Meet our writers

Win $1,000







Money May 2017

Dollar Sense

Potpourri: What You Should Know to Protect Your Benefits, Your Rights and Your Assets

By Teresa Ambord

What should you do if your loved one has passed away, leaving important items in a safe deposit box that you can’t access? The answer depends on the state where the safe deposit box is, which means you may have to contact an attorney in that state.

Medicare Advantage: If You Don’t like Your Plan, When Can You Change It?

It’s hard to know when you first sign up for Medicare Advantage whether you’ll be happy with the plan. But also, plans change, and so do your medical needs. If your plan no longer serves you well, when can you change it or go back to Original Medicare?

According to the Medicare Rights Center (medicarerights.org) the answer varies.

  • Changing from one Advantage Plan to Another Advantage Plan
    You may do so in the fall Open Enrollment period, from October 15 to December 7 each year, and your new coverage will begin the following January. You should get a notice from your current plan in the fall, which explains your plan’s costs and coverages. Compare that to any new plan you may be interested in. Research shows that seniors can save money on Part D or Medicare Advantage Plans by shopping among the choices each year. The area you live in may cover the drugs you need for less and with fewer restrictions.

    If you’re not sure what’s available in your area, call 1-800-MEDICARE or go to www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan. Once you find a plan you like, call the plan to verify that the information is current.

  • Changing from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare
    You can do this during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, which begins January 1 and runs through February 14, each year. The changes you make will begin the following month.
      
  • Changes Made under Special Circumstances
    You may qualify to make a change in the Special Enrollment Period (SEP). If you qualify to change during an SEP, the new coverage begins the first of the month after you change plans. Examples of SEPS include:

    - Your Medicare Advantage Plan leaves your area, or you move to an area that doesn’t offer your plan.

    - Once a year, you may switch from your current Advantage Plan to a five-star Medicare Advantage Plan, assuming the plan serves the area you live in. Go to this site to learn more about Special Enrollment Periods or log onto Medicare.gov and type “Special Enrollment Periods” into the search window.

 

Someone Passed Away and You Need to Open Their Safety Deposit Box. How?

What should you do if your loved one has passed away, leaving important items in a safe deposit box that you can’t access? The answer depends on the state where the safe deposit box is, which means you may have to contact an attorney in that state. Some states will allow family members or the executor to enter a safe deposit box to remove the will, life insurance policies, burial instructions, and certain other important documents, without having to obtain a court order.

If a court order is required, you’ll have to provide certain forms to the court handling the estate or probate. You’ll need the name and address of the decedent, a copy of the death certificate or an affidavit from the medical examiner, plus the location of the safe deposit box, including the county.

If a court order is needed, some states or situations do require a court order to protect all the parties involved. It may seem like a pain in the neck, but if another relative has a key and decides to go into the box and open it without telling you, you’re likely to be unhappy.

Also, banks must protect themselves from being accused of letting someone get into a safe deposit box inappropriately and removing items without authorization. A court order protects everyone.

Co-renter? If you co-rent a safe deposit box or have given someone, such as your sibling, a key, depending on the state you live in, that may not be enough to avoid delays if that person’s name isn’t on the rental contract. Instead, consider appointing a deputy or agent who can access the box. This is not the same as a power of attorney, which banks may not accept without waiting for validation.

One important reminder: It’s not a good idea to keep your will in your safe deposit box (although a copy is fine). Your will should be in a safe that is in your home and accessible, or give it to your attorney and copies to your executor and a relative or close friend.

 

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa