Archive for March, 2012
Will Your Facebook Profile Be Part of Your Estate?
If you are savvy enough to be online reading this blog, you most likely have a Facebook profile. Also, you are probably wondering what on earth Facebook has to do with probate. In most states, the answer to that question is still “nothing,” but that is no longer the case in Oklahoma.
In 2010, Oklahoma legislators passed a law that gives executors (called Personal Representatives in Florida) control over accounts on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that were registered to the decedent. The idea is that the executor will be able to access, clean up or even shut down each account, according to his or her own judgment or instructions left behind by the account owner, if any.
It is easy to see the logic behind Oklahoma’s social media law; for many people, Facebook has become a virtual scrapbook full of photos, notes from friends, and family trees. It makes sense that the loved ones left behind would want to access and preserve these memories. It is equally clear that the creator of such a detailed profile might have an opinion as to who should access their personal information after their death.
The idea of social media profiles as estate assets is beginning to catch on in other states as well; Nebraska is already developing a law similar to Oklahoma’s and Oregon may be close behind. In states without such laws, your digital accounts and passwords should definitely be included in your overall estate planning.
If you have concerns about securing your virtual assets or any other aspect of estate planning, please feel free to contact us.
BEWARE OF SCAMS TARGETING THE ELDERLY
As estate planning and elder law attorneys, one of our primary goals is to educate our clients and community about how they can protect themselves and their assets. This newsletter will share and expand upon a recent article about con artists who target senior citizens. The Associated Press reports that “elder financial abuse” has become an “industry” that brings in billions of dollars each year. This form of elder abuse includes fraud perpetrated by relatives and acquaintances as well as scams run by complete strangers. The outsider-run cons can be particularly devastating, both financially and emotionally, because they are so effectively targeted at older individuals and very difficult to trace back to their often international origins.
One common scam involves a con artist calling a targeted person and claiming to be his or her grandchild. The impostor then says that (s)he is facing some sort of crisis, often abroad, and needs the potential victim to wire money immediately, and without telling anyone else in the family. Another way that scammers prey on senior citizens is with correspondence claiming that the potential victim has won a lottery, usually in another country, but must send money to cover fees and taxes in order to receive the prize money.
We have met real victims of the two scams described above. One woman actually had a grandchild living outside the United States and so wired a few thousand dollars to a foreign country. Another victim received calls and letters that she had won the lottery in a country she had never visited, as well as correspondence from a psychic stating that she would soon be wealthy, and was conned into sending several thousand dollars to claim the fake prize.
Please be aware that these scams are out there and that con artists are getting better at targeting their victims all the time. If you would like more information on protecting yourself or your loved ones from becoming a victim, we are here to help. For the full Associated Press article, click here:
HOW DOCTORS PLAN FOR DEATH
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal discussed how and why doctors die differently than most of their patients. Although the article is generally interesting, there was one statistic that caught our attention: a survey of doctors showed that 64% of them had planned for potential incapacity by executing an advanced directive. This figure is remarkable because, in general, only 20% of Americans have advanced directives.
Advanced directives are documents that provide instructions for how you would like medical decisions to be made if you are unable to make them yourself. These documents are a way to plan for future incapacity, whether it be a temporary coma or terminal condition.
Doctors encounter end-of-life conditions and terminal illness more often than the average person. They also have significantly more knowledge about the side effects and effectiveness of available treatments. According to the article, that is why doctors often decline medical procedures in favor of quality of life. We think that it also explains why so many of them plan for incapacity better than the rest of us.
Please feel free to contact us for more information about advanced directives and planning for incapacity.
If you are interested in reading the full article, you can find it here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203918304577243321242833962.html?KEYWORDS=why+doctors+die