We all have at least some social media accounts and digital assets in this digital age we live in. We have amassed an enormous collection of music, eBooks, photos, and videos. Especially with iTunes, we have downloaded hundreds and thousands of songs. In February 2013, Apple announced that it hit a milestone in sales - 25 billion songs had been downloaded. But can we give away our iTunes to someone else after we die or anytime? Each provider has their own terms and conditions so it’s best to review its policy to see whether our downloads are transferable or not. Here is an example of the terms from Apple iTunes.
A friend once told me she has over 9,000 iTunes songs and was very concerned about what she can do with her songs if she passes away (“Because that was a lot of money spent!” she says). Can we transfer iTunes to someone when we pass away? The legal answer is no. The Terms and Conditions specify that:
“The Mac App Store Products and App Store Products (collectively, “App Store Product(s)”) made available through the Mac App Store Service and App Store Service (collectively, “App Store Service(s)”) are licensed, not sold, to you.” (http://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/itunes/us/terms.html)
When we purchase a song on iTunes, according to the iTunes Terms and Conditions, we are given a license to use the song under certain restrictions, but we do not own a copy of it outright. In other words, we are just buying the right to listen to the song, but we do not actually own the song.The Terms and Conditions then state that a person “may not rent, lease, lend, sell, transfer, redistribute or sublicense the Licensed Application….” This means that we cannot let our friends, family, or beneficiaries use your iTunes music collection. The
Many people may assume that once they have an estate plan in place, they feel that there is nothing left to do and put it aside, locked in their safe deposit box. But what was a proper plan then may no longer be appropriate.
A plan should be revisited every 3-5 years, or more frequently if there are changes in the law or your life circumstances. Doing nothing could have significant consequences.
Here are some factors to consider:
Changes in the Law: The law is always evolving. Changes in the law could significantly impact your estate plan.
Change in your marital status: If you have a birth, marriage, divorce or death in the family, you may want to review your estate plan and see if you need to make changes and minimize any risk of conflict. If you have been divorced, then you should update your estate plan to make sure that your former spouse is removed as beneficiary and fiduciary.
Change in financial status: If you received an inheritance or won the lottery, you should review your estate plan to see if your estate will be taxable. Receiving different assets could require a different approach to your estate plan to minimize taxes.
Changes in the Beneficiaries or Fiduciaries: You may want to update your estate plan if you want to add or take someone out as a beneficiary. Additionally, if you had minor children when you had set up your estate plan, you may consider whether they are ready to serve as your fiduciaries (successor trustees, health care agent, power of attorney, etc.). Has your fiduciary moved or is he or she still qualified to serve as your fiduciary? Will the changes affect your goals and your estate plan?
Moving to a new state: Different states have different legal requirements. It’s best to have a new set of documents that would meet your new state’s legal requirements. It may sound tedious after spending much effort and money on the previous estate plan, but you have done most of the work already and preparing new documents may be very simple.
Make sure to review your estate plan every three to five years even if there are no life changes. There may be little or no changes that need to be made, but when there are, ignoring these changes could be costly.
In 2013, Congress and President Obama passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act making the laws governing federal estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation-skipping transfer taxes permanent for 2013 and beyond (adjusting for inflation for the years after 2011).
The IRS recently released the inflation adjustments for 2014, increasing several federal gift tax annual exclusion amounts and the lifetime gift, estate and generation skipping tax exemption totals. For 2014, the lifetime exclusion from federal gift or estate taxes increases from $5,250,000 to $5,340,000 per person. This means that if a person passes away in 2014 and their estate is equal to or less than $5,340,000, their estate does not have to pay federal estate taxes (considering he or she did not make any gifts during his or her lifetime). But use of any portion of this exclusion amount during one's life reduces the total availability for giving at death. Each state may still impose their own estate tax. California, however, is one of the states that does not impose an estate tax.
The chart below reflects how the federal estate tax has increased since 2010.
Year Amount Excluded Maximum Tax Rate
2010 Repealed N/A
2011 $5,000,000 35%
2012 $5,120,000 35%
2013 $5,250,000 40%
2014 $5,340,000 40%
Additionally, the annual gift tax exclusion will remain the same at $14,000 per donor per donee. This means that each year, a person can gift to another person the maximum amount of $14,000 without any gift tax liability. A married couple can gift up to double that amount. Some exempt gifts include medical expenses, payment of tuition, charitable donations and gifts between spouses.
About the Author
Christine Chung, Esq.