Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

People Should Watch Out For Inheritance Scams

ScamThis article discusses some of the techniques used by scammers to trick people into giving them money.  For example, a person might be told that they could claim an inheritance from a long lost relative under the condition that they pay money to help set up the trust to receive the money.  A good rule of thumb is that a person should not have to spend money to receive money.  People might be told that they owe taxes to the IRS, won the lottery, or that they could get a “tax-free grant.”  It is not common for government agencies to threaten people for money over the phone so it is important for people to watch out for impostures.  Scammers might also call claiming to be a debt collector so people should make sure to actually call the number listed on their billing statement. 

See Gabriella Dunn, A long-lost relative left you money? Beware of inheritance scams, The Wichita Eagle, August 21, 2015.

August 25, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Information About Protecting Deceased Loved Ones From Identity Theft

Id theftEach year the identities of more than 2 million deceased Americans are stolen by identity thieves.  This column discusses some of the important steps people should take to protect the identities of loved ones who pass away.  One of the most important steps to take is using certified mail to send a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to the three major credit reporting agencies.  Make sure to let the agencies know that you are acting as the executor of the decedent’s estate.  The credit agencies should include a “deceased – do not issue credit” statement on the persons credit file.  It is also important to notify any financial institution that the decedent had an account with.  Identity thieves often look through obituaries for information so make sure when writing one not to include too much personal information. 

See How to Protect Your Deceased Loved Ones From Identity Theft, Elder Law Answers, August 17, 2015. 

August 18, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Video Service Lets People Communicate With Loved Ones From Beyond The Grave

HeavennoteThere is a new pre-death video service that has been inspired by the film ‘PS I Love You’ starring Gerard Butler and Hillary Swank.  The new start-up project will let clients film a pre-death video that will be screened to loved ones after they pass away.  When setting up the service the client will assign a Trustee who will possess a code word that they will tap into a database when the person dies.  The service, which is called Heavenote, was the brainchild of businessman Vincenzo Rusciano.  Heavenote is already popular in the United States and is often used by people in high risk occupations like service members or firefighters. 

See Ruki Sayid, Pre-death video service to send messages from beyond grave to grieving loved ones launched, The Mirror, August 15, 2015.  

August 17, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

FDA Approves New Device That Can Test For Dementia

AlzheimersAlzheimer’s disease can create a whole host of estate planning issues.  Being able to detect this horrible disease early on can allow families to plan ahead for the type of issues that will come up.  The FDA has recently approved a new cognitive-assessment tool that will be effective at testing people for early signs of dementia.  Cognivue operates like a first person video game; it lets test takers perform a number of tasks while the machine measures their brain for small lapses in the brain’s perceptual abilities.  “Early diagnosis of dementia could lead to not only better medical care but also better care planning which can greatly enhance the quality of life for the patient and their family.” 

See Idaho Estate Planning, FDA Approves Simple Tool For Diagnosing Dementia, Wealth Management, August 11, 2015.

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

August 13, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Using An LLC To Purchase A Home Can Protect Privacy

HomeThere are many clients who may wish to avoid the publicity of having their names published in a public report on real estate transactions.  This column suggests the idea of purchasing a home through an LLC to maintain privacy.  It is a good idea to give the LLC an obscure name to avoid taunting the reporters.  If a person registers the LLC in Delaware they could avoid having to list the members and managers in the company’s annual report.  With the advent of the internet and other forms of modern technology it is virtually impossible to maintain complete privacy, but an LLC can provide some level of cover.  This is an option that some potential home-buyers might want to think about. 

See C. Carter Ruml, Using an LLC to Maintain Privacy When Buying Residential Property, Stites & Harbison PLLC, May 31, 2015. 

August 11, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

New South Wales Supreme Court Considers Video Wills Case

VideoThe New South Wales Supreme Court is contending with a question that traverses the intersection of law and technology.  The case involves a deceased 85-year-old widow who recorded a video will that amended a written will that she had signed just two days before.  The woman wanted to amend her will to give her daughters a greater share of her estate as a reward for being there to care for her.  Justice Geoff Lindsay acknowledged that this case is unusual and that the court has never before admitted a video will into probate.  There are many jurisdictions where video wills are not accepted so it is a good idea to follow the appropriate legal formalities when drafting a will. 

See Michaela Whitbourn, NSW Supreme Court considers ‘novel’ case of video will, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 10, 2015. 

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

August 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Amateur Radio Enthusiast Speaks With International Space Station From UK Shed

RadioBritish resident Adrian Lane was able to make contact with the International Space Station from his UK garden shed.  The amateur radio enthusiast used his gear to plot the space station’s route and was able to find a four-minute “contact window” when he could send a signal to the space station.  Lane was delighted when a US astronaut responded back to him saying “welcome aboard” and the two engaged in a 50 second conversation before the space station fell out of range.  “I basically asked who he was and how things were in space. The adrenaline was pumping. It’s not every day you get to talk to some guy in space.”  

See Louie Smith, Amateur radio enthusiast dials in to the International Space Station from his SHED, The Mirror, August 5, 2015.

August 9, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hackers Can Have People Declared Dead By Authorities

DefconComputer experts attending the annual Def Con gathering in Las Vegas discussed how hackers can virtually kill people by having them legally declared dead.  Australian computer security specialist Chris Rock delivered a presentation titled “I will kill you” that went over how computer hackers can manipulate the process of declaring a person dead.  He discussed how people can pose as doctors and funeral directors to submit the forms necessary for declaring someone dead.  One of the major incidents that event attendants discussed happened a year ago in Melbourne Australia’s Austin Hospital when an administrative error, a click in the wrong box, caused 200 death certificates instead of 200 discharge notices to be issued.

See Glenn Chapman, Def Con: Hackers can virtually kill people, manipulate death records, Australian security expert says, ABC News, August 8, 2015.

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

August 9, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)