Getting Smart with Money: The Death and Taxes Edition

Here are three articles I found this week that you might enjoy or find useful.

1.  More Than Half of American Adults Don’t Have a Will
Anybody who has lost a family member or loved one knows the profound sadness that accompanies loss. This experience is elevated from painful to frustrating when your loved one dies without having their financial or legal affairs in order. Imagine how helpless you would feel as outsiders step in to discern your parent/grandparent/spouse’s final wishes, as the state—not you or your family—becomes the executor of their legacy.

We all know somebody who has been through this experience, and we all promise to spare our loved ones the same fate when we die. However, I’m not so sure we’ve taken this lesson to heart; with only 42% of U.S. adults having a will or living trust in place, the majority of us have implicitly agreed to let the state carry out our final wishes instead of proactively planning for the inevitable before it’s too late. While the best time to create a will was yesterday, now is the next best time to make sure your affairs are in order so your loved ones aren’t left picking up the pieces in your absence.

2.  The Five Wishes Living Will Advance Directive
I believe one reason many of us don’t have the right documents in place for end-of-life issues is because these documents rely on formal language and, in most cases, an attorney. Many of us don’t want to broach the subject because it’s awkward to know what to say.  Aging with Dignity is a nonprofit organization working to help people from all walks of life and all faith practices communicate their end-of-life wishes through a simple living will document called Five Wishes. This website is a great resource for you or your loved ones and will help you understand and create a document that reflects your desires and wishes for end-of-life care without using legalese or jargon.

3.  Old Tax Forms Found in Open Dumpster in Fremont  
The old adage is true: the only certainties in life are death and taxes. I suppose we can add a third certainty: identity theft, at least if you were a client of the retiring CPA in this article who threw years of client tax returns in an open dumpster. I’m not sure what surprises me more—that the CPA thought the trash would be incinerated (we’re talking about California here!), or his generous offer to pay for the shredding after getting caught. Either way, identity theft is a real issue, and we don’t need to make it any easier for thieves (or common dumpster divers) to get our personal information!

- Shay