Category Archives: Duties

Your duties. Executor. Personal representative. Estate representative. Guardian. Guardianship. Conservator. trustee. Attorney-in-fact. Financial Agent. Health care Agent. Funeral Agent.

What is the responsibility of a trustee?

What is the responsibility of a trustee?

When creating a trust managing family affairs,  many of us designate a family member to serve as the trustee.      A surviving spouse.   The eldest child.  In many cases, a family member does this job without compensation.

If you have agreed to serve as a trustee, you may not really know what you just agreed to do.     You might even assume there is no legal risk in agreeing to serve as a trustee.

It’s not easy to find articles describing the job of a trustee that is not filled with legalese.   This articled titled “A Novice Trustee Primer”  does a great job of describing the responsibilities of a trustee and is is recommended reading  if you have a trust, are thinking about setting up a trustee, or if you have agreed to serve as a trustee.

 

 

Isn’t identity theft just by strangers?

Identity theft of the deceased is a huge problem today. You may think that it is just strangers preying on the families of deceased loved ones. However, it is sometimes those loved ones who perpetrate the fraud.

Last week in New Jersey, Jocelyn Russo, 36, pleaded guilty to using her dead aunt’s identity to gain access to credit card and bank savings accounts. Pretending to be her aunt, Jocelyn used her aunt’s Social Security number and other identifying data to authorize the addition of her name to her aunt’s accounts at Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.

As her aunt, she added herself to credit card accounts as an authorized signer. She then made large purchases with those credit cards and didn’t pay them off. She also withdrew all of her aunt’s funds from a bank account at Provident Bank.

The three banks involved lost more than $30,000 because of the fraud and, of course, any other immediate family of the deceased suffered emotional as well as financial damage.

Russo is charged with bank fraud and can face a possible penalty of 30 years in jail and a fine of $1 million. She will be sentenced in February, 2013.

If you are the executor of someone’s estate, you should work quickly to notify the three credit bureaus about the death and to ask them to place a death flag on the accounts. You should also contact any financial institutions with which the deceased did business. Once the accounts have been flagged as belonging to someone who is deceased, fraud like the one the Jocelyn Russo perpetrated cannot happen.

For more information, go to www.diesmart.com or look for our book, GRAVE ROBBERS…HOW TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT OF THE DECEASED.

Don’t Pay an Inheritance Tax on Your Own Money!

If you live in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey or Pennsylvania beware. These states tax your inheritance, no matter what the amount is.

Barry and Susan Brown of Philadelphia, PA learned this the hard way. Because they were getting older, they decided to add their son’s name to their bank accounts. They decided this would be the easiest way to enable him to access their funds in case of a health emergency.
Unfortunately, their son died before they did. Shortly thereafter, they received a tax bill for several thousand dollars. Why? Under Pennsylvania law, one third of the money in their accounts was considered to be their son’s. Since, according to the law, they had inherited it, they owed 4.5 percent as tax. Their son had none of his own money in the accounts, but that didn’t matter. They had to pay the tax.

This problem could have very easily been avoided. Instead of putting their son’s name on their bank accounts, they should have prepared a financial power of attorney document. In this document, they could have given their son the right to access their money and make financial decisions on their behalf when they were unable to do so. This method would have allowed them to keep all of their money instead of giving some of it away to the government needlessly.

For helpful information about how to plan for incapacity and death, go to www.diesmart.com.

Zombie Bank Account – Will Bill Payments Stop After You Die?

Do you have a list of all of your automatic payments? If you receive paper bills and then write checks to cover them, there’s no problem. When you die, your heirs can just notify those companies who are sending the bills that you are deceased and they can close the accounts. But if you have payments automatically taken out of your checking account or charged to a credit card every month, your heirs will not find paper bills and may not know who they need to notify.

Even though Richard Palmer, Sr.’s family thought they had closed his bank account after he died, a month later it sprang back to life and started processing incoming charges  (this type of account is called a zombie bank account) and electronic payments kept being made….until there was an overdraft of $888,888!

You should make a list of all of the automatic payments that are made on your behalf every month and put a list of those payments with your important papers. That way, your family will know who to contact after you’re gone and they won’t find themselves with a huge overdraft like the family of Richard Palmer, Sr.

Let’s talk about dying!

Today is National Health Care Directives Day.   A day to talk about death.    A day to talk about Living Wills and Health Care Power of Attorney forms, referred to as advance health care directives.

Why is it important to talk about dying and health care directives.  It’s simple.     We will all die.   However,  the way we will die will be different than the way our grandparents died.   They died fast, due to acute illnesses like influenza or pneumonia.  A government study envisions that today, 80 percent will die a lingering death from things like Alzheimer’s, emphysema, cancer and Parkinson’s.   Our children or our spouse will need to make choices on our behalf between life…and quality of life.

When having dinner with your friends or family tonight, think about that sobering number.   Three out of the four people sitting at the dinner table will die a lingering death.    Someone will need the legal authority to make health care choices on your behalf.   Someone will be hoping they are making the choice you would have wanted.

Rather than talking about the  engagement ring Brad gave Angelina….make your dinner conversation important.    Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do you want to make health care choices on your behalf?
  • What choices do you want them to make?
  • Do you want to donate your organs or your tissues?
  • Have you completed a living will and a health care power of attorney form documenting these wishes.   If so, where are they?    In California and some other states, these two forms are combined in a single form referred to as an Advance Health Care Directive.

Your estate planning lawyer can help you complete a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney form.     You have the right to complete these forms without involving a lawyer.

Hers’s some resources that may help you start the discussion:

A great presentation by Dr. Peter Saul at the TED conference called “Let’s talk about dying.”
When families can’t agree what to do:   A personal experiences described in the San Jose Mercury News:  http://www.mercurynews.com/cost-of-dying/ci_20403982/national-day-support-end-life-health-care-planning
Where Can You Get Free Health Care Directive Forms:   http://diesmart.com/elder-law/living-wills/