Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, May 2, 2016

What Are The Causes And Effects Of Alzheimer's Disease?

DementiaAlzheimer's Disease is one of the most terrifying afflictions that can strike those approaching retirement age as it strips a person of their personality and leaves them helpless before death. This terrible disorder is though to afflict over five million Americans, mostly women, with that number only to grow as the Baby Boomers hit the prime age for the disease to develop. But what causes Alzheimer's? While the exact cause if still unknown, there appears to be at least some genetic connection with onset of the disease at an early age. It is usually diagnosed by a series of mental test and, sometimes, testing brain fluids for traces of the protein that is associated with the disorder. However, there is limited knowledge on how to prevent or lessen the risk of developing the disease although there have been some links showing good cardio vascular health may help avoid it. If you think you are suffering from Alzheimer's, it is a good idea to go to your doctor for confirmation since memory naturally fades with age and the odds of developing the disorder are, thankfully, far from certain.

See Pam Belluck, What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?, The New York Times, April 30, 2016.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 2, 2016 in Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Certain Genetic Tests Will Be Reimbursed By Medicare

Genetic testingMedicare will now offer reimbursements for cancer patients who receive genetic testing for certain hereditary cancer-related disorders.  This expanded coverage of genetic testing will give cancer patients the tools they need to decide on different treatment options.  It will also provide family members and relatives with information about possible risks they might have.  More genetic information can help people identify hereditary risks and to take early preventative steps.  As the population continues to age issues relating to what Medicare covers is going to take on more importance in public discussions.  Lawmakers looking for support from senior citizens will need to discuss their plans for tackling these Medicare issues.  Cancer is a deadly disease that impacts the lives of millions of information and the information that can be obtained from this type of genetic testing will give people the tools to help fight this disease.

See Elizabeth Leis Newman, Medicare to reimburse certain genetic tests, McKnight’s, April 22, 2016.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 24, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Struggles Of Living With Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzeimer'sThis is an emotional first person account from patient-advocate Greg O’Brien about the struggles of living with Alzheimer’s disease.  Around five million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to double within the next 20 years as baby boomers continue to age.  The cost of treating Alzheimer’s patients is currently more than $200 billion per year, and that number could surpass $1 trillion by 2050.  In this column Greg O’Brien documents his own personal struggle with the disease and the impact it is having on his relationship with his family.  This account personalizes a struggle that is impacting millions of people.  Alzheimer’s disease also has an impact on estate planning as families struggle to adapt to the changing circumstances.  Planning ahead for diseases like Alzheimer’s is always important for any estate planning.

See Greg O’Brien, I’m documenting my own Alzheimer’s disease while I still can, The Washington Post, April 13, 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.

April 18, 2016 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Low Oil Prices Changing Economic Balance Of Power In Africa

PetrostateThe low price in oil has been changing the economic balance of power in Africa.  Major petroleum exporters like Nigeria and Angola which have benefited in the past from high fuel prices are not being hit hard.  African countries with more diversified economies like Ethiopia and Tanzania have been more resilient to lower commodity prices and have been attracting more investment.  The countries that failed to diversify their economies during the oil boom period are now having to deal with rising levels of unemployment, inflation, and popular discontent.  Countries that have put effort into diversifying their economies by developing their service and industrial sectors have been less negatively impacted by the drop in commodity prices.  This is causing a shift in the balance of economic power from West Africa to East Africa. 

See Luke Patey, Africa’s Petrostates Are Imploding, Foreign Policy, April 4, 2016.

April 4, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Clock That Uses An Algorithm To Predict When People Will Die

Death clockA group of scientists have recently teamed up with the insurance industry to create an algorithm which can help them predict when customers will expire.  This four year study being launched by the University of East Anglia will use a huge database of medical data to help determine life expectancy and any long-term illnesses people might have.  “The four-year project is being funded by a £800,000 grant from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) and is using experts from insurance giant Aviva.”  As people continue to live longer lifespans insurance companies will need to continue developing new formulas and algorithms that can help them make more accurate predictions about their customers.  This research can also have practical benefits for figuring out how certain medicines or lifestyles can improve longevity and how people should be planning for retirement.

See Sarah Knapton, Scientists and insurers develop ‘death clock’ to predict when customers will die, The Telegraph, March 31, 2016.

March 31, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Research Shows Women Live Longer Than Men, But Suffer More Disabilities

Senior coupleThe average life expectancy continues to increase and new research shows that while women continue to outlive men, they tend to have to spend many of those extra years dealing with certain health issues.  The life expectancy for older men has been rising drastically in recent years while it has only increased slightly for older women.  “For the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers analyzed data collected in 1982 and 2004 as part of the National Long Term Care Survey and in 2011 for the National Health and Aging Trends Study, estimating age-specific rates of mortality and disability, chances of surviving with and without disability, and years of active life for men and women.”  There is more research that will need to be done and estate planners should be aware of how these issues will impact retirement planning. 

See Stephen Feller, Study: Women live longer than men, but with more disabilities, UPI, March 18, 2016.

March 18, 2016 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Research Shows Promise In Retrieving Memories Lost To Alzheimer's

ArticlePictureA new study has been released that gives some hope that memories lost to Alzheimer's Disease can be retrieved. In the experiment, mice were deliberately bred so that they would develop plaque in their brain that causes the disease. The researchers then exposed the altered mice, along with normal ones, to a box that had an electric charge. The normal mice quickly remembered the box and would avoid it but those mice with the disease never developed a fear response which indicated they did not remember what happened before. However, the mice with the memory loss were also bred with a protein in the area of their brain that controls short term memory. When the proteins were triggered, the mice then showed a response the electrically charged box based on their memory alone which indicated that the original exposure was remembered all along but something prevented a retrieval of the memory. While any application for humans is still far off, the study raises hopes that memories seemingly lost to Alzheimer's may one day be retrievable.

See Sara Reardon, Memories retrieved in mutant ‘Alzheimer’s’ mice, Nature, March 16, 2016.

March 18, 2016 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 29, 2016

How Longer Lifespans Will Impact Retirement

RetirementAs medical technology continues to advance people are living much longer lifespans. New developments in stem cell technology as well as other healthcare advances might actually reverse the aging process in many people. In 20 or 30 years the average person might be able to expect to live a much longer life than what the average person today can expect. This is going to have a major impact on retirement planning in the future. In today’s world people usually expect to retire and live out their golden years when they are about 65-67 years old. When people are living much longer lives in the future people may have to plan on working well past the age of 65. The whole idea of retirement might have to be changed, people are going to need to plan ahead to be able to afford to live for a long time after they reach retirement age.

See Laura Entis, What Does Retirement Mean When Aging May Soon Be a Thing of the Past?, Entrepreneur, February 29, 2016.

February 29, 2016 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Statistics About Cousin Marriage In The United States

Cousin marriageThis column examines some of the statistical data about cousin marriage in the United States. “An estimated 0.2 percent of marriages in the United States are between individuals who are second cousins or closer — that means there are about 250,000 people in America in those relationships.” These are older statistics, but there are some experts who think that the numbers might be rising in the near future. The term that is often used to describe these sorts of marriages is consanguinity, and this article provides a map showing the global prevalence of these sorts of relationships. These types of relationships are rare in the United States, but there are other parts of the world where consanguinity is more common. In the United States 25 states currently ban marriage between first cousins and there are other states that have restrictions on it.

See Mona Chalabi, How Many Americans Are Married To Their Cousins?, Five Thirty Eight, May 15, 2015.

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

February 28, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Rise Of Rapid DNA Testing Causing Concerns

Dna testingThe rise in rapid DNA testing technology has caused many people to express concerns about the privacy implications that this technology will have. “Unlike traditional DNA testing, which takes at least two days and requires processing at a laboratory, new and portable rapid DNA devices can give quick results anywhere in under two hours, since agents simply insert a “tagged” cheek swab into the microwave-sized machine.” This article discusses how law enforcement officials at both the state and federal level are considering using this type of technology. There is currently legislation that “would allow profiles collected by rapid DNA devices in the field to be connected to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.” This type of technology is also going to have a major impact on estate planning when people are trying to determine the identities of heirs and beneficiaries.

See Ava Kofman, The Troubling Rise of Rapid DNA Testing, The New Republic, February 24, 2016.

February 26, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)