Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Testamentary gift conditioned on method of body disposition

Ivins_bruceBruce Ivins was accused on August 6, 2008 by FBI and DOJ officials as probably being responsible for the deaths of five persons, and the injury of dozens of others, resulting from the mailings of anonymous letters containing anthrax to members of Congress and the media in the Fall of 2001.  About a week before this announcement, however, Ivins had committed suicide.

Ivins left clear instructions on how he wanted his body to be handled upon his death -- cremation followed by the scattering of his ashes.

Ivins was fearful, however, that his wife and children would not follow these instructions because her religious beliefs (Catholic) mandates that the ashes be buried in sacred ground, not scattered.  Ivins (or his attorney) used an excellent estate planning technique to help assure that his intent is carried out -- condition the gifts on following the instructions with a gift over to a person or organization whose purpose is the abhorent to the beneficiaries.

Ivins left the bulk of his estate to his wife with $20,000 to each of his children.  His son (Andrew) is to receive his guns and ammo with his car passing to his daughter (Amanda).  But, if they do not follow his body disposition instructions, $50,000 "off the top" will go to Planned Parenthood.  His wife, Dianne, has strong anti-abortion beliefs and has served as the president of the Frederick County Right to Life organization.

Diane has not scattered the ashes and they remain at the funeral home.  However, it now seems that she will scatter the ashes and provide to the court the "detailed proof" which Ivins required.  A court hearing will be held to clarify exactly what evidence will be sufficient.

See Scott Shane, Another Twist in Case of Dead Anthrax Suspect , NY Times, Sept. 13, 2008. 


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