Category Archives: Estate Planning

Dealing with digital property after death

Dealing with digital property after death can cause more grief.

Problems in dealing with digital property after the death of a loved are more common given the digital age we live in.

Such problems may also come with financial consequences. Indeed, if  McAfee the internet security company is correct, digital property may well be worth more than a car for the average Canadian ! A 2013 McAfee survey estimated the average Canadian owned some $32,000 in digital assets including movies, music, games, digital photos, communications and social media profiles and blogs. (They estimated the global average to be  $35,000 in digital assets.) Many of these digital assets come with complicated terms of service agreements which can be frustrating or impossible for loved ones to access. Depending on where you live, such agreements might even put loved ones in legal trouble based on anti-hacking or privacy statutes after their loved ones die.

The real problem is that people do die  (!) 

Estimates are that as many as 10,275 Facebook users and 5.700 iTunes owners die each day so dealing with those users’ digital property is an issue. The recent story of a widow in Victoria trying to access games on her deceased husband’s iPad highlights the problem. Shortly after Peggy Bush’s husband died , the 72-year-old, tried to play games her husband had purchased before his death.  Nothing short of a court order was good enough to be able to access those iTunes games including a death certificate or the will until CBC Go Public stepped in and Apple stepped up.

As the article points out, digital property is unique from other property owned by a loved one. While users of digital property own the material online for the most part, access to it is controlled by  providers like Apple. Providers set the rules when it comes to accessing what we put online and the content purchased. One solution is that providers should offer clearer, “plain speak”  policies dealing with digital property and access. The last time I checked, the I Tunes terms and conditions were some 28 pages long. I doubt even lawyers read them when setting up their I Tunes account.

Canadian laws need to be more clear about who owns or controls what is put online after someone dies. In the US, the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act will hopefully solve the problem for Americans using the concept of “media neutrality“. Such legislation would give the account holder the power to decide what happens to his or her digital assets in the same way they do for physical or financial assets. Delaware was the first state to take the lead and enact such legislation but many other states have introduced such legislation for consideration. While I’m an accountant not a lawyer, I’m not aware of any such legislation being contemplated.

What steps can be taken to secure your digital property for your loved ones? 

There are a few key to do’s to safeguarding digital property  that I can suggest when it comes to digital assets or property:

Plan Ahead – make a list of important passwords and online accounts and specify what should be done with each of those accounts if you were to become incapacitated or die

Keep your list up to date regularly review your list for any changes (and additions) you have made

Store and share – store your list in a secure location and let family members/executors know how to access that list. Don’t make the mistake of listing all your online accounts and passwords in your will or power of attorney as they can’t be guaranteed to remain secure

Backup – ensure you back up your digital assets if they are stored online; backup data to a local computer or a USB or similar storage device on a regular basis.

Estate planning – work with an estate lawyer to update your wills and powers of attorney to include digital property. Given that only 56% of Canadians have a will – make a will if you don’t have one. Specify your wishes about what happens to your digital assets after death and provide consent /authorizations so that your loved ones/executors can deal with them appropriately. This would include password resets or recoveries.

LegacyTracker can help provide protection for your digital assets by providing a secure spot for you to safely store your online usernames and passwords. LegacyTracker also enables secure  sharing of your important information with loved ones, advisors or executors.

 

Estate Mistakes from 4 stars that died too young

Estate planning is for everyone – avoid Estate Mistakes

The goal of estate planning is to leave what you have to whom you want to.at the least possible cost in terms of administration and taxes. But, no one can successfully predict how long they will live; illness and accidents can happen at any age & when least expected. That’s why estate planning is important no matter the age (or stage). Too many families are caught off-guard and found unprepared when an incapacity or death happens and proper estate plans are not in place.

Estate planning is also not just for the wealthy; it’s important that proper estate planning & instructions be discussed and documented no matter the state of wealth. Indeed, estate planning can often mean more to families with modest wealth, because they can afford to lose the least.

I think there are profound lessons worth passing along from the estates of 4 very famous young stars who did not leave complete estate plans in place. Hopefully, others young or old, rich or not so rich can learn from these mistakes.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman (1967 – 2014)

A much-loved, versatile & celebrated actor, director, and producer of film and theater who won a best actor Oscar for his role in “Capote” in 2006. He died of combined drug intoxication. He was 47 years young.

Estate Mistakes:

  • His entire estate was left to his partner who was the mother of his 3 children,but he failed to create trusts for his children.
  • Because his partner was not his wife, the estate did not transfer on a tax-free basis.
  • By not setting up a revocable trust, his estate was subject to probate which caused further delays and costs and made his family financial situation, very public.
  • Estimated cost of estate mistake: $15 Million of an estimated $35 Million estate

Amy Winehouse (1983 – 2011)

The controversial yet undeniably talented British singer and songwriter known for her deep vocals and eclectic musical taste, died of accidental alcohol poisoning . She was 27 years young.

Estate Mistakes

  • She died “intestate” meaning that she did not leave a valid will.
  • Her estate passed by law to her “natural heirs” being her divorced parents. Her ex-husband who she remained very close to until her death; received nothing.
  • Her father was appointed as administrator and incurred considerable personal and financial burden in settling Amy’s complicated estate which included 6 music companies. The resulting cost to settle bills, debts and taxes ate up the majority of the estate estimated at $7 Million.

Heath Ledger (1979 – 2008)

The brilliant Australian actor and director died of accidental overdose of prescription drugs. He had just finished filming his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight for which he won many awards after his death including an Academy award. He was 28 years young.

Estate Mistakes:

  • He did not update his will following the birth of his daughter, Matilda
  • The beneficiaries in his will were his parents & 3 sisters with no mention of his daughter or his daughter’s mother
  • A filing of probate by his daughter’s guardians in Australia sought part of the estate held in Australian trusts worth approximately $20 Million. Much publicity around family infighting ensued until Leger’s father agreed to financially support his granddaughter

Paul Walker (1973 – 2013)

This young “heart throb” was best known as the star of the Fast & Furious movies and tragically (and ironically) died in a high-speed car accident that lead to a fiery car crash. He left a 15-year-old daughter and a tangled mess of finances & questions. He was 40 years young.

Estate Mistakes:

  • He established a revocable living trust for his 15-year-old daughter many years earlier, but he was noted as the only trustee with no successor trustee named. This has led to much debate between his own family and the mother of his daughter as to who will oversee the trust given that his daughter is a minor.
  • He had not updated his will in 12 years, a period over which his net worth grew significantly. Given the fact that his will had not been updated, there were no provisions made for his girlfriend of 7 years, who he intended on marrying.
  • While he established a revocable living trust for his daughter it was not funded fully during his lifetime so there has been considerable expense and publicity incurred that could have been avoided. It’s a common mistake to set up a trust but not do the actual transfer
  • Estimated cost of estate mistake: $5 Million of an estimated $25 Million estate

Better and more complete estate planning would have saved the estates of these young stars, millions in estate taxes. Better financial organization would have saved the families additional grief that comes with tracking down details and settling final accounts.

Better financial organization and peace of mind are goals behind LegacyTracker. When better organization is in place; better and more complete planning can take place.

64 Billion reasons to get your ducks in a row

Are your ducks in a row?

We think $58 Billion in unclaimed or misplaced financial assets in the US + $4-$6 Billion in Canada are pretty good reasons to get financially organized. These financial assets were no doubt hard-earned. A good majority of these assets may also be tax paid. $64 Billion or so waiting to be claimed by the individual that lost track or the legal beneficiaries of those assets; It’s a lot of money that could make a really BIG difference to many families and loved ones.

Unclaimed financial assets come in a variety of forms:

  • Bank or Credit Union accounts
  • Stocks/Bonds
  • Uncashed dividends
  • Utility deposits or refunds
  • Other prepaids, deposits or refunds
  • Trust distributions
  • Inheritances
  • Annuities/Pensions
  • Education funds
  • Prepaid funeral contracts
  • Mineral royalties such as oil, gas, or mining
  • Insurance policy claims/refunds
  • Contents of abandoned safe-deposit boxes

Unclaimed financial assets reside in a variety of places:

  • Banks, Credit Unions and Trust Companies
  • Insurance Companies
  • Share Transfer Agents
  • Pension Funds
  • Trust monies held by lawyers or real estate companies
  • Utilities
  • Funeral Homes
  • Investment management companies
  • Retailers (Gift Cards/Credits)
  • Government treasuries or agencies

While held initially by a variety of ‘holder’ organizations or institutions, unclaimed assets residing in the US or 3 of the Provinces in Canada with Unclaimed Property legislation in place will, after a set period of time, be forwarded to the State/Provincial or Federal treasury. Those assets will be safeguarded and reported into an online search base where hopefully the legal owners or heirs will find those assets and make a claim. Many US jurisdictions are very proactive about looking for owners.For example, many State treasury departments will engage in outreach activities at baseball games, summer fairs and shopping malls with the specific purpose being to find unclaimed money for visitors. It is common place in most US states to publish the entire database in the local paper, once or twice a year.

The US estimates that 1 in 10 Americans has unclaimed funds belonging to them

The US knows a lot about Unclaimed or lost financial assets because they have kept really good records over the 50+ years or so that they have had such legislation in place.The same can not be said for Canada despite how socially progressive Canada might be in many other areas.

Only 2 provinces in Canada (Alberta and Quebec) have comprehensive unclaimed property legislation in place and provide searchable databases. BC has a voluntary, less comprehensive system in place

The Bank of Canada has over $1 Billion in Unclaimed Money

The Bank of Canada on its own has over $1 Billion in Unclaimed financial assets in the form of Unclaimed bank accounts and Unclaimed/Matured Canada Savings Bonds. While there is a searchable database available online for unclaimed bank accounts which total over $532 Million, there is no such database for Unclaimed but matured Canada Savings Bonds which total over $500 Million. No one from the Bank of Canada s looking for those legal owners. We know because we asked.

Bank of CanadaThe amount of unclaimed financial assets is a staggering amount and so too is the rate of increase of financial assets becoming lost or unclaimed. The Unclaimed Bank account balance with the Bank of Canada increased by a net amount of $36 Million in 2013 or 7.3% making for a 5 year (net) increase of $181 Million. The value of unclaimed but matured Canada Savings Bonds increased $105 Million in the year ending April 2013.

 

Please get your ducks in a row

These alarming increases in unclaimed financial assets in combination with in Canada, a lack of comprehensive unclaimed property legislation for a majority of hard-working Canadians and their families should be sufficient evidence of the need to safeguard and protect information relating to financial assets appropriately. No one will safeguard your information as well as You can.

Helping with that challenge, is one of the core missions behind LegacyTracker.

 

How hard do insurers work to find life insurance beneficiaries ?

How hard do Insurers look for life insurance beneficiaries ?

Governments around the world are starting to take a proactive role in helping life insurance beneficiaries find the policies they are entitled to.

Unclaimed life insurance polices are a problem I’ve worried about for years and were a major impetus for developing LegacyTracker

Last November, France’s financial sector regulator fined CNP Assurances 40 million euros ($50 million) for failing to do enough to find the beneficiaries of deceased life insurance policyholders. They characterized CNP’s efforts as being highly insufficient . CNP who is the largest insurer in France (17% market share),  responded by saying that they really always intended to pay all those unclaimed policies.

In their press release after the news of their fine was released CNP also indicated that it has never derived any profit from unclaimed settlements…”income earned on unclaimed funds had been added to the sum used to pay all policyholders” As an accountant, I’m a bit puzzled by that statement but…onwards.

Since 2007, life insurers in France have had a legal obligation to try to find life insurance beneficiaries of unclaimed policies after a holder’s death.

Prior to 2007,  it was up to the heirs to claim the funds . That’s how it currently stands in Canada but this presumes that those beneficiaries or heirs know about a life insurance policy.  The Cour des Comptes public audit office in France indicated in a report last year that life insurers have been very slow living up to their obligations to find heirs since the 2007 law was enacted and estimated that unclaimed life policies might be worth at least 2.76 Billion. 

More info on the CNP story can be found here 

So, What about Canadian Life Insurance Beneficiaries ?

The majority of the western world has Unclaimed Property legislation in place which includes unclaimed life insurance policies.  However, only Alberta, Quebec and to a certain extent, British Columbia have Unclaimed Property legislation in place in Canada. In recent years, governments have really ‘zoned in” on the Win/Win Opportunity that such legislation provides to residents and their own treasuries.  There has been a gradual shift to tighten up the rules around what assets are included in such legislation. An example would be the inclusion of Gift Cards in certain states like New York and New Jersey. And, as is the case in the US, Governments are ensuring that life insurers work diligently to identify unclaimed life insurance policies based on death (“The DMF or Death Master File ) In recent years, a national multi state audit project has been underway which has so far resulted in the return of more than $2.7 Billion to beneficiaries and/or State Treasuries. Auditors actually determined that  insurers were using the ‘DMF” to stop annuity payments to deceased policy owners but not using the same files to find beneficiaries and to designate the policies as “unclaimed” Sun Life of Canada settled Unclaimed Property complaints with State Insurance regulators in November 2014 for $3.2 Million

Only 34% of Canadians have consumer protection in place in the form of Unclaimed Property legislation 

As well, the rules around life insurance policies in most jurisdictions in Canada do NOT include an obligation by the insurer to look for beneficiaries.

Each week I receive approximately 2-3 emails from folks that are looking for some guidance around finding possible life insurance policies. There’s not much I can offer to them outside of what I’ve already offered in earlier posts like this one which also included a  summary of the changes in the life insurance landscape over the years..another reason why finding a lost life insurance policy is made difficult,…another reason why legislation is needed and another reason why it’s important to safeguard & share important information about life insurance policies with loved ones and beneficiaries

Lost Insurance Policies can cause additional grief for loved ones

Ever changing insurance market

 

Worries of the Wealthy (HNW) in 2014

 

US Trust 2014

The 2014 version of the U.S Trust Annual Insights on Wealth and Worth was recently released. The annual survey provides insight on the wealth management challenges confronting high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals in the US.

High Net worth is defined for the purposes of this survey as being $3 Million or more in investable assets. The 2014 survey sheds light particularly on the growing challenges and needs that come with more complex family dynamics including multi-generational and extended family situations. Worries of the Wealthy.

Some highlights that we found particularly interesting and some of the challenges that LegacyTracker can help with….

The Top 5 risks to family wealth

Divorce, Addictions, Untimely death or disability of a primary income earner, medical problems  and disagreements over inheritance or distribution of family assets

Family circumstances US Trust 2014

“The modern American family is more diverse than it once was, adding to the challenges of wealth management for high-net worth investors and their advisors. Changing family structures and roles among multiple generations of immediate and extended family members affect the way family members interact, communicate  and manage their wealth”

Ranking the most important reasons for having an estate plan

US Trust 2014 Reasons for Estate Planning

How important are Financial Legacies ?

While 60% of those surveyed thought it was important that they leave a financial legacy, 96% of wealthy parents are concerned that their children will be mature enough to receive an inheritance until at least age 25 and 37% think the ideal age is between 30-34. That might explain why only 38% of wealthy parents have fully disclosed their financial status to adult children over age 25.

Executor choices

Perhaps some troubling challenges on the horizon?

  • More than 3/4 of those surveyed have named a family member or friend as executor
  • Most often, individuals name their spouse as an executor but…
  • Nearly a quarter of those surveyed had not yet chosen an executor or trustee
  • 22% have not named a trustee because they have not established a trust

Families and Friends as Executors US Trust 2014

Few consider capacity of executors

Executor challenges

There were many challenges noted by those that have served as an executor or trustee. The 2nd biggest challenge cited was…having access or knowledge relating to where the records and important information was kept.  We would suggest that this issue adds to the biggest challenge noted being, the time commitment of time require to execute a will. Time is money and time can also add to the grief already being experienced in the case of a loved one who has been named as executor which happens a majority of the time even in high net worth families.

 

US Trust 2014 Survey on Executors

Yes. LegacyTracker can help with some of these challenges; important documents & information is critical & so is the sharing of that information as required. Our built in alerts & reminders are all about ensuring that the proper documentation & information is safeguarded.

 

Read the full US Trust Survey US Trust 2014 survey on High Net worth individuals

 

 

Sharing is caring

Family Finances – Sharing is Caring

They say Sharing is Caring in life..& we think that’s particularly true with regards to your Family Finances …

Money management & communication is key when thinking about your family; your family’s emotional & physical survival often hinges on financial stability. Shared & effective communication about money matters is critical to money management but in many families defined roles are established where one spouse takes on the role CFO/Administrator and the other becomes reliant on their spouse to manage the family finances and keep it all ‘together’. It might work; but it’s a risk. It can increase the pressure & responsibility that one spouse feels with managing all that information while the other spouse is left dangerously vulnerable.

It’s not an ideal situation because we all know that life can take unpredictable twists, like a divorce, a death or an incapacity. That’s one of many reasons that we developed LegacyTracker..we think It’s critical that information is at minimum shared if not managed together. Our friend Mark Goodfield who blogs as the Blunt Bean Counter has written extensively on the topic of Stress Testing your finances for a sudden death.  He emphasizes the need for an information checklist for executors/spouses in case of death.

In combination with defining your goals together, we think sharing this information together will enable you to make wiser choices and reach those goals successfully.

LegacyTracker – allows flexible sharing – as little or as much as you wish. Share with your loved ones or your financial advisors or your executor.

Here is a list of some of the details that can be documented & stored inside LegacyTracker:

  1. Assets: including bank accounts, registered/non registered investments, real property, personal property & business assets etc.
  2. Liabilities—including loans, credit card debt, mortgages, lines of credit, business liabilities etc.
  3. Contacts-including medical contacts, professional advisors and family
  4. Digital Assets-including loyalty & reward programs, logons & passwords etc.
  5. Insurance-including disability, property, life, group as well as home & auto
  6. Estate Planning —including Power of Attorneys, Wills, Ethical Wills, Final wishes, Letters etc.
  7. Health & Medical—including immunizations, contacts, history etc.

When you consolidate all of the important information into one secure place in an organized manner we think the benefits are many for you and your loved ones.  LegacyTracker is not just about peace of mind & emergency preparedness in case of a physical or natural disaster or a death or incapacity. It’s about living – simplifying & securing your information which we believe is empowering . Knowing what you have and what you need to work on will help you become more proactive about your financial & estate planning goals.  That’s the mission behind LegacyTracker.

Bitcoin - a headache for Estate Planners

Bitcoin – Virtual currency & new headache for estate planning

As if dealing with digital assets from an estate planning perspective was not difficult enough…now there is Bitcoin.

Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are creating  interesting and unique challenges for Estate lawyers and owners who are giving consideration to their estate plans (not to mention the future challenges for those that are not)

Fortunately, bitcoin was given due consideration in the new Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (FADAA) which specifies that `digital assets include digital currency and similar products currently in existence and yet to be invented. This Act is good news if you live in the US and your State takes the opportunity to use the Uniform Act as their legislation. The Act allows a representative or fiduciary to deal with digital assets in a similar way as they would for financial or physical assets. It shields those representatives from any inadvertent liability. Thus far there is no such progress on such legislation in Canada as far as we know.

As for some of the other issues surrounding Bitcoin, there`s a good summary from Bloomberg BNA which you can find here or as a download here: Bitcoin is creating new headaches for Estate Planners as a download

 

Estate Planning for Digital Assets

UFADAA makes estate planning for digital assets a little easier

Thanks to the Uniform Law Commission, (an US National Non profit/Non partisan organization that supplies “ready to go” legislation) comprehensive provisions are now available relating to Digital Assets.  That should help make estate planning for digital assets a little easier going forward if it’s utilized by individuals US states.

The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) makes legislating digital inheritances easier and can alleviate the burden and the heartbreak that can come when families are unable to access simple things like digital photos or messages from loved ones that have passed away. The purpose of UFADAA is to vest fiduciaries (executors, guardians, agents powers of attorneys etc.) with the authority to access, control, or copy digital assets, while respecting the privacy and intent of the account holder.

The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act solves the problem using the concept of “media neutrality.”  If a fiduciary would have access to a tangible asset, that fiduciary will also have access to a similar type of digital asset.  

The State of Delaware has taken the lead already and became the first US State to enact such legislation by enacting the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act this past week. It gives the account holder the power to decide what happens to his or her digital assets in the same way they do for physical or financial assets. At present, that power lies with the tech and media companies in control of the assets. 

There is hope that all 50 states will adopt the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act so that access to content will be honoured in the way that the user would wish. The Act can be referenced here :  UFADAA-7-17-2014

In the meantime, Google does provide a tool to help users deal with the problem which they have called Inactive Account Manager . You can also keep up to date with any progress or changes by way of a blog we discovered authored by well-known US estate planning lawyer James D. Lamm. His blog is called digitalpassing.com

Unfortunately, it seems there is no such update on What Canada is doing on this subject (Sorry).

Estate Mistake Amy Winehouse

Estate Mistakes – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was a controversial but talented British singer who died of accidental alcohol poisoning at the “too young” age of 27 in 2011. She also died “intestate,” meaning that she did not leave a valid will.  Her former spouse who she was quite close to at the time of her death received nothing. She might have wished it otherwise, but she left no will so her estate passed by law to her “natural heirs” as determined by law which did not include her ex-husband or her siblings. Instead, her divorced parents were entitled to the bulk of her estate and her Dad was appointed the administrator of her estate shortly after her death. It’s tragic enough to lose a child but being the administrator of your child’s estate adds to the grief.

Adding to the tragedy of her death is the fact that 3 years after Amy’s death her parents are still settling her accounts. They have been forced to use much of Amy’s wealth of some $7 million or so to settle bills and debts and taxes. Amy had 6 music companies to account for and her parents have taken out loans to cover the costs of dealing with her personal and business affairs. Sales of her music after her death should help their financial situation but as her Dad has noted “it’s been “an incredible drain on our resources. We had to have a lot of security and it cost us an absolute fortune”. 

A basic will or a trust, would have ensured that Amy Winehouse’s estate would be passed to the person of her choice which may or may not be the same as those designated by the default rules of the legislature. A basic will or trust might have also saved a lot of estate taxes by allowing assets to pass outside of probate via beneficiary designations and/or trusts. And…some basic organization to her estate might have saved her parents additional grief that comes with trying to track down details and settle final accounts.

 

Inter generational wealth transfers

Preparing for wealth transfers in the trillions – a strategic imperative

It’s a lot to lose

The looming inter generational wealth transfer may receive much attention in the news but how much real preparation is taking place in the financial services market for this transfer? Not reaching out to the spouse, or children & grandchildren (heirs) of existing clients presents a real risk. Bank of America in 2011 noted that assets transferring to a spouse move to another firm 55% of the time while assets transferring to children move as much as 98% of the time.  Bank of America aptly noted the strategic imperative of reducing the risk of inter generational wealth transfers; “a very real risk of long-term erosion to their business

How much ?

Life expectancy, rising health care costs , changing tax legislation and increasing debt levels aside, the estimated value of Inter generational wealth transfers over the next many years is in the Trillions and comes by way of 2 different phases.The so-called “Great Transfer” is an estimated $17 Trillion + that is expected to shift between the “Greatest” generation to Baby boomers. A 2nd shift  (“Greater transfer“) is another $42 Trillion + that is expected to move from Baby Boomers to Generation X.  Added together or alone, these transfers present a high level of risk for financial advisors/firms to lose assets. An estimated $30 Trillion of this total of $59 Trillion is expected to shift in the next 30 years.  During the peak of the wealth transfers taking place (between 2031 to 2045) it’s estimated that 10% of the Country’s wealth will change hands every 5 years.

Where’s the risk?

Estimates vary based a lot on wealth and income but most studies indicate that too few families (less than 35%) have discussed estate planning with their primary financial advisor. Why don’t more families take the time to discuss and prepare? Certainly, the myth of estate planning only being for the wealthy continues to prevail but so does procrastination and the ‘discomfort” of the topic generally.

At the same time, why are financial advisors not more actively engaging with clients & their heirs about estate planning matters? Some evidence suggests that most advisors happen to be Baby boomers themselves and feel that they lack effective ways to both reach out to the children & grandchildren of their clients and engage proactively with clients to establish multi generational wealth transfer plans. That’s not good (!) Estate planning discussions provide great value to clients, their families and financial advisors.

Engage/Do Good/Enhance Value/Retain

Research shows that at least 60% of inter generational wealth loss is caused by poor communication and a lack of trust within the family. Encouraging clients to talk with their family members about their expectations and values before the estate planning process begins is a meaningful way to provide value. We’ve written about the idea of Ethical wills over and above traditional will planning in other posts on this blog. (We provide a place for both in LegacyTracker)

Coordinating family meetings provides a great way for advisors to introduce themselves to the next generation and show that they care. Clients appreciate an advisor that cares and demonstrates customer advocacy on a regular basis & so will the families of those clients.   By offering a technology solution that helps clients simplify, safeguard and share their important financial, legal and estate information, financial advisors and firms can demonstrate customer advocacy to the entire family. Being organized will make a real difference for an entire family in enhancing their level of emergency preparedness.  Our branded solution can ease the potential burden on a family should an emergency arise; reducing the risk of additional grief, delay or cost that often comes when families are unprepared.

LegacyTracker can also help facilitate important discussions between both Advisors & Clients as well as between Clients & their family members about important estate planning matters including final wishes. Such discussions will enable Clients and their families to more proactively prepare for the next generation & and will enable financial advisors and their firms to show additional value.

That’s a core mission behind LegacyTracker –  providing a way for Financial Advisors/Firms to reach out to their Clients/Families which also helps those Financial Advisors/Firms to ultimately hold on to assets that might otherwise move. LegacyTracker is also a technology solution that will have particular appeal to younger clients or family members who are on the look out for a technology to make their lives less complex & more mobile.

Preparing for What If Scenarios

An earlier post from Brighter Life  asked  Can you imagine what would happen if you died and your beneficiaries didn’t know where to find your will?  Or your money?

That’s a much feared.. What If Scenario ..dying unprepared, without your beneficiaries knowing where to find your will or your money…Unfortunately, that kind of scenario  happens far too frequently, leaving loved ones and beneficiaries with additional stress, grief and expense often.

What If?

The article quoted well-known financial advisor Jim Yih, author of the personal finance blog, retirehappyblog.ca 

“You really love your family and friends, so take the time to get your estate organized so you don’t leave them with a big mess to sort through during such an emotional time “

The article pointed out the following 12 key documents which should be safely stored together in a place where they can easily be found:

  1. Your will: Outlining who gets what when you die and appointing guardians for minor children. Dying without a will, may lead to a family disaster with assets being divided according to provincial law & minor children ending up with the guardian that you may not approve of.
  2.  A living will: Outlining treatment should you be unable to make decisions about your own health (like receiving life-sustaining treatments).
  3.  A power of attorney: Providing someone you trust with the power to make financial decisions for you in the event you’re no longer able to do so, as opposed to the Courts deciding upon who that guardian should be.
  4.  Proof of ownership: All of those documents that relate to important assets like your house, land, vehicles, stocks and any other assets.
  5. 6 years of tax returns: Providing your executor a sense of the assets and finances that are part of your estate.
  6. A list of bank accounts and safety deposit boxes: To avoid the risk of your bank accounts being added to the 1.3 million accounts that make up $465 Million in the Bank of Canada,
  7.  Stock certificates and savings bonds: Investment account statements and & any actual stock certificates
  8.  Pension, retirement and annuity documents: Without these documents, your family may be unable to determine what remains of your retirement benefits that they may be eligible to receive.
  9.  Insurance policies: All insurance-related documents are vital for claiming insurance benefits. At this point in time in Canada particularly, no one is going to look for beneficiaries even if the policy owner might be 125 years old
  10.  A list of your debts and loans: Another list that will help ensure family won’t end up with unwanted or nasty surprises down the road
  11.  Marriage licence and/or divorce papers: Legal proof of marriage and divorce can make it easier for the executor of your estate and for your family.
  12.  Your user names and passwords: Digital assets relating to social media and online accounts are now critically important to most estates.

LegacyTracker includes comprehensive but flexible templates to take care of this chore and includes all of the above documents plus quite a few more. Life is Busy. Our mission is to help you better simplify, safeguard & share your important details for the benefit of you and your loved ones.

Learn more by contacting us

Digital Assets – in Life and in Death

In our increasingly digital world, digital assets are adding up…the average digital user (like you) has an estimated $35,000 in digital assets 

Digital assets include purchased movies, music, games, digital photos, communications and social media profiles including blogs like this. Many of these digital accounts can be subject to complicated terms of service agreements, which can make it frustrating or impossible for  loved ones to access. Depending on where you live, such terms of service agreements might even put loved ones in legal trouble related to anti-hacking or privacy statutes, if they try to log on to your accounts after you die.

 

Estate Plans for Digital Assets are becoming more critical 

That’s why it’s important to include detailed directions and information about your digital assets into your estate plan and save those instructions somewhere safe (LegacyTracker provides a spot for that)

An estimated 30M Facebook users died in the first 8 years of Facebook alone 

A good visual guide about what happens to your social media profiles after death comes by way of Dan Shaffer at WebpageFX

The world is changing and this guide is not a definitive answer in all cases. Clearly, Different Sites / Different Rules / Different Data & Different Documentation is accumulated & required after death of you or a loved one.

Here’s some more Facebook Trivia:  with 1 billion users already using Facebook, in the unlikely event that growth stopped on Facebook completely, it’s estimated that the number of deceased users would outnumber those living by 2065. If Facebook continues to grow and memorialized accounts are never removed, then deceased users will exceed living users by 2130.

LegacyTracker can help you organize & safeguard important information about your digital assets -in life and death 

Digital Assets and Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about the what and why of LegacyTracker

LegacyTracker essentially ? A branded online solution that helps Users organize their personal financial & estate records in order to become more empowered with their own information

Longer Description:  A web-based personal financial management (PFM) & organizing tool that helps individuals and families bring all of their important information & documents  together simply and securely, allowing them to better track progress towards financial goals, be more proactive about financial/estate planning & be better prepared for an emergency.  As a branded offering, LegacyTracker provides an opportunity for Organizations to build more valued relationships with their clients, account holders, employees or members.

LegacyTracker Screenshot

Our Mission:

We are on a mission to help individuals & families simplify, safeguard, share & succeed  by

  1. Reducing the risk that users will become separated from their hard-earned financial assets
  2. Helping users GET OUT from under their paperwork so they can engage in more proactive financial & estate planning
  3. Ensuring that users are better prepared for WHAT IF situations
  4. Helping users facilitate important conversations with family & advisors about estate planning  issues

We think that organizations offering our web-based & branded personal financial/estate organizing solution to clients, account holders, employees or members is a WIN/WIN opportunity. Get in touch and connect with us to learn more: info@legacytracker.com

2 Words best describe the need for a Power of Attorney

2 words about why you need a Power of Attorney – Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem POA

The dispute involving the famous but sadly ailing LA radio host, Casey Kasem provides clear evidence of the need for a power of attorney. Mr. Kasem is 82 and is suffering from a form of dementia (Lewy Body Disease) as well as Parkinson’s. His family meanwhile, has been embroiled in a very public ‘spat’ over his care which has included complaints by his 3 children from a prior marriage, that his current wife of 34 years has been denying access to them.

Last year, those children had filed a petition of conservatorship (or power of attorney) to gain control of their father’s health. But a judge denied the request.They claimed that his current wife, Jean Kasem, who had been in control of his medical care had also controlled access to him and had isolated him from his family and his friends.

Late last month, one of his daughters was appointed his temporary conservator after Mr. Kasem was reported missing. He was found 3 days later in Washington state. He is currently being treated in a Washington Hospital where he is in critical condition and the battle between his family about how best to treat Mr. Kasem is ongoing. While both his children and his current wife appear to have Mr. Kasem’s best interests in mind; they disagree about how he should be treated medically.

In Canada, power of Attorney is provincially legislated and enables someone either designated legally or by a court to become a substitute decision maker AFTER a person becomes incapacitated. While a power of attorney is the term used when an individual is appointed by that individual to act on their behalf; the term guardian is used when an individual is appointed by the court.

A power of attorney is quite different from a will. Some would argue it’s more important as it enables someone to look after your interests while you are still alive but incapacitated. It can also be more complicated. A person can be incapable of making one kind of decision but not for making a different kind of decision and sometimes that can change depending on whether or not capacity is diminishing or not. A power of attorney for property versus personal care can be different and responsibility can be provided to the same individual or different individuals.

With reference to Mr. Kasem’s case, In Ontario, one of the statutory obligations for someone acting as a power of attorney is to facilitate supportive relationships, they cannot deny access to relatives just because they don’t like them.

In all cases, it’s important to choose someone who you know to be trustworthy and capable who can take on such important responsibilities. It’s also important to document a power of attorney properly and to ensure that the document is available when needed.

We have included a place for safeguarding your power of attorney inside LegacyTracker and by doing so; we hope there is a better chance that you will attend to this important task if you haven’t already. And if you don’t have one yet and live in Ontario Canada, you can download a Power of Attorney Kit from the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website

POA Kit Ontario

Power of Attorney and Living Wills FAQ Ontario

What if funeral planning became more like party planning ?

Would more of us talk about Final wishes & Funerals ?

Party Planning or Funeral PlanningFunerals are changing

The Toronto Starrecently ran a good article on Funeral planning that we thought was well worth sharing. Actually the Star has run a good series of articles on Death & Dying that are well worth a read. 

But one article stood out, as surprisingly more uplifting than the typical reading about this particular subject matter that often does not get spoken of (!) It was uplifting in a spirited way and that’s because the good news is that Traditional funerals are being transformed & that means the funeral industry is being transformed as well.

Traditional funerals are apparently on their deathbed 

Less of the 2 days of visitation variety, followed by an internment at the cemetery. Yes. that definitely sounds like my own Dad’s funeral, which for my family & I’m sure most, seems like more like an endurance test.

Some of that change is coming from consumers who are looking for more choice and less cost these days. cremations have certainly become more popular than burials (moving from just 4% in the 1970’s to 60% currently). Family members are looking to mourn less and celebrate more, the lives of those loved ones who have left, remembering in different ways which do not always include a traditional religious ceremony.

  • A wine and cheese instead of a traditional funeral ?
  • Ashes scattered across the Pacific Ocean instead of a traditional burial plot?
  • Body dealt with in the most inexpensive and environmentally friendly way

The cute lady pictured and quoted in the article, Margaret Adamson, 82 years young said it best “I feel whatever of me remains will be in the memories of my family and friends, and how the body is treated is not important to me. Once I’m gone”

 

Count me in. (Does my spouse follow this blog?)

 

Here’s the best part almost of this article being about more uplifting final wishes and funeral planning….It’s easier to print it or share it by sending it to someone you care about or who cares about you to start a conversation if one has not already begun. Too often, those kinds of conversations (like about estate planning, funerals, final wishes, WILLS etc.)  are delayed and that increases the risk that a conversation does not happen and more grief in the form of more stress and trying to guess occurs.  

You can read the entire article here 

LegacyTracker wants you to talk about your final wishes, plan for what if scenarios and share that information with your loved ones. We’ve included a spot for those plans and wishes right inside the Estate section of LegacyTracker

Live Well. Live Long.