Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New App for Advance Directives


My Health Care Wishes is a new app developed by the ABA’s Commission on Law and Aging that allows you to store your advance directives on your smartphone.  In an effort to make advance directives more easily accessible in the event of an emergency, this app lets you present advance directives, health information, and contacts via email or Bluetooth.  The digitally transmitted documents have the same legal authority as a signed and witnessed paper document.

The free version of this app lets you store one person’s information while the $3.99 Pro version offers unlimited storage for your family members.  Other digital ways to store advance directives include DocuBank and MyDirectives

See Paula Span, The Documents You Need, When You Need Them, The New York Times, Apr. 24, 2014.

Special thanks to Jerry Cooper for bringing this article to my attention.

April 30, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Daughter Writes Brutally Honest Obit


Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick passed away at age 78 in Reno, Nevada.  Her obituary appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal on September 10, but it was not the typical fond remembrance.

Her daughter, Katherine Reddick, described a childhood of abuse and neglect experienced by her and her siblings.  They were often in and out of foster homes with their mother allegedly running an escort service.  After the obit went viral, Reddick’s brother said its purpose was “to bring awareness to child abuse . . . shame child abuse overall.”

Here is the full text.

See Audra Schroeder, Daughter’s Brutally Honest Obit for Her Mom Goes Viral, The Daily Dot, Sept. 13, 2013.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.  

April 30, 2014 in Death Event Planning, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ever Hit "Reply All" By Accident?

Reply allIt is embarrassing, but it has probably happened to you. Have you ever accidently hit "send" on an email only to realize it was sent to the wrong person or you "reply all" when you meant to make your response private? Wish you hadn't? 


Now, using a new free service developed by two Harvard students called Pluto Mail you can unsend an email after it has been sent. The email is retracted with two simple steps. The recipient then receives an email and subject line stating, "This message has expired." Pluto Mail allows users to edit emails after they have been sent so long as they have not been opened. The service also works with your current email client and email address with a set up similar to Outlook. However, there are still some creative ways to access the expired information. Currently, there is a waitlist for this service but you can sign up on the site's website.

See Robert Ambrogi, Unsend Email? Two Harvard Students Have a Way, Law Sites, Apr. 24, 2014.

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

April 25, 2014 in Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stetson Law Sponsors Webinar -- Fundamentals of Special Needs Trusts Administration

Stetson_webinarJoin nationally known leaders Craig C. Reaves, Robert B. Fleming, and Mary Alice Jackson in this timely and important webinar as they  address challenging SNT administrative issues faced by trustees, attorneys, financial planners and money managers involved in Special Needs Trusts.

This webinar will offer practical information by leaders in the field of Special Needs Planning that can be immediately implemented in your practices:

  • Identify  best practices for SNT dministration. As a result of court cases over the years, we have seen processes, policies and procedures change. Understand the best way to handle administrative matters, so you don't end up as a party in the next case!
  • Learn how to recognize, interpret and apply the four common trust distribution standards when making distribution decisions.
  • The ACA in real time: what are the implications of the Affordable Care Act for beneficiaries who live in states which have adopted Medicaid expansion as opposed to those living in states which did not adopt expansion? What happens when your beneficiary moves to another state? A step-by-step analysis will be provided for Trustees to use when considering coverage under Medicaid or the ACA.

Click here to register.

April 24, 2014 in Estate Administration, Trusts, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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)