DEAR BRUCE: My new husband has not filed his taxes for some time. I am afraid that this will affect me if we were to combine our accounts. I'm wondering if we should keep everything separate until this is straightened out. I don't want to have this affect me. Is there anyone who can help us? — G.L, via e-mail

DEAR BRUCE: My new husband has not filed his taxes for some time. I am afraid that this will affect me if we were to combine our accounts. I'm wondering if we should keep everything separate until this is straightened out. I don't want to have this affect me. Is there anyone who can help us? — G.L, via e-mail

DEAR G.L.: The first thing you need to do is protect yourself. You need to contact a CPA who practices before an IRS enrolled agent. I am confident he will advise you, at least for the year 2008, to file separately. You didn't tell me how many years your husband has not filed, or the amount of money involved, so it's impossible to make specific recommendations. If you make the overture to contact the IRS through your representative, you will be treated more kindly than if they catch on to the fact that he hasn't filed his taxes. He needs to be proactive. In the meantime, as you surmised, keep your finances completely separate — bank accounts, credit cards, etc. — and by all means, you must file in a timely fashion.

DEAR BRUCE: What are the duties of an executor in probating a will? In an estate that's worth less than $150,000, what would the usual attorney's fee be? I'm told that it will take about four months for the debtors to come forth. Is this typical? — Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: The number of months required for probate will depend on the complexity of the estate and the laws of your state. For example, in Florida, where I live, you cannot file probate for three months after someone dies; this allows time for the debtors to collect. You have one year's time from the death to file the will for probate. As far as your duties, they are simply to carry out within the law the testator's wishes; that is, paying all of the bills and then distributing what's left of the estate to the heirs named in the will. With regard to the fees, it depends in some measure on how much legwork you are willing to do. Some attorneys charge a flat rate, others a percentage of the estate.

Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. E-mail to: bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.