MONEY Estate Planning

What Parents Can Learn From Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Victoria Will—Invision/AP

When it comes to deciding who inherits what, the law gives the dead wide latitude to impose a number of conditions.

On Tuesday, the will of Oscar-winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was released to the public. In addition to dictating who would receive various parts of his estate, the document also contained a more esoteric request: that his son, Cooper, be raised in one of three cities—New York, Chicago, or San Francisco—to ensure that he would grow up in a rich cultural environment.

It’s an understandable request (and as a New Yorker, I’m flattered we made the list), but is it really legal to dictate where your children grow up after you’ve already passed on? And, more broadly, to what extent can one control their descendants’ actions post-mortem?

By law, Hoffman could not have ordered his child’s guardian to keep Cooper in a particular place. Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law, explains that wills can do no more than transfer property from the deceased to their survivors. That said, there are plenty of ways the dead can use property to encourage (or, some might say, coerce) descendants into living a certain kind of life.

If you want to influence your survivors to do something—finish college, go to mass, take good care of Fido, etc.—the best way to do it is to promise them money on the condition they fulfill your request. For example, if you want to make sure your son takes his education seriously, you can leave him $10,000 on the condition he is admitted to a top-ranked college. If Junior knows too many late homework assignments could mean missing out on a huge payday, he’s probably going to hit the books.

Because the deceased have no obligation to give away anything after death, courts tend to give them wide latitude in how their wealth is distributed. The only clear restriction is that inheritance cannot be conditioned on an illegal act (kill the neighbor and you’ll get my car). Otherwise, the condition must simply avoid acting against “public policy”—it can’t encourage something the state doesn’t like—and defining what that includes is almost entirely up to an individual judge.

Ample room for interpretation can sometimes lead to controversial results. In a landmark 2009 ruling, a judge upheld the will of a Chicago dentist that denied funds to any of his grandchildren who married a non-Jew. Various family members sued, arguing the clause provided monetary incentive towards racism. “It is at war with society’s interest in eliminating bigotry and prejudice, and conflicts with modern moral standards of religious tolerance,” one (disinherited) granddaughter wrote in a brief to the Illinois Supreme Court. The verdict? Too bad. The judge found no reason why her grandfather could not choose to favor those descendants who followed his religious traditions.

According to Beyer, this type of decision isn’t uncommon. “This is something the court is doing in its equitable powers,” says the professor. “You can even find similar cases in the same state that go different ways.”

Highlighting this issue, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had previously ruled against a different will that also attempted to mandate religious observance. In that case, the document required a son to “remain faithful” to his father’s religion in order to receive any money. Unlike the Illinois case, this court found that the will contradicted the state’s Bill of Rights, which declared no human authority could interfere with acts of conscience. Does that sound inconsistent? Now you’re getting the hang of it.

Luckily, there are some relatively standard limits to what strings one can attach to their will. Beyer advises that courts will often use public policy arguments to deny provisions that are “manifestly unfair or unreasonable.” For example, a provision that would grant a person money for divorcing their spouse would be ruled invalid.

However, when it comes to the more contentious issues, there’s no telling how a case will turn out. Hoffman graciously chose to merely suggest that Cooper be raised in a cultural center, leaving the final decision completely up to Mimi O’Donnell, the mother of his children and inheritor of his estate. However, had Hoffman chosen to stake O’Donnell’s inheritance on keeping his son in a major city, Beyer says, the outcome would rest on the relevant court’s prerogative.

“Where you draw the line can be kind of fuzzy,” Beyer says. “People have done a lot of strange things.”

TIME History

15 Years Later: Remembering JFK Jr.

JFK Jr. TIME Cover
The cover of TIME's July 26, 1999 issue: "John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. 1960-1999" Ken Regan—TIME

The son of the 35th president was 38-years-old when his plane was lost at sea

Fifteen years ago Wednesday, a shocked nation grieved as the Kennedy family lost another one of their own. John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., 38, died in a plane crash with his wife and sister-in-law on July 16, 1999.

“He was lost on that troubled night, but we will always wake for him, so that his time, which was not doubled but cut in half, will live forever in our memory and in our beguiled and broken hearts,” then-Sen. Ted Kennedy said in a eulogy for his nephew, an American icon turned magazine editor. Kennedy outlived his nephew by 10 years, passing away in 2009 after nearly a half-century in the U.S. Senate.

In that same eulogy, Kennedy praised the “lifelong mutual admiration society” shared between JFK Jr. and his sister Caroline, who now serves as the United State ambassador to Japan.

Kennedy was often asked whether he would further the political legacy of his father, who died when his son was only two years old. JFK Jr. once said of his father, “He inspired a lot of hope and created a sense of possibility, and then the possibility was cut short and never realized.”

Read TIME’s special 1999 cover story marking JFK Jr.’s death here.

TIME Israel

Police: First Israeli Citizen Killed by Gaza Fire

(JERUSALEM) — Israeli police say a man in his 30s has been killed by fire from the Gaza Strip, the first Israeli death in more than a week of fighting.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that Israeli man was delivering food to soldiers Tuesday at the Erez Crossing with Gaza when he was struck by a mortar.

Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in strikes in Gaza since Israel launched the campaign over a week ago to stop rocket fire at its citizens.

Gaza militants have fired more than 1,100 rockets toward Israel in the fighting. Mostly thanks to its “Iron Dome” defense system, no Israelis were killed till Tuesday.

Rosenfeld said at least 15 Israelis, including several children, have been injured by the Palestinian rocket fire since the fighting began.

TIME Crime

15-Year-Old Shooting Survivor Quotes Harry Potter at Memorial for Her Family

The teen says her family is "in a much better place" and that she "will be able to see them again one day"

+ READ ARTICLE

The sole survivor of a shooting rampage that killed her parents and four siblings, quoted a line from the Harry Potter series at a memorial for her family on Saturday.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times,” Cassidy Stay said, citing Dumbledore’s advice in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, “if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

More than 400 people attended the “celebration of life,” NBC News reports, which took place following Wednesday’s shooting in the Houston area.

MONEY Shopping

Sitting At Your Desk Is Killing You. Here’s What It Costs To Stop the Destruction

This could be you if you don't get up and move around during the work day. TommL—Getty Images/Vetta

Sitting all day is a real killer. Here's a few products to help you be more active at the office.

The science is in: Sitting at your desk all day is really, really, bad for you. Studies have shown long periods of sitting is bad for the elderly, drastically increases your risk of cancer, and now new research confirms that being a couch potato at work is hazardous to your heart’s health.

Worst of all, your daily (or weekly) trip to the gym isn’t enough to offset the damage that prolonged sitting can cause. As a New York Times survey of the scientific literature concluded:

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death.

How can you avoid this death-by-lethargy? The key is not exercising more, but sitting less. Luckily for desk jockeys everywhere, there are plenty of products and services that promise to get you moving about during the work day. Here’s a quick survey of the market, and how much each solution will cost you.

Standing Desk

Cost: $20-$1,497

The most obvious way to prevent the problems of sitting is to, well, stand. A standing desk is pretty much the same as a normal desk, but much taller, and usually adjustable. The idea is that by standing you’ll be more active—flexing your legs, fidgeting, moving around, shifting your weight, etc—and therefore avoid the complete stasis that makes sitting so damaging.

Standings desks run the gamut from virtually free to obscenely expensive. If you don’t want to spend any money at all—something standing desk advocates actually recommend for newcomers—you can just use a sufficiently high counter top or table. As long as your new workstation meets a few ergonomic requirements (this graphic from Wired is very helpful), you should be all set.

If you like the standing desk lifestyle (and the ability to literally look down on your seated co-workers), it might be time to splurge on the real thing. On the low end, there’s a $20 IKEA hack for the DIY type. A good mid-range product is the $400 Kangaroo Pro Junior, an adjustable (if small) option with a special mounting for your computer monitor.

The top of the line is the NextDesk Terra. At almost $1,500, the Terra is not for anyone on a budget, but it certainly offers some great features. In addition to great build quality, Terra’s electrical motor allows you to easily adjust its height using a small console on the right corner. It also remembers three different heights, allowing for sharing or an easy transition back to sitting position. All this was enough to impress the Wirecutter, which picked the Terra as their favorite standing desk.

Treadmill Desk

Cost: ~$700-$1,500+

Standing desk not hardcore enough for you? Try combining it with an actual treadmill. Surprisingly, these contraptions aren’t that much more expensive than a standing desk, with some options coming in around $700. Consumer Reports recommends the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5, which retails for $1,500.

Treadmill desks are a great way to remain active while working, but try not to go overboard with the exercise (especially if you can’t wear gym clothes to work). Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell walked 16 miles in one day on a treadmill desk and described the experience as less-than-enjoyable.

Office Yoga

Cost: Classes start at $250 a session

Yoga is a great way to de-stress while also getting some needed exercise. The problem? You can’t exactly break out the tights and yoga matts in the middle of your office without getting, at the very least, some weird looks from everyone nearby.

Or at least that’s been the problem until now. A company called Yoga Means Business offers offices group yoga classes that don’t require a change of clothes. YMB’s signature class is the 30-minute method, which features 15-20 minutes of standing and stretching and another ten minutes of meditation and breathing. Half an hour isn’t too much time, but it’s a great way to get out of your chair and be active for a little while during the work day.

In terms of cost, YMB’s classes are free—assuming you can convince your company to pick up the charge. Each 30-minute session starts at $250 and YMB recommends two sessions per week. If yoga isn’t enough, you can also book an appointment with an office fitness expert. Larry Swanson, a Seattle message therapist and personal trainer, offers appointments where you can learn exercises, posture awareness, and other strategies for staying active during work.

Apps

Cost: Free

If all these fancy desks and yoga classes sound like too much, you can make yourself more active using only a smartphone or tablet. StandApp, available for both iOS and Android, allows users to set custom break intervals and then alerts them when its time to get out of their chair. In addition to these periodic reminders, StandApp also has video guides for various office-compatible exercises and tracks how many calories you’ve burned by getting up more often.

Posture Sensor

Cost: $149.99

If you are going to sit for a while, it’s important to have good posture. The LumoBack posture sensor straps around your waist and tracks how your sitting or standing. If it detects you slouching, the device vibrates to let you know you’re doing it wrong. The LumoBack also integrates with your iPhone to track your steps and how many times you stand per day, making it useful for anyone who wants to make sure they’re not sitting for too long.

Get a New Job

Cost: ????

At the end of the day, the problem is your modern work life. Most white collar jobs require sitting behind a desk for 8+ hours instead of moving around. On the other hand, jobs in manual labor offer plenty of opportunities for exercise. Maybe you’ll have to take a pay cut (not always, many manual jobs have pretty great compensation), but you’ll probably be healthier for it. And you can’t put a price on your health, right?

TIME Crime

Teen Killed While Chasing iPhone Thief

Kritina Lee Knief—Getty Images
Kritina Lee Knief—Getty Images

California teen killed chasing her Iphone

Police are asking for the public’s help tracking down a thief who stole a California teen’s iPhone last week. The young girl was killed after jumping onto the hood of a speeding car in an attempt to retrieve the device.

15-year-old Rubi Rubio of Santa Ana was walking her 7-year-old sister home from school around noon last Thursday when a thief took her iPhone and jumped into a car. Rubio briefly held on to the burglar’s car before falling off and hitting her head, said police corporal Anthony Bertagna.

“According to witnesses, the vehicle was swerving in an attempt to get her off,” Bertagna told the Orange County Register.

The teen died of her injuries while surrounded by family members in Western Medical Center Santa Ana on Saturday. Rubio’s mother, Marisol Hernandez, said she gave her daughter the phone after Rubio received good grades in her sophomore year of high school.

“She was my support all the time and she deserved it,” Hernandez told the Register. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” she said, questioning her daughter’s decision to chase the vehicle.

Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District Rick Miller said in a statement that grief counseling will be available for friends, family, teachers and others affected by Rubio’s death.

TIME Crime

Police Say the Hot-Car Toddler Died While His Dad Was Sexting

Justin Ross Harris
Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, sits during his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Kelly J. Huff—AP

Detectives say man sent explicit messages to women as son died in car

On Thursday a judge denied bail to Justin Ross Harris, a man whose 22-month-old son died after being left in his hot car, after finding probable cause to charge him with felony murder and child cruelty. Harris, of Cobb County, Georgia, has pleaded not guilty.

At the hearing, detectives shared incriminating evidence that had been found on Harris’ computer, tablet and smartphone. Lead investigator Phil Stoddard testified that Harris had been sending explicit text messages to six different women through an app called Kik — including a picture of his erect penis to a 16-year-old girl — while his son Cooper Harris was trapped in the car for hours and subsequently died. According to Stoddard, Harris may also be charged with sexual exploitation of a minor.

Detectives also found evidence on Harris’ computer that he had been reading articles on a Reddit page called “child-free”— a thread for people who do not have or want children — in the months leading up to the incident. Harris had also twice watched a public-service-announcement video that dramatized the results of leaving an animal in a hot car. The last time it was watched was only five days before his son died on June 18. Detectives say that Internet searches also revealed Harris was looking for tips on how to survive in prison.

Harris’ wife Leanna explained to police that they had watched the video after she saw a public-service announcement reminding parents not to leave children in cars, CNN reported.

During the hearing, detectives also claimed that Harris was exhibiting strange behavior after he had been interrogated. In the interview room, his wife asked him what he told police. “And she looks at him, and she’s like, ‘Well, did you say too much?’” Stoddard testified.

The Cobb County medical examiner’s office has said that Cooper’s cause of death was “consistent with hyperthermia and the investigative information suggests the manner of death is homicide.”

Cooper’s funeral was held in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday.

TIME Caffeine

Prom King Died From Caffeine Powder Overdose

Logan Stiner, 18, died after ingesting a toxic amount of caffeine

Correction appended

The death of an Ohio high school senior just shy of his graduation has officially been attributed to a caffeine overdose.

On May 27, recently elected prom king Logan Stiner, 18, came home for lunch and ingested enough caffeine powder to cause an irregular heartbeat and seizures. His brother found him dead next to the white powder.

“I never thought it would hurt an 18-year-old child,” neighbor Lora Balka told WKYC.

Lorain County Coroner Steven Evans said Saturday that 1/16 a teaspoon of power has the caffeine equivalent of one can of Mountain Dew or a high-power energy drink. No one saw how much powder Stiner drank or knows where he got it from, but Evans said that it can be purchased online.

In October 2013, a British man died from a caffeine overdose after eating too many Hero Instant Energy Mints. Every mint contains the caffeine found in a can of Red Bull and the label advises taking no more than five in a 24-hour period. The coroner did not disclose how many pills John Jackson, 40, ingested.

“I am as certain as I can be that Mr. Jackson did not know he was exposing himself to danger,” said Coroner Robin Balmain, who vowed to write to the U.K.’s Department of Health regarding the potential dangers of high energy products.

In 2010, a 23-year-old man died in Nottingham, England after ingesting two spoonfuls of caffeine powder at a party with friends, which is the equivalent of 70 cans of Red Bull. The label warned to only take one-sixteenth of a teaspoon.

“Caffeine is so freely available on the internet,” coroner Nigel Chapman said, “but it’s so lethal if taken in the wrong dose and here we see the consequence.”

This article originally misstated how Lora Balka was related to the victim. She is a neighbor.

TIME Theater

The Night the Lights Went Out on Broadway: Eli Wallach and A Short History of the Ultimate Actor’s Honor

Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach rehearsing on May 17,1971, in New York, New York. Santi Visalli—Getty Images

The actor will receive the Great White Way remembrance on June 27

Tonight, June 27, in honor of his long career in film and theater, Eli Wallach will receive Broadway’s equivalent of a flag at half mast. At a quarter to eight, for one minute, the marquee lights of New York’s Broadway theaters will dim to acknowledge his death earlier in the week. As noted by the Broadway League, the theater-industry organization that makes these decisions, Wallach was in more than two dozen Broadway shows, beginning with a 1940s production of Skydrift and including such notable titles as Major Barbara and Rhinoceros.

Though the dimming of the lights sounds like one of those things that must be as old as theater itself — or at least as old as light bulbs — it’s actually a tradition that began during Wallach’s lifetime.

Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the Broadway League, told Playbill in 2010 that nobody knows how the tradition got started, but it’s pretty easy to guess. After all, the first person to be honored in that way was in a show when she died, so the people running the lights were her current co-workers, not her distant admirers. The first person to receive the honor, according to the New York Post, was Gertrude Lawrence, an actress who was killed by viral hepatitis while starring in The King and I. The New York Times reported that she went into the hospital right after a matinee in August; by the first week of September, she had fallen into a coma. She died on a Saturday and the Tuesday performance of The King and I was cancelled in her honor; as the Times described it, “house lights in all Broadway legitimate theaters giving performances tonight will be dimmed for one minute at 8:30 P.M.” In addition, London theaters would dim their house lights — that’s inside the theater, not outside — at 7:30, which was their curtain time.

As Playbill confirms, the tradition, which started in the early 1950s, got off to a slow start, with only three such ceremonies in the first 25 years. The second on their list was the one to take it from inside the house to outside on the marquee. When Oscar Hammerstein II died in 1960, Broadway went all out: the Times reported that “miles of neon lights and thousands of bulbs from Forty-second to Fifty-third Street and in the side streets between Eighth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas were turned off”; street lamps were dark too and thousands of people gathered to hear two musicians play taps. But, though that ceremony was elaborate, it’s not quite so clear-cut as to say it was the second-ever dimming, period. It was the first time since World War II that all of the outside Broadway lights were dimmed — in 1942, the Army tested whether the city could go dark in the case of air raid — but it was neither the first time that inside lights were dimmed (that was Lawrence) or that just a few marquees were dimmed.

These days, dimming happens much more frequently. This year, so far, the Broadway League has announced dimming of the lights in honor of Ruby Dee, Nicholas Martin, Mitch Leigh and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

But quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. As the tributes get more frequent, they seem to have gotten less precise; the light-dimmers have recently been criticized for failing to mark the minute named by the Broadway League. When James Gandolfini received the honor in 2013, the New York Post noted that not every theater participated or participated at the right time. Without that coordination, the gesture doesn’t have much of a visual effect. You can see for yourself, around 0:33 in the below video:

Still, the difficulty of coordinating such a tribute is nothing new. When Eli Wallach was a teenager growing up in New York City, for example, long before Broadway stars could hope to be honored with dim marquees, he might have even seen an example first hand: in 1931, to mark the memory of Thomas Edison, the entire nation participated in a ritual dimming of the lights, to celebrate his contribution to electricity. Broadway was joined by the Statue of Liberty and the White House in turning off the lights during a special radio broadcast at 9:59 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. But, despite the grand gesture, not everything went off without a hitch. “In New York,” the New York Times wrote on Oct. 22, 1931, “the tribute, though spontaneous, was intermittent despite the city’s efforts to synchronize the tribute.”

TIME

Conjoined Western Pennsylvania Twins Die at Home

INDIANA, Pa. — Conjoined twin brothers have died in their western Pennsylvania home a little more than two months after they were born.

The Indiana County coroner’s office tells The Associated Press the boys had been receiving hospice care at their home in Indiana, Pennsylvania, about 45 miles north of Pittsburgh, before they died Tuesday.

Andrew and Garrett Stancombe were born April 10 to Michelle Van Horne and Kody Stancombe who already have a 22-month-old son together.

The couple decided against risking surgery to separate Andrew and Garrett, who were joined at the torso and shared a heart and liver.

The boys’ funeral was set for Thursday evening, following visitation at the Rairigh-Bence Funeral Home in Indiana.

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