It is a topic that is becoming more frequently discussed in the course of drawing up an estate plan: digital assets. What are digital assets? Well, that would be all of the things you keep on your computer, be it a home desktop or personal laptop. Pictures, videos, music and personal files, all of these can be considered digital assets. Beyond these, you may have an entire online persona that is password protected, including everything from an email account to a Facebook page. When a Michigan resident approaches estate planning, they should not forget to answer the question: what do I want to happen to all of this?
As many of our readers are probably aware by now, a recent Powerball lottery jackpot of $337 million went to a lucky winner in Michigan. With such a windfall coming to the winner, it is easy to image that the individual or group holding the winning ticket probably won't have to worry about money anymore. That is likely to be true in some respects, but with that type of money it is best to start making some plans on how to accommodate the associated changes into a normal life.
Although our Oakland County readers would have to be of a certain generation and have a certain musical taste to know who Adam Yauch was, some interesting news has developed in the wake of his recent and untimely death which could shed some light on key aspects of estate planning. Yauch was more popularly known as MCA, a founding member of the iconic and genre shattering group known as the Beastie Boys. The group's music developed an intense following beginning in the 1980's, and they became even more famous because they were some of the first Caucasian rappers to gain mainstream credibility. Mega-stars like Detroit native Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, have said that the Beastie Boys were a huge influence and inspiration to them.
When Michigan residents hear the term "estate plan," some may think of it as a legal term applying only to wealthy people. On the same token, people might think of an estate plan as a stack of documents that directs the distribution of enormous amounts of assets and property. However, what these same people may not know is that drawing up a document as simple as a will is the beginning of virtually every estate planning process.
Readers in Oakland County likely already realize that a will is a primary estate planning tool. A will can be the bedrock around which all other estate planning devices revolve. Wills are known for helping estate planners avoid intestacy and carefully designate how property should be distributed to heirs and beneficiaries.
Previous posts have mentioned that Michigan is one state making progress on the simplification of estate administration and distribution of assets. Estate administration is hard enough without having to work around complex state laws and requirements.
Oakland County residents may be familiar with the ongoing probate dispute over the estate of Rosa Parks, the well-known civil rights icon who died in 2005 with an estate valued at roughly $9 million.
Michigan residents may be aware of the challenges involved when a person inherits assets. For example, discussions of recent high-profile celebrity deaths often quickly turn to the question of who will raise the kids and get the millions. Most of these celebrities even had wills, but that does not necessarily prevent subsequent disputes over the content of those wills.
Readers in Michigan have likely heard about the untimely death of Whitney Houston. While the death of the great pop star is certainly a tragedy, it has served as a reminder to everyone, young and old, of the importance of a well-crafted estate plan.
Many Michigan residents may already have an estate plan which they believe is sufficient to their end-of-life wishes. But sometimes estate plans that seem water-tight are filled with tiny holes that can develop into larger ones. To take this holey metaphor further, the puncturing object in some estate plans may be technology itself.