Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Article on What to Do with Your Digital Assets

Digital assets actGeorge H. Pike published an Article entitled, Legal Issues: What to Do with Your Digital Life (2014). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

The accumulations of life are taking on a more digital appearance. We have Facebook and Twitter profiles, we post and share pictures and videos through Instragram and YouTube, we have accounts on Amazon and eBay, we may accumulate and spend Bitcoin assets or pay with things with PayPal, we create avatars in WarQuest and other games as well as create and spend digital (even tangible) assets within the games, and we communicate through Gmail and text. Even the accumulations of life that were once analog have gone digital, with bank and investment accounts now accessed through passwords rather than passbooks, our reading is ebooks on our Kindle’s and our music listening is through iTunes. Access to these digital environments is often maintained privately, through userIDs and passwords not generally shared with family and friends who may become heirs and executors.

The established structure of inheritance law has been challenged to deal with many of these aspects of our digital life. Some items seem relatively straightforward, such as online bank and brokerage accounts. Assuming the heir (or more likely, the executor of the estate), knows about the accounts, the established structure of presenting a death certificate or court order to the bank should authorize access. But do the same rules apply to PayPal or bitcoin?

May 8, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Legal Issues of Dead but In-Demand Actors

Princess fisherWhen Carrie Fisher died, Princess Leia did not have to die with her. Celebrities should be considering legacy planning, or the planning of a celebrity’s public persona, as one aspect of estate planning. This type of planning can be complicated because the laws have not caught up to technology’s ability to posthumously resurrect characters onscreen. Posthumous protections vary by state, so it is important to appoint someone you trust to handle your post-death career.

See Ashley Cullins, Carrie Fisher, ‘Star Wars’ and the Legal Issues of Dead but In-Demand Actors, Hollywood Reporter, May 1, 2017.

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

May 6, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Article on Property Interests in Digital Assets

Digital assets actNatalie M. Banta recently published an Article entitled, Property Interests in Digital Assets: The Rise of Digital Feudalism, 38 Cardozo L. Rev. 1099 (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

The emergence of digital assets has created a host of new legal questions regarding their status as a property interest. Digital assets consist of intangible interests like e-mail accounts, social media accounts, reward points, and electronic media. These assets seem like a property interest, but because digital assets are a creature of contract, private contracts determine whether an owner can use, sell, transfer, exclude, donate, or dispose of the asset in a testamentary instrument. These digital asset contracts often take an unprecedented step of prohibiting or severely limiting the transfer of digital assets after death. By unilaterally eviscerating a long cherished right of property--the right to devise--these contracts create digital assets that are more akin to a license or tenancy instead of a fee simple absolute. Contractual terms controlling digital assets create a system this Article calls “digital feudalism,” characterized by absolutism, hierarchy, and a concentration of power. This Article examines property interests imbued in digital assets, namely the rights to use, control, exclude, and transfer. It analyzes digital assets under the labor, utilitarian, and personhood theories to justify their existence as a form of property. As a form of property, this Article argues that property law protects an individual's rights to her digital assets--rights like testamentary disposition that cannot be contracted away. Property law has always mirrored society's decisions about how to control and allocate resources and our treatment of digital assets are no different. Digital assets themselves function so similarly to property that we must apply traditional property law principles to ensure that our rights over digital assets do not regress into an anti-democratic and archaic form of feudalism in a technologically driven future.

May 5, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How Family Wealth Map Can Help You Organize Your Estate

Richard foxRichard Fox launched Family Wealth Map, LLC, which helps wealthy families and their advisers better manage information. Fox’s clients are families with estates ranging from $10 million to over $1 billion, making for complex estate structures. Family Wealth Map uses software that synthesizes the client’s information and presents the data to the clients and their advisers. The company allows clients and advisers to spend their valuable time on planning as opposed to gathering information, dubbing the software a “master filing cabinet” and helping families build wealth.

See Robyn Dexter, Family Wealth Map: Organize Your Estate, Ladue News, April 27, 2017.

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

May 2, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Controversial "Three-Parent Baby" Procedure Takes Off in Mexico

Three baby“Three-parent babies,” a new procedure offered to couples who want to reduce the risk of passing specific genetic diseases to their children, is a term that has drawn much attention from the public recently. The procedure has also been viewed as controversial because the embryo takes eggs from two separate mothers and transfers the nucleus from a mother’s egg to a donor egg that had its nucleus removed, which makes its ban in the United States unsurprising due to the potential spreading of defected mitochondria. Currently, Mexico, where medical professional believe they are on the vanguard of medical research, is one country that offers the procedure, possibly due to its weak regulatory framework.

See Jan-Albert Hootsen, Controversial ‘Three-Parent Baby’ Fertility Technique Takes Off in Mexico City, Fox News, April 18, 2017.

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bunkers for High Net Worth Clients

BunkerA new business is catering to high net worth clients and their emergency preparedness as they potentially face encroaching disasters and political uprisings. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Zuckerberg, and Ralph Lauren are taking their prepping way more seriously, with offerings such as bulletproof SUVs, safe rooms, and satellite communication equipment. Besides the natural hazards and acts of terrorism, cyber warfare is also pressuring high-net-worth individuals to opt for these defensive services and supplies. These wealth families view uncertainty and risk through a different lens than the average American. Specifically, emergency preparedness involves three steps: being informed, having a plan, and stockpiling the proper supplies.

See Thomas M. Kostigen, Bunker Time, Financial Advisor, March 21, 2017.

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

April 18, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bringing the Dead Back to Life

Digital tombstoneA historic Slovenia cemetery is now installing tombstones with interactive digital screens. The 48-inch interactive screens display pictures, videos, and other information relevant to the deceased person. Reportedly, the screens cost over $3,100 and have sensors that only illuminate the screen when they are being viewed, allowing them to save energy and blend in with the rest of the tombstones. So, is the world ready for technological life stories of the dead? As times change, burial traditions will strive to keep up with the technology, even if its users are not around to see the results.

See Erin Blakemore, Digital Tombstone Brings the Dead Back to Life, Smithsonian.com, April 13, 2017.

Special thanks to Vickie Sutton (Professor of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 17, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Are You Prepared to Live Longer?

Long lifeToday, if you have the resources to stay healthy, Americans can expect to live longer, healthier lives and their overall quality of life to improve as they continue to age. So, what can you do to provide for a good quality of life as you age? The planning process should start now in order to take advantage of all the resources currently available. To jump start the process, you should meet with a financial planner, who will help you prepare for your financial future and implement your retirement goals. Next, you should focus on legal and estate planning, ensuring that your assets are distributed how, when, and to whom you want. Advances in healthcare make the odds of living a longer, healthier life more attainable for Americans, while the right planning will improve your quality of life.

See Mark Eghrari, You May Live Longer than You Expect: Are You Prepared?, Forbes, March 31, 2017.

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

April 3, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Quest to Live Forever

Live foreverIf you could live to 200 and remain healthy, would you? The National Academy of Medicine’s Grand Challenge in Healthy Longevity is awarding at least $25 million for breakthroughs in the area of aging gracefully. For decades now, the idea that age could be twiddled with has consumed scientists, as they continue to transform death into a technical problem rather than a metaphysical one. Essentially, if we want to live longer, we must slow aging itself. Even then, we will not live forever; it is simply not possible with the rapid drain on natural resources and Social Security. So, the struggle between healthspanners and immortalists brings us into an age where preserving life, even at the cost of dying, is ever-so human.

See Tad Friend, Silicon Valley’s Quest to Live Forever, New Yorker, April 3, 2017.

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

March 31, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Swiss Clinic Presents Assisted Suicide Simulation Video

Virtual assisted suicideA Swiss clinic, Dignitas, has created a virtual reality assisted suicide film, “The Last Moments,” that represents a person’s experience who wishes to accept the clinic’s services. Over the last two decades, hundreds of people have gone to the clinic to end life on their own terms. The film not only immerses the viewer in the assisted suicide setting, but it also allows the person to make a choice of whether to end their virtual life right then or carry on living. The film depicts two characters: a crying loved one and the woman who presents the viewer their final choice.

See Cheyenne MacDonald, What It’s Really Like to Die: Swiss Assisted Suicide Clinic Dignitas Reveals Harrowing VR Death Stimulator, Daily Mail, March 24, 2017.

March 26, 2017 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)