What Will Anderson Cooper Inherit From his Mother Gloria Vanderbilt?

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The 95-year-old Gloria Vanderbilt was “a vestige of another era, reminiscent of Brooke Astor in her longevity and tangible connection to the Gilded Age of railroad and oil barons, who left their mark on New York society,” said Trust Advisor in its recent article, “Does A Long Island Landscaper (And Not Anderson Cooper) Inherit Gloria Vanderbilt’s Fortune?”

However, unlike Brooke Astor, Vanderbilt was born in the limelight. Her long life started in the center of dynastic politics that got both messy and public. She and her trust fund became commodities in her parents’ divorce.

It’s reported that she had to sell off a few houses to pay the tax bills. Anything left behind is well-hidden in some estate planning documents. With her family fortune dwindling over time, Vanderbilt’s fashion empire came and went. However, the distributions kept coming to fill the holes. The old Vanderbilt fortune may be gone.

Her children and grandchildren built the careers they wanted, investing their inheritances into passion projects, with little or no immediate payday. Some are novelists, filmmakers, and TV journalists. Gloria built a fashion empire of her own.

As the baby, Anderson was closest to his mother. He has probably accumulated the most personal wealth after years on CNN, so he doesn’t need his mom’s money. Her oldest son Stan probably doesn’t need the money either.

Stan has a successful landscaping business in Long Island. Any Vanderbilt money he inherited along the way, is probably well invested.

There’s also a third son, Stan’s brother Chris. He walked out years ago and never really came back, at least publicly. It’s assumed that he was disinherited at the time. Now, no one is sure if Gloria wrote him out of the will. She may have written him back in. There was allegedly a bit of a thaw in the last few years.

But the moral of the story is, with a well-crafted estate plan, the public may (and likely should) never know what she left her children and in what amounts.

Reference: Trust Advisor (June 17, 2019) “Does A Long Island Landscaper (And Not Anderson Cooper) Inherit Gloria Vanderbilt’s Fortune?”

Cybercrime Causes Billions of Dollars of Losses

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On an average day, the FBI receives nearly 1,000 complaints of internet crimes. The FBI says that cybercrime is up by 91 percent over the last several years, and people over the age of 60 are frequently the targets of these rip-offs. Internet crimes increased by 17 percent in 2018 alone.

During that year, cybercrimes cost Americans over $2.7 billion. Imagine what positive things that money could have done in the pockets of seniors, instead of in the hands of the crooks. You could buy a lot of groceries, pay utility bills and purchase needed medications with that much money. With billions lost to cybercrime, seniors need to understand the magnitude of this growing criminal enterprise.

Types of Cybercrime

There is almost no limit to the ways con artists can take other people’s money online. Here are but a few examples of cybercrime:

  • Goods and services. This category includes when people pay for products or services online but never receive the items, or when people ship things to people who do not pay for them. More than 65,000 people filed complaints with the FBI for this type of theft in 2018.
  • More than 50,000 people were victims of extortion. A common tactic is that a virus gets into your computer. The crook threatens to destroy all the data on your computer, if you do not pay a ransom. Even after some people pay the ransom, their data gets erased.
  • Personal data breaches. More than 50,000 Americans had their personal data stolen. A common way this crime happens is that you enter your name, address, and credit card information into a form on a website to purchase something, only to find out later that the website was not a legitimate business. The crooks now have all the information they need to buy things using your credit card.
  • Compromised business email addresses accounted for nearly half of the total dollar value of cybercrime losses. When a crook hijacks your company’s email address, it can perpetrate frauds and tarnish your business reputation. The con artist sends out fake emails in the name of a high-level executive directing people to wire money to the crook, who is masquerading as the company official.
  • Investment scams cost Americans more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
  • People lost more than $360 million in confidence or romance frauds.

How Internet Crooks Find You

You do not have to use a computer to get ripped off by these crooks. Your cell phone, tablet, notebook, or any other internet-connected device can give thieves an open door to scam you.

What an Internet Crime Victim Should Do

You must act immediately when you suspect that someone has committed cybercrime against you or a loved one. Think of internet crime as an injury that causes massive bleeding. You have to stop the bleeding right away.

Contact your bank and credit cards at once. You should also put a fraud alert on your credit report to prevent the crooks from using your personal information to set up new accounts. Report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3). The FBI recently created a Domestic Recovery Asset Team as part of the IC3, to get money back for fraud victims. The FBI was able to recover around 75 percent of the money stolen from cybercrime victims in 2018.

References:

AARP. “Cybercrimes cost Americans $2.7 Billion in 2018.” (accessed May 15, 2019)

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/fbi-cybercrimes-increase.html

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Have You Prepared Your Family for Your Death?

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Napoleon Bonaparte said that most battles are won or lost in the preparation stage, long before the first shot is fired. Have you prepared your family for your death?

MarketWatch’s recent article, “Breaking the taboo: How to prepare your heirs for your death” says that when it comes to retirement, 60s are the new 50s!

This is a critical lesson when planning for your own death and the related issue of transitioning assets to your family. The majority of estates lose assets—as well as peace within the family—after a transition. That’s because the heirs were unprepared, they didn’t trust each other and communications fell apart.

The preparation of your death should involve making heirs aware of the location of all important estate planning documents and financial assets. They should also have the contact info of your financial professionals and attorney. They should understand how the parents want to deal with end of life and incapacity issues. These are some important questions that will help you see, if your heirs are prepared:

  • Do your children (and their spouses, if any) know your estate plan?
  • Is there a plan to provide certain information sooner and other information at a later time?
  • Has your family read your will/trust and other estate planning documents?
  • Does your family know the family’s net worth?
  • Are your heirs in communication with your attorney, accountant, insurance advisors, and investment advisor?

Family battles can easily happen when members don’t believe they’ve been given their fair share and weren’t part of the process. Although it’s important to treat family wealth as a private matter, it should not be private within the family. Good communication between parents and heirs can prevent many issues.

Attaining the optimal degree of knowledge-sharing and family involvement requires its own planning. Family values, as well as current and future goals, should be a part of the entire financial planning process. When done well, financial planning is about much more than investment management. The success of a family wealth transition plan depends on preparing the family for the transition of the family’s wealth and its values.

Reference: MarketWatch (March 7, 2019) “Breaking the taboo: How to prepare your heirs for your death”

What are the Top Four Estate Planning Mistakes Made by Celebrities?

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The Reno Gazette Journal gives us the top four estate planning mistakes by celebrities you need to avoid in the article, “Yes, even celebrities make estate planning mistakes.”

You don’t have a will. Your affairs should be properly handled, and your family should be protected, when you pass away. However, neither singers Aretha Franklin nor Amy Winehouse had a will. Franklin left behind four sons with some financial issues. Amy didn’t take the time to plan either. She didn’t say how she wanted her $6.7 million estate to be distributed. Without any written instructions, her estate went through probate and was distributed to her parents. The primary purposes of a will are to designate the guardians of minor children, an executor of your estate and which beneficiaries are to get what assets.

Not considering a trust. Who wants to be a celebrity when it comes to private matters? Remember that a will is a public document, and anyone can go to the courthouse and look it up. However, with a living trust, your wishes remain private. Learn from the saga of the late Whitney Houston, who died at age 48. First, her will named her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown as sole beneficiary. However, her daughter then died three years later at age 22. Houston’s estate was then involved in a battle with the IRS over the valuation of recording royalties and was assessed a tax bill of $2.2 million. To top it all off, her ex-husband Bobby Brown, ironically may be the heir of the Houston estate.

A living trust can help your estate plan remain private and away from others. It names who is entitled to your assets and how they are to get them. A trust names trustees. It also may provide estate tax benefits. If you look at Whitney Houston’s situation, a living trust may have helped by providing guidance to daughter Bobbi, after her mother’s death.

Failing to update your estate plan. We all experience changes throughout our lives. This includes finances, health, family dynamics and relationships—any one of these can mean it’s time for an estate plan review with your attorney. Look at the late Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park, who was diagnosed with throat cancer, when his sixth wife was pregnant. Crichton failed to update his estate plan to include his soon-to-arrive son. His wife sued to include the baby as an heir, and Crichton’s daughter from a prior marriage opposed. The judge ruled the baby could inherit. Crichton could have saved everyone a lot of stress, anguish, and money, by simply updating his estate planning documents.

Failing to plan for disability before death. You should also think about planning for the possibility of being disabled and needing assistance in managing your affairs. Ask your estate planning attorney about powers of attorney and living wills to help protect you and your loved ones, in case of incapacity. For example, the final years of blues singer Etta James, known for “At Last” and “Tell Mama,” were full of court hearings. The legal battle was between her husband of 42 years and her son from a prior marriage. Etta signed power of attorney over to the son in 2008, but her husband claimed that she suffered from dementia and was incompetent. Her son wanted to restrict the amount of money Etta’s husband spent on her medical care. They settled, and the husband was named as conservator. However, he was limited to $350,000 for medical care for his wife. Etta James passed a short while later.

These celebrity misfortunes with their estate planning don’t need to be a roadmap for you and your family. Talk with your estate planning attorney now.

Reference: Reno Gazette Journal (November 14, 2018) “Yes, even celebrities make estate planning mistakes”

Preparing to Settle Digital Estates

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Settling the estate of a loved family member or dear friend is a challenging and emotionally wearing process, reports The-Parallax in the article “How to settle your loved one’s digital estate.” If an estate plan is in place, some things are easier. However, even then, there are possessions to sort through, assets to distribute and many tasks that need to be done. Now, add digital assets to that list.

Most people know they need to do something, but few have a plan in place to direct their executor on how to handle their digital assets. Creating a digital will can make the process easier. That could include everything from a Facebook account to photos in the cloud.

This is still a relatively new part of our digital lives that you want to prepare for. The tendency is to do nothing because people don’t know where to start.  Therefore, here is an overview of the most popular digital platforms and their requirements. This is a rapidly changing area, so do the homework to make sure that these policies are still in place.

Amazon does not yet have an automated process in place to close a deceased person’s account.

Apple asks that the executor contact Apple Support. You’ll need to provide the user’s Apple ID, email address and a death certificate.

Facebook requires a special request and proof of the authority under local law that you are the representative of the deceased person or their estate. You’ll also need their birth certificate and death certificate. Facebook allows you to make an account a memorialized Facebook account, where content remains visible according to their privacy settings and friends can continue to post. Living individuals can appoint a legacy contact to manage their account.

Google requires the use of a form, verification that you are a relative or legal representative, a death certificate and additional documents. If you are preparing for your own death, you can use the Inactive Account Manager to share parts of your account data, appoint a trusted contact and notify someone, if their account has been inactive for a certain period of time.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, provides two options: remove it or memorialize it. Verified immediate family members can require that the account be closed with proof that you are an immediate family member, along with the decedent’s birth and death certificates.

Linked In has a form to request the closing of a user profile. You’ll need to provide the person’s profile URL, the date of death, a link to an obituary, the most recent employer, emails associated with the account and other information.

Twitter has a format requiring you to make a request and will send information required. However, Twitter will only work with immediate family members or those authorized to act on behalf of the estate.

These are just a few of the top platforms. They all have a process that requires verification of the identity of the requester and of the death of the decedent. Newer platforms pop up all the time and some have processes, while others do not for the death of an account holder.

This is still a relatively new area and will change as time goes on. Speak with your estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan includes addressing digital assets.

Reference: The-Parallax.com (Sep. 14, 2018) “How to settle your loved one’s digital estate”

How to Keep Your Personal Information from Scammers

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Seniors are frequent targets of scammers. Thousands of older Americans have lost their life savings to con artists. Victims are often astonished at how the crooks gathered so much personal data about them. The bad guys work full-time at devising new ways to steal your money right from under your nose. To help you know how to keep your personal information from scammers, here are the top six ways they get their hands on your details.

  • You throw out your mail without shredding it. Any mail you get that has your name and address on it (which is nearly everything that lands in your mailbox), any account numbers, or other personal data should not go into the trash in readable form. You can buy a shredder for $30 or less. You do not need an industrial-grade machine – just something that chops up the paper sufficiently.

Con artists are particularly fond of getting credit card offers out of the trash. They fill out a credit card in your name, but have it sent to the crook’s address. Those paper checks that your credit card company sends you with balance transfer offers, are pure gold to scammers. Shred them.

  • You post personal information on Facebook or other social media. Never post any personal details about yourself or your family on a public setting on Facebook. Better yet, do not post personal information at all on social media, regardless of the privacy setting. People are dumbfounded at how a con artist knew the names and ages of their grandchildren, the kind of pets they have and where they went on vacation. However, they posted it for the world to see on Facebook.
  • You fill out surveys. You cannot stay in a hotel or go out to eat, without someone wanting you to fill out a questionnaire about your experience. I’ll bet you did not know that many companies sell their survey data. Crooks can buy data to find out whether you own your home, how much annual income you get, the kind of car you drive and other survey details.
  • You send in warranty registration cards. It is rarely necessary to send in a warranty registration card to protect your rights in case a product fails. The registration cards are often a ruse to get personal information from you, like your total household income and your age. Companies sell that information, and you have no way of knowing who buys your personal data.
  • You enter contests. Companies reap massive benefits when they run contests. They cannot just give away prizes and money, without getting something in return. Many contests are a front for marketers to collect information about you and sell it on to others. At the very least, you could get pestering phone calls from telemarketers. However, if you are unlucky and a con artist buys your data, you could become a victim of identity theft or some other scam.
  • There has been a death in your family recently. Traditional obituaries provide a wealth of information for crooks, as they can construct a family tree from the information in most obits. Be extremely cautious about revealing relationships or other information about the family in an obituary. You can write a respectable piece, without feeding the con artists.

References:

AARP. “How Do Scammers Know So Much About Me? (accessed January 25, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/identity-mistakes.html