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October 2012 Archives

'The past is not dead:' Estate of author sues Hollywood director

Most people in the estate planning process probably aren't worried about their writings or their person being used as a character in a film. However, there is a case playing out right now which takes this exact idea, which would make an excellent premise for a movie, and shows how the property of an estate can continue to be protected long after the decedent is gone.

Estate planning on paper in the digital age

Many people have multiple online accounts -- bank accounts, social media, emails -- and attempt to keep the passwords completely private. However, in the case of an unexpected death, family members will be completely locked out of these accounts. Where paper bills would once have come through the mail, followed by late notices, paperless bill pay would be sending these alerts to the email of the deceased with no one to be aware of it. A few weeks ago, we blogged about digital assets in the form of iTunes accounts or e-libraries, which are important details to include in the estate planning process. However, the ability to pay bills and ensure that beneficiaries are able to access all of the data they may need.

Pennsylvania has laws specific to access to assets

If individuals die with limited assets, the state of Pennsylvania has laws specific to their estate situation in order to ease access to the estate for the family, rather than going through the process of raising an estate at the Office of Register of Wills. This can greatly ease the estate process for the families of deceased persons with small estates and specific assets who did not have a will.

Living trusts, probate and the estate planning process

Probate court is a legal proceeding, supervised by a judge, in order to validate a will. A will does not necessarily avoid the probate process, though it can obviously ease the process. The court appoints an executor to handle the affairs of the deceased, and this person is responsible for the identification and inventory of the estate's property, paying the debts and taxes on the estate, handing the heirs, and transferring the property to the beneficiaries. This requires the executor to be a highly trustworthy and responsible individual.

Estates and philanthropic donations

Sotheby's announced that an auction of the contents of Brooke Astor's two homes resulted in over $18.8 million. Astor is a noted philanthropist and was awarded the U.S.' highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1998. Her husband, Vincent Astor, left her his fortune, and charged her to "use it where it would do the most to alleviate human misery."

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