Current estate planning clients are looking to leave more than money and property to the next generation. As Businessweek reports, people are now attempting to leave their personal legacies through devices such as ethical wills, life histories, and video recordings. Through these devices, people are adding a human component to traditional estate planning.
According to certified financial planner Neal Van Zutphen, “There’s an element regarding money, but it is really more about affirming your life as a legacy.” Because of the various ways to create a personal legacy component of a will, these can be done as a small do-it-yourself project, or a more intensive, expert-guided concept. Perhaps the most frequently used form is the ethical will, which is a simple letter to one’s family. Van Zutphen provides all of his clients with workbooks to assist them in preparing ethical wills.
Retired psychiatrist Paul Wilson undertook a more involved project when he decided to write a 60-page memoir for his children and grandchildren. Wilson plans to self-publish the memoir, which will contain photographs and newspaper articles. Wilson explained, “It’s therapeutic in that I come out of this learning more about myself – my present and my past … but the reward is more the experience of allowing myself to wander back to those times, and describe them in words as precise and concise as I can.”
An Oklahoma judge has recently held that J.P. Morgan & Chase Co.’s administration of the Carolyn S. Burford trust was “grossly negligent and reckless.” As a result, the court ordered J.P. Morgan to pay the trust $18.1 million, as well as punitive damages and legal fees.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, the order for monetary damages came after the Tulsa County Judge found that J.P. Morgan breached its fiduciary duties in handling the trust account. In 2000, J.P. Morgan sold variable prepaid forward contracts to the trust. The court determined that this sale was a breach of fiduciary duty. Not only did the bank fail to ensure that the client understood what the product was, but it also failed to disclose the fact that the transaction was beneficial to the bank. The court further found that the bank was “double dipping” when it used the proceeds from the contracts to further invest in it’s own investment products.
Current law requires that brokers handling trust accounts act in the best interest of the client. According to J.P. Morgan spokesperson Douglas Morris, “We disagree with the court’s decision and will take all appropriate measures to respond, including appealing the decision.”
Every day, people are living more of their lives online. Whether via Facebook or online banking, millions of people conduct substantial portions of their personal and professional business online. All of this online activity creates what are known as digital assets. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, these digital assets are often forgotten when it comes to estate planning.
There are many different categories of internet assets, some examples include: social media accounts, email, financial products such as banking, reward programs such as frequent flyer miles, and entertainment accounts such as iTunes and Netflix. Without conducting simple estate planning for these digital assets, heirs may be unable to even identify all of the deceased’s virtual property, let alone gain access to it.
The easiest solution to this problem is to create a list of all your online accounts, passwords, and security question answers. Keep this list in a secure place where your family can access it if you pass away or become incapacitated. There are also online services that will manage your digital assets for you such as Legacy Locker.
This site charges a fee for its legacy protection services, however it also provides a number of bonus features such as protected document storage and backup.
Discussing your digital assets with a qualified estate planner is the only trusted way to ensure that your estate plan is complete.