Did Whitney Houston Leave Too Much Money To Bobbi Kristina?

Whitney Houston’s estate was worth approximately $20 million when she died – plenty to meet the needs of her only daughter – Bobbi Kristina. Sadly, only a few years after Houston’s death, Bobbi Kristina died as well.

Although Bobbi Kristina’s previous boyfriend, Nick Gordon, is still a suspect in her murder, many say that having access to so much money at a young age was a contributing factor. Sadly, Houston’s estate planning mistakes are all too common.

Aunt & Grandmother Say Will Did Not Depict Houston’s Intentions

Houston’s aunt and grandmother filed a lawsuit to re-write the will as they say it didn’t accurately depict what Whitney really wanted for Bobbi-Kristina. They claimed that she was too young to handle so much money.

Although they likely had the best of intentions, probate courts must follow the terms of the actual will or trust documents, not what the person who died might have otherwise intended.

Whitney Houston’s will was created in 1993, specifying that a trust would be created after she died for any children she may have (so before Bobbi-Kristina was even born). Unfortunately, she never updated her will before she died.

Inheriting Money at a Young Age is Never a Good Idea

Whether this tragedy could have been adverted if Bobbi Kristina’s distributions were delayed until she was older is anyone’s guess. The bottom line is that inheriting large sums of money at a young age is generally never a good idea. Although the young beneficiary might be responsible, young people can be easily manipulated by others.

While it’s clear that Houston could have better protected that money with a stronger estate plan, she’s certainly not the only one guilty of not following through. In fact, many of us have the best intentions, but simply don’t make the time to create – and update – proper estate planning documents that can help beneficiaries.

Set Your Beneficiaries Up For Success!

You do have the power to set your young beneficiaries up for success. In most cases, that means creating a trust that allows them access to money over time and can be managed by someone you trust and has their best interests at heart.

We can provide you with the tools you need to protect your loved ones – whatever your situation may be. As Houston’s case shows, ignoring estate planning issues can have tragic consequences.  Contact us today and let’s get started protecting you and those you love.

Who Is Your Beneficiary? Marilyn Monroe Ultimately Had No Idea

When creating a last will and testament, it’s important to know your beneficiary. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Marilyn Monroe, one of the world’s most famous icons, didn’t seem to have any idea to whom she left her money.

Acting Coach & Psychiatrist Got Everything

Marilyn Monroe died at the age of 36 from a drug overdose. The year was 1962 and there have always been questions as to whom she named as beneficiaries. In fact, her business manager, Inez Melson, was allegedly suspicious about Marilyn Monroe’s will when it was first drafted.

Monroe’s will left some money to care for her mentally ill mother and bequeathed some of her personal belongings to Inez Melson. The remainder went to her acting coach and psychiatrist:

  • 25% to her psychiatrist to help those who couldn’t afford psychiatric counselling

 

  • 75% of the residue (the majority of her estate) was left to Lee Strasberg, her acting coach

A bit strange, but there it is, and Monroe could never predicted what happened next…

Strasberg’s 2nd Wife Takes Control of Monroe’s Fortune

Lee Strasberg controlled Monroe’s estate for a short while. Then, his second wife, Anna, took over. Although she only met Monroe one time, she created utter chaos for years. Here’s a brief rundown of what happened:

  • Multi-million lawsuit over publicity rights. Strasberg filed a multi-million lawsuit over publicity rights of Monroe’s image and likeness – and won. Ironically, she has since earned more money thanks to Monroe than Monroe earned in her lifetime.

 

  • Licensing deal on products. Strasberg made millions of dollars through a licensing deal with CMG Worldwide who sold products with Monroe’s picture on it such as cigarette lighters, pet clothing, and other “iconic” memorabilia.

 

  • Multi-million lawsuit over personal belongings. Strasberg also filed a lawsuit against the heirs of Monroe’s former agent, Inez Melson, for personal belongings in their possession. She won and auctioned them off at Christie’s for over $13 million.

Strasberg eventually sold her interest in Monroe’s estate for a reported $20 – $30 million.  Interestingly, Monroe has consistently been one of the top highest earning deceased celebrities since her death. Her estate earned $17 million in 2015 alone.

Consider Everything – Carefully

When creating an estate plan, it’s important to consider everything very carefully. While you may want a specific person to benefit from your estate (as Monroe wanted for Lee Strasberg), the probability that someone else will get control of your assets is likely unless you provide otherwise.

Monroe obviously had very good intentions for providing for help to those who are mentally ill.  Had she considered those intentions more carefully, many more people could have been helped.  Instead, someone she met once bilked her estate for their own purposes.

We can all learn from Monroe’s mistakes. We can help you come up with a good estate planning tool which provides for your family, friends, and charitable organizations. Call us today.

Celebrity Estates – Michael Jackson’s Estate Liable For $200M in Taxes Due to Unfunded Trust

Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop,” had always been a controversial superstar. Over the years, he became the father of three children, Prince Michael Jackson II, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, and Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr.

While Jackson created a trust to care for his children and other family and friends, he never actually funded it. The result? $200 million in estate taxes and years of court battles.

4 Essential Purposes of a Trust

A trust is a fiduciary arrangement which allows a third party (known as a trustee) to hold assets on behalf of beneficiaries. There are basically four essential purposes of a trust:

  • Avoiding probate. Unlike wills, funded trusts are not subject to probate as ownership is transferred outside of the grantor’s will. However, unfunded, or underfunded, trusts will go through probate.

 

  • Maintaining privacy. Probate is a matter of public record. However, since trusts aren’t subject to probate, privacy is maintained.

 

  • Mitigating the chance of litigation. Since trusts are not subject to the probate process, they are not a matter of public record. Therefore, fewer people know estate plan details – mitigating the chance of litigation.

 

  • Providing asset protection. Assets passed to loved ones in trust can be drafted to legal protection so assets cannot be seized by predators and creditors.

While these are arguably the most essential purposes, trusts can also affect what you pay in estate taxes as well.

Sadly, Jackson could not take advantage of any of these benefits. Although he created a “pour-over” will, which was intended to put his assets into a trust after his death, the estate still had to be probated.

The probate, along with naming his attorney and a music executive as his executers (instead of family members), fueled a fire that could have been avoided.  With nearly $600 million at stake, it’s no surprise that everyone wanted a piece of the pie.

Don’t Burden Your Family!

Losing a loved one is difficult enough without having to endure legal battles afterward.  In Jackson’s situation, a proper estate plan could have reduced litigation, legal fees, and estate taxes.  His situation, although it deals with hundreds of millions of dollars, applies to anyone who has assets worth protecting.  In other words, it likely applies to everyone!

There are many types of trusts and estate planning vehicles available to ensure that you don’t burden your family after your death.  We’ll show you how to best provide for and protect your loved ones by creating the type of estate plan which is tailored to fit your needs.

Celebrity Estates – James Brown’s “Vague” Estate Plan Forced Family into Years of Litigation

James Brown, the legendary singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and bandleader was known to many as the “Godfather of Soul.” Although he intended his estimated $100 million estate to provide for all of his children and grandchildren, his intentions were somewhat vague.  This forced his family into years of litigation which ended up in the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Everything Seemed In Order…

Brown signed his last will and testament in front of Strom Thurmond, Jr. in 2000. Along with the will that bequeathed personal assets such as clothing, cars, and jewelry, Brown created a separate, irrevocable trust which bequeathed music rights, business assets, and his South Carolina home.

At first glance, it seems as though everything in Brown’s estate plan was in order. In fact, he was very specific about most of his intentions, including:

  • Donating the majority of his music empire to an educational charity

 

  • Providing for each of his six adult living children (Terry Brown, Larry Brown, Daryl Brown, Yamma Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas and Venisha Brown)

 

  • Creating a family education fund for his grandchildren

However, only days after his death in 2006 from congestive heart failure, chaos erupted.

Heirs Not Happy With Charitable Donation

Apparently, Brown’s substantial charitable donations didn’t sit well with his heirs. Both his children and wife contested the estate.

  • His children filed a lawsuit against the personal representatives of Brown’s estate alleging impropriety and alleged mismanagement of Brown’s assets. (This was likely a protest of the charitable donation.)

 

  • Brown’s wife at the time, Tomi Rae Hynie, and the son they had together, received nothing as Brown never updated his will to reflect the marriage or birth. In her lawsuit, Hynie asked the court to recognize her as Brown’s widow and their son as an heir.

In the end, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld Brown’s plans to benefit charities and recognized Hynie and their son as an heir.

Should You Anticipate Litigation?

Brown’s estate was substantial and somewhat controversial – and he failed to update or communicate his intentions to his family.  His heirs were taken by surprise.  And experienced attorney could have avoided much of the family upset.  Call our office today to protect your goals.

How to Make Your Inheritance Last

A 2012 study by Ohio State researcher Jay Zagorsky found that about one-third of Americans who receive an inheritance have negative savings within two years of getting their money, and of those who receive $100,000 or more, nearly one in five spend, donate or simply lose it all.  If you are about to receive an inheritance, there are several steps you can take to insure your funds will last longer than a few years.

Don’t Make Any Hasty Decisions.  Once you receive your money, don’t make any hasty decisions about what to do with it.  Instead, park the funds in a safe place such as a savings account, money market, or CD until you have had enough time to put together a long term financial plan.  If you don’t already have one, set up an emergency fund that will cover six months of expenses.  If you already have an emergency fund, consider adding to it to cover one year of expenses.  If you are married, you will need to decide early on if you want to keep your inheritance in your separate name or place the funds in joint names with your spouse.  If you are considering giving some of your inheritance to your children, you could invoke a gift tax or negative income tax consequences and should only proceed with gifting once you understand all of the consequences.

Still Working?  Put Away More Towards Your Retirement.  If you are working and are not contributing the maximum to your 401(k), bump up your withholding, particularly if you are not meeting your employer’s match.  If your employer does not offer a 401(k), start funding an IRA.  Note that if you have inherited a traditional IRA, any withdrawals you make will be included in your taxable income.  You can minimize the income tax consequences by only taking required distributions and leaving the balance invested inside of the inherited IRA.

Hire a Team of Professional Advisors.  You will need a team of professionals to help you develop long term plans for your inheritance.  A financial advisor will help analyze your current finances and build a solid financial foundation to include investment advice, insurance (life, long term care, and liability), credit and debt management, college savings, and retirement planning.  Your advisor can also help you look into the future and plan for long term financial goals, such as purchasing a first or second home or starting a charitable foundation.  An accountant will help you determine cash flow and minimize capital gains and other income taxes.  An estate planning attorney will help you create or update your estate plan (everyone needs a will, revocable trust, advance medical directive and durable power of attorney), decrease or eliminate estate taxes (federal and/or state), set up a gifting strategy, meet your charitable goals, create a family legacy, and protect your inheritance from creditors, predators, and lawsuits.

If your inheritance is large enough, it has the potential to last your lifetime.  Don’t go it alone.  We are here to answer any questions you have about receiving, growing, donating, protecting and ultimately passing on your inheritance to your loved ones.

Surprise! You Can’t Easily Disinherit Your Spouse in the U.S.

Believe it or not, in the U.S. it isn’t easy to disinherit your spouse.  But the same is not true for other family members – generally, you can use your estate plan to disinherit your brothers and sisters, your nieces and nephews, or even your very own children and grandchildren.

However, in the majority of states and the District of Columbia, you can’t intentionally disinherit your spouse unless your spouse actually agrees to receive nothing from your estate in a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement.

Beware:  Spousal Disinheritance Laws Vary Widely From State to State

Unfortunately there isn’t one set of rules that govern what a surviving spouse is entitled to inherit.  Instead, the laws governing spousal inheritance rights, referred to as “community property laws” or “elective share laws” depending on the state where you live or own property. These laws vary widely:

  • In some states the surviving spouse’s right to inherit is based on how long the couple was married.
  • In some states the surviving spouse’s right to inherit is based on whether or not children were born of the marriage.
  • In some states the surviving spouse’s right to inherit is based on the value of assets included in the deceased spouse’s probate estate.
  • In some states the surviving spouse’s right to inherit is based on an “augmented estate” which includes the deceased spouse’s probate estate and non-probate assets.

For example, in Florida a surviving spouse has the option to receive a portion of their deceased spouse’s estate called the “elective share.”   This share is equal to 30% of the deceased spouse’s “elective estate,” which includes the value of the deceased spouse’s probate estate and certain non-probate assets such as payable on death and transfer on death accounts, joint accounts, the net cash surrender value of life insurance, property held in a revocable living trust, and annuities and other types of retirement accounts, reduced by the deceased spouse’s debts (this is an example of the last category described above).

Aside from this, state laws also vary widely regarding the time limit a surviving spouse has to seek their inheritance rights, which can range anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Disinherited Spouses Need to Act Quickly!

If your spouse has attempted to disinherit you, you must seek legal advice as soon as possible before state law bars you from enforcing your rights.  Only an experienced estate planning attorney can help you weigh all of your options and protect your interests as a surviving spouse.

 

Halloween Special – Even Vampires Need Estate Planning

Yes, even the undead need an estate plan.  After you stop laughing you need to hear me out.  As we’ve learned from the likes of The Vampire Chronicles, the Twilight saga, and HBO’s True Blood, vampires aren’t immortal.  They do die, and it’s usually unexpected and messy.

While vampires aren’t good candidates for life insurance and probably don’t need an Advance Healthcare Directive (after all, their wounds seem to heal quickly and they never end up in the hospital), they should have a Power of Attorney to allow Mrs. Dracula or Dracula Jr. to manage finances just in case they need to take an extended trip.

And what happens if Dracula is sued?  A good asset protection plan will insure that his hard earned assets aren’t wasted away defending an expensive lawsuit and snatched up by a judgment holder.

And of course Dracula could cross paths with Buffy the Vampire Slayer or run out of gas in the middle of the desert at dawn.  While not likely, these things are nonetheless possible and will lead to that messy and unexpected death.  That’s where a will and trust come in handy – directing who will be in charge of settling Dracula’s final affairs and who will inherit his worldly possessions.  And what about Dracula Jr., what if he’s still a toddler or an adult who isn’t financially savvy?  A trust can be used to protect Jr. in either situation.  And then there’s always the concern that Mrs. Dracula will remarry.  A trust can be used to provide for Mrs. Dracula during her lifetime but insure that what’s left when she bursts into flames goes to Dracula Jr. and his children.  Oh, and these trusts can include creditor protection and tax planning that’s designed to minimize taxes for years to come.

If it’s clear that even the undead need an estate plan, what about you?  What are you, a mere mortal, waiting for?  Without an estate plan your final wishes will remain a mystery.  Worse yet, your state’s laws will provide your estate with a default plan that your loves ones will be stuck with and probably isn’t the plan you would have wanted.  Now is the time to create your estate plan on your own terms.  Please call our office now to arrange for your estate planning consultation.

How Will the 2015 Supreme Court Decisions Affect You and Your Family?

While approximately 10,000 cases are appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court each year, only 75 to 80 make it to oral argument. Of those cases, only a handful grab the media’s attention. Below is a summary of three landmark decisions handed down in 2015 that could affect how you are taxed, pay for healthcare, and plan your estate.

Comptroller v. Wynne – A State Can’t Double Tax Income Earned Outside of the State

Legal Issue: Does Maryland’s state income tax scheme violate the U.S. Constitution by “double taxing” a resident’s income earned from economic activity in another state that also taxes the same income?

Decision, 5 – 4: In a taxpayer-friendly ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that, yes, Maryland’s “double taxation” scheme violates the dormant Commerce Clause.

The Wynne case involved a Maryland couple who owned stock in a Maryland S corporation that did business in 39 states. Since income generated by an S corporation is passed through to its shareholders, the Wynnes paid income taxes in Maryland as well as their pro-rata share of taxes on the income the corporation earned in the other states.

In Maryland, residents are subject to a state income tax as well as a “local tax” based on the city or county in which they live. Prior to the Wynne case, the state allowed residents to take a credit against the Maryland state tax to offset a similar tax paid to another state, but it did not allow a credit to be taken against the local tax. Thus, income of a Maryland resident earned outside of the state was “double-taxed” by being subject to (1) out-of-state taxes, and (2) the local city or county tax. The Court struck down this “double taxation” scheme, holding that because the dormant Commerce Clause gives Congress power over interstate commerce, Maryland could not hinder interstate commerce by offering a credit against state income taxes but not against local income taxes.

Planning Tip: The Wynne decision will potentially affect hundreds of cities, counties and states other than Maryland, including Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania. If you pay income taxes in your home state and other states, you should seek qualified tax advice regarding filing protective claims (such as amended returns or requests for refunds) for tax years in which the statute of limitations has not run.

King v. Burrell – Obamacare Subsidies Are Available to All

Legal Issue: Can the IRS provide tax-credit subsidies to healthcare coverage purchased through the federal healthcare exchange under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “ACA,” commonly referred to as “Obamacare”)?

Decision, 6 – 3: Yes, Obamacare subsidies are available to individuals who obtain their healthcare coverage through a federal exchange.

Buried in the 2,700-page ACA is a provision which states that tax-credit subsidies are available to individuals who sign up for healthcare coverage “through an exchange established by the state.” After the ACA was passed, 34 states did not establish exchanges, leaving their residents to use the federal exchange to obtain their coverage. The King case challenged the validity of federal subsidies given to these residents since the ACA appeared to limit subsidies only to individuals who relied on a state-established exchange. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts stated, “We doubt that is what Congress meant to do.” Thus, the validity of subsidies claimed by residents of the 34 states that use the federal healthcare exchange was upheld.

Planning Tip: Despite the King decision, the Obamacare debate will continue to be hashed out in the political arena as the 2016 presidential election fast approaches.

Obergefell v. Hodges – Same Sex Marriage is Legal Everywhere in the United States

Legal Issue: Does the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution require a state to license same sex marriages and recognize same sex marriages that are legally licensed and performed in another state?

Decision, 5 – 4: Yes, same sex marriages are legal and must be recognized everywhere in the United States.

The Obergefell case consolidated four cases that challenged state-banned same sex marriages in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Relying on the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court held that marriage is a fundamental liberty and denying the right of same sex couples to wed would deny them equal protection under the law.

Planning Tip: Same sex couples who are considering marriage need to decide if commitments regarding how to handle money, debt, and related matters should be formalized in a prenuptial agreement. Same sex couples who are already married need to determine if their prenuptial agreement should be fine-tuned and if their estate planning documents need to be amended in view of the King decision.

The Bottom Line on the Wynne, King and Obergefell Decisions

There are constant changes in the law from judicial, legislative, or regulatory action. These selections from the recent Supreme Court session are just a small example of the numerous changes that occur every year. How the Wynne, King and Obergefell decisions will affect your planning options has yet to be fully determined. Our firm is available to answer your questions about these landmark cases and how they may affect you and your family.

Five Things You Need to Know About the Recently Enacted ABLE Act

On December 19, 2014, President Obama signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) into law. The ABLE Act will allow certain individuals with disabilities to establish tax-free savings accounts that can be used to cover expenses not otherwise covered by government sponsored programs. These accounts can be a great alternative or supplement to special needs or supplemental needs trusts.

Here are five important things you need to know about the ABLE Act.

1. What is an ABLE account? An ABLE account is similar to a 529 education savings account that helps families save for college. It is a tax-free, state-based private savings account that can be used to pay for the care of people with disabilities. Although income earned in the account will not be taxed, contributions to the account will not be tax deductible.

2. Who is eligible for an ABLE account? Eligibility will be limited to individuals with significant disabilities with an age of onset of disability before turning 26 years of age. If an individual meets these criteria and is also receiving benefits under SSI and/or SSDI, they are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account. If the individual is not a recipient of SSI and/or SSDI but still meets the age of onset disability requirement, they will still be eligible to open an ABLE account if the SSI criteria regarding significant functional limitations are met. In addition, the disabled individual may be over the age of 26 and establish an account if the individual has documentation of their disability that shows the age of onset occurred before the age of 26.

3. What are the limits for contributions to an ABLE account? Each individual state will determine the total limit that can be contributed to an ABLE account over time. Although we’ll need to wait for regulations to know the exact amount that can be contributed, the Act states that any individual can make annual contributions to an ABLE account up to the gift tax exemption limit (which is $14,000 in 2015). If the disabled individual is receiving SSI and Medicaid, the first $100,000 held in an ABLE account will be exempted from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. If an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the account beneficiary will be suspended from eligibility for SSI benefits but will continue to be eligible for Medicaid. Upon the death of the account beneficiary, assets remaining in the ABLE account will be reimbursed to any state Medicaid plan that provided assistance from the day the ABLE account was established.

4. What types of expenses can be paid from an ABLE account? An ABLE account may be used to pay for a “qualified disability expense,” which means any expense related to the beneficiary as a result of living with their disability. These expenses may include medical and dental care, education, employment training, housing, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management, and administrative services.

5. When will able accounts be available? Although the ABLE Act was signed into law in December 2014, regulations will need to be established by the Department of Treasury before states can begin to set up procedures for managing ABLE accounts. Once these regulations are issued (which is anticipated to occur later in 2015), each state will be responsible for establishing and operating their own ABLE program.

Since the money in an ABLE account can grow tax free and be accessed on a tax-free basis for qualifying expenses, these accounts could be a valuable resource for certain disabled individuals and their families. Although we’re waiting on regulations to be adopted, now is the time to begin thinking about whether an ABLE account is a good fit for your family’s circumstances. Please contact us today to learn more about ABLE accounts and disability planning.

The New Facebook Legacy Contact Feature & Estate Planning For Digital Assets and Social Media

It wasn’t very long ago that we had only paper for financial and tax records. We could simply point to a file cabinet or drawer and tell someone, “Everything is in there when the time comes.” But now we have computers and the internet, and so much of our lives is online. Unless we include our digital assets and social media in our estate planning, our family or administrator may not be able to find critical documents.

For example, if you scan documents or receive financial statements electronically, someone else may not even know these exist. If you use a program like Quicken or Quickbooks and tax preparation software, those records are on your computer. Facebook pages, blogs, email accounts and photos stored digitally on a computer or an online account would certainly have special meaning to your family.

Much of this information is password protected. Unless we make arrangements in advance, family members or administrators may not be able to access these and the information could be lost forever.

Hopefully, more social media platforms and institutions that generate digital content will follow the recent action that Facebook has taken.

Facebook just rolled out its Facebook Legacy Contact feature – it allows any Facebook user to designate a family member or friend to manage his or her account if he or she should pass away.

Below is how Facebook describes this new feature:

What is a legacy contact?

A legacy contact is someone you choose to look after your account if it’s memorialized. Once your account is memorialized, your legacy contact will have the option to do things like:

  • Write a pinned post for your profile (ex: to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service)
  • Respond to new friend requests (ex: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook)
  • Update your profile picture and cover photo

You also have the option to allow your legacy contact to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook, and we may add additional capabilities for legacy contacts in the future.

Your legacy contact can’t:

  • Log into your account
  • Remove or change past posts, photos and other things shared on your Timeline
  • Read messages you’ve sent to other friends
  • Remove any of your friends

This is a very responsible action by Facebook. In the past, family members and friends struggled with the Facebook accounts of deceased users because the social media giant would not allow anyone but the user to access the account. This caused lots of heartache and grief for loved ones.

Estate planning for digital assets and social media accounts is similar to estate planning for other assets. You need to make a list of what you have and where it is located, name someone (with computer and social media know-how) to step in for you, provide that person with access, and provide some direction for what you want to happen to these assets.

Listing your digital assets by category (hardware, software, social media/online presence, online accounts) will help make the task less daunting. Next to each one, add user names, passwords, PIN numbers and the site’s domain name. Keep this list in a safe place and tell your successor where it is. (Do not store it unprotected on your computer; if it is stolen, the thief would have all of your passwords. If you store it on your computer, password protect the file and give that information to your successor.)

Think about what you want to happen to these assets. For example, if you have a website or blog and you want it to continue, you need to leave instructions for keeping it up or having someone take it over and continue it. If a site is currently producing or could produce income (e-books, photography, videos, blogs), make sure your successor knows this. If there are things on your computer or hard drive that you want to pass on (scanned family photos, ancestry research, a book you have been writing), put them in a “Do Not Delete” folder and include it on your inventory list.

Closing down accounts that are no longer needed will help to protect your family from identity theft after you are gone. The person you name as your successor will need a death certificate to do this. Consider naming this person as a co-trustee or co-executor with responsibilities limited to this area to give them legal authority to act for you.

Yes, this will take some time and thought. But, just like “other” estate planning, the more we can do now to put things in order, the easier it will be for our families later.