Ten ways to avoid being the next cryonics legal case
Several of my clients and friends have asked me for observations regarding securing their cryonics arrangements even with contrary wishes of friends and relatives. Given the recent Mary Robbins case in Colorado, and multiple previous cases available in some detail on the websites of both CI and Alcor, structuring your affairs in the most secure manner currently has top of mind awareness for many who are serious about their cryonics plans.
The purpose of this article is to provide some insight into how serious cryonicists can structure their affairs to assure themselves they have done everything possible regarding funding and legal structures for their optimal suspensions.
For ease of reference, I will number the following points. There is some attempt to put the most important or easy to handle considerations early in the list. For simplicity, I will avoid the usual lawerly weasel clauses, except to point out that the following are generally, as opposed to universally, true, and that they apply for United States cryonicists rather than all global citizens.
1. Fund…and overfund…your suspension with life insurance. This assumes you are insurable. Life insurance proceeds go DIRECTLY to your named beneficiary, without taxes or reductions or delays of probate. More importantly, the funds are created in addition to your estate and do not reduce your estate otherwise going to your heirs. It is no longer perceived as a “zero sum” game where your heirs are in direct competition for funds vs. the cryonics organization.
I am not aware of a single suspension that was delayed for funding considerations when there was adequate life insurance in place in a verifiable manner.
Not one, in the history of cryonics, which is now extending some 40 years.
In contrast, there have been multiple cases of delay, obstruction, interference, and legal wrangling in cases without adequate and extra life insurance funding.
2. Have your policy owned…or jointly owned…by the cryonics organization. This enables the cryonics organization to KNOW at any given time that your policy is in force with no changes to the beneficiaries, and no reduction caused by a loan against the cash value the policy may have. Alcor generally requires this, and CI funding that includes Suspended Animation arrangements also requires cryonics organization ownership.
3. If you trust your cryonics organization with your life, you want to see them do well. It therefore makes sense to make them the “CONTINGENT” beneficiary as well as the primary, even if you cannot be suspended. Alternately, you can name any other person or persons, or a charitable organization, as contingent beneficiary. Naming your cryonics organization as the contingent even if you cannot be suspended is not ideal, in that it reduces financial incentive of your cryonics organization to suspend you. But it is still probably better than naming family members or someone you are not completely convinced will support your cryonics plans.
The important thing you want to AVOID is creating a structural CONFLICT OF INTEREST in which your family or relatives get the money if they talk you out of your cryonics arrangements.
4. The question has come up as to whether an alternate beneficiary, or even a primary, needs to know they are in this position. The answer is that the beneficiaries do NOT need to sign any portion of the application, and won’t even know they are listed as beneficiaries unless you tell them.
5. For cash–as opposed to life insurance–funding, the optimal secure funding is some form of a GUARANTEED annuity. The cryonics organization need not be the OWNER of the policy if they are listed as the IRREVOCABLE BENEFICIARY. Variable annuities, even with underlying income guarantees, will not work because the death benefit and principle are not guaranteed to be there when needed.
Annuities with named beneficiaries also avoid probate, although there can be some taxable considerations, unlike life insurance. The annuity also must waive surrender penalties upon death, to assure the cryonics organization full funding.
6. Any alternate funding, such as real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, hard assets, collectibles, is a disaster for you, your cryonics organization, and the entire field of cryonics, waiting to happen.
It astounds me that smart individuals signing up for cryonics do this. And that any organization deeming itself a serious cryonics alternative, will allow insecure and unverifiable and illiquid funding of this nature. Do you want to have your family and relatives contesting your cryonics arrangements? Do you want your cryonics organization to wait over the weekend, or over the holiday, or till the next business day till they confirm your funding?
You are virtually guaranteeing that there is a delay, of hours, days, or weeks, while funding is ascertained, when literally seconds and minutes count, if you fund with these assets. Call up and ask your cryonics vendor what would happen, and when, given your current funding arrangements.
7. Be public with your cryonics arrangements. It is time for serious cryonicists to come “out of the closet.” Like some courageous gays and atheists have demonstrated, it is time we become “loud and proud” of ourselves and our choices.
8. Make a video of your strong preference for cryonics. Include verbiage that states your decision is unequivocal and firm, and made when you were of sound mind. Also specify your wishes that any revocation made later should be ignored if it is made while under pain medication, or while physically or emotionally ill, or under undue influence by outside parties including family and friends. Have multiple copies made, upload it to the net, provide abundant and clear instructions so that even jackass attorneys and judges can’t fail to get the message.
9. Moving near your cryonics vendor if you are deathly ill is logical. Alas, it is often not done due to people wanting to be in their homes and with their families when they are dying. Some progress has been made in developing a community of support near cryonics facilities. David Pizer and Mark Plus have worked for years to develop a cryonics friendly center near Alcor, and I have heard talk of some shared housing arrangements near the Cryonics Institute.
10. Talk–have “the talk” with your family and friends, showing them your cryonics bracelet and expressing your wishes. Get their commitments that they will not undermine your wishes, ideally in writing in a “relatives affidavit” available from your cryonics vendor.
Discuss different scenarios of your “death,” and what protocols and logistics would be involved in providing the optimal suspension to preserve your precious self. You are worth it! You deserve to see the future…or at least have some non-zero chance to see the future. Don’t pay ALMOST enough price to give cryonics a chance…pay the FULL price!
Doing all the above will not guarantee a perfect suspension, and even an “optimal” suspension has no guarantees.
Folks, we are trying to be smart about our life decisions, and our life and death decisions.
You have been smart enough to research cryonics and perhaps sign up for cryonics. Let’s be smart enough, and display enough common sense, to give ourselves every chance of something like an optimal suspension.