BetaBoston

Study analyzes financial sway of the dead

The United States is a very good place to be dead — better than almost anywhere else, legally speaking.

Ray Madoff, a Boston College Law School professor who specializes in trusts and estates, lays out evidence for that in her book called “Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead.”

Other nations have their strong points, many of which Madoff discusses. But in choosing a place to be when you’re dead, “USA forever” is the slogan for you.

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Madoff is a detective on the trail of a curious question: What innovations have made it increasingly possible for dead people — dead wealthy people, mostly — to have virtually unending financial power over living people?

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She dissects and savors many innovations: legal arrangements called dynasty trusts; certain twists in the setup of some charitable foundations; arrangements that lay clammy, cold hands on the behavior of Elvis impersonators and other reenactors of deceased yet still-desired celebrities; and much more.

Other scholars, too, are analyzing pieces of this grand financial perpetuity game. Madoff is perhaps preeminent in stressing how, in the long run, banks and financial service providers are more likely than anyone else, living or dead, to enjoy the long tail of income.

Many of these new arrangements, she said, are “simply creating opportunities for banks to exact fees for a very, very long time.”

If you’re thinking of freezing your biophysical assets — that is, freezing your body after you die, in hopes that someone will some day revive you and give you all the money you dreamed of taking with you — look at a study called “Personal Revival Trusts: If You Can’t Take It with You, Can You Come Back to Get It?”

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It’s about arrangements that are possible if you seek cold comfort with a company called Alcor Life Extension — the place where Red Sox left-fielder Ted Williams went after his playing and living days were over.

Igor Levenberg, a law student, published it in the St. John’s Law Review in 2009.