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.
How many of you get “paper” bank statements? How many you write “paper” checks to pay your monthly bills? How many of you pay your bills through automatically scheduled payments? How many of you store and save your personal information on your computers and on third party sites? And what happens to this information if you are no longer around? Can your family get access to it?
According to a 2011 Census more than three-quarters of all Americans owned a computer. That number increased to nearly 90% of all Americans who had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Today, the vast majority of the population owns a computer and with it, what are now referred to as “digital assets”.
A digital asset has been defined as “information created, generated, sent, communicated, received or stored by electronic means on a digital device or system that delivers digital information.” In common parlance, digital assets include personal information contained in:
Online accounts with financial institutions (e.g. banks or credit card companies)
Online accounts with forums such as Amazon, eBay or Craigslist, that not only allow users to buy and sell but facilitate such transactions with on-line currency accounts such as Paypal.
Reward programs, such as frequent flyer miles or reward points.
Click here for Part 2 of “The Care and Preservation of Your Digital Assets”, where we will be discussing examples of digital asset disasters. If you have specific questions regarding your digital assets, you can contact our Estate Planning Attorney in Woodland Hills, Ca today.
The number of estate tax returns declined 87 percent from about 73,100 in 2003 to about 9,400 in 2012 primarily due to the gradual increase in the filing threshold.
The gross estate filing threshold was $5.12 million in 2012, up from $1.0 million in 2003.
In 2012, the total net estate tax reported on all estate tax returns filed for the year was $8.5 billion.
California had the highest number of estate tax returns filed in 2012, followed by Florida, New York, Texas, and Illinois.
Estate tax decedents with total assets of $20 million or more held a greater share of their portfolio in stocks (about 40 percent) and lesser shares in real estate and retirement assets than decedents in other total asset categories
Does the significant decline in the number of estate tax returns (due to the threshold for such returns increasing to $5.12 million in 2012 from $1 million) mean that only the “wealthy” (i.e. those with estates in excess of $5.12 million based on the 2012 threshold), need to be concerned about an estate plan and the avoidance or minimization of estate taxes? Absolutely not.
While the avoidance and/or minimization of estate taxes is certainly one good reason to engage the services of an estate planning attorney, there are a number of other reasons to consider which will be discussed in part 2 of this blog series.
A revocable living trust allows couples to effectively double the estate tax exemption (currently $5,000,000). If you only had a will, as opposed to a trust, which left everything to your surviving spouse, you would lose your exemption.
The trust lets you keep your exemption, which could potentially save over $1,000,000 in taxes.
A revocable living trust can be drafted and executed in a short time frame. There are no recurring costs for management or administration. So long as your trust is fully funded at the outset (which our Trust Attorney in Los Angeles can assist you with) then all you have to do to maintain it is to review the terms of the trust every couple of years and put any new assets that you acquire into the name of your trust.
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