Thursday, February 14, 2019

Trouble Don't Set Up Like Rain
Marcelle Harrison’s mother and step-father, both of whom were Barbadian immigrants, purchased a house in Boston in 1970 for $23K. Her mom died in 2009. Her step-father died without a will two years later.
Now, Harrison and her multi-generation family are being forced to leave the $1 million home because they are not the legal owners. Because her step-father died without a will, his closest living relatives, nieces and nephews who live in Barbados, will inherit his estate. A state representative who lives across the street said “It shocks the conscience to think that this low-income, Barbadian family could be displaced, really out of the blue.”
A few points, some of which I have made before:
1. The legal outcome is correct - under the statute of intestate succession, which applies when there is no will, Harrison has no claim on her step-father’s estate no matter how long he was married to her mother.
2. Thoughtful estate planning is important for everyone, but even more so for second marriages and blended families.
3. The local politician might find this outcome shocking, but I am not shocked that a Massachusetts politician would use identity politics to describe the problem while being ignorant of the law.



Photo Credit:  Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Feeling Low Cotton

Gerald Cotten ran QuadrigaCX, one of Canada’s largest crytopcurrency exchange companies.  Last month, the company announced that 30 year old Mr. Cotten died in early December of complications from Crohn’s Disease while building orphanages in India.  The company also announced that $140 million of cryptocurrency was unavailable because all of the currency was stored on a laptop that only he had access to and no one knew the password.   There is concern that the cryptocurrency will be locked on the laptop forever.  However, digital forensic experts have questioned whether the currency is actually on the laptop and whether it was moved previously.

One planning point, one investment point, and a lot of shade.

1. This is a classic instance of making sure that your heirs can access your digital accounts after your death.  I advise my clients to write down their passwords to prevent heirs from being locked out after death.

2. Cryptocurrency investments can be dangerous enough without trusting them to a twenty-something operating on a laptop out of his house in Nova Scotia.

3. Not to be a conspiracist, but I do question the legitimacy of reports of a young man dying of Crohn’s disease (mortality rate of 1%) while overseas doing charity work with the death reported a month later, and $140 million possibly missing and not simply locked on a computer.  Feel free to call me a cynic, though.


Photo Credit:  Benoit Tessier/Reuters
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Addressing the Scourge of Our Times

Newtown police chief, Tom Synan, was featured in a video on USA Today's site about his work on the front line combating opioid addiction and treating it as an illness and not as a crime. I am honored to call him a friend.



Photo Credit:  USA Today (actually it is from the video)
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Identity Theft?

Jeanne Calment has been considered the world's longest lived person since she died at the age of 122 in 1997. She allegedly smoked until she could not light a cigarette without assistance. Recently, a Russian gerontologist and a Russian mathematician have questioned her longevity and floated the theory that Calment stole her mother's identity for the purposed of avoiding French inheritance taxes in the 1930's. Their theory is that she did not look or act that old. The result would be that Calment was only 99 when she died.
Only three points:
1. I always enjoyed the part of Calment's bio where she sold her apartment when she was 90 to a man who agreed to pay her a monthly sum until she died. She outlived him by two years so he wound up paying 2X for the real estate.
2. Like many points of French governance, the estate tax laws are complicated. Nonetheless, the tax rates are not so confiscatory that compliance merits identity theft as a means of avoidance.
3. Is there any type of disinformation campaign that Russians will not engage in?


Photo Credit:  Reuters
Licnese:  Fair Use/Education

Happy New Year (Belated)

Best wishes for the new year. And no, Jack is not taller than me.  😀