Do you want to stay next to your pet forever?

The Virginia legislature recently amended state burial law to allow cemeteries to provide designated spaces for burying pets in caskets next to their owners.

Prior to passage of the new law, cremated remains of a pet could be buried in the casket with the deceased or the body could be interred in a pet cemetery adjacent to one for humans.  An example cited in an article in the Martinsville Bulletin prior to passage of the new law is Noah’s Ark, a pet cemetery, that is adjacent to National Memorial Park Cemetery in Falls Church, VA.

The new measure is intended to help people who think of their pets as family members and who want them buried with them.  The law specifies that pets and owners cannot share the same grave, crypt or niche and the pet section of the cemetery has to be clearly marked.

Now that the measure has passed, a couple can buy three adjacent plots – one for each of them and the one in the center for their beloved pet. 

A few years ago, the New York legislature passed a law allowing humans to be buried in pet cemeteries along with their pets.  However, pets still cannot be buried in cemeteries intended for humans.

Burial of a pet with its owner after death is a topic that has spurred a lot of discussion and emotions but very few states up to now have tried to deal with this issue.

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

What has Facebook done to the accounts of deceased people?

Facebook recently announced that they have changed their rules related to memorializing the account of a deceased person.    In the past, Facebook determined who could see that memorialized page.  Now, the changed rule says that the memorialized page can be seen by the same people as were able to see the page of the living person.  In other words, the decisions made by that person will be honored after his or her death.

Once the account has been memorialized, there can be no modifications to the site.  No friends can be added or deleted, no photos can be modified and no content that was posted by the site owner can be removed.  However, if the privacy settings set up by the deceased allow this, friends may be able to share memories on the memorialized timeline.  And anyone can send private messages to the deceased person.  Why someone would want to do this, I don’t know.  However, it is now allowed.

If you wish to memorialize a loved one’s Facebook page, the place to get started is with the request for memorialization form.  You will be asked for a link to the deceased’s Facebook page.  You will also be asked your relationship to that person, his or her year of death and proof of that death, i.e. a link to an obituary or news article.

Once Facebook has reviewed and approved the submission, the page will be memorialized.

To read more about social media accounts of the deceased, go to www.diesmart.com.

The “Aid in Dying” movement – is it a good idea?

According to an article that appeared a few days ago in the New York Times,  there is a new movement in the United States called “Aid in Dying”.  It’s supporters try to avoid calling it what it really is – assisted suicide – but, whatever they call it, it’s gaining traction.   

Until 2008, assisted suicide was legal in just one state: Oregon.  Today, it’s legal in five states: Montana, Oregon, Washington, Vermont and New Mexico.  Supporters of the right for a terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying are supporting “death with dignity” bills in Connecticut and other states. 

Lawsuits in New Mexico and Montana related to this topic have resulted in a differentiation between aid in dying, which is now legal, and assisted suicide, which is still considered a crime in both of those states. 

Church groups have weighed in on the topic and claim that aid in dying is morally wrong.  However, more and more people are asking for the right to die on their own terms according to Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices.  

In May 2013, a Gallup Poll was conducted.  It asked whether doctors should be allowed to “end the patient’s life by some painless means” when patients and their families want it.  70% said yes.  However, when asked whether doctors should be allowed to help a dying patient “commit suicide”, only 51% said they should.  It’s clear that the exact wording is critically important in assessing how people really feel about the issue and on what is actually legal. 

What do you think?  Should aid in dying be made legal in your state?

To learn more about other topics related to death, go to www.diesmart.com.

Another actor did it wrong. Do you have your plans in place?

Julie Garber, in her weekly blog, wrote about another person who did it wrong.  When actor Paul Walker died in a terrible car crash on November 30th, 2013, he left an estate estimated to be worth at least $45 million.  However, he had done no estate planning and left no will.  He was only 40 years old and probably thought he had plenty of time to get his affairs in order.  His parents, ex-wife and girl friend of seven years are now fighting over who should inherit.

According to California intestate laws, the entire estate should be inherited by his daughter, Meadow.  Since she is only 15, someone needs to be responsible for managing to estate until she turns 18.  Her mother is her guardian but is not necessarily the one who will control the money on her behalf.  Since her parents believe they should manage the estate, the case will have to go to probate court.

And what about his long term girlfriend, Jasmine?  She won’t see a penny.

Have you done estate planning?  Is all of your paperwork in order?  Or are you, like Paul Walker, leaving a mess for  your loved ones?

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

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.