Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Growing Concerns About IRS Data Breaches

IRSAs more people file their taxes online there is a growing concern about IRS data breaches. “In early 2015, hackers used the IRS’s “Get Transcript” application to access approximately 334,000 accounts and retrieve millions of taxpayer transcripts from prior years.” Hackers have also been known to use personal data and malware to generate e-filing PIN numbers. The IRS is an attractive target for online hackers because it stores financial and personal information about hundreds of millions of citizens. Lawmakers are talking about the need for more cybersecurity funding so that the IRS can better safeguard the information that it stores. This article provides information about ways individuals can better protect their own financial information. It is important to be skeptical and diligent about monitoring credit reports for unusual activity. People need to be on guard about protecting their own personal information from identity thieves.

See Lauren Williams, The Inevitable: Death, Taxes, and Breaches, Accounting Today, March 23, 2016.

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

March 24, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Article On The Uniform Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act In Texas

Estate planningAbbey L. Cohen (J.D. Candidate, Texas Tech University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Damage Control: The Adoption Of The Uniform Fiduciary Access To Digital Assets Act In Texas, Texas Tech University School of Law, Estate Planning & Community Property Law Journal, Vol. 8 Book 1, Fall (2015). Provided below is an abstract of the article:

In estate planning, digital asset management (DAM) is changing. While this technological shift has proven to be very advantageous in many aspects of our day-to-day lives, the current laws have not addressed some of the resulting consequences and legal issues. On a daily basis, we collect an abundance of electronic data in our smartphones, computers, and online accounts. These types of digital properties have personal, emotional, and social value to all who use them. Considering how an online photo album can store years of precious memories, how a Facebook account can record an individual’s significant life events and personal thoughts, and how a computer may keep the transcript of a great American novel is important. But what happens to all of these digital assets when we die?

March 22, 2016 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Health Care Scams Senior Citizens Should Be Aware Of

Health scamsSenior citizens are often a vulnerable target for health care scammers. This article discusses some of the more common healthcare scams that seniors should watch out for. There are online scammers who sell fake prescription drugs to seniors who are looking to save money. Fake prescription discount programs are also an online problem impacting seniors. The elderly can also become prey to exaggerated or false claims about what certain products can do for their health or longevity. This article also provides important information about ways people can avoid health insurance fraud. It is important to be wary of any online solicitations that ask for personal information like Social Security or bank account numbers. Senior citizens should use the information in this article to help them be more alert about online health care scams.

See Amy Fontinelle, Healthcare Scams That Target Seniors, Investopedia, March 21, 2016.

March 22, 2016 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Can Service Be Done By Facebook?

Social media 5Online social media continues to change the legal world. If an attorney finds a way to serve someone through the usual means despite their best efforts can service be done through Facebook? There are more modern businesses that are not brick-and-mortar companies and exist entirely online. Service through online means is a new development that not many courts had a chance to rule on. Currently service through online social media is a novel concept, but as online social media becomes more prevalent online service may develop into a regular legal activity. Attorneys thinking about serving someone online should be familiar with the rules and requirements of the jurisdiction that they are practicing in. There will be savvy lawyers who push the envelope and courts and lawmakers will need to address this issue.

See Erdal Turnacioglu, Facebook Notification: You’ve Been Served!, Medium, March 15, 2016.

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

March 15, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Applying For Social Security Online

Applying onlineThe Social Security administration provides people with the option of applying for Social Security benefits online, in person, and over the phone. Applying in person involves visiting the local Social Security office. “To do so over the phone, call (800) 772-1213, to do so online, click over to the Social Security Administration (SSA) website.” This article explains when the best time is for applying for Social Security. It also provides a list of the documents a person would need. There is a process for applying online, and a person does not need to start and finish at the same time. The online application process lets people save their work and return to it later. Applying for Social Security online makes sense for people who want to do it at their own pace and save themselves from having to visit the local Social Security office.

See Selena Maranjian, Can I Apply for Social Security Online?, My San Antonio, March 14, 2016.

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

March 14, 2016 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Florida Governor Rick Scott Signs Digital Assets Legislation

Digital ageFlorida Governor Rick Scott has recently signed legislation that will help people protect their digital assets after they pass away. The digital assets legislation known as SB 494 was one of more than two dozen proposals that the Florida Governor signed into law on Thursday. “The new law means a person can designate someone to have access and control of their financial accounts, social media and most everything else someone has online after their death.” These financial accounts and assets that the new Florida law will impact includes things like email address, text messages, photographs, online videos, and many of the documents that people have stored in the cloud. This new State law means that Florida will handle digital assets in a similar way to how other valuable assets and property are handled in the estate planning process.

See Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Rick Scott Signs Digital Assets Bill Into Law, Florida Politics, March 10, 2016.

March 11, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

U.S. Magistrate Judge Rejects Bid For Facebook Archives

Court rulingA U.S. Magistrate Judge has rejected a request by the defendants in a wrongful-death lawsuit to see the Facebook archives of an accident victim and her family going back seven years. Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert held that the defendants request for Facebook archives going back to 2006 was too broad and failed to tailor the request to relevant content only. The repositories of social media content like Facebook raises challenges for the court and the Judge held that a party seeking such information should make a threshold relevance showing. The defendants failed to show how all the information they sought in their overly broad request was relevant to the case at hand. The Judge left open the possibility of defendants being able to make a more tailored request for the production of Facebook archives.

See Patricia Manson, Judge nixes bid for Facebook archives, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, March 8, 2016.

March 9, 2016 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Action People Can Take To Manage Their Online Identity After Death

Social mediaThis article discusses the steps that people can take to manage their online accounts after they pass away. The laws that currently exist dealing with maintaining online accounts after death are not very clear. “The federal Stored Communications Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act prohibit access to digital assets without specific user authorization and make unauthorized access a federal criminal offense.” These laws dealt mainly with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and don’t really do much to address issues with social media accounts on services like Facebook or Twitter. State laws can also vary and do not provide people with much guidance. It is important to make sure that your will explicitly specifies a fiduciary who will have access to the accounts. People should also review the terms of service on their social media accounts and speak with their estate planner about these issues.

See John Bonazzo, Do You Need to Control Your Online Identity After Your Death?, Observer, February 22, 2016.

Special thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Chair GWU Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 25, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wyoming Considers Data Privacy And Fiduciary Access Legislation

Incentive trust 2The House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee in the State of Wyoming has recently voted to recommend approving two State Senate bills that deal with data privacy and fiduciary access issues. “Senate File 34 seeks to provide guidance to fiduciaries regarding how they can gain access to a person’s email accounts and online profiles after the person has died.” There is a growing nationwide push to give people the ability to appoint who can manage their online accounts after they pass away. Lawmakers who are drafting the bill are collaborating with different online companies like Facebook. They are trying to balance the desire to give people more control with concerns about privacy. As more state governments take on this issue there will likely be calls in the future for federal action.

See James Chilton, House committee approves data privacy, fiduciary access bills, Casper Star Tribune, February 24, 2016.

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

February 24, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Trusts, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Online 'Girlfriend' Scams Grandfather Out Of Large Sum Of Money

GrandfatherThe elderly are increasingly being targeted by online scam artists. In this case an 80-year-old Australian man ended up transferring over $300,000 over a two year period to a person who pretended to be his online girlfriend. “The thing that gets to you the most is the betrayal of trust,” said the elderly victim known as Robert. The issue of online scams that target the elderly is a global one and is not just limited to Australia. People need to be more cautious and aware about the people that they deal with online. There are a lot of fraudsters and scam artists who use the internet to take advantage of vulnerable senior citizens. It is important to take necessary precautions about what information to disclose online.

See Jordan Cutts and Emma Canavan, Grandfather scammed out of $300,000 by online ‘girlfriend,’ The West Australian, January 27, 2016.

January 28, 2016 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)