Category Archives: Beneficiary Basics

Designated Beneficaries. Primary beneficaires. Contingent Beneficiaries. Payable upon death beneficaries. transfer on death beneficaries. Estate is the beneficiary. Joint Tenancy with rights of survivorship.

Was she swindled out of joint property?

moneyologistWe came across a column about a women whose husband asked her to give up the rights to their home…and 10 years later they were divorcing.  The column is from The Moneyologist; it teaches a good lesson and I think you may find it very interesting.  We’re publishing it in its entirety.

Dear Moneyologist,

My husband and I have been married 14 years. We live in California and I am contemplating divorce. I am 62 and he is 65. When we married, he owned a home (with a mortgage) purchased five years prior. A few years into our marriage, when interest rates fell, he refinanced the home. A couple of days before submitting the application, he asked me to sign an inter-spousal transfer of ownership (known as a quitclaim).

The reason: He said I had a student loan which had at one time been in default and we would not be able to receive a good interest rate, or that the loan might be altogether denied. He promised that as soon as the loan was approved, he would follow up by putting me back on title.

A few weeks later, we purchased a second home (cabin). Just a few minutes before going in to finalize the purchase, he asked to sign another quitclaim, citing the same circumstances. The mortgage on the cabin is underwater at this time.

It has been 14 years since this happened, and he refuses to add me to the title. He finally admitted that he indeed had an ulterior motive, as he witnessed a friend who underwent a divorce and lost a house to his former spouse and that he was not going to be “taken advantage of” if we divorced.

What are my options? I feel that I was deceived and that this constitutes fraud. About 90% of his investments were made before we were married, and I am also aware that he has made no provisions for me in his will nor named me as a beneficiary to his life insurance.

Beverly in California

Dear Beverly,

The investments he had prior to your marriage belong to your husband and he is free to name anyone from the next-door neighbor to the window cleaner on his life insurance. Now, the good news:

California — in addition to Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington — treat all marital assets as community property. That means that assets acquired during the marriage are divided equally between the two spouses. “Notwithstanding an agreement otherwise, upon the death of a married person, one-half of the community property belongs to the surviving spouse and the other half belongs to the decedent,” according to California Probate Code Section 100(a). Why is that important to you? Because the refinancing of this home and the purchase of the cabin were made during your marriage, so it’s irrelevant whether your husband had you sign a quitclaim or not.

Well, not quite. A judge could look unfavorably on your husband’s behavior and your testimony (if you don’t have it in an email) that your husband did this because he wanted to prevent you from even owning the property you both bought during your marriage. There is a precedent for this: In 1996, a California woman won $1.3 million in the lottery and filed for divorce 11 days later without even telling her husband or anyone else about her windfall. A couple of years later her husband discovered her deception and sued. Superior Court Judge Richard Denner ruled that she acted out of fraud or malice and awarded her husband all of her winnings. A judge could, in theory, take a similar view and punish your husband.

Your husband’s shady behavior could end up doing him more harm than good in any divorce settlement. There are a lot of good, honest people out there waiting for you post-divorce.

Check out our website, www.diesmart.com for more information.

Facebook declared people prematurely dead.  Were you one of them?

mark-zuckberberg-1On Thursday, 11/11, Facebook had a bug.  It was one that managed to modify user profiles and declare those users dead.  Even Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, appeared dead on the site.

Despite being very much alive, users found their accounts switched to a “memorialized account,” reserved for the deceased, with the word “remembering” posted beside their name.

A statement reading: “We hope people who love Mark will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate his life,” appeared on Mark Zuckerberg’s profile before being corrected.

Facebook provides a form to request the memorialization of accounts of the deceased. It requires documentation of a death, presumably to prevent people from triggering errant notices.  If this option is selected, their profile will continue to exist, but only as a memorial.  A logon is no longer available but people can post memorial messages to the deceased.

Many people woke up Thursday to find that their accounts had been memorialized and Facebook thought they were dead.  I imagine that could be very scary for someone who’s still alive.  The bug has now been fixed

To learn more about memorialization and what to do about other online accounts when someone dies, go to www.diesmart.com.

6 ways to foil hackers, phishers and pushy marketers

phishingI’ve written a lot in the past about identity theft and the importance of protecting your online accounts.  These six points were contained in an email from my mortgage broker and I think they definitely are worth repeating.

1. Update software. The latest computer, smartphone and apps software is the most secure. Update now and choose ‘Update Automatically’ in Settings. Update your WiFi router on its app or Web setup page.

2. Strengthen passwords. Make them long strings of random upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Use a different one for every site. Turn on two-factor authentication for Apple ID, Google, Facebook (‘login approvals’), Microsoft, Twitter (‘login verification’) and banks. Use a password manager to sync devices.

3. Encrypt data.
Makes it hard for someone to access information if they get your device. Encrypt with a password or fingerprint screen lock, or turn on ‘encryption’ in Settings. Use Disk Utility on external drives.

4. Privatize browsers. Select ‘clear browsing data.’ (This deletes passwords which shouldn’t be saved on sites anyway.) Activate ‘Do Not Track’ in Settings. Block trackers with an extension (Ghostery, Disconnect, EFF’s Privacy Badger). Opt out of ad tracking at http://www.aboutads.info/choices/

5. Check apps.
Find out which ones access locations and data and turn off if not used. Check Settings for Privacy permissions. Check Google and Facebook security. Delete Facebook apps you don’t want.

6. Think!
Don’t click on email links or attachments you don’t expect. Make online payments only on secure “https” sites. Double-check public hotspot names, or use a VPN—HotSpot Shield (Windows, Android), Cloak (iPhone, Mac). Use PayPal on unfamiliar sites. Don’t pay online with debit cards or put account info in emails.

For more information about protecting your digital assets, 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.

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.