Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, January 20, 2020

Son's Legal Fight for Dead Dad's Frozen Head Against Cryogenics Firm

CryogenicsKurt Pilgeram says that the company Alcor Life Extension Firm was to preserve his late father's body cryogenically, but instead only froze the man's head, and sent Kurt the rest of his ashes. He sued the company for a million dollars, claiming the event caused him extreme mental distress. Now Alcor is countersuing the son, claiming fraud by way of hiding documents from the probate court.

Diane Cafferata, the attorney who represents the company, says that "After [Laurence] Pilgeram died in 2015, his son hid the codicil and all his father's testamentary documents from the probate court and falsely claimed his father died intestate," thus causing Kurt and his brother to inherit their father's $16 million fortune. Cafferata also claims that the son blocked the company from received an $80,000 life insurance policy that was to pay for the preservation. Within the alleged codicil is a provision that states if a beneficiary challenged his father's wish to be preserved, they were to receive merely a dollar.

Laurence Pilgeram was a scientist that worked for several decades in the field of cryogenics and entered into an agreement with Alcor back in 1990 at the age of 67 to be preserved upon his death. When he died in 2015 of cardiac arrest he was 90. The program requires the person's body to be brought to the company as soon as possible after death, but Alcor was not notified until three days after Pilgeram's passing. Because of this, they were forced to do a "neuro-isolation," where only the head is preserved and the rest of the body is cremated because the future may hold the ability to regrow a healthy body around a functioning brain, according to the company's website.

Pilgeram is the company's 125th person to be preserved.

See James Gordon, Son's Legal Fight for Dead Dad's Frozen Head Against Cryogenics Firm, Daily Mail, January 18, 2020.

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


January 20, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Science, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 17, 2020

'Death with Dignity' Bill Proposed in Indiana

IndianaIndiana Democratic Representative Matt Pierce out of Bloomington has presented a bill that would terminally ill patients with 6 months or less to live the option to die on their own terms. But this is not the first year that he has done it. He has proposed the bill every year since 2016 - the year a popular blogger from Indiana passed away after a 2 year battle with ovarian cancer.

Pierce says that the bill is modeled after the current bill in Oregon. The patient must request the medication twice, in writing, with a 15-day waiting period between the requests, plus be subject to psychological evaluations to determine that they are mentally competent.

"Why can't I have some control over my own dignity and my own body? Why can't an individual have that option if they want to exercise it," Pierce said. He also commented that some Republican colleagues are afraid to talk about the topic because it is controversial and may not sit well with social conservatives that believe that any type of assisted suicide is morally wrong.

See Jennie Runevitch, 'Death with Dignity' Bill Proposed in Indiana, WTHR.com, January 16, 2020.

January 17, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Article on Life Insurance Advice under New CFP®s Practice Standards

LifeinsuranceBarry Flagg, Ray Ferrara, & Paul Auslander recently published an Article entitled, Life Insurance Advice under New CFP®s Practice Standards, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2019). Provided below is the abstract to the Article.

CFP® Professionals are responsible for complying with the new Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct as of October 1, 2019, with enforcement beginning June 30, 2020. These new Standards re define the meaning of “clients" best interests” for life insurance product recommendations to be consistent with other fiduciary rules, requiring CFP® professionals to “act with care, skill, prudence, and diligence” based on evaluation of “costs that the Client may incur” (among other things). Previously, due diligence for life insurance product recommendations was governed by the National Association of Insurance Commissions (NAIC) Life Insurance Illustrations Model Regulation #582, which doesn’t require disclosure of any costs, and as such is now considered “misleading”, “fundamentally inappropriate” and unreliable by financial, insurance and banking industry authorities. This commentary will, therefore, contrast decision support for life insurance product recommendations under CFP® Standards versus NAIC Regulations, and provide practical guidance for life insurance advice under new CFP®s Practice Standards.

December 5, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Article on A History of the Law of Assisted Dying in the United States

DeathwdignityAlan Meisel has written an Article that will soon be published, A History of the Law of Assisted Dying in the United States, Elder Law eJournal (2019). Provided below is the abstract to the Article.

The slow growth in the number of states that have enacted legislation to permit what is often referred to as “death with dignity” legislation—and more frequently referred to popularly as “physician assisted suicide” laws—has begun to accelerate in the past few years since the enactment of the first such statute in Oregon in 1994.

Like much other social reform legislation, there is a long history behind it. In this case, the history in the United States dates back at least to the latter part of the nineteenth century. Not until the 1980s, however, did these efforts gain any traction in courts and legislatures. What is probably more responsible than anything else for reviving interest in and providing momentum for legalization is the recognition by state courts, beginning with the Karen Ann Quinlan case in New Jersey in 1975, that the right to be free from unwanted interference with one’s bodily integrity encompasses a right to refuse even life-sustaining medical treatment. The recognition of this so-called right to die was only a short conceptual step—though a long political one—from recognizing that competent adults also should have the right to actively end their lives under certain conditions.

As of the end of 2019, the efforts of a small number of advocacy groups through lobbying, litigation, and public education have resulted in the enactment of death with dignity legislation in nine states and recognition of the right by one state supreme court. Despite dire warnings from opponents of legalization, it has not resulted in either wholesale abuse of the dying or the legalization of active euthanasia (either voluntary or involuntary).

December 3, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kansas Considers ‘Greener’ New Way to Bury its Dead

TreeA Swedish company called Promessa is focusing on Kansas to present a new form of disposing of human remains to the United States because of the state's relatively lax cremation laws, especially since the state does not require a fire in the cremation process. The procedure, promession, consists of freezing the body with liquid nitrogen and then "vibrating it into particles." Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, the biologist who founded the company, said in an interview that promession is cost-effective and eco-friendly.

Kansas' attorney general, Derek Schmidt, released an opinion shortly before Thanksgiving that the decision to allow the procedure within the state should be made by the Kansas Board of Mortuary Arts. Last May, Washington became the first state to allow the composting of human bodies in which the body is broken down into soil that the family or loved ones are allowed to keep or spread where ever they choose.

See Edmund DeMarche, Kansas Considers ‘Greener’ New Way to Bury its Dead, Fox News, December 2, 2019.

December 3, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Analysis: New Jersey's New Aid-in-Dying Law - Implications for Physicians, Estate Planners, & Malpractice Attorneys

LawNew Jersey's Medical Aid-in-Dying for the Terminally Ill (MAID) Act passed earlier this year, and now has been held up by the state's highest court. Besides the patients themselves, many others across industries are affected by this new law, most importantly physicians, estate planners, and malpractice attorneys due to the possible ethical and legal implications.

Physicians may be tested on their belief that the new law violates their Hippocratic oath, and some may even face an ethical or religious dilemma if their beliefs run counter to the concept of suicide. How can a physician be sure that the patient's informed consent is not tainted my momentary depression or mental illness? Should a psychiatric assessment be performed every single time? And when it comes to practical issues, can there be legal pitfalls for the doctor?

For an estate planner, the issues are also just as nuances. Certain documents may need to be redrafted if they were done so before physician assisted suicide was an option. And a morbid truth may be that future heirs and even future decedents may try to use assisted suicide to time death for financial gains or planning certainty. Practitioners may be able to advise clients as to the preferred state to claim residency in for tax purposes, and which state’s assisted suicide law are the most beneficial. 

See Alex Raybould, Analysis: New Jersey's New Aid-in-Dying Law - Implications for Physicians, Estate Planners, & Malpractice Attorneys, Lewis Bris Bois, November 6, 2019.

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

November 18, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Paralympic Gold Medalist Dies by Euthanasia After Battling Degenerative Spinal Pain

EuthanasiaMarieke Vervoort of Belgium won gold and silver medals in wheelchair racing at the 2012 London Paralympics and silver at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. She suffered from incurable and degenerative spinal pain, and said that the training, riding, and competition kept her alive and fighting for so long, but that signing paperwork for euthanasia gave her control over her own life.

Vervoort was a strong advocate for the right to choose euthanasia and spent her final evening with close friends and family. “If I didn't have those papers, I think I'd have done suicide already. I think there will be fewer suicides when every country has the law of euthanasia. ... I hope everybody sees that this is not murder, but it makes people live longer.”

Condolences have poured in for Paralympic athlete, including from the Belgium royal family.

See Ryan Gaydos, Paralympic Gold Medalist Dies by Euthanasia After Battling Degenerative Spinal Pain, Fox News, October 23, 2019.

October 23, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh

LaughingA father from Dublin, Ireland had his family play a pre-recorded message at his funeral to lighten the mood and make a number of the attendees laugh. Shay Bradley, a Defense Forces veteran, can be heard knocking and calling out - presumably from the coffin - before jokingly calling for the priest, saying he’s stuck in the box.

His daughter, Andrea Bradley, shared the message on social media where it has gone viral, writing that this was her dad’s dying wish. The short clip has now gone viral and the family has received many heart-felt messages.

“Myself and my Family are overwhelmed with the Amazing response and comments we have received regarding my dad's funeral, he truly is a legend and was the most amazing man!!! He would be overjoyed to know how many smiles and laughs he has given to every one. Thank you all,” Andrea wrote.

See Alexandra Deabler, Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh, Fox News, October 14, 2019.

October 17, 2019 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Life Packed With Experiences Leads Texas Author to Pen Adroit Supernatural Thriller

BrushwdeathStart with one artist experimenting with her craft, add one dead serial killer and a pinch of the supernatural and you've cooked up one tense thriller. In A Brush With Death, the first of a series, Jody Summers masterfully blends the supernatural and the romantic to achieve a highly satisfying read.

New Orleans painter Kira McGovern hits on something when she mixes her mother's ashes into her oil paints and enters an altered state. She begins channeling some key moments in her mother's life, creating a stunning work of art as a memorial and drawing in customers who want a painting done using the same method. Pleased with her success, she launches Canvas of Life and commissions start rolling in. And when it couldn't get any better, she meets Sean; a handsome mid-western rancher, who harbors a gruesome secret of which he is unaware.

But with each brushstroke on her latest commission, Kira's reality is becoming more and more bizarre. She awakens from dreams that are soaked in blood and filled with gruesome images of murders. And the feeling of a lurking malevolence grows ever stronger.

Unconventional is the word to describe the life author Jody Summers led before turning to writing. The adopted son of a prominent Texas restaurateur, Summers grew up in New Orleans, Memphis and Houston, learning the restaurant business while he built a career as a competitive gymnast that propelled him to a scholarship at the University of Kansas. After college, Summers followed in his father's footsteps, owning, at one point, three 24-hour restaurant franchises along with four tanning salons in Tulsa. He has used his entrepreneurial skills for everything from a patent in the pet industry to a single's website. A restaurateur, a gymnast, a stunt man, an entrepreneur, a pilot, skydiver, scuba diver and an accomplished martial artist for 25 years, Summers has tried it all. Now he brings all those experiences to paper in his supernatural thriller series, Art of the Dead.

For more information, please visit jodysummersbooks.com.

October 5, 2019 in Books, Books - Fiction, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Family of Brain-Dead Patient in Arizona says He's Still Alive and Doesn't Want His Organs Procured

Donor26-year-old Ruben Vati suffered a drug overdose on September 11, 2019 and was rushed to Phoenix HonorHealth Hospital. Four days later he was declared brain dead, but his family claims that he is just in a vegetative state and with time, he can "come out" of it.

According to court documents, Vati no longer has any brain function and is being kept "alive" through machines for the purpose of procuring his organs. Vati registered twice with the Donor Network of Arizona, a procurement agency, who states that five patients are currently waiting for life-saving organs from Vati. The agency claims that time is of the essence, and the life-span of the organs are dwindling. A judge has issued a court order that a neurologist access Vati to determine that he is in fact brain dead, and the hospital is simply waiting for the neurologist to arrive.

The family says they will continue to fight, and that "we don't want them to take his organs no matter what," according to his mother, Stela Vati. "They said from the neck up he's dead, but he don't look dead to me." His older brother, Daniel, added that "He's in there, and he's alive."

See Family of Brain-Dead Patient in Arizona says He's Still Alive and Doesn't Want His Organs Procured, KGun.com, September 26, 2o19.

September 28, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)