Author Archives: Minna Vallentine

Access to online bank accounts a problem after death

In the “old days”, a paper trail was usually very easy to follow when someone died.  You could find their bank account statements, credit card and utility bills and pension and brokerage account information all tucked away in a file cabinet or a drawer.  Then you  called the contact numbers provided to notify them about the death.

Today, it’s not so simple.

Many of us do our banking online.  All we do is log in, click on those merchants we wish to pay, insert the amount and we’re done.  If we want to transfer money or even deposit a check, no paper has to be used. Everything is done electronically.

Bill paying has also gone paperless.  I can’t remember the last time I received a bill in the mail.  Today I just receive an electronic notification that my bill has been processed for payment.

If I want to know how my portfolio is doing, I log into my brokerage account to check.  I no longer get huge stacks of paperwork every month detailing the value of each investment.  It’s the same with my pension – I just go online and review the numbers.

This is great except for one thing.  It leaves no paper trail for our loved ones to follow when we die.  If we don’t keep good records that list all of the accounts that we manage online as well as the passwords and other information needed to access them, they may never be found and some of our assets may be floating around in cyberspace forever.

For more information about how to plan for incapacity or death, go to www.diesmart.com.

DNR order – should your pet have one?

Half Moon Bay 11-29-10 011

Do you know what a DNR (do not resuscitate) order is?  It is a medical document that alerts doctors and other medical and rescue personnel about whether you want them to do anything they can to revive you if your heart stops.

I have been in the local hospital a few times for various medical procedures and am used to the questions that the staff asks before admitting you.  And I have a DNR (do not resuscitate) document that I  keep on file there.  If my heart stops and reviving me will negatively impact my quality of life, I want my loved ones to let me go.

Information for and against human DNRs is readily available on the web and in books; anyone you ask will have an opinion.

However, for pets it’s a different story.  Last week I had to take my dog, Suzi, to the veterinary hospital for a minor medical procedure and was given several forms to sign.  One of them caught me totally off guard.  I was asked to sign either a DNR or an “administer CPR” form for her.    I had never thought about a DNR in relation to my dog and didn’t know what to do.  I had no idea about how easily a dog’s heart stops beating during surgery and how quickly it’s quality of life will be impacted after that stoppage.

The vet told me that asking for a pet DNR is becoming common practice for many animal hospitals but would give me no recommendation on which form to sign.

When I got home, I got on the web and tried to research a pet DNR to see what the recommended practice is.  I could find very little helpful information.  I called friends with pets and they had no idea what to do either.

Luckily, the procedure went smoothly and Suzi was fine.  But what if there is a next time?  What should I do then?

We at Die Smart would love to hear from you with your opinions on this subject.  To write a comment or to find out more about end of life planning, including human DNRs, go to www.diesmart.com.

Helen and Les Brown were born on the same day, remained married for 75 years and died just one day apart at age 94.  What a wonderful story of true love.  It would be great if there were more couples like them in the world.

75 year marriageBut, while thinking about this great couple, being a part of the Die Smart community I can’t help but think about their estate.  It’s bad enough if one person dies and a family member has to settle the estate, including dealing with lawyers, probate court and the mounds of paperwork that are necessary.  But the double work of settling the estates of two people can be massive.

Did they have wills, trusts, POD accounts?  Will one estate have to be settled before the other one?  Did they have their affairs in order?

To learn about what you should do to make sure you can avoid probate and make it easier for your loved ones to settle your estate after you’re gone, go to diesmart.com.

DOMA – It’s defeat causes more tax headaches

Reuters article - DOMA and taxes 7-23-13

If you live in a state that recognizes gay marriage, you are entitled to federal tax breaks that other married couples get.  However, if you have business income from a state that doesn’t recognize same sex marriage, you’ve got a problem.

This week, Reuters published an article about a married California couple, Jeremy and Randy.   They don’t know how to report the business income Randy gets from Florida – a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage.

The chief of the IRS, Danny Werfel, was quoted as saying that the IRS hopes to publish rules that will address issues like this one as soon as possible.  But there are more than 200 tax code references to marriage that have to be evaluated before this can happen.

Do you think the couple should get tax breaks based on income earned in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage?  Let us know what you think.

For information about other financial matters like estate planning, go to our website, diesmart.com.

6 estate planning lessons we can learn from James Gandolfini

James GandolfinoEverybody thinks celebrities have teams of lawyers that help them protect their assets and ensure that their affairs are in perfect order.  This is not always true.  In fact, many people don’t know the lessons that are included in this About.com blog by Julie Garber.  And they are lessons that, if not learned, can cost your family time, money and public exposure after you die.

James Gandolfini, who died in June, is used as an example of these 6 estate planning  lessons.  It’s important that you read about these lessons and be sure that you have protected your estate.  If you don’t, your loved ones may be caught up in a public probate process that will cost them a great deal of time and money.

For more about probate, what it is and how you can avoid it, go to www.diesmart.com.