Safekeeping of Important Documents

A common question I hear from my clients is: “where should I keep my estate planning documents?” Often, the first thought people a have is to put important documents in safe deposit box. Makes sense, right? Wrong! Unless there is a co-owner on the safe deposit box, no one will be able to gain access to the box or its contents without your permission or court order, and the documents that may provide that permission are in the box! As such, I always advise my clients to not keep their documents in a safe deposit box.

So what other options do you have for safekeeping these documents?

As having the original documents is of utmost importance, it is imperative that the documents are kept in a safe place, but are also accessible. Often, my clients choose to keep the originals at my office with copies at home in a filing cabinet or desk drawer with the location of the original documents noted.

Many times clients will also consider keeping their estate planning documents in a safe, but that presents many of the same problems of keeping the documents in a safe deposit box.

Regardless of whether you choose to keep your estate planning documents at your lawyer’s office or at home, it is imperative that your family knows the location of the documents and how to access them quickly and without delay when they are needed.

 

#estateplanning #will #lawyer

What Happens to My Social Media Accounts When I Die?

With so much of our lives taking place in the cloud, it is important to think about protecting our digital assets post-mortem. A few online services have a policy regarding what happens to your account, or allow you to select what happens.  For example, Google allows you to “Plan your digital afterlife with inactive Account Manager” which allows you to have your Google data deleted after a selected period of time of inactivity or selected trusted contacts to retrieve your data.  Facebook allows you to designate a “legacy contact” who is able to pin a final post on your timeline after your death. This person cannot log in as you or read private messages, but can respond to new friend requests and update profile and cover photos.

But what about our digital assets, such as our iTunes libraries, e-books, and video games? Are these able to be passed as though they were a vinyl record, leather-bound book, or board game? The answer to that is not so clear. Many companies, such as Apple and Amazon, state in the End User License Agreement when you purchase a digital item that you are simply purchasing the license to use said product, but that you do not actually own that product and do not have the authority to transfer that license to anyone without the express permission of Apple or Amazon. This remains a grey area in the law that is likely to be tested by creative estate planning techniques, such as having the digital assets purchased by a Trust with you and your children as the named beneficiaries, for example.

Many popular social media sites, however, do not have a specific policy like Google or Facebook. Many Social Media providers will only allow the personal representative (formerly known as the executor) to deactivate the deceased person’s account, but will not allow access to private content. The account is owned by the deceased person. As digital assets are a relatively new component to the estate planning puzzle, it remains unclear what these sites will permit if a personal representative is given specific power to access the accounts.

If your social media accounts are not set up to address what happens when you die, your will may leave specific instructions as to your wishes. Instructions may also be left in a trust or power of attorney. I also advise my clients to leave a list with their estate planing documents of their online accounts, usernames and passwords. This eases the difficulty of addressing the digital estate.

Have more questions about protecting your digital assets? Contact Broadbent & Taylor for a free consultation!

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY ATTORNEY CATHERINE TAYLOR AND IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP OF ANY SORT.

 

#estateplan #will #digitalassets #lawyer

Living Will . . . or Won’t?

A living will is an important component to a well-drafted estate plan. This document allows you have some control over medical treatment in the event you lose your decision-making authority. The living will spells out directions as to what you would want done in relation to certain medical decisions if you no longer have the ability to make these decisions yourself.

But there’s a catch…

A living will is not legally binding in Massachusetts.

So why would an attorney recommend a document that has no legal authority? Despite having no binding authority, a living will still holds a lot of value. It provides guidance to the Courts, or the person you have named as your Health Care Proxy, to know what your wishes are in certain situations. It means that your health care at a critical time is not going to be a guessing game and fighting over what you would want. What you want has been spelled out in black and white.

It is very important to name someone you trust to carry out your wishes regarding medical care as your health care proxy. Make sure that whomever you name knows you have named them and have a serious conversation with them about your wishes. Make sure they have a copy of your living will. Although these conversations are not easy ones to have, it will benefit both you and your proxy to know where you stand on these issues before they become issues.

At a minimum, your living will should address the following:

  • What life sustaining treatment do you want?
  • What life sustaining treatment do you not want?
  • Do you want artificial feeding?
  • Do you want medications that may hasten your demise, but make you more comfortable?
  • Where do you want to live out your last days – home or hospital/hospice?
  • Do you wish to be an organ donor?

You may also wish to address whether you are comfortable with receiving experimental treatments. With medical science changing at lightening speed, this could be an important component to your care. See, for example, http://www.iflscience.com/brain/biotech-company-use-stem-cells-reactivate-brains-dead.

Contact Attorney Catherine Taylor to discuss your estate planning needs!

THIS BLOG WAS WRITTEN FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES BY ATTORNEY CATHERINE TAYLOR. NOTHING HEREIN SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE OR AS CREATING AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

 

Prince died without a Will… what now?

There has been a lot of chatter and speculation surrounding the death of music legend Prince. The latest detail to come out after the singer’s death is that he apparently died without a will, essentially leaving his $300 million estate up for grabs.  So what happens with his fortune and future royalties?

Dying intestate can certainly leave quite a mess for the family and courts to clean up. In Prince’s case, it may be years before an accurate value of the estate can be determined. Then the intestacy statute (in Minnesota for Prince since that is where he resided and the bulk of his estate is located) will determine his heirs at law – likely to be his siblings as his parents are no longer living and he does not have any surviving children. Another unfortunate fallout of Prince’s untimely passing without a will is that the value of his estate will be drastically reduced due to State and Federal Estate Tax. He had no protections in place to protect his estate from taxation. The 2016 Federal exemption amount is $5.45 million individuals, less lifetime taxable gifts. Such a large estate is subject to the top taxation bracket at a whopping 40% in 2016. This means that Prince’s estate is likely to pay over $100 million to the Federal government in taxes. Ouch.

What could the beloved musician have done to protect his hard earned assets? The simplest solution would have been a trust. Trusts are excellent estate planning tools that provide individuals with flexibility in distributing their estate, as well as a number of protections (from creditors and taxes, and from prying eyes as trusts generally do not become part of the public record). The musician could have also laid out charitable contributions, which would certainly reduce the estate’s tax liability. One will never know why such a high profile figure with such a vast estate did not engage in even the simplest estate planning, but let this be a lesson to us all: tragedy can strike at any time and we should be prepared.

Rest in Peace, Prince Rogers Nelson.

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY ATTORNEY CATHERINE TAYLOR. IT IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE.