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New South Carolina Law Helps Fiduciaries Access Digital Assets

Our online presence can live forever. The internet is packed with Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and neglected blogs that have outlived their makers. With the increasing presence of technology in our lives, we often a leave behind a plethora of digital assets without any guidance to our fiduciaries about what they are and how to access them. Digital assets include our smartphones, tablets, personal computers, social networking site, email accounts, electronic access to our financial and insurance information, online accounts that hold a cash value such as PayPal, url addresses, blogs, and files, pictures, videos stored on the cloud. Often, these digital assets are held by a third-party custodian, and gaining access in the past has been a daunting process if the deceased didn’t have the foresight to ease this process in estate planning.

Fortunately, South Carolina passed legislation this summer that provides a pathway for fiduciaries to access the digital assets of deceased or incapacitated family members. Called the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, it sets out a process for personal representatives and others with power of attorney or fiduciary powers to view these accounts. Custodians of accounts must comply with requests to view accounts so long as access has not been eliminated by the account user, federal law, or by a separate terms of service agreement with the user. 

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Why Your Lawyer and Accountant Should Work as a Team

One of the first things I do when I get a new business client is to ask if they have a relationship with an accountant. With the client's permission, I'll call the accountant, introduce myself and open up the lines of communication between us. 

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Don’t Make These Mistakes in Your Will

As a long-time practitioner in wills and estates and a former South Carolina probate judge, I’ve seen a lot of wills. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen many mistakes that create problems for loved ones at this difficult time or that undermine the intentions of the deceased. 

Here are the most common mistakes I’ve seen, and all are easily avoidable.

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What You Need to Know about Estimating the Value of Your Business

If you're considering buying or selling a business, including it in estate planning or setting terms for a buy-sell agreement that is part of succession planning, you want to know what it's worth. While valuing a business certainly includes subjective judgments, there is a method to arriving at an accurate estimate.

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Key Legal Issues for Entrepreneurs

If you're thinking of starting a business, you likely are focused on how to sell the product or service you plan to offer. But don't neglect to set up a legal framework that will protect your business and allow it to thrive. In our litigious society, a working knowledge of business law and a relationship with a law firm has to be part of your entrepreneurial toolkit. 

Here are six areas where we recommend that first-time entrepreneurs protect themselves by getting good legal counsel at the outset to reduce the possibility of problems down the road.

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Plan for Succession Even if You Plan to Work Forever

You may be one of those business owners too busy being successful to think about succession planning. Nonetheless, it is folly not to plan for your succession, and your strategy should follow the old adage of “hope for the best and plan for the worst.”  Assuming the worst – that you would unexpectedly leave the business tomorrow – do you have plans in place for transition in management, what happens to your ownership interest, and how to use your stake to provide for a spouse and family members?

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Why You Must Update Your Will

Our first advice on wills is to make sure you have one. And once you have a will, review it periodically and consider whether it needs an update. While wills never expire, your life circumstances do change, and a will that hasn’t been updated will complicate matters for your family when you are gone, and ultimately, may not reflect your wishes. 

Here’s when you should review your will.

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Don’t Allow Your Business to Become a Victim of the Dreaded Ds

Is your closely-held business protected from the five dreaded Ds – death, disability, divorce, disaster and disagreement?

Turmoil, and even business failure, can follow if you don’t have a legal succession plan in place when any of these events occur. While this may not offer you any comfort, you are certainly not alone if you haven’t yet set up a succession plan: fewer than half of closely-held and family-owned businesses have a plan in place that covers these contingencies.

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