The adage, home is where the heart is, is a truism. Human beings have a need for shelter. Housing is a basic need. Much time, effort, and money are expended in our lifetime to obtain and keep a home. For many individuals entering retirement, their home is their most valuable asset. A sad truth of aging, however, is that you may not be able to care for yourself in your home as you age.

A big old house is harder to keep because it requires maintenance and repairs to maintain. Routine maintenance like mowing the lawn is impossible to perform if for example, you have a bad hip. Paying someone to do it also gets harder, because at the retirement stage in life, your income is fixed with little wiggle room to go off budget. Even more difficult is surviving a natural disaster and finding help to rebuild or repair your home. Paying for major repairs and obtaining qualified help without being ripped off is even more challenging. It’s not surprising that seniors turn to reverse mortgages to remain in their home as long as possible.

A brief overview on reverse mortgages

When bodies age they need regular check-ups to ensure systems are functioning properly. Particularly if you suffer from a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure or kidney failure, regular doctor appointments followed up by lab work are extremely important. Through preventative care, your quality of life is better. Managing the day-to-day aches and pains is simpler and when flare-ups occur you are able to bounce back to form faster.

Every month, there are a group of doctors that I must see to ensure that I can manage my own health. My general doctor, he’s my quarterback. He calls the plays and sends me to the appropriate specialist to treat my chronic conditions. While I have a great relationship with my quarterback and his staff, whenever he sends me to another doctor my immediate reaction is anxiety. It makes me anxious to call a specialist because, like your third-grade teacher, they are full of rules. How to call them, when to call them, how to leave a message with the doctor, etc. etc.

Calling a new doctor to schedule an appointment is the most unpleasant thing I do on a monthly basis. Some doctors’ offices want patients to use an online portal for example. Other doctors send a call to a voicemail box with the promise to respond within 48 hours. Recently, a doctor asked that I compete 20 pages of form, can and email at lease a dozen lab reports, and then wait one week for a call back to schedule an appointment. He did call me directly three times to tell me he can’t help me. As time goes on it seems it’s harder and harder to make an appointment.

This is the last post on gifting digital assets. So far, we have examined digital assets generally and digital asset planning in the estate planning process and the business succession planning process. Today’s post will review how to handle digital assets in the estate administration process.

Traditional estate administration process v. Estate administration process with digital assets

Let’s say I’m an executor in an estate and I’ve identified digital assets that decedent made in his or her lifetime. How is the estate administration process with digital assets different from the traditional estate administration process without digital assets?

Small businesses can develop retirement plans that benefit its owners and employees. There are devices available to help employers and employees save towards retirement. Retirement plans come in all shapes and sizes. The primary goal of a retirement plan is to provide financial security to its holders as they age and are no longer able to work to support themselves. People, no matter the age, must be able to support themselves and pay for their basic housing, food, and medical needs as they age.

When your business develops a retirement plan, significant tax advantages and other incentives may be available that help pay for the retirement plan gradually, building a retirement nest egg for the employer and the employee. Some of the business incentives contemplated in retirement planning include:

  •       Tax deductible employer contributions;

Just like individuals engage in estate planning to put their financial and health care needs in order before incapacitation and death, so should businesses. Particularly if your business is family owned, a professional practice, or solo business, making logistical and financial decisions about who will take over your business upon retirement, death or disability should be top of mind for your business.

Succession planning, briefly defined, involves creating a plan for someone to either own or run your business after you retire, become disabled, or die. Business succession planning is common at publicly traded companies, but all entities, regardless of status should be prepared to pass control of the business to others at retirement, incapacitation, and even death. Below are three important steps your business can take today to develop a succession plan.

  1.    Find a successor

In this post we will discuss why digital assets should be incorporated in the estate planning process just as you incorporate all of your physical assets. We will also explore what are some of the initial steps to take when formulating an estate plan with digital assets.

Step One: Understand what a digital asset is

A digital asset is an electronic record in which an individual has a right or an interest. The definition is broad and includes financial accounts, music files, electronic communications, cryptocurrencies, videos, and photographs, among many others. In order to dispose of these items, like the physical items in your home or that you have accumulated during your life you will need to know which of your assets are digital or electronic in nature.  

Estates lawyers are increasingly asked to help surviving family’s members locate cryptocurrencies because their loved one collected them during their lifetime, didn’t include it in their will or updated will, and now no one can find it. Planning for cryptocurrency is more complex than digital asset planning. For starters, cryptocurrency has no physical equivalent. Cryptocurrency were created online, are exchanged online, and are stored online.

Blockchain Technology

The first step to understanding cryptocurrency is to examine blockchain technology. Bitcoin and many other digital currencies or cryptocurrencies utilize blockchain technology to record transactions between parties efficiently, in a transparent and verifiable manner. Blockchain technology is a digital database containing information (no records, financial statements, or other types of data) that can be simultaneously used and shared within a large decentralized and publicly accessible network without any central authority. The entire enterprise is decentralized meaning no government or financial bank or company can revoke an account on a blockchain network, shut down the network, or prevent someone from using it.

This post provides an overview of digital assets by defining what a digital asset is and why digital asset planning is so important during the estate planning process.

Digital asset defined

A digital asset is an electronic record in which an individual has a right or an interest. Presently, the term digital asset, does not include the underlying asset or liability unless that asset or liability is itself an electronic record.

As estate planning attorneys, we often meet prospective clients who understand the benefits of making a will and why it needs to be part of their estate plan. Their initial interest in a consultation is understanding the mechanics of the process – how is a will actually prepared. There are many do-it-yourself will forms available for sale in the office products section of many retailers and online. The problem with these options is that they do not offer legal advice related to how you should prepare your will. Because these options try to create a one-size fits all document, if your property or assets don’t fit within one of the categories, you are back to square one trying to understand how your will should be prepared.

A will is the legal method to gift heirs, friends, staff, and institutions upon your death. You will have to decide what property or asset to gift and to whom. As the world becomes more digital it is important to understand what a digital asset is and know whether it can be gifted or bequeathed in a will. Here, is what you need to know about making will gifts.

Four types of will gifts

This is the second part of a series on the estate administration process and tasks an executor must perform in order to carry out the wishes of the deceased person’s will. The first step is obtaining a declaration that the will is valid. The second step is having the Surrogate’s Court appoint the executor, as designated in the will, as the legal administrator of the estate. 

For decades now, we have been told that we are living in the digital age. Some early adopters gadgeted up and have a digital life rich with videos, texts, photos, online accounts, and even friends that exist in digital spaces. Many wills are absolutely silent as to the existence of digital assets. Nonetheless, in administering an estate, the executor will be tasked with investigating whether the deceased person maintained any digital assets and then disposing of those digital assets. This post will discuss the special problem of digital assets when the will is silent as to their existence.  

The mailbox chronicles

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