Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Some Tips On How To Plan For An Estate Containing Bitcoin

BitcoinBitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, have spiked in popularity in recent years as users seek alternate payment forms and investment opportunities. However, the explosion in Bitcoin use has gotten ahead of the law and makes planning for an estate with the currency more complicated than one without. Here are some tips on steps to take if a cryptocurrency is part of estate:

  • The IRS has ruled that Bitcoin is property rather than currency for tax purposes. As a result, stepped up and down basis in Bitcoin may come into play and affect the amount of tax that will have to be paid if the coin is sold.
  • Since Bitcoin is a digital asset, it is imperative that the estate planner knows about the currency so they can include the proper notification to the trustee or executor or else risk loosing track of the Bitcoin.
  • Digital currencies are usually protected by an encryption key or password and cannot be accessed without that information. Thus, the estate planner or other trusted source needs to be given the key and passwords so that the Bitcoin may be transferred to the intended beneficiary.
  • When creating a power of attorney, explicitly state that the document grants the right to control any digital currencies as well as providing keys and passwords to access digital wallets.
  • If Bitcoins are a major part of a trust's assets, the prudent investor rule may come into play and force the trustee to diversify into other investments. This required diversification might not be required if the jurisdiction recognizes Bitcoin as a currency rather than personal property.

See Jeff Vandrew Jr.,5 Things Bitcoin Owners Must Do When Estate Planning, Coindesk, July 28, 2015.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

July 29, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Alzheimer’s Association International Conference Meeting In D.C.

AlzheimersThis week more than 4,000 scientists from around the world will be meeting in D.C. for the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.  Attendants of the conference will be discussing current and future trends in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.  Right now more than 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to rise to 13.5 million by the year 2050.  Scientists want to hurry up and find either a cure or improved treatment methods because they understand that more people are going to be diagnosed with this disease in the future.  Researchers at the conference will be representing 65 different countries with 40 percent of the attendees being international. 

See Fredrick Kunkle, Alzheimer’s scientists to meet in D.C. amid signs of progress for treatment, The Washington Post, July 18, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 19, 2015 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Startup Partnering With Fertility Clinic To Screen Egg And Sperm Donors For Genetic Diseases

Designer babyA new startup company called GenePeeks is partnering with the Pacific Northwest Fertility clinic in Seattle to screen donated sperm and eggs for potential genetic diseases.  Some critics have argued that this could potentially lead to people seeking to have “designer babies,” while defenders argue that this technology is simply intended to help potential parents produce a healthy child.  GenePeeks is not the first company to conduct genetic testing, but they will test for more genetic variants than any other company. 

See Azeen Ghorayshi, This Company Is Trying To Make More Perfect Babies, BuzzFeed News, July 12, 2015.

Special thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Chair GWU Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.  

July 14, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clyde Tombaugh’s Ashes Will Fly By Pluto Today

ClydeIn 1930, a young American astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, today his ashes will fly by the dwarf planet.  Tombaugh’s wish before passing away in 1997 was for his ashes to be sent into space.  An ounce of the astronomer’s ashes are Contained in an aluminum capsule on NASA’s New Horizon which was launched into space on 2006 and now in 2015 it is set to leave our solar system.  A live broadcast of the flyby will be broadcast on NASA TV.  This will represent a major event in the history of space exploration.

See Arden Dier, One man’s ashes will fly by Pluto on Tuesday, July 13, 2015. 

July 14, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 13, 2015

California Court Will Hear Case Involving Frozen Embryos

Embryo caseA hearing has been set in a San Francisco Superior Court to decide on a precedent setting case involving the fate of frozen embryos created by a couple who are now divorced.  Mimi Lee would like to use the embryos because this is her last chance to have biological children of her own.  Her former husband Stephen Findley is seeking to have the embryos destroyed.  There is currently not much case law on these types of disputes.  This article mentions a few past cases that are similar to this one.  As more people continue to use advanced reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization these types of disputes will likely become more common.

See Victoria Colliver, Battle over S.F. Couple’s frozen embryos heads to court, San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 2015.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 13, 2015 in Current Affairs, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Five Great Free Retirement Calculators For Everyone

CalculatorAnyone who plans for retirement needs some basic information calculated such as earnings projections on investments and expense calculators to determine how long savings will last. This day and age the choices are many as the internet proliferates with free tools that will calculate any number of things. However, finding a respectable site that has accurate tools might be a problem but thankfully the article below offers a great run down on the free calculator websites available and the particular features of each. These websites are tremendously helpful for the novice estate planner and veteran alike and should be checked out by anyone that is seeking tools to help plan for the future.

See Rob Berger, 5 Excellent Retirement Calculators (And All Are Free), Forbes, July 12, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 13, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

When People Post About Funerals On Social Media

Funeral-trust25-crop-600x338It is very common for people to post just about every detail of their life on social media services like Facebook or Twitter.  This column discusses some of the controversy surrounding the increasing number of people who post pictures and comments about funerals on their social media accounts and the mixed feelings that society has about this new trend.  Some people believe that funerals should be private affairs and would not like it if somebody took a picture of the casket and posted it on Facebook or Twitter.  There are other individuals who have no issue with sharing pictures and information about funerals with their social media networks.  As social media technology continues to develop these concerns about privacy will continue to become more prevalent. 

See Leanne Italie, For social media fans, funerals are now fair game: Share, comment, or take a selfie?, Arkansas Online, July 1, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Long-Term Care In The Digital Age

Old WomenSenior citizens are the fastest growing age group in the United States and will place a tremendous burden on the long-term care sector as the Baby Boomers reach retirement age. The problems that will be encountered cannot fully be appreciated yet, but digital technology will be of great help as it offers the chance to keep the elderly in touch with the rest of society, even if bedridden. Digital visits with distant family members will allow the elderly to have a presence in the life of the younger generation and greatly help with the loneliness epidemic found in many senior living centers. In addition, digital communication will allow seniors to visit with medical professionals for consultations without having to wait for local physicians to visit. All and all, the future appears bright for the beneficial integration of electronics into senior care.

See Marc Agronin, How Technology Will Revolutionize Long-Term Care, Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2015.

July 1, 2015 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Article On Ownership Of Digital Property

Article PictureCraig Dickson (Auckland University of Technology), recently published an article entitled, The Digital Legacy Conundrum: Who Really Owns What?, June 4, 2015. Provided below is an abstract of the article:

Previously the distribution of assets following the death of loved one was straightforward. These days however, a lot of the “property” of a deceased and many relevant documents might be only contained on a hard drive, in an e-mail account or in some form of cloud storage. A number of problems can arise when executors attempt to source, access and/or retrieve these “digital assets” left behind by the deceased and many, if not most people do not have a clear or accurate understanding of the extent of their digital estate. Moreover, the many sites where digital assets are located have differing protocols regarding the access that will be granted to executors and Unauthorised access and privacy laws may put executors and trusts and estates lawyers at risk of violating one set of laws (often those of the United States, where many of the social networking and online storage accounts are based), merely for attempting to carry out the duties required of them under another set of laws.


June 25, 2015 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Digital Tools Make Retirement Planning Easier

Retirement planningPeople who are planning for retirement often face difficulties when deciding how much money they will need.  With life expectancies increasing there is often a risk of outliving retirement savings.  A new retirement planning tool that is offered by Personal Capital, a financial technology company, is making it easier for people to plan ahead.  There has been a recent growth in financial technology companies offering people "robo-advisors," who use algorithms based on the clients data to offer more accurate retirement projections.  These new technologies will make it easier for clients to get the information needed to make fast decisions.

See Laura Shin, Test An Endless Number Of Retirement Projections With This New Tool, Forbes, June 22, 2015.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)