Monday, February 17, 2014

Estate Planning for the Childless

According to an August 2013 report from AARP, 11.6 percent of women ages 80 to 84 were childless in 2010. By 2030, the number will reach 16 percent. By 2010, the caregiver support ratio was more than seven potential caregivers for every person over 80 years old. By 2030, that ratio is projected to decline to four to one. By 2050, it’s expected to fall to three to one.  Children usually provide about 70 percent of long-term care.  But for those without children, alternate plans must be made.  The following article from the New York Times discusses those alternates.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Estate Planning in the Digital Age

Since the beginning of time, estate planning in some form has existed as even our biblical ancestors thought out which assets to leave to which individuals.  In recent times, planning has primarily involved the transfer of real estate, financial assets and personal property by will or trust.  As we have entered this new digital age, however, it behooves us to consider not only our tangible assets, but also our digital assets.

To begin with, most people these days keep information about assets in digital form.  Each of these accounts will be password protected, so the Personal Representative (PR) of the estate must have the passwords in order to access these accounts.  For this reason, the principal should keep a list not only of what assets they own, but also of the passwords for any and all accounts or assets that are accessed in digital form.  This list must, of course be kept in a safe place such as a jointly owned safe deposit box, a password protected document, or other secure location.

In addition to online information about assets, many people are now opting to receive bills only in online form and not by paper and mail.  This can result in bills not being paid if the PR is unaware of those bills, possibly accruing substantial late fees and interest or even having utilities shut off.  For that reason, it is also important that the principal maintain a list of all paperless bills, and passwords for each, so that the PR can be sure to pay any liabilities of the decedent without adverse effect. 

Further, some digital assets may have monetary value, such as online photos taken by a photographer, writings of an author, and the like.  It is suggested that the owner of such assets hold title in the name of a revocable trust to avoid the issue of probating the digital assets, which can be challenging.

Finally, there is the issue of social media.   Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other accounts may continue life long after the person is deceased.    The PR should have the passwords to those accounts as well, so that they may be terminated once the owner is deceased or at some appropriate time thereafter.

So the message here is important.  Just as you should maintain a list of all tangible assets so that the PR may best administer your estate, so should you keep a list of all digital assets, accounts and other such items, with passwords, so that the PR will be able to locate and access all such assets and accounts for the most orderly management of your estate.