By some accounts, 70% of adult Americans do not have a will. If you have at least gone to the trouble of making a will, consider yourself ahead of the curve and pat yourself on the back. Then come back to earth and understand that your work is not completely done. A will is not a static instrument. To serve its purposes, it must keep current with life changes, including an individual’s financial circumstances, and with some external factors, such as tax laws. With the help of a professional, you should periodically review your will, staying alert to new or different circumstances that might call for updates.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to up to 12 weeks of leave per year, which may be taken intermittently for certain specified reasons, including the care of designated family members with serious health conditions. Continue reading
It is a sad and sobering reality that scam artists intent on committing financial fraud or the outright stealing of money, property, or valuable information prey upon vulnerable senior citizens. The threats can take many forms, but the elderly and those watching out for them can have some measure of protection by taking a few basic precautions.
- Do your homework when selecting a professional advisor, even if the advisor comes highly recommended by a friend or family member. This means confirming that the person is registered or licensed and has not left a trail of mistreatment of other clients.
- Powers of attorney (POA) are helpful, maybe even essential, as age takes its toll on an individual’s capacity to handle financial matters. But the potential for misuse of a POA is great, since the appointed person generally has free rein to do whatever the elderly person could do on his or her own. The selected person must be trustworthy, and it is a good idea to have an attorney review the POA document.
- The array of account numbers, Social Security numbers, pins, passwords, and other such sensitive information that most of us accumulate over time can serve as a thief’s key for raiding your savings and investments. Guard this information carefully.
- It may be an after‑the‑fact measure, but check your credit card and bank account statements carefully for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions. If you see one, contact the financial institution right away.
- Reverse mortgages allow homeowners who are at least 62 years old to borrow money from the equity in their homes. This device has its place under the right set of circumstances, but a reverse mortgage can also become a device for scam artists. Be wary of deceptive, too-good-to-be-true offers and high-pressure tactics.
We all know that the right of free speech has its limits. There is no right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Those limits apply even in settings most closely associated with the free exchange of ideas, such as colleges and universities. In that academic setting, limits also exist even for speech that takes place off campus, such as on a social networking website, but that is connected to a student’s academic program. Continue reading
Strong public policies support the appropriate use of arbitration over litigation in settling legal disputes and, in fact, such policies underlie the Federal Arbitration Act. That said, an agreement to arbitrate disputes is subject to well-established principles rooted in the law of contracts. This means, among other things, that courts will step in and declare void an ostensible agreement to arbitrate if its effects are too heavily weighted in one party’s favor. Two recent examples of this overreaching by the more powerful party illustrate the point. Continue reading
At the eleventh hour, Congress averted the tax side of the ominous “Fiscal Cliff” that it faced as 2012 drew to a close. The end result of the intense negotiations was the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA).
The most publicized part of ATRA prevented scheduled federal tax rate hikes from going into effect for most taxpayers in 2013, while raising taxes on America’s highest earners. ATRA also keeps in place many expiring income tax breaks and revives some tax increases that had expired over the past several years.
Individual Tax Rates
For tax years beginning after 2012, ATRA makes permanent almost all of the federal income tax rates first put into place in 2001. Those rates otherwise would have increased in 2013. For high‑income taxpayers, Continue reading
Even if you’re a taxpayer with simple returns and few supporting documents, you can become a little snowed under by tax records as they accumulate over the years, raising the question of how long you should hold on to such records. The answer depends on the types of documents and transactions involved, but if you have been a tax records pack rat for many years, chances are you can safely dispose of the oldest such records without inviting trouble.
The travails of the housing market in recent years are well documented. The prevalent symbols of this downturn are the “underwater” homeowners, who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. About 4.6 million such homeowners have mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and fully 80% of those owners haven’t missed any mortgage payments. Continue reading
As a general rule, the executor of an estate does not have personal liability for the debts and obligations of a decedent. Lest executors become complacent, however, they should be aware of an important exception to that rule, which was illustrated by a recent federal court case between executors and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
As a general proposition, employers are required by federal law to pay their employees overtime, usually one and one-half times the hourly pay, for time in excess of 40 hours in a work week. They are also required to pay the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour (note: with some exceptions, the minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 per hour).
The first four groups of employees that are “exempt” from having these rights are executive, administrative, and professional personnel and outside salespersons. For any of the first three exemptions, collectively called the “white collar exemptions,” to apply, the employee must receive, on a salaried basis, at least $455 per week or its equivalent.