MONEY Ask the Expert

What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Beneficiary for a Health Savings Account

140603_FF_QA_Obamacare_illo_1
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: “What happens to the money in a health savings account when the account owner dies?”–James McKay

A: It’s up to you to decide.

But let’s back up a step: A health savings account offers those in high-deductible health insurance plans the opportunity to save pretax dollars and tap them tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses, with unused funds rolling over from year to year. Unlike a Flexible Spending Account, you have the opportunity to invest the money. And once you hit age 65, the money can be used for any purpose without penalty—though you will pay income tax, similar to a traditional IRA. So for many people, an HSA also functions as a backup retirement account.

When you open an HSA, you will be asked to designate a beneficiary who will receive the account at the time of your death. You can change the beneficiary or beneficiaries any time during your lifetime, though some states require your to have your spouse’s consent.

Your choice of beneficiary makes a big difference in how the account will be treated after you’re gone.

If you name your spouse, the account remains an HSA, and your partner will become the owner. He or she can use the money tax-free to pay for qualified healthcare expenses, even if not enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, says Todd Berkley, president of HSA Consulting Services. Should your spouse be younger than 65, take a distribution of funds and use them for something other than medical expenses, however, he or she will pay a 20% penalty tax on the amount withdrawn plus income taxes (a rule that also applies to you while you’re alive).

Thus, Berkley warns against a spouse taking a full distribution to close the HSA. He says that it’s better to leave money in the account first for medical expenses, then later for retirement expenses both medical and non—since your partner gets the same perk of penalty-free withdrawals for other expenses after turning 65.

When the beneficiary is not your spouse, the HSA ends on the date of your death. Your heir receives a distribution and the fair-market value becomes taxable income to the beneficiary—though the taxable amount can be reduced by any qualified medical expenses incurred by the decreased that are then paid by the beneficiary within a year of the death.

Failure to name a beneficiary at all means the assets in your account will be distributed to your estate and included on your final income tax return.

MONEY Opinion

What Congress Should Do to Give Student Loan Borrowers Hope For Relief

141015_FF_LOANBORROWERS
Blend Images - Hill Street Studi—Getty Images/Brand X

Student loans are the only debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy. Joe Valenti and David Bergeron of the Center for American Progress argue for two law changes to fix this.

Steve Mason’s story could keep any parent up at night.

The Redlands, Calif. pastor co-signed $100,000 in private student loans for his daughter Lisa to attend nursing school. But Lisa died suddenly at age 27.

Now, the loans intended to ensure her financial future are threatening to impoverish her parents and their three young grandchildren because Mason remains on the hook for the loans. He is struggling to provide for his family while trying to negotiate with lenders to settle on his daughter’s debt which, with interest and penalties, now totals about $200,000.

If he had co-signed a car loan for his daughter, or if his family had racked up credit card debt, or nearly any other kind of debt, the Masons would have had a way out: bankruptcy. Our Founding Fathers, appalled by British debtors’ prisons, created bankruptcy courts to give Americans that are struggling with debt a chance to reduce or even erase those financial burdens, and gain a fresh start.

Unfortunately, Congress has carved out an exception to this American promise: student loans.

The student loan exception to bankruptcy laws ignores tragic life situations of students, parents, and grandparents alike. And it should be changed. A common-sense approach to bankruptcy reform would help struggling families like the Masons while promoting a better student loan system for everyone.

How Student Loans Became the Exception to the Rule

Until 1976, all types of loans were treated equally under bankruptcy law. But that year, Congress passed the first exception, declaring that bankruptcy judges could only dismiss federal student loans under the direst of circumstances.

In 2005, Congress expanded the exception to include private student loans—those made by banks and credit unions.

Now, bankruptcy judges are only allowed to discharge the student loans of those who have proven they have “undue hardships,” which generally means never being able to work again.

The death or disability of a borrower discharges federal student loans. But private loans—such as those the Masons took out—don’t have those provisions. So private student loans plague those who are disabled as well as the survivors of those who have passed away, such as the Masons.

All together, under current law, it is next-to-impossible to get rid of any kind of student debt in bankruptcy.

How to Fix the Problem

Here are two simple steps that would help make student loans fairer and more bearable:

1) Allow judges to wipe out the private student loans of any private lender that fails to:

A) Discharge loans in the cases of death and disability, as the federal government does.

B) Charge reasonable interest rates.

C) Allow borrowers repayment flexibility, such as deferment and forbearance options for those in financial difficulties.

2) Allow judges to wipe out any student loans—including federal loans—taken out for colleges that:

A) Have high dropout rates.

B) Have high student loan default rates.

Lenders who charge reasonable rates, allow flexible repayment and wipe out the debts of the disabled and deceased could be considered “qualified” for the current tough bankruptcy rules. Bankruptcy would remain the narrow path of last resort it was designed to be for borrowers. But lenders who don’t meet these standards—basically, those that don’t give borrowers any way out—would be subject to the same bankruptcy laws as other lenders.

Schools, too, would need to earn the bankruptcy exemption for the programs they offer. If students are not likely to complete the programs they’re borrowing for, or generally don’t earn enough to pay back the debt, their federal or private student loans would be dischargeable. There is no sense in penalizing students, parents, and grandparents lured by false promises of success.

Indeed, a study two decades ago by the U.S. General Accounting Office found that low-income borrowers who dropped out of poor-performing schools were the borrowers who most frequently defaulted on their loans—not successful young grads simply trying to walk away from their obligations.

It is economic circumstances, rather than moral failings, that often brings families to bankruptcy as a way to deal with difficult and unforeseen situations. Surely the Masons could not have anticipated their current situation. And it’s probably a situation that no member of Congress anticipated either when they closed the doors of bankruptcy court to virtually all student loan debtors.

These are doors that Congress, and Congress alone, can reopen for students, parents, and grandparents who have fallen on hard times to have equal access to the same courts that the wealthy and corporations have used to make a fresh start. And these doors can be opened strategically to make sure bankruptcy remains a last resort.

Otherwise, families like the Masons will continue to struggle needlessly.

Joe Valenti is the Director of Asset Building at the Center for American Progress. David Bergeron is the Vice President of Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress and former assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education.

TIME

Iowa Senate Candidate Killed in Plane Crash

Dr. Doug Butzier, a Libertarian candidate running for Senate in Iowa, died in a plane crash in Dubuque on Monday night.

He died around 11 p.m. about one mile north of Dubuque Regional Airport, according to the local ABC affiliate. He was the pilot and only one aboard the aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash of the Piper PA 46-310P, a six-seater, single-engine aircraft.

Dr. Butzier grew up in Cedar Falls and lived in Dubuque working as the medical staff president at Mercy Medical Center, according to his campaign website. He had two sons, and was running against Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst.

Several high-profile U.S. politicians have died in plane crashes while running for Senate, including Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), Gov. Mel Carnahan (D-Mo.), Rep. Jerry Litton (D-Mo.) and Virginia GOP chairman Richard Obenshain.

TIME animals

The Recent Loss of My Cat Led Me To Explore the Weird, Wild World of Pet Memorials

Courtesy of Trista Crass

How will you remember your pet once they’ve been sent to the afterlife?

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

For some reason, when I took this photo, I had a creeping feeling that it was special. It turned out to be the last photo I ever took of my dear friend, and cat, Darwin.

That day, he took off on a walkabout, as he generally does. The cabin we live in is right up against a big nature preserve, and it’s not unusual for him to be gone for four or five days at a time. About the time I get worried, he waltzes in nonchalantly, and promptly voms up some mouse bits for me.

But this time was different. I started checking the DOA (dead on arrival) report. I walked around at night calling for him. It had gotten cold fast, and I was obviously worried about my boy being out in the elements. Then late one night, 5 days later, he was at the door, but he looked different — haggard, sunken and awful. I swept him up, and it was immediately apparent something serious was wrong. He was a bag of bones.

He checked into the vet first thing in the morning, and was given a good prognosis, with clean bloodwork. The phone call I was expecting was that I should come and pick up a weakened Darwin; I imagined tucking him into a basket and feeding him broth with a dropper. The call I got was from a grave and sorry sounding vet: Darwin didn’t make it through the night. I’ll never really know what happened to him.

After 10 years of knowing a cat, dealing with their death is hard; I skipped to the bargaining stage of grief immediately. If only I hadn’t threatened him with the squirt bottle when he ate butter on the counter, or kicked him out of the bed when he insisted sleeping on top of my face at night. I would trade all the butter in the world to have him back, even put up with him nibbling on my face while I sleep, I promise! I even thought about burying him at the severely horrific pet cemetery near my parents’ house just in case.

Upon paying the $600 vet bill, I was given a plastic bag with my dead, frozen cat in it, thoughtfully wrapped in a blanket. “Don’t worry about returning it, we have plenty,” the vet tech said, handing him over.

I couldn’t really justify the $150 cremation, so naturally, I drove around town with my dead cat in my car for the day, deciding what I should do. It was weirdly comforting, having him there, instead of seeing him taken away in the arms of the vet, thinking he’d be okay, and never seeing him again.

I wanted to memorialize him somehow; I’ve spent a lot of nights trying to find the bottom of the Internet, and I’ve come across a lot of weird shit that people do to their pets’ remains. From having their ashes pressed into diamonds or records to having them wrapped as mummies, I’d be lying if I didn’t consider a few.

Freeze-drying your friends

The folks over at Perpetual Pet can freeze-dry your beloved pet in a familiar pose. Pretty much the ultimate for people who can’t let go, I love the idea of explaining the dead cat lounging on top of the bookshelf to unsuspecting strangers. For the surprisingly low price of $700, I could have my cat’s dead body chilling in my house forever. What I don’t relish is the thought of possible insect infestation or cleaning him. I feel like a quick once-over with a vacuum would be sufficient, but do I really want to be the person that has to vacuum her dead cat? People already think I’m a witch.

Nose-Print Necklace

People say a lot of things; they also say that no two animal noses are alike, which seems believable enough. Enough to get custom nose-print jewelry? Rock My World Inc on Etsy offers just that—for about $200 you send in an impression of your pet’s snout, and they send you a silver pendant of it. I loved Darwin’s pointy little weasel nose, but disembodied, I don’t think it would be very cute. What does one pair this Dead Pet Nose Necklace with?

Pet Hair Knits

The highest echelon of Cat Ladyness has to be knitting things with your dead cat’s fur. When I was a kid, as a way of coping with insomnia, I felted a little ball of cat yarn; when one of my sisters found it stashed in a doorframe, she of course didn’t understand my art.

Using dog fur for knits has been pretty popular in Alaska for awhile—sheep don’t do great up here, and anyone with sled dogs at home runneth over with soft, fluffy fur. It’s common to find dog-fur knits at local farmer’s markets, and lots of people have bags of dog fur stashed away to spin. But if you aren’t a skilled spinner, you can have your pets hair spun for a mere $8-15 an ounce. Chiengora Fibers will even knit up a cozy hat or pair of cozy mittens for you. I loved this idea — Darwin had such amazing fur, a knitted muffler would even smell like him! Then I learned the disgusting way that it’s rather difficult to shear a dead cat.

Tooth Necklace

I love teeth; they are beautiful and personal tokens, and can be worked into wearable jewelry fairly easily. Etsy store Bonetrail offers precious and affordable teeth and bone jewelry; it has a creepy Victorian look, and they offer custom pieces as well. The flower ring especially caught my eye—it’s both macabre and pretty, and unless you were really looking, you wouldn’t really even see the animal part. The only problem? Harvesting a tooth from a dead animal is a bit of an undertaking, to say the least. I went as far as bringing pliers with me, lost my nerve almost immediately after unwrapping Darwin. He did look peaceful — how could I jack open his face and yank out a tooth?

In the end, I found a nice spot on our property, and dug a hole. My dog sat with me and watched, seemingly wise to the situation. I wrapped Darwin in the gross green towel he loved to nap on, said some weird things about what a good cat he was, and carved his name and dates into the aspen tree next to the grave. I sprinkled some iris seeds too, just for good measure. It felt good, being in control, and being able to say goodbye. I thought I’d be traumatized to see his corpse, but really, it helped make it seem more real and natural. This is okay. This is death.

When I’m struck with pangs of grief, I usually turn to The Good Book — and I do mean J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” Gandalf has some really good things to say about hard times and death. Also baby animal pictures. Those help too.

How will you remember your pet once they’ve been sent to the afterlife? Are we insane to put so much time and effort into pets? I’m happy that I have so many photos of Darwin, but I’m still eyeing that tooth and flower ring — maybe I can just pretend it has my cat’s tooth in it.

Trista Crass is a blogger living in Alaska.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Aging

Quiz: How Long Will You Live?

baby
Getty Images

8 questions that help determine your life span

Americans can now expect to live longer than ever, a new government report finds. That’s largely because death rates are declining for the leading causes of death, like heart disease, cancer and stroke.

How long will you live? These eight basic questions, calculated by two researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, are some of the most predictive of American life expectancy. “Those are the most important risk factors that we have solid evidence for,” Lyle Ungar, professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania, tells TIME.

The one missing factor? “If you’re in a happy marriage, you will tend to live longer,” he says. “That’s perhaps as important as not smoking, which is to say: huge.” So feel free to give yourself a little bump if you’ve got a happy relationship.

Find out yours in the quiz below (and if you’re on your phone, turn your device sideways):

via Life Expectancy Calculator from Lyle Ungar and Dean Foster

Read next: Eat More Mediterranean Foods Now: Your Later Self Will Thank You

TIME Family

My Mother Died Three Months Ago and I’m Still Figuring Out How To Grieve for Her

Flowers and graves
ilbusca—Getty Images/Vetta

It's hard to get out of bed, most days. I am drowning in her

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

This has been, to date, the most difficult essay I’ve ever written. Usually, I can bang one out in a day or two. A week, even. But writing about the death of my mother has been a series of stops and starts, deletions and revisions. How do you write about something that feels as if it happened yesterday and not three months ago? How do you distill grief and heartache in a few paragraphs?

It’s hard to get out of bed, most days. There’s a heaviness in the air, and it’s hard to breathe. Sometimes the grief paralyzes me. I’ll lay in bed and stare at the ceiling, silently willing myself to get up and start the day.

“Mommy, I wanna see grandma.” The toddler always makes this demand casually, usually as I’m picking him up from school or fixing him dinner. Sometimes he’ll ask looking up from his tablet while watching one of his favorite shows. Three months later and I still can’t find the words to tell him she’s gone for good. “We can’t see her right now,” I’ll say, knowing that in a few minutes he’ll forget he asked.

For two months, I’ve been staring at a cardboard box. It is roughly 5×7, and it’s blue. It contains what is left of the woman who taught me everything from tying my shoes to picking greens. Her last name is misspelled on the side. The blue box sits on a shelf in my bedroom, amid books and clothes. Boxes filled with her personal effects crowd the hallway of my apartment. Furniture from her oversized studio take up my dining room. Pictures from her photo albums are strewn across a table in the living room, the same table where I ate dinner until I went away to college. The “Thank You” cards I bought a week after her memorial are in a bag on my desk, untouched.

Every morning I’m greeted by these reminders, and I summon the strength to navigate around them. I will occasionally glance at the blown-up picture of her, perched on a barstool wearing a black dress and a demure smile. It’s tucked in the corner of my living room, near the window. I replay our last conversations while I’m working on an assignment, or look at the blue box as I’m brushing my teeth.

I am drowning in her.

Last month, at the suggestion of my sister-in-law, my husband bought me a copy of Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters. Edelman, a mother-loss survivor herself, interviewed hundreds of other women who had lost their mothers at various points in their lives. While the book is geared towards women whose mothers died when they were young, it has helped me a great deal. I no longer try to suffocate Grief with a pillow, or stab it with a fork; I hold on tight and ride the wave until the tide settles, until the calm returns. This isn’t a process, Edelman says, but a life-altering event.

“Expecting grief to run a quick, predictable course leads us to over-pathologize the process, making us think of grief as something that, with proper treatment, can and should be fixed. As a result, we begin to view normal responses as indicators of serious distress,” Edelman writes. “The woman who cries every Christmas when she thinks of her mother—is she really a woman who can’t let go of the past, or just a woman who continues to miss her mother’s warmth and cheer at holiday time?”

One of the last hospital visits, days before she passed in mid-June, taunts me. We’re sitting on the couch and it seems like she’s back to her old self. I am brimming with hope. I’m telling her of the plan to move her into our apartment, to take care of her the way she took care of grandma years ago. She’s excited at the prospect of living with her grandson, of us being under the same roof again. I wondered if I could handle caring for her and a four year-old boy. I had support, but those people had lives and responsibilities of their own. If she fell while my husband was at work, I’d have to find a way to pick her up. I’d be responsible for her diet, her health, her overall well-being. The enormity of what lay ahead frightened me, but this is what I wanted, for her to live out the last years of her life surrounded by love and family, not in a place I no longer trusted. In the Nicholas Sparks’ version of her last days, she quietly slips away as she sits in her favorite chair, catching a final view of the lakefront from our highrise as she goes.

She asked me to stay a little longer. I couldn’t. An appointment to enroll her grandson in Pre-K had been scheduled for weeks. I remember the feeling of relief I had as I left her room, the feeling that everything was going to be okay. Three days later I’d be standing over her body, clasping her hand as the warmth evaporated from her body, as blood spilled from her nose. The third attempt to revive her after another cardiac arrest had done the most damage. In my head, I’d had years to prepare for that moment, years of hospital visits and grave diagnoses. But no amount of preparation will ever soften the blow.

Even as I watched my mother’s health deteriorate in recent years, I still held fast to a glimmer of hope that somehow, someway things would turn around. Maybe she’d get bitten by a radioactive spider, regain full mobility, and take up crime-fighting. It didn’t hit me until hours before she passed, as I sat in the hospital chapel after visiting her, that she was literally in the process of dying. But that’s how denial works. Though it’s taken some time to accept, I realize now that she left when she was ready, and that I knew my mother well enough to know that when she was ready to go, there was nothing you could do to stop her.

Edelman says that most motherless daughters my age process the loss differently than our younger counterparts because we’re able to confront it with a relatively intact personality and more mature coping skills than a teen or a child. “Losing a parent at this time violates fewer assumptions she has about her future,” she explains. “A motherless woman continues to renegotiate her relationship with her mother throughout her life, changing her perceptions and trying to fnd a place for each new image as it develops.”

In my case, my mother’s death has forced to reexamine choices made and opportunities given. That she died in my 37th year, the same age she gave birth to me, is not lost on me. It signifies rebirth. Renewal. A chance to accomplish the things she wanted for me, all the hopes and dreams she’d share throughout the course of my life. It is her legacy that I carry with me wherever I go, and I am grateful that I was loved by such a remarkable woman.

Jamie Nesbitt Golden is a journalist originally from Chicago.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

A Book About Dying Tells You How to Live

486990349
© 2011 Dorann Weber—Getty Images/Moment Open

Quinn Cummings is a writer of three books, Notes From the Underwire, The Year of Learning Dangerously and Pet Sounds.

Atul Gawande's 'Being Mortal' provides a useful roadmap for making life meaningful

In 30 years, there will be as many people over 80 in the United States as there are under the age of 50.

So notes Atul Gawande in his recently published book, Being Mortal, a book I cannot recommend highly enough. This should be mandatory reading for every American. Hell, every global citizen. Yes, it’s about growing old and dying, and the social and ethical consequences of how we treat our aging population, which might not sound like ideal reading while enjoying a pumpkin spice latte and the changing weather. But we’re all going to grow old, if we’re lucky, and most of us will be caring for an aging person at some point in our lives, if we aren’t already. (For years, I’ve been lobbying for the phrase “Sandwich Generation” to be replaced with “Panini Generation,” because anyone living it knows about the heat and pressure coming from both sides.)

Being Mortal is a clear-eyed, informative exploration of what growing old means in the 21st century; it provides a useful roadmap of what we can and should be doing to make the last years of life meaningful for everyone experiencing the aging process up close. I’ve been a fan of Gawande for years. He’s written three other books and is a staff writer for The New Yorker, a practicing surgeon and a professor at Harvard Medical School, so his medical chops are solid. But his writing chops are just as solid, and this book made me do something I usually resist. After about 10 pages, I grabbed the dreaded Hi-Liter from my drawer so I could remember not just useful information but also beautifully crafted prose. One example:

People with serious illnesses have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others and achieving a sense that their life is complete. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The question therefore is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health care system that will actually help people achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.

And that’s just one passage. My copy of Being Mortal is crisscrossed with yellow stripes. I won’t be lending this one out any time soon.

Maybe that’s how I coax you into reading a book about death on a lovely autumn day; because a book about aging and dying is, ultimately, a book about how to live. My hope is that the holidays arrive, you’re sitting with your loved ones over the remnants of a big meal, and this book gives you the courage to say out loud: “Tell me how you want to live.”

Quinn Cummings is a writer of three books, Notes From the Underwire, The Year of Learning Dangerously and Pet Sounds. Her articles have been published in, among others, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, The Huffington Post and Good Housekeeping. She is a passionate animal lover, an indifferent housekeeper and would eat her own hand if you put salsa on it.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Research

How Your Sense of Smell Is Linked to Your Lifespan

Womans jaw, low angle
Getty Images

Older adults who suffer an impaired olfactory sense are more likely to die within five years, say researchers

The loss or erosion of an individual’s sense of smell may signal impending death, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found 39% of subjects who failed olfactory sense tests died within a five-year period, compared with 19% of subjects with moderate smell loss and just 10% who retained a healthy sense of smell.

This mean the loss or degradation of the olfactory sense may serve effectively as an “early warning” signal that something has gone very wrong inside the body, says the study published in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday.

“We think loss of the sense of smell is like the canary in the coal mine,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Jayant Pinto. “Our findings could provide a useful clinical test, a quick and inexpensive way to identify patients most at risk.”

The research was conducted in two waves over the course of more than five years and surveyed approximately 3,000 adults.

TIME People

What Price Fame: James Dean Was “Barely a Celebrity” Before He Died

James Dean advice
From the Sept. 3, 1956, issue of TIME TIME

Sept. 30, 1955: James Dean is killed in a California car crash

James Dean’s career picked up considerably after he died.

The budding film star was killed on this day, Sept. 30, in 1955 after crashing his Porsche Spyder en route to a road race in Salinas, Calif., in which he was scheduled to compete. Just 24, he was “barely a celebrity” at the time, according to a 1956 story in TIME, which went on to report that within a year of his death he had gained more popularity than most living actors. Magazine and book publishers looking to memorialize the enigmatic icon were preparing “to jump aboard the bandwagon that looks disconcertingly like a hearse,” the piece proclaimed.

When he died, Dean had acted in only three movies: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant, only one of which had yet been released. He had worked his way up from smaller to larger roles: from appearing in a Pepsi commercial to working as a “test pilot” for stunts on a TV game show called Beat the Clock — a sort of precursor to Minute to Win It in which contestants competed in absurd timed challenges — to a well-reviewed role as a young gigolo in a Broadway adaptation of Andre Gide’s The Immoralist.

After he died, though, his fame reached new heights. By September of 1956, TIME noted Deans’ bewildering ascent to Hollywood superstardom:

Today he ranks No. 1 in Photoplay’s actor popularity poll, draws 1,000 fan letters a week (“Dear Jimmy: I know you are not dead”) at Warner’s — more than any live actor on the lot. Marveled one West Coast cynic: “This is really something new in Hollywood — boy meets ghoul.” Hollywood’s explanation: Dean not only appeals to a “mother complex” among teenage girls, but his roles as a troubled insecure youth prompted many young movie fans to identify with him.

Business types were eager to cash in on his posthumous popularity. In 1956, the story continued, Dean was still “haunting” newsstands with “four fast-selling magazines devoted wholly to him.”

He hasn’t stopped earning since. Forbes reported that in 2000, Dean’s estate raked in $3 million, very little of which took the form of royalties from his three films. Most came instead from licensing and merchandizing: “The rebellious heartthrob currently hawks everything from Hamilton watches, Lee Jeans, and Franklin Mint collectibles to cards by American Greetings, funneling funds to James Dean Inc., which is run by cousin Marcus Winslow.”

One of the many teenage girls pining for the departed heartthrob wrote to the advice columnist Dorothy Dix in the year after Dean’s death, lamenting, “I am 15 and in love. The problem is that I love the late James Dean. I don’t know what to do.” Dix advised her that time would lessen the sting of love and loss. In this case, however, the platitude’s been proved not entirely true: more than half a century on, society’s love for the late James Dean is still going strong.

Read about James Dean’s legacy here, in TIME’s archives: Dean of the One-Shotters

TIME India

Floods Have Killed 73 in India’s Northeast

People use cycle rickshaws to commute through a flooded road after heavy rains in Guwahati
People use rickshaws to commute through a flooded road after heavy rains in the northeastern Indian city of Guwahati on Sept. 23, 2014 Utpal Baruah—Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes

Around 73 people have been killed in India’s northeast, after flash floods and landslides hit two states in the region.

A senior government official in Meghalaya told the Associated Press on Wednesday that 35 bodies had been recovered over the past two days with 15 people still missing. Police in neighboring Assam said the floods had claimed 38 lives there.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes in both states mere weeks after flash floods in Kashmir killed over 400 people, about half of them in Pakistan. Local news channel NDTV reported that the army and disaster-response forces have been evacuating people, with authorities setting up 162 relief camps in the worst-affected areas.

The Assam-Meghalaya floods have so far not seen the kind of backlash against alleged government inaction that marked the Kashmir floods.

“We are taking all relief and rescue measures in the flood-hit districts,” said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser