Q. My wife and I live in an assisted living facility primarily for her care. A long-term care insurance provider sends my wife a check each month which she endorses and I deposit. Sooner than later, she won’t be able to sign her checks any longer. I have power of attorney. Can I write her name with my signature or will I have to present a copy of the Power of Attorney?

A. You have a few options.

You could sign her name followed by the words “by [your name] as agent”. That should work fine. You could also simply sign her name, which is probably what most people do without issue. The odds are the bank will never object, and if questioned, you would explain you were attempting to sign as her agent.

Another option is to try depositing the check without endorsing it using the bank’s app on your phone. You just take a picture of both sides of the check and make the deposit.

Q. Two years ago, my wife passed away with no will. She had two sons from a previous marriage. They each now own one-fourth of our home, and I still own my half, plus a life estate in their half. Can I make them pay their share of the insurance, taxes, homeowners’ fees, upkeep, etc. until I sell?

A. While you are living in the home, you must pay for all of the upkeep, including utilities. You are also responsible for all property taxes and mortgage interest (if any). Homeowners’ fees are included in “upkeep,” and therefore you should pay these bills yourself.

If you make any improvements to the home, that is your own expense, and you can’t seek reimbursement from your deceased wife’s sons.

As a one-half owner of the home, you must pay for half of the mortgage principal (if any) and half of the property insurance premiums. Your deceased wife’s sons must pay the other half of those two expenses.

Q. How do I notify a credit bureau of a person’s death to keep new accounts from being opened? My experience is they don’t answer phone calls from people who aren’t customers.

A. Go to transunion.com, click on “Customer Support” and then on “Report a death.”

The website then explains where to mail the notification and what to include.

Q. Our mother recently died with a will naming me as executor and leaving her property to me and my sister. Her only asset, other than a few personal items, is a checking account in her name alone with less than $10,000. Do I have to probate her will for such a small estate? Are there other options?

A. Probate is the only way. Had she died without a will, you could have used the simpler and cheaper Small Estate Affidavit.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Readers with legal problems, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult attorneys for advice on their particular circumstances. Ronald Lipman of the Houston law firm Lipman & Associates is board-certified in estate planning and probate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email questions to stateyourcase@lipmanpc.com.



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