SMART MONEY: Poor record-keeping can cost extra at tax time
DEAR BRUCE: I have bought and sold stocks since 1981. Unfortunately, I have been negligent in recording the number of shares bought, dates purchased and the price of shares. Are there sources available to get this information? I have sold quite a number of shares this year and will need this information for my income tax preparation. — Jack, via email
DEAR JACK: You are talking about going back more than 30 years, and that could be a problem. The fact that you have been negligent is no excuse.
If you were buying and selling through a broker, it’s possible he would still have this information available. In the event that’s not the case, you know what stocks you sold this year and you should be able to come up with something in your records as to what you paid for them.
This underscores the necessity for keeping records in today’s world. With almost everyone owning a computer, there is just no excuse for not having that information. With that having been said, if you can’t put the matter together, you or someone representing you should to go to the IRS. Contacting the IRS and working out some type of settlement may not be in your favor, but that’s the penalty for your negligence.
DEAR BRUCE: My husband and I are 72 and 74 years old, with all assets in both of our names. This includes property, vehicles and bank accounts. Each of our wills leaves everything to the remaining spouse. None of these assets amounts to a large amount of money.
Upon the death of one of us, does that individual will need to be probated, or can a will just be filed to be on record and the remaining spouse will then have the deceased person’s name removed from the assets? We live in Florida. This seems like a simple question to me, but nothing I read addresses it. — Shirley, via email
DEAR SHIRLEY: If everything comes down as described, there is very likely no reason to probate the will. You will file it to be on record. Everything else you mentioned can have the deceased person’s name removed or the account can be closed altogether and distributed to the survivor.
In the event that you accumulated some other assets after the will was drafted that are not addressed, it may very well be that the will must be probated. That is a relatively simple process.
Many scare tactics have been used to discourage people from having a will rather than using a trust. I don’t agree, in most cases. For most of us, having a will probated is a relatively simple process. If you own real property, it may be that the will would have to be probated, and if you won real property in more than one state, it will have to be probated in each of the states where you own real estate.
Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.
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