Multimillionaires scheduled to freeze their
corpses at Scottsdale-based Alcor's cryonics facility are now
creating multimillion-dollar trust funds for future spending in
their next life. Some descendent relatives aren't too hot on the
If everything goes as planned, Laughlin, Nevada, founder Don Laughlin,
75, will die an unusual death. The final beat of his heart and
compression of his lungs will end like anyone else's, but the
minutes to follow the flat-lined EKG will be a frenzied rush of
technicians and experiments. Trained cryonics specialists will
pump cryopreservative fluid through his veins. An ambulance will
roar through Scottsdale traffic, delivering him to a white, hospital-like
room where a neurologist will drill small holes into his skull.
The holes will be necessary because the tissues of the human body,
like water, expand when frozen. By the end of that day, Laughlin's
body will be strapped in a stainless steel tube of liquid nitrogen,
precisely monitored to preserve his corpse at exactly minus 360
degrees, and will wait indefinitely until the day when science
can "re-animate" his dead corpse.
"It could be 20 years. It could be 200 years. It could be
never," the casino tycoon says of his future resurrection,
or reanimation. Should that day come, Laughlin won't be short
Laughlin is one of about 800 living clients planning to preserve
their heads or entire bodies at Scottsdale-based Alcor, the largest
cryonics preservation facility in the world. They believe scientific
advances will someday revive them and heal whatever ailment ended
their lives. Like a growing number of cryonicists, Laughlin has
also created a multimillion-dollar trust fund of future spending
money for himself.
Laughlin doesn't plan to keep his entire fortune, now nearing
$1 billion, for spending in his next life. Sitting near models
of his planes and helicopters in the lavish office of his 20-story,
1,400-room Riverside Resort and Casino, the Minnesota boy is certain
that he could swing another rags-to-riches success in another
life. So most of his fortune, including the casino, airplanes,
helicopters and houses will stay with his more religious, less
But not all multimillionaires with cryonic plans have heirs. After
legal death, Valley residents David Pizer, 64, and wife Trudy
plan to chill with their three dogs until science resurrects them
in, Pizer guesses, about 150 years. In the meantime, Pizer's entire
fortune, estimated at about $10 million, will be compounding interest
for his future spending pleasure.
Pizer doesn't see himself buying a Winnebago in the next life.
"I'd like to come back and buy a big spaceship and travel
to other planets. Who knows, if you could live for thousands of
years, maybe you could even get out of this galaxy," Pizer
says from the office of his western-themed cabin resort near Prescott.
After making a small fortune with his family's auto upholstery
company in the 1970s and '80s, Pizer found even more luck in Arizona
real estate. Today the large windows of his office look out onto
34 acres of sloping mountains, Arizona wildlife and brush, a creek,
horses and fifteen cabins. He owns it all, and since he can't
take it with him when he dies, he'd like to lay claim to it again
in a couple hundred years.
Not to be mistaken for the spoof satires Austin Powers or Dr.
Evil, Pizer says he isn't as sure about buying a spaceship as
he is about cryonics, which, in his mind, is a practical certainty.
"I think the evidence shows that if you get a good suspension,
it's almost virtually a sure thing it's going to work," the
Phoenix native says. "I can't prove that. But there's just
no reason it wouldn't. The new technology preserves the tissue
and brain so well."
Faith, Funding and Eternal Life
Pizer and Laughlin already have trust funds designated for reanimation
and for the ongoing expenses of preserving their corpses. Both
specify that proceeds from their trusts will fund research they
hope could resurrect them some day. Laughlin also plans to generously
reward any scientific agency that may awaken him in the future,
figuring that the risk of an overzealous scientist resurrecting
a half-capable zombie will be one worth taking.
In addition to those funds, the spending money trusts are a more
recent splurge. According to one afterlife-financial planning
expert, such trusts are growing in popularity among aging cryonicists.
Certified financial planner Rudy Hoffman is a sort of pioneer
in cryonics estate planning, which he describes as "uncharted
waters." Hoffman has arranged life insurance funding for
the preservation and reanimation of about 400 living cryonicists,
roughly half of Alcor's entire clientele.
Of those, Hoffman estimates nearly half have some kind of second
trust fund set up in addition to their reanimation fund. Hoffman
recommends that his clients diversify their afterlife funds for
safekeeping because, as Hoffman admits, post-mortem trusts have
their vulnerabilities, namely surviving relatives.
Like explorers looting the pyramid graves of Egyptian Pharaohs,
the living families of dead cryonicists often walk away from court
battles with the bounty of the trust funds.
Not over these dead bodies. Hoffman and lawyers hope to set up
enough legal booby-traps to prevent even the financial Indiana
Jones's of the future from raiding their treasure.
Tanya Jones, chief operating officer of Alcor, says she has seen
more than one client lose his post-mortem riches to living ancestors.
"Probate judges care more about the living than the dead,"
Jones says in a small, windowless office at the Scottsdale facility.
Cryonics agencies often step in to secure enough money from the
trust to preserve the corpse. Relatives usually make off with
As with the controversy surrounding the remains of baseball great
Ted Williams, still chilling among about 75 other frozen heads
and bodies at Alcor, families of the deceased have proven resourceful
at producing revised wills, particularly when millions of dollars
"And My Estate I Bestow to
For those who would question the ethics of bestowing a fortune
to oneself and ignoring the traditional gifts to charity and family,
Pizer has this to say: "It's money that I've earned,"
he says. "It's not a greedy or selfish thing."
Pizer summarizes the dilemma of self-benefiting trust funds by
saying that, quite simply, "Dead people can't own assets.
How do you own things within the laws of your country when you're
dead?" Humans have spent thousands of years hoping to circumvent
death and taxes. Now Pizer feels quite certain he can skirt the
dying part. He'll work on beating the taxes in another life.
In laymen's terms, Pizer has named himself as the future benefactor
of his trust. For the years that he's frozen, the trust will technically
belong only to the potential future David Pizer, but not to the
dead and past David Pizer.
"Whenever I exist again, at that point the trust gives the
money to me," Pizer says. "That took a long time to
figure out how to do that."
In Arizona and about 19 other states, that trust could hypothetically
compound eternally, or at least for thousands of years. Nevada
recently raised the limit for such trusts to 350 years, which
Laughlin feels will be plenty of time for scientists to resuscitate
Should he awaken a poor man in the year 2386, the gambling magnate
won't feel too down on his luck. Given the option to trade his
entire empire to be 12 years old and penniless today, Laughlin
thoughtfully says, "I would have to give it serious consideration."
Most cryonicists imagine themselves coming back in cloned 20-year-old
bodies but retaining their own unique memories. Laughlin specifies
that any resuscitated version of himself should have his own memories.
Still, skeptics wonder if a clone with shared memories would actually
be the same person, or if it would be the scientifically-spawned
equivalent of a twin-a twin created with a hefty fortune of cold
hard cash in pocket.
"We'd be happy if they brought us back like the first time,"
Pizer says, "no money, naked into the world, not a lot of
knowledge about how to live."
Like Pizer and Laughlin, hedge fund guru Edward Thorp's hope for
eternal life rests in the technology humanity could possibly develop
Were he to die today, Thorp estimates there's about a two percent
chance he could be reanimated in the future. But Thorp, a mathematician
to the soul, guesses his chances increase by about one percent
with each passing year. "The better the prospects look, the
more willing I am to invest in it," he says. "I expect
the odds to continually improve."
Valued between $100 and $300 million, 73-year-old Thorp hopes
to be around for another 25 or 30 years, at which time he expects
preservation technology to be even better.
As such, Thorp's next-life trust fund is a moving target, and
he feeds it as the feasibility of his future reanimation grows.
"I'll have no trouble saving while I'm in cold storage,"
Thorp says. "Assuming reanimation becomes feasible, the trust
would step in with whatever funds are necessary."
Thorp, Pizer and Laughlin, who've never sat in the same room together,
share the same evidenced belief as any three zealots who subscribe
to the same faith: regular monetary contributions to the same
cause, shared beliefs about the afterlife, common texts of explanation,
a single hope for this life and the next and an optimistic faith.
"I think that since cryonics is a thing that isn't socially
verified, it takes someone who's willing to explore things and
do something other people haven't told them is good," Thorp
"There will be pioneers and then if there are enough pioneers
and it works, it will be something that will catch on," he
Standing near one of eight, nine-foot-tall stainless steel preservation
tanks in the Alcor facility, David Pizer looks a bit like a pioneer
himself. His love for old Western cowboys and Wild West memorabilia
is evidence of his drive for adventure, exploration and risk.
"If there really is an end-to-life, we need to fix it,"
Pizer says of his dream and hope for scientific immortality. The
"patient bay" room where he stands is not much larger
than the great rooms in many Valley homes. The room houses eight
stainless steel tanks of frozen corpses: 73 heads and bodies,
plus 25 animals. "In a couple hundred years humans will not
die," Pizer says, gazing at the tanks.
Here, Pizer has about two dozen friends and acquaintances currently
chilling within a few feet of him. They are legally dead and frozen,
and Pizer believes he will someday eat with them again, perhaps
in an eternal life. Most mainstream scientists disagree, but Pizer
has what they lack: faith. Cryonics is his hope and passion.
Walking back to the office at Alcor, Pizer asks the building manager
why the back door is open and unlocked. He would like to think
the security around here is consistently tighter. A lot could
happen in the next 180 years, and if everything goes as planned,
he'll be spending at least that long in here.
"The question is, can you take it with you? The question
of the ages," Hoffman says. "Can you beat death and
taxes like some of us are trying to do? The answer is a qualified