Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

HRSA Publishes Final Rule Implementing HOPE Act



T_HRSA01The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has recently published a final rule concerning the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE Act).  The act will modify the standards used by the Organ Procurement Transplantation Network (OPTN), and will permit organs from an individual with HIV to be transplanted into another person who is also infected with the virus as long as they participate in clinical research conducted by a review board.  The HOPE Act will give the Secretary of the HRSA discretion to decide on the criteria of the research.

See Debra A. Mccurdy, Final Rule Implements HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, Health Industry Washington Watch, May 20, 2015.

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

May 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Parents Should Register Surrogate Children Who Were Born Abroad To Avoid Legal Problems

SurrogateA British high court judge has warned that the growing number of children born overseas through surrogacy could create “a ticking legal time bomb.”  Judge Dame Lucy Theis warns that if parents do not fill out a court sanctioned parental order application their children could end up “stateless and parentless.”  Without a parental order the child’s surrogate mother could possibly be recognized as the child’s actual parent creating a number of complex legal problems involving British citizenship.  The Judge would like parents to become more aware of the need to register a parental order as this method of reproduction continues to expand. 

See Owen Bowcott, Unregistered Surrogate-Born Children Creating ‘Legal Timebomb,’ Judge Warns, Guardian, May 18, 2015.   

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

May 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

California Assembly Passes Bill to Protect Digital Assets

Digital assetsIn today’s age of widespread social media and communication, California lawmakers are trying to address what happens to one’s digital life when they die. 

Yesterday, the state assembly approved a bill that would give guidelines for judges to follow before they could order electronic providers to turn over electronic information to the executor or administrator of an estate.  The bill, AB691, attempts to strike a balance between privacy and allowing estate administrators access digital accounts to resolve estate issues.  The bill will now go to the Senate for approval.

See Associated Press, Social Media Protected After Death Under California Bill, News 3, May 11, 2015.

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

May 12, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Executors Emerge Into the Digital World

Computer 2Today, a Manhattan startup, known as Blockchain Apparatus, introduced their latest innovations from the Bitcoin system, which will change how many people manage bequeathing their estates. 

Blockchain Apparatus functions as a legal services enterprise, and in the areas of property and trusts, and their technology could enable the creation of “smart contracts.”  For example, a “blockchain will” would release an inheritance to someone’s heirs as provable data points on the web.  This is the first time in history that a software code is named as an executor.  According to Blockchain Technologies Corp’s legal counsel, Eric Dixon, the blockchain will or broader blockchain document “goes to the heart of most family and surrogates' court litigation. It provides better evidence of the actual intent, at a definable, fixed time, of the person making the will or the ‘testator’ in legal parlance.”  Dixon also said that the blockchain would make it much easier for a genuine will to be upheld and for courts to make findings of fact much more quickly. 

See Gary Howard, Code Named As Executor, A First In Legal History, PR Web, May 11, 2015.

May 12, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Selfies in Cemeteries: A New Norm?

FuneralWhen Taya Dunn Johnson’s husband suddenly passed away, she asked people at the memorial services to stow away their electronics.  However, days later she noticed several people had “checked-in” on social media from the funeral home.  In response Johnson said, “We share everything from our new car to our meal to our new dress.  Somehow those things have become interchangeable with death.”

Walker Posey, a funeral director in South Carolina, said that while technology may have a place in the mourning process, selfies in cemeteries are not among them.  Mr. Posey’s funeral home includes etiquette suggestions on its website, indicating that social media and technology should not be used to violate a family’s privacy. 

Despite the nuisances technology can bring to funerals, it can also be very valuable.  Mr. Posey’s funeral home, as well as others across the country, offers livestreams of funerals as a way for loved ones to be connected.  "Social media does have its place in reaching out for support."

See Associated Press, Photos of Caskets and ‘Checking In’ at Funeral Homes: How Social Media Is The Final Frontier of Mourning, Daily Mail, May 7, 2015.

May 8, 2015 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

'Modern' Estate Planning Considerations

Sofia vergaraActress Sofia Vergara recently became enmeshed in a legal battle with her former fiancé, Nick Loeb, over two frozen embryos the couple created when they were planning to use in vitro fertilization.  Vergara and Loeb documented their agreement to keep the embryos frozen unless they agreed to either use or destroy them.  Otherwise, the embryos would be destroyed if one of them dies.  Because the documents did not address what would happen when the couple split, Loeb filed a lawsuit requesting that the embryos cannot be destroyed and the survivor between Loeb and Vergara would have control over the embryos upon the death of the other party.

This type of dispute galvanizes the debate on assisted reproductive technology (ART).  The presence of ART and constantly changing technologies require that estate planning attorneys be vigilantly aware of the laws in this field.  It is imperative practitioners inquire into the existence of any written document or directive that specifies the ultimate use or destruction of frozen genetic material such as embryos.  Estate planners should consider the importance of including genetic material in estate planning documents and marital agreements. 

See Elizabeth Meck, Who Gets the Embryo? Fiduciary Law Blog, Apr. 27, 2015.

April 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Benefit of Cloud Based Operating in Elder Law Firm

CloudsThe use of technology can ease, assist, and expand the services provided by Elder law firms. In addition to general benefits such as cost efficiency, cloud-based firms have more flexibility in being able to take their office with them for off site visits. The availability to synch work product through services like Dropbox and Google Drive can increase collaboration and productivity.

See Michael H. Smith, Practicing Elder Law in the Cloud: How One Firm Does It, Resourceful Law.

April 29, 2015 in Elder Law, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Finding Digital Immortality

Intellitar 2What if you could have "eternal digital life"?  This was made possible by the start-up company Intellitar, which created a service allowing customers to generate digital avatars of themselves that loved ones could interact with long after the persons’ death.  “Customers uploaded a photo of themselves to Intellitar’s ‘Virtual Eternity’ website, took a personality test, provided a voice sample and then trained their avatars’ ‘brains’—an artificial-intelligence engine—by feeding it stories, memories and photos.” 

The company was not successful and shut down in 2012.  According co-founder and former CEO of Intellitar, Don Davidson, the company’s failure was because of an expensive legal dispute.  One other company, Eterni.me, is working on a similar service but the technology is “still in its infancy.”  

See Kashmir Hill, This Start-Up Promised 10,000 People Eternal Digital Life—Then It Died, Fusion, Apr. 9, 2015.

April 14, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First Baby Born Free of Inherited Disease

MeaguCarmen and Gabriel Meagu knew that if they were to have a child, he or she would be at high risk for inheriting a rare form of muscular dystrophy that would make day-to-day living very difficult. 

Fortunately, a groundbreaking technique pioneered by fertility doctors in London enabled the Meagu's to birth a child healthy and free of disease.  The latest technique, known as karyomapping, takes only a short amount of time and can pick up a range of diseases.  To isolate the genes responsible for the disease, doctors took DNA swabs from Mrs. Meagu, her mother, and Mr. Meagu.  They subsequently compared the gene sequences to see which section of the genetic code was defective and responsible for the abnormality.  The couple then underwent a normal IVF cycle, but the embryos created from the procedure were biopsied to find out which ones were free of the genetic disease.

This new procedure gives hope to parents who are concerned about passing on genetic diseases to their children.  “I would recommend it to any other mother who is worried about passing on an illness,” said Mrs. Meagu, “Lucas is absolutely perfect.  He is really big for his age, and healthy.  I have peace of mind now that he is going to be ok.”

See Sarah Knapton, First Baby Born From IVF Technique Which Eliminates Inherited Disease, The Telegaph, March 28, 2015.   

March 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Article on Challenges Facing the Posthumously Conceived Child

Test tubesAndrew T. Peebles (J.D. Candidate, University of Missouri School of Law, 2015) recently published an article entitled, Challenges and Inconsistencies Facing the Posthumously Conceived Child, 79 Mo. L. Rev. 497-515 (2014).  Provided below is the article’s introduction:

The use of artificial reproductive technology (ART) has increased sharply in recent decades as families plan ahead in the face of such difficulties as disease and military service that raise doubts as to whether reproduction will be possible for an individual in the future.  Posthumous conception of children is a widely used form of ART, and it allows families to expand, even after the death of one of the parents.  In vitro fertilization is the newest form of this technology.  But for the posthumously conceived child, the difficulties continue as most states bar these children from inheriting Social Security survivor’s benefits from a deceased parent.  The Supreme Court of the United States case of Astrue v. Capato ex rel. B.N.C. has recently given authority to this inequality, holding that posthumously conceived children are eligible for such benefits if they qualify as a “child” under state intestacy law. However, the Court’s decision in this case has left several problems unresolved that will continue to plague courts in the future and will lead to further inconsistent decisions and disparities for children born through in vitro fertilization.  Due to the rise in the use of this innovative technology, these issues affect an increasing portion of the population.

This Note will discuss the problems with the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision, the inconsistencies that exist in state intestacy law, and the solutions that are necessary to remedy these challenges.  Part II gives a brief background of the facts and circumstances surrounding Astrue.

Part III discusses the history of the Social Security Administration and in vitro fertilization and points out the conflicting results from various jurisdictions that have dealt with this issue.  Part IV delves into the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind its decision in Astrue.  Finally, Part V comments on the reasons Astrue was poorly decided, the difficulties that will result from the decision, and the methods to resolve these complications.

March 26, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Non-Probate Assets, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)