Tag Archives: Estate Planning

Seen a digital assets & legacy infographic?

51j2ST20YwL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_We came across a very easy to read and understand infographic.  It provides important information about estate and digital asset planning.  Although the data is based on a survey done in the United Kingdom, the figures are probably very similar to what would be found if the same survey were done in the United States.

In light of the digital all-encompassing digital world in which we live, it’s especially amazing that almost 75% of people believe that it’s important to be able to view a loved one’s social media presence after their death.  Yet less than 5% of those people have used the Facebook and Google tools available to enable this to happen.

Less than 10% of people have made any plans for their social media accounts to remain active after they die and only 3% have made any plans for purchased digital assets.

Only about half of the people queried have shared with anyone the password for their mobile phone or computer.

Digital planning is a critical part of putting your estate plan in place prior to your death.  Otherwise, your wishes may not be carried out and, even more importantly, your heirs may not be able to access your online assets.  Since no one knows when he or she is going to die, it’s important for everyone to take the necessary steps and put together a legal estate plan now.

For more information about digital estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com or purchase our book ACCESS DENIED: Why your passwords are now just as important as your will.

Who Pays Your Debts When You Die?

According tk15365456o a U.S. News and World Report story out this week, most probably your unpaid bills will be subtracted from any inheritance you leave to your loved ones.

In 2013, more than 61% of senior households had an average of $40,900 in debt.  And it’s likely that many will die with those debts unpaid.

If you don’t have any assets, your debts may die with you.  However, if you have assets, your creditors may be able to collect what they’re owed from those assets and the amounts subtracted from what your heirs will inherit.

How debt is handled depends largely on the state in which you are living at the time of your death.  Nine states are “community property” states.  That means your spouse is responsible for any debt incurred during the marriage.  In other states, a spouse is not responsible for bills that are solely in the other spouse’s name.  And some types of assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance payouts, usually can’t be claimed by creditors.

The story goes on to list six things to do if someone you love has debt when they die:

1)      Consult a probate attorney.

2)      Notify creditors of the death.  Once this is done, those accounts are frozen.

3)      Catalog your loved one’s assets.

4)      Determine what your loved one owes.  That will help determine what, if anything, needs to be sold to pay the debt.

5)      Have beneficiaries file for assets that pass without probate.

6)      File tax returns.  Even after death, tax returns need to be filed on time.

For more information about estate planning and helpful hints on what to do when settling a loved one’s estates, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

Are your beneficiary designations up to date?

k8758525Do you have a bank account?  What about a brokerage account or life insurance policy?  Have you set up an annuity  or a retirement plan?

You probably have a least one or two of these types of accounts.  When you set them up, you were asked to name a beneficiary for each.  At the time, the person you named was someone you wanted to receive these assets when you died.  It might have been a spouse or significant other.

It’s been several years since you named that person.  Have your circumstances changed?  Are you now divorced or no longer involved with him or her?  Have you remarried or had children you want to be sure are protected?

Most people name a beneficiary and then forget about it.  They never go back and update the information provided so it reflects their current wishes.   They figure it doesn’t matter because they have a current will that designates who should inherit what.  However, it does matter.  Whoever is named as a beneficiary receives that asset when you die, regardless of what it says in your will.   So your ex-husband or former girlfriend may receive a large sum of money that you didn’t want them to have.

Don’t let this happen.  Review your beneficiary designations whenever your circumstances change and be sure that your assets will go where you want them to when you die.

For more information about estate planning, go to our website www.diesmart.com.

You need a will. Why shouldn’t you write your own?

blended familyMost blank will forms are based on the assumption that you are part of a traditional nuclear family with a husband, a wife and a common set of children.  It will further assume that you wish to follow the traditional path of inheritance:  The surviving spouse will inherit the deceased’s assets and they will they pass to the children upon the second spouse’s death.

Instead, as is very often the case today, you may be part of a blended family.  If so, you should definitely see an attorney and prepare a will that will protect every member of that new family.

Let’s look at an example of what might happen if you don’t have a well written will.

John and Susan had both been married previously.  John had two children from his first marriage and Susan had three.   When they got married, all was well for several years.  Then John died suddenly.  Susan inherited all of John’s estate (which included assets he had brought into the marriage).

When Susan died, her three children inherited her assets; John’s children got nothing.  Why, because they were not Susan’s legal children and neither John or Susan’s will legally protected them.  A lengthy legal battle ensued with the biggest winner being the attorneys.

Although this blog is based on an article from the Sydney Morning Herald, it is critical for everyone in a blended family to take heed.

Make sure your legal paperwork protects your family and distributes your assets the way you want them allocated.  Don’t take a shortcut now that may result in unnecessary pain and suffering at a later date.

For more information about estate planning, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

Why didn’t Prince have a will?

PrinceThat’s a question that we’ll never know the answer to.  If he was like more than half of the people in this country, he just hadn’t gotten around to writing one, didn’t think he needed a will or didn’t care what happened to his estate once he was gone.  Regardless of his reason, the fact remains that he didn’t have a will and the probate court will decide what happens to all of his assets.

Minnesota law is quite clear.  If a person dies intestate (without a will), the estate goes to his children, grandchildren, spouse or parents.  Since Prince had no children, grandchildren or spouse and his parents are deceased, his entire estate will go to his brothers and sisters.  Prince had six half-brothers and half-sisters as well as a full sister, Tyka Nelson.  In Minnesota, half siblings are considered to have the same inheritance rights as those who are full siblings.

To muddy the waters, hundreds of people have come forward and said they were relatives of Prince.  In addition, a Minnesota man in his 30’s has said that he’s Prince’s son as a result of a relationship between the deceased and his mother in the 1980’s.

Prince’s estate has been estimated at between $150 and $300 million.  In addition to real estate and money, there are several unpublished works and a lot of unreleased music that can be worth millions.

Something that hasn’t been discussed in any of the articles we’ve read is Prince’s digital estate.  He kept many unpublished works in a vault bank but what if he kept others in an electronic account?  What if there is a will but it is stored in Drop Box or some other online storage facility?  Unless he left instructions or provided someone with a list of his digital accounts and their passwords, we may never know the full extent of his assets and their value.

Whatever the final disposition of Prince’s estate – who receives what based on Minnesota probate law – and its final value, there are two lessons we should all learn from this.

  1.  See an attorney and get a will prepared.  Even if you don’t have the kind of assets Prince had, it’s still a very important thing to do.  Don’t let state statutes determine what happens to your estate.  You decide.
  2. Document your wishes related to your digital assets.  Do you want anyone to see what’s in your private emails or do you want them destroyed?  Do you want your Facebook account shut down or do you want it to be memorialized and continue?  What do you want to happen to your Bitcoin account?  What are your logons and passwords for accounts that have financial implications?

Don’t wait.  You don’t know what will happen tomorrow or how long you’ll be on this earth.  Get your legal paperwork in order now.

To find out more information about estate planning, go to our website www.diesmart.com.  To find out more about digital estates, check out our book, Access Denied: Why your passwords are now just as important as your will.