Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Speaking From Beyond The Grave Was Only Cool When 2Pac Did It

Screenshot 2024-05-11 at 11.48.37 AMThe Tupac Shakur estate has issued a cease-and-desist letter to Drake concerning his use of an AI-generated imitation of Tupac's voice in a new song called "Taylor Made (Freestyle)." The estate, representing Tupac and his mother Afeni Shakur, criticized the use of Tupac's voice as "a blatant abuse of the legacy of one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time." The letter demands that Drake stop further publication and exploitation of the song and remove it from all platforms where it's available.

"Taylor Made (Freestyle)" is a diss track aimed at Kendrick Lamar, who previously used a recording of Tupac in his album "To Pimp A Butterfly." Comparisons are drawn to a similar situation involving a posthumous George Carlin special uploaded to YouTube, suggesting potential takedowns of Drake's song shortly if the lawsuit progresses. Interestingly, Snoop Dogg is also featured on the track through AI sampling, but his response to his voice's imitation is more light-hearted than Tupac's estate's reaction.

The use of AI in music, exemplified by Drake's song, sets a groundbreaking trend likely to prompt similar legal disputes in the future. This incident adds complexity to the Drake versus Kendrick Lamar feud and hints at potential legal precedents shaping the landscape of AI-generated music and copyright infringement.

For more information see Chris Williams “Speaking From Beyond The Grave Was Only Cool When 2Pac Did It”, Above the Law, April 25, 2024.

May 11, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 25, 2024

Pennsylvania lawmakers push to find out causes of death for older adults in abuse or neglect cases

Estate planningLawmakers in Pennsylvania are urging Governor Josh Shapiro's administration to take more action in investigating the deaths of older adults following reports of abuse or neglect. There has been a significant increase in such deaths since 2019, prompting concerns from lawmakers about the Department of Aging's response. 

The Department has been criticized for not collecting cause of death information, which could help prevent future fatalities. Despite claims from the Department that they are collecting necessary data, lawmakers argue that they should have access to death certificate information. 

The spike in deaths coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's unclear if this fully explains the increase, as similar jurisdictions did not see such a steep rise. Poverty often plays a role in these cases, and the Department works with county-level agencies to investigate complaints and provide support to older adults.

For more information seePennsylvania lawmakers push to find out causes of death for older adults in abuse or neglect cases”, Fox News., March 22, 2024.

March 25, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 9, 2024

More states are considering bills allowing medically assisted death this year

Estate planningA significant movement to allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients is gaining traction across 19 states, including Florida, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Virginia. Despite opposition from the medical community, the momentum for this controversial policy is fueled by personal stories, experiences from early adopting states, and shifting attitudes heightened by the pandemic. Advocates argue that this practice offers dignity in death, while opponents raise concerns about ethical responsibilities and the potential for increased suicide rates. 

Oregon led the way in legalizing medically assisted death in 1994, followed by nine other states and Washington, D.C. Some prefer the term "medical aid in dying" over "medically assisted suicide." Statistics show that a majority of patients who receive prescriptions ultimately use them to end their lives, with cancer patients comprising a significant portion. 

The pandemic has emphasized the significance of end-of-life circumstances, spurring further support for this issue. With the aging population and changing societal perspectives, advocates believe the time is ripe for progress. While it's uncertain which states will legalize the practice this year, momentum is strong in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, and Virginia. Advocates see increased support, such as the endorsement from the New York State Bar Association, as pivotal in advancing legislation. 

For more information see Maya Goldman “More states are considering bills allowing medically assisted death this year”, Axios, February 5, 2024.

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

March 9, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 4, 2024

Company Reporting Law Is Unconstitutional

CongressMonths after the implementation of the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), a federal court has deemed it unconstitutional. The decision came after a lawsuit filed by the National Small Business Association (NSBA) and Isaac Winkles. U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke, of the Northern District of Alabama, Northeastern Division, ruled on March 1, 2024, stating that the CTA exceeds Congress' constitutional authority.

For more information see Kelly Phillips Erb “Company Reporting Law Is Unconstitutional”, Forbes, March 2, 2024.

March 4, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Virginia assisted suicide bill poses 'deadly harm' to 'most vulnerable,' bishops warn

Estate planningCatholic bishops in Virginia are expressing concern over proposed legislation, Senate Bill 280, which would legalize assisted suicide. Bishops Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Barry Knestout of Richmond have urged Virginians to oppose the bill by contacting their state politicians. The bill, also known as the "Death with Dignity" bill, allows adults with terminal conditions to request medication to end their lives. The bishops argue that every suicide is a tragedy and that legalizing assisted suicide would endanger vulnerable populations. The bill is pending a vote in the Virginia state senate and is already legal in several other states.

For more information see Timothy H.J. Nerozzi “Virginia assisted suicide bill poses ‘deadly harm’ to ‘most vulnderable,’ bishops warn”, Fox News, February 8, 2024.

March 3, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are children, imperiling IVF

Estate planningThe Alabama Supreme Court ruled last week that frozen embryos are legally considered people, holding those accountable for the destruction of embryos. This landmark decision is considered a victory by anti-abortion activists, which may have significant consequences for reproductive rights, particularly in the realm of in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

With at least 11 states defining personhood as starting at fertilization and ongoing debates over abortion and reproductive restrictions, the ruling amplifies concerns ahead of the 2024 elections. The case in Alabama involved a wrongful death lawsuit where a patient accidentally destroyed another couple's embryos. The court's ruling, which overruled a lower court, emphasized that unborn children, including frozen embryos, are protected under existing laws. 

This decision could set a precedent with far-reaching implications, potentially affecting IVF procedures, contraceptives, and healthcare providers' practices. Critics fear it could increase the cost of IVF, prompt clinic closures, and deter patients from pursuing fertility treatments due to legal risks.

Critics have also noted the Alabama chief justice's use of theology in the ruling, expressing concern that a judge's religious beliefs could influence personal decisions. The ruling did not clarify if embryo destruction under any circumstance would be permitted. While the plaintiffs had agreed to terms allowing for embryo destruction or donation after a specified period, the court did not address this due to the trial court's oversight. The decision underscores how overturning Roe v. Wade has empowered judges and legislators to restrict more than just abortion, leaving the extent of state and court authority uncertain.

For more information see Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff  “Alabama Supreme Court rules embyros are children, imperiling IVF”, The Washington Post, February 19, 2024.

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

February 20, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 2, 2024

Canada Delays Plans To Euthanize Mentally Ill People But Not Because It's An Insane Plan

CanadaThe Canadian government's plan to allow euthanasia for the mentally ill has faced a setback, with Health Minister Mark Holland citing the unpreparedness of the healthcare system. 

 

Critics argue that the idea of euthanizing the mentally ill is grotesque and raises moral questions about determining the worth of lives. Some question the government's priorities, highlighting instances during the COVID era where citizens were penalized for activities deemed essential for mental health.

 

For more information see Joe Kinsey “Canada Delays Plans To Euthanize Mentally Ill People But Not Because It’s An Insane Plan”, Outkick, February 1, 2024.

February 2, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Vermont Becomes Latest State to Propose Wealth Taxes

Estate planningVermont lawmakers are proposing new legislation to impose taxes on the state's wealthiest residents, aligning with a national campaign led by Democrats to address post-pandemic budget challenges. One proposal targets individuals with more than $10 million in net worth, taxing their unrealized capital gains. Another suggests a 3 percent marginal tax on individual incomes exceeding $500,000 annually. These measures, sponsored by State Representative Emilie Kornheiser, aim to alleviate the tax burden on the middle class and generate revenue, with supporters estimating a potential $98 million influx into the state's budget. The initiative is part of a broader Tax Justice Initiative, echoing Senator Elizabeth Warren's federal wealth tax proposal and gaining momentum as several states consider similar measures.

The campaign faces challenges in states like California, where Governor Gavin Newsom rejected the idea of a wealth tax to address a budget deficit. In Vermont, the legislature is under Democratic control, but Governor Phil Scott, a moderate Republican, remains cautious about taxing the wealthy further. However, the push for wealth tax is fueled by public frustration over perceived inequalities in the tax system, with a significant majority expressing concern that the wealthiest individuals aren't paying their fair share. Over 250 billionaires and millionaires have even advocated for increased taxation on the wealthy. As of 2024, lawmakers in 10 states, including California, Connecticut, New York, and Vermont, have introduced or are working on wealth-tax bills.

For more information see David W. Chen “Vermont Becomes Latest State to Propose Wealth Taxes”, The New York Times, January 23, 2024.

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

January 23, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 22, 2024

'Composting grandpa' bill moves through Arizona Legislature

FuneralState lawmakers in Arizona are considering a bill that would legalize natural organic reduction, also known as human composting, as an alternative to cremation and burial. 

This process uses microbes to break down the body over several weeks, resulting in nutrient-dense soil that can be used for planting trees or flowers. Natural organic reduction is promoted as an eco-friendly burial option, and several states, including Washington, California, and New York, have already legalized it. 

The bill in Arizona, which received unanimous approval in the House Regulatory Affairs Committee, may provide residents with an additional choice for the disposition of their loved ones. 

For more information, see Wayne Schutsky  “'Composting grandpa' bill moves through Arizona Legislature”, Fronteras Politics, January 19, 2024.

January 22, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Pennsylvania Appellate Court Issues Important Win For Parents Using Assisted Reproduction

ChildrenIn a landmark December 11, 2023 ruling, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania overturned a prior decision in Junior v. Glover, favoring the nonbiological parent, Nicole Junior. The case involved a same-sex couple who utilized assisted reproduction to conceive a child. Despite the couple's joint efforts and various agreements to secure parental rights, they separated before the child's birth, triggering a legal dispute. The initial three-judge panel had denied parental recognition to Junior, citing the absence of an enforceable agreement. However, the court, led by Judge J. Bowes, identified an enforceable oral contract between the parties, supporting Junior's claim as a legal parent.

The court explored multiple parentage theories, including the marital presumption, intent-based parentage, and parentage by estoppel. Despite the couple's short marriage and ongoing divorce proceedings, the court did not apply the marital presumption in Junior's favor. However, it endorsed the doctrine of "intent-based parentage," a legal theory recognizing parentage based on the parties' intentions in assisted reproduction cases. The decision faced objections from a concurring judge who argued against the appellate court introducing new legal doctrines.

While supporters hailed the ruling, an appeal to Pennsylvania's highest court was filed by Glover. The outcome of the appeal could further solidify the recognition of parentage by intent in assisted reproduction cases, providing crucial protections for same-sex couples and individuals using fertility treatments. The case underscores the significance of legal precautions for same-sex couples and parents navigating assisted reproduction methods to ensure the recognition of their parental rights.

For more information see Ellen Trachman “Pennsylvania Appellate Court Issues Important Win For Parents Using Assisted Reproduction”, Above the Law, January 17, 2024.

January 18, 2024 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)