Cryogenic Estate Planning

Revival Trusts - Out of the Deep Freeze

cryogenics lab

If you are planning to have your body cryogenically frozen, you also need to make sure that you can pay for the procedure and long-term storage. Also, you need to have your money available when, and if, you are revived.

The Personal Revival Trust is a form of “perpetuity” or “dynasty” trust that has an unlimited life or will end once the grantor is revived after being placed in cryogenic suspension or biostasis.

The trust could last for decades, centuries, who knows how long? The purpose of the trust is to provide for the grantor’s health, support and maintenance upon reawakening, and also to support the technological research necessary to enable such revival.

There are some issues to be addressed with this type of a trust. The common law Rule Against Perpetuities would have prohibited a perpetual trust, except if it is made as a perpetual trust for a charitable purpose. However, many states in the United States have repealed the rule against perpetuities. Therefore, while this kind of perpetual cryonics trust would have been impossible to create a few years ago, now it is within the realm of possibility. 

Some have challenged the validity of these trust by saying that there is no beneficiary. The argument is that if the creator of the trust is dead, and the trusts assets are being held and accumulated until some possible revival of the creator in the future, and that the trust fails because it does not have a beneficiary.

As pointed out by Igor Levenberg in his article, Personal Revival Trusts: If You Can't Take It with You, Can You Come Back To Get It?:

“In those states where the [Rule Against Perpetuities] is not an issue, the primary obstacle to effectuating the purposes of [Personal Revival Trusts] is the classification of cryopreserved persons ("cryonauts") as legally dead.  Because of this classification, it is not possible to name cryonauts as trust beneficiaries." This has significant ramifications; trust law requires that in every trust there be at least one ascertainable beneficiary who holds equitable title to the trust funds and is capable of enforcing the trustee's fiduciary duties.”

While much has been written about whether or not a cryonaut can be a legally protected beneficiary, similar to other unborn and unascertained contingent beneficiaries of trusts, the possible defect can most easily be remedied by including another beneficiary for part or all of the income. It is common for a cryonics trust to provide that the organization that is providing the cryonics services be paid from the income of the trust over time. 

There are many variations. A person may want to provide for a surviving spouse or children during their lifetimes, and only then have assets set aside for personal revival. This can be accomplished by adding the Personal Revival Trust provision to a typical estate planning trust.

Many people chose to leave their assets to family in traditional ways and also purchase a life insurance policy that will fund the Personal Revival Trust. This is a common approach. 

What does revival mean? Alcor, a non-profit dedicated to research about and performing cryonics, provides in its trust agreement that the cryonaut is to be restored to “such a condition as will allow them to be considered legally alive, functional and independent.” Thought must be given to what should be considered a successful “revival.” For example, must the revival include restored use of the body?

What about a definition like: “made conscious and functional and able to act on their own behalf.”

Not only are there many scientific and medical questions to be answered, but also a revived cryonaut may face many other non-medical issues. For example, what will it be like in a future society? Surely there will be a culture shock, like Rip Van Winkle. Language may be a problem; friends and relatives will be wholly absent. Even though you made a Personal Revival Trust, who knows if it will still be there or worth anything when you are revived. What will your status be in the new society?

And last but not least: Where does the soul go during cryonic suspension? I leave that one to the theology experts.