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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Education trusts for grandkids?

If you want to leave money for your grandchildren you can easily do that in your will. But what forms(s) should it take? The obvious answer is to set up a trust

What you could do is set up what they call a pot trust.  A pot trust is basically a pot of money from which each of the beneficiaries can request funds. It’s a simple, but you need to be careful if you intend for all of the beneficiaries to be treated the same.

Every beneficiary can dip into the pot of money that’s in that trust and some may get more than another. That’s all well and good if that’s what you intended, but unequal distribution can lead to ugly fights.

As an example, one beneficiary may go to Hunter College and the other might go to NYU. The one going to NYU might use up most of the trust before Hunter even starts college.

That’s where educational devices like a 529 plan come in.” A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs. 529 plans, legally known as “qualified tuition plans,” are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.” 

Since a 529 is designed with education in mind, it is designed to be flexible and to address the changing educational environment. If you need help deciding, please contact us a 347-305-4262.



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You don’t have to be millionaire to have an estate plan

Aretha Franklin died without any kind of estate planning. Her estate was worth an estimated 80 million. But, since she had no advanced estate planning, after applying the federal estate tax exemption the estate will only be worth $68,800,000 and that is subject to 40% federal tax.

Now that valuation doesn’t include attorney’s fees, court costs and other costs associated with settling the estate. But what is known is that it will be worth a fraction of the 80 million.

So, you don’t have 80 million, but what you have worked for you want to pass along to your heirs without the government taking a huge cut, right? That’s where estate planning comes in.

What if you have debt? Creditors can go after that debt and the heirs who you bequeathed your money if the debt hasn’t been dealt with.

How to avoid such hassles? Here’s a list of what you should include in your estate plan to lessen the possible hassles.

  • Assign healthcare power of attorney 
  • Create a will
  • Review your beneficiaries for life insurance, investments etc.
  • Set up a trust(s)

Reviewing your beneficiaries is important especially if you assigned them years before. As an example, if you remarried you still might have your ex-spouse as a beneficiary and now you want your current spouse to be the beneficiary.

What happens if you get hospitalized and can’t make decision about your health and money? A healthcare proxy or healthcare power of attorney can make sure your wishes are carried out.

Suppose you have a sizable estate, maybe not millions but a nice chunk. How do you keep the government frtom getting their hands on it? You can set up a trust. A trust is managed by a trustee for a beneficiary or beneficiaries you choose. You toss the assets right into the trust and it bypasses probate court and the expenses associated with it.

These are just a few ways to shield your estate from the grabbing government hands. The Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein can help you manage your estate. Please call us at 347-305-8752 for a free consultation.




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Estate planning? Consult a professional

The internet offers many ways to create your own estate planning documents and you can take that route if you want to save money, but you are better off hiring a professional to insure all your documentation is legally valid.

There’s nothing wrong with saving some dough by drafting your own estate-planning documents. You can find templates for basic wills and such online or in bookstores. But that should be followed with a review of those documents by an expert to insure everything is in order

Massachusetts estate planner Leanna Hamill, told AARP that, “Ninety percent of the online estate planning documents I see don’t do what the people think they’re going to do. I’ve seen people use online documents, documents out of estate-planning books or documents borrowed from friends. But they screw up their estate plan because they don’t understand the legal and technical aspects of the documents.”

Hamill told AARP that she knows of one client who signed a deed transferring his house to a trust but hadn’t properly created the trust. Thus, the deed had no effect. Another client’s confusion over the term “beneficiary” resulted in the immediate transfer of all his property to his children and required him to pay them an annual income, leaving his wife in the cold.

So even though you can do it yourself, err on the safe  side and contact a professional like Jeffrey Weinstein @  212-693-3737 for a free consultation.


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