuls of precious stones.

See Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma – Obituary, The Telegraph, Dec. 19, 2013.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 29, 2013 in Religion, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Greek Supreme Court Issues Shocking Decision

Greece_flagThe Greek Supreme Court has put Shariah law above Greek civil law, thus preventing Greek Muslims from drawing up a will.

The Supreme Court annulled the will of Demeter Simeonidou, a Muslim man in Thrace who left his assets to his wife by preparing a will in accordance with Greek civil law.  Simeonidou’s sister challenged the will, claiming she was entitled to her fair share of his estate because the Islamic law of succession does not recognize a Muslim’s right to make a will.

See Abed Alloush, Shocking Decision from Greek Supreme Court, Greek Reporter, Nov. 10, 2013; see also Katerina Nikolas, Greek Supreme Court Puts Sharia Law Before Civil Law, Digital Journal, Nov. 11, 2013.

November 16, 2013 in New Cases, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Greetings from Coffinwood

CoffinitupIf you are heading west of Las Vegas, you might pass through the town of Pahrump and notice one of the most unique family businesses around.

Bryan and Dusty Schoening’s home is an attraction in of itself with its eleven restored hearses, two front-yard cemeteries, coffin-shaped greenhouse, and coffin-shaped gazebo.  The home is also the headquarters of Coffin It Up, Bryan’s custom coffin business.  Besides making customized coffins starting at $1,000, Bryan also specializes in making coffin-shaped furniture, jewelry, purses, coolers, and anything else that can be made into a coffin.

Dusty says many clients order coffins for religious reasons or because they came here from another country.  Bryan notes that America is the only place that really uses caskets, which are rectangular-shaped.  Coffins, on the other hand, resemble a human being with six or eight sides.

Bryan and Dusty met at a Los Angeles protest over the use of circus elephants.  One of their front-yard cemeteries is a pet cemetery with approximately 20 buried animals, including a headstone dedicated to Stoney, a Las Vegas performing elephant.  The other cemetery honors the memories of the dead, including the ex-planet Pluto.  No people are buried there, but fans and locals have donated headstones paying respect to their deceased loved ones.

Bryan and Dusty’s coffin-shaped gazebo isn’t just for decoration.  They use it to perform weddings through their nondenominational church, the Church of the Coffin.  Bryan became an ordained minister and now marries at least one couple a year.  At first mistaken for a death cult, the Church of the Coffin serves to marry those of any faith.

So next time you pass through Pahrump, stop by and check out Coffinwood.  Bryan and Dusty offer tours to anyone who calls or emails ahead of time.  Even though they might be surrounded by the eerie and morbid, Dusty says it’s all about life for them.  “Coffins are a reminder that that’s the end result.  That’s where we are all going to end up, so you might as well appreciate everything you have right now.”

See Sandy Lopez, Pahrump Couple’s Coffinwood Part of Family Business, Review Journal, Nov. 13, 2013.

November 14, 2013 in Death Event Planning, Religion, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Article on the Islamic Law of Wills


Hamid Harasani (King’s College London – School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Islamic Law of Wills: An Overview,  Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal, Vol. 9, No. 29 (Oct. 17, 2013).  

This article provides a practitioner’s overview on the Islamic Law of Wills for those not trained in Islamic law.

October 22, 2013 in Articles, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CLE on Estate Planning to Reflect Religious and Philosophical Beliefs

CLEThe Illinois State Bar Association is hosting a Continuing Legal Education teleseminar and audio webcast entitled, Teleseminar: Estate Planning to Reflect Religious and Philosophical Beliefs- A National Perspective, on Thursday, September 19, 2013, at 12:00-1:00 p.m. ET.  Provided below is a description of the event:

Estate and trust plans have always been informed, in one way or another, by the values of benefactors. Lifetime gifts or bequests may be conditioned on certain achievements, such as children marrying and having children or grandchildren accomplishing certain benchmarks in life.  Gifts to charities also speak to the priorities and values of those giving the gifts. But clients are increasingly more comfortable with the explicit recognition of religious or philosophical beliefs in their estate and trusts plans, trying to incorporate specific principles or values into the giving plans. This trend presents certain challenges for the planner, including the limits of what may be accomplished under law. This program will provide you with a practical guide to estate planning to incorporate certain religious and philosophical beliefs, including the limits of law and drafting traps. 


  • Practical process of incorporating the religious and philosophical beliefs of clients into their estate and trust plans
  • Talking to clients about the opportunities and real-world limitations of what they can accomplish
  • Legal and practical framework of what is enforceable under the law
  • Anticipating challenges from beneficiaries and communicating with them to avoid dispute
  • Common traps of drafting underlying trust and other documents

September 18, 2013 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Widow Conned by Clairvoyants


In a series of events fit for a soap opera, Andrea Walker was recently victim to a psychic family’s scheme.

Walker and her millionaire husband had owned and operated the Hazlewood Castle in Yorkshire, which they had converted into a hotel.  They sold the hotel after her husband decided to leave her.  After later learning her estranged husband had six months to live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a distraught Walker visited a physic’s store in Manhattan. 

Once physic Nancy Marks, known to Walker as “Kate Michaels,” learned Walker had about $2 million from the sale of her hotel, she labeled the money as “tainted.”  She told Walker to give her “sacrifice payments” and follow a laundry list of instructions in order to prolong her husband’s life.

Even though Walker paid her over $100,000 in payments, her husband died six months after his diagnosis.  That’s when Walker discovered he left her nothing in his will and gave a younger woman who had worked at the hotel permission to use his frozen sperm to father a child. 

Walker wished to prevent the woman from conceiving through in vitro fertilization, so Nancy directed her to give more money to a psychic specializing in this area named “Joyce Michael,” who was really Nancy’s mother-in-law, Rose Marks.  

Rose is now on trial in West Palm Beach for fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy.

See Paula McMahon, Widow Says Psychic Promised Help in Battle Over Late Husband’s Frozen Sperm, South Florida Sun Sentinel, Sept. 2, 2013.

September 5, 2013 in Current Affairs, New Cases, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Archdiocese Accused of Fraudulent Transfer

ArchRecently, the Catholic Church in Milwaukee moved $57 million into a trust to shield it against a judgment. In 2011, the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy. The judge ordered that the transfer documents be released. Under state law, fraudulent transfers have a four-year statute of limitations or one year staute of limitations after discovery. There is a debate about whether or not the statute of limitations has expired on the 2007 transfer. If the transfer was made when the Milwaukee Archdiocese was insolvent it would be considered a fraudulent transfer without considering the Church’s intent for the transfer. 

See Jay Adkisson, Bankrupt Milwaukee Archdioces Apparently Caught In Fraudulent Transfer, Forbes Jul. 7, 2013.

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

August 6, 2013 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Is Canadian Court Adopting Nazi-Like Tactics in Fighting Nazism?


As I have previously discussed, Robert McCorkell’s sister recently had a New Brunswick judge issue a temporary injunction on public policy grounds to prevent his estate, and valuable coin collection, from being sent out of province and into the hands of the neo-Nazi organization, the National Alliance.

While other groups like the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center have announced plans to take further action, an interesting question arises: Is the Canadian court adopting Nazi-like tactics to combat Nazism?

In the 1930s and 40s, the Nazis legalized, or at least facilitated, the theft of property from European Jews for the sole reason the property was owned by people the Nazis despised for their religious beliefs.  Now, this New Brunswick court is considering authorizing the “theft” of property merely because it will be delivered to an organization despised for their ideology.  So is the National Alliance sufficiently loathsome to justify the deprivation of property or is this slope just a little too slippery?

See Karen Selick, You Don’t Fight Nazis by Becoming a Nazi Yourself, The Huffington Post, July 29, 2013.

July 31, 2013 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)