Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Mistakes Lead to False Reports of Death

Happy-old-couple[1]Every year the Social Security Administration accidentally lists thousands of people as deceased. That’s actually an improvement for the agency.

The Social Security Administration pays benefits to millions of Americans until they pass away. The agency has an interest in knowing when people pass away so it can stop paying those benefits.

When a person passes away his or her name, birth date and Social Security number are also listed in a public file known as the Master Death List. That list is used by banks, doctors’ offices, credit agencies, health insurers and many more to know when their customers have passed away and to prevent fraudsters from using a deceased person’s information in identity theft schemes.

The problem is that the Social Security Administration makes mistakes regularly as NPR reports in “Social Security Data Errors Can Turn People Into The Living Dead.”

Every month approximately 500 living people are falsely declared dead by the agency. That is actually down from a few years ago when it was about 1,000 people a month.

There is no malicious intent in the agency’s actions. The false information is almost always the result of human error and someone accidentally entering the wrong information into the system.

A total of 500 a month is also not a huge number relative to the millions of people tracked by Social Security, but it is a big headache for those who are wrongly reported to be deceased.

If at some point the Social Security Administration wrongly reports your death, do not hesitate to see an elder law attorney for help sorting everything out. You will not be the first person the government has wrongfully declared dead.

Reference: NPR (Aug. 10, 2016) “Social Security Data Errors Can Turn People Into The Living Dead.”


Social Security Website Security

Bigstock-Senior-couple-standing-togethe-12052331[1]In response to numerous complaints the Social Security Administration is temporarily rolling back a new security measure on its website.

Entering a username and a password on a website is no longer considered an adequate measure to protect people from identity theft. The login information is stored in databases that can and sometimes are hacked and sold to thieves.

Since many people commonly use the same login information for multiple websites, a hack of one website also allows thieves to access many more websites. This has created problems for financial institutions that seek to protect their customers’ accounts. The response has been to add extra layers of security requirements to access the accounts.

The Social Security Administration recently did so, but after less than a month it is temporarily suspending the new requirement as ABC News reports in “Social Security Rolls Back Security Measures on Website.”

The requirement Social Security chose is a common one for many banks and other financial institutions. In addition to entering a username and password, website users are also required to enter a one-time code to access their accounts. The codes are sent to users via a text message on a phone previously verified to be the account holder’s. The codes normally expire after a short time.

While this has proven to be a good security measure, it is easy to see how it might not work well for everyone who wants to access their Social Security account online. People who do not have cell phones or who have trouble reading text messages would obviously have difficulty.

Social Security website users who still wish to have the extra layer of security may opt-in to the option for now. No announcement has been made if the requirement will come back in the future or if the Social Security Administration will try a different security option.

Reference: ABC News (Aug. 23, 2016) “Social Security Rolls Back Security Measures on Website.”

Glen Campbell’s Kids Still Not Allowed to Visit Him

Bigstock-Extended-Family-Outside-Modern-13915094[1]Despite a state law that says otherwise, and that is named after their father, Glen Campbell’s children say that they are still being denied access to their father.

In May, the governor of Tennessee signed a bill providing that family and friends cannot be prohibited from visiting someone by a guardian or someone who has power of attorney without a specific court order. The law is known as the “Glen Campbell/Peter Falk Bill” after two celebrity cases where family access was denied.

Glen Campbell suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is under the care of his fourth wife in Nashville. Despite the existence of this law, Campbell’s children claim they are still being denied access to their father by the fourth wife.

An online fundraising page has been created to raise funds for their legal case Fox News reports in “Glen Campbell's kids say they can't see their dad, fans raise money.”

This is an unfortunately common occurrence.

Caretakers who do not get along with the family members often deny those family members access. Sometimes it is just done out of spite. However, it is also often done as a way to hide elder abuse and undue influence over someone’s estate plan.

Family members who are denied access have no way of monitoring to make sure their loved ones are being looked after properly. Tennessee took an important step by passing this law, but it is clear that more still needs to be done in that state and throughout the country.

Reference: Fox News (Aug. 8, 2016) “Glen Campbell's kids say they can't see their dad, fans raise money.”


Saving Social Security with More Taxes

fortune cookiesIf no changes are made, then eventually the Social Security trust fund will run out of money. One of the commonly proposed solutions is to increase the amount that the wealthy pay in taxes. But will it work?

Because of America’s changing demographics and aging population, it is expected that the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by 2034 if current trends continue. That does not mean Social Security will cease to exist, but the benefits given to seniors would have to be reduced to meet the program’s income. Politicians have proposed several different solutions to this expected problem. Recently, Trust Advisor looked at one of them in “Can Taxing The Wealthy Save Social Security?

The reviewed proposal is a simple one: raise taxes. Currently, any income an individual makes that exceeds $118,500 is not subject to the payroll taxes that fund Social Security. Politicians have proposed eliminating that cap and taxing all income. According to the findings of the article, the proposal would not solve the entire problem, but it would reduce the expected shortage by 88%. However, that number has been disputed. If different assumptions are made, then different results can be produced concerning the effectiveness of the plan.

Something will have to be done about Social Security, and it is likely that many different solutions will be offered in the coming years. It will be important to continue to assess whether the proposals could be effective or whether they are merely being made for political reasons.

Reference: Trust Advisor (July 14, 2016) “Can Taxing The Wealthy Save Social Security?