5 Reasons You Should Follow Chris Raymond, About.com’s Death and Dying Expert

Editor’s note: This is a confession. It is about breast-cancer awareness. It is about the pink. For years I have taken silent issue with this unending media frenzy while simmering in a frustrated pot of pink that permeates everything I see, down to the rubber gloves I felt forced to purchase out of need and no other choices available. When I imagine speaking these words out loud, it makes me think of the Seinfeld episode when Kramer didn’t want to wear the AIDS ribbon — what kind of a person am I? Am I not against breast cancer?

Like Kramer, I don’t need no stinking ribbon, and I wish most of the money spent on making things pink (now that awareness has simply become merely saturation — no, flooding) actually helps obliterate cancer, not merely medicate it, or fill landfills with discarded tcatchke.

Backlash, ensue. I hate breast cancer, as I hate all cancer, but who doesn’t?

Did you know that the leading cause of death among women (and men) is heart disease and tops not only breast cancer, but all cancers combined? February is heart-health month and heart disease touches almost all of us at some point in our lives, directly or indirectly.

Chris Raymond is the editor of About.com’s Death and Dying website, and he posted an article this month that delves into the subject of heart disease with facts that deserve a pro bono branding campaign provided by Susan G. Komen’s CMO (chief marketing officer). His bio speaks of his experience, but what really matters are his words and the reason my clicks are driven to his site: “Death is deeply personal and never easy to contemplate. While the Internet has enabled easier access to information, the guidance offered online about death and dying can prove misinformed, biased, deluded or worse. As About.com’s expert on death and dying, my goal is to provide you with timely, topical and objective information to help you make better-informed choices for yourself or someone you love.”

The Top 5 Reasons

Thank you, Chris, for always writing something I want to read about death — the practical, the enlightened, the sometimes uncomfortable, the profound, and the undying attention and appreciation of what happens to all of us.

Chris generously contributes to Helping Survivors Manage this mChris Raymondonth by way of an interview. Please feel free to comment, but, more importantly, follow him on About.com’s Death and Dying website. I read every one of his articles and they are consistently rich in content. Thank you for your contribution to the industry, Chris.

What is your first memorable impression of death in your life, how old were you and how did it affect you? When I was about 21, my grandmother asked me to join her at the open casket bearing the body of her beloved sister during the funeral visitation. As we stood there silently for what seemed like hours, my mind raced with thoughts about what my grandmother was thinking and feeling, and whether I was supposed to say something “comforting” to her.

Eventually, my grandmother broke the awkward silence and said, “I like the color of her casket. I’m going to get a casket in that color.”

This moment taught me that, despite the reality of death, the living must still carry on with the details, decisions and distractions that fill our allotted days, and that, sometimes, the best response is simply the gift of silence.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a survivor after a death? Undoubtedly, the greatest fallacy is that the forever-loss of someone we love is something we’ll eventually “get over.” You get over a cut, a cold or a car collision, but never the death of someone you love. Instead, in time, you learn to live with the reality of that loss but you always remain aware of the scar on your heart left by the wound of grief.

What do you wish you could tell every survivor after a significant death? Two things — First, do whatever you need to do to cope short-term without wondering if you’re “doing something wrong” and without worrying about what others think. Second, even though this loss might feel overwhelming right now, this too shall pass.

What is your favorite ‘famous last words’ quote? As he lay on his deathbed, the wife of comedian Bob Hope asked him where he wanted to be buried. His reply? “Surprise me.”

What is your favorite movie about death or dying? Cary Grant is my favorite actor, and his 1937 comedy Topper is my favorite death-related film. After Grant and his on-screen wife (played by Constance Bennett) die in a car accident, the fun-loving couple haunt Cosmo Topper, their stiff, hen-pecked pal who doesn’t have any fun.

A close second is 1978’s Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, which is a remake of 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan. In both versions, the lead character, Joe, dies before he’s supposed to and must temporarily inhabit the body and life of another dead man until a suitable permanent body/life can be located.

What is the most fascinating statistic about death that few people know? I don’t find this stat fascinating as much as downright unsettling. Scientific evidence suggests that left-handed people don’t live as long as righties for a variety of reasons, with the average amount of time measured not in days, weeks or months but years. Guess which hand I naturally use most…

What have you done to help your survivors after you die? (Do you have a will, have you planned your funeral, etc.?) I’m a typical example of not taking care of the things I know I should do, such as preparing a will or creating an advance-planning directive in case I’m hit by a bus. (And for someone like me who writes about these things, that’s inexcusable.) It’s not because I feel uncomfortable about it or can’t face my mortality; it’s simply laziness and thinking, “Oh, I’ll get to that tomorrow.”

How do you want to be remembered after you die? The only form of immortality available to us, unfortunately, is to live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved us. Therefore, I hope I’m simply remembered at all. And if I’m not, I plan to come back and haunt them like Grant/Bennett in Topper.

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Welcome 2014!

This is the last entry for 2013. It is my normal year end thanks to all who have supported the Helping Survivors Manage mission and my favorite quotes with a new one at the top of the pack. All the best to you and yours and Happy New Year!

Resolutions are good, but be gentle with yourself. My resolutions don’t come to me on certain days (like New Year’s Day), I have quotes all over my office that inspire me, make me laugh and help me – like most of us – get through one day, let alone an entire year. Sharing from my brick and mortar walls:

“The more I know, the less I need” – attributed to several people, not sure who said it first

“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of (wo)men, but from doing something worthwhile.” Sir Wilfred Grenfell

“If I should labor through daylight and dark,
Consecrate, valorous, serious, true,
Then on the world I may blazon my mark;
And what if I don’t, and what if I do?”
Dorothy Parker

“Real communication happens when people feel safe.” Ken Blanchard

“There is always room for improvement.” Jimmy Crown (I am sure someone said it before him, but he was a wonderful art teacher and mentor to thousands of kids.)

“In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Be a hard master to yourself – and be lenient to everybody else.” Henry Beecher

“Keep looking, there is always something you missed.”

“A person’s true character is revealed by what (s)he does when no one is watching.”

“The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.” Swedish proverb

“Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“Talent is good, practice is better, passion is best.” Frank Lloyd Wright

In the past couple of days, I came up with one “kindness is a result of deep contentment, unkindness is a result of deep sadness” let’s hope we are all in the former category and have patience for those in the latter.

Here is to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013, peace…

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Tax Returns for Decedent

It was not until my mom died that I discovered that my dad needed to file a tax return for the last year she was alive. Of course it makes sense, it just never occurred to me.

As a staunch advocate for financial planning for everyone of nearly every social class, I believe having someone help guide you to financial peace of mind is worth the time and money. If you decide to use a financial planner (as with any other financial decision) be sure to do your homework before you choose. When people tell me they cannot afford a financial planner, I typically respond, “the less money you have, the more reason to plan well”. This response is a bit simplistic, but my opinion stands. Where there is a will, there is a way. If you do not want to work until you die, you must plan for that luxury. I do not consider Social Security as any part of my income upon my retirement; whatever I do get (if anything) will be a bonus.

This helpful article was provided by a good friend of mine Justin Daley. It details some financial aspects of survivor responsibilities after the death of a family member.

Ameriprise Financial Justin Daley
Justin Daley and Glen Dalton
Justin Daley, CRPC® Branch Manager
1089 Jordan Creek Pkwy #110
West Des Moines, IA 50266
justin [dot] p [dot] daley [at] ampf [dot] com

March 04, 2013

Death of a Family Member

How might the death of your family member impact income tax return responsibilities?

The death of one of your family members–particularly the death of your spouse–may create certain federal income tax tasks and responsibilities for you. In particular, you’ll need to learn the proper procedure for filing and signing the decedent’s final income tax return, you’ll need to review the applicable filing status rules, and you’ll probably need to learn how to obtain and cash any refund check to which the deceased may have been entitled.

What should you know about filing and signing income tax returns incident to a death?

Specific procedures must be followed if you are filing and/or signing a decedent’s final income tax return.

Filing the return

The same filing requirements that apply to individuals determine whether a final income tax return must be filed for your deceased family member (“the decedent”). In other words, if the decedent’s level of income during the year was so low that he or she would not normally be obligated to file an income tax return, then an income tax return need not be filed for the year of death.

When you file a return for the decedent, either as the personal representative (i.e., the executor or administrator) or as the surviving spouse, the return must be completed according to some specific rules. For instance, you must write “DECEASED” across the top of the decedent’s tax return, along with the decedent’s name and date of death.

·   If you are the surviving spouse and are filing a joint return with the decedent, you should also write the names and addresses of both parties (you and the decedent) in the regular name and address space on the return, or use the peel-off label

·   If a joint return is not being filed, write the decedent’s name in the name space in care of the personal representative, along with the personal representative’s address

Signing the return

Specific rules also govern procedure for signing the return. If a personal representative such as an executor or administrator has been appointed, the personal representative must sign the return. If a joint return is filed, the surviving spouse must also sign the return. If no personal representative has been appointed by the due date for filing the return, the surviving spouse (on a joint return) should sign the return and write “Filing as Surviving Spouse,” in the signature area. If no personal representative has been appointed and if there is no surviving spouse, the person in charge of the decedent’s property must file and sign the return as “Personal Representative.”

Other important rules

There are many other rules that come into play when filing a final return for a decedent. For instance, you should know that the date of death determines the amount of income and deductions that will be reported on the tax return.

What are some filing status considerations in the year of death?

In general, marital status is determined on the last day of the tax year (December 31). However, special rules apply when a married taxpayer dies; married filing jointly status is generally allowed for that tax year, even if the death occurred on January 1. If the decedent was married, however, it is important for you to calculate whether the tax on a joint return would be less than the total tax owed on two separate returns. Bear in mind that although a joint return will include all of the income and deductions of the survivor for the entire year, it will include only the income and deductions of the decedent up until the date of the death.

Tip: If certain property was not owned jointly with the surviving spouse but passed to the decedent’s estate at death, the subsequent income on that property would be reported on the income tax return for the estate, not on the joint income tax return.

Filing status for surviving spouse

For the surviving spouse, any of a number of filing statuses may be appropriate. These can range from married filing jointly, to married filing separately, to qualifying widow(er), to head of household.

Married filing jointly

In the year of a spouse’s death, the surviving spouse generally is considered married for the entire year, for tax purposes. Therefore, the surviving spouse can generally file a joint return for that year. This rule also applies if both spouses die during the same tax year. Generally, a joint return can be made only with the cooperation of the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate. However, the surviving spouse, acting alone, can file a joint return with the deceased spouse under the following conditions:

·   The decedent had not filed a tax return (as married filing separately) for his or her year of death, prior to death

·   No executor or administrator has been appointed at or before the filing of the joint return or before the last day prescribed by law for filing the return of the surviving spouse (including extensions)

 Married filing separately

In general, a surviving spouse should calculate taxes both according to the married filing jointly status and the married filing separately status in order to determine the most advantageous approach. If the surviving spouse remarries before the end of the year, married filing separately status must be used for the decedent’s final return.

Qualifying widow(er)

Although a joint return cannot be filed with the deceased spouse for a tax year after the year of death, the surviving spouse can use the married filing jointly tax rates and standard deduction amount by filing as a “qualified widow(er) ” in each of the following two years. The surviving spouse must be unmarried and pay more than half the cost of maintaining the principal home for the entire year of a child who qualifies for a dependency exemption on the surviving spouse’s return.

Head of household status

If you are not eligible to file jointly or as a qualified surviving spouse, head of household filing status is the best alternative to minimize tax (assuming that you qualify). This is because the tax rates are lower and the standard deduction higher than if you file single or married filing separately. It’s possible that you may qualify for head of household status if you provide support for a grandchild, sibling, or other relative, and meet all applicable conditions.

What is the procedure for obtaining and cashing refund checks for a decedent?

Generally, a person who is filing a return for a decedent and claiming a refund must file IRS Form 1310, with the return. However, there are some exceptions:

Surviving spouse

If you are a surviving spouse filing a joint return with the decedent and claiming a refund, you do not have to file Form 1310.

Appointed personal representative

If you are a court appointed or certified personal representative, you also do not have to file Form 1310, but you must attach a copy of the court certificate showing your appointment to the return. However, if you are claiming a refund on an amended return (Form 1040X), then you must attach Form 1310.

Tip: To make sure that refunds are not delayed, it is recommended that Form 1310 be attached to any return being filed for a decedent on which a refund is being claimed.

The information contained in this material is being provided for general education purposes and with the understanding that it is not intended to be used or interpreted as specific legal, tax or investment advice. It does not address or account for your individual investor circumstances. Investment decisions should always be made based on your specific financial needs and objectives, goals, time horizon and risk tolerance.

The information contained in this communication, including attachments, may be provided to support the marketing of a particular product or service. You cannot rely on this to avoid tax penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Consult your tax advisor or attorney regarding tax issues specific to your circumstances.

Neither Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its employees or representatives are authorized to give legal or tax advice. You are encouraged to seek the guidance of your own personal legal or tax counsel. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC.

The information in this document is provided by a third party and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. While the publisher has been diligent in attempting to provide accurate information, the accuracy of the information cannot be guaranteed. Laws and regulations change frequently, and are subject to differing legal interpretations. Accordingly, neither the publisher nor any of its licensees or their distributees shall be liable for any loss or damage caused, or alleged to have been caused, by the use or reliance upon this service.


Best practice is to go to the source, the IRS website explains, “A personal representative of an estate is an executor (executrix), administrator (administratrix) or anyone who is in charge of the decedent’s property. The personal representative is responsible for filing any final individual income tax return(s) and the estate tax return of the decedent when due. Please refer to Publication 559, Survivors, Executors, and Administrators, for additional information on personal representative responsibilities.”


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HSM’s Four Year Anniversary Sale – Buy One Get One Free – One Week Only!

Celebrating four immensely fulfilling years of helping survivors!

To get the Buy One Get One Free special, simply purchase one book (hard copy or PDF) from our website and two will automatically be sent from Tuesday, October 15 through Tuesday, October 22. If you would like one to be a gift, no problem, just email us with the recipient’s name and address. Unfortunately, the current online payment vendor (PayPal) does not provide the gift option, sorry, we can do it the old fashioned way – through email.

A Lesson for Me on Anniversaries

As we mature, I find that many of our social habits fade away and new ones form and emerge. I used to be diligent about sending notes of sympathy on ‘death anniversaries’ to survivors and most people would be very grateful and thankful that I remembered. I would respond that technically, I did not remember, and it was on my calendar, but does that matter? If we did not see a calendar on a daily basis, none of us would remember every important date. Does that make us less thoughtful? The grateful recipients tell me they appreciate it regardless of my memory method.

Recently I have not been so diligent. My better half remarked a long time ago that he would not want such a note of sympathy, which made me feel insensitive and more introspective about such communication. It made me think about the gift we think someone wants, but in reality, the gift is more about what we want to give than what the beneficiary would really like.

As the old adage goes, the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.

Happy Anniversary to Helping Survivors Manage for surviving four years of helping survivors, our primary goal. Peace.

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Planning for Your Survivors

People tell me all the time ‘You should write another book on how to plan for death!’ Fortunately, hundreds of others have thought the same thing and have done exactly that. I then refer them to a couple of my favorites.

The first and most comprehensive example I found that I typically take with me to events and speaking gigs is Putting Things in Order – A Journal to Organize Your Life for the Next Generation by Ellen Baumritter and David Finkle. It is spiral-bound, easy to complete and has the perfect amount of sentiment and business balance for my taste.

Recently a friend sent me a link to a Seattle television interview with Chanel Reynolds at Get Your Shit Together. Chanel lost her husband unexpectedly at a young age and found herself at the hospital dumbfounded and thinking I do not have my shit together! Few survivors do. Her contemporary website is full of up-to-date downloads/templates, (non-legal) advice, and (if you can’t tell by the name of the organization) honest, proactive and fun solutions to get your shit together for your survivors.

We are expanding our services at HSM and we gladly join the ranks of these two of hundreds of other resources available to everyone who has a computer or a book store nearby. Do it for the survivors you leave behind, they will need all the help they can get. Peace.

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