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Did They Really Do That?


By Sam A. Moak

Did They Really Do That?

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law.  Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

Some interesting stories about a few odd final requests.   If you are a Star Trek fan like me, you’ve heard of Gene Roddenberry.  He is the man who created and produced the original Star Trek series and inspired the production of related shows including The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.  Gene Roddenberry loved space. So much so, that he wanted to spend eternity in it.

After his death in 1991, his body was cremated. On April 21, 1997, a capsule carrying a portion of his ashes was launched into orbit aboard a rocket from near the Canary Islands. The capsule disintegrated in the atmosphere in 2004.

A company called Celestis, Inc., which specializes in “memorial spaceflights” announced that it shipped the rest of Gene Roddenberry’s cremated remains, along with those of his wife, Majel Barrett, into space in 2012. The remains were transported deeper into space and will not return to Earth.

James Doohan, the actor who played Montgomery Scott, the chief engineer of the original Star Trek series who is associated with the catchphrase “Beam me up, Scotty,” loved space as much as Gene Roddenberry.  Doohan had told his wife that he wanted his ashes flown into space.  So after he died on July 20, 2005, she had him cremated and contracted with the same company, Celestis, Inc.,  who later carried Roddenberry’s remains, to fulfill his request.

Mr. Doohan’s remains were transported on May 22, 2012, by a capsule from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket was scheduled to deliver supplies to the International Space Station, and then orbit the Earth for several months before disintegrating in the earth’s atmosphere.

Most leave their estate to family members, close friends, or charity, not to people they’ve never met. But Ray Fulk had other ideas.  Fulk was a recluse who lived and died alone in an Illinois farmhouse. Even though his home had no running water and the car he drove was a Ford truck from the 1960s, he had amassed an estate worth about $1 million at the time of his death.

The 71–year-old died a single man with no children or close family members. However, he believed he had friends with two actors he had never personally met, Kevin Brophy and Peter Barton.  Fulk had sent them letters, and they had responded, thanking him for writing and pitching their next movie or show.  After Fulk died, his attorney sent the actors letters notifying them that Fulk had named them as beneficiaries of his estate. They initially thought it was a scam.  Imagine their surprise when they realized they were really inheriting Ray Fulk’s estate!

My point to these rather unusual situations is the importance of a Will.  Whether it is the disposition of your remains or how to dispose of your estate, the only legal means to giving effect to your wishes, no matter how far out there they are, is through a well-written Will.

If you have a question regarding Elder Law, Estate Planning, Living Trusts, or Probate in the Huntsville area, please contact us at 936-295-6394 or visit our website.  Call today and we will connect you with an experienced Elder Law and Probate Attorney.  We can schedule a face-to-face appointment to discuss your circumstances.  If you have questions or are considering any aspect of your estate plan, probate, your health care directives, etc. we can help!  Call us now at 936-295-6394.  We look forward to hearing from you and assisting you with any and all elder law and estate planning needs

 Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C.  He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.