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Social Security theft dangers

Estimates say there are somewhere between 300 and 450 people at or above age 110 alive today in the world. But a report from Social Security’s inspector general says that Social Security records say there are about 6.5 million Americans above the age of 112 that haven’t yet passed away.

While Social Security isn’t paying out benefits to those 6.5 million, only about 13 are actually receiving benefits, their Social Security numbers are still active and can be used. That can be a problem. A real, live person with an active Social Security number is in danger of identity theft, and report and clear it up when it occurs. A dead person is much less likely to have someone looking out for them when it comes to identity theft.

Social Security numbers are used for multiple financial purposes — everything from verifying employment eligibility to opening bank accounts and maintaining credit scores. That’s on top of their purpose of tracking Social Security eligibility and benefit levels.

Living people whose IDs are stolen can eventually get the problem fixed and also help authorities when their IDs are being misused. As the old adage says, “dead men tell no tales.” With still-active, real Social Security numbers of people who have passed away, it’s a lot easier for scammers to fly under the radar.

But there are things you can do to prevent such abuse. If you’re the executor or next of kin of a person who passed away, be sure that person’s death has been reported to Social Security. You can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, to report a death. You can also visit your local Social Security office (locations available here) to report a death in person. Funeral homes are willing to report the death on your behalf, but you would have to provide the funeral home the deceased’s Social Security number.

In addition to taking care of reporting those that have died, take care to protect your own Social Security number. Know the times you actually need to divulge your Social Security number and the times you don’t, and don’t give out your number unless you’re obligated to.

Your employer needs to collect your Social Security number to get your income and tax reporting correct, as do financial institutions like your mortgage bank and brokerage. While you do have to give your Social Security number to those institutions, you should be smart about how you give it out. Additionally, you do have to put your Social Security number on your tax return.

While you do have to divulge your Social Security number to those institutions, be careful in how you share it. For instance, don’t give your Social Security number out if someone claiming to be from some institution calls you and asks you for it. It may be a scam looking to steal your identity.

Despite these issues, the Social Security program is an important one that, among other things, provides a minimum income for retirees. Do what you can to keep your and your loved ones’ information out of the hands of those who’d misuse it. This way it will ensure you get what you’ve earned from Social Security.

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Estate Planning for Pets

A recently conducted a survey of pet owners and found nearly half (44%) of pet owners have prepared for the future care of their animals should their pets outlive them. Utilizing traditional financial planning instruments such as living trusts, life insurance and annuities, pet owners are able to have peace of mind knowing that their pets’ needs will be met.

Generally,  pet estate plans consist of more than who will care for the pet when you are no longer able. Expenses such as food, doggie day care, veterinarian bills / medication and needed home repairs, because of the pet, should also be considered. Those expenses can result in substantial costs over time.  

Also, one-in-five of all respondents in the survey said they have financially planned for their pets’ future care:

38% said they added the pet’s future caregiver as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy.

35% added more coverage to their life policies.

-13% recently purchased annuities naming the pet’s caregiver as the beneficiary.

Many pet owners consider their pets as members of their family and many go to great lengths to make their pets’ lives enjoyable as possible.  So, not surprisingly, many respondents stated that they would forgo other debt payments to ensure their dogs were taken care of properly.

Yet, most pet owners overlook end-of-life planning.  Setting up a trust for a pet or a donation money to a local  humane society or pet shelter are just a few of the options available.

A question many people consider before adding a new animal to the family is, “Can we afford it?” The price of an animal from a breeder can be high, into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A more affordable option is often available at a local humane society or rescue shelter. Here in New York, you can get an animal that has been thoroughly evaluated, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated – all for about $140. Annual costs of food, veterinarian bills, etc. are equally important to consider before making a pet a part of your family. Sadly, pets are often returned to animal shelters because the pet owners were unable to afford things like veterinarian bills.

Finally, inquire about pet insurance the next time you visit your veterinarian. Many clinics offer reasonable plans and staff members will be able to speak with you about the appropriate option based on the type of pet, breed, age and other criteria. Typically, policies cost as little as $15 a month, which is a huge difference compared to a $1,000 emergency bill. The average policy cost closer to $45 per month.

Simple steps, like the aforementioned examples, will ensure your pets are cared for properly and affordably. If you need help or guidance in developing a care plan for your pets after you pass on, please contact us here at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein @(212) 693-3737.

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Is your pet in your estate plan?

A survey of pet owners and found nearly half (44%) of pet owners have prepared for the future care of their animals should their pets outlive them. Utilizing traditional financial planning instruments such as living trusts, life insurance and annuities, pet owners are able to have peace of mind knowing that their pets’ needs will be met.

Generally,  pet estate plans consist of more than who will care for the pet when you are no longer able. Expenses such as food, doggie day care, veterinarian bills / medication and needed home repairs, because of the pet, should also be considered. Those expenses can result in substantial costs over time.  

Also, one-in-five of all respondents in the survey said they have financially planned for their pets’ future care:

38% said they added the pet’s future caregiver as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy.

35% added more coverage to their life policies.

-13% recently purchased annuities naming the pet’s caregiver as the beneficiary.

Many pet owners consider their pets as members of their family and many go to great lengths to make their pets’ lives enjoyable as possible.  So, not surprisingly, many respondents stated that they would forgo other debt payments to ensure their dogs were taken care of properly.

Yet, most pet owners overlook end-of-life planning.  Setting up a trust for a pet or a donation money to a local  humane society or pet shelter are just a few of the options available.

A question many people consider before adding a new animal to the family is, “Can we afford it?” The price of an animal from a breeder can be high, into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A more affordable option is often available at a local humane society or rescue shelter. Here in New York, you can get an animal that has been thoroughly evaluated, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated – all for about $140. Annual costs of food, veterinarian bills, etc. are equally important to consider before making a pet a part of your family. Sadly, pets are often returned to animal shelters because the pet owners were unable to afford things like veterinarian bills.

Finally, inquire about pet insurance the next time you visit your veterinarian. Many clinics offer reasonable plans and staff members will be able to speak with you about the appropriate option based on the type of pet, breed, age and other criteria. Typically, policies cost as little as $15 a month, which is a huge difference compared to a $1,000 emergency bill. The average policy cost closer to $45 per month.

Simple steps, like the aforementioned examples, will ensure your pets are cared for properly and affordably. If you need help or guidance in developing a care plan for your pets after you pass on, please contact us here at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein @(212) 693-3737.

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Man spends inheritance proving father murdered mother

A Salt Lake City man spent his entire proving  inheritence his father murdered his mother.

Back in 2012, when Pelle Walls and his siblings were told by their father that their mother committed suicide they were obviously devastated. But, the father’s behavior in the weeks following the suicide had Pelle thinking it was not, suicide, but murder, and his father was responsible for the death of his mother.

John  Brickman Walls ex-wife was a well-known German scientist, Uta von Schwedler who was found dead in her bathtub and Salt Lake City, Utah, authorities rule it a suicide. But Pelle had other ideas.

Pelle started noticing his father acting strange, saying things like ‘What if I did it and don’t remember?’, and asking for both his mother and his lawyer.

Even though the verdict was suicide. Pelle decided to seek justice for his mother. A year after her death he moved out of his father’s home and in with a friend, and soon after managed to get all of his younger siblings taken away from his father and put in the care of family and friends.

When he turned 21, Pelle decided to use the inheritance from his mother to sue his father in a wrongful death suit, which meant his father could be questioned under oath in a court. Taking the stand, his father’s story of Uta’s death soon showed cracks as he repeatedly changed his story.

Pelle was also able to tell the court of his father’s strange behavior after breaking the news to his children of their mother’s death. Various press reports say Pelle recalled, ‘He was kind of babbling and rambling. But he was saying things along the lines of, “Am I a monster?” and “What if I did it and I can’t remember?” I think he also said, “I want my mom or I want my mommy.”

Pelle hired an expert forensic scientist who testified that his mother’s body showed signs of a struggle before her death. The court found the father guilty of murder an he was sentenced from 15 years to life

The court case cost Pelle his entire inheritance.

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Your estate planning checklist

When people hear the words “estate planning,” many think it’s just writing a will. Estate planning is about more than writing a will.  It is also about taking care of yourself while you are alive should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.

The following is a list of must have documents to have in your estate plan in addition to your will.  The names of the documents vary from state-to-state, but the following are essential ones to ask an estate planning attorney like Jeffrey Weinstein  to draft for you.

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HIPAA Release. HIPAA is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which prohibits your doctors from discussing your medical condition and treatment with anyone, except those you name on your HIPAA form.  Only these individuals will have full access to your healthcare team.

Advanced Health Care Directive or Medical Power of Attorney. With this document, you can designate an individual (known as a “health care agent”) who you want to make decisions about your health care, should you  you become too ill or injured to make them for yourself.

Living Will. This details the kinds of medical care and treatment you want and don’t want to receive if you’re close to death and there is no prospect of a recovery. Your health care agent will have the power to make sure your wishes are followed.

Durable Power of Attorney. In the event you become incapacitated, your debts need to get paid, like the mortgage or rent. A Durable Power of Attorney names a person during your incapacity to manage your finances. He or she can write checks and speak with your financial companies.

But note, a Durable Power of Attorney is different from a plain  Power of Attorney. (POA) The POA is no longer legally valid when you become incapacitated. When that happens, you need a Durable Power of Attorney.  Ask your bank(s) and real estate title companies about their requirements for this, because some are rigid. They might want you to use theirs.

Revocable Living Trust. Some people with larger estates elect to avoid problems with POAs and create revocable living trusts. These act like a super power of attorney. Banks must comply with their terms. With a revocable living trust, you transfer title of your assets to the trust and name yourself as trustee, so you can continue to manage and benefit from those assets as you did before they were in the trust. If you can’t act as the trustee because you become incapacitated, your designated successor trustee will manage the trust.

You may need all or some of these in your estate plan. For best results contact Jeffrey Weinstein at (212) 693-3737who will be able to create an estate plan best suited to your needs,

 

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