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Old 12-22-2009, 01:10 AM   #21
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Ha,

So sorry to hear about your brother. (It may have been some time ago, but still...)

We went through this recently as well, with my FIL. Three thoughts:

Having joint owners on accounts is probably easiest. If you don't want to do the trust, I'd set up a separate account with a specified amount in it, maybe 3-5K (which would have worked for us when my FIL passed) in it, and make one or both of your sons joint owners with you. Having a separate account limits losses if one of them has an ethical breach.

If you use TOD/POD designations, please make sure it's done right. My FIL had a TOD designation to my husband on one of his accounts, and we'd been getting statements for YEARS labeled "FIL's name, TOD Husband's name." When FIL passed and DH went to get the account transferred, the bank told him "Sorry, the TOD wasn't valid because the form wasn't filled out properly X years ago. So we can't transfer the funds to you." Never mind that they had both accepted the form and labelled the money as TOD for years -- there was nothing we could do. That caused quite a bit of trouble, as cash was needed for various activities right after his death. We ended up footing the bill and are floating it until the estate settles. Ugh. I don't know how we could have avoided that one --- had a lawyer look at the TOD form beforehand? Lesson learned: Do not trust the bank to do really important things properly, even if they do them daily and SHOULD be able to take care of it.

Finally, figure out a way to avoid whatever probate you can. It's a hassle, for one, but also, it drags out the emotional grieving process so much more than we thought it would. I'd like to remember FIL for all the funny things he said and did, not spend my time thinking about him connected to bank statements, tax accountants and attorneys.
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:02 AM   #22
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I don't think co-ownership of a checking account is a good idea at all. That is what one of my grandmothers did, one of her daughters was co-owner and the other siblings understood that this was for convenience only. When granny died her lawyer son-in-law told her that the account holdings where hers alone and she kept it all. It took YEARS before that episode was forgiven.
That was the issue I confronted when my mother died. I was joint on her checking account, which legally meant the total was mine alone after she died. Knowing what the intent of her will was, and not being willing to create years of family resentment over what was a few thousand, I wrote a letter to the county recorder of wills that the account was joint for convenience only and I waived my right to the balance.

That way it went through probate, it was distributed according to her will, and family harmony (not to mention my integrity) was maintained.
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:26 AM   #23
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I don't think co-ownership of a checking account is a good idea at all. That is what one of my grandmothers did, one of her daughters was co-owner and the other siblings understood that this was for convenience only. When granny died her lawyer son-in-law told her that the account holdings where hers alone and she kept it all. It took YEARS before that episode was forgiven.
I will chime in on this landmine. I was added to my Mom's account while she was living, along with older brother as Executor. I was designated as Alternate Executor.
After she passed, he withdrew everything without my signature and put it in an account in only his name, not a fiduciary account for the estate.
I had to get my lawyer to call his lawyer, facing the old "across state lines" situation (take special note of that fact) and use choice words like "file petition to remove Executor for improper procedures" to get it all straightened away.
As my lawyer said, "Always expect the worst when people are pickin' the bones".
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Old 12-22-2009, 08:50 AM   #24
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I will chime in on this landmine. I was added to my Mom's account while she was living, along with older brother as Executor and me as Alternate Executor.
After she passed, he withdrew everything without my signature and put it in an account in only his name, not a fiduciary account for the estate.
I had to get my lawyer to call his lawyer, facing the old "across state lines" situation (take special note of that fact) and use choice words like "file petition to remove Executor for improper procedures" to get it all straightened away.
As my lawyer said, "Always expect the worst when people are pickin' the bones".

Unfortunate. As executor of my Mom's estate I divvied up the estate in thirds between me and brother and sister - including the accounts and car I was joint on - that was per her intent. No problems. An Aunt that died had family suing the Uncle right into his grave over the estate. Not good. Emotions run high at that time, and after someone has died if money is all that's left it can be a grabfest.
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Old 12-22-2009, 09:04 AM   #25
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My brother (George) had a joint checking account with my mother, and he made sure that her bills were paid from it when she was in her declining years.

He was also executor of her estate. Immediately upon her death he sent an account balance for that account to my other brother and me. Each month he sent a summary of what he had done with regards to her estate, including every single cent spent from that checking account.

He never would have been able to sleep again had he robbed her estate of even one penny. When he sent distributions from the estate, if there were an odd number of cents he even shorted himself one cent instead of shorting my other brother or me. I am so grateful to him and feel lucky to have such an honest, reliable brother.
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Old 12-22-2009, 09:45 AM   #26
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Of course, a well drawn Power of Attorney can do the same thing but keep in mind it will not cover you in case of death. PoA dissolve at death of person.
I learned this the hard way. My husband had a very small saving account that he forgot to add my name on. That little savings account gave me more trouble than anything. Like a dummy, I went to the bank with the death certificate and since my name was not on the account, they couldn't do anything for me. Now, if I had taken in the POA, and not told them of his death, I would have been fine.
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Old 12-22-2009, 11:21 AM   #27
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I would NEVER tell a financial institution that a death had occurred.

We learned, also, that they retain a copy of trust agreements and other founding paperwork for 5-7 years. After that all they have is, effectively, the signature card and title of the account.
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Old 12-23-2009, 09:45 AM   #28
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I would NEVER tell a financial institution that a death had occurred.
Well, ya gotta tell 'em sometime or you won't get your money.
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Old 12-23-2009, 12:33 PM   #29
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He never would have been able to sleep again had he robbed her estate of even one penny. When he sent distributions from the estate, if there were an odd number of cents he even shorted himself one cent instead of shorting my other brother or me. I am so grateful to him and feel lucky to have such an honest, reliable brother.
Sounds about like what I did. When the dust settled on the estate my two sisters insisted on taking me and DW out to a nice dinner.

And... having heard other horror stories of vulture relatives, they never once asked to see the supporting documentation for the financial statements I sent them even though I asked them to look it over to make sure I hadn't failed to dot an i or cross a t.

The biggest point of discussion was who got to keep the stuffed angel bear that my mother had made. So we decided to pass it around once a year.
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Old 12-23-2009, 12:41 PM   #30
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The biggest point of discussion was who got to keep the stuffed angel bear that my mother had made. So we decided to pass it around once a year.
That is a fabulous idea...your spirit of sharing within your family is heartwarming.

I have one brother and one sister...and I hope we can be the same way. I can't be sure until it happens, but I think we'll be ok.

My dad worked 35+ years at AT&T. He asked me about 3 years ago if there was anything specific I wanted out of his estate, as he was re-working his will. I told him I'd love to have one of the old telephones he has, as a memory of him.

He has about 12 phones from various stages of history...I like the one where you hold the one piece to your ear and talk into a different piece on the wall...with a crank on it. I'd hang it on a wall somewhere, and once a year I'd "dial him up" just to make sure he's doing ok.


My dad is still alive and healthy...but he's in his mid '70s now so anything goes. I hope he lives many more years, we are very close.
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Old 12-23-2009, 01:08 PM   #31
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Well, ya gotta tell 'em sometime or you won't get your money.
When an asset is in a revocable living trust the nature of the trust changes upon the death of the last grantor, it becomes irrevocable and needs its own tax ID. Getting the tax ID doesn't take long at all, you can do it on the internet, but if the remainder trustees are dealing with the passing of a loved one this detail is just one too many (don't make the mistake I did of entering the date of the establishment of the revocable trust as the start date of the trust, the date to enter is the date of the grantor's passing). Then each financial institution has their own procedures to rename the trust. There are times to button your lip and do what is necessary for the moment. They will be told soon enough.

Frankly I don't see the need to have a lot of cash quickly for executors, most people who need to be paid can handle 30 days and if the death is expected a family member can be advanced (with an IOU) enough to handle the funeral or put it on plastic.
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