Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

New article on electronic wills

Adam J. Hirsch (University of San Diego) recently posted his article entitled Models of Electronic-Will Legislation on SSRN which is forthcoming in the Summer 2021 issue of the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal. Here is the abstract of his article:

This Article examines alternative ways lawmakers could structure legislation validating electronic wills. The Article identifies four essential models, each of which is currently reflected in acts or drafts of acts found either in the United States or abroad. These are: (1) acts validating electronic wills that meet formal requirements, (2) acts giving effect only to specialized variants of electronic wills (or none at all), (3) acts allowing electronic wills only when made under emergency conditions, and (4) acts allowing electronic records intended as wills on a case-by-case basis, without establishing formalities for their validation. In the course of the analysis, the Article performs the first-ever empirical survey of popular assumptions concerning the revocation of electronic wills. The Article ultimately concludes that, given the novelty of electronic wills, we are best off if states experiment with alternative legislative models until lawmakers have enough evidence to assess their relative merits. For this reason, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act of 2019 is premature.

April 21, 2021 in Articles, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 29, 2021

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's first tweet sold for $2.9 million on Sunday. The buyer said it's the Mona Lisa of tweets.

DorseyAn NFT version of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's first tweet sold at auction for $2.9 million. The buyer said he's valuing it like "fine art."

Hakan Estavi, chief executive at Bridge Oracle, claimed "[t]his is not just a tweet. . .I think years later people will realize the true value of this tweet, like the Mona Lisa painting." 

Dorsey's tweet—"just setting up my twttr"—was just 24 characters, which means Estavi paid more than $100,000 per character. 

This is a stark price, even in the form of an NFT. According to Tom C.W. Lin, a professor at Temple University's Beasley School of Law, "[a]n NFTs value is largely derived as a function of scarcity and speculation."

Basically, the price comes from "the combination of high demand and rarity. . ." 

The demand for Dorsey's tweet has had a slow and gradual incline. The first offer was for one dollar on December 15. After a few weeks, the offer rose to $3500, but was eventually cancelled by the bidder. 

 Dorsey plans to convert the proceeds to bitcoin and then donate it to charity. 

See Kevin Shalvey, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's first tweet sold for $2.9 million on Sunday. The buyer said it's the Mona Lisa of tweets., Business Insider, March 24, 2021. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 29, 2021 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

This UT Student Startup Is Bringing Estate Planning Into the Digital Age

ApoorvaThe Launch Pad at the University of Texas at Austin helps students "in the various stages of entrepreneurship navigate innovation across the Forty Acres." Apoorva Chintala has been particularly successful in the LaunchPad program. Chintala is a junior at UT and is pursuing degrees in management information systems, economics, and Plan II. 

Chintala is the CEO and co-founder of Clock Inc., "an online platform for effortless and legal digital estate planning." This month, Chintala was selected as a finalist for the Spring 2021 LaunchPad Fellowship. 

Chintala has taken notice of the current gaps in estate planning, especially the gaps caused by the trouble to keep up with the ever-evolving digital world. Chintala began catching on to these issues when her grandfather died her sophomore year of high school. 

"Since then, Clocr has been growing and recently pivoted to become the only solution for digital estate planning in the world that is compliant with the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA)." 

Compliance with the RUFADAA is vital because it ensures that you and your loved ones safe from identity theft, privacy law violations, loss of money and time, and more. 

Chintala said, “My grandfather passed away, and my dad is the eldest of his siblings. He had to fly to India, where the majority of my family lives, to sort through boxes and boxes of loose documents. Having to deal with guessing what my grandfather’s wishes were while also processing his death was a lot to deal with emotionally.”

It appears that the business world has caught on to the need for a more digital-ready form of estate planning. Clock has won or placed in 12 entrepreneurship competitions in this past year alone. 

It will be interesting, and exciting, to see how Clocr evolves and how it impacts estate planning as we know it.

See Barrett Ward, This UT Student Startup Is Bringing Estate Planning Into the Digital Age, UT News: Business & Economy, March 24, 2021. 

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

March 25, 2021 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 15, 2021

A new program can animate old photos. But there's nothing human about artificial intelligence

AIA new wave of technology has surfaced that allows people to animate old photos and bring them to life. These animated images are made possible by Deep Nostalgia, an artificial intelligence program from the genealogy platform MyHeritage. 

"Users are invited to supply old photos of their loved ones, and the program uses deep learning to apply predetermined movements to their facial features. It also makes up for little moments that aren't in the original photo, like the reveal of teeth or the side of a head." 

This new technology has been described as emotional and heart warming on one side and sort of eerie on the other. Seeing family members and ancestors that have passed or even celebrities come to life is definitely fascinating, but admittedly, its a bit scary to. 

There is a natural human response in the brain that responds to "things that are almost human but not quite." This response, often referred to as the uncanny valley, is set off when we see these types of image manipulations. 

This type of response has the effect of putting your different emotions at odds with each other. Often times, the two emotions at odds are love and fear, especially when seeing a deepfake image of your loved ones. 

As expected with new technology, there is likely to be glitches and inconsistencies with likeness and other issues. It will be interesting to see how these things are corrected as the technology develops. 

See AJ Willingham, A new program can animate old photos. But there's nothing human about artificial intelligence, CNN Business, March 10, 2021. 

March 15, 2021 in Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 28, 2021

NHS saves children’s lives with world-first ‘dead’ heart transplants

ANNAAnna Hadley, a 16-year-old from Worcester, waited for nearly two years for a new heart. Now, almost two years later, Anna is healthy and playing hockey again. Anna has British surgeons to thank, as they "carried out the world's first transplants in children using dead hearts that were brought back to life." 

The surgeons used a pioneering machine to reanimate hearts from donors whose hearts stopped. So far, use of the machine has saved the lives of six British children ranging in age form 12 to 16. Also, each of the transplants occurred during the pandemic. 

Anna was the first to have her life saved by the pioneering machine. She received the call at 2:30am after she had waited almost two years after being diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy. 

Within 24 hours of the operation, Anna was sitting up in bed. Within weeks, Anna was playing hockey again. Anna said, "I just feel normal again. There's nothing I cannot do now."

See Andrew Gregory, NHS saves children’s lives with world-first ‘dead’ heart transplants, The Sunday Times (U.K.), February 20, 2021. 

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

February 28, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Man makes last-ditch effort to recover $280 million in bitcoin he accidentally threw out

CryptoJames Howells, a 35-year-old IT engineer from Wales accidentally threw out a hard drive that had 7,500 bitcoins, which is worth about $280 million at today's prices. Howells said he had two identical laptop hard drives and he accidentally threw the drive with the cryptographic "private key" that he needed to access his coins in the trash. 

Howells, is confident that he would be able to retrieve the key and recover the bitcoin. Howells stated that if the platter inside is still intact, data recovery experts could rebuild the drive and read the data from the platter. The drive, which he threw away eight years ago, is the only way to regain access to the coins. 

Unfortunately, retrieving the hard drive would not be an easy task. Howells will first need to gain permission from local council to search the garbage dump since the landfill is not open to the public. After that, Howells would have to dig through eight years worth of garbage. 

Howells has offered to donate 25% (around $70.8 million) of the bitcoin to a Covid Relief Fund for his city if he is able to find the drive. Unfortunately, city council has rejected his requests so far and they are showing no signs of letting up any time soon. 

See Ryan Browne, Man makes last-ditch effort to recover $280 million in bitcoin he accidentally threw out, CNBC News, January 15, 2021. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 26, 2021 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Apple Watch can help track Parkinson’s disease symptoms, research shows

Apple watchApple watches have become increasingly popular as the amount of features they have continues to increase with new models and updates. Recent health research has lead to the possibility of an even greater feature. 

The new feature would monitor symptoms of Parkinson's disease. "Researchers at Apple, working with specialists who treat Parkinson’s, designed a system that uses the Apple Watch to detect the motor symptoms that are a hallmark of the neurological disease." 

The researchers monitored resting tremors and other involuntary movements to "identify the characteristic 'on' and 'off' patterns of medication's effects." If the research is successful and implemented, the feature could be used as a "round-the-clock" monitoring system. As of now, Parkinson's specialists typically rely on clinical visits and self-reporting to monitor the disease and the effects of the medications that patients are taking. 

This would not be the first time that a device could provide this type of monitoring, but given the popularity and comfortability surrounding the Apple Watch, there would be many advantages to this feature. 

Michael Okun, executive director at the Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases, “Having the ability to take a commonly available device that’s already out there like an Apple Watch … and be able to do this type of monitoring is really nice because you’ll be able to give the clinicians who are caring for these people in their home a much clearer idea of what’s going on throughout the cycle of the day.”

See Mario Aguilar, Apple Watch can help track Parkinson’s disease symptoms, research shows, February 3, 2021. 

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

February 7, 2021 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

David Bowie's estate launches a new TikTok account with his iconic hits and music videos to celebrate the late rocker's 74th birthday

BowieDavid Bowie's estate launched a TikTok account on what would have been his 74th birthday. TikTok announced that David Bowie, who died in 2016 at the age of 69, would be celebrated with a new account that will share his back catalog.

Also, Bowie's music will be available to the TikTok community as Bowie's dedicated page will include iconic videos from over five decades in the industry. On January 10th, TikTok launched the Starman challenge to mark the pass of five years since Bowie's death. 

"The hashtag challenges users to celebrate Bowie's life and work by recreating his iconic looks over the years to the track Starman, the lead single from his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders." 

Paul Hourican, Head of UK Music Operations at TikTok stated, "He remains one of the most influential and acclaimed artists of all time and his music has defined multiple generations and cultural moments. We know the excitement our community will find discovering his music and creating using the indisputable Bowie sound." 

See Roxy Simons, David Bowie's estate launches a new TikTok account with his iconic hits and music videos to celebrate the late rocker's 74th birthday, Daily Mail (U.K.), January 8, 2021. 

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

January 13, 2021 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

What to Do Before You Die: A Tech Checklist

DigitalassetsWhen we think about what will happen to our "things" when we die, we often do not consider our Facebook, twitter, google, or snapchat accounts. Technology is often the last thing on our minds.

It may be time to consider putting together a tech checklist so that your loved ones can have access to digital files like photos, videos, and other memories. Given the continuous growth in technology, it is more important than ever before to make a plan for your digital assets. This has often been referred to as a "digital legacy." 

Below is a checklist to help you put together your digital legacy plan:

  1. Take inventory of your digital assets 
  2. Add a digital executor to your will [Editor's note: It is problematic whether a court will allow bifurcation of an executor's duties.]
  3. Add digital heirs to your accounts
  4. Plan to pass on your passwords
  5. Record your stories

This will be a great start for putting together a solid plan for your digital assets. 

See Joanna Stern, What to Do Before You Die: A Tech Checklist, Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2020. 

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

December 29, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 18, 2020

5 reasons musicians like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks are selling their song catalogs right now

MusicA trend involving musicians selling their "beloved and extensive song catalogs" has begun to make its stride in the music industry. Bob Dylan recently sold the rights to his entire catalog for an estimated $300 million to $400 million. This has been coined as possibly the biggest acquisition of music publishing rights from a single songwriter. The catalog consists of more than 600 songs and a Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Unlikely many artists, Bob Dylan owned most of his own songwriting copyrights. According to Marketwatch, the only likely competitor in value and influence would be the Beatles. Bob Dylan was nor the first nor the last artist to sell his catalog. 

Last month, Stevie Nicks sold 80% of her rights to her songwriting catalog for a reported $100 million. Also, in August, Imagine Dragons sold their back catalog for over $100 million. 

Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British company that buys hit catalogs spent around $670 million in the months between March 2020 and September 2020 on multiple different catalogs consisting of more than 44,000 songs. 

It appears Dolly Parton is thinking about jumping on the train as well. 

Why the sudden surge? Many believe that "the Spotify effect" has a lot to do with it. Not only are older catalogs being played a lot more due to the easy access, it is not much easier to value music due to streaming revenues. Which also inherently makes these catalogs more profitable.  

Also, under the current tax plan and low interest rates, now may be the best time for artists and musicians to sell their catalogs and maximize profit. The low interest rates are good for investors that may want to invest in catalogs to receive royalties. Further, many musicians are not making as much money as they normally would because COVID-19 has essentially cancelled touring. 

One other great benefit is that musicians will not have to deal with their catalogs being fought over in court. With these clear transfers, it is clear who owns the rights and it is a great weight of their shoulders. 

As an artist, songwriter, or musician, now may be the best time and possibly the only time for awhile in which it is more beneficial than a detriment to sell the rights to the catalogs that lead to such great fame and success. 

See Nicole Lyn Pesce, 5 reasons musicians like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks are selling their song catalogs right now, Market Watch, December 16, 2020. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 18, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Music, Non-Probate Assets, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)