Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Woman Says Man Brought Her to Grandmother's Funeral on First Date

CasketOne woman's date in the United Kingdom took a surprising turn. According to a text message conversation with her friend Bridget Jones (maybe she put it in her diary?), the date topped her list of worst first dates.

After being told to wear a black dress, the woman was expecting a romantic outing. But the notion of romance died when they pulled up to a crematorium. The man told her he really needed someone to come with him “to this thing,” which turned out to be his grandmother’s funeral. Not wanting to be rude nor to cause a scene, the woman attended the funeral with the man.

But the awkwardness continued and compounded. The man's mother was inconsolable, sobbing, and appeared to be "on some kind of medication." The man unashamedly joined in the crying, and the woman was placed in the position of "comfort[ing] this total stranger." The woman found out that the man's girlfriend had left him a few weeks prior, and apparently needed someone to fill her spot.

After the funeral, she made her date take her home and said she did not stay for the wake. Safe to say there will not be a second date.

See Michelle Gant, Woman Says Man Brought Her to Grandmother's Funeral on First Date, Fox News, November 30, 2018.

December 3, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Japanese Use Robot Animals to Comfort Elderly

NatgeoPhoto by @dguttenfelder | Mrs. Kotajima, age 100, Mrs. Uehara, 84, and Mrs. Shimizu, 92 share their elder care home with companion puppy and baby seal robots. The popular science fiction of many cultures depicts the rise of robots as an ominous threat. But the Japanese have long portrayed robots as friends and heroes and embrace humanoid robot technology. Increasingly, the Japanese are looking to robotic solutions for society's needs. On assignment for @natgeo in Tokyo.

See National Geographic, Instagram, November 11, 2018.

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


November 16, 2018 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Prince's Estate Wants to Trademark the Color Purple

Prince TOP TENPrince reportedly loved the color purple, referring to it as his favorite color and naming his most famous album Purple Rain. Now, the late singer's company, overseen by his estate, has filed an application earlier this month with the US Patent and Trademark Office to stake ownership in the color that he cherished so much. Specifically, the estate wants to hold exclusive rights to shades near Love Symbol #2, the paint color Pantone created last year in memory of Prince.

But can a person or company own a color? In certain ways it is possible, especially within a particular industry. In 2012, a court in the US allowed shoemaker Christian Louboutin to trademark red soles, after the company sued Yves Saint Laurent over a YSL line that had a similar look. The court found that the soles were distinctive enough that other shoes could not have the same look without drawing a comparison.

Prince's estate has been particularly busy, filing dozens of similar petitions and applications to monetize the icon's image. Throughout his career, Prince was well-known for fiercely protecting his intellectual property. A critic of the internet, he sued YouTube and eBay in 2007 for hosting his copyrighted music.

See Paul Donoughue, Prince's Estate Wants to Trademark Purple, the Colour Synonymous with the Late Pop Singer, ABC News, October 30, 2018.

Special thanks to Logan Underwood for bringing this article to my attention.

November 1, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Humor, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bride-to-be Wants Dead Mother’s Hair Featured on Dream Wedding Dress

HairA 61-year-old British bride-to-be anonymously posted to a website specializing in original, handmade fashion items that she wanted a customized wedding dress accented with locks of her dead mother's hair. The woman wanted the dress to be a recreation of her mother's 1953 wedding dress and included a hand-drawn sketch of where she wanted her mother's hair to be located on the garment.

She admitted that the request is "quite weird" but posted that she started to collect the hair before her mother died and now has a full box of hair. A BBC's report said that in the 19th century it was not uncommon to mourn a loved one through locks of their hair, and that those living in the U.S. would make wreaths filled with locks of hair.

Alix Bizet, a designer who has made clothing with human hair, commented that the material is not that easy to work with. "Using human hair is often perceived as gross and unethical, due to the past history in Europe (the Nazis) but also because it has been associated with cannibalism," she said. "All this said, hair is a highly emotional subject that for some people is closely linked to the identity of a person - like an extension of their existence. It can be almost spiritual."

See Edmund DeMarche, Bride-to-be Wants Dead Mother’s Hair Featured on Dream Wedding Dress: Report, Fox, October 25, 2018.

October 26, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Disney World, Disneyland Custodians Claim Parks are Popular Spots to Scatter Ashes

DisneyCustodians at the famous theme parks are claiming that guests often bring their family’s ashes to scatter, and that it requires a special vacuuming process roughly every month.

“The Haunted Mansion probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny,” one Disneyland custodian said. A spokesperson for Disney told the Wall Street Journal that the spreading ashes at the park is “strictly prohibited and unlawful. Guests who attempt to do so will be escorted off property. Anaheim Police Department spokesman Sgt. Daron Wyatt admitted that officers have responded to calls “regarding ashes” at Disneyland before.

Typically guests sneak in the ashes in pill-bottles or plastic bag hidden in purses or backpacks. When ash residue is discovered on a ride, Disney workers are reportedly forced to shut down the ride and inform guests there have been “technical difficulties.”

As the Happiest Place on Earth, the locations are also popular spots for other big life moments like proposals, weddings and birthdays.

See Disney World, Disneyland Custodians Claim Parks are Popular Spots to Scatter Ashes, Fox News, October 24, 2018.

October 24, 2018 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

You’ve won the Mega Millions Jackpot! Time to Hide

MegaImagine the near to impossible - you have beaten the 1 in 302,575,350 odds and won the largest lottery jackpot in the nation's history. Before you post your good luck on social media or in numerous text messages to family and friends, take a deep breath and keep in mind some practical advice.

Though signing the back of the lottery ticket may cause someone else to not be able to claim the winnings, it may also mean that you cannot claim the jackpot under an anonymous trust. Everyone will know exactly who you are and how much you have just stuffed into your coffers. It may be better to secure the unsigned ticket in a safe or a deposit box while you consult with an attorney.

“The three phone calls I would make: lawyer, accountant, financial adviser,” said Randy Zelin, a New York-based litigation attorney. An attorney can help you navigate what you are obligated to divulge under the terms and conditions of your ticket and your state’s public disclosure laws. In the past, lottery winners have been susceptible to becoming targets for blackmailing, extortion, and other schemes. Family members may come out of the woodwork asking for handouts and "amazing" business opportunities that just need a bit of capital.

Mega Millions winners have between 180 days to one year from the date of the drawing to claim their prize, depending on the state in which the winning tickets were purchased. That should allow ample time to hire a lawyer, create a trust if necessary and prepare, prepare, prepare

See Amy B. Wang, You’ve won the Mega Millions Jackpot! Time to Hide, Washington Post, October 23, 2018.

October 23, 2018 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Teen Allegedly Baked her Grandfather's Ashes into Cookies and Served them to her Classmates

CookiesA teenage girl in Davis, California, who was not named due to her age, has been alleged to have used her grandfather's ashes as a "special ingredient" in cookies that she handed out to her classmates. A classmate who spoke to reporters, Andy Knox, says that he was unaware of the ashes in the treats until after he took a bite. He described the cookies as "sandy," and that the girl laughed and told him what they contained. “And I was really, I was kind of horrified,” he said.

Investigators said other students knew of the ashes before eating some of the cookies, and even told other classmates of what kind of cookies were baked. They said they are at a loss of motive, and that they are unsure of what crime the teenager could be charged with. It was not a heinous crime, there was no public health risk, and an obscure law making it illegal to mishandle human remains does not appear to deal with this type of activity.

Principal Tyler Millsap said in a statement posted on Facebook and emailed to parents that the incident “has been particularly challenging and we have responded appropriately and in the most respectful and dignified way possible.

See Paul Elias, A Teen Allegedly Baked her Grandfather's Ashes into Cookies and Served them to her Classmates, Time Magazine, October 17, 2018.

October 22, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Daughter’s Hilarious Obituary Unravels her Father’s Mysterious Life

WalshRick Stein's obituary ran last week in Delaware Online. The article was written by his daughter Alex Walsh who claims that her father had a healthy appetite for humor as well as life itself. The tale speaks of a man who disappeared in a single-engine plane over the Atlantic Ocean after learning he had cancer. "Security footage shows Stein leaving the building at approximately 3:30 Thursday afternoon, but then the video feed mysteriously cuts off."

Walsh, 45, a former television news writer in Washington, D.C., wrote that, “It seems no one in his life knew his exact occupation.” Stein's brother is sure that he did not know how to pilot and that they owned a jewelry and Oriental rug gallery together. His sister says she thought Stein was a cartoonist and freelance television critic for the New Yorker. The rest of the family seemed at odds of what their patriarch did with his time, as well.

His wife of 14 years and Walsh's stepmother, Susan Stein, could not be interviewed about her husband's disappearance. "[N]eighbors say they witnessed her leaving the home the couple shared wearing dark sunglasses and a fedora, loading multiple suitcases into her car. FAA records show she purchased a pair of one-way tickets to Rome which was Mr. Stein’s favorite city. An anonymous source with the airline reports the name used to book the other ticket was Juan Morefore DeRoad, which, according to the FBI, was an alias Stein used for many years.”

Alex Walsh then finished the obituary with, “That is one story. Another story is that Rick never left the hospital and died peacefully with his wife and his daughter holding tightly to his hands.”

See Allison Klein, A Daughter’s Hilarious Obituary Unravels her Father’s Mysterious Life. You Have to Read to the End to Get it, Washington Post, October 11, 2018.

October 15, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 12, 2018

'Can Let me Down One Last Time...'

BuffalobillsLee Markel, 88, was known to be a devout fan and lifelong season ticket owner of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, even though he later moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. According to his son Mark, Lee never lost hope of his grandchildren seeing his beloved team win a much desired Super Bowl.

Lee passed away this last Sunday, and his obituary read in The Observer-Dispatch that “Lee has requested six Buffalo Bills players as pallbearers so they can let him down one last time.”

He was described as a “sports enthusiast” with a “religious-like devotion to the Syracuse Orange and his beloved Buffalo Bills.” An Army veteran, Lee will reportedly be buried in a T-shirt that reads, “Just one before I die.”

See Paulina Dedaj, Buffalo Bill Fan Takes Jab From the Grave, Requests Six Players as Pallbearers so They 'Can Let me Down One Last Time,' Fox, October 11, 2018.

Special thanks to Stephen Sanders (Austin, Texas Estate Planning and Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 12, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)