Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Alberto B. Lopez recently published an Article entitled, Posthumous Privacy, Decedent Intent, and Post-Mortem Access to Digital Assets, 24 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 183 (2016). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:
Recently, however, the digital age has clashed with the law of wills in courtrooms and legislatures around the country.14 As the world has become increasingly digitized, executors have encountered difficulty when seeking access to a decedent’s digital assets that are stored in password-protected online accounts.15 For example, the author of the international best seller Pomegranate Soup, Marsha Mehran, died unexpectedly and without explanation in Ireland.16 Mehran’s father, Abbas Mehran, sought to determine if his daughter left any literary works on her Google Chromebook after her tragic death. Hoping to unlock the Chromebook, Mr. Mehran sent four emails to Google seeking access to his daughter’s account, but Google did not reply to any of the emails.17 Eventually, Mr. Mehran hired an attorney and filed a petition in court asking for access to documents on his daughter’s Google Drive account.18 Following “several weeks of negotiation,” Mr. Mehran obtained a CD from Google that included over 200 documents written by his daughter.19 The process began with the untimely passing of Mr. Mehran’s daughter and ended with the delivery of the CD to Mr. Mehran, but took more than a year20 —a statistic that accounts for neither the personal hardship endured nor the legal expense incurred during that period.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Sasha A. Klein & Mark R. Parthemer recently published an Article entitled, Who Will Delete the Digital You?: Understanding Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets, 30 Prob. & Prop. (No. 4) (July/August 2016). Provided below is a summary of the Article:
Our everyday lives are ruled by digital assets. They have largely replaced tangible ones, changing the way we interact and conduct business. Now, documents are stored in the cloud, photographs are uploaded to web sites, music is downloaded from web sites, conversations are text messages, and stacks of letters are e-mail folders. Living digital is unavoidable!
Today, fiduciaries face a world in which such assets and information, which used to appear in tangible form—letters, tax returns, bank statements, as well as music, art, and literature—now exist only in digital form. And, this digital content is not on servers owned or controlled by the decedent. From social media to banking, password-protected sites are used to perform daily affairs for business and pleasure alike, with a reliance on the promise of secure access. But what happens when that promise of security bars access when one dies or becomes incapacitated? Understand the developing legal environment to plan for fiduciary access to digital assets. We must be able to control our digital life and afterlife.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
As technology continues to flourish, it is important that we adjust our estates to include digital assets, like social media accounts, bank records, and e-mails. The modern-day estate generally includes these digital assets, but estate planners have yet to come up with an efficient solution to deal with them.
One main problem preventing sufficient estate plans has to do with access—most everyone is password protected, which makes it difficult for fiduciaries to gain entry. Today, while several social media account providers are utilizing ways for users to arrange posthumous access to their accounts, there is no legal guidance on how executors are supposed to identify, collect, and distribute these digital assets. With such uncertainty in the law and future of digital assets, it might be best for users to self-manage these issues and simply provide loved ones with their login information.
See Marjorie Suisman, The Virtual Estate, Private Wealth, June 17, 2016.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
Google Capital has routinely invested in privately held start-up companies but is now venturing in a new direction acquiring publicly traded companies, starting with Care.com—specializing in connecting families and caregivers. Google Capital invested $46.35 million in the growth-stage company, making it the biggest shareholder. The investment will create big opportunities for Care.com by allowing them to retain access to Google and Alphabet’s experts.
See Michael J. de la Merced, Google Capital Ventures into Public Companies with Care.com, NY Times, June 29, 2016.
Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, DC) for bringing this article to my attention.
Friday, May 13, 2016
Professionals who are involved with estate planning often have to engage in the difficult process of marketing themselves to potential clients. This article discusses some of the techniques that can be used to create an effective marketing strategy. One of the most important things to consider when creating a marketing strategy is what type of clients or markets you are going to target. It is also important to inform the potential clients you are marketing to about the type of experience your firm has to offer. Estate planners can build strong professional relationships with their clients by educating them. Incorporating different delivery methods is also an important marketing strategy. Finally, it is important for marketing ads to have great graphics and designs to attract customers and stand out from competitors.
See Craig R. Hersch, The Silver Bullet, Wealth Management, May 11, 2016.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will now require skilled nursing facilities to electronically submit their workplace injury and illness data “under a new final rule released Wednesday.” This new rule will helpful improve standards at nursing facilities. “Requiring employers in high-hazard industries — including skilled nursing, one of the most injury prone — to electronically submit the injury and illness data will help “modernize” data collection, OSHA officials said.” Employers in these high-risk industries are already required to collect and submit this data, but electronic submissions will make it easier for OSHA to publicly share the information in a large public database of work injuries and illnesses. “Increasing access to injury data also will help the agency send compliance resources to workplaces where employees are at greatest risk, and allow researchers to mine the data for studies on injuries causation, safety hazards and prevention activities, Michaels added.”
See Emily Mongan, OSHA releases new workplace injury and illness reporting requirement, McKnight’s, May 11, 2016.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Elder financial abuse is becoming an epidemic, and the problem is only going to get worse as the elderly population continues to grow. This article discusses some ways to combat the scourge of con artists taking advantage of senior citizens. It is important to protect personal information like Social Security or Medicare numbers, and seniors should not give this information out over the phone unless they initiated the phone call. It is also important to read the fine print of anything ordered online, and to be wary of pushy marketers. People should also use the caller ID feature on their phone and avoid answering phone calls from unknown numbers. These are just some of the pieces of advice that this article offers to help senior citizens avoid elder financial abuse.
See John Wasik, How To Beat The Elder Financial Abuse Epidemic, Forbes, May 4, 2016.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
In this modern social media age a large number of people have developed online identities. This article discusses the issue of “cyber intestacy,” which is the failure of a person to plan for their online presence after death. It is a good idea for advisers to ask their clients if their wills contain digital asset clauses. Clients should take an inventory of all the digital assets that they own. It is a good idea for people to plan ahead so that family members do not get stuck in a bad situation of trying to access their digital accounts. “Automatic bill payments and good-until-cancelled orders continue after death, while electronic bills may go unpaid, and heirs may struggle to access photographs.” Digital asset planning can help clients maintain control over their digital legacy.
See Anne Tergesen, Wealth Adviser Daily Briefing: Help Clients Avoid ‘Cyber Intestacy,’ The Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2016.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
One of the most difficult task for anyone is determining the capacity of a person to be able to make their own decisions ranging from the financial to the testamentary. Unfortunately there is generally a lack of means to assist those tasked with making a determination. But a new tool by Dr. Peter Lichtenberg from Wayne State University seeks to help with the determination by providing a frame from which to work in seeking out the state of the individual. A copy of the screening tool can be found here on slides 49-50. Additional information about Dy. Lichtenberg technique can be found here.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Identity theft is a major problem in the United States and the IRS has been attempting to address the issue. “The Internal Revenue Service’s expanded use of controls this tax season to identify fraudulent refund claims before accepting them into its processing system has allowed the IRS to identify approximately 35,000 fraudulent e-filed tax returns and 741 paper tax returns as of Feb. 29, 2016, according to a new government report.” The extra funding that congress has provided the IRS this season has allowed them to implement many of these programs that enabled them to identify these fraudulent returns. The IRS also plans to assist more tax payers with more face-to-face contact at its walk-in taxpayer assistance centers.
See Michael Cohn, IRS Caught Over 30,000 Tax Returns Involving ID Theft, Accounting Today, April 21, 2016.