PODs, TODs, and beneficiaries

It’s important to have protections in place so that when you die, what you leave behind gets to the people you want. If you are partnered, but unmarried, and die without a Will, your estate could get tied up in probate and whomever the court determines is your nearest relative will walk away with a fatter purse – and that might not be your partner.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, you need things in place so that after you die your assets go to your partner, a relative, or even a friend of your choosing.

I’ve blogged about using a Will to make this happen. Another, and often more straightforward, mechanism to do this is through PODs, TODs, and beneficiaries.

Disclaimers

Again: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV or the internet. This is not legal advice and you should always consult with a lawyer for legal matters. If you trust a random blogger on the internet to give you legal advice, you should have your head checked.

This post is US-centric. I am totally unfamiliar with how these matters are handled outside of the US.

Payable On Death

POD stands for Payable On Death and is an account type supported by most, if not all, financial institutions. While you’re alive, a POD account is entirely your own and the person set up to receive it upon your death has zero access to it. When you die, the designated person presents proof to the bank of your demise, and then the accounts are transferred to them, bypassing your Will and probate altogether.

PODs can be changed at any time without witnesses or even a notary. There are additional wrinkles if you are married and the POD designee is not your spouse, however.

Contact your bank to have your checking, saving, and money market accounts set up as a POD account to the person of your choosing. You might even be able to do it entirely online. You will likely need the designee’s social security number.

See this page for further reading on PODs.

Transfer On Death

TOD stands for Transfer on Death and is for investment and brokerage accounts. They act pretty much exactly like PODs – you specify who should get the account assets upon your death, but you alone have access to the accounts while you are alive. Also like PODs, they bypass probate.

Set up your TOD beneficiary through your investment firm’s website.

Beneficiaries

Retirement accounts like IRAs and 401ks have a similar mechanism that can bypass probate: beneficiaries. Like the other two, these individuals have no access or authorization on the accounts until your demise, at which time the retirement accounts will be paid out to them. Like PODs, retirement beneficiaries will likely want the beneficiary’s social security number so have that ready.

Specify your retirement beneficiaries through the website of the financial institution that manages your accounts.

Being prepared

No one wants to think about dying, but it is important to be prepared, particularly if you have a partner to which you are not legally married.

PODs, TODs, and retirement beneficiaries are a painless way to redirect assets to someone without the hassle of creating a Will. Wills are still important, particularly if you have any real estate, but probate-bypassing mechanisms can be useful and easy to set up.

Counting to 4 … seconds

One one-thousand,
two one-thousand,
three one-thousand,
four one-thousand1

My Granny Pearl taught me how to count seconds. I’m not sure how the lesson came about, although it was probably counting seconds playing hide-and-seek. Telling a kid to count to 10 is likely to have them running through the numbers rather quickly. Telling them to count to 10 seconds, and teaching them how, slows them down a bit.

I’m not certain how accurate my second-counting technique is, but that cherished reminder of my Granny happens every few days at the gym when I’m measuring time while doing planks — and brings a smile to my face.

How do you count to 4 seconds?

And in case the song didn’t spring to mind when reading the title, I give you Feist sings 1, 2, 3, 4:


1 Alternatively, “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi”.

Register to vote and update your address!

The November elections are less than 100 days away and now is the time to make sure you’re registered to vote and that your voter registration address is correct!

Washington state

Washington state residents can register to vote online.

If you’ve moved since last November, even next door, it’s equally important to update your voter registration address. Your address determines where your ballot will get mailed, and also which district you are in for various races, so having your address up-to-date is important.

The deadline to register or update your address online or by mail is October 10th. You can do so in person until October 31st.

Other states

USA.gov makes registering in your state very easy, just go to vote.usa.gov and select your state to get information on how to register.

Trust but verify

Until now and October 31st I’m going to be That Person who is asking everyone he runs across if they’re registered to vote and checked their voter registration address. Because if you aren’t registered, you can’t vote.

And remember, while we will be voting for President this November, we’re also voting for federal and state senators, representatives and in many cases governors and other state officials as well!

The importance of Hospital Visitation Authorizations and other documents

I’ve had, and continue to have, a myriad of emotional and intellectual responses to the events that occurred in Orlando six weeks ago. One of the few, solid, intellectual responses I was able act upon, to feel that I was doing something useful, was to update my legal paperwork should something happen to me.

The last time I updated my Hospital Visitation Authorization, Medical Power of Attorney, Will, etc was 10 years ago in 2006. Since then I’ve gotten divorced and my wishes for those documents have changed but they have never been updated. These documents, however, are vitally important in emergencies, particularly for unmarried LGBT individuals.

Disclaimers

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV or the internet. This is not legal advice and you should always consult with a lawyer for legal matters. If you trust a random blogger on the internet to give you legal advice, you should have your head checked.

This post is US-centric. I am totally unfamiliar with how these matters are handled outside of the US.

Now that’s out of the way…

Hospital Visitation Authorization
and Medical Power of Attorney

53 people were injured in Orlando and treated at local hospitals. Who could visit those individuals in the hospital, particularly patients unable to give consent due to their condition, is far from clear. HIPPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, restricts what patient information can be disclosed and to whom it can be disclosed. In general this is great in order to protect patient privacy, but in an emergency it can have the unintended side effect of preventing important information from being disclosed to people you want to know.

The day after the Orlando shooting the mayor of Orlando requested a HIPPA waiver from the White House in order to allow greater access to patient information. In this case the Department of Health and Human Services was able to issue a clarification making the waiver unnecessary.

What can you do to help ensure the right people have access to you and information about you in an emergency? The two documents you want to look at are:

  • Hospital Visitation Authorization – This document provides explicit instructions about who is allowed to see you in the hospital.
  • Medical Power of Attorney – This is a much more powerful document that gives specific people the power to make medical decisions on your behalf and to consult with doctors if you are incapable of doing so.

These documents are sometimes grouped together and called Advance Directives. Both of them are important for non-married people, particularly LGBT individuals, who may want someone besides their legal family from making medical decisions or visiting them in the hospital.

Examples of both of these documents are available online:

Because you may need to access these documents in a hurry in an emergency, consider scanning in signed copies, uploading them to a private file-sharing service like Dropbox, and sharing them with the people who need access to them. Most private file-sharing services have mobile applications making access to these documents from an emergency room fast and simple.

Last Will & Testament

49 people1 died in the Orlando shooting. Who gets their belongings largely depends on if they have a Will2. If they have a Will, it will instruct the court in probate on who gets their belongings. If they do not have a Will, things get complicated quickly, especially if they were not legally married.

In most scenarios when you die without a Will, your estate goes to your legal family. For many LGBT individuals that may not be what you want. Even if you have been together with a partner for decades, if you die unmarried without a Will, the legal family of the deceased may get everything. Outside of getting legally married, a Will is the easiest way to make sure things work out like you want when you die.

Even if you are legally married, it’s a good idea to get a Will to ensure that if you and your partner both die, your estate goes where you want it.

There are many sample Wills online. I found this one from FindLaw a good starting point for when I updated mine.

Other documents

There are a myriad of other documents you may want in place, such as:

  • Declaration of Guardian – Specifies who is guardian of your estate and/or person in the case that becomes necessary.
  • Disposition of Remains – Specifies who has power over how your body is handled after you die.
  • Anatomical Gifts – Specifies your wishes for organ donation.
  • Legal Power of Attorney – Specifies who can legally represent you, usually coming into force if you are unable to represent yourself.

Witnesses and Notaries

Most of these documents don’t need to be notarized, just your signature and possibly the signature of a witness.

If the document requires a notary, head to your nearest bank branch first. They will usually notarize something for you for free. Alternatively, most administrative assistants will also be able to notarize personal documents at your place of work for free. Some copy and print centers like UPS stores provide notary services for a fee.

If documents need to be witnessed, pick any two people who aren’t mentioned in the document. Note that if the document needs to be notarized that the witnesses need to be present to sign it in front of the notary. It’s my experience that banks do not allow their staff to be witnesses, so it’s best to bring your own witnesses if your document needs both.

I’m happy to be a witness for anyone in the Seattle area who needs one. Have pen, will travel.

Laws vary by state

Like almost everything in the US, laws governing all of the documents discussed vary state-by-state. Do some googling and see what requirements there are for the various documents in your state.

Being prepared

This isn’t about preparing for the next Orlando, it’s about being prepared for Life. Car accidents happen. Old age happens. And when those things, and others, do happen lets all be prepared so those we love can be in the hospital next to us and provided for after we die.

 

Thanks to Andrew Asplund for looking over this post before I published it and providing some very useful insights.


1 The shooter makes 50. His actions prove he was barely human and certainly not a ‘person’.

2 Retirement, investment, bank accounts, and insurance policies can bypass Wills and probate if they have payable-on-death (POD) / transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiaries assigned. I hope to discuss these further in another blog post.

Ciao EMC Isilon, hello BlackSky

Friday, June 17th will be my last day at EMC Isilon. It’s been a fun 5.5 years but for a variety of reasons it’s time to move on to new adventures. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing people on some superbly-interesting projects and I wish them all the best on the cool stuff they’re working on next. (To Infinity and beyond!)

Monday, June 27th I start work at BlackSky Global (BSG) where I’ll have the pleasure of working with Jane Vail and Eric Rybczynski again. I’m being brought on to build up their validation team1 and drive their end-to-end testing alongside Eric.

BSG began courting me last August but that was just two months into my sabbatical and I decided the sabbatical wasn’t something I could give up. I am unbelievably fortunate that they were unable to fill the position and still have a place for me now.

I’m excited to be working at my first startup and at a company solving complex problems in space, [say it with me] the final frontier.

An unexpected bonus is that BSG is only a 10-minute walk from my house down a long flight of stairs, making my morning commute a bus-free breeze. The walk back home, on the other hand, is going to be a 15-minute straight-up Stairmaster workout. Buns of steel, here I come!


1 This is in no way soliciting existing EMC (and soon, Dell) employees to join us, unless today’s date is after 2017/06/17.

Distributed Proofreaders Foundation Board

Last month Distributed Proofreaders volunteers voted for new board members of the Distributed Proofreaders Foundation (DPF), the 501(c)3 non-profit organization that governs DP. I was honored to be one of four new board members, serving a 3-year term effective June 1st. I am further honored that my fellow DPF board members voted me as the board President for the upcoming year.

I look forward to working alongside the other board members and the General Manager as we serve the DP community by providing vision and direction while keeping our hands firmly outside of day-to-day operational issues, which are under the GM’s purview.


[Disclaimer: Thoughts presented in my blog are mine alone, and do not represent the thoughts of the DPF board unless explicitly stated otherwise.]

Any 3rd-party candidate results in a Republican president

Today’s civics pop quiz: What happens if 3 or more candidates run for President and none of them get a majority of the electoral votes?

No really, what happens? Surely our constitution covers this, right?

Of course it does! Say hello to this part of the 12th Amendment:

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.

See, it isn’t as though presidential candidates need to get the most electoral votes of all candidates to become president, they need a majority of the available votes. If no one candidate gets a majority the House of Representatives, currently controlled by the Republicans, gets to choose the next President of the United States among the 3 candidates who received the most votes (this write-up covers the nuances of that in much better detail). Interestingly, this last happened in 1824.

Pretty much any way you slice it, this makes any 3rd party candidate a disastrous scenario for Democrats this November.

For instance, if Sanders were to run as an independent he would peel off votes from Clinton making it unlikely either one of them will get the required majority, allowing the House to select Trump as President.

This means Democrats want Republicans to rally around Trump, not reject him. If, outside the Republican party, the Republicans put up a moderate 3rd-party candidate, that candidate could pull enough votes away from Clinton and Trump to prevent either of them getting a majority. Then the House steps in and selects this 3rd-party candidate as President.

This is why if Clinton gets the Democratic nomination we desperately need Bernie to not run as a 3rd party candidate and for us Bernie supporters to rally around Clinton in the general election rather than a 3rd party candidate.

This is also one of the reasons the US has the two-party system it does.