I am 72 and my husband is 82. We have $1.5 million in certificates of deposit and money market accounts. We rent, and own no property or stocks or bonds. A young man has become very friendly with my husband over the last year.
He has told my husband that he has a friend who, for $15,000 or more, will set up papers for us so the remaining spouse will not have to pay inheritance tax. He said if we don't have these papers drawn up, the surviving spouse will not be able to take any money from any accounts. We both have wills leaving the surviving spouse everything. Do we really need these other papers?
Of course not. This young man is a con artist. If he shows up again on your doorstep, call the police.
Surviving spouses don't have to pay any estate taxes on the assets they inherit. You can leave an unlimited amount of money, property and other assets to your spouse without fear of an estate tax bill. (This is true under both current law and the gradual estate tax repeal that begins taking effect next year.) The survivor shouldn't have any trouble accessing the money if both your names are listed on your CD and money market accounts.
There's no estate plan in the world for a couple in your situation that would be worth $15,000. The scamster makes his living by stealing older people's sense of security and then selling it back to them. Don't fall for his slimy tactics.
Your estate might face probate and estate taxes after both of you are dead. If you're concerned about that, consult a qualified estate planning attorney for help in drawing up documents that can reduce the potential costs. Your local bar association can provide referrals.
You recently responded to a reader who was outraged that a clerk asked to see some identification for a credit card transaction. I personally appreciate it when identification is requested. A few years ago my credit card with my picture ID on the card was stolen. More than $12,000 was charged before the card issuer realized something was wrong and put a hold on the card. Not a single clerk stopped to compare the photo on the card with the buyer.
The good news is that your credit card company caught the theft and it apparently has had no effect on your credit rating. Other readers have reported that similar thefts caused them continuing problems, either because the credit card issuer was reluctant to credit them for the unauthorized transactions or because the information from their card was used to create other phony credit accounts that kept popping up in their credit histories.
Some readers wrote in to say they had written the words "ask for ID" on the back of their cards to try to encourage clerks to match the name on the card with some other form of identification. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't.
Some credit card issuers have agreements with merchants not to ask for identification from customers. In many more cases, merchants simply don't feel it's worth the time and trouble to verify who's making the charges.