Financial Q & A: Readers' money questions answered

Where to find mutual funds that avoid animal testing

Q: Can you suggest mutual funds that exclude companies that do experiments on animals or use animals for product testing?

A.O., via e-mail

A: A good resource for finding mutual funds that exclude firms that do animal testing is the Mutual Fund Center on the website. That's the opinion of Kim Anderson, a certified financial planner in Columbia, Md.

There, you can screen a huge number of socially responsible funds on the issues that are important to you, including animal testing. Calvert, Parnassus, and Citizens all have funds in this category.

But Ms. Anderson advises that each fund family has different standards and criteria that companies must meet in order to be considered for inclusion in the fund; some are much stricter than others.

You should go to the fund family's website or request a prospectus to get more detailed information.

Other criteria to consider when comparing funds in this category are investment objectives, risks, fees, and performance. This information is also provided in the prospectus.

Q: A friend of mine, now in his 80s, has credit-card debts of more than $20,000. His home and car are in his wife's name and he has no assets other than an $8,000 life insurance policy. He claims that if he predeceases his wife, his debtors cannot touch these assets. Is he correct?

A.M., via e-mail

A: He is correct to a point, says Drew Tignanelli, a certified financial planner in Lutherville, Md. If your friend has no assets in his estate, and he has not had his wife sign the debt documents, then she's off the hook. But there's a possible catch: If he made maneuvers to leave the credit card companies holding the bag, those companies could argue fraudulent conveyance, and the wife might then be held financially responsible.

"Would they do that?" asks Mr. Tignanelli. "It depends." Questions about finances? Ask us at:

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