Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

50 Years Marks Frozen WWI Veteran the Oldest Human Awaiting Reanimation

Frozen alcorJames Bedford, a World War I veteran, since his death in 1966, has been encapsulated in enough liquid nitrogen to keep his body frozen at about -320° F. This week marks the 50th year anniversary of his deep freeze, making him the oldest “deanimated” individual on earth. In 1991, twenty-five years after his death, Alcor Life Extensions Foundation, the company storing Bedford’s body, checked on his condition and found “a well-developed, well-nourished male who appears younger than his 73 years,” deeming his condition good. Bedford’s body along with 146 others in the facility will remain frozen indefinitely with ongoing financial support to sustain their current state. 

See After 50 Years, Frozen WWI Veteran’s Body Awaits Reanimation, Fox News, January 18, 2017. 


January 21, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Article on Trusts & Estate Law Updates

Trust and estate lawBenjamin Orzeske recently published an Article entitled, Uniform Law Updates, 31 Probate & Property 10 (Jan/Feb 2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Uniform Laws Update provides information on uniform and model state laws in development as they apply to property, trust, and estate matters. The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers. 

Much of the 2016 legislative activity involved the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA). At press time, 20 states had enacted a version of RUFADAA. This innovative new law ensures that fiduciaries who manage the property of decedents and incapacitated persons will have access to on-line property and accounts as necessary. 


January 18, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Technology, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Princess Leia Will Not Be Digitally Recreated Posthumous

Princess leiaRest assured Star Wars fans, Lucasfilm, the movie’s production company, claims it has no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s character, Princess Leia, in upcoming films. This announcement comes shortly after several celebrities became worried about their posthumous portrayals. Further, the company insists that it will always strive to honor Fisher’s legacy and in doing so will not use digital effects.   

See Carrie Fisher: Princess Leia Will Not Go Digital . . . Lucasfilm Promises, TMZ, January 13, 2017. 


January 15, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Digital Resurrection Has Stars Trying to Control Their Posthumous Portrayal

Posthumous portrayalAfter Carrie Fisher’s death, much speculation remains over how her character will be portrayed in future, unproduced Star Wars films. Today, filmmakers are using digital technology to resurrect characters after that have passed, but this is leaving actors eager to gain control over how their characters and images are posthumously portrayed. Understanding that their legacy will continue beyond life, stars are making plans to protect their intellectual property rights. Currently, California law gives heirs control over a famous family member’s posthumous profits by requiring their permission for the use of their likeness. As technology improves, however, more actors are concerned with stipulating their legacy. For example, Robin Williams banned the use of his image for commercials until 2039 and prevented anyone from digitally inserting his image into a film or show. Obviously, the use of performers’ likeness has economic value, so it is a matter of how these films and actors can agree on posthumous portrayal.  

See Reuters, Actors Rush to Protect Their Image from ‘Digital Resurrection’ After They Have Died Following Eerie Star Wars: Rogue One Reanimation of Carrie Fisher, Daily Mail, December 31, 2016. 


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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Article on Digital Assets Legislation

PeacMatthew W. Costello recently published an Article entitled, The “PEAC” of Digital Estate Legislation in the United States: Should State “Like” That?, 49 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 429 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This Note explores the legal implications of recent digital assets legislation, suggested model legislation, and the future for digital estate planning generally. First, this Note delineates the current state of federal law governing digital assets. Additionally, this Note considers the consequences of Terms of Service (TOS) contracts in relation to the preservation of and access to digital account contents. Next, this Note tracks the history and development of state legislation concerning postmortem digital assets. Further, this Note surveys the development and implementation of suggested model legislation.

This Note argues that federal and state law can coexist in this arena, as recent state law is complementary, not incompatible, with federal laws governing digital communications. Further, this Note emphasizes the unique privacy concerns relevant to digital asset management, arguing sweeping state legislation that categorically divulges private account contents neglects the important privacy interests associated with such digital property. Additionally, this Note highlights the importance of deferring to the decedent account holder's intent when determining whether fiduciary access or control over account content is appropriate after death. This Note discusses areas of strength in current model legislation, namely the Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act (PEAC), which provides a useful example for states seeking to adopt comprehensive legislation recognizing the intimate and private nature of online property, even after death. This Note concludes suggesting a court ruling is necessary to clarify the law concerning postmortem digital assets.


December 31, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Robotic Therapy Cats Aid Dementia Patients

Therapy catsThe Memory Care unit at a Bronx medical facility is utilizing robotic therapy pets to soothe those with varying degrees of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Agitation and anxiety often plague these types of patients, so nursing facilities are using furry robotic friends to reduce the stress and isolation that accompanies the disease. Companies, like Joy for All Companion Pets, are making robotic pets that come in various models and cost considerably less than previous years. Ideally, these robotic pets allow patients to exchange companionship and experience serenity. 

See Andy Newman, Therapy Cats for Dementia Patients, Batteries Included, N.Y. Times, December 15, 2016. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  


December 22, 2016 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Article on Digital Asset Disposition

Digital-assetsAlberto B. Lopez recently published an Article entitled, Death and the Digital Age: The Disposition of Digital Assets, 3 Savannah L. Rev. 77–89 (2016). Provided below is a summary of the Article:

If being a personal representative was not sufficiently difficult, the advent of the digital age has only increased the burdens placed on those willing to undertake the role on behalf of a decedent. The seemingly ever-expanding usage of digital devices means that individuals increasingly handle many routine aspects of life online. Banking, shopping, and communication are done, at least in part, online by a substantial number of people. For personal representatives, a decedent’s online footprint creates access difficulties because many online accounts are password protected. A decedent may have received and paid utility bills, for example, via an online account without any paper record of the transaction; therefore, a personal representative may have trouble closing an account with a utility provider without the account’s password. Given the number of online accounts used by most people, living individuals may have trouble remembering their own usernames and passwords, let alone finding such information for an unknown number of online accounts held by a decedent. 

Even if passwords are discovered by a personal representative, accessing the account may be construed as a violation of the terms of the service agreement between a decedent and a service provider. For example, Karen Williams sought access to her son’s Facebook account following his death, but did not have the password to the account. Eventually, Williams gained access to the account after receiving “a tip” from one of her son’s friends. Accessing her son’s account, however, violated Facebook’s terms of service regarding unauthorized access; therefore, Facebook changed the password to the account thereby barring William’s access. In response, Williams brought suit to regain “full and unobstructed” access to her son’s account. Although the court ruled in her favor, the relief granted Williams only ten months of access to the account. At the expiration of the ten-month access period, Facebook terminated the account. 


December 21, 2016 in Articles, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Article on Preserving Digital Assets Under the UFADAA's Removal of Privacy Protections

Digital assets actElizabeth D. Barwick recently published an Article entitled, All Blogs Go to Heaven: Preserving Valuable Digital Assets Without the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act’s Removal of Third Party Privacy Protections, 50 Ga. L. Rev. 593 (2016). Provided below is a summary of the Article:

Part II of this Note will give a detailed overview of the existing and proposed laws governing access to a decedent's digital assets, as well as the co-existing and often conflicting terms of service agreements and federal statutes, which the UFADAA purport to override. Part III will consider an alternative statutory scheme under which judges would have ex-post discretionary power to balance the privacy interests involved in each case with the need for access. Part IV will subject the hypothetical scenarios laid out above to the various statutory schemes in order to see how a balancing of interests might reveal whether the policies behind the current laws, as well as the UFADAA, are really being furthered by broad access.


December 20, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Future of Embryo Lawsuits

EmbryosIVF treatment is becoming more and more popular with medical advancements. Consequently, we should start to see an increase in the amount of lawsuits over embryos. Family law is governed by the states, so there is little unified guidance on how these types of cases should be handled. There is, however, a rough consensus on the issue—if there is a contract, you must follow it. If no agreement, the main exception is that the embryos can be used if it is one party’s last chance to become a genetic parent. With this decision, it is important to remember that the embryos were created with the full knowledge and consent of both parties. Another issue that will come to volition is how to classify these embryos. Should family law apply, or are the embryos considered property? With such uncertainty surrounding this issue, it is important that people carefully consider the outcomes when choosing IVF.    

See Angela Chen, Who Owns Frozen Embryos?, Verge, December 13, 2016. 

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


December 15, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2016

How Life Expectancy Factors into Your Retirement

Retirement savings lifeWhen it comes to retirement, people usually underestimate how long they will live and overestimate future returns. Life expectancy, which increases every year, depends on a person’s age. This can result in too little savings for a person’s life, especially in an age of medical advancements. Ignoring the probability that you will live longer, only creates more stress and poverty at a time when it matters most. Accordingly, it is important to use more conservative life expectancies when planning for your retirement. 

See Henry K. Hebeler, Good News and Bad News: You May End Up Living a Lot Longer than You Expect, Marketwatch, December 12, 2016. 


December 12, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)