Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

Electronic-Will Legislation: The Uniform Act versus Australian and Canadian Alternatives

E-willThe Uniform Electronic Wills Act (Uniform Act), promulgated in 2019, allows created wills to be formalized on computers and other portable devices, leaving the wills to be completely electronic and never on paper. Also, testators are allowed to execute a will by signing it electronically and witnesses can be either physical or virtual. 

This new era of signing and executing wills makes storage and filing much simpler since the wills can be stored as a file. As of now, no state has adopted the Uniform Act, but Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Nevada have enacted non-uniform legislation authorizing electronic wills. 

Although this new technology may certainly make things a bit easier, there are a few downfalls. For one, under the Uniform Act, all a testator and witness must do is sign type their names, making it akin to online transactions. This could raise contractual issues in the future, since e-signatures are and mutual agreement have often been food for the belly of litigation. Also, this will make it much harder for witnesses and testators to recognize the documents in the future. Fraud and forgery will pose a much greater risk in this form of formalizing wills. 

People may also be more encouraged to perform DIY wills instead of reaching out for help. 

Essentially, the main worry is that the many safeguards that are in place due to the requirement to execute wills in person will be removed in in the electronic era of wills.

Despite the potential downfalls, there are also many upsides to executing wills electronically, especially for those affected by COVID-19. They are easier and allow those that cannot leave home a means to execute important estate planning documents. 

It will be interesting to see if and when states will adopt the Uniform Act. 

See Adam J. Hirsch and Julia C. Kelety, Electronic-Will Legislation: The Uniform Act versus Australian and Canadian Alternatives, American Bar Association: Probate and Property, September/October 2020. 

 

September 30, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Article on Preparation of Wills in Times of COVID-19 Pandemic – Selected Observations

Mariusz Zalucki recently published an article entitled, Preparation of Wills in Times of COVID-19 Pandemic – Selected Observations, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. 

Pandemic time is a situation of increased human deaths, which cannot be left without the influence and interest of the law of succession. Some legislators have prepared and enacted appropriate facilities for the use of formal instruments for disposing of property upon death specifically for the pandemic period. The author looks at these solutions and wonders whether it is appropriate to deformalize the law of succession for the period after the pandemic, while presenting the statutory solutions of selected states.

September 27, 2020 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Digital Assets in Estate Planning: Cybersecurity Concerns and Considerations

Digital assetsMany estate planning clients have moved into the digital asset realm. Digital assets are typically stored online in electronic format. 

"Most clients preserve digital assets either for their sentimental value or their financial value. Examples of digital assets which are preserved for their sentimental value include digital photos, music, movies, eBooks, information and documents stored on cloud accounts, subscriptions, smart-phone applications as well as data stored on these applications, and social media accounts."

Digital assets that are held for financial value are typically in the form of cryptocurrencies and investment accounts. Other examples are income-generating websites or blogs and digital copyrights or trademarks. 

Given the increase in digital assets, the threat of cybercrime is more prevalent. "For instance, recently in New York, a couple unintentionally wired a $1.9 million down paymentfor a business to cybercriminals who had hacked into the couple’s email account, learned of the transaction, and created fake wire transfer instructions. A 2019 survey conducted by Morgan Stanley revealed that cybersecurity risk is one of the major concerns for high net worth individuals."

Estate planning attorneys can help clients navigate the laws governing digital assets and advise them in taking proactive stets to protect their digital assets. 

See Philip N. Yannella & Priscilla G. Osei-Bonsu, Digital Assets in Estate Planning: Cybersecurity Concerns and Considerations, Ballard Spahr LLP, September 14, 2020. 

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

September 16, 2020 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

The It List: Netflix doc tells the story of youngest person ever to be cryonically frozen, 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune' return with major changes, Janelle Monáe's time-twisting horror film 'Antebellum' heads to VOD and the best in pop culture. . .

There is a new Netflix documentary out that tells the story of the youngest person to ever be cryonically frozen. The documentary is called, Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice. The documentary focuses on a Thai Buddhist family that decided to cryonically freeze their daughter, who has brain cancer, until medical technology can save her. 

In other "It List" news, the beloved game shows Jeopardy! and the Wheel of Fortune have returned after taking a brief hiatus following COVID-19. In honor of Wheel of Fortune's 38th season, the new minimum that players can win by spinning the bonus wheel is $38,000. 

Also, Antebellum premiers this Friday. The thriller has been described as a film that ties our present to our past. Critics have compared the show to Get Out which was produced in part by Jordan Peele. The show is expected to be a hit social thriller. 

See The It List: Netflix doc tells the story of youngest person ever to be cryonically frozen, 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune' return with major changes, Janelle Monáe's time-twisting horror film 'Antebellum' heads to VOD and the best in pop culture. . ., Yahoo News, September 14, 2020. 

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

September 16, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Television | 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)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Connie Culp, 1st US partial face transplant recipient, dies

CcConnie Culp, the recipient of the first partial face transplant in the U.S., has died at 57, almost a dozen years after the groundbreaking operation. 

Her surgery was performed in 2008 by The Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic said Saturday that Culp died Wednesday at the Ohio clinic of complications from an infection unrelated to her transplant.

Dr. Frank Papay, who was part of Culp's surgical team, referred to Culp as "an incredibly brace, vibrant woman and an inspiration to many." Papay went on to say, "Her strength was evident in the fact that she had been the longer-living face transplant patient to date . . . She was a great pioneer and her decision to undergo a sometimes-daunting procedure is an enduring gift for all of humanity."

In 2004, Culp's husband shot her in the face in a failed murder-suicide attempt. The gunshot destroyed her nose, shattered her cheeks, and practically destroyed her vision. The Associated Press previously reported that her face was so mangled that children would run away from her and call her a monster. 

Culp went through 30 different operations to try to fix her face, all unsuccessful. In December 2008, Dr. Maria Siemionow led a team of doctors in a 22-hour operation to replace 80% of Culp's face with bone, muscle, nerves, skin and blood vessels from a donor, Anna Kasper. 

Following the operation, Culp went on to make television appearances and became an advocate for organ donation. 

Kasper's daughter said that she could see part of her mother in Culp, especially in the nose. She went on to say, "I know she's smiling down on this, that she's very happy."

See, Ron Todt, Connie Culp, 1st US partial face transplant recipient, dies, Associated Press, August 1, 2020. 

August 4, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Article on Bringing the Dead Back to Life: Preparing the Estate for a Post-Mortem Acting Role

Ben Laney recently published an Article entitled, Bringing the Dead Back to Life: Preparing the Estate for a Post-Mortem Acting RoleWills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Unknown

Computer generated imagery (CGI) now has the ability to accurately recreate deceased actors and actresses for movie roles long after their death. This student comment examines how the right to publicity gives an actor the ability to protect their postmortem persona rights beyond their death using estate planning techniques.

June 19, 2020 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 15, 2020

Best Practice Considerations for Virtual Execution of Estate Planning Documents

6a01bb07f6b79e970d01b7c7794534970bMarissa German and Barbara Kimmitt, attorneys for the Canadian legal practice of Bennett Jones LLP, recently wrote about the considerations that you should take when virtually executing estate planning documents. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Ministerial Order (M.O.) was signed in Canada which modifies current legislation on a temporary basis to allow for virtual witnessing of Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives (Estate Planning Documents). The modification was made with the public interest in mind since some people cannot leave their homes due to health concerns. 

The M.O. specifies two requirements for the virtual execution of Estate Planning Documents:

  1. The persons must be connected to each other by an electronic method of communication in which they are able to see, hear and communicate to each other in real time; and 
  2. A lawyer must be providing the maker/donor/testator of the document with legal advice and services respecting the making, signing and witnessing of the Estate Planning Document.

As of now, the M.O. does not expressly allow for the execution of Estate Planning Documents in counterpart, but attorneys are working for legislation to obtain it; this would make virtual execution of Estate Planning Documents less cumbersome. 

German and Kimmitt also provided a in-depth list of the best practices for Lawyers who are assisting clients in the execution of Estate Planning Documents using video conferencing may wish incorporate the following best practices. 

See Marissa German & Barbara Kimmitt, Best Practice Considerations for Virtual Execution of Estate Planning Documents, Bennett Jones LLP, June 10, 2020. 

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

June 15, 2020 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Understanding Digital Assets And Their Importance In Your Estate Planning

Digital-Assets-ImageAlthough most people may think of houses, businesses, or other ordinary finances when thinking about assets, since so many area of our lives have transferred to the digital realm, digital assets have become an integral part of the estate planning process.

Digital assets are any online record that a person owns. These online records could contain anything from a blog on cooking to an online rewards program. Failure to maintain and protect your digital assets can lead to serious consequences, especially for industry leaders that use digital accounts as a revenue stream. 

These digital assets may be financial accounts, online reward programs. electronic communication, or digital collections. Despite the the prevalent use and exchange of online data, many people neglect to include their digital assets in their estate plans. If you are one of these people that forgets to include your digital assets, your family members or loved ones may be unable to access your online accounts even if it is just to pay bills. 

In order to prevent this from happening you should make a list of your online accounts and be sure to include them in your estate plans.

See Russel Morgan, Understanding Digital Assets and Their Importance in Your Estate Planning, Forbes, June 8, 2020.

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

June 11, 2020 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)