Monthly Archives: April 2013

Your digital after life: Does Google’s Inactive Account Manager offer more control?

There has been a lot of discussion and controversy over the last few years about what happens to your digital assets when you die.

Earlier this week, Google took a stab at solving this issue for its users when it announced the launch of its Inactive Account Manager.  This is a system that enables you to tell Google “what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account.”

First, using Inactive Account Manager, you can tell Google when you want your account to be treated as inactive and “time out”.  You can choose from three, six, nine or twelve months.  At the end of that period, Google will try to contact you by text or secondary email to be sure you really meant to “time out”.

Second, you can add up to ten friends or family members who should be notified that your account is inactive.  The assumption is that you’re deceased if you have let your account go inactive.  However, hopefully, if you’re just traveling around the world and don’t have access to email or you’ve decided to hibernate for a year and not go online, one of your friends or family members will let Google know.

What happens when your account becomes inactive?  You can choose to share your data with one or more of those friends or family members OR you can instruct Google to delete your account.  In that case, all associated data will be deleted including things such as your publicly shared YouTube videos, Google+ posts or blogs on Blogger.

With the new Inactive Account Manager, Google thinks it will avoid some of the conflicts that occur today when relatives of the deceased want access to their data and, in many cases, can’t get it.  With Inactive Account Manager, you will designate what happens to the data.  If you want a family member to get it, you indicate the data you want shared and with whom.

But what if your wishes conflict with those of a  family member or close friend?  According to a Google spokesperson, “we will honor the preference you’ve made in Inactive Account Manager to the extent permitted by law.”

We wondered what an attorney would think of Google’s new tool and contacted Daniel I. Spector, Esq., a lawyer with Spector Weir, LLP in Sacramento, CA.  According to Dan, “It’s a nifty first attempt at dealing with this tricky issue, but I believe the solution is ahead of the law.  The information in one’s account is an asset ” and “the law wisely requires certain steps to be taken before a person can…..take possession of a dead person’s assets.”  Someone who is appointed the executor or trustee of the estate must have their appointment recognized by the court and must follow set procedures for identifying and distributing assets.  They can’t arbitrarily be given to a friend or relative without going through the legal process.  Someday the law will catch up with what Google wants to do but it’s not there yet.

For more information about digital assets and the way companies like Facebook and Twitter handle them after someone has died, go to http://diesmart.com.  You can also find information there about probate and what it means.

President Obama makes “permanent” estate tax temporary again.

President Obama proposed 2014 budget:  Changing the Estate Tax and Gift Tax Rates AGAIN!!!

 

From January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2012,  Congress seemed intent on making planning for death more complicated than it already is by  creating a series of “temporary” estate tax laws.   These temporary tax rates and estate tax and gift tax exclusion amounts created turmoil for software companies, lawyers, accountants and ordinary people.

As part of the 2012 “Fiscal Cliff” compromise, President Obama signed legislation that appeared to make permanent the 2012 estate tax exclusion amount of $5 million for estate and gift taxes and a top estate tax rate of 40 percent.    The exclusion amounts would be indexed for inflation.  The statements from Congress and the President made it seem we FINALLY had permanent rules regarding federal estate and gift taxes.  Software companies could stop revising code.   Families could make permanent plans for death.  

So much for compromise.  The Obama “Green Book” Budget for 2014 puts us back in the guessing game about estate and gift tax rules.     Page 138 of the budget has these words:  ”Beginning 2018, the proposal would make permanent the estate, GST and gift tax parameters as they applied during 2009.  The top tax rate would be 45 percent and the exclusion amount would be $3.5 million for estate and GST taxes, and $1 million for gift taxes. There would be no indexing for inflation.”

You can find out more here:

http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/Documents/General-Explanations-FY2014.pdf

Whole Body Donation – Another Option

 

The other night, I was at the emergency room of our local hospital and overheard half of a phone conversation.  Evidently, a relative had died of cancer within the last hour and there was no money available for a funeral.  The person I could hear was lamenting that she had no idea what to do.  She wanted to do the “right” thing for the deceased but didn’t know what that was.

Respecting her privacy (even though she was talking on a cell in the middle of the lobby), I said nothing….but I began to think about options she might have.

One that is not talked about much but could have been the solution to her quandary is whole body donation. Study of human bodies can help in the discovery of cures for many diseases and medical conditions and can aid in the development of new medical and surgical procedures as well as new, potentially life-saving, medicines.

If you think this is something you’d like to do, you should make the arrangements prior to your death.  You can preregister with a medical school or research organization by signing a consent form stating your wish to donate your body.  A copy of the consent form should be put with your will and other valuable papers so it can easily be found.

When you die, your family should notify the facility.  They will transport your body transported to the research facility or medical school with which you signed the consent form.

If you did not sign a consent form agreeing to whole body donation, your family can still decide this is what they wish to do after your death.  They will need to contact the medical facility or research center of choice and sign an after death donor form.  Then the process is the same as if you had made arrangements pre death.

When the group to whom the body has been donated is finished with it, they will cremate it and return the ashes to the next of kin or dispose of them in the way you have designated.

Cost to the family – usually zero.

For a list of medical schools which accept whole body donations, check out the list published by the University of Florida State Anatomical Board.

A national organization we found which provides a lot of information about this subject is MedCure.

Finally, for further information about funeral options and body and organ donation, go to www.diesmart.com.