In this Issue:
Focusing on Details: Personal & Tangible Property
When planning your estate, it’s easy to focus on the big items like bank accounts and homes. Too often, people don’t think about how to divide the parts of their estate that carry the most memories – tangible objects with sentimental value. Read more...
Protecting Your Online Presence After Death
It’s no secret that social media has become part of daily life. Social media keeps us connected to friends, family, and even public figures. But what happens to our online presence when we’re gone? Read more...
When planning your estate, it’s easy to focus on the big items like bank accounts and homes.
Too often, people don’t think about how to divide the parts of their estate that carry the most memories – tangible objects with sentimental value. These include jewelry, cars, furniture, clothes, photos, art, antiques, and even collections like coins or stamps. These personal items, not always expensive but sentimentally irreplaceable, can cause the most conflict after a loved one passes.
Here are some tips to help you minimize or avoid these disputes.
- Talk to your family. Leaving sentimental gifts doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Sit down with your family members and talk to them about items with which they feel connected. In many cases, if family discussed who wants what in advance, they would find that somebody wants a specific item more than the others do and avoid a fight. After a loss, however, families are often emotional and stressed, and communication can be hard. Ask them what items make them think of your or of good times. If more than one person feels a connection to an object, see if you can compromise or work it out in advance.
- Write a tangible personal property memorandum. Naming out many specific bequests for your personal property can quickly make a trust/will burdensome. A personal property memorandum to instruct your executor how to distribute personal property not named in your will or trust can be a convenient option. A memorandum is a separate document that can be changed at any time. It directs your executor how to distribute certain personal properties in your estate. One big advantage to a memorandum is you don’t need to execute a new will or change your trust if you want to make a change. If you get a new piece of jewelry that you want to go to a granddaughter or change your mind about who gets your watch, you can easily make those changes and avoid the cost of amending your trust or will.
Planning ahead and focusing on the details can go a long way to helping your family through an already difficult time. Though their monetary value may not seem like much, the items you leave behind are often those that family most strongly associate with your memory. If you would like to include a tangible personal property memorandum as part of your estate plan, please feel free to reach out to our office.
It’s no secret that social media has become part of daily life. Social media keeps us connected to friends, family, and even public figures. People go online to play games with strangers and interact with the world. Even if you don’t, nearly everybody has email. But what happens to our online presence when we’re gone? Though we aren’t there to post updates, our accounts will still be active. People can still view our past photos, tag us in theirs, or mention us in passing. And sometimes there can be value in our online presence. Planning what happens to our digital assets and social media accounts is a new part of an estate plan.
There are some benefits to planning for your online presence:
Preserve Memories. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram save photographs of our lives, but privacy measures can make them hard to access. Making sure that your account is accessible can keep photos, videos, and conversations available for loved ones.
Manage Online Assets or Property. People keep money online like never before. One study showed that American consumers on average kept over $54,000 in digital assets, including entertainment and games. Purchases in online games can have real world value otherwise lost after your passing. Passing on your accounts and passwords can help your family use your virtual assets, cancel subscriptions, and even manage cryptocurrencies.
Decide How You Want to be Remembered. Some sites will let you turn a passed loved one’s account into a memorial where people can view photos and leave best wishes. Facebook and Instagram both have options to turn your media space into a memorial so friends and family can remember your life. You can even leave messages for your connections, who may not otherwise hear from you. Others may not want their online presence to linger. Whether for personal reasons or a concern for online security, making sure your accounts are deleted can be an important part of protecting your online legacy.
Whatever your reasons are, you can make it easy for your loved ones to follow your wishes for your online presence. Make sure you leave a list of your online assets, including usernames, passwords, and PIN numbers, to a named successor. Make sure you leave detailed instructions explaining how you want your successor to manage your online presence. If you don’t, your family may not know where to start, and could lose something valuable. Just like traditional estate planning, the more you do now to put things in order, the easier it will be for your family later.