Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Digital Assets Deserve a Place in Your Estate Plan

With life increasingly being lived online, you may be overlooking an increasingly important kind of property – digital assets – in doing estate planning. “Amen!”, we say at Geyer Law, where, for years we’ve been cautioning clients to include online assets along with real estate and investment accounts in their estate planning.

“From a legal point of view,” Fidelity explains, “digital property is like other kinds of property because it can be passed on to designated parties through estate plans.” However, attorney James Lamm in Minneapolis, author of the Digital Passing blog, lists four obstacles that may be faced by family members in accessing information or property stores in the smart phone, computer, online accounts, or in the cloud for someone who has died:
  1. not knowing the passwords
  2. digitally stored data that is encrypted
  3. state and federal laws prohibiting unauthorized access to computer systems
  4. data privacy law that prevents online service providers from turning over electronic communication without the owner’s consent
Just a year ago, we were happy to report (in this blog) on the newly revised UFADAA (Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act), which reduced some of the roadblocks estate representatives have faced in dealing with digital assets in an estate.

Still, by taking a few relatively simple steps, you can save your heirs a great deal of expense and heartache, Fidelity assures readers. Start by making a list, so that your loved ones know what you have by way of online assets. Back up data stored in the Cloud to a local computer or storage device.

As estate planning attorneys, we work with clients to update wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents, including language giving lawful consent to providers to divulge the contents of your electronic communications to the appropriate people.

Digital assets deserve a place in your estate plan!

- by Rebecca W. Geyer

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Between the Death and the Estate Sale are the "Feet"

In between the death and the estate sale are “the feet”. That’s the way Mary Ann Yates, president of Elder Moves, Inc., describes one of the special functions she and her team have performed in the estate settlement process over the past thirty years.

“An estate sale is a way of liquidating the belongings of a person who has died,” explains. “The public is invited into the home and given the opportunity to purchase any item priced for sale.”  More often than not, however, there is a lot of work that must be done before estate possessions can be put up for sale to the public, the Elder Moves founder cautions, and that is precisely why her team gets hired by any of the following:
  • The estate planning attorney
  • A trust officer
  • A court-appointed executor
  • An individual who has Power of Attorney for the diseased
Yates sorts the myriad tasks to be completed before the estate sale into two main categories: “finding” and ”cleaning”. Adult children who live out of town and even busy attorneys may have trouble handling either or both these aspects of the painstaking process and need the Elder Moves team to serve as their “feet”.

Certain items may have been designated in the person’s will or trust to go to specific heirs or specific charitable organizations, and those items need to be located. It’s not uncommon for elders suffering from dementia to hide cash or jewelry under a mattress, in a shoebox, or even in a crack in the wall, Yates explains. One “surprise find” for the Elder Moves team several years ago was 25 rolls of gold coins, each valued at $1,200. “Found” items sometimes include insurance policies or even property deeds of which even the attorney had been unaware.

The ElderMoves team remains on the property to clean and organize, Yates is quick to reassure clients, prepared for any contingency. Critter control or an exterminator may need to be called to rid the home of raccoons or insect infestation, and pets may have been left at home when the now deceased person was taken to the hospital. Once all these emergencies have been dealt with, scrubbing and polishing become part of the painstaking process preceding the sale of the furnishings or of the property itself.

“Some people sort through all the stuff and handle the sales themselves, a process made easier by the Internet," notes, referring to estate sales. As Indiana estate planning attorneys,  we encourage our clients to create specific instructions for the distribution ofpersonal property andto provide instructions for dealing with digital assets  and with pets.

Whoever does the work, there’s work to be done before estate possessions can be put up for sale to the public. It’s simply unavoidable - between the death and the estate sale are “the feet”!
by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Are We Wrong About Aging?

“Aging can be re-imagined as a vivid and enlivening process that presents us with extraordinary risks and rewards.” That was the concept behind last October’s national tour, Disrupt Dementia, hosted by the University of Indianapolis. The first-of-its-kind event featured a physician (Dr. Bill Thomas) and a musician (Nate Silas Richardson), presenting original music, storytelling, poetry, and lobby discussions, all focused on changing perceptions and engaging the community with a more rewarding vision of aging.

At the conference, people living with dementia and their allies were invited to experience a new vision for living with cognitive change, posing the following “What if?”: What if we all lived in a world that saw aging not as a process of decline, but rather as the entrĂ©e to life’s most dangerous game?
As elder law attorneys in Indiana, we’re dealing with the issues and opportunities surrounding the aging process on a daily basis. The very definition of elder law is planning for complex health, long term care, and other issues faced by elderly individuals and their families. While the Disrupt Dementia focuses on ways to preserve quality of life for the mentally incapacitated, by definition, people with dementia no longer have the ability to make legal decisions for themselves.

That is precisely why advance directives (written documents stating a person’s wishes regarding healthcare choices, plus the designation of another person to make healthcare decisions in the event you someday become impaired) is such crucial a part of estate planning, the Alzheimer’s Association explains..

Life's journey is fraught with change, and changes require careful planning to protect the people most important to you and the assets you worked a lifetime to achieve, we explain to Geyer Law estate planning clients. Loss of independence is one of the hardest issues facing older adults, to be sure. For aging to be re-imagined, in Dr. Thomas’ words, as a vivid and enlivening process,  legal preparedness is certainly one key realizing that vision.

- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Pet Trusts - Comforting Those WHo Have Comforted Us

The love owners have for their pets transcends death, as the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum points out. Studies reveal that between 12% and 27% of pet owners include their pets in their wills.

It’s possible to do a lot more than that through a pet trust, which is a legal document you use to be sure your pet receives proper care after you die or in the event of your disability. How does such a trust work? In a pet trust, you arrange to pay a trusted individual to take proper care of your pet according to your instructions. That beneficiary becomes the designated caregiver, who uses the money in the trust to pay for the pet’s expenses.

Important facts to consider in deciding how much money to transfer to a pet trust:
  • Type of animal and what the life expectancy is for that type of animal
  • The standard of living you wish to provide – animal sitter? Professional boarding business? Friend?
  • What is to happen when the caretaker is on vacation, out of town , or in the hospital?
  • You should avoid transferring an unreasonably large sum of money to a pet trust (that might encourage other heirs to contest the trust)
Are pet trusts legal everywhere in the U.S.? As of January 2017, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted pet trust laws. Minnesota, the last state, enacted its pet trust law in 2016. Indiana’s pet trust statute, Indiana Code § 30-4-2-18, was enacted in 2005.
At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, we particularly appreciate the way Professor Gerry W. Beyer of Texas Tech University School of Law describes pet trusts:

         Estate planning provides a method to provide for those whom we want to comfort after we die  

         and to those who have comforted us. It is not surprising that a pet owner often wants to
         often wants to assure that his or her trusted companion is well-cared for after the owner's

Our work at Geyer Law is dedicated to helping clients provide for those they want to comfort after they die and those who have comforted them!

- by Rebecca W. Geyer