Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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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)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Article on Law of Inheritance in the Pakistani Legal System

Muhammad munir

Muhammad Munir (International Islamic University, Department of Law) recently published an article entitled, The Share of Orphaned Grandchild Under Islamic Law and Pakistani Legal System: A Re-Evaluation of Representational Succession in Section 4 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, (May 10, 2014).  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

The issue of the share of grandchild in section 4 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961 in Pakistan has sparked the hottest debates on the law of inheritance. The work in hand discusses this controversial issue to find out, first, the background of this thorny issue; secondly, to evaluate the arguments of the supporters and opponents of representational succession; thirdly, to check the Islamicity of section 4; fourthly, to analyse how is this section interpreted by the higher Courts in Pakistan; finally, this work looks at the possible alternative to section 4 or representational succession. The major outcomes are: that the vast majority of scholars consider representational succession as a re-writing of the Islamic law of inheritance; that interpretation of section 4 by the superior courts in Pakistan amounts to the situation as if the Ordinance had not been enacted; that experts of this field prefer ‘obligatory bequest’ over representational succession but the option of bequest has too many hidden problems. Obligatory bequest is not a good alternative to representational succession because it would amount to an acknowledgment of the fact that the state has shifted the burden of taking care of the orphans to individuals. In other words, the state has failed to do one of its duties.

June 2, 2014 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Religion Counts in Estate Planning


Your estate plan should be consistent with your religious views, because religious issues will likely be present in your final medical decisions, funeral arrangements, will distributions, and the overall “tone” of your estate planning documents.

If you’re not religious, then you should still make that point clear to your family so their religious observances are not imposed upon you.  Even if you are personally indifferent, addressing religious issues can avoid painful family strife. 

Agents and fiduciaries should also be given guidance consistent with your religious views, including the authority to disburse funds for religious education, religious travel, and charitable giving.

See Martin M. Shenkman, Religious Estate Planning, Wealth Strategies Journal, March 17, 2011.

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

April 26, 2014 in Estate Planning - Generally, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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)