Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, May 13, 2021

"Cost of dying" in America nears $20K

DeathcertificateThe cost of dying in the United States is approaching $20,000. The growth has many implications since death—and taxes—is one of the only things in life that is certain. 

Using 2020 figures from the National Directors Association and the CDC, "the group looked at the average 'cost of dying' across the U.S. based on the price of end-of-life care, funerals and cremations." 

The cost of dying is around $19,566, with Hawaii being the priciest state with end-of-life medical costs averaging $23,073, the average funeral cost at $14,478, and the average cost of cremation cost being around $12,095. The total: $36,124. Mississippi is the cheapest place today with the average cost of dying being $15,516. 

The CDC figures show that the cost of funerals and end-of-life care "jumped $63.8 billion in 2020, up 14.3% from a total of %55.8 billion in 2019." 

See Caitlin Owens, "Cost of dying" in America nears $20K, Axios: Vitals, May 12, 2021. 

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

May 13, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 26, 2021

3D-Printed Head Shaped Urns Coming To Mantle Near You. UM CREEPY!

3dA Vermont company named Cremation Solutions has created a creative new way to memorialize your loved one. Cremation Solutions has begun creating 3D-printed head shaped urns that imitate the likeness of your loved ones. 

The Urns are created by photos and allow a very unique personalization characteristic that his heads above your classic urn. 

The full-sized urn is around 28cm high—big enough to hold the ashes of an adult. There is also a smaller option that is 15cm, referred to as the "keepsake" option, meant to hold just a portion of the ashes. 

The 3D-printed Urns do not come with hair, but hair can be added digitally or in the form of a wig. 

The smaller urn option is priced at $600 and the larger option is priced at $2600. 

It gets even better. You do not have to use the likeness of your loved ones for the urns. You can actually have one made using the likeness of your favorite hero, even President Barack Obama. 

See Deborah Corn, 3D-Printed Head Shaped Urns Coming To Mantle Near You. UM CREEPY!, Prime Media Center, (last visited April 26, 2021). 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 26, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 23, 2021

FEMA COVID-19 funeral expense assistance

FEMA is providing (at least some) reimbursement for funeral expenses for funerals after January 20, 2020 for persons who died, indirectly or directly, as a result of COVID-19, i.e. death certificate shows COVID-19 as a cause of death.  For more information, https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.

April 23, 2021 in Current Events, Death Event Planning | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 12, 2021

Land Rover 'gun bus' to carry Prince Philip's casket to funeral

GunbusPrince Philip, who passed away on April 9 at the age of 99, apparently had less than traditional plans for the transportation of his casket.

According to Buckingham Palace, Prince Philip's casket will be carried through the grounds of Windsor Castle to his funeral in a custom Land Rover Defender 130. 

The Land Rover was built by Foley Specialist Vehicles for the Duke of Edinburgh in 2016 and is referred to as the Land Rover 'gun bus.' The Duke of Edinburgh helped design the vehicle that belonged to Prince Philip. 

The rover was built to "carry hunting parties around the grounds of one of the royal family's Sandringham House Estate." 

The Land Rover has been "further modified" for funeral use, which Prince Philip assisted with himself. 

Although caskets bearing members of the royal family have traditionally been transported by horse-drawn gun carriages, Prince Philip seemly wished to take a different route, which makes since as he and Queen Elizabeth were often seen taking their strolls in Land Rovers. 

See Gary Gastelu, Land Rover 'gun bus' to carry Prince Philip's casket to funeral, Fox News, April 12, 2021. 

April 12, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 29, 2021

Ancient Egyptian manual reveals new details about mummification

MummyEgyptologist Sofie Schiødt of the University of Copenhagan was able to reconstruct the embalming process used to prepare ancient Egyptians using a manual discovered in a 3,500-year-old papyrus. The manual used by Schiødt is the oldest surviving manual on mummification that has been discovered. 

Embalming was considered a sacred art in ancient Egypt and only few people knew the process. It is likely that embalming secrets were shared orally, which Egyptologists believe may be the reason why written evidence is miniscule. 

Sofie Schiødt shared an edited version of the manual, below is a construction of the embalming process: 

The embalming, which was performed in a purpose-built workshop erected near the grave, took place over 70 days that were divided into two main periods – a 35-day drying period and a 35-day wrapping period.

During the drying period, the body was treated with dry natron both inside and outside. The natron treatment began on the fourth day of embalming after the purification of the body, the removal of the organs and the brain, and the collapsing of the eyes.

The second 35-day period was dedicated to the encasing of the deceased in bandages and aromatic substances. The embalming of the face described in the Papyrus Louvre-Carlsberg belonged to this period.

The entire 70-day embalming process was divided into intervals of 4 days, with the mummy being finished on day 68 and then placed in the coffin, after which the final days were spent on ritual activities allowing the deceased to live on in the afterlife.

See Ancient Egyptian manual reveals new details about mummification, University of Copenhagan: Faculty of Humanities, February 26, 2021. 

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

March 29, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Can you catch COVID from a corpse? It’s possible, but experts say not to worry

COVIDExperts have had their hands full in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its contagious, and deadly nature. 

Of course, it did not take experts long to learn that the virus could be easily spread among living people. However, one question that remains is how long the virus can live in the body after a person has died. Experts have said it could live in the body for several days. 

According to Dr. Prakash Shrestha, an infections disease physician with Covenant Health said, “[i]f somebody were to go and touch, hug or kiss a dead corpse [of someone who died of the coronavirus], then yes, there is a chance that they might catch the virus from contact.”

However, Dr. Shrestha said there is no need to worry because the chance of this kind of infection happening is low. 

It is actually the "last responders" that are the most at risk for this type of infection. Examples of these last responders are forensic pathologists and funeral directors. 

Mike Box, an Associate Funeral Attendant for Krestridge Funeral Home in Levelland, TX, stated, “Those droplets [from those who’ve died of COVID-19] can still come out of their mouth and nose and form a vapor that you can be exposed to.”

Due to the danger of contracting the virus from corpses, funeral workers have had to take extra precautions when handling the dead bodies of those that have died from the virus. The danger is much more prevalent in open-casket funerals for virus patients, especially because family members may not know the potential risk. 

Dr. Shrestha said that the greatest risk at a funeral is actually the potential for the virus to spread among the living. So, there is not much to worry about in regard to contracting the virus from a corpse, but people coming in contact with the living—and the dead—should be extra cautious. 

See Can you catch COVID from a corpse? It’s possible, but experts say not to worry, Everything Lubbock, March 25, 2021.

March 28, 2021 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 22, 2021

She lost her husband to cancer. Now, her obituary for her 'dead sexy' spouse has gone viral

SauserIn February, Crystal Sauser's husband of 13 years died of cancer. The couple had three children together. 

Crystal most likely never thought she would be looking for information about drafting an obituary so early in her and her husband's lives. Unfortunately, this is something Crystal found herself doing shortly after her hsuband's death. 

Through her research, Crystal found herself writing her Husband, Eric A. Sauser's obituary herself. In the obituary, Crystal refers to her husband as "just a rocking' dude from Omaha, NE." That obituary has since gone viral for its "illuminating humor." 

In the obituary, Eric Sauser's cause of death is categorized as "either leukemia or more likely being 'dead sexy.'" 

Crystal said that writing the obituary came to her naturally stating, "It's so easy to write something like this when you love them so much." 

See Maria Morava and Douglas S. Wood, She lost her husband to cancer. Now, her obituary for her 'dead sexy' spouse has gone viral, CNN, March 21, 2021. 

Special thanks to Margaret Beyer for bringing this article to my attention.

March 22, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 21, 2021

San Antonio lawsuit blames funeral home for dad's burial as a pauper

Funeral homeA family in San Antonio has sued a funeral home, claiming the facility "Failed to pick up their father's body from a hospital for cremation, so it was deemed abandoned and Bexar County buried him in a pauper's grave." 

The plaintiffs in the case are the daughters of Arthur Martinez, who died from complications of Covid-19 at the age of 83. In a statement released by the daughter's attorney the family stated,
“We are grief stricken about the events surrounding our father’s cremation, and how the arrangements we made were not honored.”

The lawsuit was filed against Heart of Texas Cremations San Antonio, claiming that the funeral home “intentionally, recklessly and/or negligently failed to comply with its contractual obligation and promise to secure and maintain care, custody and control of the remains of Arthur Martinez at all times." 

The family still does not know where Arthur Martinez's body and are attempting to confirm the location so they can secure the remains. 

See Elizabeth Zavala, San Antonio lawsuit blames funeral home for dad's burial as a pauper, San Antonio Express-News, March 11, 2021. 

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  

March 21, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Celebrity Deaths in 2020: And the Six Estate-Planning Lessons We Can Learn

Estate planningEstate planners are often shocked to hear that wealthy celebrities have passed intestate, without a will or trust. This is especially true, since wealthy celebrities have the financial resources available to keep estate planning documents up to date. 

Below are few of the wealthy celebrities that died in 2020 with a discussion on what we can learn from their mistakes or successes in estate planning. 

Tony Hsieh (1973-2020): $850 million 

Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos passed away after a fire broke out in one of his homes. Hsieh's critical mistakes in estate planning have become a popular topic of conversation. Hsieh died without a will, but left thousands of sticky notes representing potential business deals and financial commitments pasted all over his mansion in Utah. Hsieh owned multiple properties in different states and it is unclear exactly what type of property they are in regard to estate distribution. 

Kobe Bryant (1978-2020): $600 million 

Kobe was known for his elite basketball skills, but he was also known as a "savvy businessman, brand-builder, and investor." Kobe did have an estate plan in place at his death, which protected his assets, reduced tax-liability, and passed his wealth to his family members. However, Kobe did not get around to updating his estate plan after the birth of his daughter who was six months old at the time of his death. 

Due to this oversight, the trustees of the Kobe Bryant Trust had to petition the court to fix the oversight, which made the trust and its terms public record, destroying the secrecy of the estate plan. 

Kobe's mother-in-law also became enraged when she found out she was not taken care of under the will alleging that Kobe had promised to do so, and for the rest of her life. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) $5–7 million 

Not much is known about RBG's estate, but probably for good reason. Typically, when an estate plan is done correctly, the details are not spread all over the media. Thus, it is assumed that the Supreme Court Justice and pioneer for equality had her affairs in order prior to her death. 

The lessons to be learned are:

  1. Make an estate plan 
  2. Update your estate plan 
  3. Minimize family disputes and honor your promises 
  4. Avoid unnecessary administrative expenses
  5. Honor charitable giving, and 
  6. No news is good news. 

See Courtney L. Kelley, Celebrity Deaths in 2020: And the Six Estate-Planning Lessons We Can Learn, Fairfield and Woods P.C.: Insights, March 1, 2021. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 16, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ashes in the mail: Dealing with the loss of a loved one has changed in the covid era

Cremation
Jason Oszczakiewicz, a Pennsylvania funeral home director known as "Oz," has become accustomed to delivering the ashes of recently deceased person as it has begun to occur about 9 or 10 times a month. 

Oz stated, “I seem to be mailing a lot to Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, New York.”

The pandemic has changed not only changed how things are done during in, but also in death. 

Memorial services have been postponed, eulogies delivered over zoom, and many people are moving towards cremation in order to skip the process of burying bodies. Since out-of-state relatives have been unable to travel and pick up remains, the U.S. Postal Service has become the middle man in delivering ashes to doorsteps. 

In order to safeguard the remains, you must send them Priority Express Mail, and they require a signature. 

This process has become so popular that the USPS is having a hard time keeping up with their bright orange sticker that reads "CREMATED REMAINS." 

See Mary Jordan, Ashes in the mail: Dealing with the loss of a loved one has changed in the covid era, The Washington Post, March 3, 2021. 

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

March 16, 2021 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)