Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Advance Care Planning for Guns: Owners Can Help Ensure Safe Use and Transfer of Weapons

Gun
Firearm Life Plan is a new tool that can help gun owners and their families plan ahead for safe firearm use and the transfer of firearms in the event of disability or death.

The plan, created by researching at University of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Denver, is a way for someone to prescribe what they want to happen with their firearms should they die or become incapacitated. Nearly 42% of Americans 65 and older live in households with guns, and up to 60% of people with dementia live in homes with a firearm.

The Firearm Life Plan emphasizes personal responsibility, safety, and the importance of being prepared. The Plan is comprised of four parts: 

  1. A list of warning signs that might cause a gun owner to use the weapon inappropriately 
  2. A conversation guide for friends and family who may be concerned about their loved one
  3. An inventory guide, prompting owners to list where the firearms are stored and who should get the firearms when transfer is appropriate
  4. A “legacy” section of the guide allows owners to share memories and stories about their firearms and pass along knowledge to the next generation.

The creators of the Firearm Life Plan hope that gun industry groups, shops, and shooting rangers will make copies of the plan available to their patrons.

For more information:

See Judith Graham, “Advance Care Planning for Guns: Owners Can Help Ensure Safe Use and Transfer of Weapons“, Kaiser Health News, April 27, 2022.

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

April 28, 2022 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 3, 2022

'I didn't know'; Hampton widow's advice on what to do before losing a spouse

Estate planningMany of us have lost loved ones unexpectedly. When and if this does happen to you, you should make sure that their finances and accounts are in order. 

Theresa Brooks' husband Henry passed away in 1996, just 8 years after the couple moved to Hampton. Theresa stated, "I never thought that he would die at an early age and it was just hard for me because he was my everything. He was the one that took care of everything in the house. . ." 

According to Theresa, Henry took care of everything, including the finances. So when Henry died, Theres just continued to pay the bills, unaware that she needed to change the accounts into her name. 

According to Naomi Cahn, a Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, "There's a lot of nitty gritty that is involved, in terms of transferring title to anything that is jointly held, or anything that the deceased person held at the time." 

Theresa stated that her husband did not leave a will or assign an executor of estate, which made the transition process much more difficult following his death. Not only did Theresa have to deal with the grief and the loss of her husband, she had to balance funeral arrangements and financials at the same time. 

Theresa's story is a perfect example of why it is important to have your finances and estate plan in order. 

See Erin Miller, 'I didn't know'; Hampton widow's advice on what to do before losing a spouse, WTKR (Hampton, Va.), March 29, 2022. 

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 3, 2022 in Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Oregon ends residency rule for medically assisted suicide

In a settlement filed in the U.S. District Court in Portland, the Oregon Health and the Oregon Medical Board "agreed to stop enforcing the residency requirement and to ask Legislature to remove it from the law." 

The lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the residency requirement for the law allowing terminally ill people to receive lethal medication. The lawsuit argued that the residency requirement violated the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, "which gives Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce, and the Privileges and Immunities Clause, which forbids states from discriminating against citizens from other states in favor of its own citizens." Attorneys for Compassion & Choices also argued that the law is also unfounded because no other portion of their practice is affected by residency requirements. 

Advocates have stated that they will use the settlement to press other states with medically assisted suicide laws to also remove their residency requirements.

According to Kevin Diaz, an attorney with Compassion & Choices, the national advocacy group that sued over Oregon's requirement, "[t]his requirement was both discriminatory and profoundly unfair to dying patients at the most critical time of their life. . ."

On the other side, Laura Echevarria, who opposes such laws argues that a residency requirement is necessary to save Oregon from becoming the nation's "assisted suicide tourism capital."

According to attorneys at Compassion & Choices, the residency requirements create obstacles for patients and make their lives even more insufferable. This is especially true for patients in Washington who are seeking assistance in ending their lives. Although Washington has a similar law to Oregon's, it is much harder to find facilities willing to assist due to the large number of hospital beds that are in religiously affiliated health care facilities. 

According to Compassion & Choices, the hope is that people will be able to cross state lines in order to receive the help they are seeking, because they legal boundaries like a residency requirement should not cause them to suffer more than they already are. 

See Gene Johnson, Oregon ends residency rule for medically assisted suicide, Everything Lubbock, March 28, 2022. 

March 30, 2022 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 24, 2022

When Her Husband Said He Wanted to Die, Amy Bloom Listened

BloomOn January 26, 2020, Amy Bloom and her husband, Brian Ameche, flew to Zurich for a life changing trip.

Bloom recalls being in the "Swissair pods" in business class on the flight with her husband and toasting their glasses. Bloom recalls toasting "Here's to you" instead of their usual "Cent'anni," which means "May we have a hundred years." 

In Bloom's first memoir, "In Love," which Random House will publish on March 8, Bloom writes, "[t]here is no 'Cent'anni' for us; we won't make it to our 13th wedding anniversary." 

Bloom and Ameche were not headed to Switzerland to celebrate. Instead, the couple headed to Dignitas, "a nonprofit organization in the suburbs of Zurich, where Ameche, 66, would legally, peacefully and painlessly end his own life." 

According to Bloom, Ameche, the accomplished architect and former Yale football player, had received a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in 2019, and did not wish for a "long goodbye." Bloom recalls Ameche stating, "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees." 

See Elisabeth Egan, When Her Husband Said He Wanted to Die, Amy Bloom Listened

, N.Y. Times, February 27, 2022. 

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

March 24, 2022 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, February 25, 2022

Panel urges changes to make US organ transplants more fair

Estate planningAccording to an influential scientific advisory panel, "the U.S. transplant system needs an overhaul to stop wasting organs and give more patients a fair chance at the life-saving surgery. . ." 

Last year, the U.S. performed more than 41,000 transplants of kidneys, livers, and other organs, a record number—most of which came from donations from the dead. According to everythingLubbock, "[m]ore than 106,000 patients are on the nation's list for a transplant from a deceased donor and at least 17 die every day waiting." 

Due to the astounding numbers, the Panel has set a five-year deadline to turn things around. According to Dr. Kenneth Kizer, a well known expert in health care quality who chaired the panel, "A lot of things can be done to make the system work better for people." 

Among other things, the Panel concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services should set national performance goals "that include ranching at least 50,000 transplants each year by 2026, although a speedup is necessary to achieve national performance goals" and  "hospitals should reduce organ waste and be candid with patients about the option of a less-than-perfect offer. . ." 

See Lauren Neergaard, Panel urges changes to make US organ transplants more fair, EverythingLubbock, February 25, 2021. 

February 25, 2022 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Article: Alkaline Hydrolysis

Victoria J. Haneman recently published an article entitled, Alkaline Hydrolysis, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

Hollywood has developed its own villainous death disposition trope that is often a link in a nefarious narrative chain—disposition of human remains through some form of chemical dissolution. Spanning decades and genre, popular cinema and television television have warmly embraced liquification of the dead, including but not limited to The Wizard of Oz, House on Haunted Hill, Thief, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Point of No Return, Palmetto, Walker, Texas Ranger, NCIS, Bones, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Blacklist, Homeland, Elementary, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Ozark, Rick and Morty. The specifics vary dramatically from one work of fiction to the next but the common thread of the trope is the immutability of the erasure. Although the storyline typically ambles onward, the decedent is eliminated in a way that leaves no trace.

Although incineration-based cremation is more environmentally friendly than traditional burial, it falls short of being ideal because of the energy required and air emissions produced. Alkaline hydrolysis or liquid cremation is a clean, green alternative to fire-based cremation, using only 10% of the energy and producing no air emissions. It is a process that essentially liquifies a corpse, leaving behind bones that can be ground to produce ash and returned to loved ones. Alkaline hydrolysis is legal for commercial use in twenty states as of 2020. The purpose of this Essay is to consider the way in which the law is being leveraged to obstruct this innovative death technology from being more broadly available to consumers.

January 30, 2022 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Daily: Documenting a Death by Euthanasia

Champion Paralympic athlete from Belgium, Marieke Vervoort, who had a progressive disease, announced her retirement from professional sports in 2016, and also spoke of her desire to undergo euthanasia. 

In a podcast by The Daily , Vervoort's story is told by Lynsey Addario, a photojournalist who documented the end of Vervoort's life. 

Lynsey had this to say, "In most of my experiences covering Iraq and Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur, I'm photographing people who are trying not to die. . .Marieke was the first person I had really met who wanted to die. " 

You can listen to the podcast here

 

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

 

January 26, 2022 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Article: On Time, (In)equality, and Death

Fred O. Smith recently published an article entitled, On Time, (In)equality, and Death, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

In recent years, American institutions have inadvertently encountered the bodies of former slaves with increasing frequency. Pledges of respect are common features of these discoveries, accompanied by cultural debates about what “respect” means. Often embedded in these debates is an intuition that there is something special about respecting the dead bodies, burial sites, and images of victims of mass, systemic horrors. This Article employs legal doctrine, philosophical insights, and American history to both interrogate and anchor this intuition.

Law can inform these debates because we regularly turn to legal settings to resolve disputes about the dead. Yet the passage of time, systemic dehumanization, and changing egalitarian norms all complicate efforts to apply traditional legal considerations to disputes about victims of subordination. While, for example, courts usually consult decedents’ expressed intentions to resolve disputes, how do we divine the wishes of people who died centuries ago, under a legal system designed to negate and dishonor their intentions? How do we honor relationships like kinship for people who were routinely and forcibly separated from their kin? And how do we assess the motives or culpability of institutions that, in prior generations, were complicit in profound horrors, but now pledge honor and respect?

This Article offers a theory of time and equality to help guide cultural and legal debates about the treatment of dead victims of mass horror. On this account, we can become complicit in past, systemic subordination by dishonoring the memories of victims. Systemic neglect and exploitation of a group’s bodies and images can diminish the role of that group in shaping our national memory. And if it is wrong to deny a person the ability to leave a legacy on account of race under contemporary egalitarian norms, then we ought not engage in posthumous acts against the enslaved and other systemically debased persons that perpetually rob them of such a legacy.

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

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Article: Death of the Breadwinner and the Continuation of the Duty of Spousal Support: Discrepancies and Inequalities for Different Categories of Surviving Partners

Elsje Bonthuys recently published an article entitled, Death of the Breadwinner and the Continuation of the Duty of Spousal Support: Discrepancies and Inequalities for Different Categories of Surviving Partners, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

This note considers the extension of the duty of spousal support after the death of the breadwinner by comparing the rights of different categories of surviving maintenance claimants, who tend to be mostly women: widows of the deceased, unmarried intimate partners of the deceased and ex-wives and partners of the deceased. Financial support can be provided from the deceased estate in the form of a right to share in the joint matrimonial estate, a right to intestate succession, a right to claim from the estate in terms of the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act and a right to claim for loss of support from third parties who caused the death of the breadwinner. In comparing different categories of women, it emerges that the law disproportionately benefits widows over other partners, while the rights of ex-spouses are gradually reduced by the jurisprudence. There is also a discrepancy between rights to claim against deceased estates, which favour widows, on the one hand, and rights to claim against third parties, which are available to a far larger group of surviving maintenance claimants, on the other hand. The note analyses the gendered causes and consequences of these differences.

December 16, 2021 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 5, 2021

New California Law Eases Aid-in-Dying Process

DoctorsMany cancer patients have to undergo toxic treatment just so they can spend more time with their loved ones. For some, the toxic treatments kill the cancer and it never comes back. However, for Leslie—and many others—the cancer will make an aggressive return. 

After Leslie was diagnosed with breast cancer, she underwent toxic treatment so that she could spend more time with her husband and two young children. Although Leslie was cancer-free for 18 months, "the disease returned with a vengeance" and "fractured her bones and invaded her spinal canal, bathing her brain in malignancy." 

In her final months, Leslie was in constant pain and essentially withered away. According to Leslie's husband, Bernard J. Wolfson, the thought of ending her suffering by ending her life didnt even enter their conversations. 

Wolfson stated that he has been thinking about his wife's last days as he looks into California's End of Life Option Act, "which allows terminally ill patients with a life expectancy of less than six months to end their lives by taking medications prescribed by a physician." 

Amanda Villegas of Ontario, California, and an advocate for updating the original law which "contains numerous safeguards to ensure that patients are not being coerced by family members. . ." Under the original law, which remains in effect until January 1, patients who want to die must make two oral requests for the medications at least 15 days apart. 

According to Villegas, "[the new law] will open doors for people who might. . .experience the same roadblocks. . .[w]hen you are dying, the last thing you need is to go through bureaucratic barriers to access peace." 

See Bernard K. Wolfson, New California Law Eases Aid-in-Dying Process, KHN, December 3, 2021. 

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

December 5, 2021 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)