Author: Quentin Fottrell

The Moneyist: My mom added me to her bank accounts before she died. Am I legally or morally obliged to disclose these accounts to my siblings?

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Dear Quentin,

My mom recently passed away.

I have taken care of my mom’s finances for the last 10 years. It was always her money, but I made sure all her bills were paid. She lived in her own house until about 7 months ago. She then moved in with me. She was 89 years old and could not take care of herself any longer.

Do I need to report this to the probate lawyer? More importantly, do I need to tell my 3 siblings about the money in these accounts?

For the last 10 years, I have taken care of paying her bills, so mom put me on all of her checking/savings accounts. My mom trusted me to take care of all her finances as well as all aspects of her life/care, and any house repairs/problems.

As I am joint on her banking accounts, do I need to report this to the probate lawyer? More importantly, do I need to tell my 3 siblings about the money in these accounts? If I am joint on her accounts does that make me the beneficiary, and does it need to be disclosed?

My sisters are bugging me about mom’s accounts. I haven’t told them anything. Mom didn’t want me to talk to them about her money, and I never have until now. What should I do? Am I legally bound to disclose the accounts?

Thank you for your advice.

Daughter/Sister

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

Dear Daughter/Sister,

I’m sorry for your loss, and I am glad you had this time to spend with your mother, and take care of her needs. It’s not easy, and some families can take such a commitment by one child for granted. You did your mother a great service, and I hope you take solace in the fact that you did everything in your power to make her final years comfortable, and free of loneliness.

You write that your mother “put me” on these accounts and you say “I am joint” on the accounts. First off, establish whether you are a “joint owner” on these bank accounts or an “authorized signer.” There’s a big difference between the two. With the former, you are the beneficiary of these accounts, and they do not go through probate. Not so, with the latter.

‘First off, establish whether you are a joint owner on these bank accounts or an authorized signer.’

— The Moneyist

Let’s proceed on the basis that you are a co-owner. Given the decade-long commitment to your mother and her wish for you to keep the contents of these accounts private, I see no moral or legal imperative to acquiesce to your siblings, and give them a full forensic accounting. To what end? The only reason would be if this was their money too. It’s not.

Still, situations such as this can be tricky. “Transfers on death” are widely regarded as a more secure way of passing on bank accounts to a chosen friend or relative, and can also help avoid tax pitfalls that come with the inheritance of joint accounts. That said, transfers on death do not give third parties ownership during the person’s lifetime.

According to the National Law Review, making an adult child a joint owner of an account is regarded as the “poor man’s will” primarily because of the myriad problems that can arise over whether it was merely a convenience account set up to pay bills, but not actually meant to be left to the care giver in question. “Litigation can, and frequently does, ensue.” It poses three questions:

1. What was the source of the account? “If the deceased owner was the sole source of funding, the account is more likely to be viewed as a convenience account, with the joint designation intended merely as a means to ensure the deceased owner’s expenses were paid while he or she was alive, rather than a true joint account,” the NLR says.

2. What was the money used for? “If the account was used solely for the deceased owner’s expenses, it is more likely to be viewed as a convenience account,” it adds. “The living joint owner’s use of the account, however, is strong evidence that the deceased owner considered the account to be a ‘true’ joint account.”

‘Always err on the side of transparency. That means full disclosure to the probate attorney.’

— The Moneyist

3. And, finally, when was the account set up? “If the account was created long before the deceased owner’s death, it is probably easier for the living owner to argue that the deceased owner knew what he or she was doing, was less susceptible to any influence,” the publication adds. But the opposite could also be true. Therefore, any paper trails to support your case would be useful.

There are a lot of moving parts here. Always err on the side of transparency. That means full disclosure to the probate attorney. He or she can assess all the documents, and ensure that all legal issues are addressed in a fair and proper manner. Your siblings would be less likely, in theory anyway, to suspect that any undue influence or financial malfeasance has occurred.

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook US:FB  group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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The Moneyist: My sister inherited the family home, but not the contents. She set up a ‘garage sale’ — and key items were missing. Should I pursue legal action?

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Dear Quentin,

My older sister and I are in the process of being appointed co-executrixes of my parents estate through the courts, as their will stated. Dad passed in January 2021. Mom passed in 2019.

For tax reasons, my parents put their home in my sister’s name. After the COVID-safe funeral and while in the process of finding an attorney to handle the estate, I offered my sister assistance to go through the house.

Her response was, “The house is mine.” To which I responded, “Yes, but their possessions are not,” and I referenced where in the will this was stated. (I’m glad I read it.)

‘If two people wanted the same item, we could flip a coin so there would be no hurt feelings.’

I offered an idea that the beneficiaries and their families to go through the house with a pad and pen, and make a list of items they were interested in and, afterwards, the three of us siblings would meet to discuss.

If two people wanted the same item, we could flip a coin so there would be no hurt feelings. I thought it was a fair way to handle a difficult task. The response from my sister: “I’ll think about it.”

Weeks went by, and I received a text from my sister on a Thursday afternoon saying she was ready to let us come to the house, and she asked to let her know what time on Saturday or Sunday we would like to be there. She also asked me to convey this information to my brother.

I expected to walk through my family home. What I found was some of the contents of my parents home setup in the garage, like a garage sale.

Needless to say it was a very unpleasant experience. Many items that I searched for were not there, and I got vague answers about what had happened to them. My brother was outraged, words were exchanged, and he left in disgust. Was this even legal?

‘Many items that I searched for were not there, and I got vague answers about what had happened to them.’

This is the latest instance of my sister doing exactly as she pleases without regard for anyone else involved.

My sister did most of the heavy lifting of caring for my parents, but she never asked for help when it was offered. For instance, I suggested an assisted living facility for them to live in, but I was immediately shut down. She had been there, seen it and didn’t like it, so it was a no.

She has an excellent job making six figures, and a lovely home which is paid off. She is not strapped for cash, but when we started this process, she kept saying, “I have to think about my retirement.” She is 67. I think she is padding her 401(k) with everything she can get her hands on.

I am considering hiring an attorney and filing suit against her. Since my parents’ passing she has tried to cut my brother out of a trust. Again, I told her that the will states that trust beneficiaries will be my parents’ surviving children. I’m not a lawyer, but everything she is doing seems sketchy, and I certainly don’t trust her.

I don’t want to end up in an endless court battle. How would you pursue this? Or would you just wrap up the estate and walk away from a toxic individual?

Respectfully,

Baffled in Boston

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

Dear Baffled,

Your sister should have waited for the probate process to be complete before removing — or, indeed, selling or hiding — items from your family home. She has acted beyond her powers as beneficiary of your parents’ home, and in direct contradiction to the terms of the will. Based on the alleged missing items, and her actions around the family trust, she has demonstrated that she cannot be trusted to be co-executrix of your parents’ will.

‘Based on the alleged missing items, and her actions around the family trust, she has demonstrated that she cannot be trusted to be co-executrix.’

— The Moneyist

“The involvement of an attorney and the court system can assist in recovering the stolen or missing items,” according to the law firm Hopler, Wilms & Hanna. “To hopefully avoid taking the matter to court, an attorney can work with the disgruntled family members to create a process to recover the property that was taken and assist in the proper distribution of assets. With family, it is usually best to settle issues as amicably as possible.”

“However, more challenging cases may require the court’s involvement,” the law firm adds. “They can also demand the recovery of the property. This is done by filing a verified petition and having a hearing in front of a judge. During the hearing, which is in all respects a trial, the evidence is taken, and a judge will decide whether the person is in possession of the property wrongfully.”

If you allow her to continue as co-executrix, expect more of the same. She has, in a way, done you a favor by showing her hand. Don’t expect her to act in a reasonable or even legal manner from this point forward. That way, you won’t be surprised or disappointed. Gather a list of the missing items, and any evidence concerning her attempts to remove your brother as a beneficiary of the family trust, and petition the probate court to be sole executrix and/or share the duties with your brother.

Any other legal action should be taken in consultation with your brother, and your estimation of the value — financial and sentimental — of the missing items.

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook US:FB  group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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The Moneyist: Is my boyfriend of 13 years entitled to half my house? I bought it 12 years ago — and he never helped with the bills

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Dear Quentin,

My boyfriend and I have separated after 13 years of dating. Twelve years ago, I purchased a home. We have never shared finances and none of his money was used in purchasing the home. He has never helped with the bills or the mortgage payments, and I never asked. He is now claiming that he’s entitled to half the value of the house when I purchased it 12 years ago.

Am I correct that he is entitled to nothing?

The Ex

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Ex,

Living with you rent-free does not a legal beneficiary make.

Some states acknowledge common-law marriage, but it is difficult for your ex-boyfriend to prove and enforce. For instance, you would have had to present yourself as married to friends, family and/or clubs or employers etc. Chief among those prerequisites is consent: both parties must typically consent to being engaged in a common-law marriage.

I received a very similar question last year from the other side of the equation, a man who wondered whether he was entitled to millions of dollars of his boyfriend’s earnings while they were together. You can read my response here. As I explained, common-law marriage derives from an old law, and exists in a handful of U.S. states, as an elective option.

“The phrase ‘common law’ originates with England and refers to those non-ceremonial marriages that were valid under English law. In the 1877 case Meister v. Moore, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a non-ceremonial marriage was a valid enforceable marriage, unless a state’s statute forbade it,” according to The Harris Law Firm in Colorado.

“Colorado’s statutes have not invalidated common law marriages and, consequently, they continue to this day. In addition to Colorado, only nine other states and Washington, D.C., continue to allow the establishment of a common law marriage. Those nine states are Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.”

He wants a payoff after 13 years? He’s out of luck.

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook US:FB  group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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The Moneyist: I saved $1.1M for retirement, earn $128K and have $56,000 on my mortgage. Can I afford my dream car — a Nissan GTR?

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Dear Quentin,

I’m looking to purchase a used Nissan GTR and spend about $80,000.

I’m 41, single, no kids, and have always been a big saver. I currently make $128,000 a year, and have a combined $1.1 million in my 401(k), Roth IRA, and brokerage accounts. I’m saving 15% of my pre-tax income with 4% contribution from my employer.

Can I afford my dream car?

I have $56,000 left on my mortgage of which I’m paying an extra $500/month towards principle and planning to pay off within 5 years. I have about $150,000 equity in my condo and about $22,000 in savings.

Dealership appraised my current car, which I paid cash for, at $6,500, but I may end up keeping it as there are some activities I don’t/can’t do in the GTR (e.g. parking in the city, transporting bike, moving semi-large / dirty items, etc.).

1. Can I afford my dream car?

2. If I can, how should I go about financing it? Should I pay it off? Loan?

Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for reading this.

Would-Be Dream Car Owner

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Dreamer,

I don’t want to quash your dreams of owning the car of your dreams. (Like I did with this guy.) But your circumstances are different to that good fellow: namely, you are financially independent, and you are in a very comfortable position for retirement, notwithstanding any unforeseen circumstances. You have worked hard to have the car you want. Bravo, my friend!

But should you get it? Think on this: It’s more than 62% of your gross salary, and it will make you happy (for about five minutes). Yes, that feeling typically depreciates along with the value of the car. I don’t know what this model means to you, but I do know that — from what you say about your finances — you are not the type to give in to your impulses at the expense of your financial security.

The biggest and best dreams don’t cost $80,000.

It’s an expensive toy and it’s a pricey piece of machinery. Automobiles serve both functions: They get you from A to B, and they give you that Christmas-Morning feeling when you get the keys. Keep that in mind before buying. Alternatively, consider leasing the car first to see if it’s an everlasting love.

I haven’t said you should buy it, and I haven’t said you should not buy it, mostly because I think if you really knew it was the right move, right now, you would not seek a second opinion from The Moneyist. I will say this: It’s a relatively modest dream for a not-so modest price. Here’s a secret that should not be a secret: The biggest and best dreams don’t cost $80,000.

People should generally not buy a car with cash when the price exceeds their own liquid savings, and/or during a time when interest rates are so low. Given your $22,000 in cash, buying a car of this price with a low rate of financing would make more sense. But the cash vs. financing question depends heavily on the price. If I were you, would I buy it? No. For all of the above reasons.

And if you did buy it with financing? Even though you would still enjoy driving it, there may come a day when you owe more on this car than it’s worth.

All too often in America, that’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

The Moneyist: I’m a farmer in my late 30s, live a frugal lifestyle, and my son has a disability. Should I pay extra on my mortgage — or save for retirement?

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook US:FB  group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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The Moneyist: My sister’s home is in foreclosure, so she’s moving in with our parents. She posted on Facebook that she deserves their home

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Dear Quentin,

My sister and her partner lost their house. It’s in foreclosure. She is moving into my parents’ house, where she will pay no rent. She claims the reason is to take care of our elderly parents. She is the worst with money, and doesn’t make a ton. She has always borrowed money.

Anyway, my parents do need the help. She is the power of attorney for my parents and will be executor of their will. I don’t know why my dad did that. My suspicion is that he is not of sound mind. She is the closest sibling, and has no kids at home. She has been helping them the most, even though I come down weekly.

We said they can stay in the house, but when they pass it will be split 5 ways as it’s the family home, she seemed upset, like I can’t hardly even describe it. She posted on Facebook and other social media, saying that we fight for the will, but not for the care. I come down weekly to see my parents, as does my sister.

What’s more, she is getting a payment from Veteran Affairs to take care of them. Any advice will be appreciative. The will states that my parents’ home will be split equally.

HJL

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

Dear HJL,

You have put your sister on notice of your intentions. Without knowing her, I would say that if she is posting on Facebook about private family matters, and portraying herself as someone who wishes to help your parents (rather than help herself to your parents’ house) she is not being entirely honest with you, or herself or, indeed, her followers.

It’s early in the process to take credit for taking care of your parents, of course. If she is someone who does not do well under pressure and/or does not shoulder responsibility well, it seems that her time at your parents’ home may not go smoothly. Just because she will be paid by the VA as a care giver, does not mean she will follow through on those duties.

I receive many letters from siblings who are care givers and, as such, believe they are automatically entitled to receive their parents’ home. Often times, it’s after they have lived there for many years and their siblings have provided varying levels of support. In one such case, a daughter spent $125,000 on a home only to learn that the house was placed in a trust for the family.

‘There is no one size fits all when it comes to children and who gets the family home.’

— The Moneyist

In another scenario, a brother asked his brother to waive any inheritance rights should he predecease him. His sister-in-law wondered whether that was fair. I told her that the brothers should split the house 50/50 and/or give the resident single brother a life estate, but given that she had no financial worries, I suggested she give up her rights to the house.

I tell you these stories because no situation is the same, and my responses differ based on the circumstances. There is no one size fits all when it comes to children and who gets the family home. In this case, you have been forewarned. Keep a close eye on your sister, talk to your parents and let them know you are there to help.

Given your sister’s history and current opinion on your parents’ will, assuming she knows there is a will, she makes a risky proposition as power of attorney and executor. Talk to your parents about the reasons for their choices, and at the very least suggest a co-executor and an independent party, such as a family lawyer, as power of attorney.

A power of attorney is someone who should represent the wishes of the elderly relative, and an executor is someone who should be prepared to carry out those wishes. The social media posts should be saved in case you need more evidence to challenge your sister’s role as executor of your parents’ will before or after they pass.

Your sister has laid her cards on the table face up. Now you must decide what to do about them.

The Moneyist: ‘I cut his hair because he won’t pay for a haircut’: My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook US:FB  group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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The Moneyist: My coworker wants to sell her house as prices have skyrocketed. The co-signer on her mortgage demands 25%. Can she sell without his permission?

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Dear Quentin,

My coworker has spent the past few months prepping her house for sale. She currently lives with other family members due to the high cost of housing in our area, but this has also afforded her a big opportunity to sell up. (We live in the Denver metro area.)

Housing prices have skyrocketed since the purchase of her home, so her family wants to sell the house and split the proceeds with the other family members, with her moving back with her parents temporarily to save some money for a larger home and other expenses.

Yesterday, she mentioned she had a co-signer of the mortgage who is a distant relation and has never resided in the home. This person has never contributed anything financially to the mortgage or the house. They need this individual’s signature to put the house up for sale.

Upon being asked, this person demanded 25% of the profit from selling the house, and told her she was lucky he wasn’t asking for 50%! It seems this person is entitled to nothing, but as he was a co-signer of the loan, my friend is in a tough spot.

Is there any way she can sell her house, or get this distant relative off her mortgage so she can sell the house?

Concerned Coworker

Dear CC,

This is a cautionary tale. If you must buy a home with someone or have a co-signer to help you qualify for the mortgage because your salary or credit rating does not meet the bank’s requirements, don’t jump at the first person who offers help.

Even if it is someone you know well, ask yourself if they have another reason for volunteering. If it’s a distant relative, that requires even more caution. Why would he agree to this if he barely knows your coworker? He has shown his true colors. He wanted a slice of the pie!

That works both ways: If you are a co-signer, you are liable for the loan if the primary applicant and/or the person on the deed fails to pay the mortgage. In this case, your coworker should ensure this relative is a co-signer and not also on the deed of the house.

If he is only a co-signer, he is effectively a guarantor who is also responsible for the loan should your coworker not pay. He cannot object to her selling the home. He is either mistaken in the leverage he holds, or your coworker has confused co-signer with co-owner.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

The mortgage agreement may have a co-signer release by which your friend can release the co-signer after a specified period of time and/or having met other conditions. It could be two years of on-time payments and an increase in her credit score.

Alternatively, ask the lender or refinance. The latter is often the most convenient option for people in this situation, but your friend may be unwilling or unable to do this given her timeline to sell and the costs involved in refinancing for a short period.

Your coworker did not buy this house alone, and she cannot sell it alone. She needs to seek the counsel of a real-estate attorney to sort through the paperwork, liaise with the lender, and figure out the best way forward. Only then can she make an informed decision.

First and foremost, she should know the status of this person: co-signer, or co-signer and co-owner? If it’s the former, she could decide to give her distant relative a monetary gift as thanks, with the advice of the real-estate attorney.

Given his demands as a co-signer, I would not be gilding any lilies anytime soon.

The Moneyist: ‘I cut his hair because he won’t pay for a haircut’: My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook US:FB  group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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Dispatches from a Pandemic: Ireland just surpassed China in confirmed COVID-19 deaths — how on earth did that happen?

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How did a small island on the northwestern periphery of Europe end up with more coronavirus cases than China, the most populous country on the planet?

As of Wednesday, Ireland had confirmed 4,847 COVID-19-related deaths and 244,297 confirmed cases. China, meanwhile, had reported 4,845 deaths and only 102,294 cases.

Johns Hopkins University ranks Ireland as No. 40 in the world on a list of COVID-19-related deaths per capita by country: 98 per 100,000 with a case-fatality rate of 2%. By comparison, China is ranked No. 160 with 0.35 deaths per 100,000 people and a case-fatality rate of 4.7%.

“China is underreporting their cases, but we don’t know how much,” said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and chief economist of the China Beige Book. “Chinese vaccination is proceeding so much slower than it should.”

‘Xi Jinping is not allowed to fail at anything.’

— Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and chief economist of the China Beige Book

More than 143 million people have been infected worldwide by the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, according to Johns Hopkins. Worldwide, more than 3 million people have died from the disease. In the U.S., at least 31.7 million people have been infected and 568,532 have died.

China’s National Health Commission told news media this week that 65 million people there had been vaccinated. Health officials in the capital city of Beijing distributed 10 million doses, and more than 3 million people have received two shots, Reuters reported.

About 4% of China’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, recent reports say. The country plans to vaccinate 40% of its population by the end of June, a goal that would require a significant increase in vaccinations. China has four COVID-19 vaccines available, the first of which was reportedly available for emergency use in the summer of 2020.

“They started distributing emergency doses last summer? And here we are in April, and they’re behind the United States in dose administration,” Scissors said. “If there was a new variant that came out of China, we wouldn’t hear about it until it’s too late.”

The Chinese government was slow to report the initial outbreak in Wuhan, and 2021 is no different, Scissors said. “Xi Jinping is not allowed to fail at anything. Therefore, the problem is solved. This is now a national political issue for them, and it’s a public-health issue way down in priority.”

China did not appear to take preemptive actions in the early days of the pandemic, and was reluctant to tell its citizens about the suspected virus outbreak. The first known person was reported to have contracted the virus on Dec. 1 in China, according to an article in The Lancet.

In December 2019, Yaxue Cao, a political activist, wrote on Twitter US:TWTR  that a Wuhan doctor said in a WeChat group there were seven cases of SARS connected to the Wuhan food market, and was forced to retract that by the party disciplinary office. That doctor later died from COVID-19.

Amid the fear and confusion surrounding the initial days of the virus in China, some families there voiced concern and frustration at the time that their relatives’ cause of death was marked as “severe pneumonia” or “viral pneumonia” on their death certificates, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“We don’t have a way to find out what current spread is like,” Scissors said. “It’s very suspicious that we have new variants that seem to be more infectious, and seem to have had no effect in China.”

“It wouldn’t be surprising if they were hiding local outbreaks,” he added. “I read the Chinese press every day, and it’s like the new variants don’t exist. There are massive variations across countries. Even if they are doing well nationally, it’s unlikely they’re not having local outbreaks.”

Last March, China banished journalists from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post from China, including the semi-autonomous states of Hong Kong and Macau.

Others are more optimistic. “The pandemic continues everywhere in the world, including Ireland and the United States, but not in China, if you believe the reporting,” Dr. Daniel Lucey, Senior Scholar at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, and fellow at the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Still, he added, “I do believe there’s been no major outbreak in China.”

Also read:‘Asian-American businesses are dealing with two viruses’: Reeling from racist incidents, many are hurting financially during COVID-19

Customers enjoy a drink at Murrays Pub on Grafton Street in Dublin last summer. Photo: Getty.

“Hong Kong is still very transparent,” Lucey said. “We know what’s going on in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but in the mainland I am more skeptical,” he said. “There have four outbreaks in markets in China, but there have been no major outbreaks in China since the spring of last year. There are strict rules for travelers, and the South China Morning Post has integrity and independence.”

Lucey said the rate of fatalities related to COVID-19 does “sound unbelievable,” and the media there is also very reliant on official data from state sources. What’s more, the small percentage of vaccination on the mainland means that the population is “still very vulnerable to infection, particularly variants,” he added.

The Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. This week, however, state media reported that vaccine supply was “relatively tight,” but did not specify where the problem was most pronounced or how long people would have to wait.

One thing Ireland and China share: their battles against COVID-19 are far from over.

Ireland’s road to recovery, meanwhile, has not been a straight line. The rollout of vaccinations there, as in much of Europe, has been slow compared to the U.S. Mask-wearing policies have been haphazard and compliance has been uneven, particularly in the early days of the pandemic.

The recent Johnson & Johnson US:JNJ  blood-clot issue in the U.S. is similar to one that prompted many European countries to restrict use of the AstraZeneca US:AZN  vaccine developed with Oxford University, also an adenovirus viral vector-based vaccine.

In addition to AstraZeneca, US:AZN the vaccines made by Pfizer US:PFE and its German partner, BioNTech SE US:BNTX, and Moderna US:MRNA are also available in Ireland. Authorities there have decided to limit availability of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over age 60 due to the concerns over blood clots.

The country has had three separate lockdowns, which were restrictive by international standards: one in the initial surge last year, another in the fall, and a third lockdown after Christmas, when people went shopping and many gathered in homes to celebrate the holidays.

The lockdowns have been described as brutal. Visiting people other than for outdoor exercise was banned, and people cannot travel beyond 5 kilometers from their home. Those who leave the country for a non-essential reason can be fined €2,000 ($2,407).

People arriving in Ireland who have not been vaccinated are required to stay in a hotel for 10 days at their own expense. Several people attempted to flee; two Irish women who went to Dubai for cosmetic procedures refused to enter a hotel and, as a result, were arrested at Dublin Airport.

Under an agreement reached in June 2020, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin took the reins as taoiseach, or Irish prime minister, from Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar until 2022. It is a polite, if imperfect, game of musical chairs to maintain stability.

This time last year, the nation’s lawmakers were — perhaps more so than usual — eager not to upset this delicate balance of power or upset the public by making any drastic or sudden moves or, indeed, missteps as the nation reeled from the economic effects of the pandemic.

Case in point: The government only advised people to wear masks in June 2020. In August, masks were mandatory in supermarkets and other indoor public spaces such as hairdressers and museums. In January 2021, the rule was extended to banks, post offices and credit unions.

A growing body of research suggests that face coverings help stop the transmission of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets, and may also encourage people to adopt more behavior recommended by health professionals, including practicing social distancing and avoiding touching their faces.

Ireland is a long way from those laissez-faire policies in April 2021. This month, the European Commission urged the country to ease some of its measures. Spokesman Christian Wigand expressed concerns under EU law on the principles of proportionality and non-discrimination.

“The commission believes that the objective pursued by Ireland, which is the protection of public health during the pandemic, could be achieved by less restrictive measures,” Wigand said. He also called out Austria, Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg for their mandatory hotel quarantines.

Ireland’s government said Wednesday that it hopes to reopen the economy as much as possible by May and June, given the current rate of vaccinations and rate of new infections. But it’s not clear whether the country will reach its goal of vaccinating 82% of adults by the end of June.

Aside from their difficulties in rolling out their respective vaccines and the official COVID-related fatalities, there is one other thing Ireland and China have in common: their battles against COVID-19, as in much of the world, are far from over.

“This pandemic isn’t going to end with a bang,” Ireland’s Varadkar told Today FM radio station on Wednesday. “We will probably have to get through another winter to know for sure if it really is behind us.”

The Moneyist: My ex-husband racked up $70K in credit-card debt in my name, and bought a house with our son. Now his business is in trouble

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Dear Quentin,

I divorced my former husband in 2011. There were many reasons we didn’t get along, but one of them was finances. He would just decide to do something with our money or my inheritance money, and not even ask me first.

This was the way my father treated my mother, so I thought it was normal. He even took out a credit card in my name and charged $70,000 on it.

He retired early from a professional job to run his store. I agreed to never seek his retirement in our divorce settlement. It would have decreased substantially, as he retired six years before he was eligible (it was an early out option).

We still get along, and get together whenever our son is involved. Our son Ryan was in college when we divorced. I shrug off my ex-husband control tendencies with me, because he just can’t do that to me anymore.

‘They bought a house together, and now my husband’s business is declining.’

However, a few years ago, my former husband said he wanted to have a house to leave to our son. I agreed to them buying a home together, only if my husband could afford it. His store was doing well at the time.

They bought a house together, and now my husband’s business is declining. He keeps putting money into the store so the “corporation” can pay for his truck and the credit cards he keeps using for the store, all of which are in his name.

He used to be really smart with things, but never with money. And, of course, I was making most of the money and he was the MAN who made the decisions. I eventually grew out of that, which is one reason we are not together anymore.

Our son graduated with his M.S. and J.D. degree and moved in with his father before he bought the house. Our son has since bought and sold a house of his own with his wife, and now owns a really nice house with her too.

‘My son realized his dad should have been on meds a long time ago for his mental health.’

His dad still expects him to make half the payment to the original house, as half of it belongs to him. In the meantime, the store has a tremendous debt of over $150,000, and is not making money.

I feel my son has put enough money into his dad’s house. His dad is 76 with a heart problem (I’m younger), and I am fearful he will leave my son with nothing but debts due to the store, and our son’s investment into his house will be pointless.

Let me say that my son realized his dad should have been on meds a long time ago for his mental health, but his dad laughed at both of us for mentioning it, along with marriage counseling. We recognize his spending habits are unhealthy and a compulsion. But we also recognize that it is affecting our son’s finances.

What should our son do? If he stops paying on the house, his dad won’t be able to afford the payments, and he will lose the money he’s already put into it.

Thanks for any insight you can offer.

Concerned Mother

Dear CM,

Who is the adult here, and who is the child?

You write that your husband’s controlling behavior does not affect you anymore. But you walked into this situation eyes wide open: You son Ryan owns a home with his own father who may or may not pay his half of the bills, if indeed he pays any. You approved the deal, and feel a sense of guilt or responsibility as a result. Your ex-husband continues to spend money without regard for the consequences, and appears to be as willful as ever regarding the fate of his failing business.

The co-dependent behavior, financial recklessness and manipulation has continued unabated, despite your divorce. Your husband wanted to leave your son a house, but he needed your approval and perhaps your willingness to persuade your son to co-sign a mortgage agreement to do so. I don’t buy your ex-husband’s motives. It reads more like your ex-husband wanted a house for himself, and couldn’t do it without his ex-wife and son playing a central role.

‘Your son is an adult, and he alone is responsible for signing this contract with his father. Not you.’

Ryan is an adult, and he alone is responsible for signing this contract with his father. Not you. This is between him and his father, and it’s time for you to step out of the picture. Your involvement does not help either party, and it certainly does not help you. Your son can choose to allow his father to use his business troubles as emotional leverage with mortgage payments or household expenses, or he can give him a choice: pay up or sell up.

Ryan needs to be the adult in the room, especially because he has his own family to take care of now. If his father cannot afford this house, and his business is bleeding money, he needs to down size, and sell the house. Alternatively, your son could buy his father out. His father could explore bankruptcy, and with the help of a lawyer explore how that may or may not affect his primary residence. In such a scenario, the mortgage payments would need to be in the black.

Your ex-husband is 76. He is highly unlikely to change his ways. We have an expression in Ireland: “An Béal Bocht” or The Poor Mouth.” It describes someone who professes financial dire straits so they can evoke pity in others. If you truly want to live separate lives, you need to step back from all of this familial financial psychodrama, and Ryan needs to get tough with his father. You have control over the former, but you have no control over the latter.

Whether or not Ryan does so stand up to his father is his decision to make, not yours.

The Moneyist: ‘I cut his hair because he won’t pay for a haircut’: My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook US:FB  group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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Despite falling unemployment, America’s poverty rate just reached the highest level since the pandemic began

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As of last month, the U.S. poverty rate has been on an upward trajectory.

Between February and March, the rate of poverty in the U.S. increased by 0.5 percentage points to 11.7%, resulting in the highest level since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, though the change wasn’t statistically significant. That’s second only to 11.6% recorded in November 2020. These estimates were taken before the rollout of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan.

Since spring of 2020, real-time poverty data in the U.S. has been tracked every month by economists Bruce Meyer, from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Economics and the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities.

More than 100 million claims for unemployment insurance have been filed over the last year, the economists wrote with co-author Jeehoon Han of Zhejiang University in China, describing the government’s three stimulus packages.

“While new UI claims fell sharply from April through July of last year, weekly claims have remained high since then at more than 1 million claims each week, about 5 times the pre-pandemic rate,” they added.

‘Many government benefits expired, unemployment insurance benefits are typically only about half of pre-job loss earnings, and nearly 5 million people have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic and, therefore, are not counted as unemployed.’

Those who experienced the sharpest rise in poverty included children, white people, women, those with low education, and those in nearly half of U.S. states that have more restrictive unemployment-insurance payment policies. Last month marked the first time that poverty has been so acute for children, non-minorities and women, the report added.

Under the American Rescue Plan, individuals making less than $75,000 a year in adjusted gross income received $1,400. The payments decreased for individuals earning $75,000 and up — and phased out completely for those making $80,000 or more and couples making $160,000 or more in adjusted gross income. It was the third such relief package over the last year.

Unemployment fell to 6% in March 2021 from a seasonally adjusted 14.8% in April 2020, as poverty rose. Initial jobless claims filed traditionally through the states fell to a seasonally adjusted 576,000 from 769,000 in the prior week, the government said last week, marking the largest decline since August. Yet 16.9 million people are still reportedly collecting benefits.

“This disconnect between poverty and unemployment is not surprising given that many government benefits expired, unemployment insurance benefits are typically only about half of pre-job loss earnings, and nearly 5 million people have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic and, therefore, are not counted as unemployed,” the economists added.

In the last week of March, 20 million Americans getting by primarily due to the generosity of friends and family were more likely to be suffering from food insecurity, according to a separate analysis by Claire Zippel, a research analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank focused on the impact of budget and tax issues on inequality and poverty.

Also see: George Floyds and Christian Coopers are all around you — they are your neighbor, teacher, co-worker and friend

The Moneyist: I’m on track to retire at 58. My fiancée is in debt and drives my old car, and I support her family. How do I ensure my son inherits my wealth after I die?

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Dear Quentin,

I have dated my fiancée for just over three years. Within those three years, I have been severed from a job and spent two years unemployed looking for a new job. I have a new job, making roughly 75% of what I previously made, but it is a more than livable salary. My fiancée makes a modest salary in comparison to my own.

Financially, I had spent a lot of years going without in order to pay for my son’s college education and to stockpile savings in order to retire early. According to my financial planner, I am well ahead of my goal to retire at 58 (I’m 51 currently) with an IRA of around $2 million, plus savings and other liquid assets.

Currently, my fiancée is trying to get herself out of debt. She drives my old car and shares no utility bills or mortgage payments, but she does buy groceries, as the household is made up of her, her children and me. By supporting her family, I have very little I can do for my own son.

It has always been tradition in my family to leave an inheritance. I had planned on leaving my only son a rather large inheritance so that he may better himself and his family. My fiancée has children, and my concern is that if I am married (I live in Texas), the savings I have would go to her and subsequently her children, bypassing my son.

Since I am 10 years older than my fiancée, I suspect she may outlive me. How do I protect my assets so that they can be split as part of my wishes?

Nervous Fiancé and Father

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

Dear F & F,

Texas is a community-property state, so what you bring into the marriage, you also take out of the marriage. Assets accrued during the marriage, with the exception of inheritance, are deemed marital or community property.

You have several options, including setting up a living trust to allow you to transfer your wealth to your son during your lifetime, and thereby avoiding going through probate, which can be an unpredictable, cumbersome and public process.

You have two choices of trust: revocable or irrevocable. The first can be changed. You could retitle financial accounts in your son’s name. The latter cannot be changed, and also serves to save on estate taxes. It’s typically used to leave assets to children and grandchildren.

Other routes: a prenuptial agreement, a will (obviously) and naming your son as your beneficiary on your life-insurance policy. With the help of an estate planner, you can devise ways to ensure your son is taken care of after you’re gone, and your future wife is not left out.

In the meantime, ensure you keep separate property separate. If you deposit an inheritance in a joint bank account, for instance, it becomes marital property. If your fiancée contributes to the renovation of a home in your name, it again becomes community property.

Speak to your fiancée about your concerns and goals. It’s important to be transparent and ensure that you and she are on the same page, and share the same financial expectations. You may also want to wait until your wife pays her debts before marrying.

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook FB, -1.55%  group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.