Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Online Help For Executors

LaptopWhen Daniel Stickel became the executor of his father's estate he was overwhelmed by not knowing how to proceed, and found online searches unhelpful. In response he created EstateExec.com, which charges $79 per estate for access to the guide. Stickel created it as a DIY estate administration cite that he compares to TurboTax. The site does not offer legal advice.  A warning for large and complex estates comes from Jonathan G. Blattmachr, of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, who warns that a lawyer is needed for complex estates or when the estate is facing litigation possibilities.

See Ann Carrns, Online Tools Can Ease the Burden of Being Executor of an Estate, New York Times, Apr. 7, 2015.

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

May 3, 2015 in Estate Administration, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Benefit of Cloud Based Operating in Elder Law Firm

CloudsThe use of technology can ease, assist, and expand the services provided by Elder law firms. In addition to general benefits such as cost efficiency, cloud-based firms have more flexibility in being able to take their office with them for off site visits. The availability to synch work product through services like Dropbox and Google Drive can increase collaboration and productivity.

See Michael H. Smith, Practicing Elder Law in the Cloud: How One Firm Does It, Resourceful Law.

April 29, 2015 in Elder Law, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Article on Privacy Protection in Digital Assets

Digital assetsJeehyeon Jenny Lee (Columbia University Law School) recently published an article entitled, Death and Live Feeds: Privacy Protection in Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets, (Apr. 7, 2015) Columbia Business Law Review, Forthcoming.  Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

In 2014, the Uniform Law Commission approved the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) for enactment by states. After an online user dies, the act gives her fiduciary broad access to her digital assets, such as email and social networking accounts, in the name of "asset neutrality" -- the idea that digital assets should be treated like similar physical assets for the purposes of estate administration. The application of such a concept to our online lives and deaths has significant implications for user privacy and relationships between users and internet service providers. Over 20 states have already introduced bills based on the UFADAA. 

This Note argues that an asset neutral approach to digital assets is fundamentally flawed, particularly with respect to social networking and social media content. Crucially, digital assets are often linked to live, real-time feeds from other users’ accounts, and thus provide access to others’ digital assets. The Note proposes several changes to the UFADAA. Most importantly, in order to protect user privacy, fiduciary access should be limited to only the particular decedent’s digital assets and internet service providers should be required to implement this restriction.

April 24, 2015 in Articles, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poll Reveals Lack of Digital Asset Planning

LaptopA recent online poll asked 2,009 U.S. adults about what they have done to plan for their digital assets after they die. Of the respondents that have a will, 70% have not designated a digital executor. When asked why they had not done so yet, the majority answered that they didn't know they should. In regards to what they wanted to happen to social media accounts, the majority responded that they preferred that they be deleted upon their death.

See Ellen Huet, Who Will Take Care Of Your Digital Legacy After You Die? Poll Says Many People Haven't Specified, Forbes, Apr. 21, 2015.

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

April 22, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Taking Care of Your Digital Legacy

Computer 2Many Americans have yet to decide who will oversee their digital accounts after they die.  While some prefer their accounts be memorialized, more than half would like them deleted.

Several social networking capabilities now make it easier to manage someone’s online presence after death.  In February, Facebook released a “legacy contact” feature, allowing users to designate another user to post a final message, change profile pictures and accept new friend requests.  Google began offering a similar service in 2013. 

These options are steps that have given users more control over their digital life, a trend attorneys hope other companies to follow.  But instead of waiting for accounts to offer digital legacy handlers, people can name “digital executors” in their will.  Yet, in one poll taken, 70 percent of individuals had not chosen a digital executor.  Many people assume that they did not need one or that their family could access their accounts upon death.  It is important to name successors on any account to make the process easier when trying to communicate your authority to the right person. 

See Ellen Huet, Who Will Take Care of Your Digital Legacy After You Die? Poll Says Many People Haven’t Specified, Forbes, Apr. 21, 2015.

April 21, 2015 in Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

DOJ Rolls Out Elder Justice Website

DOJThe United States Department of Justice has launched the Elder Justice Website, as part of the Elder Justice Initiative designed to provide a coordinated federal response by emphasizing various public health and social service approaches to the prevention, detection, and treatment of elder abuse.  The Elder Justice Act represents Congress’s first attempt at comprehensive legislation to address abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly at the federal level. 

On the Elder Justice Website, individuals will find information about how to go about reporting elder abuse and financial exploitation.  The website is intended to serve as a “dynamic resource” and will be updated to reflect any changes in the law and current news in the elder justice field.

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

April 19, 2015 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Social Media Accounts Included in Bankruptcy

FacebookIn a Chapter 11 reorganization of CTLI, LLC, social media accounts became the core of the dispute. CTLI had been doing business as Tactical Firearm and incurred a debt to purchase a building so the business could expand to include an indoor firing range in Katy, Texas. The Debtor was ordered to release a Facebook and Twitter account to the creditor, but the owner argued that the accounts were personal and not business property.

In In re: CTLI, LLC, Chapter 11, Debtor,the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division held that the accounts in question were business property and that a business' social media accounts are included in the company's bankruptcy estate. The court further found that the required transfer of the accounts did not violate privacy rights.

Special thanks to Joseph Jacobson (Law Offices of Joseph Jacobson, Dallas, Texas) for bringing this case to my attention.

April 16, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Finding Digital Immortality

Intellitar 2What if you could have "eternal digital life"?  This was made possible by the start-up company Intellitar, which created a service allowing customers to generate digital avatars of themselves that loved ones could interact with long after the persons’ death.  “Customers uploaded a photo of themselves to Intellitar’s ‘Virtual Eternity’ website, took a personality test, provided a voice sample and then trained their avatars’ ‘brains’—an artificial-intelligence engine—by feeding it stories, memories and photos.” 

The company was not successful and shut down in 2012.  According co-founder and former CEO of Intellitar, Don Davidson, the company’s failure was because of an expensive legal dispute.  One other company, Eterni.me, is working on a similar service but the technology is “still in its infancy.”  

See Kashmir Hill, This Start-Up Promised 10,000 People Eternal Digital Life—Then It Died, Fusion, Apr. 9, 2015.

April 14, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Facebook's "Scrapbook" Gives Children Digital Identity

FacebookLast week, Facebook enabled a feature for U.S. users called “Scrapbook,” which allows parents to compile baby photos in one place and share them with friends. 

In order to use this feature, users must identify their relationships on their profile.  Scrapbooks can only be created for children that are listed under a user’s “Family and Relationships” section.  Parents have the ability to co-own a scrapbook with the partner identified in their relationship status. 

This new feature reflects an important decision that parents must make when it comes to their child’s digital footprints.  Children whose parents create digital scrapbooks not only inherit a digital identity, but they also inherit a digital identity within Facebook.

See Priya Kumar, Facebook’s New Baby-Photo Feature Lets Children Inherit a Digital Identity, Slate, Apr. 6, 2015. 

April 10, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Florida Digital Assets Bill

LawA Florida bill, SB 102, is making its way through Senate committee's with one more to pass in before hitting the senate floor. The bill would give a fiduciary access and control of digital assets. The bill has raised similar privacy concerns by critics as other similar ones considered in other states.

See Garin Flowers, Bill Would Let Trustee Control Digital Assets, WTSP, Apr. 6, 2015.

April 8, 2015 in Estate Planning - Generally, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)