Monthly Archives: July 2017

Do famous people have wills?

imagesLess than 50% of people in the United States have a will and it seems that famous people are just as bad as average folks when it comes to writing one.  The younger the person, the better the chance that there’s no will.  A will can be a fairly simple document to prepare and is something that everyone should have.  That way, when you die, there won’t be any squabbles over what you’ve left behind and there won’t be any arguing about what you would have wanted to do with them.

Here are just a few of the famous people who died without a will.

Pablo Picasso died in 1973; he was 91 year old.  He left behind an estate valued at $250 million.  Because he didn’t have a will, his heirs had to fight for six years and spend about $40 million to settle his estate.  If he had just done some basic estate planning, many of the issues could have been avoided.

Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970 from a drug overdose.  When he died, his father Al fought with two children who Hendrix had fathered out of wedlock.  Eventually, Al won and he inherited the whole estate.  When Al died in 2002, he left Hendrix’s estate to his adopted daughter, while neglecting to leave his biological son anything.  Since Hendrix died without a will, his family spent millions of dollars and more than 30 years fighting over the rights to his property.

Bob Marley died from cancer in 1981.  His estate was worth about $30 million and many people claimed a portion of it.  His wife only received 10% based on Jamaican law.  With a will, he could have left her more.  This estate, too, took more than 30 years to settle.  Millions of dollars were spent in court costs and family relationships were badly damaged.

Whether you’re famous or not, you should definitely have a will.  A free, simple form can be found on the web or, if you have a large estate as these folks did, an attorney should be consulted.  Your will can state what you want to have happen to your assets and who you want to receive what.  Your family will have a rough enough time dealing with your death when you’re gone.  Don’t give them the added burden of fighting over your things.

For more information about estate planning and wills, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

Press 1 to speak to a moron

imagesUWFGLBGSAn article recently appeared in The West Australian that is very relevant to us in the United States as well.  What happened to Carole Webb could happen to any of us.  I’ve copied the article in its entirety and hope it will goad you into sharing passwords and other information with your loved ones while you’re still able to do so.  That may not solve all of the problems Carole faced but it will definitely help.

“72-year-old Carole Webb was devastated when she lost her husband of 40 years.

As Mrs Webb writes in today’s Your Money, realising that the love of your life will never again walk through your front door is distressing.

Like all of us, Mrs. Webb knows that death is a part of life and understands that at some stage we will all have to deal with the loss of a loved one.

What this sprightly retiree does not understand is why this troubling time in someone’s life is made that much more difficult because of “morons” at banks and utilities.

The cause of her angst? Trying to change bills and accounts from her husband’s name to her own.

The Your Money team is sure that many readers will identify with Mrs Webb’s often humorous account of spending hours on the phone wading through layers of “Press 1 if you want to …”.

We are also sure many readers will agree that the companies and agencies which supply services to us could do worse than create a “bereavement hotline” to ensure this distressing time is not made worse by red tape.

WARNING CALL FOR BEREAVED

When Carole Webb was widowed, call centres added to her pain. Here’s what happened …

As a recently widowed pensioner, who cannot afford a solicitor to take care of the numerous legalities necessary, I wish to enlighten others to prepare themselves. Preferably, of course, all the major banks, utilities and any other companies that insist on using recorded “follow the prompts” methods of providing service to their valued customers. They may even learn a thing or two by reading my article and start to realise they are causing untold stress to thousands of seniors.

I have to say the easiest, simplest, kindest transition of all was with Centrelink. One of the telephone companies was by far the worst.

With utilities, because they insist you can only be allowed to have one name as the account holder, you need to notify them that the deceased is no longer the account holder, so your name needs to be placed on the same account and a new billing system started afresh.

It doesn’t mean a thing that you are still living in the same house, using the same appliances, showering at the same time in the same bathroom, with the same washing machine going, and with the same phone number being used, with the same email address being used, the same TV being switched on … Get my drift?

So is it really necessary to put the grieving widow/widower/spouse/partner through all the extra tasks needing attention when they are finding it difficult enough coming to terms with the death of a loved one?

Imagine the scenario if you were a 90-year-old with no family, not on the internet and living in a country town with a darling husband of 67 years having taken care of the business side of things all your married life.

Let me tell you about my own experience with the phone company.

I am 72 years of age and have a deaf aide phone but I am a pretty switched on.

Contacting the phone company to change names on the account involved following the prompts, which is very frustrating when the five minutes you spend with the polite female recorded voice has nothing relevant to what you want to say or do.

The voice continues: “I am sorry, what was that you said …” or “Did you say …” or “Can you say in a few words …” until in the end you are shouting. My neighbours must assume I’m going stir crazy. Anyway, this alerts someone eventually, after you have been put on hold for 20 minutes, and finally, bingo!

Guess what? The person you are speaking to sounds like they are two blocks up from “The Best Little Marigold Hotel” and can’t pronounce their words properly, so I am no better off in trying to have a conversation.

“Is it really necessary to put the grieving widow/widower/spouse/partner through all the extra tasks needing attention when they are finding it difficult enough coming to terms with the death of a loved one?”

After being put on hold yet again, I get a lovely lady who calms me down and sorts everything out. But not before another 20 minutes asking me questions, including “Do you own your own home?” What has this got to do with anything?

Finally, after threatening to go to another company, she finds me a nice little package which suits all my needs and is a lot cheaper. I thank her and suggest she mentions at the next training workshop that they consider having a “bereavement hotline” given to everyone and serviced by properly trained staff, equipped to reduce stress when changing names on accounts.

After a couple of weeks had passed, I received a cheque for the estate in my husband’s name, this was credit we accrued as we always had Centrelink deduct money from our pension fortnightly to forward to the utilities, so this meant we never received a bill.

I went to bank it at my new account I had opened in my newly chosen bank, but couldn’t because it was in my husband’s name. I was required to get a certified copy of my husband’s will, showing I was the executor and sole beneficiary as well as the proof I was who I said I was with ID etc worth 100 points.

So I first phone the phone company again to see if they couldn’t give me the credit into my phone account, as it was the same number and same address.

Oh no, that is far too simple! I had the same experience as the changing-the-name scenario. A very nice lady (a different one) calmed me down and promised me she would definitely recommend the “bereavement hotline” at the next training session.

I went to check my statement of the joint name account my husband and I had used for years, online, but access was shut down. I had never bothered to learn the password. I tried to get a balance the old way I always did, on the phone, before my husband learnt to do it online, and it also was shut down.

I phoned the bank helpline, the chap was sympathetic, helped me get my own set up but when it came time for the password, I needed a mobile phone.

I have a mobile phone but I don’t text and this was the only way he could send me my password. He thought this was very funny. I was ready to scream at him.

I had to physically visit an ATM or go to the bank, which is what I did. The young woman told me I needed probate and a copy of the will.

So as my husband and I had our will in safekeeping across the road from the bank at the solicitors, I told the girl I would pop over and collect it. The kindly receptionist at the solicitors (I knew her mother well) told me I didn’t need probate as all I had was the home, an old car and fortnightly pension, and probate would cost me $2000.

I went back to the girl at the bank and told her and her reply was “Oh, don’t you?” I asked her why she told me I would need it and her answer was “because someone else told me”. Clearly the big four bank’s could do more to train their staff in “bereavement issues”.

I haven’t had a chance to get to the motor registration people yet. I am hoping it is pain free.

As people are living longer and leaving behind older spouses and partners, it is high time something was done to warn people of the difficulties they may face.

It would have been common courtesy to have the bank inform me they were shutting down my access and would like them to help me set up a new password so I was prepared?

Or the phone company to enclose an explanatory letter advising me what I would need to do to enable me to bank the cheque?

Coming to grips with the fact that a loved one will never walk through the door again is awful.

And these morons don’t help one iota.”

For more information about end of life planning, go to our website www.diesmart.com.

Want to come back as a tree?

170424132824-capsula-mundi-three-eggs-exlarge-169The traditional coffin litters the earth.  It is not biodegradable and remains buried in the ground for thousands of years.  The same can be said for the tombstone which stands above it.

Now there’s a new option.

Capsula Mundi is a project out of Italy, “which envisions a different approach to the way we think about death. It’s an egg-shaped pod, an ancient and perfect form, made of biodegradable material, where our departed loved ones are placed for burial. Ashes will be held in small egg-shaped urns while bodies will be laid down in a fetal position in larger pods. The Capsula will then be buried as a seed in the earth. A tree, chosen in life by the deceased, will be planted on top of it and serve as a memorial for the departed and as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet. Family and friends will continue to care for the tree as it grows. Cemeteries will acquire a new look and, instead of the cold grey landscape we see today, they will grow into vibrant woodlands.”

The urn for ashes is available now.  The one for the body is still in development.

For more information about green burial options as well as other funeral choices, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

 

Should you set up a joint bank account?

6-3-jen-stuartWe read an interesting post awhile ago that we thought might help some of you.  The author is Jennifer Stuart, Attorney, Senior Law Project Jennifer Stuart is an attorney in Raleigh with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Senior Law Project (SLP).   The post is repeated here in its entirety.

When I draft wills for older clients, they often ask about “adding a name” to their bank account – in other words, setting up a joint account. Joint accounts can make perfect sense for seniors who depend on family members for help paying bills and other day-to-day tasks. Joint accounts can also help avoid the need for probate, an often-complex process that requires court involvement to carry out the will.

Undoubtedly, joint bank accounts can make life easier for the right people: seniors and their trusted family members or caretakers. However, they can also make things easier for the wrong ones: people who want to exploit seniors and get access to their money. I hear this concern from a lot of my clients. Their son is in and out of rehab, or their daughter may be easily manipulated by an abusive spouse. Is it safe to add their name to the account?

My clients are right to be cautious, because opening a joint account gives the joint owners virtually unlimited access. They can withdraw any amount of money, at any time, for any reason, without your permission. And the process is irreversible: Once you give someone access to your account, the only way to remove them is to close the account. (The same warning applies if you make someone a co-owner of your home with a new deed; you cannot change your mind and deed it back to yourself unless they agree to give back their interest.)

Therefore, my advice to clients is always: Pick someone you can truly trust, and understand how joint accounts work so both you and your bank know what you want.

If you want someone to have access to your account while you’re alive and receive full ownership of the account when you die, then you want a “joint account with a right of survivorship.” If you want this type of account, make sure the written agreement you sign with your bank clearly states that the account has a right of survivorship.

If you want to give someone access to your account only after your death, then you want a “payable on death” account that names a beneficiary. You can set up a POD account if you are the sole owner of the account, or if the account already has a joint owner and you want the beneficiary to be a third party. Be aware, though, that this will create problems if your joint owners do not agree on the POD beneficiary.

Finally, be aware that setting up a right of survivorship or POD account will not necessarily prevent a portion of the account from being used to pay your debts after your death if you have no other money or assets.

So, when clients ask me about “adding a name” to an account, I tell them that joint accounts can definitely make life easier, but they are first and foremost a matter of trust.

For more information about topics of interest to seniors, check out our website www.diesmart.com.