Monday, March 30, 2009

Recessions and the Funeral Industry

Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal included an article in its Personal Finance Section from the Seattle Times titled In These Hard Times, Even Funeral Industry Is Suffering. The article presents some insight into the more cost-effective option of cremation.

All too often a person's passing is unexpected. One way to ease the shock and burden of an untimely death is to discuss the options that exist for funeral and burial. Discussing it know, and making some plans, will save your loved ones time, money, and grief in the future....hopefully long off in the future.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Funerals Go High-Tech

I recently discovered a new blog, and here is an interesting post on webcasting funerals. The idea may hold appeal for certain families who have relatives and friends spread across the globe. I hope this is a useful link.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Death and the Digital World

Some time ago I blogged about on-line estate planning tools, and recently I came across yet another new web site. Launching in April 2009, Legacy Locker aims to help you pass along your digital property to your loved ones. Facebook pages, Amazon accounts, and countless other services. I can't tell from the web site, but you may be able to preserve digital photos and other media.

There always seems to be a new web site, melding ways of the past with technical savvy. But this web site also serves as a reminder that we do all have some digital presence, some more than others. When doing an estate plan, don't overlook these items.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Learn More About Green Burials

The following article appeared on a blog that I read daily, and it seemed like something that might interest my readers.

Lately, there has been a movement to educate consumers of alternative burials. One such movement asks consumers to consider a “green burial.” A green burial is aptly named because it aims to provide ecological soundness.

Green Burials -- what are they and why might you want one? To learn more, I recommend reading Green Burials: What Are They and What Are Their Advantages?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Undertaker's Tale

When you blog about illness, death and taxes it is nice to throw in a piece that is upbeat every now and then. Even though he has been dead for years, Mark Twain will publish a new story -- The Undertaker's Tale. According to the LA Times,
The never-before-published story "The Undertaker's Tale" by Mark Twain will finally see print next week, in the pages of the mystery quarterly The Strand Magazine. "Twain uses his razor sharp wit to pen a tongue-in-cheek tale about the funeral industry," says editor Andrew Gulli, "which could easily have been written today."
I'm not sure if the story itself is upbeat, but a never read story by Twain is always a treat. Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

News on the New Estate Tax

Recently I posted a blog up upcoming changes to the federal estate tax, no specifics have been worked out yet, however, the NY Times recently ran an article reporting on the likely changes to the federal estate tax law. And the article includes a nice overview of bypass trusts, family trusts, beneficiary forms, and a reminder to review your estate plan every 5 years.

Estate plans should be reviewed at least every five years, more often if there’s a change in finances or circumstances — if health or marriage takes a turn for the worse, or if there’s a birth or death in the family.
The article also mentions the importance of making sure your beneficiary forms are up-to-date, especially given the recent number of mergers, acquisitions, and failures in the financial sector. Remember, what is listed on a beneficiary forms controls, not a will.

Whether your family would be impacted by federal estate taxes or not, it is truly a gift to leave your loved ones by making sure your papers are in place, up-to-date, and organized.

If you are uncertain about the area of estate planning, I encourage you to seek the counsel of a skilled attorney -- don't rely on blog postings for legal advice, they are merely a place to get discussions started.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Debt and Death

The death of a loved one is a difficult time, and often made more complicated when the deceased left behind debts. Today's New York Times ran an article on debt collectors who specialize in collecting monies owed by the deceased. The article implies that these companies are aggressive, often making surviving loved ones believe they are responsible for the deceased's debts.

In some instances there may be liability by the survivors, for example in a marital relationship or if someone co-signed on a loan. However, you should research your rights and obligations before paying bills of a loved one who has passed.

This story also underscores the importance of doing a probate, even in small estates. The probate process involves giving notice to known and unknown (via newspaper notice) creditors, giving them a set time frame to seek repayment. Probate is the proper venue to discharge all debts owed by the deceased. Probate is not as difficult as many people fear, and it can be completed with or without the assistance of an attorney -- depending on where you live. In Dane County (Wisconsin), the probate court has all of the forms on-line.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Seminar - Planning a Funeral

I came across an announcement for a local seminar on planning a funeral, presented by Hospice. The announcement says:

People must often plan a funeral when they are least prepared to do it—right after the loss of a loved one. You can help your family avoid this by learning about the many decisions involved in a funeral at this free question-and-answer seminar. No registration is necessary, and there is no charge to attend.
For more information, click here.