Wednesday, February 25, 2015

bitcoins182way   Over the last 20 years, the growth of digital assets has exploded. Almost everyone has a social media account of some kind, and photographs and music are almost all stored in digital form. Further, digital art is starting to be created, stored and sold online. While there are certain challenges to estate planning for these assets, one can take steps to make sure they are properly transferred to your desired beneficiaries upon your death.

A more difficult estate planning issue for digital assets lies in the form of cryptocurrency, which has also exploded in use in recent years. The most notable cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which has a market capitalization of upwards of $3.5 billion. (For the sake of accuracy, “bitcoin” is the name of the payment system as well as the unit of currency involved.) (more…)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The 7520 rate for March has decreased to 1.8%.

The March 2015 Applicable Federal Interest Rates can be found here.

Monday, February 23, 2015


The Treasury Green Book provides explanations of the President’s budget proposals.  One such proposal (remember…these are just proposals, not actual changes in the law) that may affect your estate planning is found on page 197 of the Green Book and is re-printed here for your convenience:


Current Law

Section 2702 provides that, if an interest in a trust is transferred to a family member, any interest retained by the grantor is valued at zero for purposes of determining the transfer tax value of the gift to the family member(s). This rule does not apply if the retained interest is a “qualified interest.” A fixed annuity, such as the annuity interest retained by the grantor of a GRAT, is one form of qualified interest, so the value of the gift of the remainder interest in the GRAT is determined by deducting the present value of the retained annuity during the GRAT term from the fair market value of the property contributed to the trust.

Generally, a GRAT is an irrevocable trust funded with assets expected to appreciate in value, in which the grantor retains an annuity interest for a term of years that the grantor expects to survive. At the end of that term, the assets then remaining in the trust are transferred to (or held in further trust for) the beneficiaries. The value of the grantor’s retained annuity is based in part on the applicable Federal rate under section 7520 in effect for the month in which the GRAT is created. Therefore, to the extent the GRAT’s assets appreciate at a rate that exceeds that statutory interest rate, that appreciation will have been transferred, free of gift tax, to the remainder beneficiary or beneficiaries of the GRAT.  (more…)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

459482489The Treasury Green Book provides explanations of the President’s budget proposals.  One such proposal (remember…these are just proposals, not actual changes in the law) that may affect your estate planning is found on page 165 of the Green Book and is re-printed here for your convenience:


Current Law Minimum distribution rules apply to employer sponsored tax-favored retirement plans and to IRAs. In general, under these rules, distributions must begin no later than the required beginning date and a minimum amount must be distributed each year. For traditional IRAs, the required beginning date is April 1 following the calendar year in which the IRA owner attains age 70½. For employer-sponsored tax-favored retirement plans, the required beginning date for a participant who is not a five-percent owner is April 1 after the later of the calendar year in which the participant attains age 70½ or retires. Under a defined contribution plan or IRA, the minimum amount required to be distributed is based on the joint life expectancy of the participant or employee and a designated beneficiary (who is generally assumed to be 10 years younger), calculated at the end of each year.

Minimum distribution rules also apply to balances remaining after a plan participant or IRA owner has died. The after-death rules vary depending on (1) whether a participant or IRA owner dies on or after the required beginning date or before the required beginning date, and (2) whether there is an individual designated as a beneficiary under the plan. The rules also vary depending on whether the participant’s or IRA owner’s spouse is the sole designated beneficiary. (more…)

Monday, February 16, 2015

GTY_whitney_houston_bobbi_kristina_brown_sk_140325_16x9_992It’s true. Even if you don’t have a will, your state has written one for you, and it serves as the default plan for individuals who die without a will (aka “intestate”). Your local Probate Code will have all the juicy details. For the most part, intestacy statutes try to mimic what the average person would have done with their assets if they had a will. For instance, if you’re single and without children, it generally reverts to your parents. If you’re married with minor children, it would generally go to the spouse with whom you had the children, and in some states (like Georgia), a spouse shares with the children. The people who receive your assets under such a statute are generally referred to as your “heirs at law”. (more…)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Since we originally published our post on planing for digital assets in 2011, Google and Facebook have now created Inactive Account Manager (Google) and Legacy Contact (Facebook) designations so you can name who has control of your digital assets upon your death.  For more information, see the following articles:

Google’s “Inactive Account Manager

Facebook’s “Legacy Contact

The following was originally published on August 17, 2011

What are digital assets? Generally speaking, “digital assets” are any type of data in which a person has some right or proprietary interest.  A person’s digital assets may include (but are not limited to) information in his or her email accounts, information saved on his or her Smartphones, his or her computer files, picture files, video files, music files, social networking accounts, blogs, websites, word processing documents, and spreadsheets.

Do digital assets have value?  Many digital assets have value.  Like tangible assets, digital assets can have monetary value (for example, blogs that generate revenue, or intellectual property rights, which – in some cases – may be extremely valuable), or sentimental value (family photos or video files, for example).  For this reason, it is important to establish a plan for what should happen to your digital assets in the event of your death or incapacity.  It may be necessary to access the digital assets of an incapacitated or recently deceased person in order to preserve value in his or her business or estate, even though those digital assets may have no monetary value.  For example, although a person’s email account does not have monetary value per se, many people conduct their day-to-day business primarily via email (by taking orders, making sales, arranging for deliveries, contacting suppliers, etc.)  If such a person becomes incapacitated or passes away, his or her agents or fiduciaries will likely need to access that email account to avoid contract breaches, which could be costly to an incapacitated person’s business or may result in claims against a decedent’s estate.  As discussed below, it may be impossible for your agents or fiduciaries to access your email account or other digital assets if you don’t plan ahead. (more…)

Friday, February 6, 2015

The untimely death of Robin Williams shocked and distressed many of his admirers. Now six months after his death many of his admirers are further distressed by the legal battle between Williams’s widow and his children from prior marriages.

Mr. Williams seems to have gone to great lengths to care for and protect his three children from two different marriages. Yet, he also made provisions for his wife. His home in Tiburon, California, along with its contents, subject to certain reservations, was to pass to his wife on his death. However, the trust which, according to news sources, disposes of this home and its contents also provides that his children are to receive his clothing, jewelry and personal photos taken prior to his last marriage as well as his “memorabilia and awards in the entertainment industry”.

Williams’s widow contends that his children came into her home soon after the suicide and wrongfully took property that should belong to her from the home. The children counter that the trustees acted within their authority in granting them access to the home and these items. What does the word memorabilia cover? (more…)