Tom was fairly successful in life and had a love for travel. To maximize his options, Tom was enrolled in several different programs which generated reward points. These points could then be redeemed for travel, hotel stays, car rentals, etc. Tom assumed that when he passed away, his accumulation of reward points would simply pass on to his kids, or whomever else he designated as part of his estate plan. Despite Tom’s intended plan, the reward programs had a different plan in mind.
Tom was enrolled in three specific reward programs, each of which was linked to a specific credit card:
This following article titled “In Support of Sensible Legislation on Digital Assets” is featured in the October 2014 issue of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association‘s Valley Lawyer Magazine (view pdf):
For the past ten or so years, new articles have abounded regarding the difﬁculty in accessing the digital records of the dearly departed. Famous examples include:
Justin Ellsworth, the U.S. Marine who was killed while serving in Fallujah, and his father’s desperate pleas to access his Yahoo account, which were denied.
Karen Williams, whose 22-year-old son was killed in a motorcycle accident, and her desire to access his Facebook account, which was also refused.
Both parents were faced with bureaucratic roadblocks during a time when emotions were already being pushed to their limits.
Continuing from last month’s post (The Care and Preservation of Your Digital Assets), digital assets do not necessarily have to have monetary value. Many people store their modern day diaries i.e. blogs or similar writings on their computers, along with photographs and other matters of sentimental value. In a famous but tragic case, a young marine deployed in Iraq wrote regularly on his Yahoo! account (email and blog) about his experiences. He was killed in action and his mother wanted access to his account so she would have a record of his writings about his service. Yahoo’s policy was to delete the accounts of a deceased user. Without a plan for dealing with his digital assets, his mother had to go to the probate court, which while it ultimately ordered Yahoo to turn over copies of the emails, did not give the family access to his account.
Continuing on our estate tax discussion from last month, there are a number of other reasons, besides minimizing estate tax, to consider whether to engage the services of an estate planning attorney:
Without an estate plan, the State determines what happens to your property when you die.
Without an estate plan, and in particular a trust, the transfer of your estate will require a probate except in the limited circumstance of what is referred to as a “small estate”. The probate process can be expensive and time consuming. For example, an estate of $2 million, well under the 2012 $5.12 million threshold in the IRS study, would incur attorneys’ fees set by statute of approximately $40,000.00.
Without an estate plan (which would typically include powers of attorney and healthcare directives), should you become ill or incapacitated, your loved ones could not easily step in to take care of health and/other decisions and needs.
So the next time the question of an estate plan comes up and you think to yourself, I have “nothing”, I do not need a plan, do yourself a favor and reconsider.
An estate plan is a complete set of instructions that convey your wishes upon your incapacity and/or death.
Why Should I Create My Own Estate Plan?
Without a personalized estate plan the State will decide who gets what and when. The State’s idea of what your heirs should receive may not be the same as your own. With an estate plan, you can avoid the time and cost of having the State decide your affairs. It is essential that you take an active part in preparing your estate plan.
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