June 10, 2012
Psychologists in Estate Planning
An estate planning lawyer might want to consider employing a psychologist to deal with certain aspects of their practice. This is especially true when the lawyer needs to advise members of a family about aspects of estate that might bring emotions issues to the table. This happens sometimes when a business owner passes a business to members of his family. Often the transition brings several emotional issues that the family might be dealing with at the time that they are trying to agree on a course of action. A lawyer might be better suited to give advice to his clients if he follows the advice that he receives from the psychologists after he conducts an examination of the members of the family.
See Ann Marsh, When to Send Your Clients to a Psychologist, Financial Planning, June 8, 2012.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
April 02, 2012
Financial Advice For the Right and Left Side of the Brain
To best help clients with stress that results from major life transitions, advisors should understand the basic structure of the brain. The right side of our brain is holistic and nonverbal while the left side of the brain tries to make sens of what is going on.
Most financial advice is directed at the left side of the brain, but appealing to that side of the brain only is not always enough because it neglects right-side functions. It is best to acknowledge your client’s need to feel understood by expressing genuine interest in your client’s concerns.
The Journal of Financial Planning sets forth an example of a stressful event – a child leaving for college. Parents are torn between whether their child should work part time during the school year.
Studies were done on whether there were differences in grades according to how much students worked while in school. One study ultimately found that there are significant benefits for students who work not more than 20 hours a week on campus. Another study indicated that working off campus for more than 20 hours a week increased the students’ psychological well-being and leadership abilities.
The best approach to this dilemma and other similar dilemmas is to address right brain emotional issues before moving into the logical left brain advice.
See Eileen Gallo, Life Transitions and the Brain, Journal of Financial Planning, 2012.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
February 16, 2012
MNX Purchases AirNet's Organ Flights
MNX, a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in human organ and tissue delivery, bought the division of AirNet that provides same-day delivery of human organs and tissue. The former AirNet division transports time-sensitive material by using regularly scheduled commercial flights. AirNet will continue operations of its cargo airline service, but MNX will lease a portion of the AirNet building and hire a portion of AirNet’s employees.
See Steve Wartenberg, AirNet Sells Organ Flights to Focus on Its Air Cargo, The Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 16, 2012.
February 14, 2012
Turkey's First Face Transplant Patient Sees His Face For the First Time
On Monday, nineteen year old Ugur Acar saw his new face for the first time. Acar received Turkey’s first face transplant. A video of Acar seeing his new face for the first time is below:
See Turkey's First Face Transplant, AOL.com (Feb. 2012).
February 09, 2012
Population Expanding Too Fast?
Is the population expanding too fast? Often, people speculate that there are more people living today than have ever lived. When trying to determine whether this is an accurate assessment or not, the problem becomes how do you calculate how many ever lived? The Population Reference Bureau in Washington sheds some light on this question. They know that the starting point is about 50,000 years ago when homo sapiens first existed on earth and that the ending point is our current population figure. The time in between has to be filled in with educated guessing accounting for life expectancies and birth rates. The Bureau notes that data becomes better as taxes and written record came around, so by the 1800s, data became much more available. With the tools available to it, the Bureau estimates that around 107 billion people have ever lived. Currrently, there are seven billion people alive, which indicates that there are not more people alive today than ever lived.
See Wesley Stephenson, Do the Dead Outnumber the Living?, BBC News, Feb. 3, 2012.
February 04, 2012
Americans have been using assisted reproductive technologies (ART) for many years, but these technologies can cause very complicated estate planning issues. If a child is conceived after the death of his or parent as a result of ART, questions surface regarding the posthumously conceived child’s ability to inherit from the deceased parent or the deceased parent’s parents.
According to Jeffery Pennell (Professor of Law, Emory University), “it's unquestionable that if I [as a parent] left a will, I can specify whether I want them included or not. I think the more challenging question is what are we going to do when a grandparent's estate is involved, and no one has spoken to the grandparents about this."
However, even when grandparents agree to provide for potential posthumously conceived grandchildren, the issue still exists of how long to keep the estate open for the potential heir. A 2008 model probate statute provides automatic estate inclusion to any child born after a parent’s death within forty-five months of the married decedent’s death. Only Colorado and North Dakota have adopted this rule, though around fifteen other states allow posthumous children to inherit under certain circumstances.
See Philip Moeller, Posthumous Births: An Emerging Estate Challenge, US News, Jan. 25, 2012.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
January 13, 2012
Donor Numbers Increase in Israel
According to the National Transplant Center’s annual report, Israel witnessed a 64% increase in kidney transplants from living donors from 2010 to 2011. Donors began receiving compensation of several thousand shekels in August 2010, which could account for many of the 117 kidneys donated in 2011. The compensation covers lost wages for forty days and monetary benefits of up to NIS 30,000 for proven expenses for up to five years.
The percentage of families consenting to organ donations when a relative becomes brain dead reached 55% in 2011, totaling 89 donors for last year. The Priority Law will take effect in April of this year and allows Adi donor cardholders priority if they ever need a transplant. Last year, a total of 632,300 organ donors signed Adi donor cards, and 20,000 more donors have sent requests for cards to the National Transplant Center.
The “chain of living donors” program, which launched in Israel last year, may have helped increase the number of donors for 2011. The program pairs relatives of Israelis wainting for a kidney transplant with others who are on the waiting list. In exchange for the donation, the family member’s relative is paired with a kidney donor from the same network.
See Dan Even, Dramatic Increase in Organ Transplants Recorded in Israel in 2011, Haaretz.com, Jan. 1, 2012.
January 10, 2012
Gender Inequalities in the New Uniform Probate Code
Kristine S. Knaplund (Professor of Law, Pepperdine School of Law) recently published her article entiteld, The New Uniform Probate Code's Surprising Gender Inequalities, Gener L. & Pol'y 335 (2011). The abstract of the article is below:
The new Uniform Probate Code provisions on assisted reproduction include the five critical elements needed to address the broad range of issues in current law and practice, and in general the provisions work well. But as the sections now stand, they pose a delicious irony regarding children conceived and born long after a parent’s death: they allow a woman, especially a married woman, to alter the property distribution of a man’s estate by having a postmortem conception child, but accord very few men the same power. After centuries of laws giving men complete control over their wives’ property, perhaps the new UPC is attempting to tip the balance the other way. This Article examines the 2008 provisions of the Uniform Probate Code regarding assisted reproduction, and in particular the proposed standards for determining parentage when a child is conceived after one of the intended parents has died, and recommends critical changes to the provisions before adoption by states.
December 03, 2011
Inheritance Issues and the Synthetic Genome
Kristine S. Knapland (Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law) recently published her article entitled, Synthetic Cells, Synthetic Life, and Inheritance, 45 Val. U. L. Rev. 1361 (2011). The abstract available on SSRN is below:
In May 2010, J. Craig Venter and his team announced the creation of a “synthetic cell,” or as the team described it, a process of “synthesis, assembly, cloning, and successful transplantation [of a synthetic genome] to create a new cell controlled by this synthetic genome.” They chose to start with a simple bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium (“M. genitalium”) because it has “the smallest complement of genes of any known organism capable of independent growth in the laboratory.” Using chemical enzymes and live bacteria, they were able to replicate the genome sequence of M. genitalium and then transplant it into a natural cell controlled by the synthetic genome. Although the team had not created a new cell entirely from chemicals, their research demonstrates progress towards that end.
The creation of a synthetic genome is an important advancement in synthetic biology, “an emerging field of research that combines elements of biology, engineering, genetics, chemistry, and computer science.” Synthetic biology research often begins with a “[t]op-down” approach, using existing genes and other materials as parts to be analyzed or possibly reconfigured. For Venter’s team, that included sequencing the genome of M. genitalium in 1995. Synthetic biology also includes “[b]ottom-up” research to create new organisms using only chemical reagents.
Synthetic biology is used today in the field of assisted reproduction to analyze existing genes. An example of such “top-down” synthetic biology is preimplantation genetic diagnosis (“PGD”) to screen for human immunodeficiency virus, cystic fibrosis, or other diseases. This Article will focus on the “bottom-up” use of synthetic biology in the context of assisted reproduction. One day, scientists may be able to create synthetic human gametes or embryos for purposes of assisted reproduction. It is impossible to forecast when this may occur; as the 2010 Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues noted, “the pace of discovery is unpredictable.” But instead of deferring the discussion until synthetic sperm or ova actually appear, we should anticipate the risks and benefits now. This Article will focus on the practical and regulatory issues that may encourage or inhibit the use of Venter’s technology to create synthetic gametes and the legal issues of parentage and inheritance for a synthetically created child.
Part II of this Article sets the stage by briefly discussing infertility in the United States, the development of assisted reproduction technologies to counteract infertility, and other additional uses of assisted reproductive technologies (“ART”) such as PGD, which is also used by fertile couples. Part III examines the existing laws and regulations that may apply to the development of synthetic human gametes or embryos. With the market demands from Part II and the regulatory structure from Part III in mind, Part IV will look at the parentage and inheritance issues if a synthetic gamete results in a living child. Part V concludes the Article by exploring two approaches to regulatory issues.
October 19, 2011
Taxi Driver Mummified
Alan Billis, a sixty year old taxi driver, has been mummified using the techniques utilized by the ancient Egyptians. Prior to his death, Billis volunteered to have his body mummified by a team of experts at Sherffield’s Medico Legal Centre.
Renowned forensic pathologist Professor Peter Vanezis and his team mummified Billis’ body using a multi-step process. The entire mummification process was filmed and will be shown on Channel 4 on Monday as a documentary entitled Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret. Billis’ mummy will stay at Medico Legal Centre for further study.
Prior to his death, Billis joked with his wife that he would be Tutanalan instead of Tutanhkamun.
See Mike Swain, Mummifying Alan: Taxi Driver Alan Billis from Torquay Made into a Mummy like Tutankhamun after Volunteering His Body, Daily Mirror, Oct. 18, 2011.
October 09, 2011
Incentives to Donate
Judd Kessler, a Wharton business and public policy professor, and Alvin Roth, a Harvard economics professor, recently published the results of their research on the benefits of an organ allocation policy. Kessler and Roth tested whether an organ allocation policy that gives priority on waiting lists to people who register as organ donors would result in a significant increase in registration numbers.
In their paper entitled Organ Allocation Policy and the Decision to Donate, Kessler and Roth describe an experiment they used to mimic organ donation decisions. When a priority policy was introduced in the experiment, the subjects' willingness to pay the cost of donation increased over 100%, to between 70% and 80% of subjects registering to donate.
Currently, only 40% of eligible Americans are registered organ donors. Texas and New York, the second and third most populous states, have organ donation rates of only 7% and 15% respectively.
For more information on Kessler and Roth’s research, see How to Encourage People to Become Organ Donors: An Incentive System with Heart, Knowledge@Wharton, Oct. 7, 2011.
October 03, 2011
Boston Attorney's Sperm Donations Lead to at Least Seventy-Five Children
Ben Seisler, a Boston attorney, donated sperm while attending law school at George Mason University to bring in extra spending money. The Virginia sperm bank paid Seisler $150 per donation, and the law student apparently donated often.
In 2005, Seisler registered with Donor Sibling Registry and discovered he has at least seventy-five children. Seisler, now thirty-three, uses an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the children and expects the number to increase to 120 to 140 children in the future.
Seisler and his wife were recently profiled in a Style network documentary that addressed the issues surrounding Seisler’s earlier decisions and the consequences that have resulted.
See Debra Cassens Weiss, Lawyer Learns He Has at Least 75 Children, ABA Journal, Sep. 27, 2011.
September 26, 2011
Scientists Create Digital Video by Reconstructing Brains’ Visions
Scientists at UC Berkeley have developed a system that can capture a person’s visual brain activity and reconstruct it as digital video clips. Scientists recently used this system on three different subjects. The subjects were placed inside a Magnetic Resonance Imaging system and watched two different groups of Hollywood movie trailers. As the subjects watched the trailers, the fMRI system recorded the subjects’ blood flow through the visual cortex.
The data was fed into a computer program that divided the information into three-dimension pixels units called voxels. As the session continued, the computer gathered more information about how the subjects’ brain activity corresponded with the visual activity of the movie trailers.
Another group of video clips was used to reconstruct the videos shown to the subjects, and the computer built a database of potential brain activity for each clip. The computer then picked the one hundred clips that caused the subjects’ brain activity to act more similar to when the subjects’ watched the movie trailers. The computer then combined the clips into one final movie. The movie’s resolution is blurry, but it clearly matches the clips viewed by the subjects.
To watch the video clip created by the computer program, seeJesus Diaz, Scientists Reconstruct Brains’ Visions Into Digital Video In Historic Experiment, Gizmodo, Sep. 22, 2011.
September 23, 2011
Woman Sues Research Institute For Removing Husband’s Brain
Five years later, Mozingo learned that an employee of the institute had actually removed her husband’s entire brain, brain lining, liver, spleen, and pituitary gland. Mozingo filed suit against the institute in 2005, alleging infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation.
Mozingo is one of over a dozen families to have filed suits accusing the institute of orchestrating the removal of a family member’s brain without the family’s consent. Of these numerous suits, only three (including Mozingo’s) have gone to court.
The jury heard opening statements in Mozingo’s case this week in Maine’s York County Superior Court.
SeeClark Canfield, Wife Sues After Husband’s Brain is Removed, The Associated Press, Sep. 22, 2011.
September 07, 2011
Estate Planning for the Cryogenically Frozen Client
Former “American Idol” judge, Simon Cowell, recently told GQ magazine that he wants to be frozen when dies, with the hope that science will advance enough to where he can be unfrozen and live again. Cowell is not the only person considering cryogenic freezing after death. The ALCOR Life Extension Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona already has 100 frozen patients, with almost another 1,000 on the waiting list. But with the possibility of “coming back from the dead” comes issues of paying for the body’s upkeep and preserving assets for if or when the patient is unfrozen.
ALCOR currenlty charges $90,000 for freezing the entire body and requires another $110,000 in a trust for maintenance and storage. As far as providing financially for the patient after he or she is unfrozen, some attorneys point to dynasty trusts. Peggy Hoyt, and estate planner in Florida, drafts “personal revival trusts” specifically designed for cryogenically preserved clients. The trust allows intermediate beneficiaries like family and charities to inherit if something goes wrong and allows for payments to the cryogenic facility.
Regardless of an estate plans’ sound structure today, however, the changing laws of estate planning may make any plan obsolete by the time the patient is unfrozen. When asked her thoughts on preserving assets for a cryogenically frozen client, Pepperdine Law Professor, Kris Knaplund, said “who knows what things will be like in 300 years. If you created a trust for specific purposes in 1711, it is unlikely it would function in the same way today, even if you might have wanted it to.”
Scott Martin, Simon Cowell’s Cryogenic Goals Test Limits of Conventional Trust Planning, The Trust Advisor Blog, Sep. 4, 2011.
September 06, 2011
A Series on Troubled Children
The New York Times recently published a five part series entitled Troubled Children. The series covers issues surrounding mental illness in children and examines how these children make the transition into adulthood. The description of the series, including descriptions for the five individual parts, is below:
At least six million American children have difficulties that are diagnosed as serious mental disorders, according to government surveys — a number that has tripled since the early 1990's.
This series will examine issues including the transition to adulthood, the uncertainty of diagnosis, the use of multiple medications and the role of parents.
Part 1: Living With Love, Chaos and Haley
By PAM BELLUCK
The families of children diagnosed with mental disorders are often left on their own to sort through a cacophony of conflicting advice.
Video: Part 1 | Part 2
Part 2: What’s Wrong With a Child? Psychiatrists Often Disagree
By BENEDICT CAREY
Increasing numbers of children are being treated for psychiatric problems, but naming those problems remains more an art than a science.
Part 3: Proof Is Scant on Psychiatric Drug Mix for Young
By GARDINER HARRIS
A growing number of children are taking combinations of powerful medications, but there is little evidence to justify the multiplication.
Graphic: Psychiatric Medicines
Part 4: Off to College on Their Own, Shadowed by Mental Illness
By LYNETTE CLEMETSON
For young people diagnosed with serious mental disorders, the transition from high school to college can be particularly fraught.
Part 5: Parenting as Therapy for Child’s Mental Disorders
By BENEDICT CAREY
The science behind nondrug treatments for childhood behavioral disorders is getting stronger.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
September 02, 2011
Australian Outlaws Remains Identified
The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine identified the headless remains of the infamous Australian out law, Ned Kelly on Thursday. Forensic scientists used the DNA of Kelly’s sister, Ellen’s, great-grandson to make a positive identification.
Kelly killed three policemen and was captured and hanged in 1880. In 2009, bodies in the mass grave in which Kelly’s body had been buried were exhumed. The institute began its investigating of Kelly’s remains after his skull (stolen in 1978) was rediscovered.
See Body of Infamous Aussie Outlaw Ned Kelly Found, AFP, Sep. 1, 2011.
August 31, 2011
Eighth Circuit Rules Posthumously Conceived Child Not Entitled to Social Security Survivor Benefits
Bruce Beeler was diagnosed with cancer and banked his sperm before undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Bruce died at age thirty-seven, before he and his wife, Patti, conceived any children. After her husband’s death, Patti used Bruce’s sperm to conceive her daughter Brynn (now eight) through in-vitro fertilization.
Patti filed for Social Security survivor benefits for Brynn shortly after Brynn’s birth, and the federal government denied the claim stating that Brynn did not qualify for benefits under Iowa law. Patti appealed the decision, and in 2009 a federal judge ruled that Brynn was eligible for over $150,000 in benefits. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard the case and overruled the federal judge’s ruling Monday, finding that the government had given a “reasonable” interpretation of Iowa’s law.
Interestingly, Brynn’s case caused Iowa to change its law regarding posthumously conceived children. The new law allows posthumously conceived children born two years after the deceased parent’s death to receive Social Security benefits and inheritance rights. Since the law is not retroactive, however, it does not apply to Brynn’s case.
See Iowa Girl Conceived After Father’s Death Not Entitled to Benefits, Appeals Court Rules, FoxNews, Aug. 30, 2011.
Special thanks to Adam J. Hirsch (William and Catherine VanDercreek Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law) for bringing this to my attention.
August 29, 2011
Living to be 1,000
Currently, .03% of the U.S. population lives to be 100 or older. Scientists predict that this percentage will increase to .14%, or 601,000 people, by the year 2050. While this increase may seem extreme, many scientists believe that technological and medical advances may increase life spans far past 100 years. Aubrey de Greay, gerontologist and scientific provocateur, believes that people alive today may be the first individuals to reach 1,000 years old.
While a 1,000 year life span may be possible one day, scientists working on increasing life spans predict that an average life span of 150 years will be ascertainable in the near future. These scientists stress that they are attempting to increase both the quality and the quantity of life.
With a longer life, however, come concerns regarding the environment, population growth, the economy, and resource availability. Additionally, increased life spans may have an affect on more personal matters such as marriages, divorces, intra-family dynamics, estate planning techniques, and financial savings.
Bill McKibben, an environmental writer, argues against “techno-longevity”, claiming that “like everything before us, we will rot our way back into the woof and warp of the planet. Sonia Arrison, author of How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith (Basic Books 2011) is unconvinced, stating:
Arguments against life extension are often simply an appeal to the status quo. If humans were to live longer, we are told, the world, in some way, would not be right: It would no longer be noble, beautiful or exciting.
But what is noble, beautiful and exciting about deterioration and decline? What is morally suspect about ameliorating human suffering?
The answer is nothing. Everything that we have, socially and as individuals, is based on the richness of life. There can be no more basic obligation than to help ourselves and future generations to enjoy longer, healthier spans on the Earth that we share.
See Sonia Arrison, Living to 100 and Beyond, The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 27, 2011.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (WealthCounsel) for bringing this article to my attention.
August 26, 2011
How Do People Perceive Those in Persistent Vegetative States?
An experiment published in Cognition set out to determine how people perceive individuals who are in a persistent vegetative state. The first survey of 201 people revealed that, on average, people believe dead individuals have more mental capacities than individuals in a persistent vegetative state.
A follow-up survey found that when emphasis is made on the deceased individual’s corpse, irreligious people believe the corpse and the vegetative individual have about the same mental capacities, and religious people continue to believe the corpse has more mental capabilities than the vegetative individual.
See How Dead is Dead?, The Economist, Aug. 20, 2011.