10-25-2018 Columns

Is your “digital estate” in order? If you spend a lot of time on the internet, you’re not just shopping or being entertained, or following the news or participating in an online community. You’re probably also dealing with accounts and information that eventually can become part of your digital “estate.” And if this estate isn’t properly looked after, it can lead to confusion and conflict among your survivors, as well as an opportunity for hackers to try to get at whatever resources they can touch. If you haven’t stopped to think about it, you might be surprised at the number of assets that could become part of your digital estate. You may have financial accounts (banking, brokerage and bill-paying); virtual property accounts (air miles, “points” for hotel bookings); business accounts (eBay, Amazon, Etsy); e-mail accounts (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo); social networking accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram); online storage accounts (Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox); and application accounts (Netflix, Kindle, Apple). Given all these areas, how can you protect and preserve your digital estate? Here are a few suggestions: Create a detailed inventory of digital assets. Following the categories listed above, draw up a list of all your digital assets. Document your wishes for how you want your digital assets managed. If you don’t specify how you want your digital assets managed upon your death or incapacitation, you might be opening the door to lengthy legal battles over access to these assets. In a worst-case scenario, your heirs and beneficiaries might never get the assets you had intended for them. Name a digital executor in your last will and testament. A digital executor can accomplish a variety of tasks related to your digital estate, such as transferring online assets to your heirs; closing accounts you don’t want transferred; managing personal materials by archiving or deleting files, photographs, videos and other content you have created; and, finally, informing online communities of your passing. When choosing a digital executor, you’ll want someone you can trust, of course, but you’ll also want to make sure that person is skilled enough in technology to search your computer properly and navigate the internet and multiple websites. Not all states recognize a digital executor, so you may want to consult with a legal professional to learn about the laws governing digital estate planning in your state. Also, even if you have a digital executor, online platforms enforce their own rules about who can or can’t access a deceased person’s accounts. If you are concerned about this, you may want to contact the customer service areas from these types of providers – Google, PayPal, Facebook, etc. – to learn their policies. Review your plans. Review your digital estate plans on a regular basis, just as you do with your physical/tangible estate plans. The digital world is a fast-moving one, so you’ll need to stay current with changes. In some ways, managing a digital estate can be more challenging than dealing with a physical estate. But by following the above suggestions, you can help reduce any “cyber-angst” your loved ones may feel when it’s time to deal with the digital presence you’ve left behind. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

National Bullying Prevention Month As your State Representative, it is among my top priorities to ensure we provide our kids with safe learning environments that enhance not only their educational careers, but their confidence and mental health for a successful future. National Bullying Prevention Month is a reminder that while returning to school is an exciting time for many students, others can suffer levels of anxiety that affect their health, safety, and education as victims of bullying. Every student should feel that their school accepts and supports them and their future endeavors. There is no place for bullying in our schools and we are failing those students when they are in fear of attending school. Our schools should only be positive and happy learning environments and we all need to do our part on making this possible.

If your student is having an issue with bullying, I would encourage you and your student to report it to your local school officials. Never feel discouraged from reporting misbehavior because you not only ensure your student is in a safe environment, but the rest of their classmates are as well. If an issue persists, please contact the Michigan Department of Education for assistance. I would also encourage everyone during this election season to see past bullying tactics and conduct their own research on candidates. Not only should we stop bullying in our schools, but we need to stop bullying in all walks of life.

As always, you can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-1403, emailing KimLaSata@House.mi.gov or visiting my website at www.RepLaSata.com. It is an honor to serve you!

Have a fun and safe Halloween Halloween is a fun and exciting way for children to dress up, use their imaginations and receive some sweet treats in return. It all starts with being safe. Here are a few tips for parents to help ensure everyone has a great time. Before kids head out, check that their costumes are the right size so that they won’t trip or fall and — if they have a mask — that the eye holes are large enough for them to see effectively. Small children should never go trick-or-treating by themselves. If older children head out without an adult, make sure they stick together as a group and only go to familiar neighborhoods. Tell children of all ages to stay in well-lit areas; use sidewalks when possible; look both ways before crossing the street; and never enter a stranger’s home or car.

It is vital that children can see and be seen while trick-or-treating. Simply having them wear something reflective or bright and ensuring that someone in their group has a flashlight can help ensure they are safe. I also encourage Southwest Michigan parents to tell their kids not to eat any of their candy until it has been thoroughly inspected by an adult. Consider serving kids a filling meal or giving them a snack before heading out so they won’t be tempted to eat any treats before they are checked out.

Finally, I urge drivers to slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in sudden and unpredictable ways. Happy Halloween! As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.

Cervical cancer The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, about 13,240 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. About 4,170 women will die from cervical cancer in the United Sates this year. In order to lower this death rate, the Berrien County Health Department encourages women to take preventative actions against cervical cancer. All women should begin cervical cancer screening by age 21 with regular Pap tests and continue screening until age 65. Regular Pap tests, performed every three years, can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops and can detect cancer in its earliest stages when it is the most treatable. A major risk factor for developing cervical cancer is exposure to Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is sexually transmitted and can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. The virus can be detected through routine Pap tests with your healthcare provider. The Berrien County Health Department provides free Pap tests to eligible women. There is a also a vaccine available that protects against 70% of the sub-types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and 90% of the subtypes that cause genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys 9-26 years of age. People should get vaccinated before they are sexually active for the most protection. It is important to remember that the vaccine does not completely protect against all cancer-causing types of HPV, so routine cervical cancer screening is still necessary. For the best protection against HPV, women are encouraged to live healthy lifestyles, limit the number of sexual partners, and always get regular Pap tests. For more information, call the Health Department at (269) 926-7121 or visit www.bchdmi.org.

Social Security announces 2.8% increase I am pleased to announce a 2.8% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase for more than 67 million Americans in 2019. The COLA is one of the Social Security’s most important protections, which ensures benefits keep up with inflation.

Social Security also recently expanded their Compassionate Allowance List, which enables them to identify and fast-track cases where individuals have diseases that are most likely to be approved for disability benefits.

Social Security is an earned benefit that Americans have paid into throughout their entire lives and I am committed to preserving and strengthening this vital program for today’s and tomorrow’s seniors.

To learn more about my work on important issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).