Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Estate planning and organ donation


Last week’s post 'Keith Richards, estate planning, body disposal and keeping it Respectable' considered a number of different alternatives in relation to body disposal following death.

As is well known, it is possible to donate organs for medical purposes, which in Australia is via an opt in process and requires registration on the Australians Organ Donor Register – see http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/medicare/australian-organ-donor-register .

Renowned behavioural economist Dan Ariely (among others) has commented on the level of organ donation in jurisdictions where there is an opt out approach adopted – in these jurisdictions, the level of uptake is astronomically higher, see - https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2013/02/increasing-organ-donation--but-not-the-way-you-think.

It is important to note that generally if a person wishes to make their organs or body available for medical research, there are specific additional steps that must be taken, prior to death, to ensure that the necessary consents are provided.

Links to the relevant websites in each Australian jurisdiction are set out below.
  1. New South Wales - http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/anatomy/body-donation/faq.php
  2. Victoria - http://medicine.unimelb.edu.au/anatomy-neuroscience/ehs/body-donor-program
  3. Queensland - http://www.uq.edu.au/sbms/body-donor-program
  4. WA - http://www.aphb.uwa.edu.au/body-bequest/donors
  5. South Australia - https://health.adelaide.edu.au/medicine/facilities/body-donation/
  6. Tasmania - http://www.utas.edu.au/medicine/medicine/programs/body-bequest
  7. ACT - http://medicalschool.anu.edu.au/getting-involved/body-and-tissue-donations
  8. Northern Territory – no program currently available.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Keith Richards, estate planning, body disposal and keeping it Respectable


Last week’s post mentioned Keith Richards and it reminded me of one death-related story that Keith Richards is famous (or perhaps more accurately infamous) for. In particular, the way that Keith Richards (allegedly) disposed of his father’s ashes, as profiled in more detail below.

Certainly, one aspect of estate planning that often receives less attention than many other areas is body disposal.

Ideally, a will maker’s wishes in relation to body disposal should be communicated to immediate family members or the executor of the estate.

A memorandum of directions, letter of wishes or similar style document is often the best mechanism in this regard.

A Word version of a template memorandum of directions is available at the View Legal website – www.viewlegal.com.au (via the ‘learn’, then ‘resources’, then ‘adviser toolkit’ tabs) or download our app –
  1. Apple – https://appsto.re/au/7ayT6.i
  2. Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=view.legal.mod
At least in western culture, the three most traditional body disposal approaches are:
  1. burial; 
  2. cremation; 
  3. burial at sea. 
Some alternative approaches include:
  1. Diamonds – see - http://www.lifegem.com/?gclid=CI-UxtmO4NACFYkrvQodF_UJAw
  2. Mummification – see - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummy
  3. Cryogenically frozen – see - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryopreservation and the announcement of an Australian firm offering the solution – see – http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/human-body/southern-cryonics-plans-to-break-ground-on-worldleading-nsw-facility-in-2017/news-story/145d76fec25f4827b229fb09e29579e3
  4. Coral reefs – see - http://www.eternalreefs.com/
  5. Composting - http://www.urbandeathproject.org/
  6. Deluxe cardboard box - http://www.funeraldirectorsaustralia.com.au/cardboard-coffins-australia/
  7. Vinyl records – see - http://www.andvinyly.com/
  8. Firecrackers – see - http://www.ashestoashes.com.au/
  9. Snorting (ie the Keith Richards play; note - the mixing of ashes with illicit substances is generally regarded as optional) – see - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1323930/Keith-Richards-I-really-DID-snort-fathers-ashes.html
  10. Smoking – as a variation on the snorting idea, friends of rap singer Tupac allegedly mixed his ashes with marijuana and smoked them – see - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/tupac-shakurs-ashes-smoked-2346879.html
  11. An hour glass – see - http://www.inthelighturns.com/hourglass-urns.html
  12. Glass orb – see - http://www.cremationsolutions.com/information/cremation-urn-information/cremation-glass-keepsake-information
  13. Snow Globes – see - http://www.bullworks.net/invest/globe.htm
  14. Space flight (as made famous by James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty in Star Trek, whose ashes were sent into space on a Elon Musk SpaceX rocket launch) – see - http://www.celestis.com/
  15. Shot out of a cannon – Hunter S. Thompson style, see – http://www.espn.com/espn/news/story?id=2139349, perhaps helping deliver on his famous comment that - 
‘Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”’

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bowie, baby boomers and Big Bang Disruption – Why 2016 was the new normal for celebrity deaths


Fame

Fame, it's not your brain, it's just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane (fame) …


There has been significant commentary about the apparently overwhelming number of ‘celebrity’ deaths in 2016.

One of the arguably better summaries is provided via the video at the following link - https://youtu.be/YpSOtX4S4zo

Sign o' the times

Some say man ain't happy truly until a man truly dies

There are many who are suggesting however that 2016 merely marks the start of the ‘new normal’ in relation to the death rates of well-known celebrities.

Two significant reasons for this are:
  1. the baby boomer population bubble; and 
  2. ‘Big Bang Disruption’ theory. 
The socioeconomic impact of the baby boomer generation as it has moved through the lifecycle is well documented.

As the following graph demonstrates, even the youngest baby boomers are now in their 50s, and the oldest are into their 70s.

While the baby boomer generation has caused a ‘bubble’ at each other stage of their lifecycle, because of the way life expectancies are spread, it is likely that instead of a bubble, there will be instead a jump up in overall deaths that will be sustained over a long period – in other words, reinforcing the idea that 2016 may simply be part of the new normal for deaths of popular culture icons.

This outcome is arguably further reinforced by the significant growth in elder suicide rates in recent times – see for example - https://fee.org/articles/work-or-die/


The Edge of heaven

Tell me that my soul’s forgiven

Malcolm Gladwell popularised the concept of ‘the tipping point’ – see – http://gladwell.com/the-tipping-point/

One key, although often overlooked, aspect of this theory in popular culture was the timeframe over which popularity of something evolved and maintained cultural interest levels.

Throughout the era of key popularity for baby boomer icons, the lifecycle of popularity was at least 10 years, and in many instances far longer.

Primarily driven by technology innovations, Big Bang Disruption theory shows that the lifecycle of popularity in the post iphone era is as a general rule significantly shorter, although often more intense than in the earlier modern eras. In other words – think (in western culture) Gangnam Style by Psy (see - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASO_zypdnsQ) the most watched YouTube music video ever with around 2.8 billion views, as compared to (say) the sustained successful career of Madonna which arguably started on Countdown in 1984 – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QB9YVxn1xo.

The distinctions between the two theories are best explained by the following diagram.


Gimme Shelter

Come on
Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away


The historically sustained period of popularity and the sheer size of the baby boomer generation therefore will arguably combine to mean that in the future, 2016 will not be seen as an outlier year for celebrity deaths.

As with any theory however, there will be exceptions, and in this space, the exception is arguably the rule that is Keith Richards.

Few can name a harder living baby boomer celebrity, and yet without wishing to trigger a Murphy’s Law outcome, at the age of 73, Richards continues to defy most commonly held assumptions about his life expectancy.