Q: A car I was renting was damaged in a parking lot by someone who left without leaving a note. My insurance company paid the damages, minus the deductible, but the rental company presented me with additional charges of $898 for an administrative fee, loss of use and diminished value. I know I could have opted for more coverage on the rental, but is it worth the cost given how rarely this occurs?
A: It’s not just rental cars. Do you buy the insurance coverage for your cell phone, dishwasher, airline flight and laptop? There must be significant profits in supplemental insurance, otherwise it wouldn’t be an option for so many things we buy.
I was advised years ago that it is best to purchase the extra coverage when renting a car in a foreign country, and to decline the coverage in the United States (assuming you have your own car insurance). This may not be appropriate for everyone, but it seems like a reasonable approach.
Q: I am still legally married, but my husband and I have not lived together for many years. Can I appoint my sons to be the agents on my power of attorney and not name my husband? Also, if I have designated my sons as equal beneficiaries on my life insurance upon my death, does my husband have the legal right to take away those funds from them?
A: Yes, you can appoint your sons as the agents on your Durable Power of Attorney and your Medical Power of Attorney. You would be able do that even if you were happily married to your husband.
The power of attorney forms should be honored. However, banks and brokerage firms are notoriously unwilling to accept Durable Powers of Attorney, and if your husband were to raise any kind of objection, the bank or brokerage firm might decline to work with your sons.
The way to prevent this from happening is to contact every bank or brokerage house where you have an account and tell them you would like to name your sons as agents on a power of attorney. Most of the time, they will have their own internal power of attorney form for you to sign. They will be far more willing to work with your sons, even if your husband objects, when they are working from their own form.
Assuming the life insurance on your life is a community property asset, and the policy is paid to your sons upon your death, then your husband would have a claim for “fraud on the community.”
He would need to file suit against your estate, and if successful, he would be able to recover half of the value of the insurance proceeds. If your estate has enough money, he could recover what he is owed from your estate. But if your estate is not large enough, he could recover the money from his sons.
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 [email protected]