Monday’s need-to-know money news

common-retirement-mistakesToday’s top story: Why Halloween is the number 1 day for free candy and property damage. Also in the news: Retirement planning, reverse mortgages, and jobs to consider if you’re looking for a pay increase.

Halloween Is No. 1 Day for Free Candy — and Property Crime
Protecting yourself while still having fun.

Your retirement won’t be a dream if you don’t get real
Time to quit dreaming and start working.

How to tell if a reverse mortgage is right for you
What works best with your existing financnes.

Want a big pay raise? Consider these 13 jobs
Time for a career change?

Q&A: How to pursue money owed to heirs

Dear Liz: My stepmother passed away in December 2006, and her executor, who was her financial planner, distributed the estate according to her trust. A while after this, I discovered that she had a life insurance policy that hadn’t been addressed. The executor pursued this and found that $80,000 was due to the three primary heirs. However, he kept saying things were “in process.” At least a couple of years later, he said he had the check but didn’t know how to proceed because the estate was settled and also the insurance company had been taken over by another company. I finally saw the actual check (in April 2016) that he had. He claims he’s pursuing this but keeps going silent on us for extended periods of time. What can we do?

Answer: One possibility is that he showed you a phony check after pocketing the money. The other possibility is that he’s stunningly incompetent. It’s not clear which option is more disturbing.

Any estate planning attorney, or financial planner who has taken an estate-planning class, could tell him that life insurance proceeds typically pass outside the probate process, which means the estate wouldn’t necessarily have to be reopened. (Even if the estate did need to be reopened, every state has procedures for doing so.)

“I would think that the executor could merely endorse the check over to the three heirs,” Los Angeles estate planning attorney Burton Mitchell said. “Or he could open an estate bank account, deposit the check, write a check to the beneficiaries and then close the account.”

At this point, of course, the check may too stale to cash, but that’s not an insurmountable problem either. The current insurer would be able to reissue the check if the assets haven’t been turned over to the state or “escheated.” If the money was escheated, the executor can file a claim with the state to get it back.

Blaming his inaction on the insurance company takeover is absurd. All he needed to do was to call the new insurer, which has all the records of the old one.

The heirs have a number of options. They can petition the probate court to order the executor to distribute the life insurance proceeds. They can hire an attorney to help them do so or to contact the executor to demand he act, or both. They also can file a complaint with the company that employs him (assuming he’s not self-employed), with the regulator that oversees him and with the entity that issued his credentials, assuming he has any.

What they shouldn’t do is wait any longer. The executor’s inaction has already cost them years of lost potential investment returns.

Q&A: Getting out of a bad car loan can be tricky

Dear Liz: My car payment is $465 a month with a 22% interest rate. I need to get out of this car and into a lower car payment. My credit is poor. What is the best solution to go about this?

Answer: There are a number of solutions, most of which probably won’t work for you.

If you could do without a car for a while and owe less than this car is worth, you could sell it to pay off the loan. The fact you haven’t already done so indicates that you either need a car or have no equity, or both.

Fixing your credit could help you get a better deal, but that’s tough to do with an unaffordable car payment. You need to have enough free cash flow to put a down payment on a secured credit card or make monthly payments on a credit builder loan, which are two of the best ways to rehabilitate your credit. Your finances also have to be sound enough that you don’t miss payments on any credit obligation, including the car.

If you bought an overpriced jalopy from a “buy here, pay here lot,” or you were approved at a regular dealership but your rate got jacked up at the last minute, the dealer may have violated Truth in Lending laws that would allow you to get out of the deal. You’d probably need an attorney to help you pursue this option. You may luck out and find one that can help you at your local legal aid society. Otherwise, you could check with the National Assn. of Consumer Advocates to see if you can find affordable help.

Even if you were successful in getting out of this loan, of course, you still are likely to need a car and you’d still have bad credit, which means that you probably wouldn’t get a better deal on the next car than the bad one you have now.

If you can, the best option might be to get a second job or ask for overtime hours to pay this loan off as fast as possible. Then you could get a credit builder loan, which puts the money you borrow into a certificate of deposit you can claim after making 12 monthly payments. This small loan could be enough to significantly boost your credit scores and give you some cash to make a down payment on the next vehicle.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

help-parents-manage-moneyToday’s top story: What retailers don’t want you to know about Black Friday. Also in the news: What to know about tax breaks for disabled individuals, how managing your money is like losing weight, and three retirement tips your not thinking about.

4 Things Retailers Don’t Want You to Know About Black Friday
You might not be getting the best deals.

What to Know About Tax Breaks for Disabled Individuals
Taking advantage of deductions.

How Managing Your Finances Is Like Losing Weight
One day at a time.

3 retirement tips you’re not thinking about
Tips that fly under the radar.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Why your bank may not be giving you the best interest rate. Also in the news: How to manage the variable costs in your budget, how to avoid bank fees, and the highest paying college majors.

Why Your Bank May Not Be Giving You the Best Mortgage Rate
Two ways to tilt the odds in your favor.

5 Tips to Manage the Variable Costs in Your Budget
Expecting the unexpected.

Americans spent $11 billion in bank fees in 2015 — here’s how to avoid them
Stop paying for access to your money.

These Are the Highest Paying College Majors
Where does yours rank?

Wednesday’s need-to-need money news

Image9Today’s top story: Ten smart money moves that take only ten minutes. Also in the news: Healthy money habits to teach your kids, money management apps that automate your finances, and the power of the Get Lost Fund.

10 Smart Money Moves That Take 10 Minutes
You can spare the time.

5 Healthy Money Habits to Teach Your Kids
It’s never too early.

5 money-management apps that automate your finances
Letting your phone do the work.

The Power of the Get Lost Fund
Having the ability to get up and go.

The best ways to build credit now

Once, building credit meant taking on debt — sometimes expensive debt like a car loan or a credit card with a high rate.

Today, it’s possible to build a good credit score in a year without a big chunk of cash upfront or a large debt at the end. You can make yourself look better to lenders while keeping more money in your pocket. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to build credit the right way.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

emergency-fund-1940x900_36282Today’s top story: When to ditch your state’s health insurance exchange. Also in the news: Tailgating blunders your insurance will pay for, how to handle unexpected financial disasters, and how much next year’s Social Security cost of living increase will be.

When to Ditch Your State’s Health Insurance Exchange
When to look off of the exchanges.

5 Football Tailgating Blunders Insurance Will Pay For
Accidentally grill your car? You’re covered!

No Savings, No Backup Plan, No Fairy Godmother: How to Handle a Financial Disaster
This is why you need an emergency fund.

Next year’s Social Security raise? Less than $4 a month
Lowering your expectations.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

seniorslaptopToday’s top story: The benefits of credit counseling for everyone. Also in the news: Tips on “late-stage” college planning, how to avoid magical thinking in personal finance, and the 4-point finance checklist for 50-somethings.

The Benefits of Credit Counseling — Even When You Don’t Yet Need It
Surprising things you can learn.

Tips on ‘Late-Stage’ College Planning
There’s still time.

Avoid Magical Thinking in Personal Finance and Make Better Plans
Deal with reality.

The 4 Point Personal Finance Checklist for 50-Somethings
Getting your ducks in row for the second half.

Q&A: Friend erroneously declared deceased

Dear Liz: I have an elderly friend who was recently erroneously declared deceased by the Social Security Administration. She received no notice of this declaration and her first awareness that something might be wrong was when her personal checks and automatic payments to utilities and others began to bounce. When she called her bank, she was informed that all of her accounts had been frozen by the Social Security Administration.

My friend is now faced with multiple returned check charges, threatening phone calls and cut-off services. Efforts to straighten things out with Social Security and her bank have been only moderately successful so far. Although they will probably clear things up eventually, this will take time and quite a bit of legwork on her part.

Under what authority does Social Security freeze someone’s assets? And is this common? Aren’t they required to at least notify someone of impending action? After all, when any one of us does in fact die, we still have financial obligations and such actions can only create headaches for survivors.

Answer: The Social Security Administration doesn’t freeze bank accounts, but it does erroneously declare people dead a few thousand times every year. Financial institutions check Social Security’s death notices and may freeze or close accounts as a result. It can take weeks or months to clear up the confusion.

People in this situation should visit their local Social Security office and bring some identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, to establish that they are, in fact, alive. Social Security will issue a letter called an “Erroneous Death Case — Third Party Contact” notice that can be shown to financial institutions, doctors and others who may have been misinformed of their deaths. Your friend should not only ask that services be restored but that bounced-check fees and other costs be waived. There’s no guarantee that they will be, but she should ask.

Your friend also might consider whether it’s time to ask for help in managing her finances. It sounds from your description as if she didn’t notice the problem for quite some time. Utilities don’t shut off service at the first missed payment. Threatening phone calls — presumably from collection agencies — typically don’t start until accounts are months overdue. She should consider adding a trusted person to her checking account or at least sharing online credentials so that another set of eyes is monitoring what’s going on with her money.