Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, September 29, 2022

‘I’ve always wanted to be a tree’: Human composting starts to catch on

TreeCalifornia Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed a bill into law that requires state regulators to create a program for “natural organic reduction” by 2027, making California the fifth state to pass such legislation.

Individuals may now choose controlled decomposition by a funeral service provider, which allows them to be laid to rest in steel vessels surrounded by wood chips for the purpose of becoming compost. The process takes about two months and creates 1-2 cubic yards of compost to be used in gardens and conservation projects.

This is a prime example of how customs surrounding death are changing due to concerns about environmental impact. Proponents of human composting point out the benefits of forgoing cremation or caskets and being returned to the Earth. The idea grew from cutting down on carbon dioxide pollution required for cremation, and eliminating the amount of steel, concrete, and land required for traditional burial process.

Washington state was the first to pass this type of legislation. Four state funeral facilities are now licensed to perform these services and 252 individuals have had their remains composted. While this number is only a fraction of individuals who have passed away since the legislation passed in 2019, companies are reporting that demand for services is growing amongst those who have not yet passed away. Many have signed up for the services and begun making monthly payments in preparation for death.

For more information see  Evan Bush “‘I’ve always wanted to be a tree’: Human composting starts to catch on," NBC News, September 27, 2022.

Special thanks to Stephen Sanders (Austin, Texas Estate Planning and Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 29, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Masterworks by Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin Are Among the Treasures From Paul Allen’s $1 Billion Art Collection

Paul AllenMicrosoft co-founder Paul Allen left behind a $1 billion art collection when he passed. Several pieces from his collection are headed to auction at Christie’s New York, which will take place on November 9-10, 2022.

At least three of the works are French Post-Impressionist paintings, worth an estimated value of $100 million+ each. Amongst these are Paul Cezanne’s La montagne Sainte-Victoire and Vincent Van Gogh’s Verger avec cyprès and George Seuart’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version).

The Paul G. Allen Collection is one of the most valuable collections ever to be offered at auction and has a wide range of masterpieces. According to the Vice Chairmen of Christie’s Americas, "I can’t think of another collection that compares." The collection will be on exhibition in October, with stops in Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, London, Pairs and New York.

For more information see  Fang Block “Masterworks by Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin Are Among the Treasures From Paul Allen’s $1 Billion Art Collection," Barrons PENTA, September 23, 2022.

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

 

 

September 28, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Millennials Want to Retire at 50. How to Afford It Is Another Matter.

RetirementThe new “American Dream” for many millennials is walking away from their careers and into retirement at age 50, much earlier than their parents. This is indicative of a generational shift, where millennials prioritize careers that are in alignment with their personal interests over higher financial gain.

Many attribute this desire to watching older generations put their lives on hold to save, only to retire and become ill or have their spouse die.

Financial consultants warn that this goal is not achievable for many, given living costs and lifestyle costs. The 2022 Retirement Insights Survey from TIAA revealed that 31 percent of people ages 30 to 39 indicate that they have an above average confidence level in their retirement planning. This percentage jumps to 40 percent for younger millennials. Yes, many are not saving enough or contributing enough to their 401(k), leaving the employer match on the table.

Additional challenges facing younger generations are fewer employers offering pension plans, and 401(k) matching is not guaranteed. The lack of pension and 401(k) match puts the burden on employees to save for their future. This shows a shift from employers helping their employees prepare for retirement to employees helping themselves.

Experts advise that having a mix of traditional retirement accounts and more versatile savings accounts in addition to diverse revenue streams as ways to combat these challenges.

For more information see Millinnials Want to Retire at 50. How to Afford It Is Another Matter” New York Times, September 24, 2022.

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

September 27, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 26, 2022

Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous

StarsCelebrities are not immune to the pitfalls of having outdated or nonexistent estate plans, and even if careful estate planning has taken place, changes in family circumstances or tax laws can have negative impacts. 

This article takes a look at some famous mistakes made by famous people, including over simplistic wills (Jim Morrison), after-born children (Philip Seymore Hoffman), domicile (Heath Ledger), second families and decanting (David Bowie), and oral promises (Anna Nicole Smith.)

Ultimately, what all of these mistakes have in common is that they are preventable. Simple updates or revisions can make substantial differences for beneficiaries and it is important to take time to protect love ones with complete and updated estate plans.

For more information see Jessica Galligan Goldsmith, Shaina S. Kamen, Christiana M. Lazo, David J. Posner, and Bruce D. Steiner “Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous” ABA Probate & Property Magazine, September/October 2022.

September 26, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Why People of Color Are Less Likely to Have a Will

Estate planningAccording to a survey conducted by Consumer Reports earlier this year, high numbers responded not having a will in place. While the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call for many Americans around end-of-life planning, it is still reported that 1 in 3 Americans don’t have a will.

The Consumer Report Survey showed a noticeable difference in responses from people of color, with the top reasons cited as being too young, not having enough assets, not being sure how to create one, or assuming their next of kin will automatically receive everything. However, the most common reason is that they planned to create one but haven’t gotten around to it.

Maria Victoria Colón, a certified public accountant, told Consumer Reports that the general belief in the Hispanic community is that wills and financial planning is “only for rich people.” She teaches financial literacy on Instagram and TikTok in hopes of dispelling this myth and warns against the assumption that things will easily transfer to the next of kin. There can be difficulties if the family structure is complicated.

Another reason cited is that they prefer not to think about death, which for some cultures, is not appropriate topic of discussion and can be a big roadblock to creating a will.

For more information see Althea Chang-Cook “Why People of Color Are Less Likely to Have a Will” Consumer Reports, August 10, 2022.

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

September 25, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Queen’s clothes and jewels: Who inherits her enormous collection?

QueenWhile many have been talking about Queen Elizabeth’s $447 million fortune and how it will be divided amongst members of the Royal family, many are curious what will happen to her large collection of clothing and jewelry. Royal experts believe her wardrobe will be split primarily between Kate Middleton and Queen Consort Camilla, with Middleton having first choice.

The late Queen had a famously colorful sense of style and many of her most memorable outfits will be taken by a royal trust for future display in museums. It is anticipated that her wedding gown, coronation gown, Jubilee ensembles, and coats and hats worn for royal weddings will join the Historic Royal Palaces Collection which also preserves pieces from Queen Victoria and Princess Diana. 

For more information see Andrew Court “The Queen’s clothes and jewels: Who inherits her enormous collection?” New York Post, September 23, 2022.

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

September 24, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 23, 2022

Article: Inheritance in an Unequal Age

Jack Whiteley (Georgetown University Law Center) recently published an article entitled, Inheritance in an Unequal Age, Northwestern University Law Review (Forthcoming 2023). Provided below is the abstract to the paper:

For centuries, the common law limited aristocratic wealth. In the last three decades, that has changed. One by one, state legislatures have eliminated the Rule against Perpetuities, and now dynasty trusts can make carefully controlled payments to a trust settlor’s descendants for hundreds of years. This change occurred soon before a large and ongoing intergenerational wealth transfer in the United States. Trusts scholars have roundly criticized the Rule’s removal, and some have described it as charting a path to a new Gilded Age.

This Article draws a theoretical lesson from the Rule’s demise. I argue that part of the reason for the Rule’s end was its complexity: most lawyers, and most citizens, do not really know what the Rule is, or how it operates. Thus, in spite of its value, the Rule found too few defenders when special-interest advocates from financial industries competing jurisdictionally for trust fees sought to remove it. Complexity in inheritance law has this specific and timely cost: it can enable mechanisms for aristocratic wealth defense, even when it is meant to do the opposite. This is because rule complexity causes asymmetric information among future players. This dynamic should figure into proposals for reform.

September 23, 2022 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Article: The Slayer Rule: An Empirical Examination

Frederick E. Vars (Ira Drayton Pruitt, Sr. Professor at Law at the University of Alabama School of Law) recently published an article entitled, The Slayer Rule: An Empirical Examination, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Law Journal (Forthcoming 2023). Provided below is the abstract to the article:

Elmer Palmer murdered his grandfather. The undisputed motive was money. The grandfather’s will included a large gift to Elmer, which the grandfather was poised to eliminate. Elmer acted first. Under the law at the time, Elmer would inherit despite having intentionally killed his grandfather: the existing will controlled. Unfortunately for Elmer, the New York Court of Appeals announced a new equitable principle: Murderers cannot inherit from their victims. Since this famous decision in 1889, some version of the “slayer rule” has been adopted by nearly every state and lauded by nearly every commentator. Still, important questions about the proper scope of the slayer rule remain unanswered. Case law and scholarship identify multiple rationales for the slayer rule, which push in different directions in difficult applications.

This study is the first to empirically test key assumptions underlying the slayer rule. Over a thousand survey respondents answered the question “What’s fair?” or “What would the decedent want?” in twelve different scenarios. Some of the most significant conclusions are that the slayer rule should not apply to assisted suicide, killings in self-defense, or killings due to mental illness. On the other hand, the slayer rule should be expanded beyond murder in some circumstances, such as elder abuse and neglect. And the slayer rule should be converted from a mandatory rule into a default rule, which testators could opt out of in their wills. Carefully probing what people think about the slayer rule illuminates its many aspects and points toward needed reforms.

September 22, 2022 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Anne Heche estate battle begins as ex James Tupper claims he was left in charge, not her 'estranged' 20-year-old son

HecheThe dispute over Anne Heche’s estate has begun to heat up over who should be in charge after the actress died intestate. Her eldest son, Homer, requested to serve as special administrator last month, however, now her ex is contesting Homer’s appointment.

James Tupper, the father of Heche’s youngest son, claims he has a “will” from January 2011 that was given to him “in case [Anne] dies tomorrow.” Additionally, he has expressed numerous reasons why he does not believe Homer is equipped for the job, one being that he was estranged from his mother when she died.

The 2011 “will” is an email sent from Heche to Tupper and entertainment attorney, Kevin Yorn, with the request that it serve as her final wishes until formal papers could be drawn up. This email dictates that her assets would go to Tupper to manage and divide amongst her sons equally until they reach the age of 25. At that time, they could sell her real estate and split the money.

Another shocking claim to arise from Tupper's filing is that Homer has changed the locks on his mother’s apartment where she and her younger son resided, and has listed the residence as “vacant” in the court filing. Tupper notes this is “concerning as her home had previously been full of furnishings, jewelry, valuables, files, and records and their removal was in no way authorized by the Court.”

For more information see Suzy Byrne “Anne Heche estate battle begins as ex James Tupper claims he was left in charge, not her 'estranged' 20-year-old son” Yahoo! Entertainment, September 16, 2022.

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

September 21, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Dead woman talks to mourners at her own FUNERAL: New AI-powered 'holographic' video experience allows grieving loved ones to engage in two-way conversation with deceased grandmother

Estate planningMarina Smith passed away in June, but thanks to technology now available in the UK, she was able to talk to those in attendance at her funeral through AI-powered ‘holographic’ video technology. Mrs. Smith gave a brief speech about her life and responded to questions from family members at the ceremony. 

The technology was created by her son, Stephen Smith, co-founder and CEO of Storyfile, a Los Angeles-based AI company. Storyfile created a digital clone of Mrs. Smith by using 20 synchronized cameras used to record her answering a series of questions. The footage was later used to train AI so that it could provide responses to questions in Mrs. Smith’s natural way of speaking. The AI is then able to provide the illusion of a real-time conversation with users. 

Unlike “deepfake” videos, the AI does not put words into the individuals mouth. Rather, if the subject had not answered the question in the video recording session, the AI will encourage the inquisitor to ask something else.

For more information see Jonathon Chadwick “Dead woman talks to mourners at her own FUNERAL: New AI-powered ‘holographic’ video experience allows grieving loved ones to engage in two-way conversation with deceased grandmother” The Daily Mail, August 16, 2022.

Special thanks to Stephen Saunders (Saunders & Associates, Austin, TX) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 20, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)