|Debra C. Pecor, Senior Paralegal|
In all my years of doing estate administration, it is weird to think that there would still be some things that would make me say, “What?” but here are just a couple from this year:
First: This has been the year of unfiled income tax returns. When a spouse died, the surviving spouse thought (or perhaps was even told by someone) that they didn’t need to continue to file income tax returns every year. This isn’t true! If all the assets passed to you as the surviving spouse and those assets are generating income, you have to continue to file annual income tax return every April 15th.
What to Do?: If you are not sure, please do not take advice from a co-worker, a friend, your child, or your nosy neighbor. Please check with a professional, a certified public accountant, or the IRS themselves to hear it from someone who knows what they are talking about. Don’t just ignore it … it won’t go away, I promise you, and your executor or your heirs will not have an easy time of recreating tax returns for bygone years.
Second: Did you know that if you opened your bank account at a branch located somewhere other than Virginia and you still have that same account when you die, some banks will tell your heirs that they have to open an estate in the state where you first opened your account in order to close that account? This is the craziest thing ever. When this first came up earlier this year, I just thought that it couldn’t possibly be right. The heir called the probate clerk in the state where the account was opened, and the clerk told them that no estate could be opened since the decedent didn’t reside there and owned no real property in that state. So, the heir went back to the bank, told them what the probate clerk said, and the bank still insisted that an estate had to be opened in order to close that account. Isn’t this one of those Catch-22 situations that people talk about? After several letters, I finally was able to talk to someone at one of the banks and luckily, he knew exactly how to get around this problem. In the meantime, though, it is extra work and extra expense that really doesn’t need to happen.
What To Do?: Please go to your local branch and verify that the account you opened will fall under the state law of your current residence, or just add a “payable on death” or “transfer on death” beneficiary. Your family will already be dealing with the grief of losing you. No need to add to that.