Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Facebook Update Lets Users Create Legacy Contact

FacebookEarlier this year Facebook created an update that gives users the option of assigning a specific person to manage their account after they pass away.  The feature lets the chosen contact do many things that include being able to accept or decline friend requests, change a profile picture, and post important announcements on the deceased person’s Newsfeed.  This column offers a handy step-by-step set of instructions for creating a digital last will and testament for Facebook on an iPhone.  Facebook’s legacy contact feature is essentially a digital last will and testament.  By following the instructions in this column a Facebook user will be able to utilize the features that this update offers. 

See Leomar Umpad, How to Add a Legacy Contact on Facebook for iPhone, Tech Recipes, October 2, 2015.

October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 25, 2015

New App Lets The Dead Communicate With Loved Ones From Beyond The Grave

Moran zurA new Israeli App called “SafeBeyond” will let deceased persons communicate with their loved ones from beyond the grave.  Moran Zur is the current founder and chief executive of SafeBeyond.  According to the article users of the app will be able to record audio and video messages and then have them played back to loved ones at certain predetermined dates.  For example, a person using the app would be able to record a message to be played when their child graduates from college or gets married.  There are four different types of services currently offered by the new app.  The app is currently free, but there are charges for any extra storage space beyond 1 GB. 

See Rachel Middleton, Latest App: SafeBeyond allows the dead to reach out beyond the grave to loved ones, International Business Times, September 25, 2015.

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

September 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Digital Estate Planning App Now Available For Estate Planners

EverplansAbby Schneiderman, a tech entrepreneur who faced personal tragedy at a young age, has developed a new digital app that financial advisers can use to help their clients better organize their account information.  When Schneiderman lost her brother in a tragic car accident her family had to scramble to organize his financial information.  Everplans is the new program developed by Schneiderman and co-founder Adam Seifer to assist financial planning firms with better managing their clients data.  There are currently 40 professionals that have signed onto the new program but some are still expressing reservations.  Right now there is fierce competition from services like MoneyGuidePro, so Everplans is going to have to demonstrate to financial planning firms why its service is the best for organizing the financial data of a growing number of elderly clients. 

See Phyllis Furman, A Digital Estate Planning App Now Targets Advisors, Financial Planning, September 8, 2015.



September 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Ownership Of Digital Afterlife Is New Frontier In Estate Battles

Digital afterlifeThis article discusses the case of the late bestselling novelist Marsha Mehran and her father’s battle with tech companies for her digital account records.  In the Mehran case the father sued Google for access to his daughter’s Google Drive account.  The fight over access to a decedents digital accounts is currently pitting large tech companies against estate attorneys.  Large tech companies like Facebook, Yahoo, and Google claim that they are trying to protect their user’s privacy when they lobby against legislation that would provide loved ones with increased access to a decedents digital records.  In California there is a piece of legislation supported by tech companies that would deny loved ones access to emails or other digital records unless the decedent gave express consent for the release of those documents. 

See Matt O’Brien, Behind-the-Scenes Battle: Who Owns Your Digital Afterlife?, Sci-Tech Today, September 7, 2015.

September 8, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Word Of Caution On Digital Wills

Digital willsThe digital age is revolutionizing the way people go about their day-to-day business.  There has been more pressure in many different countries to modernize estate laws to accommodate digital wills.  People who are considering some type of digital will should use caution and be aware of the legal will formalities that exist in their jurisdiction.  This article discusses some recent Australian cases that deal with digital wills and digital recordings.  In these Australian cases the courts recognized the digital wills as valid in those particular circumstances.  It is important to watch out though because not every jurisdiction recognizes digital wills and people to be aware of the required formalities for drafting a valid will in their place of residence. 

See Gerard Basha, The digital age and wills—a word of caution!, Bartier Perry Pty Limited, September 6, 2015.

September 6, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Millions Of Wills Are Now Available For Researchers Online

AncestryThe Wills and probate records of about 100 million Americans dating back to the colonial era are now available online.  Ancestry.com has been digitizing records that for years have been left sitting in dusty basements and storage areas of courthouses across the country.  The genealogy website is offering a treasure trove to both amateur and professional historians who will have a massive wealth of information to study.  People will be able to access the probate records of historical figures like Paul Revere and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  A massive amount of information will also be available to people who are researching their own family history. 

See Mark Pratt, Wills of millions of Americans now available online, Herald-Whig, September 2, 2015.

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

September 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Death Cafes Growing In Popularity As People Become More Willing To Discuss Dying

Death cafePublic attitudes about dying are starting to shift as a unique venue known as “Death Cafes” are rising in popularity.  This article explores the growing phenomenon of people meeting in casual groups to discuss many of the issues that surround death.  The intention is to create a warm thoughtful atmosphere where people can feel comfortable discussing these difficult topics.  The death café concept originated in London but has since spread to as many as 31 different countries.  Overcoming the fear of death is an important issue for many baby boomers who are facing the prospect of growing old.  This article also discusses some of the online services that are offered to give people a chance to discuss these issues. 

See Harriet Sherwood, Anyone for tea and sympathy?  Death cafes embrace last taboo, The Guardian, August 29, 2015.  

September 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 31, 2015

People Can Save Time By Using Social Security Online

Social security 3Dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer involves having to wait in long lines if people know to utilize the option of handling Social Security business online.  Thanks to the my Social Security accounts people can now change direct deposit of their benefits, request a replacement Medicaid card, and even order SSA tax documents.  These are just some of the many services that any qualified person over 18 and possessing a valid email address can use.  People can also view their statement and correct any mistakes in the records.  Being able to review records and statements can also provide people with the tools they need to make wise retirement and investment decisions. 

See Wayne Fourman, Using Social Security Online: A real time-saver, USA Today, August 29, 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 31, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Google Updates Policies Dealing With Deceased User’s Accounts

GoogleGoogle has recently updated its service to give a decedent's surviving family members and estate administrators more options when dealing with the deceased person’s account.  Under the new policy, people will be able to upload their loved ones death certificates, obituaries, and testamentary letters.  Living users of Google services will be able to have more control over what will happen to their accounts after they die.  This new function will be similar to the “legacy” option that Facebook is currently offering to its account holders.  These changes follow in the footsteps of a more unpopular stance once taken by Google that placed a greater emphasis on privacy. 

See Google Throws Estate Planners a Bone, Wealth Management, August 20, 2015. 

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

August 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)