Estate planning has come a long way since the days of the guys in pinstripe suits and gold pocket watches. In a world that has become more digitally-oriented, it is important to take this factor into account when doing some pre-planning for the inevitable end of the line.
Digital estate planning is something that more Americans are becoming aware of due to the fact that an increasing amount of personal and business assets are now held in virtual formats rather than paper. When one thinks about the implications of this in terms of needing to have a clear picture of an estate’s true holdings, it is easy to see why even the best planned estate that was laid out a decade or so in the past is now seriously obsolete and in need of major upgrades.
Since everyone has online accounts of one form or another, and all of them are protected by differing passwords due to their varying password requirements, the estate planning game has changed.
It’s important to note that having access, and having legal permission are two separate issues. A modern digital estate plan therefore needs to designate not only all of the online components, but also extend legal permission to some chosen person to get into those accounts and perhaps make changes—such as altering passwords to prevent other parties who may have had some informal sort of access while the decedent was still alive.
It is also important to consider the possibility of having what are in effect both a personal, and a professional executor. One may not want certain people to be looking into a lifetime of unguarded social media and e-mail posts even though they are well-qualified to handle all of the financial aspects of the situation.
Any one who is interested in getting their affairs organized should certainly proceed in a rational progression of events. The first necessity is to accumulate all of your data into a single place where it can be quickly and easily located upon passing away. Don’t forget to set up at least one backup location, as well as building a final fail-safe in the form of assembling hard copies that can be used to reconstruct the estate in the event of some form of digital failure taking place. This information must be kept updated diligently, or else it will not be of much more use than doing nothing at all.
The next step is one of empowerment. Many digital assets are very fast-paced in nature. As a result, an executor needs to be properly designated and provided with all of the information that will allow them to take charge immediately. This can help prevent catastrophic losses while information is being assembled. The old phrase “Internet Time” is not heard much anymore but it is very valid in this case. Blink and you’re dead—or at least the value of your estate might be. Make sure your executor can keep their eyes on the objective.
The final step is to provide crystal clear guidance. The purpose of an executor is to carry out your final wishes, so far as is legally or humanly possible. They can’t do much if they don’t know what those wishes are. So remember that the key to any estate, digital or otherwise, is to concentrate, designate, and clearly instruct.
We understand that rapid advancements in technology have made things more difficult and confusing for some folks. We urge you to contact one of our estate planning attorneys in Corona, or Orange County for further information on making arrangements for your digital assets.
Policy and politics are frequently adversarial even though they are supposed to be allies. It is certainly the case when one looks at the current deliberations on the proposed repeal of the estate tax. This repeal has been a sturdy plank in Republican Party platforms for many years and, in truth, the estate tax has been whittled away for more than four decades to the point where the current plan is estimated to only encompass some 5,500 households in 2017, down from about 140,000 in 1977.
While one might wonder what all the fuss is about over such a small number of taxpayers, the problem is that previous alterations to the estate tax structure mean that the remainder are all extremely wealthy taxpayers holding a substantial amount of wealth. In short, the decision to entirely abolish or just change the threshold on the estate tax involves a lot of tax revenue that will have to be replaced in some other fashion.
With Congressional and Senate Democrats reduced to jeering spectators on enactment of this issue, the battle is largely between the competing visions of the Republican caucus in the Senate and its counterpart in the House. The House version of the tax reform package opts for a total and final repeal of the estate tax while the Senate plan is for raising the threshold at which the tax kicks in from $11 million to $22 million per couple, thus leaving the door open to future tinkering– which is the primary objection emanating from certain segments of the House membership.
These are people who are not as worried about the money as they are about the ideological connotations of the exercise. Yet that ideological purity to what has long been announced as bedrock Republican principles makes many others uneasy at the potential political dangers that come from being charged with taxing the little guy in order to provide yet another advantage to the rich.
Given the need to reconcile the two competing proposals, it seems likely that the tactically-smarter Senate version is likely to prevail over the ideologically-purer House plan. The Republicans have struggled to establish a balance point that will hopefully please their donors, appease their base, and fight off the budgetary shortfall the plan creates in some way that does not risk their own personal popularity back home. Meanwhile, the Democratic members in opposition are taking careful notes as to who voted for what and curating soundbites for use in the 2018 round of election commercials.
What is really getting lost in all of this political maneuvering on both sides is any sense of what is truly good for the country. As far as our estate planning attorneys in Orange County can tell, all factions on all sides seem bent on using the estate tax issue against their political foes even at the expense of inflicting damage on a great many of their constituents.
The Republican leadership hopes to get this issue behind them and move on to more popular items on the agenda in time for the 2018 campaign season. On the other hand, Democratic chances of making gains rest upon the hope that the public will not be amused by GOP calculations about whether it is good to give a tax cut to all of the richest families in America or just to a portion of them.
It is clearly in their own interest to keep reminding the American people of this. By extrapolation, it also means that they will be in favor of obstructing any more popular measures in the current Congress so as to hang this one significant reform firmly around the necks of their political opponents in a way that the voters cannot mistake and will not forget.
Beyond destroying brain cells and robbing patients of their identity, thinking abilities and memories, Alzheimer’s disease kills more people than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Worse still, the Alzheimer’s Association says that deaths attributed to this disease have increased nearly 90% since 2000. This means that Alzheimer’s disease is increasingly wreaking havoc on families across America, as well as the country’s healthcare system, with senior citizens being particularly vulnerable to the disease. Unfortunately, there is currently no effective cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led by Prof. Li-Huei Tsai have made a remarkable breakthrough in understanding the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, albeit in mice models of the disease (5XFAD mice). Using unique visual simulation, Prof. Li-Huei Tsai and her team were able to reduce toxic beta-amyloid and gamma levels in mice subjects. Below is some more information on this potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
An Overview of Alzheimer’s Disease
According to recent research, Alzheimer’s disease occurs when a type of potentially toxic protein called amyloid beta destroys brain cells, leading to a decrease in brain gamma rhythm in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is crucial to memory formation and retrival. Brain gamma waves usually oscillate with a frequency of between 25 and 100 Hz. However, their optimum amplitude is 40 Hz. Amyloid beta protein lowers this frequency by preventing proper neuron synchronization in the brain, leading to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, high levels of amyloid beta eventually form plaques that kill neurons in the hippocampus, causing memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Although Alzheimer’s disease affects all age groups, it mainly affects the elderly.
Prof. Tsai’s Light Therapy Research
The accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain causes Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers. This means that, to prevent or cure the disease, physicians would need to cut the levels of amyloid beta protein in a patient’s brain. Fortunately, Prof. Tsai and her team were able to do that in mice models of the disease using a treatment approach that relies on a biological technique called optogenetics, which involves the use of light to manipulate cells in living tissues. In this particular study, the researchers were able to cut the amyloid beta levels in the brains of genetically engineered Alzheimer’s mice (5XFAD mice) by nearly half simply by exposing the mice to LED lights that flickered with a frequency of 40 Hz.
The light stimulation caused the mice to produce microglia cells, thereby boosting their brain immune systems. The microglia cells enabled the mice to clear the amyloid beta protein from their brains, restoring their gamma rhythms to optimum levels. It is important to note that the duration of light stimulated varied depending on the severity of the disease. Specifically, mice in the early stages of the disease showed significant improvements after only one hour of light stimulation, but the effects of the treatment wore off within 24 hours. Older mice with toxic levels of amyloid beta plaques, on the other hand, require several days of light treatment to show similar results.
The researchers also noted that, in addition to lowering the levels of amyloid beta protein in the brain, gamma oscillations also reduce the levels of abnormally modified Tau protein, another hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other Studies on Light Therapy on Humans
Prof. Tsai is now among a number of researchers whose studies into light therapy for Alzheimer’s disease have produced positive findings. Other studies on this topic that have produced positive results include a study by Burns and Byrne, which is published in the British Medical Journal, and a 2008 study by a Dutch research group.
Our estate planning attorneys watch closely for any breakthroughs that will help to combat this devastating disease. If you have come across articles regarding new research or treatment methods, please feel free to forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can feature them in our blog and help raise awareness.