Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Helping People Avoid Cyber Intestacy

Applying onlineIn 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.

April 27, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

New Tool To Help Determine Testamentary Capacity

ToolsOne 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.

April 24, 2016 in Elder Law, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

IRS Discovers More Than 30,000 Tax Returns Involving ID Theft

IRSIdentity 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.

April 21, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What Should People Who Missed The Tax Return Deadline Do Now?

Social security deadlineThe deadline for filing federal tax returns was April 18, but there are people who might have accidentally missed the deadline.  If a person asked for a filing extension then they are not late, but if they didn’t then they need to take immediate steps to remedy the situation to avoid getting into more trouble.  People who are late in filing their tax returns will probably owe interest and penalties.  The longer a person waits to file a late return the more their penalties could stack up.  It may be possible to get the IRS to waive some or all of the penalties if a person can show they had a good faith reasonable cause for their failure to file on time.  Filing as soon as possible can also allow people to recoup their refund.  It is a good idea to file electronically to save time in the process.

See Barbara E. Weltman, You Missed the Tax  Return Deadline: Now What?, Investopedia, April 19, 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 20, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What Happens If You Don’t File Or Pay Taxes?

Tax preparerThe deadline for filing taxes is tomorrow, and this year the IRS is expected to handle around 150 million tax returns.  Not every taxpayer manages to file their taxes or make payments on time.  This article discusses what the consequences are for tax payers who do not file or pay by the April 18 deadline.  The IRS has a failure-to-file and a failure-to-pay penalty that it will issue in certain circumstances.  This article discusses these two types of penalties and what people can do to try to avoid them.  There are different options that people might want to carefully consider.  It is important to get assistance from a tax professional who can provide appropriate advice for a tax payers individual set of circumstances.

See Sean Williams, Here’s What Happens If You Don’t File or Pay Your Taxes, My San Antonio, April 17, 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 17, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What To Know About Amending A Tax Return

Fix tax returnThe April 18 deadline for filing federal tax returns is almost here and hundreds of millions of Americans have already filed.  With so many tax returns being filed it is only natural that people are going to make mistakes.  “Knowing the common mistakes and the necessary tax forms that are needed when amending a tax return are critical in making the process of correcting a mistake on a return as painless as possible.”  This article discusses what people should do when they are amending a tax return to fix a mistake.  When people find out that a mistake was made they should take action to remedy the situation as soon as possible.  There are also some mistakes that do not require an amended tax return which this article discusses. 

See Matt Kubler, Make a Tax Amendment: How to Fix Mistakes on Your Tax Return, My San Antonio, April 14, 2016.

April 14, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Income Tax, Web/Tech | 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)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Different Options For Paying College Tuition

Tuition puzzleCollege is getting more expensive and coming up with the money to pay tuition costs can be a difficult.  This article discusses some of the different option that people have for paying college tuition costs.  Students will often need to scrape together family savings, work study loans, financial aid, grants, and scholarships.  It is also common for Universities to offer some sort of tuition payment plan.  This article also explains how people can spend money on tuition from 529 accounts.  According to this article a family that has the money should try paying for tuition up front to avoid having to take out a loan.  People could also consider spending from a retirement account like a 401(k), though there are risks involved with this approach. It might be a good idea to meet with a financial adviser to discuss different options for paying tuition costs.

See Beth Pinsker, It takes a village of options to pay college tuition, Reuters, April 7, 2016.

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

April 9, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Scholarship, Trusts, 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)

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)