While the producers of the television show Jeopardy are trying to find a replacement to the late Alex Trebek (your writer is old enough to remember the original host Art Fleming), a popular category of the game show provides the title for this week’s collection of trusts and estates related news, Potpourri.

  1. What is an RMD and How Do I make a mistake with it? Happily for your writer, there is little need for a deep knowledge of the intricacies of qualified retirement plans, IRA accounts, income tax deferrals, and required minimum distributions when among my colleagues is an acknowledged master of the relevant arcana, Victor Finmann. Nonetheless, this headline caught my attention as someone in constant need of fresh content for this blog, “84% of Retirees Are Making This RMD Mistake.”

This recent article from Yahoo Finance discusses the RMD mistake most people are evidently making: Yahoofinance.com

From the article:

“An RMD [as in ‘required minimum distribution’ – there are severe income tax consequences for not taking them] is the minimum amount the government requires most retirees withdraw from their tax-advantaged retirement accounts at a certain age. In 2020, the RMD age was raised from 70.5 to 72. . .

“Retirees’ prudence surrounding withdrawals may be misguided, though.”

“The RMD approach has some clear shortcomings,” JPMorgan Chase’s Katherine Roy and Kelly Hahn wrote. “It does not generate income that supports retirees’ declining spending in today’s dollars, a behavior that we see occurs with age. In fact, the RMD approach tends to generate more income later in retirement and can even leave a sizable account balance at age 100.”

The article may be useful for retirees in planning their financial needs as they get even older. As always, consult a professional before making any decision.

  1. What happens to my digital data, music, and pictures when I die?

This recent article from AP News asks the increasingly important estate planning question: “Who gets the keys to your digital estate?” APnews.com

“In the past, your executor — the person entrusted with settling your estate after your death — probably could have figured out what you owned and owed by rummaging through the papers in your filing cabinet and the bills in your mail, notes Sharon Hartung, the author of two books for financial advisors, “Your Digital Undertaker” and “Digital Executor.” That’s no longer the case.

“Because our digital assets tend to be virtual in nature, an executor is not going to find them in a search of our home office,” Hartung says. “We’re going to have to leave some additional instructions on what we’ve created and how the executor is supposed to get access.”

Digital assets have become a major element in a comprehensive estate plan. New York has enacted a new set of laws to deal with these matters. The law is found in Article 13-A of the Estates Powers and Trusts Law. To give an example of the kinds of issues that may arise, see the link below to the Serrano case from New York County. It is a very clear analysis of the new law and its limitations. Most of us are not Bitcoin billionaires, but most of us probably have a substantial number of family pictures on our electronic devices, not to mention our iTunes music library (which presents a whole set of different issues about what constitutes ownership).

In sum, it is well worth your time making known in an effective way (either in your Will or in conjunction with your internet platforms and their individual requirements) how these assets are to be handled when you depart for that great hard drive in the sky.

Matter of Serrano: