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Estate Planning Issues in the 21st Century

The many advances in technology are playing an increasingly important role in asset planning. Innovations are shifting everything from how children are defined to how bank accounts are managed. As a result of these advances, it is important to consider the following when putting together an estate plan.

Defining Children

The legal definition for the term "children" has undergone many levels of evolution. Originally, many states refused to include illegitimate and adopted children as offspring in inheritance determinations. Now, in addition to including these family members many states are also enacting laws covering children born using artificial means.

Cryopreservation of genetic material for future family planning needs is becoming more common. The practice is often used by cancer patients before undergoing chemotherapy as well as people in high risk occupations like the military. The number of children born using these methods is on the rise, doubling over the last decade.

Although this issue will not affect every family, it is important to discuss the possibility while drafting a will. If the use of frozen genetic material may result in future offspring, it is important to provide specific language as to who qualifies as a child and receives an inheritance.

Internet Questions

In addition to reproductive advances, technology has shifted the way everyday tasks are completed. In this age of social media, Internet succession is an important consideration. It is important to include language stating whether beneficiaries can access online accounts after death.

This can allow loved ones to close Facebook and email accounts, or manage blogs as well as online financial and commercial sites. Designating a person to oversee these accounts can save loved ones future headaches, especially if bills are often paid online.

How to Prepare a Plan that Covers These Issues

The key to a successful estate plan is proper language and inclusion of the right provisions. Without a strong estate plan, confusion can lead to litigation - a financially and emotionally costly process for all involved. Many forms of litigation can be avoided by simply discussing these issues with your estate planner and ensuring they are addressed in your will.

Source: "E-mails and Embryos: 21st Century Estate Planning," Greater Lansing Business Monthly,

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