Author Archives: Minna Vallentine

Is there an unclaimed life insurance policy in your future?

I came across an old article in the New York Times about this topic and thought it worth reviewing. 

When someone who purchased a life insurance policy dies, the amount due to the beneficiary is set aside and the insurance company waits to be contacted by that person.  After a period of time from two to seven years (it varies by state) has passed with no one coming forward, the money is turned over to the unclaimed property division of the state in which the person died. 

Since many people do not know whether a family member who died purchased a life insurance policy in their name, hundreds of millions of dollars go unclaimed.  In fact, New York alone, in the period 2000 to a few years ago, received more than $400 million in unclaimed life insurance property and only paid out about $64 million.  That means the bulk of that property remains unclaimed and probably will never be claimed.

If a family member has died and you think he or she might have had a life insurance policy, the first thing to do is to check for any payment receipts or check stubs so you can identify the name of the insurance company.  Contact that company, ask what their procedure is for filing a claim and then follow their instructions. 

If a great deal of time has lapsed, two good places to start are unclaimed.org and MissingMoney.com.  If they have no record of any funds, check the website for the unclaimed property department of the state in which the person died. 

Don’t leave your money in the state’s coffers.  Claim the funds due to you today.

For information about estate planning and other relevant topics, go to www.diesmart.com.

Have you thought about an at-home funeral?

Until the end of the 19th century, when someone died, it was the norm to keep the body at home where the family would take care of the deceased loved one until his or her burial.  But as the funeral home industry grew, the number of at-home funerals declined and didn’t regain popularity until about ten years ago.

A story from WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, discusses the recent interest in this type of funeral and cites several examples of families who have chosen to have a more natural, custom ceremony conducted in their own home.

Some people with whom I spoke said they would like this type of treatment when they died but they didn’t think it was legal.  In fact, in all but nine states, it is definitely legal.  Massachusetts even offers clear instructions for home funerals on its website, including what you need for a death certificate, guidance on burials and preparing the body.

If this type of funeral is of interest to you, there are many sources for information.  One is the National Home Funeral Alliance, which has about 300 members around the country.  Another source is our website, www.diesmart.com.

 

What is the most important part of estate planning?

When you do your estate planning, you probably think the most important part of this planning is your Living Will or your Last Will and Testament.  They are very important but they are not the most important thing.

I recently read an article by Julie Garber on about.com and she said the most important part is to select the right person to do each of the jobs your estate plan will require.”  After thinking about it, I agree.

When selecting a person to be your healthcare agent or guardian for your minor children or personal representative, be sure that this is a person who has your best interests at heart.  Also, verify that this person has the time as well as the skills to perform the needed tasks.  And, finally, select someone who you think can make wise decisions.

If you have name someone who declines to accept this position, and the backup person you’ve named also declines, a judge will make all of the decisions for you and your family or will find someone who is willing to do so; this person may not be someone you would have chosen and may not do things the way you would have wanted them done.

Think about it carefully and choose wisely.

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

One person is the biggest loser – Settlement of the Huguette Clark will dispute

Awhile ago we told you about Huguette Clark, a reclusive multimillionaire who died at the age of 104. 

She wrote two wills about six weeks apart.  In the first one, she left the majority of her $300 million estate to her relatives, many of whom she had not seen in many years and some who she had never met.  The second will directly cut out all of her relatives and left $30 million to her private duty nurse, Hadassah Peri, gifts to her lawyers and accountants and funds to create an arts foundation at her $85 million mansion, Bellosguardo, in Santa Barbara, CA.

Some of her relatives contested the will, claiming that she had been unduly influenced by her caretakers.  The case was supposed to go to court but, just as jury selection was about to begin, the case was settled out of court.  An 81-page settlement agreement was presented to the judge and was approved.

19 heirs of Huguette Clark will receive $34.5 million with estate taxes and $11.5 million in attorney fees paid by the estate.  Another big winner in the settlement is the charitable arts foundation that will be created to maintain Bellosguardo.

The biggest loser is her nurse.  Hadassah Peri will not receive the $30 million she was given in the first will and, in fact, will have to pay back $5 million of the $31 million she was given during Huguette Clark’s lifetime.

Those of you who read this blog may not have $300 million and so may think that having a good will, written when there is no question of your mental state, may not be that important.  But it is.  Unless you want your family to have to go to court and fight for what they think they deserve, put your wishes in writing NOW and, if possible, share those wishes with your loved ones so they will know what to expect and can ask any questions they may have….while you can still answer them.

For more information about wills and other issues related to end of life planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

One week to be aware of – National Estate Planning Awareness Week

The week of October 21st is National Estate Planning Awareness Week.  It’s a good time to think about what you want to have happen to your estate when you die.   It really all boils down to how you’ve titled your property and who actually owns what.

There’s a really good article by Julie Garber  that sums it up and gives you specifics to think about.  Read it, decide what you want to do and get started.  You never know what the future will bring and it’s best to be prepared.

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