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Estate Planners Must Understand Online Assets

A significant part of estate planning in the 21st Century is managing digital information. In the old days, estate planners could go through the paperwork on somebody’s desk upon their death or simply wait for the mail to bring all of the final statements.

Those days have passed. Many people planning their estates today keep track of more accounts digitally than they do with paper. This means people planning their estates must provide passwords and a thorough list of all digital assets.

Passwords can be tricky. Most professional estate planners do not want to be responsible for the passwords of the living. If someone hacked into a client’s account, there would be no way to prove where the hacker got the information. Some estate planning attorneys suggest keeping a list of digital accounts and the passwords to those accounts in a home safe or a safe deposit box. If the passwords change, then it is imperative to change the notes stored in the safe.

The range of information stored digitally will continue to grow. From professional photographs and manuscripts to domain names and other online documents, people have a great number of assets stored electronically now. Managing that information is important so that value and wealth is not lost.

An estate planner needs a comprehensive list of assets and liabilities stored digitally because he or she will need to know what potential value and liability exists and where it is. A fiduciary will need the correct power of attorney to administer the estate and find the passwords to access the digital information.

Estate planners look at passwords as keys. For example, they do not need the keys to a client’s car in order to execute a will, but they need to know where the keys are kept.

Many times, survivors are unaware of the assets and liabilities stored in the computer of the deceased. Trade secrets or other sensitive information could be left on a computer and donated. If that computer is compromised, then the estate could be liable for the information left on the computer. Likewise, a survivor might not know about domain names registered by the deceased that would be instantly valuable to a buyer.

People putting together an estate plan must disclose the estimated value of the information they have stored digitally. Estate planners may not know what to look for if the client does not outline all of the assets. This will help the fiduciary manage the estate accurately.

It is important to hire an attorney with estate planning experience. Today’s tech-savvy clients should look for estate planning attorneys who understand the challenges to planning in a digital world.

Shiobhan Olivero is the Owner and President of Olivero Law If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit Brandonlawoffice.com.

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 at 9:45 pm under News and Press.
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Bankruptcy Still an Option as Florida Mediation Program Fails

The Florida Supreme Court recently abandoned its efforts at a statewide mediation program for residential foreclosure cases. Lack of participation and low rates of loan modification meant the program was seen as unsuccessful.

“It is not a shock that the courts decided to do away with this program,” said Tampa bankruptcy attorney Reginald Osenton. “There are a lot of people who would rather walk away from their house than sit across the table from a banker.”

The program’s goal was to address the large number of foreclosures stacking up in the Florida courts by looking for other options for borrowers who were no longer able to pay for their homes. But since fewer than half of delinquent borrowers ever responded to the mediation efforts and only about a third of those who responded went through with the program, it had a low rate of success.

“There are still good options for people who want to go through mediation. There are still some lenders who are willing to listen,” Osenton said. “Bankruptcy can be an option that will put a family back on the right track.”

There were many reasons the state program did not survive. Many homeowners who stopped paying their mortgage moved away and dropped off of the radar. Other delinquent borrowers may have already worked out a deal with their lender. Still more borrowers may have simply stopped looking at the mail or answering the phone under a crush of bills.

“Talking to a bankruptcy attorney ends up being one of the best decisions people make,” Osenton said.

To learn more visit, http://www.brandonlawoffice.com.

Posted on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 at 9:26 pm under News and Press.
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Careful Estate Planning an Imperative in Digital Age

Estate planners are noticing that their clients are becoming more technologically savvy and that means careful planning to ensure the online assets are as secure as what is in a safe.

Brandon estate planning lawyer Reginald Osenton reminds his clients to keep all of their passwords for their digital accounts in a safe place that his firm can find when the time comes.

“There is so much information stored not just on our clients’ computers but also in the cloud under our clients’ names,” Osenton said. “It is critical that we work closely and frequently with our clients so that we know exactly what their digital world looks like so that we can take proper take care of it when they pass.”

Careful estate planning means a thorough understanding of what each client has on their computer that can be considered an asset or a liability.

“Many clients do not think about the information that they have stored as being part of their estate, but it truly is,” Osenton said. “There may be things on a computer that could leave the estate liable if the family gives the machine away and it is found by the wrong entity. There are photos and intellectual property that should be considered assets of the estate.”

Osenton said it is important to hire an attorney with experience in estate planning in a digital world because they are going to know the right questions to ask and the right places to look to protect the estate.

“It is important to do frequent check ups with an estate planner to update the plan to include any new accounts or passwords that will be seen as valuable to the estate,” he said.

To learn more visit, http://www.brandonlawoffice.com.

Posted on Saturday, February 11th, 2012 at 9:42 pm under News and Press.
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Florida Courts Dump Struggling Foreclosure Mediation Program

Florida’s statewide mediation program for residential foreclosure cases did not survive 2011. In less than three years, the program that some hoped would address the crushing number of foreclosures in the state produced a dismal record of helping people or solving problems.

In dumping the program, Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady wrote, “The Court has reviewed the reports on the program and determined it cannot justify continuation of the program.”

A statewide report produced in January 2011 showed barely six percent of homeowners engaged in the mediation program were able to resolve their mortgage problems, according to the Palm Beach Post. The state study revealed that mediators were able to contact borrowers referred to them by the courts less than half of the time. Among those contacted, barely a third bothered to come in for a session.

There are 20 Circuit Courts in the state. Only seven of those courts were included in the report. Some had not been using the program long enough to have results that could be studied.

Mediation experts told the Palm Beach Post that many borrowers may have ignored the solicitation from court mediators because they already had a deal worked out with their lender. Other borrowers may not have replied because they were simply overwhelmed with letters and phone calls or they left town.

The mediation was paid for by the banks at $750 per case, but the borrower had to take foreclosure counseling and divulge all of their financial information. That proved to be a stumbling block for the program because many borrowers did not want the bank to know that much about their finances, according to the story in the Palm Beach Post.

Possible settlements through mediation included short sale, deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or, in a best-case scenario, a loan modification. By most accounts, the program failed to provide financial relief to homeowners and it struggled to move logjammed foreclosure cases through the system.

The chief justice’s order included a reiteration that the court’s job is “prompt and efficient administration of justice.” To that end, the order included language that said Circuit Court judges must “…adopt or employ any measures permitted by statute or court rule to manage pending and new residential mortgage foreclosure cases, including referral of cases to mediation on a case-by-case basis.”

The fate of the short-lived program had been known for months. According to the Miami Herald, a task force of judges recommended ending the program in October because of its poor success rate.

Shiobhan Olivero is the Owner and President of Olivero Law If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit Brandonlawoffice.com.

Posted on Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 at 9:43 pm under News and Press.
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