Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

NJ Clears 1st Hurdle to Make Assisted Suicide Legal

RighttodieThe Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee in New Jersey voted 6-3 last Thursday in favor of the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act. The Act would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medications to adult patients who have six months or less to live. It still must pass both house of the Legislature and be signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.

An opponent of the bill claims that there were a limited number of people against the bill actually allowed to speak. Dr. T. Brian Callister says that the hearing was "irregular" and that apart from him, only one other physician was allowed to make comments. Dr. Callister said that he attended the hearing “in hopes of educating legislators about the perverse incentives and negative unintended consequences that physician-assisted suicide carries with it.”

Currently California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C. have passed laws that allow for assisted suicide. Montana also provides physicians a legal defense or immunity from prosecution under a court ruling.

See Frank Miles, NJ Clears 1st Hurdle to Make Assisted Suicide Legal; Opposition Calls Hearing a 'Charade,' Fox News, February 7, 2019.

February 13, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Ashes to Diamonds: Austin Startup Finds Unusual Way to Remember Loved Ones

DiamondAdelle Archer, along with co-founder Garrett Ozar, founded Eterneva in 2017 in the capital of Texas, providing the service of using cremated ashes of a loved one to create a diamond. The company has made more than 200 diamonds from the remains of humans as well as pets, but when Florian Oger and his wife Renee Rouleau came in for their consultation, it was the first time to meet with the person who was requesting to be the diamond.

Oger had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and only had a few months to live. He wanted his ashes to be created into a diamond so that his wife could carry him with her on her adventures.

The company allows personalization of the diamonds with color choices. Oger chose black for his son and green for his daughter as those were his race car colors, and his wife also chose green but because she characterized his as "a green type of guy."

The diamonds offered can range from $2,400 to $20,000, and Archer said that the average customer usually designs a diamond that is around $9,000. With cremations becoming more and more utilized, this could serve as a more personal and tangible memory of a loved one instead of an urn next to the fireplace.

See Nicole Cobler, Ashes to Diamonds: Austin Startup Finds Unusual Way to Remember Loved Ones, Statesman, January 25, 2019.

Special thanks to Joseph C. Gagen (Austin, Texas Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Think About Death 5 Times a Day

WecroakDeath is inevitable no matter how advanced technology becomes or how healthy we strive to be. We are all given a finite amount of time. Humans are mortal, and there is an abundance of ancient and modern philosophers, poets, and authors that indeed find beauty in that knowledge.

WeCroak.com is an application that will send the patron 5 invitations to contemplate their own mortality. These notices will come at random times because death can happen at any time. 

"We believe that a regular practice of contemplating mortality helps us accept what we must, let go of things that don’t matter and honor the things that do."

See wecroak.com for more information.

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

January 15, 2019 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Estate Planning Resolutions For 2019: How to be a Grown-Up in The New Year

WilltestamentNew Year, New Me! That seems to be the mantra for many people when January rolls around, coming up with redundant resolutions. But this year, a resolution that could be resourceful and highly beneficial would be to get a head-start of this perennial to-do list:

  • Write a Last Will and Testament:
    • Every person over the age of 18 should have this document to lay out the disposition of your assets and the guardianship of your children in the event you die.
  • Make a Power of Attorney:
    • This can include the power to bank, file taxes, and even sell and purchase real estate on behalf of another individual.
  • Execute a Health Care Proxy:
    • It is vital in this day and age to make your wishes known to your appointed agent, including your preferences for care in the event you suffer from a terminal illness with no chance of survival
  • Purchase a Life Insurance Policy:
    • This is not for you but for your family and loved ones after you pass away, making it easier financially for them.
  • Check Beneficiary Designation Forms:
    • Make certain that a proper beneficiary or secondary beneficiary is designated for all accounts, including retirement or insurance accounts.
  • Consider Long-Term Care and Disability Insurance:
    • If the unexpected occurs, this type of policy can supplement your income or pay a benefit toward home or nursing care.
  • Consult with a Financial Advisor:
    • The advisor may work together with your attorney to make certain you have a solid and comprehensive estate plan.
  • Talk to Your Parents and Grandparents About their Estate Plans:
    • When parents and children ultimately have to switch roles it is best to now what the older generation's wishes are.
  • Consider Burial Options:
    • Though it may be a morbid subject that you do not want to dwell on, it is a subject that needs to be discussed with your family.
  • Inventory Your Assets:
    • Take a survey of everything you own from real property, personal property, and intellectual property, and if there is a question as to rights of ownership, try to resolve them before those issues are passed on to your heirs.

See Cori A. Robinson, Estate Planning Resolutions For 2019: How to be a Grown-Up in The New Year, Above the Law, January 8, 2019.

Special thanks to Carissa Peterson (Hrbacek Law Firm, Sugar Land, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 9, 2019 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Four Best Friends Decided to Share a Tombstone

CardsFor years, a tombstone in a Toronto intrigued visitors, containing the names of four women and in large bold letters: "FRIENDS." After a bit of research and hunting down the living relatives of the women, a reporter was able to track down the truth of the interesting gravesite.

Pauline Chorna, Annie Hrynchak, Anna Baran, and Nellie Handiak shared many things in life, as they all immigrated from a heavily communist area of Europe and settled into Canada. Though the particulars of the beginning of their friendship are shadowed in mystery, the women enjoyed the Carpatho-Russian cultural center and all shared a love of playing cards. 

In the 1960s, the women decided they would all be buried together within one cemetery plot. Handiak purchased the plot in 1968 and requested that the women be buried side by side - not stacked on top of each other. Chorna passed away first in 1977 and was laid to rest in the plot, along with the FRIENDS tombstone. Hrynchak died in 1993 and Baran was quick behind her in 1996. Hrynchak waited 10 years to join her friends, and her daughter states her mother was very "lonely" during that time. When she was buried in the shared plot, she was buried with a deck of cards.

See Opheli Garcia Lawler, Four Best Friends Decided to Share a Tombstone, The Cut, January 7, 2019.

Special thanks to Molly Neace for bringing this article to my attention.

January 8, 2019 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 4, 2019

Article on Proving a Donatio Mortis Causa

MortisYing Khai Liew recently published an Article entitled, Proving a Donatio Mortis Causa, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article.

This article discusses the precise requirements for establishing a donatio mortis causa. It also considers the practical relationship between such gifts and bequests made by will.

January 4, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Hawaii's Our Care, Our Choice Law Goes in to Effect

HawaiiOn the first day of the new year, Hawaii became the seventh state in the country to allow terminally ill patients to be prescribe medication to end their own lives.

The law requires the patient to have two diagnoses from independent physicians stating that they have six months or less to live and also must undergo psychological counseling. Scott Foster of the Hawaii Death with Dignity Society says, “Having that medication right there knowing that if they need it that’s there. That is what relieves people to no end.”

But the new law is still controversial, with many doctors and pharmacists believing that it violates the Hippocratic Oath. “It’s really not physician-assisted suicide, it’s doctors writing a prescription to a legal dose of medicine to the kill the patient,” said attorney James Hochberg, president of the Hawaii Family Advocates.

See Rick Daysog, Hawaii Now Allows Terminally Ill Patients to Take Their Own Lives with Prescription Drugs, January 1, 2019.

January 2, 2019 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Will

WilltestamentEvery person should have a document that explains how they want their assets to be transferred after their inevitable death, but many people can make the error of either over complicating or over simplifying things. Here are 10 mistakes that are commonly made in will preparation. Note that although this article is from a South African publication, the advice is equally applicable in the United States.

  • Don't use overly complicated wording
    • This will decrease the likelihood of heirs contesting the validity of your will.
  • Avoid overly complicated structures
    • A simple but properly drafted will is usually sufficient to ensure a speedy and cost-efficient transfer.
  • Don't become obsessed with tax savings
    • The proper needs of heirs and loved ones are often set aside for tax benefits, which are not always appropriate.
  • Don't create a burden for your executor or trustees
    • Example: trusts that are set up to last in perpetuity can be tricky to handle in the face of changing legislation.
  • Allow for flexibility
    • Restricting the transfer or movements of assets may have more negatives for your heirs than intended.
  • Choose your executor carefully
    • You can achieve substantial tax savings in the estate administration process by choosing your own executor.
  • Your freedom of testation has limits
    • Claims for maintenance from dependents, a surviving spouse or claims in terms of the accrual system created by the Matrimonial Property Act [or, in the U.S., forced share statutes in common law marital property states and community property in community property states] will take precedence.
  • Ask your children what they want
    • This can better create organic transfers of your assets. Consider if there are already any trusts in place for your children.
  • Include your will as part of your financial plan
    • Your financial adviser and estate planners should be aware of each other's work to limit misunderstandings.
  • Don't put it off
    • Death waits for no one, and the impact of having no will can be an intense impact on your family.

See 10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Will, Fin 24, December 28, 2018.

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

January 2, 2019 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 17, 2018

CLE on Estate Planning for Modern Families: Flexibility and Other Considerations for the 21st Century

CLEThe American Law Institute is holding a webcast entitled, Estate Planning for Modern Families: Flexibility and Other Considerations for the 21st Century, on Wednesday, January 30th, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern. Provided below is a description of the event.

Details of this presentation are not yet available; please check back two weeks before the program date for more details.

December 17, 2018 in Conferences & CLE, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Cremated Remains of 100 People Have Been Launched into Space on a SpaceX Rocket

ElysiumThe cremated remained of 100 individuals were launched into space in a memorial satellite by the company Elysium Space. Based out if San Francisco, the company placed samples of each person's remains on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for $2,500 each.

The remains of average citizens are joined by veterans and other aerospace enthusiasts who believed their loved ones would enjoy being "within the poetry of the starry sky," Elysium Spaces said in an emailed statement. The ashes, each in an individual capsule, were placed in a 4-inch square satellite called a cubeseat, which will orbit the Earth for 4 years before it inevitably falls back, according to Elysium Space Founder and CEO Thomas Civeit.  Sixty-four small satellites from thirty-four different companies were aboard the rocket, part of a rideshare mission organized by Spaceflight.

Families will be able to track the process of the satellite as it orbits the planet, knowing that their loved ones is above them in the stars.

See Dakin Andone, The Cremated Remains of 100 People Have Been Launched into Space on a SpaceX Rocket, CNN, December 3, 2018.

December 7, 2018 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)