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Scams on Senior Citizens to be watchful of

Posted on October 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM

 



Scam artists like to prey on senior adults.  Unfortunately, this has only increased in recent years, rather than decreased.  If ever there is a question about something you have received, or a fee invoice you have been sent by an agency you're not familiar with, we would recommend calling us! We don't mind, and we'd rather help protect our seniors, than see these scams executed successfully and have to clean up the mess afterwards. So please please please, give our office a call should you encounter anything you think is suspicious!


Here at our firm, we also address these issues directly in the drafting of your Trusts and Powers of Attorney.  By contacting your elder law attorneys here at Crenshaw Peterson, you can identify and authorize your team of quick responders to step in and protect you from being taken advantage of by outsiders. We can also direct you to any authorities that may assist in helping you recover from the scam should you fall prey. 


Frequent Scams:

1. A fee for pulling a copy of your deed from the register of Deeds.

This is becoming a frequent scam sent to almost all of our clients across the state of Michigan.  Especially if we filed a deed for recording with the Register of Deeds as part of your estate plan.  Our clients get a very official looking letter in the mail that appears to be legitimate and from the State of Michigan asking you to pay a fee of usually around $75 for them to send you a copy of your real estate transactions.  DO NOT SEND THEM THE MONEY!!  

If you look closely, this form is actually from some other party, not the State of Michigan, and often lists California in the small print.  They will in fact send you a copy of your most recently recorded deed BUT, it would only cost you a $1.00, that's right ONE DOLLAR if you went down to the register of deeds yourself.  Secondly, you just recorded that deed, so you just recently got the original back from the register of deeds, so why would you need a copy?? And if you do want a copy, call us, and we'll send you our file copy FOR FREE!! 


2. IRS scams

Often around tax season, seniors will get a phone call from a supposed IRS agent calling about taxes owed or unpaid taxes.  Often if a senior doesn't immediately respond, they even resort to threatening the senior with arrest, suspension of a driver's license, a lawsuit and more.  Do not respond to these calls.  The IRS is not making them.  


3. Health Care scams

A new favorite scam on senior citizens seems to be with health care.  With ever changing rules and regulations this is already a fear of a lot of senior citizens and probably why they fall victim to it more easily.  A scammer will call a senior pretending to be a medicare representative.  The goal by the scammer is to get personal information.  The scammer then uses that personal information improperly. We've also seen the scammers pretend to have back due amounts owed back to medicare or the insurance company to get money out of the senior.  Or in some instances, we've seen the scammer call back later and tell the senior that they spoke with their children and the child said it was okay to give the scammer their social security number.  

DO NOT give out your personal information and especially your social security number over the phone to someone you do not know!



4.  Grandchild/great grandchild scams

Less frequently, but still prevalent is the scammer who pretends to be a grandchild or great grandchild. They call up "grandma" or "grandpa" and ask for money for some problem they recently encountered that they need help with.  Grandparents LOVE their grandchildren often to the point of being irrational on what the give them.  Isn't that what grandparents are for? To spoil grandkids rotten?! Speaking as a grandchild beloved and loving my grandparents this is a relationship unlike any other.  And these scammers try to take advantage of knowing what those relationships are like.  

Be sure, that if you are asked for money from a loved one, you confirm that is in fact them you are speaking to.  Call them back on the phone later and ask, go to their home if you live nearby and speak face to face.  Don't give the caller or your grandchild your banking information!


5. Prescription drugs

With the ever increasing costs of prescriptions on seniors, many senior citizens are looking online for cheaper drugs.  BE CAREFUL!

Some of the drugs are counterfeit, or the company takes the money and doesn't deliver the drugs.  Be sure that it is a reputable company you are transacting with. DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Unfortunately, this scam is ever increasing and our seniors and their families need to be more prudent in watching for these scams.  


6. The obituary scam

Here, scammers read obituaries in the paper and call the deceased's family and demand money for a supposed outstanding debt that the deceased left behind.  Another version of this is the delivery person showing up at the door and demanding onsite payment for a package the deceased ordered right before they died.  

First, make sure you are working with a legal team to correctly identify legitimate creditors. Second, very rarely does a company deliver a product today without demanding payment first, so you shouldn't pay anyone coming to your home. And finally, you can reject any orders sent that your deceased spouse or relative ordered right before they died by sending a "return to sender" and not opening the package.  Do not fall party to these scams. 


7. Funeral and Cemetery plot scam

This is less common. And I want to emphasize that there are some really great local funeral homes that will assist you with all your needs. But unfortunately, there have been known to be a nonreputable funeral home too that will try to be dishonest in doing business.  You do not need to buy the most expensive casket, you don't need a casket at all if your loved one is being cremated, and watch for those unnecessary funeral service costs being added to the bill.  

One recommendation I often make to my clients is to do this ahead of time. A prepaid funeral is a gift to yourself and your family. The reason that this scam is successful is because losing someone is stressful and emotional and you're not always thinking with your best frame of mind.  Doing this in advance not only ensures that your family won't buy the most expensive thing out of grief, but also that you control what happens to you in the aftermath.  


Seniors today are unfortunately the targets in a way others are not.  But as you've just read, those who are careful, and observant will not be taken advantage of.  So call us! Whenever you are concerned that you might be on the receiving end of a scam artist call and get our feedback on it. We may tell you that it's legitimate, but wouldn't you rather have the assurance?  And we'd love to give it to you, so call our office should any questions arise. 


The problems with do it yourself documents, or downloads.

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 8:00 AM

 

I recently encountered a situation where a family came in extremely upset because a bank wasn’t listening to their directions. In sitting down with them, parents made their own trust, downloaded from legal zoom or a similar site and thought they were in good shape. But now that they are at the point they need the documents to work for them, they are finding that they don’t.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, online services aren’t services and they don’t help clients. They create more problems than they solve. It’s a sales site and nothing more. You get no help after you’ve paid your money, no guidance, no assurance, and no clarifications. In this particular situation, the parents, being very elderly, went on to update this document and change the current trustee to one of their children. This isn’t uncommon and is often done so that the child can handle all of the financial affairs as the parents’ age and are unable to do so. The bank refused to recognize the change.


Now it bears pointing out, that the parents were the ones changing the trustee, not the children. Many times, there can be questions over whether the children are rightfully taking over from the parents, or if they are instead infringing on the parents’ rights as the original trustees. But in this situation the parents themselves were the ones making this change. So what was the problem?

The problem was the same problem I see with all online and do it yourself documents. People will get the document (singular) and have no help or instruction on how to sign or execute it. And then what? They get no additional help on where or even if to file it, record it, or any supplemental documentation to change accounts, fund, or transfer assets to the trust according to the setup of their estate plan. Not to mention instructions to the children when parents pass away and the child has to take over. What are they supposed to do with the paperwork? There is no service, just a payment with no follow up.


I certainly understand saving money. We all love to do that. But at what cost? And this is a great example of the fact that the clients are now paying twice for what should have cost them only once, in addition to the fact that I now have to fix a problem that didn’t exist before, which created more cost.


On these sites, once you leave you’re on your own. Legal zoom won’t refund if you don’t understand it, they won’t explain it, and they won’t take responsibility for anything they have sold, they claim to be valid in every state, but each state is different. They give no assurances that what they’ve provided to you will continue to work or that they’ll contact you if it changes. Once you’ve hit the pay button, they are done with you. If you contact them with a question, guess what they say? “Please contact an attorney.”


Sometimes if you make enough of a fuss, they’ll give you a referral to an actual attorney’s office to further help you with your problem, after they’ve charged you a referral fee of course. So not only did you pay for something that isn’t working and created this issue, now you paid to get sent to an attorney to fix the issue, and the attorney is going to charge you to fix the issue. Is it just me, or were there far too many unnecessary steps to that?


If we equate that to a different scenario, how many people out there would go to a store and buy a one size fits all shoe? Shoes are different for everyone, different lengths and different widths, different heights, heels, boots, sandals, styles etc. Seems pretty silly in that context, but to me, as an estate planning attorney who understands the consequences of the online documents, that’s what I see people doing.


No two people are the same. There are different family structures, family dynamics, relationships, responsibilities, and different financial outlooks. Plugging yourself into a template that’s good for your neighbor, may not be good for you. Get personalized attention, come in to see one of our attorneys and let us not only draft documents tailored to you, but also make sure they work when you go to the bank.

 

Back to school

Posted on August 22, 2015 at 9:20 PM

 

Every fall we have joyful parents who are ready for their kids to be back in school, and we have sad parents who are saying goodbye to their college children as they travel far away from them.

Regardless of where you fall, there is planning that needs to be done for your children. If you have minor children your will needs to name a guardian to take them in the event of your tragic early death. You must also decide if you want the same person who has custody of your children, to have custody of the money. Some people we trust to handle both. Sometimes we may want someone to raise our children in a similar way to the way you are currently raising them, but they may not be great with money. You can name a separate conservator for your children to handle all the finances. This allows you to make sure your kids get the best care, and the best money management for their future.

And what about incapacity? In a world full of uncertainties it may not be death that takes you away from your children. It could be a threatening disability. Your will may name a guardian in the event of your death, but it only impacts after your death, not incapacity. Accidents are unfortunately all too common today, your estate planning documents thus need to cover more than just death.

 

Adult children are a different issue. They no longer need to go to the neighbor or your sister if something happens to you, but children are children a lot longer today than the age of 18. They aren't always prepared to take care of themselves just because they hit that magic age. Nor do young adults make wise financial decisions. You can make decisions in your estate planning documents to cover this interim period of their lives until they reach a more responsible age.

Additionally, your 18+ year old is no longer a minor under your guardianship. You no longer have the right to make decisions for them, or even in the event of incapacity. Young adults need to have their own Powers of Attorney in place naming you as the parent as their potential agent. If they are injured at school, seeing a doctor, or having financial difficulty, those Powers of Attorney are what give you the authority to act as you would want to as a parent, even though they are an adult.

Pitfalls of Estate Planning #4: Beneficiary Designations

Posted on May 1, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Clients will often ask me why they can't just put their kids on as beneficiaries and avoid having a Will or a Trust?

Certainly, each asset and account needs a beneficiary listed, who that beneficiary is though is important. And to answer the question of why it can't be your kids, we need to look at what your overall goal is. Most individuals want their children to inherit their estate in equal shares. Some individuals add charities, and some add grandchildren, or want to plan in the event someone passes away.  This plan cannot always be achieved with beneficiary designations alone.  So in order to decide how we want the beneficiaries to be titled and work together with your Estate Plan, we have to look at the big picture.

 

Here are some common misconceptions with beneficiary designations:

 

  • Many people put one child on as a beneficiary so that child can pay the funeral bill and last cost and expenses and bills that are coming in, before sharing with their siblings.
      • The problem: If all children don't receive an equal portion, the child who receives it all, is under no legal obligation to share with his/her siblings.
      • Estate planning documents require that funeral bills and expenses be paid first too, and there is no delay in getting the assets to do so as some people expect.  
      • Once the money has been given to each beneficiary, the person in charge according to your estate plan may still have bills to pay, and it's difficult to get the money back from others once it has been paid out.
  • Putting the children equally as beneficiaries on a bank account
      • The problem: Banks and credit unions are different in nature than other types of assets. Even though you may list 3 people as your beneficiary, only one is necessary to go pull it all out. It becomes a first come, first served type of asset, and again, they may not share with the remainder siblings.
  • Just listing your children, with no backups
      • The problem: Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that you will survive your children. While it is an extreme tragedy when it occurs, it does occur all too often. 
      • Individuals often designate in their Will or Trust that if a child passes away, that child's share is to pass to the grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc. Beneficiary designations can often void that. If you have 3 individuals listed on your bank account, or life insurance policy, or annuity, and one of them is deceased, that share will divide between the remaining beneficiaries. It will NOT pass to the children of the deceased as you may have desired.
  • Children as beneficiaries, with a Will that includes charities
      • The problem: Titling always trumps an estate plan. If you use beneficiary designations on all your accounts, but in your Will you wanted 10% to go to a church, charity or organization you were a part of, that gift lapses and is never given. 
      • The titling on the account, always wins out over the intentions of your Last Will and Testament. So for the gift to take place, you'd have to also list the church/charity/organization as a beneficiary, and as outlined above, you may not be able to designate percentages which can cause additional issues.

 


Beneficiary designations aren't always a bad thing, and I often have my clients take advantage of the ease with which they can be utilized. HOWEVER, when deciding to just utilize beneficiaries, and not an estate plan, you should really sit down with an attorney and go over all the options, cause and effects, and the ramifications, both good and bad, to your overall goal. An attorney can tell you what plan will best meet your economic, and planning goals.

 

Our job at Crenshaw Peterson & Associates is to provide our clients with a personalized Estate Plan that is tailored to your life style. Discussing your options, who your beneficiaries are, how responsible the beneficiaries are, how you want them to inherit, and any tax ramifications from different assets, can all impact what is recommended. Having that conversation is crucial to your family's future.

 

Schedule an appointment today, don't wait until it's too late!

To the Parents of New Graduates

Posted on March 25, 2015 at 10:30 AM

If you have a young adult, they need to sign a Power of Attorney for Health Care to insure that you as the parent can make decisions for them should they not be able to themselves.  

It's that time of year again.  High School seniors everywhere are anxiously awaiting their graduation dates and looking forward to what life has ahead of them.  18 is the magic number to distinguish between a child and a legal adult. But let's face it, they will forever be your child.

As parents are getting ready for college moves and planning in advance of their child leaving the nest in August, they need to consider more than sheets and dorm storage.  Some parents are excited for this change, some are nervous and others are both.  But now that your child has reached the age of 18, they are a legal adult and with that comes a lot of changes for mom and dad. Parents no longer have the authority to see records, nor can they automatically make health care decisions for their child.  

Health Care Powers of Attorney are especially important now for your young adult.  As they venture out into the world, you want to make sure they are safe, and part of that is having their documents in order.  If something does happen, you want to have the easy ability to take charge as you always have.  Having your child name you as their Patient advocate will insure that you do not run into any hurdles should something happen to them.  You can speak to Doctors, as well as make decisions if they can't make decisions themselves.

If your child has asset accounts that may also need monitoring or assistance should your child not be able to do so himself/herself, then a Durable Power of Attorney is also a necessity, and will cover any financial powers that may be needed.  

So get in to see us! Your child will always be your child, regardless of hitting that magic age of 18.  But you need to make sure that you as the parent will be in control, not the hospital, doctors, or state of Michigan. 

Pitfalls of Estate Planning 3: Funding your Trusts

Posted on October 13, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Common Pitfall #3, Funding incomplete, or done improperly.


For those out there who already have an Estate Plan put together, let's talk about funding.

Funding is what we use to describe the process of titling all your assets correctly and in conjunction with your Estate Plan. For those with a Trust, this is even more important! The Trust is written on paper, usually a lot of paper, but just paper. It's only as good as what you put into it. Many times we use the bucket example. Having a Trust is like owning a bucket, you are the holder of the bucket and your assets are held within the bucket. The Trust itself, is the outline of the bucket, but we have to put your assets inside the bucket for it to work effectively. Unfortunately, we see all too often, clients who have not 'funded' their Trusts. None of their assets are titled in the Trust, nor are beneficiaries listed as the Trust. So the Trust, is effectively, worthless at death. It's not worth the paper it was written on. Clients came in and we drafted and sign Estate Planning documents and they get a pretty portfolio book with directions for when they leave my office, and then the client leaves my office. After leaving, the portfolio gets put on the shelf, or in the safe and they don't look at it again, forgetting all about their "homework."


The family then comes in after the clients death and it's hard for them to understand why it isn't an easy Trust Administration.  Why does it take so long? Why do we have to go Probate Court? Why are there Court fees?/legal fees?  It's frustrating to them to have more work to do than they had expected because their parent or sibling had an Estate Plan.  But asset titling is just as important as the Estate Planning.  


What this means, is that people NEED to take the time to transfer their assets in accord with their documents and their planning goals. Individuals need to contact their retirement fund companies and get beneficiary changes made. Beneficiaries on Life insurance policies need to be updated, along with Bank accounts, and investment portfolios. A new deed needs to be executed to fund the real property into the trust. There are of course, different methods regarding each type of asset, and how we change that ownership or beneficiary may depend on the tax ramifications associated with it, but everything needs to be changed in some way.  And those changes need to work with, not against the Estate Planning. 


So get in to see your attorney today, and make sure your property titling is working with your Estate Planning. FUND FUND FUND! What good is the paper, if you don't do anything with it?

 

Pitfalls of Estate Planning 2: Not Updating

Posted on September 3, 2014 at 2:10 PM

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!!!

An all too common Estate Plan faux pas is not updating.  I love the clients who come in for an update and they pull out their old documents and their now 45 year old child is still going to the neighbor or sibling if something happens to my clients.  We all chuckle over it and get right down to updating, since that plan hasn't been planning correctly for the last 25+ years.  But, at least they came in to finally update it!  


More often I have family coming in to see us after the death of a loved one and we take a look at the documents.  The whole family is sitting around a table with certain preconceived notions regarding what they get or how they get it, usually based off of some other experience they have had. Unfortunately, their loved one hadn't looked at their Estate Planning documents in the last 20, 30, 40 or 50 years.  What that means is that some key provisions could be missing to allow us to do what the family wants us to do.  Or they didn't even have those documents way back then.  The assets may not be titled correctly.  Or the money is split between people the deceased hadn't talked to in 30 years.  And no, just because we don't think it's fair, we can't just delete that beneficiary. If the deceased put them in his/her Will or Trust, then we don't have the authority to change it.  If they wanted to change it, the client should have gotten an update while they were living and competent to do so.  


The other important aspect of updating is that the laws are ever changing.  I know we don't like to think about it, but the state and federal branches do pass laws, they change laws, they interpret laws and that effects not only how we draft documents but also what we draft.  Some of those changes are big and others are small, but we as estate planners want to make sure we are utilizing any current language to your benefit, or avoiding certain new law pitfalls that didn't exist at the original time of your planning. 


Our Firm prides itself on giving individuals tailored estate plans.  The template version of doing things doesn't work when you have different family situations, different asset situations and different feelings on distribution.  So we don't plug people into generic one size fits all templates.  But making sure something continues to fit you requires constant upkeep.  The same way you keep in touch with your dentist or doctor, the same way you visit the gym to maintain a certain weight, your estate plan needs attention too.  We recommend people pull out their documents at least once every 3-5 years.  Make sure it still fits.  In today's fast moving world, life changes happen more frequently than we think they do. Be it more children, new grandchildren, death, selling of property, property gain, new friends, loss of old friends, or moving to a different area.  All these things may impact how you have established your life time planning and/or your after death planning.  

Pitfalls of Estate Planning 1 Not planning!

Posted on August 19, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Not Estate Planning is a detriment to you and your family!

I've been doing a lot of Estate Plan reviews lately.  Seeing what happens when clients leave my office is always interesting.  Seeing what happens after individuals have left our free seminars is equally as enlightening as it is frustrating.  So what are the common pitfalls that people run into?  We'll be discussing them one at a time. 

 

  1. NOT PLANNING!

 

The most common pitfall is people who do not plan.  No Last Will & Testament, No Powers of Attorney, no long-term-care preparation, just nothing. 


This is not only frustrating to me, as the Estate Planning attorney.  But it's equally frustrating, if not more so, to the family that is left to administer your estate.  I hear so often, "I know I need to do something, I'm just not sure I've decided what I want to do," or "I haven't had the time," or "It's too expensive," and the most common, "I don't have much, so what do I need to plan for?"


Estate Planning covers more than what happens to the money you are leaving (or not leaving) behind for your family.  Who makes medical decisions for you if you are in an accident? And the most common misconception is that the spouse can make the decisions without issue.  That is not always the case. And more importantly, what happens if your spouse is not there, or was in the accident with you?  Not preparing for that can lead to some great expense and time spent with your local county court and adult protective services agents.  So to, what if the problem you face is not physically related, what if it is mentally related. Alzheimers, Dementia, and Parkinsons are becoming all to common amongst seniors today.  So be prepared for the possibilities.  Powers of Attorney are necessary for everyone! Better to have it and not need it, then not have it in a time of need!


Where will your assets go? Whether youhave only one bank account with a few hundred dollars in it, or several with a financial planner and investments, you need to establish how your assets are going to be divided, and to whom.  Meeting with us as estate planners, allows us to guide you to the perfect plan for you.  There are many new estate plan techniques that don't always involve a trust or a will.  But to know and understand them, and more importantly to utilize them, you have to come see us.  We at Crenshaw Peterson pride ourselves on giving our clients tailored plans.  We don't stick everyone in the same templated generic estate plan. We want to give you something that works for YOU!  No two people have the exact same life situation and asset levels, so we're not going to give them the same estate plan.  


Finally we need to discuss long-term care potential.  The longer we live, the longer we have expenses, and the potential for in home care or nursing home care becomes more likely.  Many of our seniors have saved over their life times and they want to be able to leave a legacy to thier children, big or small.  In order to preserve the assets, your family, powers of attorney, and agents all need to have the powers to do what is necessary, and your property needs to be titled, and addressed in a way that protects it from long-term care needs.  Without the proper planning, it is a certainty that your estate will be dwindled down.  At an aproximate cost of $7500 a month in a nursing home, your estate will be depleted quickly without the proper planning.  And if you have a spouse at home, what do they have left to live on? 


So come see us! It all starts with a conversation.  We ask a lot of questions to get you thinking, and we provide a lot of answers to guide you to making those decisions that are so tough to decide.  Give the reassurance to your family, prepare for your future!  Mention this blog article, and the consult is free. 

The Mistakes of Joint Ownership

Posted on August 8, 2014 at 2:20 PM

We've been asked a lot about Joint ownership verses Powers of Attorney.  In the event of incapacity many people add a second person to their bank accounts.  "I have my son/daughter on my account with me." or "Why can't I just add my neighbor who helps me out when I need it."  "Why should I get a power of attorney instead, when I can just add a joint owner?"

These are common misconceptions to achieving the goal of getting help if needed. The problems with joint ownership, and yes I said problems plural, are far reaching and usually unknown to the client.  


Pitfalls to Joint ownership:

 

  • -LOSS OF CONTROL: If you are a joint owner you lose total control over that asset. If it's real property, you cannot sell, mortgage or refinance it without the consent of all the owners.  By adding a child or neighbor or grandchild to your deed, you have given them that asset early, and they now control along with you. If they disagree with your decision, they can hold you up on doing what you want to do with your own property. If it's a bank account, they can go into the bank and use the bank funds as they see fit, without regard to you. 
  • -TAX LIABILITIES: When you add a joint owner you have gifted your property.  If a bank account, half of that money is attributable to the new owner. Same with real property.  If that amount is greater than the annual allotted gift by the federal government of $14,000 there could be significant tax consequences. If it is over the life time limit, there could be additional tax consequences.  
  • -LONG-TERM CARE LIABILITY: In the event that any long-term care needs are necessary in your future, a joint ownership could be deemed as gifting. There is now a 5 year look back period.  If you have gifted within the last 5 years, you could be penalized by that amount. 
  • -CREDITORS OF ALL OWNERS: Adding a joint owner opens the door to the creditors of that new owner.  Just because they never contributed funds to that account, doesn't mean a creditor won't garnish the entire amount inside that account, or lien property in order to recover on the debt. The asset is subject to the creditors of each owner. 
  • -TRUMPS DISTRIBUTIONS IN YOUR WILL/TRUST: Some people have prepared for the end of their life and put into place a Last Will and Testament, or Living Trust.  Within that document, they listed who was to receive their assets and how much.  What many people don't realize, is that titles and licenses trump your estate plan. This is why attorneys emphasize the importance of making sure all your account assets match the desires of your Estate Plan.  If you add a joint owner in the event of your death or disability, the survivor of the two of you takes it all. They are under no obligation to share with siblings, friends, charities, etc. as indicated in the Will.  
  • -DISABILITY POWERLESS: just because you have a joint owner on your bank account does not mean they have the express power to pay all bills, or assist with all finances. If they have to call consumers, or AT&T they have no authority to do so.  And many joint owners run into problems as they use the assets for another's needs. It has the potential to create many financial problems. 

 


THE SOLUTION: A Durable Power of Attorney.  A power of attorney is a document in which you select an agent to act on your behalf in the event that you cannot.  The agent is given the powers to do all that they could have done had they been a joint owner, but without any of the cost or liability to you.  

So my question is:

Why not a Power of Attorney?

Your Digital Assets

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Do you have digital or online assets? If you think about it, you probably have quite a few; online banking, facebook, twitter, you tube, blogs, e-mail (probably several), online crafting. And that's just scratching the surface of today's digital world. Did you know, that almost all of these sites have stipulations not awarding access to these accounts to someone else no matter what. You may have a loved one who is incapacitated or who has passed away and you want pictures from their site, or e-mails etc and you have no right to get them. Or perhaps you very specifically don't want someone to get access to them.

I always recommend my clients get a power of Attorney so that if they are incapacitated or unavailable someone can handle their affairs. But what about all those digital activities they have going? Traditionally, these have not been apart of any estate planning and yet, so much of our lives are tied up with these accounts. Often problems arise because people do not OWN these assets, they have licenses to use an account with google, facebook and twitter etc but they themselves do not own it. They do, however, own what they may upload or have within those sites. But as I stated, they can't award that access in a Will or Power of Attorney just by saying so. The language has to be explicit and the proper information handed over.

Because we have little to no law on this subject, though much is pending and legislation is currently being pushed through, it's important to have a plan in place to deal with these digital assets! Have you discussed with your estate planner who can have access to these accounts? What you want done with them? Do you want a different person to handle those affairs compared to your others? Did you know facebook offers to memorialize the account of a deceased person?

With so much of our lives tied up digitally, make sure you've outlined for your family what to do and how to do it! It's important to not only protect those accounts from fraud, but to insure that what does belong to you, is kept safe and/or handed down to your loved ones!


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