Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, August 22, 2019

10 Most Expensive US States to Die in

BeachNew research compiled by the personal-finance website GOBankingRates, the National Funeral Directors Association and the National Bureau of Economic Research configured a list of the 10 most expensive states to die in after figuring the median out-of-pocket funeral costs and median end-of-life medical care in each of them and Washington, D.C. It is not surprising that the two of the most expensive states to live in - California and New York - also made this list.

The top 10 states that will cost more to die in are, from least to most:

  • Rhode Island
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,269
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $16,398
  • New Jersey
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,712
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,181
  • Connecticut
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,914
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,538
  • Maryland
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,069
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,812
  • Alaska
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,084
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,840
  • Massachusetts
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,216
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $18,073
  • Oregon
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,418
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $18,430
  • New York
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,799
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $19,103
  • California
    • Average funeral expenses: $11,777
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $20,834
  • Hawaii
    • Average funeral expenses: $14,975
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $26,492

See Shawn M. Carter, 10 Most Expensive US States to Die in, Fox News, August 20, 2019.

August 22, 2019 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Funerals are now Being Livestreamed

LivestreamThe a person's death can often happen so suddenly, family and friends from different places cannot manage to be at their loved one's funeral. Natalie Levy's mother died tragically from suicide earlier this year, and following Jewish tradition, they had the funeral as soon as possible. But that made it nearly impossible for many to join in on mourning for her mother.

Fortunately, the chapel featured a new amenity: livestreaming the service so others could watch, and they even uploaded a recording of the funeral onto the online obituary. Levy some extended family members her mother had reconnected with late in life were extremely grateful they could participate remotely, as were the half-dozen or so other friends and family members she recalls tuning in live. But it was not only a saving grace for those that could not attend; the recording could be watched by her and her sister to remember all the sweet stories the well-wishers told them about their mother.

Bryant Hightower, president-elect of the National Funeral Directors Association, says that livestreaming funeral services has been around for more than a decade but has just now become more mainstream. The funeral industry is often hesitant to any change, but Hightower says that now approximately 20% of funeral homes now offer the service, much to the delight of clients that are becoming more integrated in the technological lifestyles. Gary Richards, founder of OneRoom, a company that offers livestreaming services to funeral directors in several countries, says that many clients are recent immigrants from countries such as India, Philippines, and Vietnam who want to have long distance family members feel connected to the service.

See Paris Martineau, Now Even Funerals are Being Livestreamed - and Families are Grateful, Wired, July 30, 2019.

Special thanks to Jim Gust (Senior Editor, Merrill Anderson Company) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 18, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Jersey’s Medically Assisted Suicide Law Put on Hold

PillsDemocratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an act that allow physician assisted suicide back in April, but a judge has put the law on hold in response to a lawsuit filed by a doctor practicing in the state. Dr. Yosef Glassman’s lawsuit argues “that immediate and irreparable damage will probably result in view of the fact that if its enforcement," and says that the law is an affront to religious doctors. Dr. Glassman is an Orthodox Jew.

The law went into effect earlier this month, but Judge Paul Innes of Superior Court in Mercer County signed the temporary order Wednesday with a hearing set for October. The law requires two doctors to sign off on the request and for the terminally ill patient to be deemed an adult resident of New Jersey who has the mental capacity to make such a decision and voluntarily expresses a wish to die. They must request the medication twice, with one at least in writing and signed by two witnesses, and have a chance to rescind the request. One of the witnesses cannot be a relative nor a beneficiary of the patient's estate.

With the governor's signature, New Jersey joined Maine, Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia that all have similar legislation.

See Mike Catalini, New Jersey’s Medically Assisted Suicide Law Put on Hold, Lubbock Online, August 15, 2019.

August 15, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 12, 2019

The New Art of Dying

TombstoneThe funeral industry is booming with new innovations and is now worth more than $17 billion. Some of these innovations are expanding on traditional methods of burial, while other business are finding new creative ways to carry out their client's dying wishes.

Obituaries are more readily available online rather than print, and the inventive new funeral methods are just as modern. These involve:

  • Orbit in outer space
  • Transformation into a diamond
  • Green burial
  • Celebration of life instead of a somber funeral
  • Digital tombstones
  • Smart library
  • Pet burials that join human's and animal's remains
  • Memorial reefs
  • Living wake so you can attend your own funeral
  • Live-streamed funerals

These different practices show that as our society evolves, people want to extend their passions in life into their legacies.

See Jessie Li, The New Art of Dying, Axios, August 10, 2019.

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

August 12, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 29, 2019

What to Know When Choosing Cremation

UrnTraditions has shifted and funeral professionals say that the norm is now cremation instead of burials. By 2040, a study shows that cremation will be asked to be performed by client 79%. Over the same two decades, the practice of burials are expected to drop to a mere 16%.

One reason for the dramatic change is the price difference between the two services. A basic cremation on average runs around $2,400 without visiting hours, but can be as low as $800, which includes transportation of the body to the facility, back to the family, and any necessary paperwork. The median cost of a burial with a coffin and full funeral home services is about $7,400. Religious views have also changed with the amount of people over the age of 40 desiring a religious aspect to their funeral dropping to 35% in 2019, down from approximately half of people that were asked.

More and more funeral homes are now providing cremation services. There is no need to purchase a coffin or even an urn, instead the funeral home must inform you that alternative containers — such as those made of unfinished wood or even cardboard — are available. As family members or loved ones can take cremains home, there is no need for a funeral home ran memorial; instead, the family can arrange a more informal get together.

See Ann Carrns, What to Know When Choosing Cremation, New York Times, July 26, 2019.

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

July 29, 2019 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 22, 2019

Aid in Dying Soon Will be Available to More Americans. Few Will Choose It.

CompassionIn the next coming months a couple more states are joining the ranks that are allowing terminally ill patients to choose medical euthanasia, or physician assisted suicide. The procedure will become legal in New Jersey on August 1 and in Maine on September 15, becoming the 8th and 9th states, respectively. Meaning that by the end of September, 22% of Americans that have six months or less to live theoretically will have the option to choose their own way to go.

But often the process of getting approval for the procedure is complex and contains many stumbling blocks. Opt-out provisions, which allow doctors to decline to participate and health care systems to forbid their participation, are restricting access even in some places where physician assisted suicide is legal. The newest states had a rough time getting the laws passed, as well. New Jersey's legislature had passed a similar bill back in 2014, but Chris Christie, the governor at the time, had threatened a veto. The incoming governor was a Democrat who signed the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act this April after it passed during the winter. Maine was unsure if the new governor, Janet Mills, would sign after her predecessor also threatened a veto. But sign she did, stating that “I do believe it is a right that should be protected by law — the right to make ultimate decisions."

Records kept by California showed that the feared "slippery slope" that opponents said would occur indeed has failed to emerge. In 2017, just 632 people made the necessary two verbal requests to a physician, after which 241 doctors wrote prescriptions for 577 patients. So out of the 269,000 Californians that died that year, only 577 people did so through physical assisted suicide. Kim Callinan, chief executive of Compassion & Choices, says “a lot of the hypothetical claims our opponents made no longer carry so much weight with lawmakers."

Polls also consistently show widespread approval for aid-in-dying laws.

See Paula Spain, Aid in Dying Soon Will be Available to More Americans. Few Will Choose It., New York Times, July 8, 2019.

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

July 22, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Family Wants More Time for Dad Declared Brain Dead Before Organs are Donated

OrgandonationAnthony Vallejo, 30, of California suffered a major asthma attack on July 8 that caused his lungs to collapse. By the time the man was rushed to the hospital by paramedics and intubated, his brain had been deprived of oxygen for at least 10 minutes. 

Two doctors have declared the father of two young boys brain dead, and though she says that she respects her husband's decision to be an organ donor, Talia Vellejo posted on her Facebook fundraiser that the family wishes to have more time with him for his brain to possibly heal. His heart is still beating, but according to the according to the National Kidney Foundation, as long as the heart is receiving oxygen, such as from a ventilator, it will continue to beat. Regardless of heartbeat, once a registered organ donor is declared brain dead by two doctors there is a vital window in which to remove organs.

The family has been given a deadline of 7 p.m. on Wednesday, at which time Anthony will be prepped for organ donation.

See Alexandria Hein, Family Wants More Time for Dad Declared Brain Dead Before Organs are Donated, Fox News, July 16, 2019.

July 16, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Olympia Silversmith Makes Mourning Jewelry with Hair, Teeth, and Ashes

ToothringHailing from Olympia, Washington, silversmith Angela Kirkpatrick has decided to use her skills as a jewelry maker to dive into a niche market. She can use the hair, cremains, or even the teeth of a recently deceased loved one to make special mourning jewelry.

The tradition of mourning jewelry goes back all to the way to Victorian era when people used to wear lockets containing a small amount of a dead family member's hair. “It’s not uncommon to ask for a lock of hair, it used to be something done very regularly," Kirkpatrick said. She works with about 40 clients at a time, walking them through custom designs and since they can be such emotional pieces, sometimes acting like a grief counselor. Some peopled are skeptical of her career choice and believe that it is morbid, but for those that come to her to get specialized mourning jewelry, it is truly very special.

Kirkpatrick is a member of the Order of the Good Death. She also leads the monthly Death Cafe meeting in Olympia, which is an international event that encourages people to get together over tea and cake to talk about death.

See Rachel Belle, Olympia Silversmith Makes Mourning Jewelry with Hair, Teeth, and Ashes, KIRO 7, July 1, 2018; see also here to view the customized jewelry options.

Special thanks to Christine Wakeman (Winstead Attorneys) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 12, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 24, 2019

Daughters Stunned After Father’s Body, 3 Others Found Unrefrigerated at Indiana Funeral Home

CasketDuane Nance recently died of cancer at the age of 56 and his two daughters, Amber Stout and Ashly Nance, held a viewing for him on June 12 at Porter Funeral Home. Last Monday, they were told the death certificate would be delayed because their father was cremated.

However, this week the Amber and Ashley were stunned to receive a surprising phone call - their father's body was one of four found in the back of the funeral home decomposing after the business was served with a federal search warrant. It was also revealed 11 decedents had not been issued death certificates. The investigation into the funeral home had been initiated because the director, 62 year old Kevin Porter, was operating with an expired license.

The investigation is ongoing, but the daughter's say the healing process has already begun. Their father’s remains are being handled by Young-Nichols Funeral Home, free of charge.

See Daughters Stunned After Father’s Body, 3 Others Found Unrefrigerated at Indiana Funeral Home, KOLD.com, June 23, 2019.

June 24, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Could Trees Be the New Gravestones?

RedwoodSandy Gibson, the chief executive of Better Place Forests out of Silicon Valley, believes that the gravestone is the most obvious target for innovation in the funeral services industry. “We’re trying to redesign the entire end-of-life experience.” The premise: gone are traditional cemeteries, and coming in are forests that will never be developed. Instead of being buried, the person's cremated remains are mixed with fertilizers and used on a specific tree. 

People are enthralled by the environmental friendly idea, with thousands of trees already sold to still-living customers, according to Gibson, raising $12 million in venture capital. Other than the topic of dead bodies coming up often, the office is a normal San Francisco start-up, with around 45 people bustling around and frequenting the roof deck with a view of the water.

For an incredibly long-living and extremely desirable redwood tree, it could cost a customer upwards of $30,000. A more economical choice would be to buy into a community tree, starting at $970 plus cremation costs. Because it is a forest with looser rules that graveyards, pet cremains are allowed as well. And though it is a fairly low-tech operation of mixing cremains with water and dirt, no San Francisco start-up would be complete without some high-tech options. For an extra fee, customers can have a digital memorial video made. Visitors will be able to scan a placard and watch a 12-minute digital portrait of the deceased talking straight to camera about his or her life, and the customer can choose to either allow anyone to watch or just certain people.

See Nellie Bowles, Could Trees Be the New Gravestones?, New York Times, June 12, 2019.

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

June 18, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)