Law Tips: Beware of the Potential for Conflicts of Interest With Your Elder Law Clients

Originally published June 2, 2015

According to the most recent data available to the Department of Health and Human Services the population of Individuals who are 65 years or older was approximately 39.6 million in 2009. This equated to 12.9% of the total U.S. population for an equivalent of one in every eight Americans. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 72.1 million individuals who are at least 65 years of age. There are unique and complex issues that elder law attorneys encounter when dealing with a population that has decreased mental capacity, suffer from disabilities, or clients who want family involvement when making end of life decisions.

Matthew Moore and Allen Reece, Indianapolis Elder Law attorneys, focus on the crucial ethical issues involved as faculty for ICLEF’s Elder Law Institute. Potential for conflicts of interest is a prime area of concern they point to. I appreciate Matt and Allen’s helpful review of this topic for Law Tips readers.

Beware of the Potential for Conflicts of Interest
It is extremely common for elder law attorneys to be approached by a group of multiple family members to address what they feel is a “family” issue. It is also common for the elder law attorney to be asked to draft the estate plans for spouses, children, and/or relatives of current and former clients. Identifying potential issues at the outset of the representation and informing the client of potential conflicts is critical for all attorneys, especially the elder law attorney.

Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct (IRPC) Rule 1.7 & 1.8 primarily address the attorney’s duties and obligations as far as conflict of interest situations, but overall any rule outlined in the IRPC should be reviewed and considered by the attorney when dealing with multiple clients where a conflict may become present. (Also review IPRC 1.9 & 1.10 dealing with conflict situations.)

Joint and Separate Representation
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ (NAELA) Aspirational Standards identify joint and separate as the two types of attorney representations that may exist in multiple party/client situations. A joint representation is an attorney-client relationship whereby all confidences are shared between the clients and a separate representation is where confidences are not shared.1  In both situations it is imperative that the attorney explain to all affected parties the different types of representation and received informed consent if the parties wish to waive any confidences associated with these types of representations.

The IRPC states: “… the prevailing rule is that, as between commonly represented clients, the privilege does not attach. Hence, it must be assumed that if litigation eventuates between the clients, the privilege will not protect any such communications, and the clients should be so advised. 2 “ Thus in most estate planning situations the assumption is that any information shared by any party with the attorney will be shared with the other party. The lawyer should, at the outset of the common representation and as part of the process of obtaining each client’s informed consent, advise each client that information will be shared and that the lawyer may have to withdraw from representing one or more or all of the common clients if one client decides that some matter material to the representation should be kept from the others.” Id. Comment 31.

It is advisable that this disclosure be made in the initial engagement letter with the clients that is signed and returned. It could be argued that failure to get this acceptance signed in writing by the client that informed consent was not obtained as required under the IRPC. Although this concept seems simple, many clients do not understand that even if their circumstances change that the attorney would be obligated to disclose any information shared with the other party. This situation is extremely common if the clients are going through a subsequent divorce or separation.

The IRPC does address a common problem that elder law attorneys may face more regularly in the future. It is more common that attorneys are dealing with blended families where one party may want to make specific provisions for their own children or there is a risk that the surviving spouse may change the estate plan to decrease or completely remove a part of the deceased spouse’s inheritance they intended to ultimately go to their prior children. The IRPC says that in limited circumstances an attorney may proceed with the representation when the clients have agreed, after being properly informed, that the lawyer will keep certain information confidential. Id.

Thus it is imperative for the client to get a general back ground of the client’s situation before addressing any information that may be confidential. An initial information sheet should ask for family background including any prior divorces and the relationship of all children or potential heirs to the client. The attorney should then address the pros and cons of moving forward with a common representation with the clients before discussing specific information related to any estate plan. If the clients are unsure as to whether they wish to proceed or if the attorney feels that the parties’ estate plan could create a situation for conflicting interest it would be advisable to recommend that one of the parties obtain separate representation at the outset of the case. Failure to recognize these issues early may result in a situation where the attorney is forced to withdraw his or her representation if potential issues were not discussed at the outset.

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1 NAELA Aspirational Standards Pg. 10

2 IRPC Rule 1.7 Comment 30.

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About our Law Tips faculty participants:
Matthew C. Moore, partner, Fechtman & Moore, Indianapolis, focuses his practice on estate and trust administration, Medicare set aside issues, Medicaid planning, and estate planning for families with special needs children. He graduated from Franklin College in 2003 with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Political Science. Then received his Juris Doctorate in 2006 from Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis.

Allen Reece, Frank & Kraft, P.C., Indianapolis, focuses his practice on the fields of estate and elder law planning. Mr. Reece is a member of the Indiana State Bar Association, including the sections of Elder Law and Probate, Trust, & Real Property; the American Bar Association; the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys; and the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. He is a frequent speaker at seminars. Allen was formerly Vice President at Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Law Tips: Immigration Law Meets Family Law – Sweet Child of Mine

Indiana enjoys a wealth of variety and culture, due in large part to the immigrant community that plays a vital role here. However, a large immigrant community also brings complex situations that can arise as immigration law intersects with state and local statutes and practices, especially in the area of family law. Dallin Lykins, immigration law and family law practitioner with Lewis & Kappes, P.C., Indianapolis, offers Law Tips readers a few pointers in the child custody and support area:

Any time a client appears to have immigration ramifications or concerns, a wise practitioner would consult with an experienced, immigration law attorney to help resolve or prepare for any immigration issues. Current immigration law is codified in the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). While most family law practitioners will not find it necessary to keep a copy of the INA in their legal libraries, a basic understanding of immigration law can help a practitioner spot legal issues involving immigration concerns, improve strategy, and avoid pitfalls.

Sweet Child Of Mine: Child Custody, Support and Travel
Indiana courts are primarily concerned about the best interest of the child or children when determining domestic and family law matters. Understanding how immigration issues may affect the relationship between a parent and child can be valuable for a family law practitioner.

Paternity
The immigration issues can begin as early as the birth of an immigrant’s child. Many hospitals require a social security number in order to list the parent’s name on the birth certificate of a child, and so many immigrant fathers may not be listed on the birth certificate. This can cause problems later on with both family and immigration matters. Fathers should take the necessary steps to remedy this error as soon as they can. If the father has not established paternity and is deported before doing so, this can be a serious problem, because it can be difficult to have communication with the individual or have him appear at any future hearings. *See update below regarding certain Indianapolis hospital policies.

Family law practitioners should make sure they understand the process in Indiana in order to establish paternity and do everything possible to do so in order to avoid confusion and frustration if a parent is later deported from the United States. Once a parent is deported from the United States, immigration laws require the individual remain outside the United States for a long period of time (five, 10, or 20 years). See INA §212(a)(9)(A).

Custody and Child Support
Some local judges or magistrates do not spend much time determining or considering the legal status of an immigrant in the United States. It should be noted, however, that cases do exist where a parent’s immigration status has been a component of a judge’s decision in determining custody. See Rico v. Rodriguez, 120 P.3d 812 (Nev. 2005). Government agencies (such as Department of Children’s Services, DCS) may take it into account. It is important to be able to correctly inform DCS of the different types of status and what they might mean to a family (i.e., when can someone apply for a driver’s license).

While immigration status may be considered in a custody determination, it should not automatically preclude an individual from being granted physical or legal custody of a child. For example, Indiana law does not make specific statutory requirements regarding immigration status in a guardianship filing, but the person’s immigration status can play a factor in the judge’s decision. Since there are so many different types of statuses of immigrants in the United States, the fact that someone is not a lawful permanent resident or citizen of the United States does not automatically signify the person cannot work and support a child here in the United States. Further, it does not mean the immigrant will automatically be deported from the United States. It also does not mean the individual will not be a suitable parent or guardian.

Child support can also have importance in the immigration context. For example, an individual seeking citizenship in the United States is not eligible to become a U.S. citizen if there is evidence she “willfully failed or refused to support dependents.” 8 C.F.R. §316.IO(c)(3)(i). A failure to pay child support can also affect a lawful permanent resident’s ability to travel or renew their Lawful Permanent Resident card. In determining child support some individuals may be hesitant to include employment if they are not employed with a legal social security card. Normally, reporting accurate income on a child support worksheet will not create immigration consequences, but anytime someone is working without lawful permission there can be serious immigration issues in the future. For example, if someone is found to have committed identity fraud or identity theft they can be deported from the United States or prevented from receiving many immigration benefits in the future. Also, fraudulently filling out an I-9** may lead to serious negative immigration consequences, including deportation.

Travel
A concern that often arises in dissolution proceedings is the fear one parent may travel outside of the United States with the couple’s child. In many instances, the dissolution decree or preliminary agreement should contain clauses requiring parents to sign off on passport applications or to give a child’s passport to the custodial parent or neutral third party. In order for a U.S. citizen child to travel outside the United States, the child must have a passport. See Department of State’s Web site, Click Here.

If the child is under the age of 16, either parents or guardians must be present when the child applies. If one of the parents cannot be there (perhaps because of deportation), the parent who cannot be present can sign a form consenting to the application of a passport. Id. If consent from the other parent is not possible, the parent accompanying the child can prepare and sign a form that allows the passport application to be processed. Id.

A parent’s travel with a child should be discussed and analyzed while considering the parent’s immigration status. Certain protections may need to be taken and included in agreements or decrees in order to protect the child and ensure strong cooperation and communication between the parents.

In Conclusion
Family and domestic matters can be complicated, time-consuming, and stressful. When immigration issues are added into that mix, they can become overwhelming. Having an understanding of and appreciation for immigration concerns will help attorneys make clients feel more comfortable and confident to discuss immigration matters that sometimes can be awkward, frightening, and uneasy to talk about with others.

While it is always important to be able to consult with a knowledgeable immigration attorney, family law attorneys in Indiana will become much better practitioners if they can adeptly discuss and confront immigration matters with their clients and help them consider aspects of their case they would not have thought of otherwise.

*Regarding issues with hospitals not adding a father’s name to the birth certificate when no social security number is present, I am informed that many hospitals in Indianapolis no longer prevent the father from being on the birth certificate. The person may want to contact an attorney if this happens.

**Form I-9: Employment Eligibility Verification Form. You may obtain electronic copies of English and Spanish versions of Form 1-9 from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at wvvw.uscis.gov.

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We greatly appreciate Mr. Lykins participation in Law Tips. As a member of our faculty for the Immigration Law You Really Need To Know Seminar, Dallin Lykins covers a broad spectrum of these current issues for family law practitioners.

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About our Law Tips faculty participant:
Dallin Lykins grew up on a farm in Azalia, Indiana. He earned a B.A. in Communications from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. After graduating from BYU, Dallin worked as a speech writer and communications specialist in Washington, D. C., and later graduated from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana. He first began practicing with a small immigration law firm, and he joined Lewis & Kappes, P.C., Indianapolis, in 2012 as a member of the firm’s immigration law and family law groups. Aside from handling any type of immigration case, Dallin has worked as a certified domestic relations mediator in the state of Indiana for more than six years. He has presented CLE and other courses on immigration law in various settings.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Law Tips: Trying Cases in a World of Media Overload: Adapting to the Audience’s Expectations

Welcome back to our Law Tips discussion by Tony Paganelli on issues a trial lawyer can encounter in today’s world of media overload.  In this week’s blog Tony takes the case to the judge and jury. Mr. Paganelli believes that even though TV and movies create an image removed from real life litigation, there are ways a trial lawyer can adapt successfully in the courtroom. I’m pleased to provide to our Law Tips readers his insights on adapting to the audience’s expectations:

Although a lawyer can (hopefully) communicate in advance with a client in such a way as to condition him or her to understand that lawsuits in real life are far removed from what they see in the movies or on TV, a lawyer has no such opportunity with a judge or jury. To a large extent, a lawyer must adapt to meet those expectations as much as possible in hopes of winning a case. Put simply, Johnnie Cochran and the cast of CSI have ruined it for the rest of us. Fortunately, there are many ways to create a polished and sophisticated impression without breaking the bank or distracting from the message that you want to convey on your client’s behalf. The two main areas where these issues come into play are courtroom visuals and “theatrical” performances of counsel.

First, lawyers must decide whether theirs is a case that lends itself well to multimedia presentations, and whether their judge and courtroom are good candidates for such presentations. If the answers to these questions are “yes,” then it is worth considering using these tools to enhance a courtroom performance.

While certain courtroom animations and computerized visual effects can be cost-prohibitive for many lawyers, and in addition to being complicated to use in a courtroom and temperamental to the point of being unreliable, recent advances in technology have made impressive-looking presentations both easier to use and less expensive than in the recent past. In fact, Microsoft PowerPoint, that staple of meetings and conferences, is both powerful and flexible enough to allow lawyers to quickly and easily create impressive visuals to use in a courtroom, either to project and emphasize exhibits, or to emphasize key points made in oral arguments. Most lawyers already own the software as part of the Microsoft Office suite that they use daily as they run Word, Excel, and Outlook. The hardware is almost equally accessible. Most lawyers either have or can borrow a laptop computer. Similarly, most law firms have a projector and screen and, if not, they can be rented inexpensively or purchased in many cases for a onetime investment of less than $1,000.00. Several books are available to help. Lawyers use these tools to create polished and impressive (and persuasive) visuals, including Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points, Jerry Weissman’s Presenting to Win, Christopher Ritter’s Creating Winning Trial Strategies and Graphics, and Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte.

In the area of courtroom demeanor, the solution is equally achievable. Contrary to popular belief, judges and juries do not expect (or want) lawyers to be blow hards or bullies. Rather, studies show that jurors sympathize with witnesses who are badgered and are put off by arrogant and pretentious trial lawyers. What they want you to show, however, is sincere passion for your client’s case and poised, polished presentation. Standing at counsel table and reading your examination questions or your closing argument in a monotone from your legal pad places you in a stark (and unfavorable) contrast from the actors and actresses they see going through the same motions in the movies, and from the celebrity lawyers whose cases are covered on the news.

Even in an era where jurors have seen hundreds of fictional closing arguments and cross-examinations, their expectations of how a lawyer should act in a courtroom will be met by a well-dressed and groomed (but not flashy) lawyer who appears prepared, organized, and confident, who advocates passionately and confidently (but not obnoxiously) for his or her client’s cause.

Here, like in most aspects of litigation, there is no substitute for simple preparation. A well-prepared lawyer will naturally be confident-and therefore appear confident-as he or she presents a client’s case. Argue with passion and conviction, but don’t pound the table theatrically or turn on the crocodile tears. You won’t be perceived as a movie star, but rather as a bad actor. Put another way, don’t bury your emotions-they can be a powerful tool for communicating your client’s message. But at the same time, don’t manufacture emotions because you think that’s what your audience wants to see. That insincerity will backfire every time.

Movie stars and famous lawyers with unlimited budgets have certainly made it harder for the rest of us to look good in comparison. But with some planning it’s still possible to manage your client’s expectations of what a lawsuit looks like and how a trial lawyer acts so that you won’t fall short in your client’s eyes when your case takes longer than 44 minutes (not counting commercials) to get from first meeting to trial. At the same time, with just a little work you can put on a case that’s (almost) worthy of a Hollywood production without compromising your client’s interests or blowing your litigation budget.

Break a leg!

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About our Law Tips faculty participant:
Tony Paganelli is the principal of the Paganelli Law Group, Indianapolis. Before leaving to found his own law firm in 2013, Tony was a litigation partner for several years with one of the largest law firms in the United States. Tony is an experienced trial lawyer with nearly 20 years of experience representing people and companies of all sizes in courtrooms across the United States. He also advises businesses on a wide range of issues, including employee relations, contracts and transactions, regulatory compliance, and intellectual property issues.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Law Tips: Pet Trusts – Client Friendly FAQ’s

Dogs, cats, parrots, and other pet animals play extremely significant roles in the lives of many individuals. Research indicates that pet ownership positively impacts the owner’s life by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and depression, lowering the risk of heart disease, shortening the recovery time after a hospitalization, and improving concentration and mental attitude.1

The love owners have for their pets transcends death as documented by studies revealing that between 12% and 27% of pet owners include their pets in their wills. The popular media frequently reports cases that involve pet owners who have a strong desire to care for their beloved companions.2

Our Law Tips faculty participant, Professor Gerry Beyer, is here to share his professional insights into estate planning for pets. During his CLE instruction at the Midwest Estate, Tax and Business Planning Institute, he raises questions that often spring into a client’s mind when they begin to make provisions in their will for their pets’ care. Here’s a sample of Prof. Beyer’s “Client Friendly” Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a “pet trust”?
A pet trust is a legal technique you may use to be sure your pet receives proper care after you die or in the event of your disability.

How does a pet trust work?
You (the “settlor”) give your pet and enough money or other property to a trusted person or bank (the “trustee”) with the duty to make arrangements for the proper care of your pet according to your instructions. The trustee will deliver the pet to your designated caregiver (the “beneficiary”) and then use the property you transferred to the trust to pay for your pet’s expenses.

What are the main types of pet trusts?
There are two main types of pet trusts.

The first type, called a “traditional pet trust,” is effective in all states. You tell the trustee to help the person who is providing care to your pet after you die (the beneficiary) by paying for the pet’s expenses according to your directions as long as the beneficiary takes proper care of your pet. Many pet owners will prefer the traditional pet trust because it provides the pet owner with the ability to have tremendous control over the pet’s care.

The second type of pet trust, called a “statutory pet trust,” is authorized in almost 40 states. A statutory pet trust is a basic plan and does not require the pet owner to make as many decisions regarding the terms of the trust. The state law “fills in the gaps” and thus a simple provision in a will such as, “I leave $1,000 in trust for the care of my dog, Rover” may be effective.

How much property do I need to fund my pet trust?
You need to consider many factors in deciding how much money or other property to transfer to your pet trust. These factors include the type of animal, the animal’s life expectancy (especially important in case of long-lived animals), the standard of living you wish to provide for the animal, the need for potentially expensive medical treatment, and whether the trustee is to be paid for his or her services. Adequate funds should also be included to provide the animal with proper care, be it an animal-sitter or a professional boarding business, when the caretaker is on vacation, out-of-town on business, receiving care in a hospital, or is otherwise temporarily unable personally to provide for the animal.

The size of your estate must also be considered. If your estate is relatively large, you could transfer sufficient property so the trustee could make payments primarily from the income and use the principal only for emergencies. On the other hand, if your estate is small, you may wish to transfer a lesser amount and anticipate that the trustee will supplement trust income with principal invasions as necessary.

You should avoid transferring an unreasonably large amount of money or other property to your pet trust because such a gift is likely to encourage your heirs and beneficiaries to contest the trust. If the amount of property left to the trust is unreasonably large, the court may reduce the amount to what it considers to be a reasonable amount.

How do I fund my pet trust?
Direct transfers: If you create your trust while you are alive, you need to transfer money or other property to the trustee. You need to be certain to document the transfer and follow the appropriate steps based on the type of property. For example, If you create the trust in your will, you should include a provision in the property distribution section of your will that transfers both your pet and the assets to care for your pet to the trust. For example, “I leave [description of pet] and [amount of money and/or description of property] to the trustee, in trust, under the tenus of the [name of pet trust] created under Article [number] of this will.”

Pour over will provision: If you create your pet trust while you are alive, you may add property (a “pour over”) from your estate to the trust.

Life insurance: You may fund both inter vivos and testamentary pet trusts by naming the trustee of the trust, in trust, as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. This policy may be one you take out just to fund your pet trust or you may have a certain portion of an existing policy payable to your pet trust. This technique is particularly useful if you do not have or anticipate having sufficient property to transfer for your pet’s care.

Pay on death accounts, annuities, retirement plans, and other contracts: You may have money in the bank, an annuity, a retirement plan, or other contractual arrangement that permits you to name a person to receive the property after you die. You may use these assets to fund both inter vivos and testamentary trusts by naming the

trustee of your pet trust as the recipient of a designated portion or amount of these assets. There may be income tax consequences to your estate when retirement plans are used in this way.

Who should be the trustee of my pet trust?
The trustee needs to be an individual or corporation that you trust to manage your property prudently and make sure the beneficiary is doing a good job taking care of your pet. A family member or friend may be willing to take on these responsibilities at little or no cost. However, it may be a better choice to select a professional trustee or corporation that has experience in managing trusts even though a trustee fee will need to be paid.

In closing, Professor Beyer sums up thusly:
Estate planning provides a method to provide for those whom we want to comfort after we die and to those who have comforted us. It is not surprising that a pet owner often wants to assure that his or her trusted companion is well-cared for after the owner’s death. By using a properly constructed traditional trust or a statutory pet trust, you may carry out your client’s intent to protect his or her non-human family members.

  1.  See A Dog’s Life (or Cat ‘s) Could Benefit Your Own, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, May 18, 1998, at lB (explaining how some insurance companies lower life insurance rates for older owners of pets).
  2.  See Anne R. Carey & Marcy E. Mullins, USA Snapshots- Man’s Best Friend?, USA TODAY, Dec. 2, 1999, at lB (12%); Elys A. McLean, USA Snapshots – Fat Cats-and Dogs, USA TODAY, June 28, 1993, at lD (27%); Vital Statistics, HEALTH, Oct. 1998, at 16 (18%).

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About our Law Tips faculty participant:
Professor Gerry W. Beyer joined the faculty of the Texas Tech University School of Law in June 2005 as the first holder of the Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professorship. Previously, Prof. Beyer taught at St. Mary’s University and has served as a visiting professor at several other law schools including Boston College, The Ohio State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of New Mexico, Santa Clara University, and La Trobe University (Australia). Prof. Beyer was the recipient of the 2012-2013 Outstanding Researcher Award from the Texas Tech School of Law. As a state and nationally recognized expert in estate planning, Prof. Beyer is a highly sought after lecturer.

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