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The more taxes I do, the more I learn about people. A little learning about taxes slips in from time to time, but it's mainly about people.

Last year, I met with a client whose taxes I've been doing since I got really serious about my own business over a decade ago. He apologized for having to reschedule once, as his wife was in the hospital.

As we were finishing last year, he had one final question. But all he could get out was "What if ..."

It didn't take a rocket scientist to complete that sentence for him. But after a moment he gathered his composure and eventually finished the sentence himself: "... she can't sign the return?" So I explained what he would need to do - both the letter of the law and the practicalities.

I met with him today.

We started by exchanging a few pleasantries, then sat down. He opened up his folder of information while I turned to my computer to get his information on screen.

When I turned back, he had silently slipped a single piece of distinctive embossed paper across the desk to me. It began: "State of California Certification of Vital Record."

Based on the date it bore, I don't think she signed that return last year.

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