Articles Posted in Banking

One of the most common questions we receive from clients is where to keep original wills and other estate planning documents. Generally, there are two main options as to where these documents should be kept. The first option is to keep them in your home with your personal items and other important documentation. The advantage of this option is that it is usually easier for your family to find the documents should something happen to you. However, storing items in your own home can also carry some risk. The main drawback is the potential danger for fire or flood. If your original will is destroyed, you would need to re-execute a new document. To combat this risk, some people prefer to use a fire-proof safe to keep their important documents. If this is your choice, I would recommend sharing the code to your safe with your next of kin. Otherwise, it will be difficult to access the documents in an urgent situation.

The second option people choose for storing original estate planning documents is to use a safety deposit box at a bank. The primary advantage here is that the clients know the documents are being kept in a safe and secured location. The downside to this option can be the difficulty in gaining access to the safety deposit box once the client passes away. Some people will choose to list a family member as a co-owner of the safety deposit box, but some banks have restrictions on the number of people who can be listed.

If a family member is not listed on the account, the safety deposit box can still be accessed after the person passes away under the Illinois Safety Deposit Box Opening Act 755 ILCS 15/1. However, the family member, or interested person, must present an affidavit and can only open the safety deposit box for the purpose of checking for a will. In this situation the only items that may be removed are a will, a codicil, or any burial documents.

Open enrollment for Medicare runs from October 15th to December 7th this year. If you are eligible for Medicare, you are more likely than ever to be the target of Medicare related scams this year. Medicare scammers are smart and they know exactly what types of scenarios, incentives and stories are most likely to ensnare seniors.

Typical scam calls may be about a refund of premiums, the need for a new Medicare card, false offers of free medical services and bogus Medigap plans. No matter the story used, service offered, or purported identity of the caller, the objective is for the scammer to obtain the senior’s Social Security number by slowly extracting as much personal information as possible from their victim.

Here are some important things for seniors to remember about Medicare to help weed out fake callers:

The Reverse Mortgage has gotten a bad reputation in the time since it was first created by the Federal Housing Administration in 1988. The mere mention of the Reverse Mortgage usually brings to mind foreclosed homes and declining financial health. In fact a Reverse Mortgage is simply an equity loan secured by someone’s home with a deferred payment plan. Unlike a traditional home equity line of credit, no reverse mortgage interest or principal is due until the loan reaches maturity. As long as the homeowner resides in the property and stays current on property tax and insurance payments, they can reside in the home without making any payments on the money they have borrowed.

In order to qualify for a reverse mortgage, a homeowner must be age 62 or older with substantial equity in their home. There are no income or credit score requirements. Typically, the older the homeowner, the more they can borrow. A homeowner has the option of taking out a lump sum amount or establishing a line of credit that grows over time if money is not withdrawn.

A homeowner does have the option to pay down the balance of a reverse mortgage over time. Interest paid on the loan can be taken as a tax deduction. If no payments are made, the reverse mortgage is still not due until the last surviving borrower passes away or fails to occupy the home as their primary residence. Reverse mortgage lenders will give the heirs of an estate up to 12 months to complete the sale of the home or refinance the balance of the reverse mortgage. It is VERY important that the heirs of a deceased home owner contact the mortgage lender as soon as possible to inform them of the passing and the heirs’ plans for the property.

Custodial accounts are created by adults as custodians for minor children. Both the custodian and the minor must be residents or resident aliens of the United States. The accounts are established under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA).

A custodial account is an account created with property gifted by an adult. It is a gift under the Internal Revenue Code and can be used for annual gift tax exclusions up to $14,000 per year per child to whom the gift is made.

The account is irrevocable and cannot be terminated by the adult.

Money, securities, U.S. savings bonds, life insurance, annuities, partnership interests, real property and tangible personal property can be transferred to the UTMA account.

The account assets can be used for the benefit of the minor prior to the minor reaching the age of majority. The custodian is the only individual who can access the account.

The identification number on the custodial account is the minor’s social security number. Any income earned will be reported to the IRS under the minor’s social security number and taxed to the minor.
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Effective January 1, 2010, Illinois enacted the Banking Convenience Account for Depositors Act which allows account owners to create joint accounts that allow non-owners to make deposits and withdrawals. The accounts do not have Payable On Death or Transfer on Death designations. The non-owners have no survivorship rights as there would be with a common joint tenancy account.

The accounts are useful where an elderly person has an adult child assist with banking, such as making deposits and paying bills, but where there is no intention to make the balance in the account a gift to the non-owner upon the death of the owner.

The banks are protected. Until the bank receives written notice of the death of the account owner, it has no liability for continuing to pay funds to the non-owner. Once the bank does receive written notice, unless there is a restraining order or injunction in place, the bank is discharged from liability by delivering the remaining funds in the account to the executor, administrator or other representative of the estate.
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