Like many other cultures, the ancient Egyptians buried treasures with their dead in part so that when the dead revived, they would have the use and enjoyment of their worldly goods. This may not have been based on the same technology as a cryonic suspension trust, but the idea is the same. The hope is that death is a temporary condition, and that if we can just figure out the right technique, we can be brought back and enjoy our former possessions. The advantage we claim is that hopefully our modern technology is more likely to work at restoring the dead to life than whatever it was they were doing in the pyramids.
Preserving wealth so that it is there to use and enjoy when the dead revive may be as big a challenge as preserving the remains so they can be revived. Instead of the scientific, technological or religious issues of restoring the dead to life, the wealth preservation comes down to the legal structures, and the practical consequences of long term cache’s of treasure. How do we prevent future treasure hunters from plundering the golden temple where the mummy patiently awaits revitalization?
A Cryonic Suspension Trust is an estate planning tool designed with the intent of managing the wealth part of the eternal life equation. A Cryonic Suspension Wealth Trust is for those who are in fact going to attempt to “take it with them.”
A Trust is the best vehicle to accomplish the task of preserving wealth long term. The Trust structure causes the assets to be held subject to the terms of a contract which governs their disposition. The assets are held by a Trustee, who has independent fiduciary duties to administer the Trust in keeping with the Grantor’s intent. The Trust can have other powerful tools along with checks and balances to make sure that the parties stay on track and can get the job done. With modern updates in the law, such a trust can be perpetual and last as long as life. The Cryogenic Suspension Trust is, under the legal technology currently available, the best way to structure and preserve the wealth for future use by reanimated deceased persons. The challenge is this: not any Trust will get the job done. A Trust is the right vehicle with the capacity to do the job, but it has to be loaded with the proper luggage (assets), set up with the property equipment (terms and conditions), operated by a qualified driver (trustee), with appropriate oversight (Trust Protector) to actually arrive at the intended destination.
There are a number of critical concerns to be addressed if the Cryonic Suspension Trust is going to work. This is not an exhaustive discussion, but I will address a few of the big issues.
First, think about it. Whatever property and banking laws may have been in place in ancient Egypt, they’re gone now. Although some of the treasure hidden away in the ground may be discovered as artifacts to remind us of whatever they were attempting to do, their original intent is long lost to history. When I visited Egypt, I saw countless stone carvings with meaning long lost to antiquity. The carving is still there, etched in stone. But the intent is a mystery. If we are going to create something that lasts for very long at all, we must anticipate and have a mechanism for dealing with change. Burying stuff in the ground won’t be enough.
Just like the ancient government of the Pharaohs is no longer in place, whatever form of government we have today, it is going to change. Making a Cryonic Suspension Trust subject to the laws of any one jurisdiction virtually guarantees obsolescence before the mission is accomplished. An effective Cryonic Suspension Trust must be portable and jurisdiction independent. It must be adaptive so that it can function any where and under any legal system.
Historically, Trusts were required to have an expiration date. That is no longer the case. A Cryonic Suspension Trust must be able to outlast every living person involved in setting it up. A great many jurisdictions have abandoned or modified the Rule Against Perpetuities. Trusts that take advantage of this are sometimes called a “Dynasty Trust” or a “Legacy Trust.” The effective Cryonic Suspension Trust will, of course, not have an automatic termination date, but will be structured to last for the longest term permitted by law, with the ability to move to another jurisdiction if the law requires termination. Among other things, this means the assets in the Trust will delay or avoid “vesting” in any particular person or organization for the longest time possible.
Some of the serious problems with long term legal structures arise when those left to administer trusts are not accountable to a third-party authority. The default solution for this is to rely on the state, or intervention of the courts, to keep the trust on its intended track. There are other, private, mechanisms to accomplish the same objective. One of the most powerful is the Trust Protector. The Trust Protector is generally a neutral third party with specific legal or technical qualifications. The Trust Protector is given certain specific authority, such as the power to adapt the Trust to changes in the law or technology, or to remove or replace a Trustee with a more qualified party. Conflict resolution can also be tied to a government institution like a court, or it can be privatized through mandatory alternative dispute resolution. Which of these options is appropriate for a given situation depends a great deal on the confidence the client has that the government of today will be intact to intervene when a problem arises in the future.
In addition to the obvious Cryonic Suspension issues dealt with in the Cryonic Suspension Trust, you will need to address other common estate planning issues. For starters, standard estate planning documents such as Medical Directives need to address the specific concerns of anyone aspiring to take advantage of Cryonic Suspension. Time is critical in preserving the tissue.
Also, are there other family members to be provided for? Do we have special properties or investments to be handled? Is the estate large enough to need special tax provisions applicable under the present laws such as A/B trusts, GST trusts, spend thrift provisions, and so forth? Are there other family members to provide or care for? It is often best to handle such issues in other instruments separate from the Cryonic Suspension Trust. Excluding other family members as beneficiaries of the Cryonic Suspension Trust significantly reduces the risk of challenge by others who want to get the money, rather than leaving it alone for your future use upon reanimation.
The Cryonic Suspension Trust should be part of an overall plan, not an isolated structure.
I have reviewed a number of trusts with the stated purpose of being available for the future reanimated subjects, but then have no mechanism for accomplishing that goal. It is as if the drafters of such trusts give lip service to the idea that reanimation may be a future possibility, but do not really believe it will ever happen. Any trust created for the purpose of Cryonic Suspension must seriously address what to do when the dead arise. Candidly, they must also address what to do it there are attempts at reanimation or other conditions that render the realistic possibility of reanimation completely moot. If nothing else, it is important to provide that the party who determines non-viability has no economic incentive to reach such a finding.
Conceptually, cryonics is about preserving the same person. The hope is to someday awaken in a renewed, healthy body with the same mind and memories prior to death. However, legally, that is not what happens. In legal terms, the person who created the trust ceases to exist at “death” and the revised person is a new person. For example, the revived person would not use the same government issued social security number or or tax identification number. Conceptually, a Cryonic Suspension Trust is NOT a self settled grantor trust. Legally, reanimation is more analogous to re-birth and starting as a new person than it is a continuation of the prior person. The grantor or settlor may have set up the Cryonic Suspension Trust. However, upon reanimation, the revived person is not the grantor or settlor, but just a beneficiary like the beneficiary of any other long term dynasty trust.
The Trust should have a multi-pronged approach to the charitable intent aspect of Cryonic Suspension Trust planning. On the one hand, it should have the capacity to give to and support medical and technological research in the areas of suspension and reanimation. It should also have the capacity to qualify for tax exempt status should that ever become advantageous or available. Typically a charitable purpose is the “safety valve” for deploying the wealth in the event reanimation ceases to be a viable option. Selecting and working with a viable charitable organization that will support the mission is also critical to the long term success. Also, providing for your own designated charitable organization in the Trust significantly reduces risk of challenge to the Trust for lack of a current beneficiary.
There are many myths that surround Cryonic Suspension Trusts that have been debunked. There are limits to what a Cryonic Suspension Trust can accomplish or do. The economic consequences are not always obvious. There is good research on the laws that affect Cryonic Suspension Trusts. There are organizations devoted to the promotion and fulfillment of the Cryonic Suspension Reanimation vision. There are a great many related questions that may or may not have adequate answers. This history of Cryonics is well established. The idea of reanimating the dead did not die with the Egyptians, but lives on in today’s science of Cryonic Suspension. In the same way, Cryonics and derivative efforts to perpetuate life will continually evolve and persist in the future. If it works, and you want to have your wealth waiting for you when you wake up, putting together the right kind of Trust is essential.
The hope and the search for life everlasting, whether in the laboratory or the temple, is an undying part of the human condition.
Such legal planning needs to be as creative and hopeful as our inner yearning for something beyond “this veil of wrath and tears.”
If you read this article, you were looking for something. Did you find it? If you are considering a Cryonic Suspensions Trust, we have tackled the issues and developed our own independent tools and methods. We can help you structure a customized trust that suits your particular needs and objectives. If you already have such a trust, but are not fully comfortable with how it works, or simply do not understand it, we can help. Let us know. Learning is meaningless without action. Do something about what you know. Let us know of your experiences in establishing such a Trust or alternatives to the Cryonic Suspension Trust approach.