Gerry W. Beyer
Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law
School of Law
What are your research objectives and interests?
My first research objective is to keep current with recent legislative and judicial developments in the estate planning arena. My second objective is to recognize and research cutting-edge estate planning topics and then use the results of that research to educate my students, the legal community and the lay community through written works and presentations both locally and across the nation.
A few of my current interests include (1) planning for the transfer of and access to a person's digital assets, both when the person is disabled and upon death, (2) studying the impact of legalized recreational and medical marijuana on estate planning, (3) exploring the potential of including photographs of items a person wishes to give away in his or her will, (4) helping communication-challenged clients plan their estates, and (5) investigating professional responsibility and ethical concerns that arise in estate planning.
How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
A significant portion of my research is posted on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) where it is available to national and international scholars, researchers and the general public. The downloads of my papers place me in the top .001 percent of all researchers who post on SSRN. In addition, international users view my "Wills, Trusts, and Estates Prof Blog" on a daily basis.
I share the results of my research personally with people internationally. As one example, in 2007, a Thai government attorney working on his master of law degree at Thammasat University in Bangkok contacted me about my research that he was using to prepare a thesis for his degree. I communicated extensively with him while he drafted his paper and have since kept in touch with him.
What types of service projects have you been involved with?
I participate in clinics sponsored by Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, the Texas Tech University School of Law and related organizations. I frequently serve as a volunteer attorney for cases that arise during my clinic participation. On almost a daily basis, I provide free advice to attorneys working on pro bono or reduced-fee cases.
Since 2010, I have made more than 200 presentations from coast-to-coast by accepting invitations to share the results of my research at seminars and symposia sponsored by national, state and local bar associations, professional organizations, universities and community groups.
What are you currently working on?
For my newest project, I am investigating whether digital photographs may be inserted into wills to provide better descriptions of items being bequeathed such as jewelry, furniture, and family heirlooms.
My ongoing projects include conducting national webinars; creating a Texas-specific wills, trusts and estate administration law school textbook; keeping my materials current dealing with will contest prevention techniques; and planning for individuals who own special assets such as pets and firearms.
When the Texas Legislature is in session, a substantial number of my projects involve updating publications to reflect the new laws such as my two volume treatise on Texas wills law, my three volume set of estate administration forms, and my annotated Texas estate planning statute book.
Where do you find your inspiration?
In my first years of teaching and still today, I am inspired by Aloysius Leopold, a professor at the St. Mary's University School of Law. He taught me the true meaning of being a lawyer and professor.
My students continue to amaze me and are a regular source of inspiration. Their probing questions and diverse opinions lead me to evaluate the law, social justice and life in general. As an unanticipated, but most welcome, side-effect of our symbiotic relationship, my students have guided me to contemplate issues that have developed into some of my most interesting research topics.
Margaret, my wife, has helped me grow as a person and scholar with her unending encouragement to reach for the stars.
What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?
I have learned over my 36 years in academia that rather than thinking of teaching, research and service as separate components, the key is to meld them as one integrated concept. Each activity in which a faculty member engages should attempt to touch on all three components. For example, in the legal field, one cannot teach classes or provide service to the community without first doing the research necessary to be sure that the advice given is accurate and current.
More about Gerry W. Beyer
I joined the faculty of the Texas Tech University School of Law in June 2005 as the first holder of the Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professorship. I have also taught as a professor or visiting professor at other law schools including Boston College, Boston University (virtual), Ohio State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Illinois (virtual), the University of New Mexico, Santa Clara University, St. Mary's University and La Trobe University in Australia.
I have been honored to receive dozens of awards for my teaching at several law schools. For example, at Texas Tech, my students have voted me as a Professor of the Year seven times and I received the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, the President's Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2015 President's Academic Achievement Award.
I have authored more than 21 books, 33 law review articles, 28 other significant works and 300 continuing legal education articles. My scholarship receives nationwide recognition and has three times won awards from the American Bar Association. Over two dozen courts have relied on my writings for authority. In addition, I have twice been named the Outstanding Researcher from the Texas Tech School of Law. I am currently the editor-in-chief of the REPTL Reporter, the official journal of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.
I received my J.D. degree from Ohio State University and my LL.M. and J.S.D. degrees from the University of Illinois. I am a member of the Order of the Coif, an academic fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and a member of the American Law Institute. I was inducted into the Estate Planning Hall of Fame in 2015 and the American Bar Association has awarded my legal blog with Hall of Fame status.