Archive for estate planning

National Preparedness Month: Estate Planning – Understanding Wills, Trusts, and Power of Attorney

Estate planning is key for protecting your loved ones and distributing your property the way you choose.

September is National Preparedness Month! Being prepared includes taking time for long-term estate planning. Estate planning explains how your assets will be managed and/or distributed if you become incapacitated.

If you don’t have a will or trust in place, your wishes will not matter. Worse yet, if your family relies on you, they could really suffer. Don’t let this happen to your loved ones, especially if you have family members who rely on you for their very survival. Without a plan in place, your family is left to haggle with the courts (and maybe each other) to settle your estate.

Follow our guide below to get an overview of the various types of assets. Then learn the differences between the basic options in estate planning – wills, trusts, and power of attorney. Then you can make a more informed decision about which ones you use to make your wishes known so the right people and organizations receive what you want to give them.

Assets

Assets cover a wide range of useful or valuable things. Real estate, cars, your home, personal property, investments and cash are all considered assets. Assets include investments such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Life insurance is also considered an asset. Personal property, such as collections you own, furniture, antiques, tools, etc., are also considered assets. If you own a business, assets include inventory, equipment, property and accounts receivable.

Nowadays, digital assets also need to be accounted for, including online accounts such as PayPal, bank accounts, investments, social media pages, photos and documents you’ve stored online or in the cloud. Read our blog post, 5 Things you Need to Know about Digital Assets, for more information.

Estate Planning

Making a will, setting up a trust and choosing a power of attorney are all components of estate planning. Estate planning includes managing your assets and deciding how those assets will be distributed once you can no longer make decisions or pass away. Estate planning also involves making plans for your care as well as others who rely on you for their care and support. A carefully thought out estate plan will also keep taxes to a minimum. An attorney can help you create an estate plan that covers all of the bases. See our list of estate planning attorneys who work in Washington state.

Wills

Writing a will as part of estate planning is critical if you don’t want the state deciding how your assets will be distributed. A will is a legal document that describes your wishes for handling your property and assets. There are a few requirements: you must be sounds of mind, 18 years of age or older and in Washington state, you need witnesses to the will. There are a few things a will cannot cover – learn more by reading our recent blog post, Need a Will? What You Need to Know to Write Your Will.

Trusts

Some people prefer to create a trust to determine how their assets will be handled in case they become incapacitated. Trusts are also created to outline how money and assets will be distributed to beneficiaries upon their death. According to an article by AARP, people with larger estates may choose to set up a trust rather than a will. AARP says that setting up a trust minimizes the probate process. It can also provide long-term support for family members with unique needs. Trusts can also be set up to limit the money a beneficiary receives at any one time, says AARP.

 Power of Attorney

If you become incapacitated, your power of attorney can make decisions about your health and assets on your behalf. A power of attorney also manages or pays bills, handles your investments, etc. Most people choose a trusted friend or relative as their power of attorney. We offer to-it-yourself legal kits and forms to set up your power of attorney – click HERE, then scroll down to the “Power of Attorney” kits.

This blog post is not offered as specific advice, which may only be provided by an attorney based upon each individual situation. To find an attorney, click here to visit our attorney referral page

Got Your Digital Assets Covered? Five Things You Need to Know

Keeping track of login information is critical to preeserving your digital assets for the future.

Are you on Facebook? Do you use PayPal? Are some of your financial or shopping accounts online? Do you post family or personal photos to your social media pages or to the cloud? If so, you own digital assets.

If you suddenly have an accident or become too ill to handle your own personal affairs, a power of attorney can step in to handle things for you. But they can only do so much if you do not have a plan to handle the digital assets. Without a plan, your family could be buried in red tape for months, if not years, leaving your affairs in shambles.

What happens to your digital assets once you pass away? You could be leaving money and assets on the table that simply can’t be accessed without an incredible amount of effort by your loved ones. Sometimes those assets are of an emotional value, such as personal emails and family photos, and could be lost forever.

 

Rather than leaving your family or estate executor with a huge mess, use these tips to make sure your digital assets don’t get lost in the cloud forever.

What are Digital Assets?

Digital assets consist of any online account or file you store on your computer, smartphone or in the cloud. These accounts and files often require login information consisting of a username and password. Sometimes security questions are asked to verify your identity.

Types of Digital Assets

Here are a few of the digital assets to consider:

  • Financial – bank, investment and PayPal accounts.
  • Utility accounts
  • Healthcare – including medical history, prescriptions and insurance information
  • Photos, music, videos, books, artwork
  • Domain names and website hosting accounts
  • Personal and business email and mailing addresses
  • Shopping accounts
  • Cell phone accounts
  • Social media pages
  • Databases related to collectibles

Gather Login Information

The first step you must take is to create a list of login information for all of your accounts. Make sure to include the website address of the account, your user name or account number, password and any security questions or PIN numbers, if required.

Store Login Information Securely

Keeping your login information secure is critical. The simplest way is to create a password-protected document on your computer (make sure you back it up, too).

Even better – use an online password manager such as Dashlane or LastPass. Both companies offer encrypted security protocols to keep all of your login information safe. This also allows you to change passwords and update accounts without having to provide your executor with a new copy of the information each and every time you make a change.

Prepare Legal Documents

After you go to all of the work to gather your login information, don’t forget to share the information with your Power of Attorney or estate executor in case you can’t manage your own affairs. Click here to download a DIY General and Durable Power of Attorney, good in the state of Washington. Click here to buy a Will Kit (State of Washington). Both kits are available as instant downloads, or buy the print version, and we’ll mail to you.

Digital Assets and Estate Planning: Have You Updated Your Estate Plan?

Your digital assets could have economic or sentimental value

Outlining what is to be done with your digital assets can save frustration, heartache and lots of red tape for family, friends and representatives who need to handle your affairs. Otherwise, your family or executor may spend countless hours and still not be able to track down all of these assets.

Why should you include digital assets? First, digital assets could have economic or sentimental value. Secondly, if they cannot be tracked down, they may be lost forever. An article in MarketWatch suggests your estate could even be put at risk for fraud or hacking due to lost accounts.

Not sure if you have digital assets? Do you have email? A PayPal account? Online banking or shopping accounts? Online photos of family or friends? Social media pages? Do you back up your phone or computer data to the cloud? Do you get paperless bills? If you answered yes to any of these, you have digital assets.

How do you protect your digital assets in the event you can’t manage them on your own, such as through illness or death? Consider these tips:

Create a list of all of your digital assets.
Include information on how to access the account (such as providing a website address). Provide your login information, including username and password. Add any secret words or answers to security questions that may be required to verify the account. If an account requires two-factor authentication, provide the cell phone number and how to access the phone so your executor can receive the text message on that device to get into the account.

Update your Power of Attorney,
Updating your Power of Attorney gives that person power to manage your digital assets if you become incapacitated. We found the following language samples others have added to their Power of Attorney documents at http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/sample-language. You can add this information to our do-it-yourself General and Durable Power of Attorney Legal Form Kit as an instant download from our website. An estate planning attorney can also help you add the right wording to your Power of Attorney.

Add language about digital assets to your will.
We offer a do-it-yourself Will Forms Kit to which you can add a statements saying your attorney or executor has power to manage digital assets. Also, you may want to outline which assets go to which person. Including instructions on how to close your online assets or let your social media acquaintances know what’s going on could also be included. Click here for a sample of language you can use in your will to give an executor power to handle your assets. An attorney can also help set up a will that thoroughly covers digital assets.