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.

Do you know your spouse’s passwords?

Ann

A recent article in the Huffington Post really emphasized why you need to be sure to learn your spouse’s passwords…while he or she is still alive to tell you what they are.  The article, titled “I’m Still Paying For My Dead Husband’s Cell Phone Because I Don’t Know His Childhood Friend’s Name”, is printed here in its entirety.

The photo is of the author, Ann Brenoff, and her now deceased husband.

“Make a record of your passwords, folks.

Until I became widowed two months ago, I thought death was a finality. After it happened, I would have the time and space to mourn. I’ve since learned that death is actually followed by a long web of subscriptions, billing services and other minutia ? along with a series of arguments with customer service professionals reading from scripts. 

Unraveling my husband’s life has been a complicated problem, primarily for one reason: His passwords were not in his “important papers” file. 

As a result, my access to his personal accounts is limited, and depending on the company with which I’m dealing, the malarky of what passes for customer service is off the charts.

Take for example his cell phone carrier, a global company with 40,000 employees, none of whom apparently work on weekends. They won’t stop billing me for his phone service because I can’t get into his account to cancel it. I don’t know his password.

And I can’t override the password with his account’s security question ? the first name of his first childhood friend. Vic was 81 when he died ? I feel safe suspecting that he probably wouldn’t have remembered this name either.

Recently, a customer service rep offered me this option: Drive to a company store to “authenticate” my husband’s account, bring his driver’s license, Social Security number, death certificate and our marriage license. For real. Oh, and then call him back because I clearly must have plenty of time on my hands. Mind you, they are still billing my credit card while giving me the run-around. 

Death certificates are the key to the universe.

The root of dealing with all post-death matters is having a copy of a certified death certificate. You can do nothing without one. The best advice anyone gave me was to order multiple copies because everyone, including the gas company, wants one.

Getting a death certificate, at least in Los Angeles, is best accomplished by rising before dawn, taking a day off work and going in person with plenty of quarters for the parking meter. And don’t forget to bring your own pen; things are a little tight at our government offices these days.

Once armed with copies of my husband’s death certificate, I set out to move all his accounts into my name and square away the mountain of paperwork that comes with the end of life. And while it’s certainly been a journey of discovery ? we’ve been spending how much on premium cable so he could watch Cubs games from Los Angeles? ? it has pitted me against more than one instance of corporate absurdity.

Customer service is a contradiction of terms.

Take for example the bank that wouldn’t switch our account notifications to my email from his. We have banked with them for decades and all our accounts are jointly held with survivor rights. Even worse, the bank has his cell phone number on file ? yes, the one I hope to get rid of. 

The cable company, usually the boogeyman of the utility companies we deal with, turned out to be not-so-bad. I just had to threaten to not pay them if they didn’t switch the name on the account. Ditto for the propane company. 

Credit cards are generally pretty happy to remove names. The mail-order pharmacy, not so much, especially when automatic refills are involved. Eventually, every automatic refill will outlive its subscriber and medications aren’t returnable. Who wins in this scenario? 

Car insurance, his driver’s license, his Social Security and Medicare, his magazine subscriptions and his airline miles ? flash that death certificate and you are good to go. 

But the ability to cancel his cell phone service? That one remains elusive.

Widowhood is not for the weak. One minute, you’re fine and the next you’re a raving lunatic. You curse your dead spouse when you have a flat tire, when you just don’t have the energy to drive your kid to the school bus stop and no one else is around to help. It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you just want one thing ? just one ? to be easy. Like, you know, canceling a cell phone plan.”

For information about end of life planning, check out our website www.diesmart.com.

Checked your state’s unclaimed property database lately?

TaffyWhen Sophie Walter died in Illinois in 2009, she left behind a sizable estate, some of it in a pet trust for Taffy, her beloved cat.

The cat’s money was paid out monthly to Taffy’s caregiver, Karen Norwood (who had also been Sophie’s caregiver at an assisted-living facility during the final years of her life).  The funds were used to cover Taffy’s care and maintenance for the remaining years of her life.  She died last year at age 17.

In addition to the pet trust for Taffy, Walters left her money to several animal welfare charities.

Her story would never have been noticed if it weren’t for $121,479 that had fallen through the cracks following her death.  This money was in a savings account she had at JP Morgan Chase Bank.  After five years with no activity on the account, the bank turned that money over to the state treasurer, as required by law.

Taffy’s trust was only discovered when the state treasurer’s office looked for the money’s rightful owner.  Whether the money actually belonged to Taffy is unclear but it was passed on to the same animal welfare charities that had received the balance of Walter’s estate.

A cat can’t check the treasurer’s unclaimed property database but you can.  It’s a good idea to check it every so often in case you actually have an account you’ve forgotten about or a bequest from a now deceased relative has fallen through the cracks.

For more helpful hints about what to do after someone dies, check out our website https://www.diesmart.com.

 

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.