Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Unique Trait of Super-Agers

Super agerSuper-agers, or elders who retain a significantly sharper memory than their peers, have been found to carry a unique trait. Naturally, our brains start to decline in memory performance in our late 20s and 30s. However, in a recent study, the average ager is atrophying at more than twice the rate of their super-ager peers. Super-agers seem to be resistant to atrophy progression, which remains quite common in the average aging process. Further, the study looks into the composition of the cortex and the neurons that are most vulnerable in aging, allowing them to attack aging from not only a psychosocial and lifestyle perspective but also a biological perspective.

See Megan Thielking, Super-Agers: The Unique Traits of Older Adults with Memories Sharp as a Tack, Fox News, April 5, 2017.

April 7, 2017 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Quest to Live Forever

Live foreverIf you could live to 200 and remain healthy, would you? The National Academy of Medicine’s Grand Challenge in Healthy Longevity is awarding at least $25 million for breakthroughs in the area of aging gracefully. For decades now, the idea that age could be twiddled with has consumed scientists, as they continue to transform death into a technical problem rather than a metaphysical one. Essentially, if we want to live longer, we must slow aging itself. Even then, we will not live forever; it is simply not possible with the rapid drain on natural resources and Social Security. So, the struggle between healthspanners and immortalists brings us into an age where preserving life, even at the cost of dying, is ever-so human.

See Tad Friend, Silicon Valley’s Quest to Live Forever, New Yorker, April 3, 2017.

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

March 31, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will You Be Able to Live Forever?

Damaged dnaHave scientists found a revolutionary drug that could reverse aging? The drug may help to repair damaged DNA and protect astronauts on Mars by defending them against solar radiation. The drug was developed after using mice to discover a key signaling process in DNA repair and cell aging. Ultimately, the new drug will help mitigate the effects of DNA damage for astronauts and childhood cancer survivors. Human trials for this new anti-aging drug will begin within six months at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

See Harry Pettit, Would YOU Choose to Live Forever? Age-Reversing Pill that Nasa Wants to Give to Astronauts on Mars Will Begin Human Trials Within Six Months, Daily Mail, March 23, 2017.

March 31, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Study Finds Link Between Excess Sugar & Alzheimer's

SugaarA new study’s finding claims that scientists have found a link between Alzheimer’s disease and excess sugar. More specifically, there is a correlation between a person’s blood sugar glucose and the disease, evincing that people with high sugar diets could be at a greater risk of developing the disease. An Australian university found that excess glucose damages an essential enzyme associated with inflammation response in the early stages of the degenerative neurological condition. Glucose can damage the proteins in cells through a reaction called glycation, which in turn damages an enzyme called macrophage migration inhibitory factor. Consequently, researchers believe that this process presents the “tipping point” in Alzheimer’s progression. Further, abnormally high blood sugar levels is a characteristic of diabetes, and these patients have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 

See Excess Sugar Linked to Alzheimer’s: Study Finds a ‘Tipping Point’, Fox News, February 24, 2017. 


February 25, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Food and Drink, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Scientists Are Asking More People to Donate Their Brains

Donate brainScientists are petitioning for more people to donate their brains for research at death. A lack of brain specimens is holding back the research community from further developments. Specifically, they note that they lack brains of people with disorders such as depression and PTSD, in part, because people are unaware that those conditions are caused by changes in brain wiring. The goal is to be able to develop new treatments for mental and neurological disorders.  

See Pallab Ghosh, Scientists Appeal for More People to Donate Their Brains, BBC News, February 17, 2017. 


February 17, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 10, 2017

How the Brits View Posthumous Conception

Posthumous conceptionPosthumous conception—the process of conceiving using a partner’s eggs, sperm, or embryo after they have died—has gained popularity over recent years but still remains a contentious issue. A recent study of more than 2,000 Brits revealed that three quarters of respondents are in favor of a widow using her husband’s sperm to posthumously start a family, while two-thirds of respondents believe that a widower should be able to use his wife’s eggs posthumously. Further, 59% of the women said they would be willing to let their partners use their eggs after death, and 70% of the men are willing to let their partner use their sperm after death. As the concept becomes more widely accepted, posthumous conception is sure to claim legal victories in the upcoming years.  

See Posthumous Conception: Brits Weigh In on Post Mortem Sperm and Egg Retrieval, YouTube, February 7, 2017.

Special thanks to Gabriella Arowshola (Media Liaison Executive, Markettiers) for bringing this article to my attention.


February 10, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Article on Providing for Posthumously Conceived Children

Posthumous childrenKayleigh S. Shuler recently published an Article entitled, Deferring to the Dead: A Uniquely American Approach to Providing for Posthumously Conceived Children, 17 Or. Rev. Int’l L. 341–362 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

In this paper, I will conclude that the state legislatures should uniformly allow posthumously conceived children to inherit from their deceased parent which will, in turn, allow courts to extend Social Security and other benefits to these children. By comparing the purposes underlying U.S. inheritance law to the purposes underlying French inheritance law, I will demonstrate that uniform inheritance for these children is consistent with the U.S.’s approach throughout the intestacy system. I will argue that values like equality and efficient estate administration emphasized within French inheritance law—and often cited as reasons against allowing posthumously conceived children to inherit—are not as prevalent in U.S. inheritance law. Instead, under U.S. law, efficiency often gives way to ensuring a decedent’s intent is carried out. Legislatures must extend the American principles of intent-fulfillment to the context of granting inheritance rights to posthumously conceived children. 

Other scholars and legal advocates have also argued for change in U.S. intestacy law that would allow posthumously conceived children to inherit from the estate of their deceased parent. These scholars have grounded their conclusions in alternative theories, including Constitutional arguments involving the Equal Protection Clause, or moral arguments based on ensuring the dignity of the deceased. My scholarship reaches the same conclusion, but by arguing from a historical and cultural perspective. In particular, I argue that allowing posthumously conceived children to inherit is consistent with the American approach to inheritance law and its emphasis on testamentary intent. In Part I, I will illustrate how the rights of a posthumously conceived child differ from those of a posthumously born child under current law, and I will explore the primary scenario in which American courts (both state and federal) have encountered these children’s claims. In Part II, I will explain the historical roots of both the American inheritance law system and the French inheritance law system and how those roots persist in each country’s modern law. Finally, in Part III, I will conclude that current law often fails to contemplate posthumously conceived children, thereby forcing courts to deny them rights in a way that is inconsistent with the rest of American inheritance law. 


December 23, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Psychological Anatomy of Family Wealth Disputes

Wealth disputesPublicly fighting over family wealth has indeed become a reoccurring theme in our times. Those family members at war, however, would most likely prefer not to air their dirty laundry, as the perceived greed does not always begin to tell the story. Oftentimes, the root of these costly disputes is deep-seated psychological issues. Perhaps, these issues can be traced all the way back to childhood, where some studies suggest that birth order impacts a child’s temperament. Further, several studies illustrate that these childhood experiences continue to influence children into adulthood. Consequently, these psychological seeds planted in early childhood could be the reason for such legal battles. Setting up a sturdy estate plan can help with some of these issues, but in addition, some wealthy families are setting up family meetings to openly discuss their wealth transfer. These steps alone, however, do not always prevent family disputes. 

The potential problem might lie with the parties inability to recognize the function of psychology in the estate planning process. A licensed professional is often needed to address these deep-seated issues, but this comes with its own challenges, namely workable settings and afforded privileges. Further, this interdisciplinary approach to estate planning is not guaranteed to prevent post-mortem disputes over family wealth but could be a beneficial option to those families seeking extra guidance.     

See Darren T. Case, Death, Wealth, and the Psychological Anatomy of a Family Dispute, Psych Central, December 13, 2016. 


December 13, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)