DEAR BRUCE >> My mother died about three years ago. She left a will leaving all of her assets to me. At the time she passed, she was living with me and my wife. Her only asset was a savings account where she had $1,000.

I have been told that I need to have the will probated in order to have these funds released. Getting it probated would cost a minimum of $3,000, and even if I did a "self-probate," processing fees and court costs are over $2,000. Do you know of another method to get this money out that has been sitting in the bank?

— R.C.

DEAR R.C. >> If I were you, I would apply to the local Surrogate's Court as the executor of your mother's estate, if you haven't already done so. From that point on, there is very little I know of, except minor fees, that you might have to pay. When you talk to the Surrogate's office, explain the circumstance and ask if there's any way that you can access these funds without spending a substantial sum. If they say no, then I would just forget about it. Good luck.

DEAR BRUCE >> I'm 75 and have been investing with some success for many years. I would really appreciate your advice on some investments that are earning 5 percent.

— J.H.


DEAR J.H. >> I have repeatedly answered this question and yet I get so much correspondence asking it again and again. So at the risk of boring some of my readers, I will take a very quick shot at this.

There are many companies in the marketplace that you can invest in and earn at least 5 percent. These are very strong, large companies that consistently, year in and year out, appreciate 2 percent to 3 percent and pay anywhere from 1.5 percent to 3 percent dividends.

Now, that doesn't mean you're going to find one on every street corner, but they are certainly out there and worth your attention. Some years you won't make that 5 percent, but other years, with good appreciation on the value of the security plus the dividend, you may get as much as 10 percent. Finding them does require some effort and research, but I am sure you're up for the job.

DEAR BRUCE >> When people write you with a question about retirement and state their budget, do they realize that the budget they have when they retire will never last past the first year? Everything from taxes to insurance increases (car insurance and medical escalates once you are 70). The big surprise comes if one of the spouses requires being placed in a nursing home. That drains your retirement account quickly. Also, when one spouse passes away, the other is left with only one Social Security check. These are just a few of the surprises you encounter once you retire.

— D.M.

DEAR D.M. >> Thank you very much for your contribution. There are so many surprises in retirement, and most of them are unpleasant. The only way to lessen the burden is to pay the smallest amount of money possible for these activities, which I am certain you're doing.

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