Famous food critic Anthony Bourdain’s fortune, initially reported at $16 million, is being probated in New York at $1.2 million. This could be just misreported information, but often travelers like himself will have offshore assets that will not be probated in America.
In addition to his cash and tangible assets, most of which was left to his daughter, he left his frequent flyer miles to his wife. Not all frequent flyer programs will allow miles to be passed on, but if you travel as often, or even a tenth as often as Anthony Bourdain, this is another area to consider when making an estate plan.
Everything changes in time, including what we have and who we want to give it to. Changing your will is not overly complicated, but it is important to do it the right way. There are a few ways to do it.
Add a codicil to your will
A codicil is an addendum that adds to or changes the terms of your will. Like a will, the document must be witnessed by two uninterested witnesses. It should be kept with your will, and you should let some trusted people know where it is and that it exists.
Rewrite your will
Since most wills are short documents, rewriting a will can also be done relatively quickly and simply, as long as all of the legal requirements of writing a will are met. The old will should be phyiscally destroyed, and the new will takes its place.
It is a brave new world of digital assets. Instead of trekking to a rental store for physical media, now we merely boot up our computer, turn on our television, or flick on our phone to access digital assets in libraries with more content than our local rental store could ever hold.
Our photos fill digital albums, and so does our music and our correspondence.
When someone passes away now, we can’t sort through their memories (the music and movies that spoke to them, the photos they kept, the letters they wrote) without access.
Getting access and keeping access depends on where the assets are stored.
Facebook: Facebook allows users to add a legacy contact to their account. This person will be able to pin photos and change your picture after you pass away, but they won’t be able to post as you. A relative can also remove the account after you pass if you don’t want it online anymore.
iTunes and Amazon digital assets: Your iTunes music/videos and Kindle books are nontransferrable assets since they are only licensed. That means that when you pass away, nobody else gets to use them. If you want your loved ones to have access to these assets, you should write your passwords in a password manager or a secure location and give the information to your executor.
Google (Gmail, photos, etc.): Google has a tool called the “inactive account manager” which allows you to pass everything Google to someone if your account becomes inactive for a preset period. I use three months. It also allows you to send a final text message to the executor regarding the account.
If you have questions about setting any of this up, or other estate planning issues, contact Gotto Law today.
Earlier this week I wrote about how probate costs run into the tens of thousands even for homeowners that only have a condo. The family I met last week was understandably angry at the idea of probate. Why do you have to pay the government tens of thousands of dollars when you die just to give your house to your children? The answer is you don’t, but only with proper planning, and a will is usually not enough.
Why do I need to go through probate if I already have a will?
Because your will is just the start of the probate process.
First, the court has to examine your will to ensure that it is a valid will. Then, once it has determined it is valid, the court must appoint a personal representative to distribute the deceased’s assets. Someone, usually the executor or an attorney, has to:
publish notices and notify creditors
deduct costs of administration before distribution
transfer assets to beneficiaries
handle any pending lawsuits and claims against the estate
deal with any contests to the will
These all take time and money. The estate must cover the cost of Judges, clerks, lawyers, administrators, and all of the time and overhead associated with these people. These procedures are in place to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out to the fullest.
For the majority of cases where the heirs aren’t arguing about, or even thinking about, who will get what, these costs can seem like an unfair burden. Still, it is the price we pay to ensure that even the least among us has his or her wishes carried out.
Often, these costs are avoidable through proper estate planning. Rather than pay the tens of thousands later, and go through the lengthy probate process, you can increase the speed of distribution and decrease the costs by making plans well in advance.