Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, January 31, 2005

On-Line Will Preparation or Who Needs A Lawyer?

Several Internet sites allow the user, for a fee, to prepare a will and other estate planning documents on-line.  The user answers a series of questions and the software generates the document.  Some sites assert the document is reviewed by a specialist before it is given to the user. The user receives the document by mail or directly from the site and then follows the included instructions for executing the document.

Examples of these sites include:

·         BuildAWill
·         Legacy Writer
·         Legaldocs
·         LegalZoom.com
·         Wills.Com

January 31, 2005 in Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Non-Human but Living Beneficiaries

     Pet animals play an extremely significant role in the lives of many individuals. People own pets for a variety of reasons – they love animals, they enjoy engaging in physical activity with the animal such as playing ball or going for walks, and they enjoy the giving and receiving of attention and unconditional love. Research indicates that pet ownership positively impacts the owner’s life by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and depression, lowering the risk of heart disease, shortening the recovery time after a hospitalization, and improving concentration and mental attitude.

    Over two-thirds of pet owners treat their animals as members of their families. Twenty percent of Americans have even altered their romantic relationships over pet disputes. Pet owners are extremely devoted to their animal companions with 80% bragging about their pets to others, 79% allowing their pets to sleep in bed with them, 37% carrying pictures of their pets in their wallets, and 31% taking off of work to be with their sick pets.

    The number of individuals who own animals is staggering. As many as 33.9 million households in the United States own dogs and 28.3 million own cats. In addition to these traditional pets, Americans also own a wide variety of other animals. For example, there are 11 million households with fish, six million with birds, five million with small animals such as hamsters and rabbits, and three million with reptiles.

    The love owners have for their pets transcend death as documented by studies revealing that between 12% and 27% of pet owners include their pets in their wills. The popular media frequently reports cases which involve pet owners who have a strong desire to care for their beloved companions.

     Attempted gifts in favor of specific animals usually failed for a variety of reasons such as for being in violation of the rule against perpetuities because the measuring life was not human or for being an unenforceable honorary trust because it lacked a human or legal entity as a beneficiary who would have standing to enforce the trust.  The persuasiveness of these two traditional legal grounds for prohibiting gifts in favor of pet animals is waning rapidly under modern law.  In at least one-half of the states, courts and legislatures have been increasingly likely to permit such arrangements by applying a variety of techniques and policies.

     You may follow these links for a general article, state statutes, sample forms, and a comprehensive list of resources on how to provide for non-human family members.

January 31, 2005 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Famous People Wills

Enhanced student interest in studying various wills concepts may often be achieved by using real-life examples.

Court TV has an excellent collection of wills including those of Chief Justice Warren Burger, Princess Diana, Jerry Garcia, John Lennon, President Richard Nixon, Babe Ruth, and The King (Elvis).

National Archives (United Kingdom) contains all the wills approved by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury from 1384-1858 including the wills of Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, and Christopher Wren.  There is small cost associated with downloading these wills.

Last Words also has an interesting collection of wills including those of Napoleon and Walt Disney.

January 30, 2005 in Teaching, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Remember the Alamo

This time, remembering the Alamo has nothing to do with the famous battle of 1836.  Instead, January 26, 2005 marked the 100th anniversary of the enabling legislation under which Alamo became perhaps the most famous parcel of trust property in Texas.  The State of Texas acting as the settlor, appointed the Daughters of the Republic as trustees of the Alamo for the charitable/educational benefit of everyone.

I find that using this well-known place to add special interest to the classroom discussion of trust property.  Of course, because St. Mary's is located in San Antonio, the Alamo City, students are probably more interested than their colleagues in other cities.  Perhaps you can find famous trust properties in your area to use as examples.

For additional information, see Conley v. Daughters of the Republic, 156 S.W. 197 (Tex. 1913).

January 29, 2005 in Teaching, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 28, 2005

ACTEC Writing Competition

The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel is sponsoring a writing competition in honor of one of our late colleagues, Mary Moers Wenig of Quinnipiac.  This competition offers huge cash prizes -- for example, first place is $5,000.  If you are a law professor, please consider informing your students about this competition.  If you are a law student, please give this competition serious consideration.

January 28, 2005 in Writing Competitions for Students | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Premature Organ Harvesting

William Rardin decided to self-terminate in September of last year (2004).  His chosen method was a shotgun.  He mortally wounded himself and was taken to a hospital.  He was a registered organ donor and his organs were transplanted into several individuals.  The coronor ruled, however, that the cause of William's death was organ removal rather than the shotgun blast.  He claimed that sufficient tests to deem William dead had not been conducted.  Accordingly, he ruled the death a homicide.  After considerable controversy, the coronor reversed his initial determination and concluded that the cause of death was actually the self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This case shows how difficult it is to determine when organ harvesting should occur.  If done too soon, there is a risk that the donor is not really dead.  If not done soon enough, there is the risk of organ deterioration to the point that they would no longer be suitable for transplant.  It is a tough call to make an accurate conclusion that, "He's dead, Jim."

Special thanks to R.J. Schoettle for suggesting this case.

January 28, 2005 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Visitorship at New England

New England School of Law is seeking a visitor for the 2005-06 academic year (one or two semesters) to teach two sections of Estate Planning and one section of Wills, Estates & Trusts.  For more information, contact Judi Greenberg.

January 27, 2005 in Faculty Positions -- Visiting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

It's Happened Again -- Premature Declaration of Death

One of the most often cited reasons a person does not want to make anatomical gifts is a fear that a doctor may accelerate death to obtain needed organs.  The media is full of reports of situations where a person is declared dead and later turns out to be alive.  One of my favorite cases is about a man who was declared dead after a traffic accident and placed into a box.  He woke up about 48 hours later and made a full recovery.  But, he still had a problem.  His fiancee spurned him thinking he had turned into a zombie.  See Man Cheats Death, Loses His Fiancee, New Orleans Times Picayune, Mar. 22, 1993, at E15.

Well -- it's happened again.  Larry Green was in a car accident and injured.  He was declared dead, placed into a body bag, and hauled to the morgue.  Two hours later, the medical examiner noticed that Larry was not dead -- he was breathing!!  So, now Larry is in the hospital in critical condition.  One can only speculate if he would have been in better shape if he had received medical treatment rather than "the bag."  For more details, see the article on wral.com.

Maybe I'll get a tattoo on my chest that says, "Please -- try CPR one more time!"

January 27, 2005 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

New Years Resolutions

According to a survey reported earlier this week in USA Today, 6% of the respondents listed estate planning as their top financial goal for 2005 (29% wanted to pay off debt, 24% save more for retirement, and 18% save more for large purchases).   Considering that at least 70% of individuals do not have a will, much less a complete estate plan, this figure is way too low!!

January 26, 2005 in Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What happens to your e-mail when you die?

Several weeks ago, there were various media stories about the family of a soldier killed in Iraq who wanted access to the e-mail messages in the soldier's Yahoo account.  Yahoo declined pointing to a provision in its contract that states that when a user dies, the account is closed and all e-mail messages are permanently deleted.

For further analysis of this intriguing issue, I recommend for your reading enjoyment two of the posts contained on the wonderful blog of Prof. James Edward Maule of Villanova.

January 26, 2005 in Current Events, Intestate Succession, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)