Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Professor Gerry W. Beyer '80: Plan Now, Because You Can't Take It With You

Gerry and wife Margaret
Gerry and wife Margaret in Milford Sound, New Zealand

A specialist in estate planning and wills and trusts, Gerry knows most Americans are woefully unprepared for their demise, at least in a legal sense. Whether folks are too busy to plan, put off by the cost, or mistakenly believe estate planning is an issue only for the wealthy, the fact is that over two-thirds of Americans have not even executed a simple will.

"Everyone can benefit from preventive estate planning," he stresses. And not just the client. As he points out to his students, there is a huge market for estate planning services, and it is an extremely rewarding endeavor. If they go into litigation, they have a 50/50 chance of losing-by assisting clients in preparing for the inevitable, they can help everybody.

It took a newly created, prestigious professorship to entice Gerry to Texas Tech. In June 2005, Texas Tech School of Law invited him to join its faculty as the inaugural Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law, a designation honoring the former Texas governor who was instrumental in the establishment of the law school. Previously, Gerry enjoyed a distinguished twenty-four year tenure on the faculty of St. Mary's University in San Antonio. He has also served as a visiting professor at several other law schools including Boston College, Southern Methodist University, University of New Mexico, and Santa Clara University.

A proud Buckeye, Gerry says Ohio State prepared him well for a career in academia. A Michigan native, he likely would have attended the University of Michigan if not for the personal touch extended by Ohio State. It was the only law school that invited him to visit and meet with faculty, staff and students, giving him a chance to see the program firsthand.

Several outstanding OSU professors left a lasting impression on Gerry. Robert Lynn, professor emeritus, and Bob Wills (now deceased) were two influential figures who triggered his early interest in estate planning. Howard Fink, his civil procedure professor, was also instrumental in his decision. But his biggest role model in terms of what a professor should be remains Doug Whaley, who retired from Moritz just last year.

"He still influences me to this day," he says.

Hiking in Arizona's Chiricahua National Monument
Hiking in Arizona's Chiricahua
National Monument

Now the tables are turned and it's Gerry who reaches out to students. He thrives on student interaction and relishes the teaching and counseling aspects of the position. Adept at legal research and writing, he is a frequent contributor to both scholarly and practice-oriented publications, and has authored and co-authored numerous books and articles on various aspects of estate planning.

Estate planning has always been about taking care of the people you leave behind. But more and more, it's also about caring for the pets one leaves behind, and Gerry is a foremost authority on this emerging area of legal scholarship. He certainly didn't foresee the interest his 2000 Santa Clara Law Review article on pet trusts would generate. Encouraged by his wife to write the article, he figured it would garner only passing attention. It turned out to be the most popular article he has written. Legal scholars and practitioners frequently ask him about pet trusts; major media outlets including The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, and USA Today have interviewed him on the topic; and he holds popular CLE courses on the subject.

Gerry and his wife, Margaret, a retired book editor, share a passion for traveling. They have managed to visit China, New Zealand, Australia, Romania, and Russia, among other countries. Whether visiting an exotic destination half way around the globe or taking a stateside road trip, they are always eager to explore their surroundings whenever their busy schedules permit.

Classmates wanting to reconnect should write to Gerry at gwb@professorbeyer.com.