Tag Archives: beneficiary law

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.

How about a QR barcode for a love one’s tombstone?

Traditionally, the deceased have been buried in a grave which is marked by a lifeless granite tombstone. The tombstone conveys just basic information – the name of the person and his or her years of life. Sometimes it also includes a short phrase about the person, such as “beloved parent” or “lived life to the fullest”.

If you’ve ever walked around a cemetery, you’ve probably looked at many of these stones and may have wished that you could know more about the people buried beneath them.

Now there is technology that will enable you to learn more. A QR barcode sticker can be affixed to an individual’s tombstone. Then the family of the deceased can link the code to an electronic obituary of the person, a biography, a video or images and much more. Finally, if you have a smartphone with internet access, you can walk by this stone, scan the barcode and view the online tribute to the person.

Some companies, like Digital Legacys, a Pennsylvania company, sell the QR barcode sticker and the online tribute link for $99.99 per year or $149.99 for a lifetime subscription to the service.

Living Headstones®, Seattle, Washington, is a monument company. Thru them, you can buy a headstone that has an embedded QR barcode and a code link to their memorial site for $75. However, if you already have a tombstone, you can purchase a QR barcode and a link to their memorial site for $150.

These QR barcodes can also be attached to memorial benches, plaques or even trees in a memorial garden.

With a QR barcode, a deceased’s legacy can live on. Isn’t that better than just seeing their name and date of birth and death? What do you think?

Planning a Pet’s Funeral

Many people complain about funeral costs when they are deciding what to do about dear deceased granddad or mom; they think costs are too high and ask for cheaper options. But when it comes to a beloved pet, no one complains about what it costs to bury or cremate it. Cost is rarely even discussed. Rather the pet owner decides what he or she wants and then just pays for it.

National Pet Memorial Day was celebrated in September. According to the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories,  it was a day to “increase awareness of the many options available to memorialize pets”. Less than ten years ago, pet aftercare facilities were almost nonexistent. People just didn’t talk about what to do with their deceased pet. Today, there are more than 700 pet aftercare facilities nationwide and the number is growing. According to Tom Flynn, president of Hillerest-Flynn Pet Funeral Home and Crematory in Hermitage, PA, it’s a rapidly growing business. His profits have increased by 25% every year since he began offering pet burials in 2006.

Nobody really knows what demographic is responsible for the industry boom. Some think it’s baby boomers, who turn to a pet after their spouse has died or their children have left home. Others think it’s people in their 20’s and 30’s who have delayed or opted out of becoming parents and have decided to get a pet instead. Still others think it’s older women who never had children. Or the very wealthy. But, in actuality, Ed Martin, Jr. of Hartsdale, NY Pet Cemetery and Crematory, says they “get everybody: men, women, rich, poor, young, old.”

A pet funeral can be expensive, with a bronze grave marker costing almost $1,800 and a velvet-lined casket in excess of $1,100. Did you know that in addition to pet burials and cremations, you can arrange things like pet blessings and candlelight vigils? Some companies offer even more services than you’d find at a human funeral home.

In addition, there are unconventional options as well. Although it sounds very weird, some people opt for freeze-drying their pet’s body which can cost as much as $3,000. And a company in Elk Grove Village, IL called LifeGem, has a process that uses carbonized ashes from cremated remains to create synthetic diamonds. Prices run from $2,490 to $25,000. The process originally was intended for humans but pet owners started requesting the service for their pets so frequently that it’s now 25% of LifeGem’s business.

If you’re looking for unusual ideas, a place to start might be Peternity, an online store like Target, but for pet grieving.

Whatever you decide when planning what to do with your deceased pet, be like everyone else. Don’t think about price. Just decide what you want and pay whatever it costs.

HIPAA for Digital Assets?

According to Professor Jason Mazzone, University of Illinois, College of Law, ” people spend an increasing part of their lives using Facebook and other online social networking sites. However, virtually no law regulates what happens to a person’s online existence after his or her death”.

The professor’s recently published a paper, “Facebook’s Afterlife”, calls for federal laws to regulate what happens to a digital account after the death of its account holder. Mazzone states that Facebook and other online service policies don’t adequately protect the individual property and privacy interests of a deceased user’s account. He says “Social networking sites determine on their own what, if anything, to do with a deceased user’s account and the materials the user posted to the site….It’s a little like letting the bank decide what to do with your money after you die.”

He suggests that HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a comparable mandate. He wants a federal HIPAA-like law to protect peoples’ digital data after their death. It’s an interesting idea and one that is worth thinking about.

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.