Tag Archives: executor

No power in the house – a digital death problem!

51j2ST20YwL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_A Sad but True Story from Access Denied illustrates a major problem that many survivors face when trying to deal with their loved one’s death.

“Marsha’s husband, Greg, went bike riding with some friends, something he did most Sunday mornings. A car careened down the street and hit him; he was killed instantly.

“Greg was the main breadwinner and his income paid for their living expenses. His salary checks were automatically deposited into his bank account. Their bills, including mortgage, utility bills and insurance premiums, were automatically paid from this account.

“When he was killed, Marsha was distraught. The death was totally unexpected. Greg was 46 and in great health. She spent the first few months after his death just grieving and wringing her hands. She could cope with very little and wasn’t thinking clearly. She never thought about the practicalities of how digital death were affecting her life.

“Because Greg was gone, paychecks were no longer being deposited into his bank account, so money to pay the bills quickly ran out. The checking account and the online utility accounts were set up with Greg’s name and email address. Past due notices and notices of returned checks were being sent to Greg’s email account, and Marsha knew nothing about them.

“Then, one day she came home to find she had no power. When she called the power company to find out what was wrong, they informed her that the bill for her address had not been paid. They had cut off the power and Marsha was in the dark with no heat and no electricity.

“Here’s how the call went:

PG&E answering machine: Hello, how can I help you? Press 3 if you are calling for help with billing.
Marsha: Pressed 3
PG&E answering machine: Please enter your account number so we can help you.
Marsha: Thinking to herself: I have no idea what the account number is. We haven’t received a paper bill in ages. Why don’t they ask me for Greg’s email? I know that.
PG&E answering machine: I’m sorry. Let’s try again. Please enter the account number. We’ll need that before we can help you.
Marsha: Clicking 0, 0, and 0 looking for a way to get connected to a real person.
PG&E (a real person): Hello, this is PG&E. How may we help you?
Marsha: The electricity at our house has been disconnected. I need to make a payment.
PG&E (a real person): Do you know the account number?
Marsha: No. My husband paid all of our bills.
PG&E (a real person): What is your husband’s name?
Marsha: Greg Thomas.
PG&E: What is your relationship with Greg?
Marsha: I’m his wife.
PG&E: Is Greg there? We can’t take a payment from anyone but Greg.
Marsha: No. Greg died several months ago.
PG&E: We are very sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, we can’t take a payment or transfer service to your name without you being here in person and providing proof of your relationship to Greg.
Marsha: You’re kidding right! It’s 20 degrees outside, and I don’t have any heat.
PG&E: I’m sorry. There is nothing we can do at this time. Please visit your PG&E office Monday morning with the right documentation, and they will be able to help you.
Marsha: (In one last effort for help) Can’t you just give me Greg’s password? I could log in and pay the bill electronically.
PG&E: Do you have documentation from Greg authorizing access to his account?
Marsha: No (thinking to herself: I have no idea what she is talking about).
PG&E: Sorry, there’s nothing else we can do.”

Don’t let this happen to you.  Makes plans for what will happen to your digital estate when you die and protect your family.  For more information and help on this critical topic, get a copy of Access Denied today.

If you owe money when you die, who pays the debt?

clipart0275If you’re like most people, you have some kind of debt – a mortgage, a credit card bill, school or a car loan. What happens when you die? Do your heirs have to pay your bills for you?
According to a recent U.S. News and World Report article, the general rule of thumb is that if there’s enough money in your estate, your bills will be paid out of the assets you’ve left. Those assets will be liquidated to generate the necessary funds.
If there’s not enough money in your estate, here’s what will probably happen. I say “probably” because there are no firm rules in this area and each case is different.
Credit card:
As long as you don’t have a co-signer on your credit card, the odds are that the debt will be discharged by the credit card company. If you have a co-signer, that person will be responsible and will have to pay whatever is owed.
Mortgage:
If the house isn’t paid off, the bank may decide to foreclose…unless someone takes over the monthly payments.
Car:
If you are making car payments when you die, your vehicle can be repossessed by the bank. However, if one of your family members is willing to take over the loan, there should be no problem.
There are a few caveats that you should be aware of.
If you owe a lot of money and make deathbed gifts, your creditors may be able to convince the court to return those gifts to the estate so that their bills can be paid.
Your children or spouse should be careful about cosigning financial agreements for you. This personal financial guarantee may obligate them to repay any money owed through these agreements after you die.
If you don’t want your loved ones “haunted by debt collectors” after you’re gone, make sure they’re careful about what they sign.
For more information about how to manage your estate and what happens when you die, go to www.diesmart.com.

3 tips when making estate planning decisions

I came across this blog that was written by Julie Ann Garber, J.D. last year.  It had such good information that I decided to re-post and share it with you.

Many people struggle with all of the decisions that they have to make when putting together their estate plan: Who should get what? When should they get it? Who shouldn’t get anything? Who should be the executor? Who should be the trustee?

All of these decisions can be overwhelming, even for someone who has what is considered a “normal” family, but they don’t have to be.  In the wise words of Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, it’s your decision.

If you’re stressed out about how to plan your estate, then don’t despair.  Here are three tips for making your estate plan your way:

Tip #1 – Don’t be afraid to disinherit someone.  It’s your money, so you can choose to leave it, or not leave it, to whomever you want. But beware – being bullied into making your estate plan a certain way by a certain individual and not the way you really want it (for instance, leaving everything to one child to the exclusion of others at the insistence of that one child) will result in family discord.  If you really want to disinherit someone, then that’s your prerogative, but if someone bullies you into disinheriting someone else, then in extreme cases this could amount to “undue influence” and lead to an ugly will or trust contest. If you truly want to disinherit someone, then work closely with your estate planning attorney to insure that not only will your final wishes be carried out, but your plan will be bullet proof from challenges.

Tip #2 – Choose your executor and trustee wisely.  Here are the traits you should look for in your executor and trustee:  loyal, fair, practical, trustworthy, organized and tough.  If you choose a person who has most of these traits, then your final wishes will be fulfilled, but if you choose a person who has only one or two of these traits, then your final wishes will take a back seat to their own agenda.  Better yet, choose a corporate trustee, such as a bank or trust company, to put these important jobs in the hands of professionals.  Otherwise it may be way too easy for Uncle Bob to skim some off of the top or for your loved ones to convince Uncle Bob to disregard your wishes.

Tip #3 – Listen to your estate planning attorney.  While a good estate planning attorney will listen intently so that he or she can learn about your greatest concerns and challenges when it comes to planning your estate, you should also listen to your estate planning attorney because he or she can offer some good advice and solutions to ease those concerns and overcome the challenges. And while sometimes what your estate planning attorney says may not be what you want to hear, your attorney’s advice, which comes from years of experience in similar situations, may very well head off a family feud or a will or trust contest.

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

5 things you should know before you agree to be an executor

When my father died ten years ago and I found out he had named me as his executor, I thought “Okay.  It’s no big deal.”  Was I ever wrong!  I didn’t realize how much time, effort and frustration would be necessary to get everything settled. And I didn’t know that I would also have to be a detective.

 AARP recently published an article that listed five questions you should ask yourself before you agree to become an executor.   You might feel flattered if asked but think carefully about the questions and be sure it’s something you’re comfortable taking on.

1.  Do you have the time to take on this project?  When I started the process, I didn’t realize that it would be more than a year before my dad’s estate would be settled and that, during that year, getting all of the paperwork done and answering all of the government’s questions would often feel like a full time job.

2.  Do you have the skills to handle the process?  You have to be very organized and good with numbers.  Keeping massive spread sheets and tracking all of the paperwork nearly drove me crazy.

3.  Do you have the temperament to deal with all of the details?  I am a fairly calm, easy going person but I found myself getting very frustrated when confronted by people who made ridiculous demands.  One example I can remember is when the state of New Jersey (where my father died) asked me to sign a bunch of papers in black ink, get them notarized and send them in.  I did that and was shocked when I received a letter from a government office saying that I needed to resign them in blue ink, get them notarized again and send them back.  I did it and got one more letter.  It told me that I had not completed the forms correctly.  Believe it or not, it the letter said that the forms needed to be signed in black ink! 

4.  Do you know the rules of the state in which the estate is being settled?  Estate rules are very complex and I ended up hiring an attorney to help me get everything processed correctly.  Many people take this step after realizing what is involved.  For example, if you incorrectly declare the value of the estate, there can be legal repercussions, not just for the estate but for you as well.

5.  Can you afford to be the executor of the estate?  I lived in California and my dad died in New Jersey.  Some things just couldn’t be handled by phone; this necessitated a few expensive trips back and forth across the country.  And it’s not just the money.  What’s your time worth?  Can you afford to handle this job for nothing?  In some states, executors are permitted to charge a fee that is a percentage of the value of the estate.  However, since this money comes out of the estate, taking a fee may cause conflict with family members.

If you agree to be an executor, be prepared to devote a great deal of time to the project.  Be patient and don’t let little things get to you.  Stay organized and check every detail.  You will get through settling the estate…eventually.

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

 

When Someone Dies

Whether it is expected, or whether it is not, the list of things to do when someone dies can be overwhelming.   Perhaps even more overwhelming is understanding the rules and regulations that manage the disposition of the body and the management of the deceased’s financial affairs.

Advanced planning made such a difference for myself and my family..

Advanced planning made such a difference for myself and my family..

WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT?

When a person dies, someone assumes the legal authority to manage their “estate.” The term “estate” is the legal word used to collectively describe all the assets (property) and liabilities of the deceased.   The person in charge of managing the estate can be the Executor, a Successor Trustee, or a representative appointed by the probate court.   For small estates, it could be a family member.

It’s not an easy task. It is a job where state laws determine what paperwork and procedures are required and who has the authority to initiate the paperwork. It is not a job we are taught to perform in school, but a job most of us will do when our parents or our spouse die.

These resources can help the estate representative and family members identify what must be done when someone dies: