Have you ever experienced the frustration of forgetting a password or login information for one of your online accounts? The process to regain access to your account can be maddening. Now, think about what your loved one might experience if they need to gain access to your accounts after your death. Would they know where to begin? Have you provided a trusted friend or family member with a list of your digital accounts and passwords, or at the very least, provided them with the location of where that information is stored?
In today’s digital age, you must remember access information for not only social media and consumer sites, but also highly sensitive accounts with banks, investment firms, accounting and tax services, and credit card companies. By creating a digital asset plan, you can create a quick reference source of login and password information for yourself, and help your family locate and access your accounts should they need to do so after your death.
How should you create a digital plan?
1. First, create a digital inventory. Your inventory may look something like this:
• An itemized list of computing hardware, such as personal computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices. It is a good idea to reference the location of each item, the corresponding operational manuals, and warranty information.
• List all data that is stored electronically. Detail whether that information is stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device. This data might include family genealogy, health records, photos, personal and business contact information, educational and military service information, etc.
• List online accounts, such as email, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage.
• List domain names you own and expiration/renewal dates for the same.
If you grew up in rural America, it’s a pretty safe bet to say you know a farm or ranch family who experienced a bitter argument after the parents passed away while the farm/ranch assets were being divided. Perhaps you were even one of the unfortunate family members caught up in the turmoil because Mom and Dad never found time to do estate planning, or just couldn’t decide on a method to transition the farm/ranch operation to the next generation.
If you own a farm or ranch, would like to keep the operation in your family for future generations, AND desire to preserve family relationships, now is the time to form a solid succession plan. A good succession plan takes time and isn’t without emotion and compromise, but the result can provide a future for your family and ensure your operation transfers to the next generation with as few problems as possible. Succession planning is a complex matter but here is a brief synopsis of three common succession options we see:
1. Farming heir purchases farm assets from parents as they reach retirement age. The proceeds are incorporated into the parents’ estate, with the intent to share those proceeds with the children upon their death. Drawbacks to this approach may include the requirement that the farming heir have access to large amounts of money or credit to complete the purchase. (Too much debt may financially cripple the farming heir if he/she does not have adequate collateral prior to the sale.) Also, the parents’ will have capital gains tax on the proceeds from the sale. Both of these could be lessened by the parents financing the sale. Keep in mind that should one or both of the parents require multiple years of nursing home care, some or all of this income could be required for their care, leaving little to nothing for their heirs after death.
2. Farming heir purchases farm assets from estate after both parents pass. The drawbacks to this option are very similar to the first option. The farming heir must have access to large sums of money or credit and if the parents required extended nursing home care and received Medicaid, the heirs may be required to sell farm property at public auction to pay Medicaid debt. The upside here is that since the assets would have received a step-up in basis at the parents’ death, the selling heirs will not have to pay capital gains tax.
If the task of helping your parents coordinate medical services, home repairs, caregivers, and legal and financial consultants has fallen to you, below is some important information you might need.
As your parents’ physical and/or mental health declines, they may require skilled nursing home care. If this is necessary, you will need to be aware of your parents’ financial information to determine if they will have enough to pay for their care versus if you will need State assistance. Similarly, you should have a comprehensive knowledge of their medical needs and treatments to ensure adequate health services will be provided to your parents. If your parents are agreeable, begin to accumulate this information now before you are faced with an emergency nursing home admission or a death. Gathering this information while your parents are alive and able to advise you on the location of assets, names of advisers, etc. will save you countless headaches - trust us!
What’s the easiest way to gather this information? Your parents can most easily assemble the necessary documents and contact information, if they are in good health and willing. If they struggle with their health or organizational skills, they could legally appoint you to serve as an immediate Power of Attorney for their financial and health care matters, to help them with this process. These Powers of Attorney would allow you to communicate with any business or health care agent working with your parents even if your parents still have capacity. You could also make decisions on their behalf, should that become necessary. As a legally appointed Power of Attorney, you can pay their bills, sign contracts, make investments, etc… Be aware, however, with this power comes greater legal responsibility. Your decisions must be beneficial to your parents and be in keeping with their standard practices. You will be held to a higher standard by the Court if it is determined that you acted against your parents’ best interests.
So, you and your significant other want to get married? Congratulations! Because a marriage is a legally binding contract, you need to be aware of your legal rights and obligations before saying “I do”. Most couples, in addition to the actual marriage contract, will enter into multiple other contracts while planning the wedding event of their dreams. To help your wedding day and marriage run more smoothly, we’ve assembled a few ideas for you to consider:
• Get written contracts with vendors. Early in the planning process, you will likely arrange for vendors to supply your venue and reception needs. Vendors can include bridal or tuxedo stores, photographers, bakers, reception halls, musicians, caterers, florists, security, clergy, wedding coordinators, printers, travel agencies, etc. Make sure you obtain written contracts from each vendor specifically stating what they will supply for you and the price, including details of when and where everything will transpire. The written contract should be obtained at the time you make a payment. Failure to have a written contract can lead to unimaginable stress and disappointment at your wedding.
• You will need a marriage license. Contact the Clerk of the District Court at your county courthouse to fill out the required paperwork at least a week prior to your wedding date to ensure all the proper documents are completed in time for your ceremony. In Kansas, once you make an application for the marriage license, there is a 3-day waiting period before you can pick up the actual license required for your marriage ceremony. You also will need to provide identification and pay a fee. After the ceremony, both spouses, the officiant and two witnesses must sign the marriage certificate. Either you or your officiant must record the signed marriage certificate with the state to make the marriage legally official. If you plan to change your name, you should inquire about this procedure at this time.
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