Take-Away: As the law evolves, albeit much slower than modern medicine and technology, we now have another unique purpose trust to possibly consider and discuss with clients. A revival trust  is one that continues for the ultimate use and benefit of the person who chooses to be cryonically preserved or who chooses to achieve what is called ‘mind file’  immortality. Yep, ‘these times are a ‘changing.’

Background: Talk about a trip into science fiction world, consider the following choices clients now have in their pursuit of a ‘perpetual existence.’

  • Cryonics: Cryonics is the science of using ultra-cold temperature to preserve human life with the intent to restoring good health when technology becomes available to do so. Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams has his head cryonically preserved with that goal apparently in mind. Cryonics also appears to be a growing business. Two US companies specialize in cryonics: Alcor Life Extension Foundation  in Scottsdale, Arizona and Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, Michigan. There are now 154 Alcor patients and another 1,444 Alcor members who intend to become Alcor future patients on their deaths. Outside the US there is only one known cryonics company, KrioRus, in Russia, which has preserved 51 humans, 26 full bodies and 25 heads, not to mention 20 pets (mostly cats and dogs.) Alcor charges about $200,000 for a body to be cryro-preserved, less if only the head versus the full body is preserved. Alcor members pay about $500 in annual dues  as a member, to give you a sense of how the cryonics-industry makes money.
  • Mind Files: For those folks who are not too keen about cryo-preservation, there is yet another choice, called mind file. [As I read the article on this topic I started to hear the old Twilight Zone theme song running through my mind!] A mind file proponent believes that (i) a conscious analog of a person can be created by combining sufficiently detailed data about a person (a mind file) using future consciousness software (mind-ware) and (2) that such a conscious analog can be downloaded into a biological or nanotechnological body to provide life experiences comparable to those of a typically birthed human being. [This stuff is way beyond my pay-grade!]The Terasem Movement Foundation maintains a Life-Naut mind file program, where individual can create a free mind file account and upload photographs, videos, and documents, organized information through geomapping, timelines and ‘tagging’ in order to create a computer-based avatar to interact with and respond to the user, and to connect with other users. So far more than 56,000 people have signed up and supplied information to Terasem. Terasem also offers DNA and gene storage with a one-time fee for a ‘bio-collection kit.’ The mind file apparently also works with Bina48, the mind file animated inspired robot, all of which  presumably will (someday) replicate human existence.

Revival Trust: With conventional estate planning, death results in the distribution of the decedent’s assets usually to family members or to charities. With a revival trust a client preserves his/her wealth far into the future in anticipation of their own revival and ultimate usage, when science ultimately determines and achieves that cyronic or mind file immortality is viable.

We are already somewhat familiar with what a revival trust might look like, as it is a dynasty-type trust that is established in a jurisdiction which has repealed or dramatically extended the Rule Against Perpetuities, like South Dakota or Nevada. The difference is that rather than hold assets for the benefit of multiple generations of family members all the while avoiding creditors and estate taxation, the revival trust accumulates wealth while its sole settlor-beneficiary is in biostatis [biostatis being a person after his/her legal death, pending his/her revival through cryonics or mind files.]

  • Purpose Trust: Thus, technically the revival trust is just another purpose But conventional trusts have a beneficiary who possesses the right to enforce the terms of the trust. Not so with a revival trust where there is no beneficiary (living at least) that is capable of enforcing the terms of the trust or holding the trustee accountable. This can present a problem because a trust without a beneficiary might precipitate legal challenges from disinherited heirs of the settlor, or the state’s Attorney General who might claim that a perpetual trust with no beneficiary is against the state’s public policy.
  • Michigan Purpose Trusts: Michigan’s Trust Code contemplates a purpose trust, but the trust is only for a relatively short period as far as trusts go. Purpose trusts are normally used to care for pets, maintain grave sites, or to hold and preserve real estate or specific items of tangible personal property, like an art collection,  for a specified period of time or until an external event occurs. The Michigan Trust Code [MCL 700.7402(1)(c)] permits a purpose trust but with limitations:

A trust is created only if all of the following apply: (c) The trust has a definite beneficiary or is either of the following: (i) a charitable trust; (ii) a trust for a non-charitable purpose or for the care of an animal as provided in section 2722.

MCL 700.2722 deals with non-charitable purpose trusts and pet trusts:

Except as provided by another statute, …if a trust is for a specific lawful non-charitable purpose…and if there is no definite or definitely ascertainable beneficiary designated,… the trust may be performed by the trustee for 21 years, but no longer, whether or not the terms of the trust contemplate a longer duration.

As a result of Michigan’s two statutes, a revival trust will probably not be established in Michigan if it can continue only for 21 years. However, one might be located in another jurisdiction, like Delaware, where the Rule Against Perpetuities has either been abolished (Nevada or South Dakota) or extended for a millennium (e.g. 12 Delaware Code. Section 3556 permits a perpetual trust if it holds tangible or intangible property interests) or for a 1,000 years (permitted under Wyoming or Ohio statutes.)

Quasi-Purpose Michigan Trust: There might be a way to circumvent Michigan’s short 21 year purpose trust statutory limitation by including other lifetime beneficiaries in the revival-type trust,  giving to them a variety of limited enforceable rights. For example, if the revival trust holds real estate, the trust could permit family members to use the real estate while it is held in the revival trust. Or, the revival trust could contain discretionary income distribution provisions for the settlor’s descendants, but limited to narrow purposes like paying for their health insurance coverage, or perhaps use a broader purposes for the discretionary distribution of trust income (e.g. health or education) but subject to a maximum amount distributed in order to permit the balance of the trust’s income to accumulate in the trust for the ultimate benefit of the deceased settlor when he/she is finally revived. These limited beneficiary rights, along with an in terorrem or ‘no contest’ provision in the trust, might dissuade a disgruntled heir from challenging the validity of the  revival trust due to its limited lifetime provisions for deceased settlor’s descendants. Or, in order to deal with public policy challenges that the Attorney General might make to the revival trust, the trustee could be authorized to exercise its discretion and make income distributions from the trust to charities, perhaps limited to charities dedicated to research and the scientific advancement of revival cryonics and technology associated with mind file technology. In the end Michigan’s maximum Rule Against Perpetuities period is limited to 365 years, which may not be nearly long enough to permit the evolution of science and technology to meet the revival trust’s intended purpose.

Conclusion: Who is to say if the concept of perpetual life extension and age reversal science are limited solely to old black and white episodes of The Twilight Zone. Obviously there seems to be a growing public interest in cryonic preservation,  and even if the human body cannot be resuscitated, or mind file downloading is pure science fiction, businesses are now responding to that apparent demand within the public. While I doubt if I will ever see a revival trust in my lifetime it may soon become a topic that you find yourself discussing with one of your clients who believe in the possibility of their immortality through science and technology.