Dearest Readers, 

Love is a many splendored thing. It warms our hearts and makes us happy. Love puts us in a good mood and makes us apt to showering the object of our affections with gifts and poetry. People in love make grand declarations of devotion, promising to protect and cherish, always, those whose hearts have stolen their own. Valentine's Day is one such occasion meant for those in love to bestow upon each other lavish gifts and poems of passion. At the thought of romance, perhaps images of roses and chocolates are conjured in your head, but what if there was a way to not only declare a lifetime of loyalty, but to actually take action, ensuring your dear heart is forever taken care of? 

Many wedding vows speak to a love eternal, lasting up to and after death, and one way to present your spouse with physical proof of such a vow is in leaving them with an inheritance once you've passed on. Like the two sides of an enamored heart, two options in doing so are Outright Distributions and Irrevocable Trusts. Outright distribution leaves all your assets outright, to your surviving spouse. It's simple and easy, however there are a few downfalls to this method. Your assets can be used to cover claims against your spouse from lawsuits and bankruptcies, and though their heart will always go on, there is the possibility they remarry and then die, leaving behind new hubs or wifey, who may have a claim against your assets. In another situation, your surviving spouse could make everything joint with their new partner, which would disinherit all beneficiaries. 

The second method in leaving your dear heart something after you've gone on, is a plan called an Irrevocable Trust. T his one is not as common, but has the potential to be a more favorable after - life plan. Anyone can use this plan, you do not need a taxable estate, after all, love impacts the Prince and the Pauper, does it not? Basically, your hubby or wife is left with a n income to cover health, education and maintenance for the rest of their life. You can avoid probate with this plan, and they can be structured to minimize and defer estate taxes. You can also add in a provision that keeps your children from being disinhe rited. The assets are also protected from lawsuits and bankruptcies as well as creditors. Furthermore, this plan even protects your assets from remarriage and the threat of future divorce and death claims by a new spouse. With this plan you have also the p ower to stop any inheritance distributions to your surviving spouse if they do remarry, UNLESS the treacherous lout's new spouse signs a prenuptial agreement. All is fair in love and war. 

This Valentine's Day, and the whole month of February, we ask that you give your thoughts and considerations to what you will leave your darling sweetheart when death does part you. It is an incredibly considerate and loving gift to safeguard and protect your spouse succeeding your passing. You can honor the oaths you took at the altar in the most literal way by planning for your spouse's life after your own. If you would like to discuss any of your options in estate planning, or have any questions at all, regarding any kind of afterlife planning please call us here at Layman D'Atri and Associates, LLC at 330 - 493 - 8833. We aren't the florist, or the chocolate shop, we don't sell teddy bears or heart-shaped balloons, however we offer something much more profound and we can help you present your loved ones today with the gift of a lifetime, one that lasts beyond a lifetime, in fact. Happy Valentine's Day from us to you. 

Love, 

All of us here at Layman D'Atri and Associates, LLC 

 

Stranger than Fiction

There is a very popular British anthology series called Black Mirror which is now available on Netflix, and it explores and discusses the ways in which technology is changing the very social fabric of our lives, usually in a menacing and terrifying way. There is one episode in particular called Be Right Back in which the protagonist loses her husband in a tragic car accident and learns of a new service that allows people to stay in touch with deceased loved ones through their social media that had us thinking. Granted, the show itself is a modern-day take on the Twilight Zone, and usually portrays a society in the far-off future who have abused technology and each installment shows the subsequent disastrous results. Each story taps into the collective unease about the modern world in which we live and the sometimes-horrifying issues that present themselves in regards to an ever-growing civilization that resides online. While Black Mirror is purely fictional, and the episode Be Right Back is nowhere near present day, it does beg the question: what happens to our social media presence when we die?

Our lives have become increasingly immortalized through our use of the internet and social media, and one of the major obstacles for fiduciaries and family members of a deceased person is the federal Stored Communications Act. For hundreds of years humans have had their ways of passing on and granting access to their physical belongings and assets. A new era is upon us though, and so many people keep intangible objects online. What happens to the contents of electronic communications and files once an individual has died? The Stored Communications Act creates privacy rights to protect said contents from disclosure by certain online user account service providers. If the Act applies, the service provider is prohibited from disclosing information in the online account to the fiduciaries unless an exception to the Act is met. In short, your family cannot access your social media accounts and emails unless you have provided express, written consent for them to do so. The in-house attorneys for the likes of Facebook, Google, and Yahoo! have adamantly insisted they will not turn over the contents of a deceased user's online accounts unless the user previously provided written consent.

However, it seems only logical that the personal representatives of a deceased individual can and should gain legal access through lawful consent on behalf of the departed user. Having to battle Facebook for your loved one's messages on top of the many other responsibilities usually placed on the shoulders of a fiduciary seems like a nightmarish saga right out of the Twilight Zone. In a much less fantastic sense, like the show Black Mirror, we are exploring uncharted waters concerning how technology and the internet impacts our lives, and our deaths. As recently as October of 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts saw the first ever case in the country, Ajemian v. Yahoo!, to answer the specific question of whether the personal representative of a deceased individual may grant lawful consent on behalf of the deceased individual, for purposes of the federal Stored Communications Act. The court's opinion states, " We conclude that the personal representatives may provide lawful consent on the descendant's behalf to release the contents of the Yahoo email account." However, as the

court's opinion points out, even though the lawful consent exception under the Act can be met by a personal representative, that alone does not require the service provider to divulge the contents of a departed user's electronic communications. The Act states that they may provide the contents if an exception is met, and that is where state laws such as the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Act comes into play. This Act provides clear state law procedures for fiduciaries to follow in order to request access to or disclosure of online accounts and digital assets.

For now, it appears the easiest way around all of this is to plan ahead and provide written consent so that your family members can gain access to your social media accounts and emails upon your passing. The state of Ohio actually adopted a version of the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digitial Act last April, and Layman D'Atri and Associates, LLC has incorporated the power to deal with digital assets in our Powers of Attorney, Will and Trusts. It doesn't just entail your family being able to read over your private messages sent on Facebook, but also having access to your email where you may have paid bills, received important documents electronically as well as numerous other significant electronic papers and contracts. For now, we will let television shows ruminate on our future as a society heavily dependent on technology and the internet, and we will worry only about what we can do now to make your end-of-life planning easier, therefor making it easier too, on your family members and fiduciaries. It's an interesting time for estate planning, and even more fascinating still, to see where new laws go regarding the social media footprint we leave behind. For more updates like this, and any other questions you may have about estate planning, call us at Layman, D'Atri and Associates, LLC, 330-493-8833.

"Et Tu, Brute"

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“Et Tu, Brute?” Three short Latin words, with heavy meaning behind them. The phrase translated means, “and you, Brutus?” and it’s a famous, or rather infamous line from William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Roman dictator Julius Caesar utters his shock, and his last words, to his dear friend Marcus Junius Brutus as he is assassinated by the last person on earth he ever fathomed to betray him. He is stabbed in the back, literally in this case, by his closest companion. The phrase is used now to signify when someone you love unexpectedly double crosses you. It’s really hard to imagine someone you care about forsaking you at your most vulnerable hour, when there is no one left but those whom you’ve entrusted everything to. Unfortunately, this does happen, and though it’s a heinous thought, and a place we don’t want to ever go in our minds, it’s wise to expect the best, but prepare for the worst. No one should ever be a victim to the cold treachery felt by Caesar in his last moments.

A more modern, but just as utterly despicable, case of betrayal is the case of Janet and William Powers from Fort Myers, Florida. They bought a home in the city where their son was living with the agreed upon expectations that when they could no longer live independently they would move into the mother-in-law suite and they would comfortably live out their remaining years. The couple assigned their son power of attorney and gave him access to their finances. He sold their previous home and the $72,000 dollars was supposed to be used to remodel the mother-in-law suite at the new house, and was meant to be a final income for the parents. Court documents filed with the Lee County Court tell a different story.

The elderly couple’s son, Ryan Powers, wasted away the $72,000 along with his mother’s social security to buy pizza, rent movies and pay his cell phone bill! Not only that, but he left both parents in a nursing home and refused to pay the bill! The disloyalty and deception didn’t end there. When his father died, Ryan Powers neglected to pay the funeral home and he left his dad’s body to rot, unclaimed for 90 days. His body finally was picked up by Lee County and he was cremated at taxpayer expense. Thankfully there was some justice served, and Ryan was found guilty of four first-degree counts of exploitation involving an elderly person. He was sentenced to 20 years in state prison.

The story of the Powers family is a cautionary tale. Janet and William entrusted their money, their safety and their lives into the hands of their own flesh and blood and were still discarded like trash and robbed. When deciding upon a power of attorney, you obviously rule out non-relatives, you rule out anyone who has had past issues with finances, anyone who may hold a grudge against you or even someone else in your family, but, just to be safe, it’s wise to examine even those closest to you. It’s hard to tell what evil some may harbor in their hearts, but if there is even an inkling of doubt, it may be safer to assign such an important job to someone else. It is absolutely imperative you plan out your last days thoughtfully in order to avoid the Judas Kiss, instead, spending your time in comfort, knowing you’re in safe hands. At Layman, D’Atri and Associates, LLC we make it our job to ensure none of our clients ever wind up in a situation such as the case of the Powers, a true Shakespearean tragedy. 

For more information please visit our website, or give us a call. www.laymandatri.com 330-493-8833

Be prepared for whatever life throws your way

We have all seen the movies centering on a death; a sobbing, grieving widow, bereaved children and an attorney sit in an office. Before us, on the silver screen, the drama over the estate, and the inheritance ensue, tearing the family apart. While these types of movies might entertain us, leaving your own family with such a dilemma is not a pleasant thought. Estate planning may seem morbid, or perhaps uncomfortable to one that is blessed enough to currently be in excellent physical health, but it is actually one of the greatest gifts you can do and give to your children, or whomever you leave behind that loved you. One of the ways you can alleviate the pain, before leaving your family behind, is considering a power of attorney.

     In the tragic event you become ill, or incapacitated in any way, and you did not happen to plan ahead by assigning a power of attorney, your family and loved ones are left to decide major decisions for you, either medically or financially. In good times, most families get along wonderfully, they can easily agree upon things together as a unit, but sadly, in situations rife with stress, grief, and despair, it is sometimes difficult to think critically and clearly. That is where your power of attorney comes in, and relieves the doubt brought on by debilitating illness or worse.

     Choosing a POA is a daunting and important task. There are medical POAs and there are financial POAs. You can choose to use the same person for both, or you can decide to assign two separate people to each job. Your medical POA will, when the time comes, if it comes, make medical decisions for you if you cannot on your own. Your financial POA will be in charge of your money, allocating it where they deem fit, based, of course, on your best interests. That is why, when choosing, it is best not to assign anyone who may have had financial struggles of their own in the past. Nor should you plan on a POA who may hold any sort of grudge against any one of your family members.

     If your medical POA and your financial POA are two different people, it is a good idea to pick individuals who will manage to get along and be able and willing to work together. Sometimes your medical POA may need your financial POA to sign documents and disperse money owed on doctor’s bills. While all these arrangements may seem overwhelming, we here at Laymen D’Atri and Associates strive to make everything as easy and comfortable as possible. We can help to ensure, no matter what, you will be in the loving hands of those who have your best interests at heart and will be capable of making the right decisions for you. At any time, anything can happen. For the sake of your family, and your own sake, isn’t it wise to be prepared for whatever life throws your way? We think so, and we would be happy to assist in the various routes you can take to protect both you and your loved ones. Luckily life is not like the movies, we seek to be grounded in reality, and the reality is, looking out for what matters most is our utmost priority here at Laymen D’Atri and Associates.

Contact Us Today!

At Layman D'Atri & Associates, we are devoted to working with our clients to help them determine their long-term personal financial goals. We also work with our clients in building their estate assets with a view to minimizing tax liabilities. Protecting wealth for your loved ones and yourself is equally important to us, that is why we are here to help you.  We focus on a broad range of integrated and comprehensive personal services for the firm’s individual clients, families, and businesses. Contact us today and we will help you take the first step to something bigger.