Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Dementia deaths rise during the summer of COVID, leading to concern

"Deaths from dementia during the summer of 2020 are nearly 20% higher than the number of dementia-related deaths during that time in previous years, and experts don't yet know why."

Close to $61,000 people have died from dementia, a big jump from the usual $50,000 within that period. 

It is not clear why the dementia death tolls have risen, but Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that isolation caused by the pandemic has changed the lives of those battling dementia. 

There is a difference between social distancing and social isolation. Social isolation "leads to a sense of disconnection from the community." Unfortunately, caregivers have been forced to limit visits due to COVID-19. "Social isolation is a risk for poor health outcomes, particularly as people age. And in the U.S., 28% of those over 65 (13.8 million) live alone."

Socially isolated people also have higher rates of dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline and death. 

Further, the job of a caregiver for a family member with dementia is very difficult and the burnout rate is high. The job is difficult under normal circumstances, which makes it even more difficult in the unnerving times we are in now. Caregivers are also having to socially isolate themselves too, which just adds to the burden. 

Also, the access of medical care has been limited for those with dementia. 

One way to fight this awful plague is to understand your patients health goals and do the best you can to adhere to those goals.

See Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Dementia deaths rise during the summer of COVID, leading to concern, The Conversation, October 14, 2020.

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

October 21, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Healthy Life Insurance Policyowners Can Qualify for Life Settlements

ElderLife settlements are the sale of an unwanted or unaffordable life insurance policy for substantially more than the policy's cash surrender value. These settlements typically benefit seniors by "providing them with resources to help pay for health care costs, medical bills and other needs in retirement." 

Traditionally, for a policy to have value in a life settlement, the insured person would need to be in their mid-to-late 70s and have declined in health since the policy was first issued. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other serious medical conditions were typically needed for the policy to be sold. 

However, now healthy seniors have an option to sell their policies in order to generate income. This income can then be used to invest in retirement plans or pay for healthcare and other future expenses. 

There are three criteria that a healthy senior need to meet in order to qualify for a life settlement:

  1. The policy must be a guaranteed universal life (GUL) policy.
  2. The insured typically must be age 75 or older.
  3. The policy’s death benefit must be at least $250,000.

If a policy owner meets these criteria and they can receive an offer without presented a medical record review or underwriting. 

This provides many benefits. For one, if policy premiums have become too expensive, seniors can receive a life settlement in order to stop paying these premiums. Also, the recent changes in estate tax laws have provided more investment opportunities that seniors can use a life settlement to take advantage of. This would give seniors more control and freedom with their assets. 

See Ted Kilkuskie, Healthy Life Insurance Policyowners Can Qualify for Life Settlements, Think Advisor, October 2, 2020. 

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

October 14, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

In Isolating Times, Can Robo-Pets Provide Comfort?

GrannyDue to the pandemic, many seniors have been cut off from their friends and family, and have been forced into isolation—alone. 

Charlene Spangler, who lives in a dementia care facility in California, told her daughter that she wanted a dog for her 92nd birthday. At one time she had a family dog named "Wolfgang" but because of her dementia, had a hard time recalling his death.

Charlene's daughter, Linda, used to visit her every other day in which she would push her around in a wheelchair to watch the ducks and pet dogs. 

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, most of the activities that Charlene used to enjoy have been stripped away. Charlene and Linda are forced to communicate through video calls. 

Linda knew that she could not get her mother a dog, but she thought of an alternative. Linda had heard about robotic pets and decided to look them up. 

Linda decided to get her mom a fluffy robotic puppy, who Charlene named Dumbo. 

Apparently, COVID-19 has created a pique in interest of these robotic animals. Public money is even being used to purchase them. These robotic pets are not cheap, but due to the FDA referring to these robots as "biofeedback devices", Medicare will cover the expenses of the robot. 

Studies have shown that these fluffy robotic pets have decreased stress, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, depression, and more.

See Paula Span, In Isolating Times, Can Robo-Pets Provide Comfort?, N.Y. Times, September 27, 2020. 

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

September 30, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous III

CelebrityWe tend to look at celebrities like they are supernatural, even immortal, which is probably why we are often shocked and confused when one of our favorite celebrities pass on. The truth is, like us, celebrities are normal people and like us, they often neglect estate planning. This is the truth despite the amount of attorneys and other representatives they have on their team. 

Discussed below are a couple of celebrity stories that will hopefully teach you a useful lesson on the importance of estate planning and the risks of avoiding the issue. 

Johnny Hallyday

You may know Hallyday as the "French Elvis." Hallyday died of lung cancer in December of 2017 at the age of 74. At the time of his death, Hallyday was married to his fourth wife when he passed and had adopted children as well as natural born children. 

Hallyday died with estate planning documents that had been executed in California that left his estate to Laeticia, his fourth wife and their two children upon her death. Hallyday's natural born children opposed this estate plan in French court arguing that French law should apply to Hallyday's estate. In 2019, a French court agreed with Hallyday's natural born children, finding that forced heirship applied. 

The lesson from this story is to make sure that your client knows exactly what they want and the emotional and financial battles that can result from certain estate planning decisions. 

In a like Hallyday's where the client may be able to choose their domicile, you will want to make sure you are clear as to which law will govern the estate. 

Stan Lee

Stan Lee is one of the creative minds behind Marvel. Lee died at the age of 95 in November of 2018. Despite his fame and contribution to the world, Lee was also subject to "predators who seek to take advantage of the elderly." Lee's estate was estimated at $80 million when he died. He was only survived by a daughter. 

After Lee's wife passed on, Lee was left without stable care and security. This lead to a battle between Lee's daughter and other people that had snaked their way into Lee's life. Lee realized that he had multiple people trying to manipulate him and steal his money and was forced to send out a "cry for help" in an affidavit. Luckily, one of these aforementioned snakes was arrested following an investigation by the Los Angeles Police. 

Lee had to spend his last months on this Earth protecting himself from elder abuse. If someone would do that to Stan Lee, you can bet your bottom dollar that they would do it to you too.

 

There are many, many more celebrity stories that shed light on the importance of estate planning and the risks associated with failing to do so. For more, 

See Jessica Galligan Goldsmith et al., Celebrity Estate Planning: Misfires of the Rich and Famous III, American Bar Association: Probate and Property, September/October 2020. 

September 29, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Living Will and Medical Directives in Light of COVID

LivingBefore you being reading, you should know, "a Living Will is NOT the same as a Last Will and Testament."

In the wake of COVID-19, the terms "living will" and "medical directives" have become increasingly popular as people are preparing themselves and their families in case they are affected by the virus. 

A living will is  "a person’s wishes relating to life-sustaining procedures; while medical directives cover a person's wishes surrounding certain medical procedures and end of life care. COVID-19 has pushed many into revising their medical directives, many of which have made their directives more specific. "Many clients are rethinking some of the directives they put in place before COVID and want to make edits now."

If you do not want to make a medical directive, another option is to have a conversation with your medical power of attorney. By making this person aware of your wishes, they will be able to advocate on your behalf  if you are unable to do so.

Although COVID-19 has pushed people into making these decisions, it is important that you take the steps to consider and communicate your wishes to those you love.

See, Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Living Will and Medical Directives in Light of COVID, Davis Brown Law Firm, August 5, 2020.

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

August 18, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

‘Amazing, Isn’t It?’ Long-Sought Blood Test for Alzheimer’s in Reach

Alz"Scientists say that such tests could be available in a few years, speeding research for treatments and providing a diagnosis for dementia patients who want to know if they have Alzheimer's disease."

It is possible that a simple blood test could be just as effective in diagnosing Alzheimer's as costly PET scans of the brain. 

This newly developed blood test has diagnosed the disease "as accurately as methods that are far more expensive or invasive..." This test could potentially make diagnosis simpler, and better yet, more affordable and available. 

"The test determined whether people with dementia had Alzheimer's instead of another condition." and it identified signs of the degenerative, deadly disease 20 years before memory and thinking problems were expected in people with a genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer's" according to research published in JAMA. 

Researchers predict that the test could be available for clinical use in as little as tow to three years. 

“This blood test very, very accurately predicts who’s got Alzheimer’s disease in their brain, including people who seem to be normal,” said Dr. Michael Weiner, an Alzheimer’s disease researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. “It’s not a cure, it’s not a treatment, but you can’t treat the disease without being able to diagnose it. And accurate, low-cost diagnosis is really exciting, so it’s a breakthrough.”

Nearly six million people in the United States have Alzheimer's. Further, roughly 30 million people worldwide suffer from the disease. A new test like this one could potentially lower this numbers, or at the very least, slow them down.

See Pam Belluck, ‘Amazing, Isn’t It?’ Long-Sought Blood Test for Alzheimer’s in Reach, N.Y. Times Magazine, July 28, 2020.

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

August 5, 2020 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Twelve terminally ill New Jersey residents have used state's new assisted suicide law to end their lives since it was introduced last year

AssistedSince New Jersey introduced the assisted suicide law, twelve (six men and six women) terminally ill residents have used the law to end their lives. The New Jersey Department of Health released a report with detailing that the patients that took their own lives were between the ages of 50 and 93. The report detailed that the deaths occurred between August 1 and December 31 of last year. 

Nine of those who chose to die through medical aid had been diagnosed with cancer and three had neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. The report stated that ten died in their home, while one died at a nursing home. 

One of the patients who died was Zeporah 'Debbie' Geller (80), who was terminally ill with cancer. Following the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into law in April, her family said they reached out to 40 different physicians. 

The family eventually found a physician that was willing to help Geller end her life. Geller past on September 30 in her son's home. Geller's son Paul, seed that being able to take advantage of the law "made the final portion of her life much more tenable and dignified, and for that we are happy."

The law made the other 11 families feel the same sense of comfort and dignity for their loved ones.

See, Ariel Zilber, Twelve terminally ill New Jersey residents have used state's new assisted suicide law to end their lives since it was introduced last year, Daily Mail (U.K), July 31, 2020. 

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

August 2, 2020 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Fearing Covid-19, Older People Alter Their Living Wills

CoronavirusMinna Buck, 91, had been following the craze surrounding COVID-19. Last month, Buck decided to revise a document specifying her wishes if she were to become critically ill. Buck's revision included the words, "No intubation" in big letters in order to make her wishes clear. 

Minna Buck was aware that she would likely not survive a serious infection like COVID-19, so she wanted to be sure that she would not be put on a ventilator under any circumstances. Buck, who lives in a continuing care retirement community in Denver, selflessly stated, "I don't want to put everybody through the anguish." 

For the older community, ventilators symbolize a lack of personal control as well as the power of technology. In other words, the fear of being put on a ventilators is a terrifying thought for these communities. This makes COVID-19 an even more terrifying thought, since respiratory failure is a signature symptom of the illness. The harsh reality is that those in their 80s or 90s, will not have a good chance of defeating the illness, even if put on a ventilator; and the risk is even greater for those who have underlying health conditions. 

Like Buck, Joyce Edwards, who is 61, also revised her advanced directive to state that she did not want to be put on a ventilator if she were to have COVID-19. Edwards said that she had her quality of life in mind when she made the decision and she felt that being placed on a ventilator would keep her from enjoying the things she loves most.

For the seniors, COVID-19 forces them to face these issues. Being placed on a ventilator can work one of two ways: One, the ventilator could help assist you in your uphill battle of recovery; or two, you could spend your last days hooked up to a machine that is essentially robbing you of your last days. The decision is yours!

See Fearing Covid-19, Older People Alter Their Living Wills, SFGate, May 9, 2020.

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

May 16, 2020 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Remote Notarization Law Now Available in Massachusetts

WilltestamentThe number of states that have recently passed legislation to allow remote notarization for estate planning documents during the ongoing pandemic is quickly growing. Massachusetts is number 45 with Governor Baker signing the bill into law on April 27th.

There are certain guidelines that must be followed.

  • The allowance only lasts until three days after the end of the state of emergency, which has been extended to May 18th.
  • Only attorneys and paralegals under their supervision may notarize estate planning documents: wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, and HIPAA releases.
  • All remote notarization sessions must be recorded and the recording saved for 10 years.
  • The notary must sign a supplemental affidavit verifying a number of facts, including that the person signing the documents and all the witnesses were in the state of Massachusetts.
  • The notarization is not effective until the notary receives and compiles all original signature pages, notarizes the document, and completes supplemental affidavit.

For the immediate future this is great news, but the question remains: why is this law not permanent? Also, why do all the witnesses need to be in Massachusetts? 

See Laura Goodman & Harry S. Margolis, Remote Notarization Law Now Available in Massachusetts, Margolis.com, April 28, 2020.

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

April 30, 2020 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do You Want to Die in an I.C.U.? Pandemic Makes Question All Too Real

Covid2Many older American's with chronic health issues, even if they have not contracted the novel coronavirus, are asking themselves a difficult question: if given the choice, would like want to die in a hospital's intensive care unit? Edo Banach, president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, recently had that conversation with his 69-year-old mother, Cheryl Goldman. She told her son that she would rather stay at home and receive hospice care instead of being admitted and being placed on a ventilator.

“It’s the kind of conversation everyone should be having with their loved ones,” Banach said. Depending on the source, one-third to two-thirds of Americans have not executed an advanced directive, which outlines what medical treatments they would accept or refuse and also designates a decision maker to act on their behalf if they become incapacitated. Many seniors and their families focus on do not resuscitate orders which deals with whether patients would want to be resuscitated after cardiac arrest. But advanced directives are the documents that involve the question of ventilation and intubation, which involves a tube inserted down the throat, connected to a ventilator that pushes air into the lungs. After an extended period of time on a ventilator - usually two weeks - doctors commonly perform a tracheostomy, creating a surgical opening in the windpipe that replaces the swallowed tube.

“After elderly people have been on a ventilator, they’ve often already developed physical debilitation, difficulty swallowing, bedsores,” said Dr. Kosha Thakore director of palliative care at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts. Further medical issues can be physical or cognitive or both, and are often permanent. Though the question may be hard to ask of loved ones, during these uncertain times it is becoming critical - "If you got really sick, would you want to take a chance and be placed on a ventilator? Or would you prefer to pass at home?"

See Paula Span, Do You Want to Die in an I.C.U.? Pandemic Makes Question All Too Real, New York Times, April 24, 2020.

Special thanks to Matthew Bogin, (Esq., Bogin Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 30, 2020 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)