Beneficiary Designation

Beneficiary Designations: Do you know where your money is going?

When you die, most of your property will be passed to your heirs according to your will or other estate planning documents (assuming you have contacted us first!).  However, if you happen to have a bank account, brokerage account, retirement account, annuity, 529 account or life insurance policy, which, let’s face it, nearly everyone does, these assets will be passed according to the beneficiary designation on file with the administrator of that account.  All too often, a beneficiary designation is a piece of paper filled out when an account is set up and is then quickly forgotten by the account owner.  This article by Bill Bischoff of Smartmoney.com examines how not reviewing beneficiary designations on a regular basis can lead to unintended, disastrous (and costly) results.

The moral of the story is that you should review your beneficiary designations at least once a year or whenever a significant life event (a birth, death, marriage or divorce are the most common) occurs.  Checking your beneficiary designations usually takes a few minutes and is an easy way to ensure that your estate planning goals are met.

For more information about beneficiary designations or to schedule an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys to review your estate plan, please contact our firm at (608) 837-7386.

Disclaimer:  Please note that reading and/or commenting on this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship with Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. absent an express agreement between the firm and the client.  Contacting Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. or any of its attorneys or employees via this website or via email does not create an attorney-client relationship.

We would be pleased to communicate with you by email. However, please note that if you communicate with us-through this website, via email, or otherwise-in connection with a matter for which we do not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential and may be disclosed to other persons..

Digital Assets – A New Frontier in Estate Planning

In their first year, every law student takes a class called Property in which these eager future lawyers learn, among other things, how real property (a/k/a real estate) can be passed on to future generations.  In later estate planning classes, law students come to learn the laws pertaining to “personal property” (a/k/a nearly everything else).  Personal property is further divided into tangible and intangible personal property.

Tangible personal property (cars, household furnishings, etc.) may be passed on to specific beneficiaries through an individual’s will and incorporated property list (as described in Wis. Stat. § 853.32(2)).  Intangible personal property (stocks, bonds, bank accounts, 401(k)s, etc.) is generally passed on, depending on the specific type, via a will, payable on death designation or beneficiary designation.

Until recently, these categories and mechanisms were sufficient to describe and guide lawyers in handling and disbursing of all of the property owned by an individual.  However, as described in this Wisconsin Lawyer article, a new category of quasi-property – so-called “Digital Assets” – has emerged and doesn’t quite fit into the current estate planning structure.

The article generally defines Digital Assets as “(1) any online account; and (2) any file stored on a person’s computer or on a server.”  Common digital assets include the following:

  • Email accounts;
  • Facebook accounts;
  • Digital photos (stored on an individual’s computer or with an online service like Picasa);
  • Websites, blogs or domain names;
  • Online sellers accounts (i.e., eBay or Amazon.com);
  • Paypal.com;
  • Online trading accounts;
  • Paid online subscriptions; and
  • Important computer files stored on an individual’s computer (i.e., bank account statements, tax records, etc.).

Under this definition almost everyone, whether they realize it or not, owns digital assets.  Obviously, similar to personal property, some Digital Assets will have monetary value (i.e., Paypal accounts and online trading accounts) and others will simply have sentimental value (i.e., digital photo albums and facebook accounts).  In either case, you will want these assets to end up in the hands of your desired beneficiary.  Attorneys at Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. have teamed up with the fine folks at Entrustet.com and are prepared to assist you with your digital estate planning needs.

For more information about Digital Assets or to schedule an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys, please contact our firm at (608) 837-7386.

Disclaimer:  Please note that reading and/or commenting on this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship with Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. absent an express agreement between the firm and the client.  Contacting Eustice, Laffey, Sebranek & Auby, S.C. or any of its attorneys or employees via this website or via email does not create an attorney-client relationship.

We would be pleased to communicate with you by email. However, please note that if you communicate with us-through this website, via email, or otherwise-in connection with a matter for which we do not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential and may be disclosed to other persons..