Tag Archives: insurance

DOMA’s Gone! Here’s What it Means for Gay Couples’ Finances

flagAfter the Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision today striking down the constitutionality of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), married gay couples can enjoy many of the same benefits and legal recognitions of their heterosexual counterparts. This is news worth celebrating, since it’s not only a historic step toward equality, but also of great benefit to gays’ financial futures.

Some of the immediate benefits include the ability for married couples to file taxes jointly and an elimination or reduction of the estate and gift taxes — all of which can result in thousands in savings.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that DOMA’s repeal currently only benefits same-sex couples in states that already legally recognize such marriages. Still, because more states are likely to approve gay unions in the coming months and years — and further Supreme Court decisions may emerge — non-married gay couples should take action to protect joint finances.

Here’s what gay couples should do to take advantage of their new protections:

Create a Will

It sounds simple (and perhaps a little morbid), but many gay couples haven’t yet contemplated what will happen to their estate upon their passing. That’s a shame, because it was at the heart of the issue that brought the landmark DOMA case before the Supreme Court: The spouse of a deceased gay person was required to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional taxes because they weren’t an officially recognized spouse.

If you don’t have a will, get one – and make sure your spouse or domestic partner is listed as you wish. A living will is also useful if you intend for your spouse or partner to make decisions for you in the event of catastrophic illness, or if you wish to have them serve as executors of your estate/power of attorney.

Though the laws regarding domestic partner benefits are more nebulous, there is reason to believe benefits will soon (or eventually, anyway) be extended. Plus, even states that don’t yet recognize gay marriage may do so in the future. Consult with an attorney about the legal nuances here; you’ll want your will to have the best odds of treating your spouse or partner as the recipient of your inheritance (or whatever portion thereof you intend).

Notify Your Employer 401K  and/or Insurers

Notifying your employer and/or insurers of your same-sex marriage or domestic partnership is important if you intend on sharing insurance benefits or listing a spouse or domestic partner as beneficiary.

The same applies for your 401K and IRA — make sure your loved one is listed as beneficiary, and update their status if you marry or enter a civil union. Inquire with your individual plans about their same-sex policies.

Get Married

If you were already planning on doing so, getting married makes more sense than ever now, since you will receive the full protections under the law. Domestic partnership recognition offers weaker protections in some jurisdictions, so it’s to your advantage to marry, if possible. Even if you don’t live in a state that recognizes same-sex unions yet, it may be to your advantage to get married in one that does. That marriage may be recognized in your home state sooner rather than later, and the benefits of DOMA may even apply to you. (Such legal nuances have yet to be worked out. Stay tuned to the news and consult with an attorney, as needed.)

Create Joint Accounts

Creating or updating joint financial accounts — such as credit cards, brokerage accounts, and so forth — can establish a pattern of financial “legitimacy” that can be of benefit if you live in a state without strong same-sex union protections. If you already have such accounts, be certain to list your significant other as beneficiary. If you choose to marry out-of-state, it may be to your benefit to open joint accounts there, since those states may afford your account greater protections.

Update Your Mortgage or Lease

Ditto here for updating your mortgage or lease with your spouse’s or partner’s name and legal status, should you wish to share their associated priviliges and responsibiilities.

Tell Your Friends and Family

Make sure your immediate circle knows of your relationship status; in case anything happens to you, they can be aware of and support your wishes by corroborating your relationship’s significance.

Stay Informed

Laws, right and responsibilities regarding gay unions are evolving rapidly, so stay informed. Most states’ ACLU websites can be of help, as can local gay rights organizations. Keep up to date on the important changes that impact your life together — and your pocketbook.

From the Five Ten Twenty Club, congrats on this historic win!

 

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Consumer Expert Chris Elliott’s Advice on Smart Phone Safety

smartphone-safety-tips-

Losing your smart phone isn’t just a pain in the behind — it can cost you a lot of money, too. Here at the Five Ten Twenty Club, we’re determined to help you better manage all your resources — including important valuables, such as your phone. That’s why we’ve asked recognized consumer expert, Chris Elliott for his advice on securing your phone both before and (gasp!) after it’s lost or stolen.

An Ounce of Prevention 

Sure, replacing a lost or stolen smart phone can cost big bucks. After all, who wants to pay hundreds of dollars for a new device? But not securing your phone while it’s still in your possession can cost you big time, too. Hackers can swipe your credit card or bank account numbers, steal important passwords, and otherwise drain your pockets.

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is the careful use of apps. As Elliott notes,

” One of the most common way hackers access your cell phone information is by offering you infected apps. The best way around it is to get good security software and only download apps from a trusted source. Also, don’t download something unless you absolutely need it.”

Of course, some apps, such as those that enable smart phone security are a must. And using basic protections, such as good passwords is important, too, says Elliott. To review, here are the essential preventive steps:

  • Password and PIN-protect your phone adequately. Don’t use the same password for everything, because the hacker can then access all your information.
  • Only log-on to trusted wi-fi networks — and don’t forget to log-out once done. Try to use only encrypted pages while in public places.
  • Download smart phone security apps, such as those enabling remote wiping, locking and data back-up. Here are some offered by Verizon.

Once Your Phone is Gone

Once your phone is gone, you’ll want to notify police if you believe it was stolen, and then your wireless carrier. Now’s the time you’ll be glad you downloaded remote wiping, data back-up and location apps. Lock your phone and clear it of important data remotely. Provide the police with any remote location data you’re able to retrieve, and also contact your employer’s IT and security departments if it was a work phone. As Elliott says,

“Remotely wipe the phone once it’s missing, just in case. Most carriers have special pages for customers who lose their phones. For example, here’s AT&T’s.

Of course, once your phone is gone, there are no guarantees you’ll get it back – no matter how well you prepared. So Elliott offers one last piece of advice that makes great financial sense:

“If you’re forgetful, or are concerned about losing your phone, consider insurance.”

That’s the sort of financial foresight that makes us at Five Ten Twenty Club proud.

 

How do you protect your phone? Have you used any apps to help secure your data and phone, or have you ever had your smart phone stolen?

Share your experiences on our Community Forum!

 

A veteran journalist and consumer advocate, Chris Elliot is the author of Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals (Wiley). He also writes a column for The Washington Post and blogs about personal finance at Mint.com.