Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How to Plan Your Estate in the Wake of Modern Technology


With the advent of technology permeating society, it becomes important to plan for your “digital death.”  Many of us will leave behind email accounts, Facebook profiles, blogs, online businesses and more.  Thus, if we do not properly prepare, our loved ones could lose these parts of us as well.  Below are 5 ways to help prepare:

  1. Document Digital Accounts.  Try to log all the digital accounts you may have including email accounts, financial institutions and policies, online businesses, social media accounts, and sites where you have registered credit card information. 
  2. Give Instructions How to Handle the Account.  Upon death, allocate which accounts should be deleted.  Elect someone to retrieve other accounts, noting your username and password.
  3. Understand Your Account’s Terms of Service.  Yahoo’s terms of service do not allow your account to be turned over to anyone else and are subject to permanent deletion.  However, Google offers an Inactive Account Manager that allows you to dictate how your possessions in the site should be handled.  Decide what settings work best for you. 
  4. Determine Where to Save Your Information.  Find a secure location so that a loved one can easily access your information in the event of your death. 
  5. Obtain Legal Advice and Inform Family Where Information is Saved.  Get legal advice to verify you have complied with state laws.  Make sure to tell a loved one where this information is stored so they have a plan in place as well.  

See Laura Shin, The New Financial Task We All Need to Tackle ASAP, Forbes, March 31, 2014.  

April 3, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

End-of-Life Planning Websites Gaining Popularity


Websites geared towards helping people with end-of-life planning and document storage are on the rise.  Here’s a look at three of the main ones:

  • Everplans:  After taking a short assessment, this site creates a to-do checklist and tells you how to prioritize.  Once you’re done with the checklist, your account serves as a repository for legal documents and other important information.  Specific “deputies” you assign can then find everything neatly in one place.  
  • Principled Heart:  This site focuses on providing a safe place for passwords or instructions on how to find passwords.  There are sections for instructions on caring for pets, last letters of instruction, contact lists, and places to upload up to 60 documents. 
  • Aftersteps:  This site begins by asking you to name three people to be notified after your death.  These “verifiers” will then receive a list of people to contact as well as access to stored information.  You can also store photos, passwords, instructions for digital accounts, and wishes for your funeral arrangement.

See Tara Siegel Bernard, Navigating the Logistics of Death Ahead of Time, The New York Times, March 28, 2014.

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

April 2, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 31, 2014



iEulogy is a unique cloud-based online storage service that allows members to store messages and important documents to be accessed by family and friends in the event of their passing.

The goal of iEulogy is to relieve the pain of unanswered questions such as “What did he want his funeral to look like?” or “Did she say everything she wanted to say?” by allowing members to post important  messages, videos, and legal documents.

March 31, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

IRS Says Bitcoins Will Be Treated as Property, Not Currency


The IRS recently issued its first guidance regarding the topic of bitcoins.

In Notice 2014-21, the IRS stated it will treat virtual currencies, such as bitcoins, as property for federal tax purposes.  So when computing gross income, a taxpayer who has received bitcoins as payment for goods or services must include the fair market value of the bitcoins (measured in U.S. dollars) as of the date the bitcoins were received.

See Alistair M. Nevius, J.D., New Guidance Clarifies Tax Treatment of Bitcoin and Other Virtual Currencies, Journal of Accountancy, March 25, 2014.

Special thanks to Eugenia Charles-Newton and Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

March 26, 2014 in Income Tax, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Service Collects Family Histories


Storyworth is a new service aimed at helping families preserve their history.

For an annual fee of $49, family members can select questions for their elders to answer each week.  The replies are emailed to the rest of the family and stored on a website for private reading.  One user said this new way of communicating with her mother “helped me to know her better and understand the context of her life.”

See Claire Martin, Preserving Family History, One Memory at a Time, The New York Times, March 15, 2014.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.

March 21, 2014 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Internet Immortality


Nobody really dies on the World Wide Web.  This may provide comfort for grieving family and friends, or it may only serve to remind them that someone close no longer occupies the real world.

Millions of owners of active Facebook accounts are deceased, but their posts live on.  And this immortality isn’t just limited to Facebook.  A typical person has 25 online accounts, such as emails, photos, blogs, and bank accounts.  If the family doesn’t know the usernames and passwords for these virtual assets, accounts can reside indefinitely in a vast cyberspace cemetery.

See Rick Montgomery, People Who Die Can Be Virtually Immortal in Social Media, The Kansas City Star, March 15, 2014.

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


March 20, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Taxing Lessons" Website Offers Useful Tax Information in a "Fun" Format

Taxing LessonsLorri Carpenter, a CPA licensed in Florida, is the author of Taxing Lessons where she condenses selected US Tax Court cases into interesting, informative summaries.

According to her website:

You read a synopsis of the facts, review the provided tax code citations–then answer the question: What would you decide? Comparing your answer to the court decision gives you the opportunity to update and enhance your knowledge. Who knew Taxing Lessons could be so much fun? You be the judge. Taxing Lessons presents US tax court cases in a format that puts you behind the bench.

March 19, 2014 in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Noel C. Ice's "Trusts & Estates" Website Updated

Ice, NoelThe extremely valuable website of Texas attorney Noel C. Ice (partner in the Fort Worth office of Cantey Hanger LLP), Trusts & Estates, has recently received a complete "make over."

You will find the same awesome material -- over 60 CLE articles and dozens of other resources -- but they are now easier to find and otherwise more accessible than previously.  Here is a direct link to a listing of his materials.

In keeping with his prior approach, Noel continues to make all of his writings available at no charge, where they can be viewed on screen, or downloaded as .pdf files that may be read and searched later.


March 18, 2014 in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Chicago Estate Planning Blog Now On-Line

Booth, MichaelChicago attorney, Michael Booth, has recently started the Chicago Estate Planning Blog. He writes about current (and sometimes out of the ordinary) estate planning items in the news, and does his best to inject humor (at least as much humor as can be found in death and taxes) while educating his readers on how Illinois law would apply in various situations.  For example, one of his recent innovative postings is entitled  Estate Planning For Embarrassing Personal Property.

I recommend that you check out this well-written and innovative blog.

March 17, 2014 in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

State Estate Tax Calculator


Decouple Cruncher is a new standalone calculator that provides the methodology for state estate tax calculations and planning. 

This program addresses single-state and multiple-state calculations for decoupled states.  It also calculates the optimized marital deduction.

This program allocates the estate taxes for up to four multiple states and “computes a client’s Tentative Taxable Estate, State and Federal exclusions, Federal and State Tax, and Percentage of Gross Estate Lost to Tax for up to four states for the years 2005 through 2014.

See Donald Kelley, Decouple Cruncher, Wealth Management, March 12, 2014.

March 15, 2014 in Estate Tax, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)