Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Be Careful What You Write -- A Wake Up Call for Writers of Law Review Articles

It seems a person may be sued for virtually anything but generally authors of articles in law reviews felt safe that they could express their opinions without fear of litigation. 

Recently, however, there is an enhanced likelihood that unhappy readers may sue the writers.  In additional, law schools may distance themselves from the professor whose article triggered the lawsuit and not assist the professor in paying for a defense.

For a recent example, see Scott Jaschik, Twisting in the Wind, Inside Higher-Ed, Nov. 30, 2005.  As described on the Tax Prof Blog:

Merle Weiner (Oregon) published Strengthening Article 20, 38 U.S.F. L. Rev. 701 (2004), which argues that Article 20 of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction should be strengthened to offer more protection for domestic violence victims who flee transnationally with their children as part of their effort to escape from domestic violence.  The article made two brief references to a court dispute in one such case and one of the parties to that dispute threatened to sue.

November 30, 2005 in Articles, Current Events | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

World's First Face Transplant

On Sunday (November 27, 2005), the world's first face transplant took place in France.

Here are a few excerpts from the article, Woman 'has first face transplant', CNN, Nov. 30, 2005:

The grafted tissue came from another woman who had been declared brain-dead, with the consent of her family * * *.

Various organs were also donated from the deceased woman for other patients.

Similar procedures have been discussed by British and American doctors, but because of ethical concerns they have not been approved.

The woman will not look identical to her donor even once the swelling has gone down. Her appearance will be somewhere between her original face and the face of the donor.

Special thanks to Mr. Douglas Cowan for bringing this cutting-edge case (pun intended) to my attention.

November 30, 2005 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cremains and Football

During Sunday's (November 27, 2005) football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers, Christopher Noteboom ran out on the field spreading his mother's ashes.  His mother was an Eagles fan who had died shortly before the Eagles appeared in the 2005 Super Bowl.

To learn all about the details of the unique cremains disposition, see Katie McDevitt, Tempe son recounts spreading ashes at game, East Valley Tribune, Nov. 30, 2005.

Click here to see a picture of Christopher running with his mom's ashes flying out of a plastic bag.

November 30, 2005 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Winning the Lottery -- Good Luck or Curse?

For most people, the thought of winning the lottery is an exciting one.

However, it appears that for many of the "lucky," winning the lottery starts a downward spiral which may end in death, criminal conduct, and lawsuits.

See For lottery winners, trouble followed fortune, USA Today, Nov. 28, 2005, at 3A.

November 29, 2005 in Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ironic Funeral Home Name

I was just reading some postings on the Texas probate listserv and was made aware of a funeral home in the Dallas, Texas area with an ironic name -- Sparkman.   I smiled and I hope you do, too.

November 29, 2005 in Death Event Planning, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dr. Phil Show

Today's (November 29, 2005)  Dr. Phil show is entitled Fighting Over the Will. Here is the description of the show:

When you imagine getting an inheritance, you might assume all your financial problems would be solved. But can the money be more trouble than it's worth?

If you get a chance to watch the show and are willing to write a review, I will be glad to post it.

November 29, 2005 in Wills | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Technology-Assisted Document Drafting

Interesting information about computer-assisted document drafting is found in Jason E. Havens, Technology--Probate: More Results from the Membership Survey on Technology Use in Drafting, Prob. & Prop., Nov./Dec. 2005, at 57.

Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of Mr. Havens' article:

[C]reating and using automated templates within [a] drafting system will take the estate planning lawyer to the "next level" of productivity and generally quality in his or her services. * * * Law firms should consider one of the various expert systems that can be purchased or licensed and that are updated periodically by distinguished practitioners (which you can still usually modify easily).

November 28, 2005 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Britain's New Civil Partnerships Include Inheritance Rights

The newly enacted British law authorizing civil partnerships is discussed in Ellen Tumposky, Britain's Gay, Lesbian Couples Soon Can Walk Down the Aisle, USA Today, Nov. 25, 2005, at 9A.  According to the article:

Beginning Dec. 5, same-sex couples older than 16 can give legal notice of their intention to form a partnership. Ceremonies can be held after a 15-day waiting period.

Hundreds of couples across Britain are expected to register as soon as the law comes into effect. Among them: singer Elton John, 58, and his longtime partner David Furnish, 43, a Canadian filmmaker. * * *

Britain joins a number of other European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France and Belgium, in recognizing same-sex unions either as civil partnerships or gay marriages. Despite opposition from some Christian groups, the issue is far less contentious here than in the USA * * *

British same-sex couples who enter into civil partnerships will have the same rights as married heterosexual couples, including inheritance and pension rights, bereavement benefits and next-of-kin standing.

November 28, 2005 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Europe and Euthanasia

A recent article discusses how European countries are "torn not only over whether to legalize assisted suicide, but also over where to set boundaries."  Noelle Know, An Agonizing Debate About Euthanasia, USA Today, Nov. 23, 2005, at 15A.

Some of the key points of Ms. Know's article include:

  • Lord Joel Joffe has introduced an assisted-suicide bill in the British Parliament.
  • Switzerland permits both citizens and foreigners to obtain assisted suicide.
  • The Netherlands may "extend its current assisted suicide laws to cover infants born with severe malformations or terminal and excruciating illnesses."
  • Many people who initially request assisted suicide do not pursue the option further.
  • In 2004, 347 assisted suicides occurred in Belgium.
  • Between 300 to 350 assisted suicides occur in Switzerland each year.

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

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Testamentary Freedom

Susanna Blumenthal (Assistant Professor, University of Michigan School of Law) has recently released her paper entitled The Deviance of the Will: Policing the Bounds of Testamentary Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America.

Here is the abstract of Prof. Blumenthal's article as posted on SSRN:

Deviance is built into the very idea of a last will and testament. From its earliest usages, this legal instrument has provided individuals with a means of departing from conventional rules of inheritance. The freedom of a testator to do what he wills with his own was cast in especially expansive terms in the wake of the American Revolution. Yet antebellum American courtrooms were inundated with the petitions of disappointed heirs, charging that the testator's unnatural disposition was the product of an insane delusion or other improper influences. This Article seeks to account for the rising tide of testamentary litigation in this era, offering a doctrinal story that departs from conventional instrumentalist analyses of the phenomenon. Through a reconstruction of these will contests, it becomes apparent that they were more than merely material struggles over the testator's property - that they were also animated by deeper metaphysical concerns about the source and significance of human perversity. Each case confronted judges with the same fundamental dilemma: was the testator's deviant will best read as evidence of moral depravity or mental unsoundness? Answers to this question were eagerly supplied by a new band of medical men, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of insanity. As their medical hypotheses were increasingly deployed in mid-century contests, however, judges came to fear they proved too much, threatening to obscure the distinction between sin and disease, leaving the law with no metaphysical basis for assigning responsibility. In the face of this threat, postbellum judges came to appreciate the importance of distinguishing the eccentric from the insane will as a means of safeguarding the ideal of human autonomy. In their opinions, they performed important cultural work, elaborating a new way of thinking about the timeless problem of evil, anticipating what would be called Pragmatism by the century's end.

November 26, 2005 in Articles, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)