Category Archives: Duties

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

Why you need a living will & healthcare power of attorney

terri schiavo

Most people don’t like to think about what will happen if they’re in an accident or come down with a catastrophic illness.  They don’t decide who they want to speak for them if they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves.  They don’t tell anyone what kind of care they want….or don’t want.  Once they are hurt or incapacitated, it may be too late.

These are three reasons why you need a living will and a healthcare power of attorney:

1) You name the person you want to speak for you when you can’t.  It should be someone  you trust to make decisions on your behalf and to carry out your wishes.

2) You decide whether you want heroic measures performed to prolong your life if there’s no chance of recovery.

3) You outline the type of treatment you want to receive.

If you don’t have these documents, a relative you don’t know very well and don’t trust or possibly the courts will speak for you and decide what will happen.

For example, they may decide to put you on life support and prolong your life even though there is no chance of recovery and you may not have wanted heroic measures.  They may choose to perform a surgical procedure that you don’t want or they may decide to do something that is against your religious beliefs.

A living will enables you to describe the kind of care you want.

A healthcare power of attorney (It may be called something else in your state or it may be combined with a living will) allows you to name the person you want to be your healthcare agent who can speak for you when you can’t.

Unfortunately, a life threatening accident or a catastrophic illness can occur at any time.  There’s no age that is exempt.  Think of Terri Schiavo.  She was a 26 year-old that had a tragic fall, went into a coma and remained alive, hooked up to a feeding tube, in a vegetative state for more than 15 years because her husband and her parents couldn’t agree on her treatment and she hadn’t legally stated her wishes.

Don’t let others decide for you.  If you don’t have a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, get them drawn up right away so your wishes will be carried out and you will be able to speak for yourself….even when you really can’t.

For more information on this important subject, go to

Bitcoins – Is cybercash real?

You bet it is. In fact, the Australian government recently announced that pension applicants must declare their cyber currency such as Bitcoin. “By including Bitcoin and other digital currencies on one of its standard forms”, the Australian government is recognizing that these are definitely a form of wealth. Many countries are still wrestling with where digital currency fits but Australia has accepted it as part of mainstream finance.  If you have cybercash, make sure you are considering it in your estate planning and are not letting it get lost in the confusion about what to do with digital assets. It’s real money and you should treat it as such.
For more information about estate planning, go to

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 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