Author: main_advocate

Con Artists Look for People Who Have Been Scammed Before

For con artists the best list to get is the list of people who have already been taken.  Financial criminals go to great lengths to hunt down and size-up their prey.   They will buy the lists of people who attended investment seminars; they mail postcards and then spam investors with emails and phone calls.  For the con artists nothing can top the “sucker list.”

A “sucker list” is a list of people who have already been scammed.  Attempts have been made to get the list of people who were scammed by Jordan Belfort, the felon depicted in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”  Con artists also have targeted victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.  In 2010, a Nigerian website claimed to have found $1.3 billion of Madoff’s assets and would distribute it back to the victims if they supplied their claim numbers from the legal filing and copies of recent account statements.

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Legal DIY Sites Are No Match for a Professional

Websites like LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer cost much less than going to a real lawyer. These websites can help you create your Will, Power of Attorney and other valuable legal documents. But are they really worth it?

Consumer Reports evaluated these three website services and came up with some interesting results. Using the online worksheets and downloads they created a Will, a car Bill of Sale for a seller, a Home Lease for a small landlord and a Promissory Note. After consulting three Law Professors from Texas Tech, Hofstra and Yale to review the process and resulting documents, here is what they found.

“Using any of the three services is generally better than drafting the documents yourself without legal training or not having them at all. But unless your needs are simple – say, you want to leave your entire estate to your spouse – none of the will-writing products is likely to entirely meet your needs. And in some cases, the other documents aren’t specific enough or contain language that could lead to an ‘unintended result’…

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Welcoming Love, But Not Marriage at an Older Age

In this newsletter we discuss older couples who have lost a spouse and are now faced with the dilemma of getting remarried or just living with their new partner. Many of our clients are getting older and may have lost a spouse. After finding companionship with a new person, they face the question of whether to remarry. Several factors affect those choices and we want to discuss them to bring them to light.

Over the past decade a pattern has emerged. Americans are beginning to retreat from marriage. While people of all ages are living together unmarried, the growth is fastest among the older segment. In 2010, 2.8 million people age 50 and over cohabitated, up from 1.2 million in 2000, according to the US Census Bureau. There are many reasons why this number has more than doubled in 10 years.

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10 Signs That Your Aging Loved One Needs Help part 2

What if a loved one was in need of help as they aged?  Do you think you would be able to recognize the signs?  Here are 5 signs to look for that could mean your elderly relative needs help at home.

  1. Lack of Hygiene and Cleanliness

 A sign to look for with seniors who may need help is repeatedly wearing the same clothes.  This goes beyond wearing a favorite sweatshirt.  The clothes may be stained or worn out from constant wear.  It could be that doing laundry or bathing have become increasingly difficult and a physical challenge.  If a family member has already fallen in the bath or shower, they could have a fear of it happening again.  Paying attention to these habits could help prevent something worse from happening.
  1. Signs of Burned Food, Pots and Pans or Stove Tops

 Signs of burned food or burned kitchen items could mean your loved one is forgetting things.  They forget something was cooking or forgot to turn off the stove after cooking.  These signs of short-term memory loss should not be ignored.  The potential of a fire puts the loved one, as well as their surroundings, at greater risk for harm.

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10 Signs That Your Aging Loved One Needs Help part 1

What if a loved one was in need of help as they aged?  Do you think you would be able to recognize the signs?  Here are 5 signs to look for that could mean your elderly relative needs help at home.

  1. Recent Falls

 Did you know that 1 in 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year.  Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to live independently.  Staying active and exercising can help minimize the risk of falls.  Recent falls can be a sign of deteriorating health, which would be a sign that your elderly loved one needs assistance.
  1. Forgetting Medication and Appointments

The more medication an older adult takes, the more likely they are to forget a dose, or over medicate.   In 2000 the average number of prescriptions an elderly adult took was 28.5. In  2010 the average number of prescriptions per elderly person grew to 38.5, an increase of 10 prescriptions.   Whether your loved one uses a pill box to keep track of medication, it is important to pay attention to pills that are still in the box or that haven’t been touched for days.  The consequences of forgetting these meds include disease progression or complications, increased physicians’ visits or even hospitalization.

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Families are Evolving. Is Your Estate Plan?

Have you noticed that families are changing in this day and age? Traditional families are evolving and include more extended family and relatives. This newsletter talks about the changes of “traditional families” in our society and how they affect your estate plan. If you are interested in talking to an attorney, please give our office a call.

The laws relating to how estates are handled are designed with a very traditional nuclear family in mind – a husband, wife and biological children. That is not the traditional family anymore. Fewer than half of all U.S. households meet this traditional definition. That trend is likely to continue now that same sex marriage has been legalized nationwide. Also, divorce and remarriage remain very common. It is no longer about just the traditional versus non-traditional families.

A particularly serious issue to consider is the rapid advances in reproductive technology. How should children conceived with stored genetic material after the death of one or both genetic parents be treated in regards to inheritance?

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Bequeathing a Home Part 2

I have two children, both are grown with children of their own.  Neither of them owns a home.  I would like to keep my house in the family for everyone to use.  Its not a large home so having two families live here would be rather difficult. But they could share it.  I have a trust that splits everything between my two kids.  I have included a hand-written note that I had notarized that states my wishes that they keep the house and not sell or mortgage it.  Is this a good idea, please advise?

 

It is very important to think long and hard about this.  Is this going to cause fighting and rifts in the family?   As you stated it would be hard for two families to share the home, even a large home for that matter.  You could be setting up battles over who gets to live there, and how much they spend for maintenance and repairs of the home. It is difficult for married couples to agree on owning a property, it is even harder to get siblings to agree.  This may not go over as well as you hope. Even the best intentions can go awry.
Lets look at the other side.  Lets say they sell your home, it could provide both families with a nice down payment for them to buy their own homes.  Then they can pick a home that works for them. Then each child can determine what they want to spend and how much maintenance they want to do. Another option is one family could get a mortgage to buy out the other and live in the house.  There is also the option to mortgage the house to provide two down payments, and then rent out the house.
Also, just to note, your notarized handwritten note won’t prevent your children from selling the house. Once you pass they can essentially do what they want with the house.  But it may cause some guilt and fighting among them about honoring your wishes.
Give our office a call if you have questions regarding your estate plan, we are here to help 818.887.9401.

Bequeathing a Home to a Loved One

I am a 74 year-old retired woman living in a completely paid off condo. I hold title to my condo in my name only. I want to know more about leaving my leaving my condo to my partner and daughter when I die. I am asking about adding my partner of 20 years and my daughter to the home title in order to avoid probate. What is the easiest way to do that? Can I leave it in Joint Tenancy so the condo will pass both survivors (partner and daughter)? My parents had held title with both my brother and me and I want to know if there is a problem with this.

YES. There is a problem with this.   Here are a couple issues that could arise after you die. What if your daughter wants to sell this condo to raise cash, but your partner disagrees and doesn’t want to move. What if your daughter would like to collect rent and your partner refuses? What if your partner wants to remodel the home as she ages but your daughter wont share the costs? Would one survivor have to buy the other out? It also brings up questions of property transfer taxes.
The best solution is a revocable living trust! A trust can leave instructions (your wishes) for how to handle this situation. It may say that your partner can stay in the condo indefinitely but must pay a rent to the daughter. The trust can even establish what is a fair rent to pay. The trust could also say that the condo should be sold and the profit divided evenly.

Whatever you decide a revocable living trust can give the proper instructions on what to do. Both your partner and your daughter will understand these were your intentions and wishes. It may also prevent fighting and resentment and animosity between your partner and your daughter. With a Trust you also have less gift tax problems to deal with. The property will transfer to either survivor, depending on your instructions. You won’t face property tax reassessment. There are many issues that are never even thought of when it comes to bequeathing a property.
If you are interested in talking to an estate attorney to help you with bequeathing a home to loved ones please give our office a call 818.887.9401.

Be Aware of Dirty Tax Scams

With tax season come tax scams. Lets face it. Scam artists are after your tax refunds and they are trying to get to your money before you do.

Here are the top tax scams we have heard of over the last couple years.

Phone scams – Criminals are targeting specific groups of people, for example, retirees. The criminals call with threats of police arrests or license revocation in order to strong-arm many elderly people into “paying their taxes.”   The IRS does not call about taxes owed without first sending you a bill in the mail. Be wary of phone calls demanding payment for taxes.

Phishing – Fake emails can be sent and phony websites can be established to make it seem legitimate. But the intent is to steal your information. That can lead to identity theft and stealing your tax refund.

Return Preparer Fraud – Each tax season criminals set up shop as tax preparers with the intention of stealing your information and getting to your refund money before you do. If dozens of people go these dishonest tax prepares, hundreds of thousands of dollars can be collected before any of the victims realize their refund was taken. These criminals can also entice people by promising an inflated tax refund, but then they ask you to sign a blank return or they may charge a fee based on the percentage of a refund.  Tip: Always ask to see the IRS’s Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

Offshore Tax Avoidance – Hiding assets offshore can lead to significant tax penalties and even criminal prosecution.

Fake Charities – There are groups of criminals who like to masquerade as charities in order to get donations from unsuspecting tax payers.

Hiding Income with Fake Documents – Avoid tax prepares who even suggest falsifying documents to reduce tax bills or to inflate a refund.

We want to make everyone aware of these scams. We hope they don’t happen to you. Feel free to share these with friends and family. You could help someone.

Tax Season Could Be Difficult With the Shutdown

This article was written before the government reopened.  The reopening is only temporary, for the next three weeks, so these problems may arise in the future.

The tax overhaul of 2017 will affect every tax return filed for 2018, and tax season starts Jan. 28.  At this moment the IRS will have approx. 46,000 of its more than 80,000 employees at work.  This years start date is consistent with last years filing season, so not much has changed in that capacity.  The agency has said it will re-open call sites that had been closed during the shutdown.  But even those wont be fully staffed and wait times could be extremely long.

This tax overhaul affected tax brackets, expanded the child tax credit and eliminated or limited several niche breaks.

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