Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Struggles Of Living With Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzeimer'sThis is an emotional first person account from patient-advocate Greg O’Brien about the struggles of living with Alzheimer’s disease.  Around five million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to double within the next 20 years as baby boomers continue to age.  The cost of treating Alzheimer’s patients is currently more than $200 billion per year, and that number could surpass $1 trillion by 2050.  In this column Greg O’Brien documents his own personal struggle with the disease and the impact it is having on his relationship with his family.  This account personalizes a struggle that is impacting millions of people.  Alzheimer’s disease also has an impact on estate planning as families struggle to adapt to the changing circumstances.  Planning ahead for diseases like Alzheimer’s is always important for any estate planning.

See Greg O’Brien, I’m documenting my own Alzheimer’s disease while I still can, The Washington Post, April 13, 2016.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

April 18, 2016 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Why E-Filing Is A Good Idea

File earlyConverting to E-filing makes paying taxes easier.  In 2015 more than 129 million Americans electronically filed their tax returns.  E-filing tax returns increases the odds of the filings being accurate.  The information in the electronic filing is encrypted and the IRS has been taking more steps recently to crack down on identity theft.  The process of e-filing is convenient and there are programs available for people who meet certain requirements.  Faster tax refunds are another advantage of electronically filing your tax returns.  People who e-file can also receive assistance with the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  There are also payment options available to people who have to pay the federal government money.  There is an April 18 deadline that is fast approaching and taxpayers will need to act quick if they want to avoid the consequences of missing the deadline.

See Frank Ellis, Six reasons to e-file your taxes in 2016, Examiner, April 13, 2016.

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

April 13, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Law Firms And Lawyers Need To Adapt To Changing Technology

Legal technologyThis column discusses an article that was written by Elaine Mcardle discussing the need for law firms, lawyers, and recent graduates to adapt to changing technology.  Lawyers are facing increasing digitization and outsourcing, which is analogous to the situation of taxi drivers being replaced by Uber.  Legal professionals will need to figure out how to adapt to this changing reality.  This article discusses some of the programs that are in place to help guide legal professionals through these rapid changes in technology.  “A program recently created by Michele DeStefano of the University of Miami Law called LawWithoutWalls is meant to foster innovation in the legal profession.”  Attorneys who want to adapt and stay ahead should stay informed about the constant changes in legal technology. 

See Pooja Shivaprasad, The Laws of Adaptation, Wealth Strategies Journal, April 1, 2016.

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

April 8, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Minnesota Couple Calls For Post-Death Digital Access Law

ComputerThe ability for family or estate representatives to access digital accounts and information after the death of the owner has been an issue in the news lately. A handful of states, such as Florida, have passed digital access legislation that sets default rules allowing access to the digital asset as well as giving owners the right to set access limits. Now, a Minnesota couple is leading a battle to have the state adopt a digital access statute. The couple is motivated by the difficulties they faced in accessing the information stored on the password protected devices their son owner at the time of his accidental death. And they appear to have hope for quick action, a bill just passed committee in the state senate while, in the house, parallel legislation is moving forward. No opposition from the governors office is expected once a bill is pass.

See Brian Bakst, Parents Seek Digital Data Law After Son's Death, Minnesota Public Radio, April 5, 2016.

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

April 7, 2016 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

New IRS Payment Option Lets People Pay Their Taxes At 7-11

IRSThe Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will now let people pay their taxes at 7-11.  Under this new payment option the IRS will be partnering with electronic-solutions providers Official Payments and PayNearMe.  These electronic transactions networks will allow taxpayers to make cash payments to the IRS at stores like 7-11.  “People wishing to use this payment option can follow the directions provided on the IRS website.”  There is a multi-step process involved with this payment option so the IRS recommends that tax payers who plan to use this option start early.  “The IRS said it has been working with Official Payments for people who want to pay their taxes by credit card since 1999.”

See IRS: People can pay their taxes at 7-11, The Hill, April 6, 2016.

April 6, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How Electronic Records Can Help Protect End-Of-Life Documents

Digital ageWhen a person’s advanced directives go missing it can create a difficult problem when trying to determine what that person’s wishes were for end-of-life care.  In the era of paper records, it was common for advanced directives and other crucial estate planning documents to get lost when people needed them most.  This article also discusses the flaw many hospitals face when a patients’ advanced directives are spread out among many different systems.  There are researchers who are developing digital systems for storing advanced directives that will make it easier for health care providers to carry out a patients’ wishes.  Lawmakers in Congress have also expressed interest in making advanced health care directives “portable.”  Regulations on advanced directives current vary by state and people should obtain the services of an experienced attorney who guide them with drafting an advanced directive. 

See Shefali Luthra, Electronic Records Offer A Chance To Ensure Patients’ End-Of-Life Plans Aren’t Lost In Critical Moments, Kaiser Health News, March 23, 2016.

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

April 5, 2016 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Italian Father Seeks To Have Apple Unlock Dead Son's Iphone

IphoneWhen Leonardo Fabbretti adopted his son Dama from Ethiopia he never planned that his beloved son would be dead from cancer just after reaching his teen year. In a quest to collect every memory of his son, Leonardo made sure that he had access to his son's iPhone but an unexpected restart caused him to lose the ability to access the phone. Since then, Leonardo has been on a quest to unlock the phone but has, up until now, met with little success due to encryption which prevents even Apple from accessing the data without the passcode. This situation mirrors the recent standoff between Apple and the U.S. government over creating a backdoor that would allow third parties to gain access to a device which was resolved only after the FBI crafted a backdoor of their own. With modern encryption being difficult to break, it is imperative that any important access information, such as passwords and codes, be given to a trusted source, such as a lawyer, for safekeeping. A little foresight can go a long way to avoid many difficult or impossible to solve problems so when planning an estate always keep in mind what will be needed to access to digitally stored information.

See David Goldman, Grieving father pleads with Apple to unlock his dead son's iPhone, ABC 17, April 1, 2016.

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

April 2, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Clock That Uses An Algorithm To Predict When People Will Die

Death clockA group of scientists have recently teamed up with the insurance industry to create an algorithm which can help them predict when customers will expire.  This four year study being launched by the University of East Anglia will use a huge database of medical data to help determine life expectancy and any long-term illnesses people might have.  “The four-year project is being funded by a £800,000 grant from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) and is using experts from insurance giant Aviva.”  As people continue to live longer lifespans insurance companies will need to continue developing new formulas and algorithms that can help them make more accurate predictions about their customers.  This research can also have practical benefits for figuring out how certain medicines or lifestyles can improve longevity and how people should be planning for retirement.

See Sarah Knapton, Scientists and insurers develop ‘death clock’ to predict when customers will die, The Telegraph, March 31, 2016.

March 31, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michigan Joins Ranks Of States To Pass Digital Asset Access Law

ComputerThe issue of who can access digital accounts and assets after the death of the owner has been in the news recently since most states did not have any statutes on point which leaves estates to the mercy of user agreements. But Michigan has joined the ranks of states taking action on the issue with new legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder. The bill allows a user to use online tools to dictate who may or may not have access to their online content which can be changed at any time. In addition, wills, trusts, and power of attorneys may set the parameters of who may access an online asset and what level of control may be exercised over it. However, the online tool will control over a will so those using it should keep that in mind when seeking to make changes to the access that was granted in a different document. A copy of the new statute can be found here.

See Alexandra Bahou, New Michigan law lets you designate a person to control your digital assets after death, WXYZ, March 30, 2016.

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

March 31, 2016 in Current Affairs, New Legislation, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Growing Concerns About IRS Data Breaches

IRSAs more people file their taxes online there is a growing concern about IRS data breaches. “In early 2015, hackers used the IRS’s “Get Transcript” application to access approximately 334,000 accounts and retrieve millions of taxpayer transcripts from prior years.” Hackers have also been known to use personal data and malware to generate e-filing PIN numbers. The IRS is an attractive target for online hackers because it stores financial and personal information about hundreds of millions of citizens. Lawmakers are talking about the need for more cybersecurity funding so that the IRS can better safeguard the information that it stores. This article provides information about ways individuals can better protect their own financial information. It is important to be skeptical and diligent about monitoring credit reports for unusual activity. People need to be on guard about protecting their own personal information from identity thieves.

See Lauren Williams, The Inevitable: Death, Taxes, and Breaches, Accounting Today, March 23, 2016.

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

March 24, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)