Money Management Q&A

May 18, 2007

Avoiding luggage lines; gifting stocks; identity theft

Avoiding luggage lines when you travel

I'll vacation in California this summer and want to ship my luggage there to minimize hassles at the airport. What's the simplest way to do this?

Choose a firm that specializes in handling luggage for travelers, such as The Luggage Club ( http://www.theluggageclub.com), Luggage Concierge ( http://www.luggageconcierge.com), Luggage Free ( http://www.luggagefree.com), or Virtual Bellhop ( http://www.virtualbellhop.com). The firm will send a representative to your home to pick up the bags, which will then be packaged, shipped, and delivered at the address you specify.

Gifting stocks during your lifetime

My wife and I want to give our son some shares of stock as a beginning investment portfolio. How much can we give him this year without triggering gift tax, and how do we calculate the value of the shares?

Each of you can give him $12,000 for 2007 gift-tax-free, for a total of $24,000. To calculate the shares' value, you'd generally average the highest and lowest selling prices for the day you make the transfer. But the rules get more complicated under certain circumstances-if you turn over the stock to him on a weekend, say, or if the issues don't trade regularly. Before you decide which shares to give him and when, review the instructions for Form 706, available at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i706.pdf.

Identity theft haunts the deceased, too

When my mother died last month, I published an obituary that included her maiden name, birth date, and other information about her life. A friend says that could invite identity theft. Is that really a risk?

Yes, according to the FDIC. A would-be thief who also knows her address or other personal details may be able to apply for a Social Security card, driver's license, or credit-in your mother's name. You'd be wise to close her financial accounts and establish new ones in your name, assuming you're her beneficiary. And if you haven't already done so, you should report her death to the Social Security Administration as well as to Equifax (800-525-6285), TransUnion (800-680-7289), and Experian (888-397-3742), the three major credit bureaus. They can place an alert in your mother's credit file to prevent fraudulent activity and possible delays in settling her estate.

Do you have a money management question that may be stumping other doctors, too? Write: MMQA Editor, Medical Economics, 123 Tice Blvd., Suite 300, Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677-7664, or send an e-mail to memoney@advanstar.com (please include your regular postal address). Sorry, but we're not able to answer readers individually.