Sunday, February 26, 2012

POD, TOD, Survivor

Groucho Marx once said, "I've never wanted to be a member of any club that would have me." That's how I feel about being a widow except I'm a club member and I hate, despise, reject and spit upon it with all my might. I'm sorry God, but you know how I feel so I might as well say it out loud. Some days are bad and other days are horrible; once in a very great while there will be a jot of laughter, some small smidgen of joy even and then the heavens crash down on my head and I'm there, on the kitchen floor, in a puddle, sobbing my heart out with the dogs crowded around giving me kisses and whines. It's not even been four months and already I am sick of going it alone; being strong, doing chores, farm work, house work, paperwork, estate work and always dealing with crappy people who tell me, "I know just how you feel."
~ the long road ahead ~
"Really? When did your husband die?" Then they look like a deer caught in the headlights. "Well, um, okay, perhaps I don't understand exactly but I'm sure it's not easy."

Really? Ya think? Well, there are some things one can do to soften the financial burden. If you and your spouse have vehicles, all titles, registration, insurance, etc. needs to be written as John J. Doe and Jane J. Doe or survivor. That survivor part is very important because it means the difference between extra work and extra money. IOW, if the "survivor" part isn't on the title or registration when you go to the Division of Motor Vehicles you'll need to take the paperwork from the Courthouse proving you're the executrix or executor. Additionally, you'll have to pay extra money to re-register the vehicle in your name. You're going to have to pay extra money to have the title put into your name and, while you're at it, have your beneficiary's name placed on the title as well. I paid to have titles made in my name and my sister's name or survivor. Should I pre-decease my sister she won't have to jump through hoops at the DMV although she'll have to pay to have new titles made.
~ Abbie ~
Also, if you and your spouse have only a will, and no Living Trust, you'll have to pay inheritance or death tax on the value of the vehicles. If you have a Living Trust, if it's written correctly, at the time of death, "everything pours over" in one's Living Trust and one ends up, on paper anyway, a pauper thus no death or inheritance taxes are paid. That's what I've been told but you need to consult your lawyer for details in your state.

At the bank...even if you and your spouse do not have the same checking account, both names need to be on every account. That doesn't mean you have check writing privileges or can withdraw money but it does mean, upon the death of your spouse, you can get their money out of their account and pay bills, etc. It also means you don't pay inheritance or death taxes on that money. For example: John J. Doe with Jane J. Doe as survivor, payable on death...POD. Another term is TOD or transferable on death; again, very important because you don't pay taxes on the money when the will is probated. And, even more important, you have money to pay bills and live on while you're dealing with all the minutiae of a death.
~ Sophie Lauren Butterball ~

I've said it before and will hammer away at it again...if you do not have credit in your name...do it NOW. Open a checking account, savings account, get a credit card...but use it sparingly...GET CREDIT!

Lastly, I am not a lawyer, trust advisor, accountant, etc. I'm merely someone who was dragged, kicking and screaming, into this "membership" and am passing along what hard won information I've gained. You need to consult professionals in the fields in which you need help whether that be legal, financial, etc.

Go with God; trust me, you're going to need His help.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Notebooks, Wills, Cell Phone

It's only been three months since Dave died and the paperwork is horrendous. At some point in time, I'll put together my thoughts in a more pleasing fashion but for now, just keep your own notes, ask questions if you like and begin getting your affairs in order.

One more word about wills before going on...if you have underage or special needs children, you absolutely must have a will. If you don't have a will and, for example, both parents are killed in the same car crash, in Virginia, if it can't be proven otherwise, it's assumed the wife dies before the husband. Who knew?! But, that's just some of the legal mumbo jumbo that's "out there" and, unfortunately, most of us never know until it's too late.

Wives, if you should be assumed dead before your husband, do you want his family raising your children? I'm not saying they should or shouldn't, I'm saying is that what you and your husband want? If not, you need a will or the state steps in and various government officials employees determine what happens to your children, your property, etc. But that's all after they take their cut fee.

I've never used them but Legal Zoom is supposed to be a good place to obtain legal documents that will hold up in court in the USA, perhaps other countries as well, I don't know.

Last post, I talked about three-ring notebooks. My life is built around three-ring notebooks and I have them for virtually everything. Crafts, recipes, the class I taught at University, Dave's estate, his trust, our important papers...everything!

Jill, Pam and Star all brought up good points about what should go into a notebook.  I have a notebook that holds all the paperwork regarding will, trust, vehicle titles, mortgage, deed, marriage, divorce, birth, death, life insurance...virtually everything that I don't have to deal with after the information is placed in the notebook. I'll review it once a year but leave it otherwise.

A financial portfolio in a separate notebook means you can look at just that information quickly, easily and often.

In another notebook keep information regarding maintenance on appliances, farm, yard or garden equipment, heating and air conditioning, contacts and contracts for propane and oil, insurance papers on vehicles, home, people, equipment, other contracts.

Also, print, make copies and keep in a safe location all the passwords for all on-line accounts, utilities, bank accounts, e-mail, blog and web accounts.

Have both your names on all utilities - electrical, water, sewer, land line and cell telephones. The companies might give you a difficult time but it is your right to have utilities in both your names. Also, all insurance on vehicles, house, equipment, etc.  When I called V. cell phone company to tell them Dave had passed away and his phone needed to be disconnected, I was told, "We're sorry for your loss. You have seven days to sign a 3 year contract and buy a $100 phone." I told them, "I don't want a contract and I already have a phone." They told me, "You don't understand, this is our policy and if you don't make this decision in 7 days, we'll discontinue your cell phone service for you." I told them, "Let me make this easy for both of us; discontinue it now and send me a refund check."

Oh dearie me. That's when the foot licking started. "Oh but you've been such a good customer since 19XX and we don't want to lose you." I said, "Okay, we're back to I don't need a phone nor a new contract." They said, "That's our policy" and I replied, "What part of NOW don't you understand?" Then, they wanted to wait until the next billing cycle? Why? Because I would have owned them $81 plus but if they canceled at that moment, they would have owned me money.

DUH! Now I'm using a Wal Mart Straight Talk phone that cost $80 and I buy 1,000 minutes of text, 1,000 minutes of talk and 30 mg of i-net for $30 a month. If I want unlimited, I pay $45 and if I decide to buy a "Smart Phone" that will cost $150. There aren't any contracts and I buy only what I need. Oh, the best part? This particular Straight Talk phone uses V. cell towers.

HELLO! Can you hear me now?

Have both your names on all the insurance - cars, house, buildings, equipment. That way, should the secondary need to discuss something with the company, the secondary has every legal right to do so. Regardless what the company says; "it's our policy"...fine but my lawyer says...

Next time I'll talk about vehicles and bank accounts but for now, you've got your assignments. Please, leave questions, comments or your own good advice and thank you.

BTW, if you've stumbled upon this blog, you might want to visit me at Thistle Cove Farm.