It seems like it should go without saying that before telling your bank to wire money to a title company for a real estate transaction, you should verify the source of the wiring instructions. Apparently, however, there are scammers who somehow send bogus wiring instructions to parties to such transactions. Otherwise, an email I received earlier this week from a title company wouldn’t contain this warning:
“Be aware! Online banking fraud is on the rise. If you receive an email containing wire transfer instructions that differ from what was provided, call your escrow officer to verify the information prior to sending funds.”
Oh well, just another scam. Be careful out there.
It's a frequently asked question: if you have established a trust, should your life insurance be changed to reflect that fact? The answer depends on your individual circumstances, but it's definitely a subject that you should address with your estate planner.
My latest newsletter contains a discussion of integrating your life insurance with your trust, with tips on how to approach the question under a variety of circumstances. You can gain valuable information on this important topic and other estate planning, tax, and real estate topics, by reading my monthly newsletter. It's posted every month in the publications section of my firm's web site.
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I have read that some of the manufacturers are already testing here. Now there’s word that Uber, the ride-sharing operation, will move its self-driving car testing here from California.
Maybe I’m just a cheerleader for self-driving cars, but I an not concerned about this testing creating a safety hazard. Live drivers scare me more than cyber-drivers.
YOU CAN DESIGNATE A BENEFICIARY ON YOUR ARIZONA VEHICLE TITLE, BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE THE SOLE OWNER OF THE VEHICLE
I have written in the past about a relatively new Arizona law that allows a vehicle owner to designate a beneficiary on the vehicle’s title. Here’s the law:
“At the request of the owner and on payment of a fee prescribed by the department by rule, the certificate of title may contain, by attachment, a transfer on death provision where the owner may designate a beneficiary of the vehicle.”
The statute says “the owner,” singular, not the owners, plural. The Arizona Motor Vehicle Division’s beneficiary designation form has this statement on it:
“The Beneficiary Designation is only applicable if vehicle is owned by one person.”
That seems pretty clear to me. If the vehicle has more than one owner on the title, you can’t designate a beneficiary. There are, however, alternatives that might fit your situation.
Driverless cars will dramatically improve mobility for the blind, as this story illustrates. The test the story describes also brings out just how close truly autonomous cars are to being a reality.
THE IRS REMINDS ABOUT SCAMS
The IRS has just issued a news release reminding all taxpayers that:
There's no such thing as a "federal student tax";
The IRS won't demand that you pay your tax debt via an iTunes gift card or anything like that;
Phone calls claiming that the police are coming to arrest you if you don't pay your tax debt right now are fake.
So, don't be fooled by one of these scams. Remeber my rule: if you get an unsolicited call (or email, or text) asking for money (or personal information), don't respond.
If you were wrongfully incarcerated and received an award of damages or restitution as a result, you have until December 19 to file a claim for a refund of income tax you paid on such an award.
In a recent bulletin titled “Tax Records – What to Keep,” the IRS says it recommends that you keep copies of tax returns and supporting documents for at least three years. But in the next sentence it says “some documents” should be kept for up to seven years in case you need to file an amended return or if questions arise. It also says that you should keep records relating to real estate for up to seven years after selling the property.
In other words, it sounds like the seven year rule of thumb for keeping tax records is still the way to go.
I said in yesterday's post that I will write about how to handle differences and changes in your name when you’re doing estate planning. First, however, I thought it might be useful to give you the basic law on how to legally change your name. This discussion only covers how to do a legal name change in Arizona, but other states probably have a similar process.
Arizona law says that if an Arizona resident desires to change his or her name and adopt another name, the person may file an application in the superior court in the county of the person's residence, setting forth reasons for the change of name and the name the person wishes to adopt. The court must consider the following criteria in determining whether to enter judgment that the adopted name of the person be substituted for the original name, and the person must state under penalty of perjury:
1. If the person has been convicted of a felony.
2. If felony charges are pending in any jurisdiction against the person for any offense involving theft, forgery, fraud, or perjury, or any other offense involving false statements or misrepresentations about the person's identity.
3. If the person is knowingly changing the person's name to that of another individual for the purpose of committing or furthering the commission of any offense involving theft, forgery, fraud, or perjury, or any other offense involving false statements.
4. The person is making the application solely for the best interest of the person.
5. The person acknowledges that the change of name will not release the person from any obligations incurred or harm any rights of property or actions in the original name.
If the court finds that the name change is appropriate after considering those criteria, the court may enter judgment that the adopted name of the person be substituted for the person’s original name.
That’s about all there is to it. If you want to read the actual law, here’s a link to the current Arizona statute.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
Sometimes I’m asked by someone I’m helping with estate planning: what is my “legal name?”
I was reminded of that by this whimsical item on Lowering the Bar. The item doesn’t really have much to do with the question I am asked, and the phenomenon it discusses is apparently happening in the United Kingdom, not the United States, but I found it amusing.
In future writings I’ll address the substance of how to handle differences and changes in your name for purposes of estate planning.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.