Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Article: Decisions at the End of Life

David Orentlicher and Judit Sandor recently published an article entitled, Decisions at the End of Life, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

Advances in medical technology have increased the ethical and legal dilemmas at the end of life. It is difficult to know the “good death “or what constitutes a dignified ending of life. Nor is the proper role of the law in regulating end-of-life medical care clear. To what extent should these matters be worked out between physicians and patients (or families), and to what extent should legal rules guide practice? And who should determine the rules—legislators issuing laws of broad application, or judges developing nuanced standards on a case-by-case basis?

In this chapter we explore the similarities and the major differences between U.S. and European legal thinking and jurisprudence. Of course, on a number of issues, there is no single U.S. or European approach. Accordingly, while we will give special attention to the jurisprudence of the U.S. Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights, we also will consider the significant variations among different U.S. states and different European countries.

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

Sunday, August 1, 2021

New, environmentally friendly option for final resting place in Flagstaff

DeathcertificateArizona now has its first Conservation Memorial Forest, a place where people's ashes can be spread in nature. The "Better Place Forests," located in Flagstaff said "that their mission is to give people a meaningful legacy with they end-of-life arrangements all while conserving natural areas for future generations." 

Sandy Gibson, the CEO of Better Place Forests said, "Better Place Forests is a sustainable alternative to traditional cemeteries, where instead of a grave and a tombstone, and buying a body, a family is choosing a tree and that tree is private to that family and that is where they spread the ashes of their loved ones. And buying that tree, they're helping to create a permanently protected conservative area." 

See New, environmentally friendly option for final resting place in Flagstaff, KVOA News: Tucson, June 16, 2021. 


August 1, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Oklahoma Supreme Court Weighs In On Who Controls the Disposition Of a Decedent’s Remains

Estate planningIn In the Matter of The Estate of Downing, "the Oklahoma Supreme Court considered a dispute over the control of the disposition of a decedent's remains, and what constitutes sufficient evidence of a written document instructing the method and manner of handling the remains under Oklahoma law." 

The Decedent, Vandell Downing, and Maxine Bailey lived together for 36 years and had six children together. The couple lived together until Decedent's death in 2018. At some point in the relationship, Decedent gave Bailey a ring to symbolize their marital status.

After Decedent's death, Bailey filed a petition seeking appointment as administrator of the estate, claiming she was Decedent's common-law wife. Three of the Decedent's children "filed an application requesting an ex party emergency temporary restraining order against Bailey and Pollard Funeral Home to prevent disposal of the body." 

The Children refuted the fact that Bailey was Decedent's common-law wife and claimed that they were entitled to statutory control over Decedent's body.

The trial court found that "[Downing] and the Decedent were parties to a common law marriage, and that by the authority just mentioned, the Petitioner is the Decedent's surviving widow." The court further ruled that "Decedent executed a written document which indicated his desire [to be buried], the contract bu whereby he purchased his burial plot." The court then granted a final restraining order and instructed Bailey to carry out the burial of Decedent's remains. 

In Oklahoma, a decedent preference concerning the handling of their remains must be in writing. 

The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that there was no evidence in the record of any executed written document assigning responsibility for or "directing the manner/method of disposing of Decedent's remains. . ." and the Oklahoma trial court erred by directing burial over the surviving widow's objection. 

See Oklahoma Supreme Court Weighs In On Who Controls the Disposition Of a Decedent’s Remains, Probate Stars, July 6, 2021. 

July 7, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 31, 2021

Utah’s Headstone Fudge Recipe Shared Around The World

During Memorial Day Weekend, it is normal for cemeteries to see heavy traffic. However, there is one gravestone in particular that brings a unique amount of traffic. 

The headstone is located in Salt Lake City, Utah and contains a now world famous fudge recipe. The headstone is that of Kathryn Andrews, who according to her daughter Janice Johnson, loved people and enjoyed writing poetry and making fudge. 

Johnson said she was really surprised by all of the attention the gravestone receives. According to Johnson, “We’ve looked online, and I guess it’s gone even to Europe.”

When Kathryn Andrews was young she moved to New York City where she met Air Force Captain Wade Andrews. When the couple met, Captain Andrews was waiting to fly out to go to World War II. The couple had one date and Captain Andrews left for Germany the next day. 

He When Captain Andrews returned, he had with him a diamond ring, which he gave to Kathryn at the Capitol steps. They were married 18 days later. 

See Utah’s Headstone Fudge Recipe Shared Around The World CNN, May, 28, 2021


May 31, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)