Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Revolutionary Surgical Procedure Recreates Girl's Ear

EarPlastic surgeon Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate, is going to take cartilage from Charlotte Ponce's rib and mold it into the shape of an ear and put inside of her forearm to grow. After eight weeks, the ear will be removed and attached to her ear. According to Beaumont Children's Hospital, the six- to eight-hour operation began yesterday and finished around 2 p.m. central time.

Charlotte has undergone multiple surgeries because her face was mauled by a pet raccoon when she was just three months old. The whole thing started in 2002, when Charlotte and her brother Marshall were left unsupervised in a pool barn apartment.  “Their mother went next door and I don’t know if the dad was supposed to be watching the kids. A raccoon got in the house and I figured he was hungry, because they weren’t feeding them. The reason he probably ate the right side of her face was because of the drool,” said Sharon Ponce, whose brother is the children’s grandfather. The children were taken into protective custody after the accident. Three years later, Sharon Ponce and her husband adopted Charlotte and her older brother.

See Susan Donaldson James, Raccoon Eats Baby's Face; Now 11 She Gets New Ear, Yahoo!, Apr. 15, 2014.

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 16, 2014 in Current Events, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Article on Probating an iPhone Will

IphoneRobert L. Moshman (Attorney, New York and New Jersey) recently published an article in The Estate Analyst entitled, Probating an iPhone Will, The Estate Analyst, (Mar. 2014). An excerpt from the article is below:

Our existence in this digitized era is reduced to banality what with ephemeral electronic communications and ethereal files stored in clouds. Can we also expect to shuffle off this mortal coil with a final shout-out to the Twitterverse: “Bad vibe, signing off @cruelworld #worstdayever?”  

Alas, for Karter Yu,  there would be no formal estate planning, no growing old with the security of well-crafted documents, no comfort, and no time. Driven by whatever desperation, he communicated his farewells in a series of emails and text messages from his iPhone, wrote a message on the phone that he referred to as his Will, and then committed suicide.

Our old-school colleagues at the Bar embellish upon the sanctity of duly witnessed and notarized Wills and guard against tampering or forgery with raised seals, wax seals, ribbons, specialty papers, special fonts, and even rivets! Is the common law of probate prepared to acknowledge an unwitnessed iPhone document as a valid Will?

April 10, 2014 in Articles, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Article on Patent Rights for the "First-Inventor-to-File"

LexisLaura L. Pollander (The Quinnipiac Probate Law Journal) recently published an article entitled, "First -Inventor-to-File" May Prove Fatal to Patent Rights Upon the Death of an Inventor(2014) 27 Quinn. Prob. Law Jour. 186. Provided below is an excerpt to the article:

"Do you have a patent on that?" Although not all that long ago this phrase would have been uncommon amongst those outside of major corporations, universities, and research and development hubs, queries into patentability and discussions on the repercussions thereof have become increasingly commonplace in today's society. The awareness of patent protection has improved with the rapid expansion of certain technological fields, changes in the American economy, and the importance and value of patents being brought to the attention of the general population. Television shows focusing on inventing and innovation, such as the American Broadcasting Corporation's "Shark Tank," are now appearing on television stations weekly, bringing patents straight into the American viewer's living room. 1 In every episode, regardless of the complexity or simplicity of the idea being sold to the investors, certain questions are almost always sure to arise. These inquiries explore whether the concept being pitched is sufficiently proprietary and worthy of investment, whether the idea is "novel," 2 whether it has "utility," 3 whether it is "non-obvious," 4 whether it meets other requirements for patentability, and whether the idea has already been patented. 5 These questions are not new. They were neither developed for nor limited to entertainment purposes; however, these questions illustrate the importance of patents for startups 6 and are an essential staple of the day-to-day relationship between the business, financial, and inventing communities of all sizes.

April 7, 2014 in Articles, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How to Plan Your Estate in the Wake of Modern Technology


With the advent of technology permeating society, it becomes important to plan for your “digital death.”  Many of us will leave behind email accounts, Facebook profiles, blogs, online businesses and more.  Thus, if we do not properly prepare, our loved ones could lose these parts of us as well.  Below are 5 ways to help prepare:

  1. Document Digital Accounts.  Try to log all the digital accounts you may have including email accounts, financial institutions and policies, online businesses, social media accounts, and sites where you have registered credit card information. 
  2. Give Instructions How to Handle the Account.  Upon death, allocate which accounts should be deleted.  Elect someone to retrieve other accounts, noting your username and password.
  3. Understand Your Account’s Terms of Service.  Yahoo’s terms of service do not allow your account to be turned over to anyone else and are subject to permanent deletion.  However, Google offers an Inactive Account Manager that allows you to dictate how your possessions in the site should be handled.  Decide what settings work best for you. 
  4. Determine Where to Save Your Information.  Find a secure location so that a loved one can easily access your information in the event of your death. 
  5. Obtain Legal Advice and Inform Family Where Information is Saved.  Get legal advice to verify you have complied with state laws.  Make sure to tell a loved one where this information is stored so they have a plan in place as well.  

See Laura Shin, The New Financial Task We All Need to Tackle ASAP, Forbes, March 31, 2014.  

April 3, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Internet Immortality


Nobody really dies on the World Wide Web.  This may provide comfort for grieving family and friends, or it may only serve to remind them that someone close no longer occupies the real world.

Millions of owners of active Facebook accounts are deceased, but their posts live on.  And this immortality isn’t just limited to Facebook.  A typical person has 25 online accounts, such as emails, photos, blogs, and bank accounts.  If the family doesn’t know the usernames and passwords for these virtual assets, accounts can reside indefinitely in a vast cyberspace cemetery.

See Rick Montgomery, People Who Die Can Be Virtually Immortal in Social Media, The Kansas City Star, March 15, 2014.

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


March 20, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on Computer Digital Account Plans

ComputerDavid Shane and Sarah Butters  recently published an article entitled, Do You Have a CDA Plan?  Provided below is the introduction to the article:

More and more today, we have online accounts. We pay our bills, send and receive email, subscribe to publications, store photos and use the web to keep track of our bank and brokerage accounts.  Many of us have email and social media accounts and even a personal website.  How do we keep track of all those user names and passwords?  We would probably forget them if we did not keep a list.  Ah, but where to keep the list, secure but accessible when needed?
You probably have a will, a power of attorney and a living trust.  Those all involve a trusted person or two serving as an agent, executor and trustee (your "fiduciary").  When the need arises because of your absence, disability or death, how is that person going to help you or your family?  Is the person you have named as your fiduciary also the best person to manage your digital assets?

March 20, 2014 in Articles, Technology, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

State Estate Tax Calculator


Decouple Cruncher is a new standalone calculator that provides the methodology for state estate tax calculations and planning. 

This program addresses single-state and multiple-state calculations for decoupled states.  It also calculates the optimized marital deduction.

This program allocates the estate taxes for up to four multiple states and “computes a client’s Tentative Taxable Estate, State and Federal exclusions, Federal and State Tax, and Percentage of Gross Estate Lost to Tax for up to four states for the years 2005 through 2014.

See Donald Kelley, Decouple Cruncher, Wealth Management, March 12, 2014.

March 15, 2014 in Estate Tax, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Article on Devising Cryopreserved Anatomical Gifts


Anh Tran (2014 J.D. Candidate, Texas Tech University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Gifts of the Future: The Legal and Moral Implications of a Testator Devising a Cryopreserved Anatomical Gift to a Beneficiary Who Does Not Yet Need the Gift, 6 Est. Plan. & Cmty. Prop. L.J. 157 (Fall 2013).  Provided below is the introduction to her article:

In the impossible, there is possible.  In 1954, doctors successfully transplanted the first human organ.  Over fifty years later, more than 28,000 Americans are alive because they received a successful organ transplant.  In an age where science quickly catches up to currently perceived science fiction, many states have implemented laws to deal with anatomical gifts.  But, what happens when science exceeds the expectations of those laws?  What happens when cryogenic centers are able to preserve anatomical gifts, and thereafter, successfully rejuvenate them for organ transplantations?  What happens when a beneficiary receives a cryopreserved anatomical gift, but does not yet need it?

This comment addresses some of the legal and moral implications that arise when a testator devises a cryopreserved anatomical gift to a beneficiary who does not yet need the gift.  In Part I, the institutions that handle anatomical gifts are presented to lay the foundation for this article for three main reasons: first, to look into the process of how individuals may donate their organs; second, to discuss the current methods surgeons use to harvest an organ; and, third, explore the feasibility of cryopreserving an organ.  Part II explores the future outlook and moral implications that arise if cryopreserved anatomical gifts can be devised to a beneficiary.  Part III addresses the current laws that make anatomical gifts possible.  Lastly, Part IV proposes some limitations to a testator’s ability to devise a cryopreserved anatomical gift to a beneficiary who does not yet need the gift.

With modern technology, the future quickly approaches and brings reality upon us.  The research and assertions within this comment investigate whether or not the legal world is ready to deal with the ramifications this may entail.  Specifically, this comment will explore what the legal world must do to be fully prepared for when science collides with reality.

March 12, 2014 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Inherited iPad Useless Due to Apple's Security Rules


Following their mother’s death, five sons discovered they did not know the Apple ID and password to her iPad.

Apple first asked them to provide written consent for the device to be unlocked, which was of course impossible.  Apple then asked for proof they could have the iPad.  Despite providing Apple with a copy of their mother’s death certificate, a solicitor’s letter, and copy of their mother’s will indicating she wanted her estate split between her five boys, Apple is still asking for a court order to prove their mother was the owner of the iPad as well as her iTunes account.  Hiring a solicitor to go about getting a court order would of course cost more than the iPad itself.  Says son Josh Grant, “It’s a bit cold of them not to treat things on a case-by-case basis.”

See Natalie Donovan & Kevin Core, Apple Security Rules Leave Inherited iPad Useless, Say Sons, BBC, March 5, 2014.

Special thanks to Alexander Good (2014 J.D. Candidate, Texas Tech University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.  

March 6, 2014 in Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Kentucky Will Appeal Same-Sex Marriage Decision

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As I have previously discussed, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway decided not to appeal a federal judge’s order to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will instead be hiring outside attorneys to appeal the decision granting legal recognition to same-sex couples married out-of-state.  Beshear believes the potential for “legal chaos is real” if a delay is not issued while the case is being appealed.  Beshear says, “Other Kentucky courts may reach different and conflicting decisions.  Employers, health care providers, governmental agencies and others faced with changing rules need a clear and certain roadmap. Also, people may take action based on this decision only to be placed at a disadvantage should a higher court reverse the decision.” 

See The Associated Press, Ky. to Appeal Same-Sex Marriage RulingCincinnati.com, March 5, 2014. 

Special thanks to Edward J. Buechel (Raines, Buechel, Conley & Dusing, P.L.L.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.   

March 6, 2014 in Current Affairs, New Cases, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)