Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Monday, November 30, 2015

IRS Will Now Offer A Copy Of Fraudulently Filed Tax Returns To Identity Theft Victims

IRSWhen a taxpayer is filing a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) they might sometimes hear back from the IRS that a tax return has already been filed for them. “Typically, this is due to a fraudulent return filed using the taxpayer identification number and name of the taxpayer that seeks a fraudulent refund of taxes already paid to the IRS – the IRS version of identity theft.” Under the previous policy a defrauded taxpayer that was the victim of identity theft could not see the return that they filed with the IRS. Taxpayers will also be able to see fraudulent tax returns from previous years going back six years. Any person interested in receiving more information about how to request a copy of a fraudulent tax return should look here.

See Charles (Chuck) Rubin, Identity Theft Victims Can Now Get A Copy of Fraudulently Filed Returns, Rubin On Tax, November 29, 2015.

November 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Estate Planning For Digital Assets

Digital ageEstate planning for digital assets is a topic that has a great amount of significance to Millennials that have grown up to be more tech-savvy than previous generations. There are many people that have a strong investment in their “digital portfolios” that can include online accounts with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Far too many people make the mistake of failing to include their digital effects in their estate plans. Designating a person to have postmortem access to online accounts can be difficult because the laws that govern digital assets can be different in each state. It is a good idea for a person to create an inventory of their online accounts that includes their passwords. People should search for an experienced estate planning attorney to assist them with their digital estate planning needs.

See How do I Plan for My “Digital Assets” in My Estate Plan?, The Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull P.A., November 27, 2015.

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

November 30, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Technology, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Risks Involved With Purchasing Online Legal Documents

Online_willsIn order to save an increasingly number of consumers are relying on using online legal documents. Using online legal documents to avoid spending money on attorneys might seem like a good idea, but there are many inherent risks involved that could have costly consequences down the road. A flawed legal document could get rejected by a court outright and potential heirs could be left with a serious problem. If a person gets into a dispute with an online legal company they might not be able to take them to court. There are many complex estate issues that a person might have that would require the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney, trying to take the easy and cheap route could be a costly mistake.

See Catey Hill, Don’t buy legal documents online without reading this story, Market Watch, November 23, 2015.

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

November 24, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Digital Assets Bill Advancing Through Florida Legislature

Florida welcomeRecently in the State of Florida new “digital assets” protection legislation has passed through a review committee. On Tuesday the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 494 unanimously. The bill will give people the power to choose someone that will have access to and control over their online accounts. According to a staff analysis digital assets can include “emails, text messages, online photographs, documents stored in the cloud, electronic bank statements, and other electronic communications or records.” The new bill has been reworded after it failed to pass last session when it faced opposition from Facebook and Google. This new legislation will require that a person gives “explicit consent” to someone else having access to and control over their digital assets.

See Jim Rosica, Digital Assets Bill Breezes Through First Committee, Florida Politics, November 17, 2015.

November 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Establishing A Digital Legacy

ModemAs people become more involved online estate planning for digital assets is going to become more important. Digital assets can include things like online social media accounts as well as domain names and digital currencies. People will need to create an estate plan that will determine who will have access to these digital assets if a person passes away. According to estate planners too many people are neglecting to include digital assets in their estate plans. This could lead to valuable assets going unnoticed and the deceased loved ones having to spend money and time tracking them down. Estate planning for digital assets is an extremely important aspect of modern planning that people cannot afford to ignore. People need to plan ahead for these types of assets and not neglect making these important decisions.

See Constance Gustke, Plan Your Digital Legacy, and Update Often, The New York Times, November 11, 2015.

November 12, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Increasing Use Of Online Obituaries

OnlineAs people have been increasingly living their lives online the business of dying has been changing. There are many ways that the intersection of death and the internet can be seen that can include anything ranging from estate planning for digital assets (like a Facebook account), and passing on values and morals through an online “ethical will.” Another growing trend involves the use of online obituaries. More people are opting for the online obituary as an alternative to the traditional short and sweet obituaries that have been traditionally printed in the local newspaper. The online obituary frees people of many of the constraints that existed in traditional obituaries, allowing people to go into more detail when memorializing their deceased loved ones. There have been some circumstances where these online obituaries have gone viral and as a result providing the deceased person with fame beyond the grave.

See Morgan M. Wiener, When Your Death Goes Viral, The National Law Review, November 9, 2015.

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

November 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Planning For The Digital Estate

Digital ageDigital information has become both an important and pervasive part of peoples everyday life. Most people now have email, social networking, and online banking accounts. People often have to use numerous passwords when managing all these different accounts. Cybersecurity is a very important issue that financial advisers need to be aware of. As more of the public's personal financial information becomes digitized people will be more vulnerable to hackers and other cyber-criminals that work constantly to stay ahead of law enforcement. This column discusses a number of steps that clients can take to manage their digital accounts more efficiently. People that fail to prepare could be making themselves vulnerable to hackers and other cyber-criminals. It is important for people to take the steps needed to secure and protect their digital estates.

See Joshua S. Miller, The Digital Estate, Private Wealth, November 10, 2015.

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

November 11, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What Firms Should Know About Value Pricing

FirmThis column discusses some of the tenets that "movement" firms should adopt.  In today's technologically-driven society customers are not looking to buy time, but are instead looking for solutions to their problems.  Successful firms need to think about how they can best provide for their client's needs.  A firm will want to change the way it values and prices its own services.  Coming up with a new value-based pricing system will require a modification in the business culture of the entire company.  This article points out the steps firms will need to take to stay ahead of the game in adopting a value pricing system.  Transitioning to a value pricing in a business will require careful planning and the first few months may be difficult. 

See Jody Padar, Value Pricing: Is Your Firm Ready?, Accounting Today, November 6, 2015.

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

November 8, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Professional Responsibility, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Tolkien Estate Involved In Copyright Dispute With Warner Brothers

Peter jacksonA recent judicial memorandum filed Wednesday leaves the door open for Warner Brothers and the estate of legendary author J.R.R. Tolkien to continue a legal dispute over the marketing of products associated with ‘The Lord of The Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit.’  The Tolkien estate filed a lawsuit in 2012 against Warner Bros. claiming that the company exceeded the limits of the licensing agreement.  When Warner Bros. counter sued the Tolkien estate tried to get the claim dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute.  In 2013, a U.S. District Court denied the Estate’s request for dismissal and the 9th Circuit Court has recently upheld the district court decision. 

See Mark Sommer, Appeals court decision reopens Warner Bros. and Tolkien Estate battle, Examiner, October 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.

October 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Film, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Company Lets People Leave Messages To Loved Ones From Beyond The Grave

Digital messagesA new system called SafeBeyond, which likens itself as the Dropbox for the hereafter, lets people keep written and video messages safe and private until they pass away.  The company provides people with a way to deliver important messages to loved ones after they are gone.  These new services raise a number of issues and concerns about digital assets when it comes to estate planning.  People are encouraged to designate a Trustee to manage the material that they put into the SafeBeyond service.  There are already competitors like Incubate that offer similar digital services that let people communicate from the afterlife.  As online social media continues to become more of a regular feature in society, these concerns about digital assets are going to take on greater importance.  

See Paul Sullivan, Digital Messages for Loved Ones From Beyond the Grave, The New York Times, October 23, 2015. 

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

October 24, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)