The rise of bitcoin as well as other virtual currencies associated with blockchain technology (known as cryptocurrencies) has created a number of new millionaires and raises new questions in the legal community when it comes to addressing cryptocurrencies in estate plans.

The Internal Revenue Service classifies cryptocurrencies as property for tax purposes, so owners of cryptocurrency may stipulate the disposition of their cryptocurrencies in their estate planning documents. However, the difficulty lies in determining how to enable the transfer of cryptocurrencies after the testator’s death without putting the security of the cryptocurrency holdings at risk during that person’s lifetime.

Cryptocurrencies are effectively bearer instruments that are accounted for in “wallets” on a decentralized blockchain. A cryptocurrency wallet is a software program that stores access credentials and interacts with blockchains to enable users to send and receive virtual currencies and monitor balances. Therefore, whoever knows a wallet’s access credentials (the private key) has access to the cryptocurrency in the wallet and can transfer the cryptocurrency to themselves. However, if no one knows a wallet’s access credentials, its contents are permanently lost, so it would be unable to be accessed by heirs after the wallet owner’s death.

An increasing number of our day-to-day activities are moving online. Whether financial, social, work, or leisure, all aspects of our lives have a growing presence on our computers or the internet. Because of this, smart estate planning should include addressing digital assets.

Historically, estate planning consisted primarily of physical and financial assets such as real estate, jewelry, collections, and other physical items – but today, digital assets also needed to be considered.

Planning for administration of digital assets poses unique challenges because online policies regarding this assets are constantly evolving. However, incorporating digital assets into your estate plan as well as setting up a regular process for updating this information are important to ensure your survivors can easily manage these assets and that your wishes for them are fulfilled.

Although nearly all would agree that safe nurse staffing ratios are important and necessary, long term care (LTC) facilities (also known as nursing homes) and skilled nursing facilities (SNF) seem forgotten in the rally for safe nurse-patient ratios on units.

Federal law has few requirements for nurse staffing in long term care facilities, and the federal standards haven’t changed in over 30 years when the Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 was implemented, requiring these facilities to have the following:

  • A registered nurse eight consecutive hours, seven days a week

If you are a would-be snowbird, it pays to do some financial planning before you take flight.

According to a study by Merrill Lynch, by age 61, many people say they are free to chose where they most want to live. More than a third of the retirees surveyed said that they have already moved and 27 percent anticipate doing so.

Before you start splitting time between two or more states, you have to consider which one you want to be your primary place of residence – also known as a domicile, says John J. Scroggin, an accredited estate planner and partner with Roswell, Georgia-based law firm Scroggin&Co.

Using DIY wills for estate planning can have unintended negative consequences according to Marguerite Lorenz, a writer for marketwatch.com. She reports having recently seen a DIY service that had many typos on its website and that its estate planning “packages” had a document labeled with three different names. This service – like many other estate planning sites – has its own attorneys, but access to specific help for your personal documents is rarely available. If personal advice is offered, it then appears to cost a great deal to receive.

So which is better, DIY wills or an online professional? For people with complicated personal and financial lives, a do-it-yourself service might not fully address your complexities. If you do estate planning by yourself, you might never know the results of your work, but your loved ones will.

According to Lorenz, there are a lot of DIY options for completing your own estate plan, and they have been available almost as long as we have had the internet. With the ease and availability of these programs, you would think that more of us would have an up-to-date estate plan.

Most investors have one overriding goal: building a sum of money saved that can be used in the future (also known as a nest egg). But some investors who are talented and lucky focus on something else: passing their assets to their heirs.

It’s not as simple as leaving a list of accounts. Steps taken years before your death can help minimize taxes and headaches for those who inherit. The main issues for investors to consider for their heirs include family relationships, estate and gift taxes, insurances, Roth conversions, annuities, and record keeping.

Most small investors don’t need to worry about estate taxes these days, since the first $11.4 million per individual, and $22.8 per married couple, is exempt. Also, assets that are passed down to heirs while the investor is still alive are exempt from taxes below $15,000 per year per recipient.

When same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015, many legal issues that same-sex couples faced were ratified. But other areas, like estate planning, could still be problematic.

Elena Lidrbauch, certified elder law lawyer attorney at Hickman & Lowder Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, and Joy Savren, at Savren Legal in Cleveland, said that there are many ways estate planning could differ for same-sex couples – like how it relates to trusts, wills, healthcare, or power of attorney.

Both attorneys say that the biggest issue that same-sex couples could face is who would get custody of a child after a partner dies. Savren says that same-sex parents should be asking themselves questions when it comes to estate planning, like if they had children while married or before or if they had children from a previous marriage. Lidrbauch says that it comes down to whomever is the custodial parent. She says that before same-sex marriage was legalized, you couldn’t have same-sex parents listed on a birth certificate – it had to be one mother and one father.

What Makes a Will Valid?

Much of what we think we know about wills might be from dramatic media portrayal in movies, television, or books. However, these might not always show what is needed to make a valid will, especially when what makes a will valid can vary between states.

So, what exactly makes a will valid, and how can this vary?

In ten years, most middle-income American seniors will not be able to afford the rising cost of independent or assisted living.

A recent analysis in Health Affairs titled “The Forgotten Middle,” took a look at how middle-income seniors will be caught in the middle financially when it comes to long-term care – too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid or subsidized housing, but unable to afford the rising cost of independent or assisted living.

The researchers defined the middle-income group as Americans from the 41st to the 80th percentile in terms of financial resources, using data from the national Health and Retirement Study. They found that in a decade, 80 percent of middle-income seniors will have less than $60,000 a year in income and assets, not including equity in their homes. By conservative estimates, the cost of assisted living and out-of-pocket medical expenses for seniors will be $62,000.

A new smartphone app called “What’s Covered” was released in January to give Original Medicare beneficiaries an easier way to find out if medical items or services will be covered by the program.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is launching this app as part of their “eMedicare” initiative designed to strengthen Medicare and help those covered by the program make better health decisions by making information clearer and more easily accessible online. There is also a price comparison tool available online that is part of this initiative.

“What’s Covered” focuses on Original Medicare which includes part A hospitalization coverage, Part B outpatient coverage, and optional Part D drug coverage and Medigap supplemental coverage. About two thirds of Medicare beneficiaries have Original Medicare, while about a third have Medicare Advantage (Part C) which is provided by private companies that are contracted by the government.