Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Grave Error: A Man Attempting to Fake His Own Death Was Caught Because of a Typo

DeathcertificateAs it turns out, faking your own death isn't an easy feat. For this reason, and many others, faking your own death is never recommended, but if you are gonna do it, you should do it right. This means you should be thorough and proofread your fraudulent death certificate. 

Robert Berger, a 25-year-old from Long Island learned this lesson the hard way. Berger tried to convince authorities that he was dead by forging death documents. "According to CNN, Berger was charged with fourth-degree possession of stolen property in December 2018 as well as third-degree attempted grand larceny in June 2019. Entering a guilty plea for both, he was expected to be sentenced on October 22, 2019." 

Berger decided that he would fake his death, instead of showing up to court. Berger's attorney, Meir Moza, told them that Berger had died. Moza then gave the court Berger's alleged death certificate, which listed Berger's cause of death suicide by means of suffocation. 

Due to several misspellings of the word registry (the document spelled it as regsitry) and different font types throughout the document, officials were suspicious. 

After doing some research, Prosecutors found that the document was forged. Berger's attorney, Moza, claimed that he had nothing to do with the forgery and was not charged. Berger now faces 4 years in prison for offering a false instrument. 

Hopefully Berger has learned that, one way or another, if you do the crime you have to do the time—fake dead or alive. 

See Jake Rossen, Grave Error: A Man Attempting to Fake His Own Death Was Caught Because of a Typo, July 23, 2020. 

Special thanks to Deborah Matthews (Virginia Estate Planning Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 24, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Real estate listing claims former owner is buried in house's backyard

Estate planningHeads up: You should check a house's history BEFORE you buy it. 

As you probably know, every house is unique, as is its character and history; and some houses have more character and history than others. This is especially true for a home in England in which the previous owner is buried where the garden used to be.

Relatives of the previous owner put the house up for sale last September and according to the description, the owner had lived in the house their entire life. The owner's last wish was to be "laid to rest in the garden." 

The home's listing stated, "Please be aware this property is being sold by family members as part of a relatives estate. It was the deceased's wishes to be buried in the garden as he was born and died in the house. This wish has been carried out and the property will be sold as is." The listing included that the house was being sold "with no onward chain" which means that the owner isn't wait on money from the sale of the house to move out. 

Although, the burial situation is an odd feat of the home, it also includes solar panels, a wood-burning stove and three-bedrooms. 

See Michael Hollan, Real estate listing claims former owner is buried in house's backyard, Fox News, January 19, 2021.

January 20, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas man wrote his own obituary, offering poignant life lessons

Estate planningLonnie Dillard died one month after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Dillard died in Austin, Texas at the age of 75. Instead of having a boilerplate obituary, Dillard decided to write his own and did so in an eloquent fashion!

Dillard did not write about himself in his obituary, but instead he penned an inspirational obituary that implored readers to take a look at their own lives. 

Dillard wrote, "I hope to make your time worthwhile. Instead of cataloging careers and adventures I have had, honors I received, missteps I made or some I loved (I was blessed to have more than my share of each of these) or bemoaning how much my sparkling wit or wisdom will be missed, I though it better to share a few of the big lessons I learned during my 75 eventful years on Planet Earth." 

Dillard had three main focus points in his obituary, specifically centered around things that come for free, like love. Those points are below: 

  1. "A mother’s unwavering love can turn a very ordinary little boy into an extra-ordinary man, if only in his own mind,"
  2. "Making and keeping friends, like tending a garden, requires attention and effort. Yet doing so yields greater returns than anything else you will ever do."
  3. "As Buddhists say: Be kind; everyone you meet is traveling a difficult journey. There is no substitute for a good deed; but simply helping a stranger laugh or smile can lighten a load, too."

The rest of the obituary follows this same sort of inspiring modality and is no doubt an eloquent farewell from Dillard who seems to have been a wise and thoughtful man. 

See Zachary Kussin, Texas man wrote his own obituary, offering poignant life lessons, Fox News, January 18, 2021. 

January 20, 2021 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Millennials, It’s Time to Talk Estate Planning With Your Parents

Estate planningMillennials continue to get older and can no longer be looked at as children anymore. Some millennials are even moving into their forties. This means that Boomers are also continuing to get older, which means, Millennials may need to begin speaking to their parents, whom are Boomers, about estate planning. 

Boomers are at the age when it becomes necessary to have the difficult conversations with them, and the estate planning conversation is one of the most important. This discussion goes further than just conversations about wills and inheritance. It is important to discuss power of attorney, living wills, and even death event planning.

You should discuss wills, trusts, inheritance and any documents needed in regard to those matters. Documents for power of attorney or health care proxy will likely need to be discussed. Also, a living will is very important in the case of your parents being unable to do tasks like pay the bills and other things. 

These conversations are not easy and are often uncomfortable and difficult to bring up. One way to help this is to approach estate planning as a way to alleviate anxiety and stress and present the idea to your parents as such. 

See Erin Lowry, Millennials, It’s Time to Talk Estate Planning With Your Parents, Bloomberg, December 30, 2020. 

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

January 7, 2021 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 28, 2020

What Is Death? How the pandemic is changing our understanding of mortality.

Estate planningIn the wake of the pandemic, we have been faced with understanding mortality. Of course, we have always been aware that death is natural, but many of us do not internalize that fact. This year, it has been more important to understand and accept our own death, which is tough to conceive. 

The daily death toll and hospitalization has continued to increase with the second wave of coronavirus. This week, the death toll passed 300,000 in the United States.

As a concept, death is very complex. Which brings us to the question: What is Death?

BJ Miller spent some time reflecting on the question and wrote an article on his thoughts. According to BJ, despite how long he pondered the question, he still cannot say what it is.

Miller stated, "If we strip away the poetry and appliqué our culture uses to try to make sense of death — all the sanctity and style we impose on the wild, holy trip of a life that begins, rises and falls apart — we are left with a husk of a body. No pulse, no brain waves, no inspiration, no explanation. Death is defined by what it lacks." 

See BJ Miller, What Is Death? How the pandemic is changing our understanding of mortality., NY Times, December 18, 2020. 

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

December 28, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 25, 2020

Modern death: new ways of paying tribute

Estate planningThere are many ways to pay tribute to those who pass, and the traditions vary throughout cultures. From ordinary funerals to pyramids and mausoleums, memorials have varied for centuries. One thing that has remained the same: when people are important to you, the monuments will be elaborate and meaningful. 

As the pandemic continues to plague the world, memorials have been a bit different. The wealthy have not been able to memorialize their loved ones in the same elaborate ways. Thus, wealthy memorials—and others—have changed drastically. "The emphasis is also shifting from the physical construction to the experience, at least for the mourners left behind. Memorials are still elaborate but in a very different way."

According to Kevin Toolis, the wealthy have always spent more on death events. However, with environmental concerns and religious traditions, memorials have continued to evolve. 

Toolis stated, "In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has made people, particularly in the west, even more afraid of death, exacerbated by the fear of dying alone, and with bodies regarded as biologically contaminated." 

Either way, memorialization has remained a tradition and a ritual for the living. 

See Helen Barrett, Modern death: new ways of paying tribute, Financial Times, November 23, 2020. 

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

December 25, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Florida woman stored dead man's body in trash can to collect Social Security: sheriff

Estate planningA 49-year-old Florida woman, known as Michelle Haney has been charged with storing a dead man's body in a trash can in order to collect his Social Security benefits. 

Sheriff Rick Wells stated, "It's a sad day when you treat someone like a piece of trash when he deserved a proper burial and deserved to have his family with him to mourn." 

Haney said that she found Leonard dead in her home in July, but she never contacted the authorities. An arrest affidavit says that Haney retrieved the body from a closet and stuffed it in a trash can weeks after the death. Haney then transported the body to a neighbor's when she moved out. 

The neighbor alerted authorities when he found Leonard's body while emptying his trash. The affidavit also alleges that Haney admitted to cashing in Leonard's $1,200 monthly Social Security benefits following his death. 

See Robert Gearty, Florida woman stored dead man's body in trash can to collect Social Security: sheriff, Fox News, December 12, 2020. 

 

December 15, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 14, 2020

Eddie Van Halen was cremated, ashes went to son Wolf, who will scatter them in the Pacific Ocean: report

WolfgangvanhalenEddie Van Halen was reportedly cremated and his ashes have been passed on to his son, Wolf. Eddie Van Halen died in October after a trying battle with Cancer. His son Wolf, who is 29, broke the news to the world on Twitter. 

Wolf stated, "He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I've shared with him on stage and off stage was a gift," Wolf continued. "My heart is broken and I don't think I'll ever fully recover from this loss."

Eddie Van Halen was cremated 22 days after his death. Wolf has been very open about the difficulties he has had in dealing with his father's death. He told Howard Stern in an interview that when his father was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, the doctors told him he had six weeks, however, they ended top up having another three years with each other. 

Wolfgang has stated that he will scatter his father's ashes in the Pacific Ocean. On social media he stated, "1 month. Not a second goes by where you’re not on my mind," he wrote. "I miss talking with you. I miss laughing with you. I miss listening to music with you. I miss making music with you. I just miss everything." And concluded with, "I love you so much, Pop. It’s really hard being here without you."

See Tyler McCarthy, Eddie Van Halen was cremated, ashes went to son Wolf, who will scatter them in the Pacific Ocean: report, Fox News, December 12, 2020. 

December 14, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Travel, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

How Covid-19 Will Change Aging and Retirement

Estate planningThe most recent Fall wave of COVID-19 continues to destroy lives and communities throughout the United States. The pandemic has also affected retirement and old age and how Americans deal with and plan for these things. 

Physician and entrepreneur Bill Thomas stated, "isolation of older people has long been a problem, but Covid is focusing attention on the issue and adding urgency" to address it. With rising government deficits and falling bond yields, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding retirement and how to fund it. Thus, many people are continuing to work for as long as possible. 

However, innovations are on the rise. Laura Carstensen, director of Stanford University's Center on Longevity stated that people will begin to "rethink retirement altogether." In the wake of Covid, there has been more emphasis on mortality, causing us to consider how we want to live in die. 

It is likely that more people will age at home. Covid has cast the spotlight on long-term care facilities, revealing "how shockingly inadequate our care infrastructure and systems are." Innovation will hopefully provide better nursing homes and more resources for people to age at home. 

Also, innovation is aimed at older people due to the pandemic and the aging population. However, Covid-related lockdowns are likely to "reduce the life expectancies of those who avoid or survive the virus." 

New innovations will hopefully cause people to work longer, value life more, save more for retirement, embrace healthier lifestyles, and plan for death. 

See Anne Tergesen, How Covid-19 Will Change Aging and Retirement, Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2020. 

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

November 25, 2020 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Article on Disinheritance in an Ageing Society

Antoni Vaquer recently published an article entitled, Disinheritance in an Ageing Society, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. Estate planning

Disinheritance has a double meaning. In common law systems, the etymological sense prevails: disinheritance means denying someone from a share of a certain decedent’s succession.In civil law systems, disinheritance means deprivation of the compulsory share. This paper, combining both senses of disinheritance, principally analyses mechanisms that exclude relatives from the list of kin entitled to share in a succession, either because they are potential intestate heirs or because – in civil law countries and some mixed systems – they are entitled to the compulsory share. Specifically, the paper focuses on the demands of an ageing society.

November 11, 2020 in Articles, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)