Author Archives: Minna Vallentine

Will you get a call from a debt collector?

debt-deathDid you know that if someone dies with unpaid bills like a balance on a credit card account, a family member or close friend will get a call or letter from a debt collector.

A few years ago, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) issued new guidelines related to this subject.  The guidelines “widen the universe of people who could receive collection calls or letters”.  This makes it very important that anyone receiving such a call or letter knows his legal rights and obligations.

Debt collectors read the obituaries and then check to see whether the person who just died has any surviving relatives.  If so, they immediately begin sending out letters or making phone calls and harassing them for whatever is owed.

Rules vary from state to state but, in general, here are a few things that usually apply.

  • Family members or friends are not obligated to pay out of their own pockets for debts incurred by a deceased person.
  • If a family member or friend has co-signed a credit card or loan application with the now deceased person, that relative or friend is probably obligated to repay the debt.
  • If the deceased left a will and the estate is in probate, debt collectors can attempt to collect their money from the assets of that estate.
  • Assets that are specifically bequeathed to someone or that were jointly owned by the deceased and another person generally go to that person outside of the estate and are usually not reachable by debt collectors.  In the 10 community property states, assets are generally considered joint property and can’t be touched by a debt collector.

What does this mean for you?  If someone close to you dies and  you are contacted by a debt collector, don’t give that person any information or commit to anything.  See assistance from a local credit counselor or attorney to get guidance on how to proceed.  Otherwise, you may find yourself paying money to a debt collector unnecessarily.

For more information about settling an estate, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

Want to avoid probate?

estateplanningYou may think that if you have a will and in it you name the person who should inherit your home, that’s all you have to do.  Yes, it is if you’re willing to have the home go through a probate process.  That probate process will cost the beneficiary a lot of money as well as time and will be a public record.

However, there’s now a way that many can avoid the whole probate process and that’s thru the use of a transfer on death (beneficiary) deed.

There are several states that have a similar law and California just joined their ranks in January of this year.

If you live in one of these states, you now have the option to complete a Revocable Transfer On Death Beneficiary deed and name a beneficiary for your home.    After your death, the beneficiary can directly claim ownership rights to the property without involving the probate court and paying probate fees.

The deed can be completed and filed without hiring a lawyer or paying a third party to record the deed with the county recorder.

For some homeowners, a TOD Deed can be a cost effective way to avoid probate on the death of the last owner.   If you own a home and have it listed in your will, you might want to consider this new option.

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

Just living together can cause unwanted estate planning problems

k11782415Many couples, especially those who get together later in life, are just living together.  For whatever reason, they’ve decided not to get married.  Living together, they accumulate stuff but who owns what?

One of the biggest problems with just living together is estate planning.  If you’re one of these couples and you’re not careful, your loved ones might end up losing their home and getting nothing.

If a partner dies without a will, this is called dying intestate.  In this instance, state intestacy laws determine who will inherit that partner’s assets.  In most cases, that means a biological relative may inherit those assets, not the surviving partner.  This is probably not what either of the partners really wanted.  To alleviate this problem, a will should be drafted and executed by each of the partners.   It should include a statement that directly disinherits biological relatives and leaves the assets to the surviving partner.

Another document each partner should prepare is an advance  healthcare directive and durable power of attorney.  Unless these documents specifically name the other partner to make their medical decisions for them, a physician will not follow the instructions of anyone except a biological relative because of potential family objections.

A further document that should be considered – a revocable trust.  This will enable the partners to transfer property and money between them and will allow one partner to transfer control of his or her assets upon death.

A last point you should be aware of – the unlimited marital estate inheritance exclusion.  This exclusion cannot be used by an unmarried couple.  Instead, there may be sizable inheritance tax repercussions if estate planning is not done correctly.

It would be smart for any couple living together without the protection of marital laws to consult an estate attorney to find out what the best plan of action is for them.

For more information about estate planning, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

 

Your never to young to write a will.

yelchinAnton Yelchinleft, the Star Trek star, died a few months ago in a bizarre automobile accident.  He was 27 years old.  His assets were about $1.4 million….and he had no will.  He also had no spouse or children.  Therefore, his parents are asking the probate court to make them administrators of his estate.

He may not have wanted his parents involved in his estate.  He may have wanted someone else to handle his affairs.  But we’ll never know.  Accidents do happen and you need to be prepared.  Write a will today.  Make sure that people know what your wishes are so that they can be carried out after you’re gone.

For information about estate planning, check out our website, www.diesmart.com.

Where does your Pokemon go after you die?

PokemonEveryone today has several online account and is part of the digital world.  Are you one of the millions of people playing Pokemon?  Are you using real US dollars to make in-game purchases?  Do you place a real value on your game progress?

Well what happens to your account when you die?  According to a recent Forbes article, if you have online accounts for things like Pokemon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Gmail,  the answer is not a simple one.

First  you need to look at federal and state law.  At the federal level, there isn’t any direct authority related to digital assets.  At the state level, some states have enacted legislation to allow an estate’s executor to gain access to some digital assets upon the death of their owner.  However, this legislation does not extend to all 50 states and is not totally consistent in its direction.

Once digital assets are treated more like physical assets, then your will, trust or state succession laws will determine how these accounts are transferred.  However, you may not want all of these assets transferred; you may want them deleted on your death.  For example, you may not want your spouse to read all of your emails or private Facebook messages.  You will need to indicate your wishes in your estate plan.

If you have online accounts at places like Home Depot or Lowes, you may want to direct your executor to pay any outstanding balance and then delete that account so that it can’t be hacked.

Have you read the service agreements that you clicked “okay” for when you signed onto Pokemon Go or Facebook or Gmail.  They put restrictions on your ability to share passwords or to transfer the account.  “In fact, Pokemon Go’s contract gives you a ‘limited nonexclusive, nontransferable, non-sublicensable license to the application.”  What this means is that when you die, your Pokemon Go account is dead as well.

As you can see, online accounts are governed by documents as well as state laws.  You need to carefully read the agreements that you “sign” so you can understand what you really have….or don’t.  When you prepare your estate plan, make sure that you include a list of the names of all of your online accounts, their passwords and usernames so your family can access your accounts when you die.  Develop a plan for the disposition of those accounts when you die.  It is an important part of any estate plan.

For more information about your digital estate, check out our book, Access Denied: Why Your Passwords Are Now As Important As Your Will.