Monday, September 9, 2013

What Happens to Frequent Flier Miles and Other Rewards? It Depends!

Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. 2013 -- M. Gustafson Gervasi

Lawyers are known for giving the dreaded answer of "it depends" when asked a question.  But it is true, unsatisfying, but true.  Case in point -- the a ability to leave frequent flier miles and other loyalty perks to family and friends upon your death depends on the service agreement you have with the company.  Sure, your will may say "I leave my Delta Frequent Flier miles to my spouse", but the will does not control distribution.  It's the service agreement with the company, and according to recent news, Delta is one of 5 major airlines that prohibits passing frequent flier miles at death.  Other airlines, as well as companies with loyalty perks, may allow limited transfers to a spouse or domestic partner.  In the end, it really depends on the agreement with the company.

In the end, read your agreement.  If you do not like the terms, seek out another company.  But watch for updates and changes to the service agreement terms.  In a tight economy companies are seeking out savings in every nook and cranny of the business operation.  And those points you've earned may vanish upon your passing.

Thanks for reading, and remember -- a blog is not a lawyer nor should it be taken as legal advice.  Please seek counsel from an attorney licensed in your state for advice specific to your situation.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Power of Attorney for Finance -- Who Do You Trust With Your Checkbook?

Earlier this week I took a call from a financial planner I know.  She was calling for advice to give an elderly client.  In her eighties, the client's health was beginning to decline and the question came up, who would be right to take over the finances when the time comes?  The planner wondered what general advice I might have.  The women had no family nearby.  From my vantage point as an estate planning and probate attorney, I offered the following thoughts:

  • Trust and competency are more important than proximity.  Go with someone who does not have his or her own financial problems, lessen the chance they will either steal or simply drop the ball and create a mess.
  • Finances can be managed from a distance thanks to fax machines, the internet, and smart phones.
  • A remote power of attorney can hire a local daily money manager if local or on-site financial duties are required.
  • Consider skipping over family and friends and naming a professional, such as your CPA.  
People may feel that they are without options, and thus not take control of the situation.  If you hit a roadblock reach out and ask others.  There may be a solution you had never thought of.

Thanks for reading, and remember -- a blog is not legal advice.  Please seek counsel from an attorney licensed in your state.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I.R.S. Rules on Same-Sex Married Couples Status

As fall settles over the country and children return to the classroom, we have a clear understanding how one federal agency will treat same-sex couples in a post-DOMA world.  Last week, within an hour or two of dropping my Summer/Fall newsletter off at the printers, I received an alert from my associate back in the office.  The IRS released a statement clarifying its position on how it will treat married same-sex couples for estate and income tax purposes.  The newsletter had indicated that each agency would make a decision, and up until then, the IRS treatment depended on a couple's state of residence.  And then it changed.  My plans to start the Labor Day weekend were delayed, a few sentences were re-written, and back to the printers it went.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, same-sex married couples will receive:

  • all federal tax benefits no matter where they live.  This is significant for same-sex couples in my home state of Wisconsin, where same-sex marriages are not currently allowed.  If a couple were legally married in Iowa, but reside here, under this IRS ruling, they will be allowed the same tax breaks as any other married couple for both estate and incomes taxes. 
  • Also, the IRS is allowing amended returns going back to 2010.  Something that will likely cause the phones of CPAs across the country to ring!
As noted in earlier posts, each federal agency is making its own decision on how to function in a post-DOMA world.  Watch for more updates on this evolving issue.  And remember, a blog is not legal advice.  Please consult a licensed attorney in your state.