Probate Section holds meeting on services to seniors

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Seniors with accounts at the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSFCU) can look to Deb Premoe, senior class coordinator, and Cindy Perry, administrative assistant for member services, or for assistance directed to their needs. Premoe and Perry updated the Ingham County Bar Association Probate Section members on those services at a section meeting held on May at the Michael Franck building in Lansing.

"I cater to 55 and older," said Premoe, which means they can come to me for any financial services they need. I am their counselor and listener. I review all conservatorships, custodial accounts, deceased accounts, powers of attorney and all trust accounts. I make corrections as needed."

"Preventing exploitation of our seniors at the teller line and in the offices is a goal. Tellers are trained to do several things--they observe who is coming in with the senior at the teller line. If they have a person with them that the teller doesn't normally see and they are withdrawing more money than usual, the tellers are trained to ask questions. Tellers look at transaction history--if that is not a normal amount--ask questions."

"We get people coming in showing us 'what I have won and all I have to do is send back X amount of dollars.' If a senior member asks that a person be added to the account and we are not comfortable, we monitor the account to make sure they are not being taken advantage of. If we see a pattern of dementia or excess spending, we call the family."

"All of our accounts that have a beneficiary on file are payable on death accounts, however, they are not titled that way. If there is a discrepancy between the will and the beneficiary distribution in our records, our distribution trumps a will. We will only release information about the account to the personal representative with a court order."

Question: In instances where it is necessary to file an estate tax return and include the value of that account, how do they get that information if they can't get it from the beneficiary?

Answer: "They need a subpoena or a court order to get it. The reason for that is that we are not going to get in the middle of a family dispute."

"We send out beneficiary form requesting information," she said. "We've sent out about 60,000 beneficiary forms for all accounts not just seniors. If you have multiple accounts, you can beneficiaries for each one."

"When someone dies, their individual accounts are closed. We don't stop automatic payments from the account if they are utilities and house payments. When we have the beneficiaries, we distribute the funds. The account can stay open for one year from the date of death."

"We require a notarized signature for all powers of attorney (POA), because we feel we are protecting our members that way. We will not accept a power of attorney if the agent of that POA is a member of the credit union and we have taken a loss on that person. We don't want (an agent) who has a bad history to bankrupt a person--there is a lot of undue influence in a POA. If we have a POA that is more than five years old, we contact the person making it.

What we would really like is an acceptance from the agent so we have their signature on file.

Premoe noted that under the new trust law the credit union gets a certificate of trust each time there is a change and can accept irrevocable trusts. "We can not act as trustee for a trust," she said.

This was the last meeting of the Probate section for the season. The next meeting will be on September 21st , location and speaker to be announced.

Published: Thu, Jun 10, 2010

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