A co-worker recently passed along this ESPN article chronicling the storied life of Ted Williams, arguably one of the greatest baseball players to have ever played the game. While I must admit that my love for sports stems from hockey and the beautiful game of soccer, as Estates lawyers, my co-worker and I were drawn to the issues surrounding the Last Will of Ted Williams and his burial wishes.
According to this Daily Mail article, Williams executed a Last Will and Testament in 1996 apparently indicating that he wanted to have his body cremated and his ashes sprinkled around his Florida Keys fishing grounds “…where the water is very deep”.
Notwithstanding the contents of Williams’ Last Will, it appears that some of his children approved the decision to have Williams cryogenically frozen. It seems that the motivation in part was a result of the vast amount of literature read by Williams’ son including The Prospect of Immortality which promotes that the “freezer always trumped the grave”. In addition, after his passing, his children produced a note signed by Williams and dated November 2, 2000 that his children “…and Dad all agree to be put into bio-statis after we die. This is what we want, to be able to be together in the future, even if it is only a chance”. Nonetheless, it remains unclear as to what Williams actually wanted.
Upon the passing of Williams, his body was flown to a cryogenics facility where Williams head ($50,000) and body ($120,000) were separately frozen and stored.
As a result of these actions, one of Williams children commenced a petition seeking the return of her father’s body to comply with the wishes set out in the Last Will. This claim was later withdrawn and to this day, Williams body remains frozen.
At this point, any Ontario Estates lawyer is probably reminding themselves that in Ontario, burial instructions in a Last Will are merely wishes and not binding. As a refresher, see this Hull & Hull blog with respect to the burial decisions surrounding Nelson Mandela.
Also of interest, it appears that Williams created an insurance trust for the benefit of his children only to be paid on the 10th anniversary of his death. This trust has now been dissolved.
Baseball Hall of Famer, Ted Williams is the news again as a former employee of the cryonics facility in which Williams’ body is preserved is releasing a book detailing alleged mistreatment of Williams’ remains.
By way of background, Williams died in 2002. Within hours of his death, Williams’ body was flown to Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona to be cryonically preserved in hopes of being reanimated in the future. Williams’ head was separated from his body and both preserved separately in liquid nitrogen.
In his 1996 Will, Williams requested to be cremated. However, two of Williams’ children produced a handwritten note signed in 2000 by Williams and themselves stating that they all wanted to be cryonically preserved in hopes of being resuscitated and reunited in the future.
Williams’ eldest child brought proceedings demanding that her father’s body be cremated. Their legal dispute was resolved and Williams remains frozen. Since those legal proceedings, Williams’ son has also died and been cryonically preserved in the same facility.
Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the world’s largest cryonics facility, currently has 88 people preserved and a further 905 signed on for preservation. While cryonics is not specifically prohibited in any province in Canada, British Columbia does have a regulation prohibiting the sale of an arrangement of the preservation or storage of human remains based on cryonics and other processes with the expectation of resuscitation of human remains but does allow a funeral director to prepare a body for cryonics preservation as long as the preparation of the body is in compliance with provincial health regulations and human remains transfer regulations.
Thanks for reading,
Diane A. Vieira – Click here for more information on Diane Vieira.