Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Health Importance of Social Interaction

FriendsExtreme loneliness can have serious health effects according to a research study out of the University of Chicago. Loneliness can decrease life expectancy and increase rates of depression. Additionally loneliness can negatively affect sleep, blood pressure, and stress levels.

 John Cacioppo, University of Chicago Professor of Psychology, recommends that individuals create and maintain meaningful social relationships to improve health. Individuals should work to have strong social connections by having regular in-person social interaction, and working to maintain existing relationships. However, extreme loneliness is more than being isolated, and it is important for a person to also feel like a member of a group and emotionally supported. Cacioppo suggests that maintaining healthy social relationships should be a consideration when making big life decisions, such as whether to move to another state for retirement, since moving away from existing social networks may leave the person without the social interaction and support needed for a healthy life.

See Christopher Bergland, Maintaining Healthy Social Connections Improves Well-Being, Psychology Today, Feb. 18, 2014.

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

March 27, 2014 in Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Life Insurance Industry Called Out for Discrimination


Robyn Ward, an eminent Australian geneticist at the University of New South Wales, is slamming the life insurance industry for their continued practice of discriminating against people with genetic predispositions to diseases like cancer.

Her comments follow a recent Medical Journal of Australia article reporting the story of a young Brisbane father with a genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer.  The father approached the insurance arms of the four major Australian banks and was denied each time for his predisposition.  He received insurance from one company after going to the Australian Human Rights Commission and claiming discrimination.

In Australia, health insurers cannot use an applicant’s genetic information in assessments, but life insurance companies can.  Ward believes this discrimination could dissuade patients from getting tested for their diseases, thus decreasing preventative measures.

See Chris Johnston, Life Insurers Slammed for Treating Genes as Destiny, The Canberra Times, Sept. 2, 2013.

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

September 4, 2013 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Early Retirement May Boost Health


According to a recent study by the Tinbergen Institute of VU University Amsterdam, male civil servants who retire earlier significantly decrease the probability of dying within the next five years.

Researchers based their findings on a one-time policy decision which allowed certain Dutch civil servants to retire at age 55 instead of the typical retirement age in the early 60s.

Although retiring earlier could make people healthier, early retirement poses a longevity risk to pension funds as well as the risk of dementia, which a recent French study shows to decline the longer a person works.

See Elizabeth O’Brien, Study: Early Retirees Less Likely to Die, Market Watch, Aug. 23, 2013.

August 31, 2013 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Doctor Believes Advances Imminent in Resuscitation Science


Critical care physician Sam Parnia believes breakthroughs in resuscitation research will be made within the next 20 years that would enable doctors to restore people to life in 12, or even 24, hours.

Today’s medicine allows resuscitation to occur up to two hours after a patient’s heart has stopped beating.  The average resuscitation rate in the US is 18%, but at Parnia’s resuscitation research base that number jumps to around 35%. 

Parnia believes there is a “widely-held misconception” that the brain undergoes massive oxygen-deprived damage three to five minutes following cardiac arrest.

See Doctor Claims Patients Can Someday Be Revived 24 Hours After Death, Fox News, July 31, 2013.

August 1, 2013 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Is Death?


As I have previously discussed, Lifeline of Ohio recently won the right to harvest the organs of Elijah Smith, a 21-year-old Columbus man who ended up on artificial life support after being struck while riding his bicycle.  Smith’s family fought against the donation, arguing death does not occur until all organs have ceased functioning.

This tragic case raises the question of what exactly constitutes death.  Most doctors agree death occurs when the brain ceases to perform its essential functions.  Doctors have a list of tests they must run to conclude death has occurred and must cancel out all other explanations.

Ohio law agrees with the widespread belief that the absence of brain activity equals death.  Those donating organs and their families should be aware that the majority of donated organs come from those who are brain dead, because their organs are still being supplied with oxygen-rich blood.  They should know that bodies of the brain dead are kept on life support for an average of 24 hours before organ removal, a time that can be especially difficult for their loved ones.

See Misti Crane, Dispute Over Organ Donation Brings Attention to Defining Death, The Columbus Dispatch, July 22, 2013.

July 24, 2013 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, New Cases, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Australia Court Rules on Sperm Donor Parental Rights Case


Usually sperm donors do not have paternal rights. However, recently an Australian high court has ruled that the state laws were pre-empted by federal law, which states that a parent is a child’s biological parent. A formerly married couple made the choice to conceive using in vitro fertilization. When the man donated his sperm, he signed paperwork stating that he would not have parental rights. The women explained to the court that it was her intention to raise the child by herself. Despite her intention, she continually allowed her ex to visit her son for several years. The man developed a relationship with his son. After a while, the mother and father's friendship deteriorated. As a result, the mother refused to allow the father to see the son.

In Groth v. Banks, the court determined that shared conservatorship was in the best interest of the child. Additionally, the court asserted that any protection from the laws offered was waived when the mother allowed a relationship between the son and father to cultivate. 

See  Landmark Ruling in Sperm Donor - Case- Australia, Family By Design, Jun. 23, 2013.

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

July 15, 2013 in Current Events, New Cases, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Psychologists in Estate Planning

Psychologist SymbolAn 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.

June 10, 2012 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Financial Advice For the Right and Left Side of the Brain

Images-2To 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.

April 2, 2012 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

MNX Purchases AirNet's Organ Flights

Organ_donationMNX, 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 16, 2012 in Current Events, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, 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 14, 2012 in Current Events, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)