Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

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)

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)