Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Religion as a Motivating Factor for Executing a Will

WillExecuting a will can be especially important for individuals of religious faiths that have inheritance rules and laws that differ from intestate succession laws in their state. For example, under the Laws of the Torah, inheritance goes to a deceased male's male sons or if there are no sons then to his daughters. Though most state intestacy laws provide for a surviving spouse and also for all children equally regardless of gender.

See Isaac Yedid and Raymond Zeitoune, The Jewish People & The "Kosher Will" - Halachic Estate Planning, The Yeshiva World, March 13, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

March 17, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Woman Leaves $14.5M Bequest to Lutheran Ministries

Money money moneyDiakon Lutheran Social Ministries, which operates several senior and assisted living facilities in Philadelphia, will split a $14.5 million bequest from the widow of Frank R. Palmer, the former president and CEO of Carpenter Technology Corp. 

Helen Nicholson Palmer died in 2012, and now more than $7.2 of her bequest will go to Diakon with the remainder going to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. 

William Swanger, senior vice president of corporate communications and public relations for Diakon, said Helen Palmer had a lifelong commitment to the Lutheran Home of Topton, which Diakon operates.  The nonprofit is currently determining where the money will be spent.  “We are deeply grateful for this bequest and for the forethought Mrs. Palmer exhibited in making such a generous contribution to our services.”

See Stacy Wescoe, Diakon to Split $14.5M Bequest With Phila. Seminary, LVB.com, March 11, 2015. 

March 12, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Green Burials and Cremations


Unlike other living creatures on this earth, humans treat dying as a solemn rite of passage.  Many of us bury our dead with a ceremony, and many of us believe in an afterlife. 

This idea is reflected upon in the Green Cemetery Initiative, a nonprofit trust in rural central Massachusetts.  The main idea motivating the Green Cemetery Initiative is that instead of caring so much about preserving our own dead bodies, why not care more about preserving the natural environment—“the unspoiled beauty of God’s creation.”  According to the Green Burial of Massachusetts, a partner with the trust, “Each year we bury approximately 827,060 gallons of toxic embalming fluid, 104,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, 30-plus million board feet of hardwood, and 1,636 tons of reinforced concrete.” 

The key feature of the initiative is that the deceased would be buried in biodegradable coffins, without embalming fluids and concrete fortresses.  Engraved organic flagstones would serve as grave markers. 

See Michael Guillen, Final Gestures, U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 28, 2015.

January 29, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Losing Faith In JPMorgan


Self-dealing allegations of JPMorgan Chase & Co. made by two churches expose an area inside the largest U.S. bank that illustrates the potential for conflicting interests—a trust business that invests in the bank’s own products. 

The churches say that JPMorgan, which was entrusted to manage funds to support the churches' good works, put its own financial interests first.  The claims came after other religious orders pressed the bank for a report on its business standards, prompting it to release almost 100 pages last month describing its efforts to augment ethics and compliance. 

Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis said JPMorgan breached its duty as trustee by investing the church’s $31 million trust largely in products that generated revenue for the bank, with some fees exceeding 8 percent a year. The bank invested in these and other “toxic” products, the church alleged in an August lawsuit, resulting in a “surreptitious transfer of wealth from the Christ Church trusts to JPMorgan.”  These decisions cost the trust $13 million over nine and a half years, said the church suit. 

JPMorgan has denied wrongdoing in connection with its trust business and said the trust had a positive return from 2006 to 2013.  The bank stepped down as Christ Church Cathedral’s trustee a year ago, and in October sought to dismiss the suit saying the church did not have standing to file a securities claim in part because it did not buy or sell securities and the allegations were not specific.  “The church is painting a grossly inaccurate picture of how the trust was managed, cherry-picking funds that did not perform well and failing to mention multiple funds that performed very well.”

See Neil Weinberg, Losing Faith in JPMorgan, Two Churches Claim Self-Dealing, Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan. 8, 2015.

January 8, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Church of England Entangled In Suicide Debate

Church of England

The Church of England is embroiled in a debate over proposals to sweep away laws that prohibit a full Christian funeral to people who have commit suicide. 

Although clergy are more sympathetic to suicide than when “self murder” was still a crime, critics within the Church believe the reforms will “legalize” suicide, which is something that should still be regarded as a serious sin.  “The Church has always opposed suicide on the basis of the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill, and that includes yourself.” 

The move comes as Labour peer Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, which says terminally-ill patients must make a voluntary and informed decision to end their lives before they can helped to do so, faces further debate in the House of Lords later this month. 

The Church of England’s General Synod meets next month, when members will call for Canon law to be reformed so that clergy who use the Church’s rites to bury those who have taken their own life in any circumstances are no longer in breach of the law.  Under current Church law, clergy should use a modified funeral service for people who have taken their lives in order to reflect the Church’s concerns about suicide. 

See Jonathan Petre, Church of England to ‘Legalise’ Suicide in Historic U-Turn On Funerals, Daily Mail, Jan. 3, 2014. 

January 6, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Church of England to Reconsider Suicide Stance

ChurchAs I have previously discussed, an assisted dying bill is currently being considered in the United Kingdom, and the Church of England previously supported a review of the issues surrounding assisted dying, but did not officially support the bill. The Church of England is now reconsidering their stance on suicide, specifically a current church law that bans a full Christian funeral to be performed for individuals that have committed suicide. New proposals will be considered next month at the Church's General Synod meeting.

See Jonathan Petre, Church of England to 'Legalise' Suicide in Historic U-Turn on Funerals, Daily Mail, Jan. 3, 2015.

January 5, 2015 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Article on the Trust for Manumissions


Jessica Lee Thompson (UNC Chapel Hill School of Law) recently published an article entitled, ‘Toward Freedom for All’: North Carolina Quaker Legal Theory on the Trust for Manumissions (April 30, 2014).  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

The Perquimans event was the spark to one of the greatest legal debates in North Carolina’s history as Quakers directly challenged the state supported institution of slavery and conceptions of property through the use of trusts as a technology of law in conjunction with the exercise of their religious liberty. That is, they used the trust as a way for members of the local Meeting to hold slaves for the "benefit" of the Meeting and thus comply with the requirements of the North Carolina law that slaves have owners. Yet, the trustees, apparently following the wishes of the Meeting, allowed the slaves they "owned" substantial freedom, which in essence circumvented the North Carolina statute’s requirement that the slaves have owners. The Quakers’ challenges to the institution of slavery went beyond their defiance of acts passed by the General Assembly, which specifically contemplated the "Quaker issue." The debate over Quaker slaves held in trusts would largely unfold in the North Carolina courts. The legal theories the Quakers advanced challenged the common law and divided members of the State’s highest court on questions of morality. The Quakers use of trusts and natural law principles to accomplish a moral objective run’s counter to Morton Horwitz’s instrumental conception of law, and proposes an alternative theory, namely that those in power were more motivated by their fears or concern for security and stability.

This paper traces the debate over the legality of Quaker manumission efforts in North Carolina through an examination of three major cases presented before the North Carolina Supreme Court between 1827 and 1851. It combines research in the Quaker archives with an examination of the trial records and the record in the Supreme Court, as well as the published opinions. Thus, this paper moves beyond the previous work that has either looked only at the Quaker records and not the legal records or the North Carolina Supreme Court’s published opinions without telling the full story of the record below. A central question for this paper is how dissenters turned to the neutral technology of law to achieve a result that was at least partially at odds with the established policy of the state? That raises subsidiary questions about the ways that one renowned North Carolina lawyer, William Gaston, sought to defend his use of the innovative strategy and how North Carolina jurists responded to this challenge to state policy. This paper, thus, lies at the intersection of a series of questions about religious freedom, legal innovation, policy, and stare decisis.

September 11, 2014 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Article on Church Leaders and the Law


Kehinde Adegbite (Government of Nigeria) recently published an article entitled, Church Leaders and the Law: A Panoramic View, June 10, 2014.  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

Ignorance of law does not excuse anyone; so, everyone has a duty to ensure that he/she is abreast of what the law says on matters, at least, that affect him/her from time to time. Some matters are more frequent than others. For example, almost everybody enters into one form of contract or family issue to deal with. Church leaders are primarily spiritual leaders but they are also subject to civil law like their followers and it is no excuse that they are not aware of what the law says. Church members ignorantly think their leaders can solve almost every problem for them. When a domestic matter has legal implications, some members would still prefer to run to their pastors for solutions. This, therefore, presents a good argument for getting the church leaders informed on selected issues of law. Everyone is affected by the law and therefore, everyone needs to understand its basics. If there is anywhere that the citizens need to keep abreast of the law, Nigeria is one of such places. Abuse of powers by state agents like the police is prevalent. Materials need to be prepared essentially to take care of the needs of non-lawyers in order to elevate the level of awareness of the law which ordinary people have. What has been done in this paper is basically to provide an overview of the Nigerian law, covering those subjects that people commonly come in contact with.



August 4, 2014 in Articles, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Church of England Supports Review of Assisted Dying Law

Church of EnglandAs I have previously discussed, the House of Lords is currently considering legislation that would change the assisted dying laws. If passed, the new law would allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients to die through the use of prescription drugs. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, sent shock waves through the community when he wrote an article for a newspaper in support of passing an assisted dying law. The church is not officially advocating the new legislation, but rather expressing support for a review of the issues surrounding the assisted dying debate through a royal commission.

See John Bingham, Church of England Calls For Review on Assisted Dying, The Telegraph, July 12, 2014.

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

July 14, 2014 in Current Affairs, Current Events, New Legislation, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rethinking Charitable Giving

CharityJon Huntsman Sr. has given away approximately $1.5 billion—80% of his total wealth—to worthy causes. Further, Huntsman is spending $200 million building a golf resort and nature reserve in Idaho that will donate all proceeds of real estate sold to his family’s charitable foundation.  Neither of these totals includes his strict tithing to the Mormon church of 10% of his earnings.  “My philanthropy is not born out of my faith.  They require 10% tithing.  I don’t consider that to be philanthropy and I don’t consider it to be part of my philanthropic giving.  I consider it as club dues.” 

Huntsman became wealthy through chemical products group Huntsman Corporation, which he founded in 1970.  However, he did not wait until he was rich to donate, “I have always given money away.  I haven’t always been wealthy—the opposite in fact.  But I have always felt that I wanted people to share it with me.” 

Huntsman’s approach is also shared by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who has an estimated net worth of about $200 million.  Stone has developed a theme around the “compound interest of altruism.”  He explains this theory, stating, “Through the compact impact of altruism, I came to understand that people are doing philanthropy wrong.  People generally think about charitable work the wrong way.  They think that when they’re older and comfortable they’ll give some amount of money to something but that’s not the way to do it.  The way to do it is to get involved as early on as possible because . . . the impact you’ll have over your lifetime is far greater than anything you could possibly do if you wait until you think you’re comfortable.” 

Huntsman and Stone’s outlook on charitable giving pose many questions, some of them being whether tithing to a church should be regarded as charity and if philanthropy has become the future of marketing?

See Andrew Cave, Giving to Your Church Doesn’t Count: Jon Huntsman Sr. and Twitter’s Biz Stone On New Philanthropy, Forbes, June 23, 2014.

June 24, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)