Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Navy Seaman Finally Rests

BobbyUS Navy Seaman First Class Robert Monroe “Bobby” Temple, age 19, of Wathena, Kansas, died December 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor. Temple was a casualty of the World War II bombing of the USS Oklahoma. Temple joined the Navy when he was 18 and was stationed on the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by Japan. It was only recently that the Navy was able to identify Temple’s remains through modern DNA testing. After 75 years of waiting, Temple’s family will finally have the opportunity to conduct a memorial service that truly honors Temple’s life and the sacrifice he made for his country.

See Robert Monroe “Bobby” Temple (1922-1941), O’Fallon Weekly, June 13, 2017.

June 19, 2017 in Death Event Planning, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Letter To Loved Ones: A Template for Your Cryptocurrency Estate Planning

BitcoinCrypto-assets like bitcoin and ether tend to fall to the bottom of the to-do list when it comes to estate and death planning. Even those with the technical savvy and acumen to understand the mechanics of passing on these assets fail to so do given the complex and daunting nature of the task. Third Key Solutions helps people build crypto-focused estate plans from both the tech side and the legal side. Looking to the technical side, Third Key Solutions can help with decisions involving which wallets to use and where and how to back up keys. Legally, they can make sure desired beneficiaries are sure to inherit their legacies.

Complex assets and various family situations many times require the aid of experts. As an aide, Third Key Solutions provides a generic template that can be used and specifically tailored for individuals with crypto-assets. Some words of caution, be careful using local currency and avoid stating exact numbers as these values will likely change by the time the form is needed. Also, note that filling out the template will probably not be enough to guarantee the legal passage of assets to designated beneficiaries. Grantors must adhere to the laws of their jurisdiction. Generally, it is prudent practice to seek legal advice when dealing with passage of property.

See Pamela Morgan, Letter To Loved Ones: A Template for Your Cryptocurrency Estate Planning, Brave New Coin, June 9, 2017.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 12, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Article on Post-Mortem Digital Access

TwitterAlberto B. Lopez recently published an Article entitled, Posthumous Privacy, Decedent Intent, and Post-Mortem Access to Digital Assets, 24 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 183 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Recently, however, the digital age has clashed with the law of wills in courtrooms and legislatures around the country.14 As the world has become increasingly digitized, executors have encountered difficulty when seeking access to a decedent’s digital assets that are stored in password-protected online accounts.15 For example, the author of the international best seller Pomegranate Soup, Marsha Mehran, died unexpectedly and without explanation in Ireland.16 Mehran’s father, Abbas Mehran, sought to determine if his daughter left any literary works on her Google Chromebook after her tragic death. Hoping to unlock the Chromebook, Mr. Mehran sent four emails to Google seeking access to his daughter’s account, but Google did not reply to any of the emails.17 Eventually, Mr. Mehran hired an attorney and filed a petition in court asking for access to documents on his daughter’s Google Drive account.18 Following “several weeks of negotiation,” Mr. Mehran obtained a CD from Google that included over 200 documents written by his daughter.19 The process began with the untimely passing of Mr. Mehran’s daughter and ended with the delivery of the CD to Mr. Mehran, but took more than a year20 —a statistic that accounts for neither the personal hardship endured nor the legal expense incurred during that period.

June 6, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Facebook_like_logo_1A German appellate court recently denied a mother’s request to access her deceased daughter’s Facebook page. The mother had tried to access the page in 2012 after her daughter was hit by a train and killed. She wanted to determine if there was any indication of depression that might implicate suicide rather than accident. Facebook refused to provide the mother access based on their strict policy of not providing login information to someone else’s account. In the case of death, Facebook will freeze a user’s page and “Remembering” is placed over the decedent’s name. The page may only be removed through request of a verified immediate family member. The appellate court, overturning a lower court on Wednesday, said that the privacy rights of the user bore a superior interest to inheritance rights and denied the mother’s request for access.

See Ali Breland, German Court Rejects Mother's Request to Access Deceased Daughter's Facebook, The Hill, May 13, 2017.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) and Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 1, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Joliet Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Finally Will Be Laid to Rest

FuneralAfter more than 75 years, Michael Galajdik, killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor while aboard the USS Oklahoma, will finally reach his ultimate resting place. Galajdik, a Navy Fireman 1st Class, will be buried at Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. Through the use of DNA and dental records, the Navy was able to successfully identify the previously unidentified corpse. George Sternisha, Galajkik’s nephew, will travel with the body from Hawaii to Joliet. Sternisha recalls his mother’s desire to bury her brother. Despite her passage in 1993, he is still happy to be able to fulfill her wish.

Ginger Dudek, a resident of Joliet, was concerned the funeral route would be bare. But, with the aid of social media, she was able to elicit a powerful response from the local community. Dudek asked residents to volunteer to line the streets as the funeral procession traversed its route. Calls soon came in with offers of aid. Dudek expressed her amazement and gratitude for those who were willing to honor the memory of Galajdik and his sacrifice.

See Alicia Fabber, Joliet Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Finally Will Be Laid to Rest, Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2017.

May 26, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 22, 2017

New Mexico 2017 Legislative Report

Land splitThe 2017 New Mexico Legislature considered over 1000 bills and 43 Constitutional Amendments during its sixty-day session. Two bills of some interest that were approved by both Houses were the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADA) and the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA).

UFADA is designed to extend the traditional power of a fiduciary to manage tangible property to include management of an individual’s digital assets. The act would allow fiduciaries to manage web domains, computer files, and virtual currency. It still restricts access to texts, email, and social accounts without prior consent from the client.

UPHPA is designed to protect family wealth from real estate speculators. A devise of property that creates tenants-in-common leaves each tenant with the power to force a partition of the property. Occasionally, speculators will purchase a small amount of an heir’s property in order to file a partition action and force a sale. The speculator will then purchase the property at a severe discount, depleting the family’s wealth in the process. UPHPA provides beneficiaries with certain rights in order to prevent this practice.

The Governor has a limited time period to act on most of the legislation approved during the recent session.

See John W. Anderson & Mark Anderson, NMBA Legislative Report, New Mexico Bankers Association, March 20, 2017.

May 22, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, New Legislation, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Article on Dealing with Digital Property in Civil Litigation

MatrixJeremy de Beer & Tracey Doyle recently published an Article entitled, Dealing with Digital Property in Civil Litigation, Wills, Trusts, & Estates eJournal (May 2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This article aims to shed light on the conceptual, doctrinal and practical issues regarding digital property law by weaving together several facets of the subject. Legislative schemes for the digital environment have emerged to cover some issues but not others. The debate about further statutory reform to deal with digital property is ongoing. Litigated cases in Canada are becoming increasingly common, and those that arise tend to be complex and significant. With this article, we facilitate better understanding of digital property issues among the bench and the bar, and offer a principled approach to legal policymakers grappling with law reform in this context. The approach we put forward is one based on technological neutrality, in the substantive functional sense not the minimalist notion of media neutrality.

We begin by providing important historical perspective on the debate about digital property rights, tracing its evolution over the past 20 years. We then canvass six distinct areas of law where digital property issues are engaged: the legal definition of digital assets as property; the protection of digital property against damage; dealing with digital property in life and on death; digital property and privacy rights; jurisdiction over cyberspace; and the technological regulation of digital property.

After discussing the most significant legal developments during the past two decades, we conclude with strategic insights for judges, practitioners and others faced with digital property issues in the future. We show how substantive technological neutrality can serve as a guiding principle connecting each of the digital property doctrines we review.

May 20, 2017 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Administration, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Virtual Reality Helping Dementia Sufferers

4063D61E00000578-4510896-image-a-28_1494941292204The progression of dementia can be a slow and agonizing process for both those afflicted and for the people who love and care for them. Difficulty recalling precious memories is among the prominent and more terrible symptoms associated with this disorder. There is some new hope for individuals struggling with dementia, and it comes from an unexpected source. The Oculus Rift headset, a virtual reality system capable of immersing the user in a virtual world, has been integrated into a therapeutic package. The package includes a number of relaxing scenes ranging from beaches, to forests full of animals, to a view of Earth from space. The user maintains varying levels of control in each of the simulated scenes. The goal is to refresh the memories of dementia sufferers. Many who have used the headset recalled memories correlated to the scenes they were shown. The kit also includes a number of activity cards healthcare professionals may use in conjunction with the device that have specific questions used to pinpoint particular memories. While the system has shown some promise, it does not come cheap at a cost of just over $5,000.

See Shivali, Touching Moment a Virtual Reality Headset Helps Elderly People with Dementia Recall Precious Memories, Daily Mail, May 16, 2017.

May 19, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How Gene Testing Is Threatening Long-Term Care Insurance

Gene testingApproximately 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, making up half of all nursing home residents, but very few people have been tested for the ApoE4 gene. Last month, however, the gene testing company 23andMe started offering tests that reveal whether people carry the gene, while assessing their risks for developing certain conditions. Following the wave, other genetics companies are planning to offer similar tests, allowing many Americans to get a better grasp on their medical futures. Although a benefit to the American people, insurance companies selling long-term care insurance might experience a disaster, sending risky patients in search of policies and damaging an already fragile business. The potential impact of gene testing has the ability to increase adverse selection, which in turn could impact the availability and affordability of certain products.

See Gina Kolata, New Gene Tests Pose a Threat to Insurers, N.Y. Times, May 12, 2017.

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

May 16, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Surgeon Claims Frozen Brains Will Be Placed in Donor Bodies by 2020

Frozen brainAn Italian surgeon, Professor Sergio Canavero, is going on record, claiming that people will be brought back from the dead within the next three years by placing their brains in donor bodies. Canavero plans to carry out the first human head transplant next year and then move onto transplanting frozen brains into donor bodies, using those cryopreserved bodies located at the Arizona-based Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Indeed, brain transplants have advantages, including little to no immune reaction.

See Shivali Best, Frozen Brains Will Be ‘Woken Up’ and Placed in Donor Bodies by 2020, Claims Controversial Surgeon, Daily Mail, April 27, 2017.

May 10, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)