Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review March 3, 2006 / 3 Adar, 5766

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Dead woman's bills a dead end for creditors; more | DEAR BRUCE: My mother died and has no will, estate, executor, etc. She had $17 in her bank account when she died, and that has been closed out. There is no money to pay any outstanding bills, and she also did not have life insurance — we paid the undertaker. What happens to her bills? — S.D., via e-mail

DEAR S.D.: The easiest thing for you to do is to write to each of the creditors, enclose a death certificate showing that your mother has passed away and say in the letter what you've told me. There was no money in her estate, even to pay for her funeral. You don't have to mention life insurance since that would not be a factor. You can further explain that the estate was not probated because there was nothing to probate. I think this should close the matter out. Don't ignore it.

DEAR BRUCE: I am a 59-year-old widow (my husband passed away in 2004). I am planning to sell the home we lived in for 38 years and move to another state, along with my son and his family. I am expecting to realize a profit of approximately $400,000, which I will use to purchase a new home. I know that if my husband were still living, we would each be able to claim a $250,000 exemption. What happens now that it's just me? — C.K., Oak Park, Calif.

DEAR C.K.: You are correct when you indicate that you both could have claimed $250,000 in exemptions and, since your husband has passed away, you now only have the one. However, we have to define "profit." Do you mean you're going to "gross" $400,000? Or have you computed out the $250,000, acquisition cost and capital gains you may have made to the property over the years? I suspect by the time you get done calculating this thing, a decent accountant would be able to reduce your tax liability to very little or nothing. The $250,000 is solid. Be sure to use a competent accountant.

DEAR BRUCE: My wife and I have approximately $50,000 in EE Bonds (current value) purchased in 1990. Current rate is 4 percent. We also have a CD (current value is $6,000) that will mature in December 2006. Current rate: 2.2 percent. Here in Las Vegas, there are several companies that have investment programs dealing with mortgages. The rate varies from 13 percent to 17 percent annually, but is not guaranteed or insured. They claim no one has ever lost any of their investment. My problem is, I need as much as I can get in yield because my wife and I are only living on Social Security and have almost completely exhausted our savings. I would appreciate any advice you can give me. — C. C., Las Vegas, Nev.

DEAR C.C.: Let's separate this out. Your EE Bonds and your CD are earning pitiful returns, and both should be reinvested elsewhere. There are many CDs now that are yielding 5 percent, and certainly there are bonds in which you can invest, quite safely, paying a bit more than that. As to the companies that are paying 13 percent to 17 percent, you will do better shooting craps in Las Vegas than dealing with one of these firms. They may say nobody has ever lost — and that may be true — but anytime anyone claims to pay 13 percent to 17 percent in today's world, you can absolutely guarantee there is a significant amount of risk and perhaps worse. Stay away.

Like this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).

© 2006, NEA