Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What to do With Your Digital Life Before You Die in Real Life

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-06-12/a6020998-f1b5-4603-9731-e8b55193969a.pngThe digital age has brought a few difficulties to estate planning and causing a traditional will to possibly fall short. Social media sites, email accounts, and photo archives now hold pictures, memories, and messages that are not available in a tangible format. To make sure heirs have access to these online accounts, it is important to consider them in your estate plan.

  • Take stock of your digital accounts.
    • Write out a list of the accounts you want your heirs to have access to, including update usernames and passwords.
  • Add a Facebook legacy account.
    • Facebook has a feature that allows you to designate a person that can write a type of "farewell post" on your wall, but will not be able to access messages and delete past posts.
  • Set up a Google trusted contact.
    • This account will be notified after your account has not been accessed after a certain period of time that you can designate and you may also choose which aspects of your Google account the person may access.

See Amanda Kooser, One Essential Thing You Must do With Your Digital Life Before it's Too Late, Komando, June 8, 2018.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 12, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Blockchain Technology, Estate Planning and Resting Place Management

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-31/d2896537-21e0-4f91-87cb-afb48dce3da5.pngBlockchain, a type of real-type digital ledger, is not a tool usually spoken off in estate planning circles, but may in fact lessen complications when it comes to settling a descedant's estate. By registering wills or inheritance wishes on a blockchain, many of problems with executors or lapses in time could be avoided. The data would never be lost because it would be stored permanently on the blockchain. Blockchain-based wills would also be easier for people to modify and view throughout their lifetimes in order to keep them up to date.

Blockchain itself is creating an issue in estate administration when it comes to dealing with the selling off of cryptocurrency after a person passes away. However, blockchain-registered wills or smart contracts could transfer these assets automatically, therefore no written will or documents are needed.

Registering one's resting place could also be simplified through blockchain technology. As there is no universal database for grave sites or burial places, having this information stored in blockchain could be easier for descendants to know where to pay their respects.

See Christopher Tozzi, Blockchain Technology, Estate Planning and Resting Place Management, NASDAQ.com, May 30, 2018.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 31, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The World Isn't Prepared for Retirement

Robo  TOP TENThe Argon Retirement Readiness Survey of 2018 was a three question survey given earlier this year online to 16,000 participants in 15 countries.  The majority of those that took the test failed, illuminating a sobering lack of financial literacy.

Health was a common concern for may people, with 31 percent of Americans citing that worries of developing dementia of Alzheimer's being a primary worry during retirement age. More than 20 percent of workers didn’t grasp how higher inflation hurts their buying power.

One of the strangest findings of the survey was found following the question about “aging friendly modifications or devices” people envisioned having in their homes. Thirty-five percent of workers in India, 34 percent in Turkey and 18 percent in the U.S. figured aging could include video monitoring devices. Then there are the robots, which 20 percent of Chinese workers see coming in retirement, compared with 6 percent of American workers.

See Suzanne Woolley, The World Isn't Prepared for Retirement, Bloomberg, May 29, 2018.

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


May 30, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Deficiencies of Online Legal Services

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-26/54692237-30d9-4412-9a50-83502ef56f6f.pngThe modern generation are definitely self-starters and "do-it-yourselfers." They attempt to find the easiest (and cheapest) avenues to the correct destination. But when it comes to websites that provide legal services and documents at a discount, they could end up paying much more than they bargained for.

Online legal services create basic, generic documents. At any time a person's needs or desires change, they will most likely need to hire an attorney to alter the existing paperwork. This actually creates more work for legal professionals.

A good note to think: a disclaimer on a popular legal service website denotes that, "[they] are not a law firm [ ] or a substitute for the advice or services of an attorney. We cannot provide any kind of legal advice, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies." So what are you paying for?

See Chelan David, The Deficiencies of Online Legal Services, Smart Business, May 24, 2018.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 26, 2018 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Blockchain is Already Changing Accounting

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-08/953b1c7f-c48c-415e-801e-0602689d7e9c.pngTwo of the “Big Four” accounting firms – Ernst & Young and Price Waterhouse Cooper – have already started to accept Bitcoin as payment. Even for those firms that do not yet accept this type of cryptocurrency, the digital ledger technology of blockchain is still on their minds. Deloitte dipped into the blockchain arena in 2014 with Rubix, a “one-stop blockchain software platform.” Universities have also begun to offer blockchain courses to respond to the shortage of engineers fluent in the technology.

Accountants desiring to be at the forefront of the industry should embrace this technology rather than fear that it will replace their profession. Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com, says, “Through every phase, what’s really happened is the accountant’s and auditor’s role has just evolved.” If Bitcoin fizzles, there will be the opportunity for more types of cryptocurrency. That means blockchain is here to stay.

See Amy Vetter, Blockchain is Already Changing Accounting, Accounting Today, May 7, 2018.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 8, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 7, 2018

13-Year-Old Boy Regains Consciousness After Parents Sign Papers to Donate His Organs

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-05-08/488d3b31-34c6-456c-86db-d1a544a5a483.pngTrenton McKinley’s parents faced a difficult decision when the doctors told them their 13-year-old son would never be the same mentally after severe brain damage. The boy had suffered seven skull fractures two months prior in a small trailer accident. His parents did what they thought was best – signed the documents to donate his organs for five children that desperately needed them.

But the day before the doctors were authorized to “pull the plug,” Trenton miraculously showed brain activity. In late March, he regained full consciousness. The boy has a long road to recovery, already having undergone three brain surgeries and still needing a large piece of his skull  reattached.

See Kathrine Lam, 13-Year-Old Boy Regains Consciousness After Parents Sign Papers to Donate His Organs, Fox News, May 7, 2018.

May 7, 2018 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Article on Reinventing Regulation: The Curious Case of Taxation of Cryptocurrencies in India

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-18/970a96ea-9382-4608-8444-be8b8c89e601.pngHatim Hussain published an Article entitled, Reinventing Regulation: The Curious Case of Taxation of Cryptocurrencies in India, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Nearly twenty-five years ago, the internet disrupted the world and started a new era of technological supremacy. Today, with the rise of cryptocurrencies and its underlying technology, we stand at the helm of another such revolution. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are decentralised, digital currencies relying on a peer-to-peer network which operates without the need for a third-party intermediary like the Reserve Bank of India. Coupled with lack of regulatory guidance, its unique technical aspects create huge complications in its taxation. While much ignorance still prevails in respect of cryptocurrencies, countries around the world have finally started taking notice and acting upon it. This paper focuses on what cryptocurrencies are, why they are important, and the prevailing regulatory structure concerning them. It overviews the complete landscape for taxation of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, analysing the indirect and direct tax structure, particularly after the implementation of Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, while also addressing the issues concerning the evasionary practices. The findings help in assessing the regulatory aspects in light of the technological, economic, social and financial forces, and establishing a set framework for taxation of cryptocurrencies.

April 18, 2018 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Article on Freezing the Future: Elective Egg Freezing and the Limits of the Medical Expense Deduction

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-14/e16cbde6-9d9b-48fc-9060-ca58180d4aa8.pngTessa Davis published an Article entitled, Freezing the Future: Elective Egg Freezing and the Limits of the Medical Expense Deduction, Tax Law: Tax Law & Policy eJournal (2018). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) allows a deduction for unreimbursed expenses for medical care. To qualify as medical care, an individual’s outlay must meet the statutory definition of “medical care” set forth in §213. Specifically, an outlay must be for care that is either for “the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body.” Many costs raise few interpretive challenges. When an individual receives chemotherapy, for example, the costs tied to that care clearly satisfy the disease prong of §213. But as medicine advances, emerging technologies test the breadth of the Code’s concept of medical care. This Article examines the case of elective egg freezing — an increasingly available technology and, in some cases, a new employer-provided benefit — analyzing the likely treatment of such costs under current law. More broadly, this Article argues that the Internal Revenue Service’s (the Service) treatment of elective egg freezing under §213 will clarify its position on when reproductive care is qualifying medical care, its view on the proper scope of the structure/function prong, and may be predictive of its approach to emerging medical technologies. Because the Service’s chosen categorization could establish important and far-reaching precedent, this Article lays the groundwork for a principled discussion of the doctrinal and policy concerns at issue in categorizing elective egg freezing and similar emergent medical technologies.

April 14, 2018 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Digital Assets Estate Planning — Alternatives to Perpetual Access

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-06/1faa531e-c5ae-4be3-84de-d19dfa007034.pngThe process of transferring digital assets to beneficiaries may not be as simple as listing the assets in a written will. Many times, digital assets like social media and email accounts, require transfer through different methods that must be in accordance with the associated company’s terms. When making decisions regarding the transfer of these assets, it is important for individuals to consider whether they want to grant their beneficiaries perpetual unmitigated access to their accounts, or if they would prefer to limit their access. Though beneficiaries with full access to a decedent’s online presence have more control and decision-making authority with regard to the accounts, there are significant drawbacks. One of the major risks is post-mortem fraud. Each year, there are fresh cases where the family of a deceased individual becomes victim to an online malcontent hijacking their deceased loved one’s account. The damages in these cases range from online defamation to serious financial fraud.

See Inna Fershteyn, Digital Assets Estate Planning — Alternatives to Perpetual Access, Brooklyn Trust and Will, March 23, 2018.

Special thanks to Alexander Evelson for bringing this article to my attention. 

April 6, 2018 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

You’ve Detailed Your Last Wishes, but Doctor’s May Not See Them

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-05/b11ee3c5-9b8c-481e-a3ec-01556b28f3d4.pngDr. Daniela Lamas was working overnight when the familiar alert of her pager sounded. A patient had been admitted to the intensive care unit (I.C.U.). When she logged onto her computer to look at the elderly gentleman’s history, she noted a terminal cancer diagnosis, multiple surgeries and recurrences, and then a return home. That evening, the man had been found in his home, fevered, pale, and incoherent. The emergency room doctor treating the man reported to Lamas that there was “no family around. We’re probably going to have to intubate.” After hanging up the phone, one of Lamas’s residents tapped her gently but urgently on the shoulder, pointing at the computer screen. Hiding in plain sight was a note from the patient’s oncologist clearly indicating the man’s desire not to have chest compressions or breathing tubes.

This experience drove Lamas to delve into the world of electronic health records and advanced care planning. Through her research, Lamas consistently encountered tales of patients who were transferred to nursing care without their advance directives and later returned to the hospital intubated, when that was a course of treatment the patient had specifically declined. The current status of the medical field in regard to these directives is behind the times and desperately trying to catch up.

Fortunately for the elderly gentleman that served as the impetus for Lamas’s inquiries, when the resident reached the man’s room, he was relived to find that the man was breathing on this own. When he was eventually transferred to the I.C.U., physicians treated him with oxygen and antibiotics. Though he never recovered enough to return home, he was comfortable and quiet in the end, which is most likely how he would have wanted it.

See Daniela Lamas, M.D., You’ve Detailed Your Last Wishes, but Doctor’s May Not See Them, The New York Times, March 27, 2018.

Special thanks to Jessica Estrada for bringing this article to my attention. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 5, 2018 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)