Tag Archives: Probate

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.

Ghosting – Do you know what it is?

th1EAZMTEQAccording to Wikipedia, ghosting is a form of identity theft in which someone steals the identity, and sometimes even the role within society, of a specific dead person (the “ghost”) who is not widely known to be deceased.

As our population ages and more and more people are dying every day, identity thieves are keying in on this fact for their gain.  An Ohio family found out about ghosting the hard way about a year ago when one of these thieves stole over $2.2 million from their deceased father’s estate.

“Ghosts” steal a deceased person’s personally identifiable information and use it for things such as account takeover, tax refund fraud, medical ID theft and driver license ID theft.  They also apply for new credit cards and loans using this information.

By the time the family of the deceased finds out about the theft, it may cause problems with the estate and may cause great expense to lenders or others who were fooled.  In some cases, creditors will try to come after the estate, even if the money owed is because of ghosting.

Here are a few helpful hints to make sure a “ghost” won’t cause problems for you when a loved one dies.

Send the IRS a copy of the death certificate.  That way, a “ghost” won’t be able to file a fraudulent tax return and collect any refund.

Send a copy of the death certificate to credit card companies and other financial accounts that were held by the deceased and ask that those accounts be closed.

Notify each of the major credit bureaus and ask them to put a death notification on the accounts of the deceased.

Don’t put too much information in an obituary.  Thieves can use date of birth, exact address, mother’s maiden name to help open new accounts.

Be alert and check the deceased’s credit report for questionable activity.

For more information about identity theft and other issues related to estates, go to 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.