Home    News & Publications    Podcast #25: Estate and Bill Pay

Podcast #25: Estate and Bill Pay

June 05, 2023

Listen to the podcast below to hear Jill talk about

  • Someone To Take Over Your Financial Responsibilities
  • Paper Check Versus Electronic Payments
  • Jill’s Good News Segment

Script:

Hi Everyone

I know it is difficult to have a discussion about your own mortality, but as a financial planner, I feel it is an important one.

In an attempt to practice what I preach, I wanted to discuss with Bonnie, my wife, the possibility that I could be incapacitated or die before she did. Her response was you’re 13 years younger, I’ll go first. Now I realize statistically that is true but that’s not my experience. My mother was 9 years younger than my father, yet she died first.

Like most couples, there is some division of tasks. What if you aren’t available to do them? Will your partner or spouse know what do?

But it is more than that. The husband of one of our staff members is facing this dilemma. His father’s health has declined to the point that his mom is pretty much responsible for everything. After all, she is healthy. Unfortunately, she just had an unexpected medical event and no one knows what she has been doing or how to step in.

What I’m trying stress is whether it is a partner, spouse or your adult children, if someone has to step in to take over your responsibilities, they need to know what and how you do them. While stressful, to me this is an act of love trying to ease what can be a difficult and emotional time. Still, it is a hard discussion.

I am putting together the tasks that I am responsible for to create a team to help should it become necessary. This goes beyond the usual checklist of getting your estate in order. By the way, if you would like a copy of what we’ve put together, we’re happy to send it to you.

I’m going to use myself as an example. Bonnie is retired and I still work so most activities outside of the house are done by me. I’m always out and about. What is it I do and how will she get them done? What bills are automatically paid by credit card and what do I use the bank’s Bill Pay for? I’m trying to go through my days and notate what needs to be done.

We’re always here if you’d like to speak with us about your situation. We are usually involved if a client or a relation to the client has estate issues. In fact, Brian regularly volunteers to attend estate attorney meetings with clients.

Don’t forget you can keep a digital copy of your estate documents on your Financial Connections portal. You’ll have access from any internet connection.

I want to bring your attention to a different topic. Paying your bills. I frequently hear, “I’m worried about computer security so I’d rather write a check.” Unfortunately, the evidence of paper check safety says otherwise. According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a department within the Treasury, 680,000 check fraud reports were filed by banks in 2022 compared to 350,000 in 2021.

In fact, KPIX ran a story on May 31 about mail carriers being knocked down and their keys stolen. These keys open blue mailboxes. The thieves are looking for checks, most likely found with windowed envelopes. This is a level up from stealing the mail from residential or commercial mailboxes.

According to Naftali Harris, chief executive of Sentilink, a fraud-protection company, “Checks have very few security features and are very easy to alter or counterfeit.”

Did you know thieves can use a chemical to lift the information you wrote on a check? It’s called check washing. Steve Kenneally, senior vice president of payments and cybersecurity policy for the American Bankers Association said, “What you’re doing is handing someone a piece of paper with your name, address and bank account information.”

Also, a criminal can scan the image of your handwritten signature and then digitally re-use it for fraudulent checks or other purposes.

If you must write a check, experts suggest using a blue or black gel-ink pen since its properties make it harder for chemicals to lift. And, Amazon sells fraud resistant pens.

If you use your bank’s Bill Pay system, it is more secure than paper checks. When you login to the bank, you’ll have the usual safeguard such as two-factor authentication plus financial institutions encrypt their data. You set-up who gets paid, how much and when. You don’t have to worry about checks lost or stolen. You can even link vendors to type of bill such as insurance, groceries and so on. Everything is in one place. Transactions can be downloaded into software programs such as QuickBooks.

While nothing is 100% safe, should a fraudulent transaction occur, banks are required to investigate within 10 days though can be extended to 45 days for the refund to be issued. Compare this to the average 7 months on a paper check fraud claim. The reason – electronic payments fall under the Federal Reserve regulations on consumer rights that include protection for errors or fraud. Paper checks don’t have this protection.

If you’re still uncomfortable, most banks have the option to send you an email or text when a transaction occurs on your bank account for ongoing monitoring.

I will admit it took me a while to convert to Bill Pay. Now I only write checks if I’m handing it to someone such as my trainer. I haven’t quite reached the state of permitting auto pay. I still input each payment. I know there is Zelle or Venmo for person-to-person payments but that’s a topic for another day.

Some general cautions: Never pay a bill through an email link. It isn’t secure. Go to the company’s website instead or your bank if you’re setting it up on Bill Pay. It maybe phishing.

Don’t save your login or password. I know it is a pain to type it in every time but it is safer. Use multi-step verification. Again, annoying but safer. This may be obvious but don’t pay bills on a public computer such as the one in the library or using public Wi-Fi such as at a coffee shop. Check your bank statements regularly.

Last but not least, electronic banking is more environmentally friendly.

As an aside, I know we have a number of clients who feel it is safer to get their TD Ameritrade statements in the mail instead of electronically. Based on the way mail is being stolen, I don’t think so. Remember your statement is not sent to you via email. What is sent is a notice your statement is available and you have to go through the authentication process to receive it.

 

Now for some good news.

Off the coast of Portugal is an extinct volcano. According to a study published in GeoScienceWorld, a process called “in situ mineral carbonization” could take CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it underground permanently. The quantity is rather mindboggling. It would store 1.2 – 8.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide. What’s a gigaton you ask? It is 1 billion tons.

One of the co-authors, Ricardo Pereira, a geologist at the NOVA Schools of Science and Technology said, “We know that most countries, including Portugal, are making efforts to decarbonize the economy and our human activities, this is a message that may be one of the instruments to solve the problem.”

Another issue—destroying plastic—is part of the environment dilemma facing us. Some microorganisms have been found that can destroy plastic polymers but the use is limited because of the high temperatures needed for the process. It is costly and not carbon neutral.

The Swiss Federal Institute WSL found microbes in the Alps that will digest plastic polymers but at temperatures as low as 60 degrees. Great progress.

 

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to chat or meet. We hope you have a good summer. I think the most exciting trip among the staff is Brian going to Alaska!

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