To Kill a Mockingbird.

"I sure would. Atticus can't do anything...."
"You'd be surprised," said Miss Maudie. "There's life in him yet."

"What can he do?"
"Well, he can make somebody's will so airtight can't anybody meddle with it."

-taken from the Pulitzer prize winning novel by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee wrote into existence America's most beloved lawyer, Atticus Finch, in the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. He was a saintly crusader who fought for racial equality and stood up to his southern, small town's bigotry. Since To Kill a Mockingbird's publication in 1960, the novel has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and is a staple in American school curriculums. The woman behind the famously beloved characters such as Scout, Atticus Finch and Boo Radley was a bit of a mystery herself, though. Harper Lee was born April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama, and though her book has been widely acclaimed since it first came out, and made her a very wealthy woman, she abhorred the spotlight and was fiercely protective of her privacy. She rarely gave interviews and she had a penchant for keeping her personal affairs confidential.

Of course, this only made the public more interested in her, and when she died two years ago, the mystery surrounding her life and her work deepened. In February of this year, an Alabama court unsealed Ms. Lee's Will on the basis of a lawsuit filed by the New York Times seeking to review its contents arguing that Wills filed in probate court are typically public records, but it only left more unanswered questions. Her Will was signed February 11, 2016, only eight days prior to her death and left the bulk of her assets to be directed to a trust she had formed in 2011. Ms. Lee never married or had children, she lived much of her life with her sister, Alice Lee. Alice Lee was a partner at Barnett, Bugg, Lee and Carter Law Firm and practiced real estate and probate law until she was 100 years old! She was Harper Lee's legal and financial advisor, and most importantly, her protector for almost as long as she lived, which happened to be until she was 103 years old. Upon her death in 2014, one of her partners, Tonja B. Carter, took over handling Ms. Lee's affairs. When Harper Lee's Will was unsealed February 27th of this year, much to the chagrin of close friends and family, who felt it directly opposed her desire for privacy in life, it was revealed Ms. Carter was named the executor and gave her substantial control over the estate and her literary properties. The estate first claimed in court papers that making her Will public could lead to the potential harassment of the individuals identified within it. Then, however, as both sides prepared to depose witnesses, the estate, without disclosing its reasons, withdrew its opposition to making the Will public.

There has been much controversy surrounding the Will, given its strikingly opaque characteristics, and Ms. Carter herself. The Will is not uncommon and it is

typically referred to as a pour-over Will where anything in the estate goes over to the trust and trust documents are private. It's quite often done by people of notoriety, great means and individuals who simply want to be private. What we do know is that in 2011 Ms. Carter met with a Sotheby's expert, one of the world's largest brokers of fine art, real estate and collectibles, and it was during that meeting that the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman, Ms. Lee's second novel, was supposedly discovered. Ms. Carter claims she left the meeting early and didn't know of the manuscript's existence until 2014, but others that were present say she saw what they did. It is rumored that Ms. Carter had been sitting on the secret discovery until the time of Ms. Lee's sister's death. Strangely, it was then published in July of 2015 as a sequel to Mockingbird. Many though, have speculated that Watchman, written in 1957, was merely a rough draft to the novel everyone has come to know and love as To Kill a Mockingbird. In Go Set a Watchman, Atticus is an aging racist which is a 180-degree turnabout from the Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee once said, in one of her final interviews in 1964: "I think the thing I most deplore about American Writing...is lack of craftsmanship. It comes right down to this- the lack of absolute love for language, the lack of sitting down and working a good idea into a gem of an idea." Could it be that Go Set a Watchman was a good idea, and To Kill a Mockingbird was transformed through sitting down and working it into a gem of an idea?

Some have claimed Ms. Carter has amassed too much power over Ms. Lee's career and legacy. As personal representative of the estate, Ms. Carter has been provided with wide-ranging powers to shepherd Ms. Lee's literary legacy and the rest of her assets. Curiously, Ms. Lee said for much of her lifetime, she would never publish another book again, and in 2007 she suffered a stroke. When she signed away the copyright in 2013, she was nearly blind and deaf. Skepticism about how cognate she was during her final years continues to grow. During Harper Lee's lifetime she took pains to protect her intellectual property and often scorned attempts to commercialize her novel. She once sued a local museum for selling "Mockingbird" themed t-shirts and trinkets. She complained about tourists who lingered in her front yard and was irritated when they came in vans. She was fiercely private, refused interviews, hated being in the spotlight, and yet, at the end of her life at the age of 89, from an assisted living facility, published a "sequel" to her one and only book and had signed away the copyrights. The publication of her second novel pitted her longtime friends against her lawyer, agent and publisher, as those who knew her best doubted she had really approved of the publication. Within the first week of its publication by HarperCollins it sold more than 1.1 million copies, making it the fastest-selling book in company history, and also generating the kind of spectacle Ms. Lee loathed.

Ms. Carter is seen by some as a schemer who is entitled to compensation for her work as the Will allows the personal representative to earn additional fees as part of an organization that does work for the estate, who took advantage of an elderly and aging

stroke victim, while others still, view her as Ms. Lee's staunchest protector. Ms. Carter helps to run a nonprofit, the Mockingbird Company, created in 2015, that puts on a dramatization of To Kill a Mockingbird in Monroeville once a year. There are also plans for a Broadway production this year, and a graphic novel, approved by Ms. Lee's estate, that will be published in the fall. There are also plans for the Harper Lee Trail, which local officials hope will attract hundreds of thousands of tourists a year to Monroeville. Planned attractions also include a museum and replications of characters' houses from To Kill a Mockingbird. How this all would sit with Harper Lee, were she still alive, will now forever remain unknown. Ms. Carter served as one of the two trustees, to the Mockingbird Trust, she is the executor to the Will, she helps to run the nonprofit, the Mockingbird Company, and has been a long-time friend and acquaintance to the Lee family. Despite the controversy and rumors that have been swirling around this interesting case since its start, hopefully Ms. Carter is truly making decisions for her now deceased friend and client in a way she deems appropriate, based on what she knew Harper Lee wanted in life. As huge fans of the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and lawyers ourselves, like Alice Lee, and Atticus Finch, this particular news piece, first ran by The New York Times, could not have fascinated us more here at Layman, D'Atri and Associates, LLC. It also encouraged us to re-iterate once again, the massive importance of choosing the right individuals to fill the key roles of your estate plan. If this interested you and you would like to know more about your own personal estate planning, we can be reached at our office at 330-493-8833.

 

Millennials

The millennial generation seems to constantly get a bad rap. They are perpetually trending online and in the news for one ignorant reason to the next. They are picked on for being lazy, entitled, moochers, they eat laundry detergent, they film their every single move from sun-up to sun-down on their phones, they have a collection of participation awards and trophies gathering dust at their parent's houses, where they supposedly still live, and they are obsessed with avocado toast. So goes the narrative, millennials are drowning in debt and aren't putting anything away for their futures. However, a recent survey released by Bank of America contradicts the most prevalent stereotypes about millennials, the study shows that one in six has at least $100,000 saved!

Bank of America asked people in the U.S about their relationship with money for the bank's Better Money Habits Millennial Report. Those surveyed were split evenly between older millennials, ages 28-37, and younger millennials, ages 23-27. One in six surveyed reported that their total savings, including money in checking and savings accounts, IRAs, 401Ks, and other retirement and investments accounts was $100,000 or greater. The Bank concluded that the survey's results showed that millennials are actually learning to be financially responsible faster than other generations. That is wonderful news and is quite commendable that so many young people are thinking about their futures. There are though, other studies and surveys being done about millennials and their lifestyle choices, that could impact their growing wealth. Marriage rates among this generation are plummeting. They are saying no to traditional marriage in record numbers. The median age for first time marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men. A recent Urban Institute report predicted an unprecedented number of millennials will stay unmarried through age 40! According to yet another report released by the Pew Research Center, a whopping 25% of millennials are likely to never be married. How do these statistics relate, and how is it relevant to end-of life planning?

Millennials are generally what society would deem "young", and young people tend to want to ignore their own mortality. It's unpleasant, and for the most part, young people like to fantasize that Death reaps the elderly during a peaceful night's sleep. Realistically speaking, however, it's wise to admit that tragedy can strike at any time, and Death is impartial to age. According to a Caring.com survey, a full 64% of people who are taking care of minor children have no end-of-life plans in place. It can be surmised then, that parents of children under the age of 18 are in the millennial generation. While this generation is rapidly saving money, making smart financial investments, and learning fiscal responsibility, they still have a few things to learn in fully planning for their futures. If a young person dies, without having had the foresight to make arrangements for their unexpected demise, there can be serious, severe consequences. In the event of an illness, or an accident, if there is no estate plan in place, minor

children will be left in the hands of the state. The state of their residence will decide what happens to their kids, instead of those choices being made by the parents. The fact, too, that so many millennials are opting not to get married can have dire repercussions for live-in partners, if one were to pass away suddenly. Without specifying where their assets are to go, after death, they would be inherited by the next-of-kin. If that is a sister who has always disapproved of the deceased individual's girlfriend, for example, she could choose to leave the surviving life partner with nothing.

While millennials are building wealth, and living untraditional lives with partners, ie: foregoing marriage and trail blazing, like never before, they still seem to be forgetting bad luck happens, and if they fail to plan ahead, the assets they have accrued thus far, and the loved ones they live with, who don't legally have claim to it, can be left literally without a roof over their heads. Layman, D'Atri and Associates, LLC would love to be at the forefront of helping the millennial generation continue to defy the negative stereotypes they've been labeled with and assist with any end-of-life plans they may need. Estate Planning is for everyone, young and old. Perhaps one stereotype about millennials holds up: they seem to like to make their own choices in life, and they live by their own rules. One way or another, after their death, their assets will be distributed, with or without their previously decided upon plans. It will be the court's decision who gets their assets, who will get guardianship of their children and who will take care of the logistics of their estate if they continue to ignore the possibility of their own mortality. Building wealth is important, and millennials are proving they understand that, but protecting it, is just as important, and deciding now, before it's too late, end-of-life plans that reflect their personal choices, is another step towards the financial responsibility they clearly possess.

The Altruistic After-Life Plan

The calendar for March shows several different holidays ranging from Purim, a Jewish holiday, to Earth Day, International Women's Day, and Palm Sunday, a holiday observed by Christians. With all of these religious and environmental and social rights holidays right around the corner, let's discuss altruistic options for after-life planning. Did you know upon your death you can leave your assets and estate to a charity or church? If in life, you were passionate about the conservation of Humpback Whales, you can leave something to a valid organization that specializes in the protection of the whales once you've died. You also have the option of leaving your assets to your church and making them the beneficiary to your trust. If you are someone who will not be leaving behind any living relatives, but does possess ardent beliefs this could be a great choice for you. It's selfless and you can go in peace, knowing that even in death, you will be making an impact for the greater good of all.

You can choose any number of charitable organizations to be on the receiving end of your final donation. You can either arrange for the charity to inherit a lump sum outright or you can outline a plan in which your decided upon charity or charities gets set yearly amounts indefinitely or for a period of years. Not only does this provide a good cause with the means to make a difference, gifts to charities are exempt from federal wealth transfer taxes, and income taxes. Once you've decided upon a charitable organization or religious group that means a lot to you, all there is left to do is have your estate written by a lawyer who will see to it that your final wishes are carried out. Layman, D'Atri and Associates, LLC can also help guide you to choose the most tax efficient assets to fund your charitable gift. At the time of your death, everything will then go to your local women's shelter, for example, or the synagogue you attended weekly your entire life. There is something so sentimental about leaving an inheritance to an organization that you believed in while you were alive, and the monetary donation is of great benefit, but the confidence in the cause is really just as impactful.

This compassionate after-life plan does not only apply to those who are survived by no one. You can split your assets up between your spouse and children and also leave something to philanthropy. In this way, you not only provide for your family, but you also see to it that one of your final actions in life is helping others. The money you leave behind may be what spurs on a new children's wing at the hospital or you may be aiding in the protection of a certain endangered species. You will have left behind a meaningful legacy for your family, but also the world as a whole. As humans, our goal should be to leave this world in better conditions than it was when we entered it, and through the expertise of Layman D'Atri and Associates, you can be a part of something bigger. Whether you want to assist in saving the rainforest, providing battered women with clothing and shelter, or sending aid to victims of war-torn countries, your decision is important and significant. This law firm is passionate about your goals, we share your

optimism for a better world, and we want to be a helpful guide in your quest to give back. If you are considering allocating any of your assets to charity, please call Layman D'Atri and Associates, LLC at 330-493-8833, and we can work together on the betterment of the world. May this month bring you many blessings no matter how you celebrate its days.

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.