Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, December 5, 2022

AI is giving insurers godlike powers, says Sompo chief

Estate planningData analysis software has soared to new heights in the insurance sector, in combination with Artificial Intelligence, which has enabled a new accuracy of predictions about things like weather, natural disasters, and likelihood of senile dementia.

Mikio Okumura, the president of Sompo Holdings, discussed how data analysis has become increasingly accurate in a way that previously “only God knew about.”  Sompo Holdings is currently working on Japan’s first dementia prevention insurance package, which is able to analyze the heartbeats, appetite, and sleeping patterns of nursing home residents. 

Japan has the world’s fastest-aging society and one of the highest life expectancies, thus seeing a growing national dementia problem. This new type of insurance plan would only pay out when dementia symptoms occur, and in the meantime, attempt to delay the onset of the disease by incentivizing consumers to change their daily behaviors. If consumers change their habits and are able to delay symptoms of dementia by even two or three years, they can access cheaper insurance.

Sompo, along with many other insurance companies, is hopeful that using AI will help their mitigate risks for customers, not only in the healthcare sector, but in other products such as catastrophic event insurance. AI is able to predict the type of damage that will be occur when natural disaster hits, such as a hurricane, and can help encourage customers to make structural changes to prevent major economic loss.

For more information see Eri Sugiura and Leo Lewis “AI is giving insurers godlike powers, says Sompo chief”, The Financial Times, November 13, 2022.

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

December 5, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 4, 2022

How to Know if You Have a Genetic Risk for Alzheimer’s

AlzheimersLast month, Chris Hemsworth announced that he would be taking a break from his acting career to focus on his health. He publicly announced that after undergoing genetic testing he found out he has copies of the APOE4 gene, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Hemsworth told reporters that although he isn’t experiencing symptoms at this time, he is focused on mitigating his risks for developing the disease.

APOE is a gene that helps carry cholesterol through the bloodstream. Everyone has two versions of the gene, but different variants can point to different outcomes. The APOE2 variant shows a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s, APOE3 is neutral, and APOE4 shows an increased risk. Having two copies of the APOE4 variant, like Hemsworth, is associated with 10-fold higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and an earlier onset of the disease.

Genetic testing can be done through your doctor or through at home kits, such as 23andMe. But not everyone recommends getting tested. Dr. Gary Small, of Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, typically tries to dissuade people from the test. He says that a family history of dementia points to an increased risk and that the test won’t tell you much more than that. Others, like University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Margaret Pericak-Vance, suggest getting tested and meeting with a genetic counselor to understand what the risks look like.

While experts may disagree on testing, there is consensus on how to reduce the overall risk of dementia. Studies show that healthy habits, like physical activity, eating well, limiting alcohol intake, and maintaining a healthy social life can fend off the neurodegenerative disease.

For more information see Dana G. Smith “How to Know if You Have a Genetic Risk for Alzheimer’s”, The New York Times, November 23, 2022.

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

December 4, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 3, 2022

It’s Not That SIMPLE—Selecting an Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plan

Bruce A. Tannahill recently authored the article, It’s Not That SIMPLE— Selecting an Employer Sponsored Retirement Plan, ABA Probate & Property, November/December 2022. Provided below is the introduction to the paper:

The “Great Resignation” that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the focus on employer-sponsored retirement plans. These plans offer benefits for both employers and employees. Robert Half’s 2022 Salary Guide lists retirement savings plans as both the third most-wanted employee benefit and the third most-offered benefit.

It’s easy to understand why retirement plans are attractive to both employees and employers. Employer-sponsored retirement plans, or simply retirement plans for purposes of this article, include defined contribution plans and defined benefit plans qualifying under section 401(a), Simplified Employee Pension (SEPs) established under section 408(k), the Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) established under section 408(p), and 403(b) plans. For employees, employer-sponsored retirement plans can simplify the process of saving for retirement, and employer contributions increase their retirement savings. Making salary deferrals into an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan allows employees to automate the contribution process. Profit-sharing and 401(k) plans normally offer employees the ability to select from investment options chosen by the plan sponsor, generally with assistance from the plan administrator or its investment advisor. In contrast, contributing to an IRA often requires the employee to take the initiative to make the contribution, either through a one-time contribution, via automated payments from a bank account, or through payroll deduction and choose how to invest the contribution, possibly with the assistance of a financial professional.

December 3, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2022

A Chicago Man Quietly Left Behind $11 Million — The Largest Unclaimed Estate In American History

A Chicago man passed away without a will, leaving behind the largest unclaimed estate in United States history. Investigators spent years pulling records to compile a family tree of possible heirs to distribute the $11 million estate. They found 119 distant cousins, none of whom knew Joseph Stancak.

The distant relatives live all over the world, between Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. After compiling the results, attorneys are left with a scroll of the family tree that is 15 feet long.


It will take one to four years to disturb the money to each relative, with the average check in the $60,000 range. 

For more information see Mack Liederman “A Chicago Man Quietly Left Behind $11 Million— The Largest Unclaimed Estate in American History”, Block Club Chicago, October 24, 2022.

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

December 2, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2022

MacKenzie Scott just became America's 4th-most-generous philanthropist, vaulting ahead of Mike Bloomberg

Mackenzie-scottMacKenzie Scott has become the world’s fourth-most-generous living philanthropist as her lifetime giving as reached about $14 billion. She has surpassed Michael Bloomberg’s $12.7 billion of lifetime giving.

Scott acknowledged in her 2019 Giving Pledge Letter, “In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”

Warren Buffet tops the list at philanthropic giving at $46 billion, followed by Bill and Melinda Gates at $33.4 billion and George Soros with $18.1 billion. Jeff Bezos, Scott’s ex-husband, announced last month that he plans to give away most of his fortune to fight climate change.

For more information see Cassie Werber “MacKenzie Scott just became America’s most generous philanthropist, vaulting ahead of Bloomberg”, Yahoo! Finance, November 15, 2022.

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

December 1, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

New data shows Alzheimer's drug can slow cognitive decline

AlzheimersA phase III clinical trial that published results earlier this week in the New England Journal of Medicine shows promising data that Alzheimer’s drug, Lecanemab by Eisai and Biogen Inc, can slow cognitive decline. 

"Lecanemab reduced markers of amyloid in early Alzheimer's disease and resulted in less decline than placebo on all measures of cognition and function at 18 months," said Dr. Christopher Van Dyck, director of the Yale Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, during his presentation of trial efficacy results at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer's Disease meeting, held in San Francisco.

The research followed 1,800 patients over an 18-month period. Alzheimer’s leads to the build-up of two proteins in the brain, amyloid-beta and tau, which form plaques that can disrupt cell function. This is what causes symptoms such as memory loss and confusion. Lecanemab is a monoclonal antibody that helps remove the amyloid-beta clumps. The trial is not without adverse side effects, which include brain swelling and brain bleeding.

The Alzheimer’s Association said it was encouraged by the news and is seeking accelerated approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

For more information see Mary Kekatos, Sony Salzman and Faith Crittenden “New data shows Alzheimer’s drug can slow cognitive decline”, Yahoo! News, November 29, 2022.

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

November 30, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Gabby Petito's family just won $3 million in a wrongful death suit against Brian Laundrie's estate — but they're not going to get anywhere near that number

Petito-last-insta-postA Florida judge has ruled for Gabby Petito’s parents in the amount of $3 million in the wrongful death suit brought against Brian Laundrie’s estate. Petito and her fiancé, Laundrie, documented their travels across the United States in Petito’s van for social media. The pair became well known after Petito’s disappearance, which sparked national news coverage last summer.

Petito disappeared in late August 2021 and Laundrie raised suspicion when he drove Petito’s van from Wyoming back to his parents house in Florida without her. He was deemed a person of interest, and once his remains and diary were discovered, the FBI closed their investigation concluding that Laundrie killed Petito.

Petito’s parents filed the lawsuit against Laundrie’s estate in May for “damages which exceed $30,000.” Laundrie’s estate totals less than $3 million, which was arbitrary number. In reality, his estate is worth about $20,000. Petito's parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, plan to donate the money to the Gabby Petito Foundation, which they started to support and locate missing persons and provide aid to organizations that assist victims of domestic violence.

For more information see Rebecca Cohen and Natalie Musumeci “Gabby Petito’s family just won $3 million in wrongful death suit against Brian Laundrie’s estate— but they’re not going to get anywhere near that number”, Insider, November 17, 2022.

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

November 29, 2022 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 28, 2022

Advanced Topics in Taxation Colloquium: Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

The Tax Program at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law has invited six leading academics from across the country to participate in the Spring 2023 Advanced Topics in Taxation Colloquium. This year’s colloquium is organized by Professor Gregg Polsky. All sessions take place on Wednesdays from 1:30 – 3:30pm.

Northwestern Flyer

Special thanks to Philip F. Postlewaite (Harry R. Borrow Professor of International Law, Director, Tax Program, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law) for bringing this series to my attention. 

November 28, 2022 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Speechifying and Scribbling—A Candid Discussion about the “Why” and “How” of Integrating Public Speaking and Presentations into Your Trusts and Estates Career

Stephen R. Akers (Bessemer Trust), Dana G. Fitzsimons, Jr. (Bessemer Trust), Terrence Franklin (Sacks, Glazier, Franklin & Lodise, LLP), Carol A. Harrington (McDermott Will & Emery), and Paul S. Lee (The Northern Trust Company) recently participated in “Speechifying and Scribbling— a Candid Discussion about the “Why” and “How” of Integrating Public Speaking and Presentations into Your Trusts and Estates Career” where they discussed the strategic use of speaking as a tool for career enhancement and spoke on topics like dealing with nervousness and stage fright, working with co-presenters, and how to maximize results. Provided below is an introduction to the discussion:

DANA: Welcome, and this is the program on public speaking for trust and estates audiences. I’m your moderator, Dana Fitzsimons, and I’m lucky to be joined by a panel of folks who really need no introduction. So, we’re going to skip that part and get on with it, other than to say this. Everyone’s really busy right now. Exemptions are high and fragile. Markets are roller coasters. People are scared, and staffing is thin. But when I asked these four insanely busy professionals to give still more time to help the rest of us, they couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. And that’s just one of the many reasons they are in that echelon of lawyers we all look up to and that we refer to by just their first names. So, it’s my honor to welcome and thank Carol, Steve, Terry, and Paul for joining us, and I’m looking forward, as I’m sure we all are, to learning from them. And thank you for attending and taking some time to invest in yourself and your career. And to keep things fun, none of us has any idea what the others are going to say.

We’re going to be exploring incorporating speaking and writing into your career from every angle—at least every angle we could think of when we put the program together. And I’ll speak just this one time for the whole panel and say that speaking and writing have been, for us and many others, a vital part of building successful careers. But before we get into the mechanics, we should be candid that it’s not without costs. Clients and firms are already demanding, and they sometimes demand everything from a lot of us. And our families need us too, and they’re not always patient with us being away from home even more. And professional activities don’t just cost time. They cost money, and life is expensive, and that may not be money that’s easy to spend. We need to be candid about these costs of building a career. So, we should start with this question: Why should we speak and write?

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

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Article: Technology—Probate: NFT Scams—Buyer Beware

Ross E. Bruch (Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.) recently published an article entitled, Technology— Probate: NFT Scams— Buyer Beware, ABA Probate & Property, November/December 2022. Provided below is an introduction to the article:

The year 2022 has been a rough year for digital assets. First, after reaching all-time highs in late 2021, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many other popular cryptocurrencies lost more than 70 percent of their market value earlier this year, erasing trillions of investment dollars. Second, multiple crypto exchanges either declared bankruptcy or limited withdrawals from their customers’ accounts to avoid a run on assets. Third, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged several crypto exchange employees with insider trading, which resulted in increased demand for Congressional regulation over digital assets and their markets. Among digital assets, this article focuses on a specific type of digital asset that is experiencing remarkable volatility—non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Like other digital assets, NFTs have faced their fair share of problems in the last year. Sales of NFTs have significantly dropped in both volume and value. According to Non-Fungible.com’s market tracker tool, NFT sales peaked in late 2021 and as of late summer 2022 stood at about 25 percent of their highest values. Admittedly, even after excluding the current market turmoil, I have some doubts about the functionality and value of a majority of existing NFTs. I believe the purported fundamentals of many NFTs are questionable at best. Furthermore, the NFT environment and various markets are ideal for scams and other fraudulent activity (more on that below). That being said, underlying NFT smart-contract technology appears to be useful in some capacities and will likely continue to appear in different formats and platforms for years or decades to come. In other words, I believe we are still in the very early stages of NFT development, and just as the internet of the late 90s barely resembles the ubiquitous digital resource we so heavily rely upon today, NFT naysayers should not immediately dismiss NFTs as merely a passing fad.

November 26, 2022 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)