Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stephen Hawking Predicts Human Race Survival

PlanetsStephen Hawking predicts that humanity will not survive another 1,000 years on planet Earth due to things like climate change, nuclear weapons, and robots. Hawking claims that the human race’s best chance for survival is establishing new colonies on other planets. This prediction comes at a time when space exploration has been ramping up. NASA is searching for “goldilocks” that might help sustain human life while Elon Musk plans to colonize Mars within the next century.

 See Doug Criss, Stephen Hawking Says We’ve Got About 1,000 Years to Find a New Place to Live, CNN, November 18, 2016.

November 26, 2016 in Current Events, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Article On Insane Delusions And The Law

Pen and PaperJoshua C. Tate (Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Personal Reality: Delusion in Law and Science, 49 Conn. L. Rev. (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

The concept of an insane delusion appears in several branches of the law, including contracts, gifts, and wills. Critics of the traditional doctrine have made compelling arguments in favor of its modification or abolition in the context of wills, given that it is often used as an excuse to substitute the values of jurors for those of the testator. Moreover, recent scientific studies have shown correlations between delusions and other cognitive impairments, calling into question the need for an independent doctrine of insane delusion. Nevertheless, there is evidence that not all deluded individuals have additional cognitive biases, and those who do may have some impairments while lacking others. Due to the nature of gratuitous transfers, adoption of the fairness-based approach to mental illness in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts is not a feasible alternative to the traditional insane delusion doctrine for wills. This Article accordingly proposes a new use for the concept of a delusion in making legal determinations regarding mental capacity in the context of wills. The concept would be better formulated as a doctrine of partial sanity, used when a testator is found to lack general mental capacity, and only as a basis for upholding all or part of a will. Under such a rule, the issue of a testator’s general mental capacity would be decided first. If the person in question had general mental capacity, the will would be held valid. But if the person did lack general mental capacity, the court could consider whether the lack of capacity was caused by a delusion, and, if so, whether that delusion actually affected the disposition of the estate. To the extent that a particular decision by the deluded individual was not the product of irrational decision making, the choice would be respected. This would preserve, in modified form, a legal concept that has existed for centuries and remains relevant in modern science, without giving excessive license to courts and juries to second-guess the lifestyles and eccentricities of individuals.

May 14, 2016 in Articles, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How Purposeful Aging Creates Health Benefits

Fullfilling lifeIn this column Richard Eisenberg discusses the impressions he came away with after attending the Milken Center for the Future of Aging’s Purposeful Aging Summit.  He discusses how there is a growing body of scientific research showing the health benefits of purposeful aging.  One of the ways that senior citizens can get a sense of purpose in their life is through volunteer work.  People do not need to have a new career to lead a purposeful life and volunteer work can pay dividends.  “The need is great, the Summit panelists agreed, to get the word out about programs like Experience Corps and Senior Corps.”  This column discusses a need to spark a volunteer movement to help senior citizens gain a sense of purpose and fulfillment for their lives.

See Richard Eisenberg, The Secret To Living A Longer, Healthier Life, Forbes, May 11, 2016.

May 11, 2016 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Prince’s Estate Will Use Blood Sample To Fight Paternity Claim

Prince3I have previously discussed the ongoing issues surrounding the estate of the late iconic musician Prince.  Recently the Prince estate has announced that it is ready to use a sample of Prince’s blood to battle any paternity claims against the royal bloodline.  “A Minnesota judge signed off Friday on a request from the Rock Hall of Famer’s reps to analyze a sample of Prince’s blood in case of future ‘parentage issues.’”  The blood sample will be delivered to a DNA Diagnostics center for genetic testing just in case anyone comes forward claiming to be Prince’s child.  There will likely be a long drawn out estate fight because Prince passed away without a will.  These legal developments are probably going to be ongoing because of the large size of the estate. 

See Larry McShane, Prince’s estate to fight paternity claims with late rock icon’s blood sample, Daily News, May 6, 2016.

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

May 7, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Music, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)