Tips for Every Homeowner Part 1

Our newsletter for September 2019 will focus on home ownership.  We have tips that every homeowner should know. If you are thinking of buying a home or already own a home these tips will help you navigate the costs and concerns of life’s biggest purchase.
  1. Get to know your home’s systems. When you buy your home, have someone, maybe the seller, introduce you to all the features.  You want to know how they work, you want a copy of the owner’s manual, and the name and phone number of a REPAIR PERSON. You want this information before something breaks on a weekend.  Be sure you know where to find the water shut off and the electrical box.
  2. Always have your locks RE-KEYED after you buy a house.
  3. Stay updated on schools in your district. If you have children and plan to send them to school instead of home schooling them, knowing the public and private schools in your area is important.
  4. Understand your homeowner’s insurance coverage. It might be a good idea to review it with your agent.
  5. Ask your home inspector these questions: what do I need to prepare and protect the home from nature’s elements (freezing weather, heat wave etc.)? How do I properly maintain drainage and moisture around the home to prevent foundation and mold issues? How often do you need to service the HVAC system to keep it functioning properly? Also ask, what items the inspector would repair or replace if he were buying the home?
  6. Familiarize yourself with neighborhood rules. Do you need approval from an HOA to paint your house a different color? Are there restrictions on fence heights? Any rules on vehicles, i.e. campers, RVs, boat trailers being parked at a property? Are there restrictions on pets, sizes and breeds?
  7. Do not touch your retirement savings. Do not put yourself in a situation where you have to dip into your retirement to buy, maintain or improve your house. Keep an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses to avoid feeling the need to dip into retirement savings.
  8. Review and reevaluate personal documents. Major life changes, such as buying a house or having a child, are good reasons to review your life insurance and estate planning documents. Trusts and Wills should be evaluated and if you don’t have one, it is a good time to see an Attorney about getting one.
Give our office a call with any questions. We are happy to help!  818.887.9401

Con Artists Look for People Who Have Been Scammed Before

Precautions to Help You Avoid Becoming a Victim

Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, visits, or email messages from individuals asking about you, your family, your employees, your colleagues or any other internal information.  If an unknown individual claims to be from a legitimate organization, try to verify his or her identity directly with the company.
  • Do not provide personal information or information about your organization, including its structure or networks, unless you are certain of a person’s authority to have the information.
  • Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent in email.
  • Do not send sensitive information over the Internet before checking a website’s security (for more information, see Protecting Your Privacy,).
  • Pay attention to the URL of a website.  Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly.  Do not use contact information provided on a website connected to the request; instead, check previous statements for contact information.  Information about known phishing attacks is also available online from groups such as the Anti-Phishing Working Group.
  • Install and maintain anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters to reduce some of this traffic (for more information, see Understanding Firewalls,  Understanding Anti-Virus Software, and Reducing Spam.
  • Take advantage of any anti-phishing features offered by your email client and web browser.
  • Employees should take steps to monitor their personally identifiable information and report any suspected instances of identity theft to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or go to www.ic3.gov.
  • Additional information about preventative steps is available by consulting the Federal Trade Commission’s website, www.consumer.gov/idtheft. The FTC also encourages those who discover that their information has been misused to file a complaint with the commission using the contact information below.
IDENTITY THEFT CLEARINGHOUSE
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20580
HTTPS://WWW.IDENTITYTHEFT.GOV/
1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
TDD: 1-202-326-2502

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.

Continue reading “Con Artists Look for People Who Have Been Scammed Before”

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’…

Continue reading “Legal DIY Sites Are No Match for a Professional”

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.

Continue reading “Welcoming Love, But Not Marriage at an Older Age”

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.

Continue reading “10 Signs That Your Aging Loved One Needs Help part 2”

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.

Continue reading “10 Signs That Your Aging Loved One Needs Help part 1”

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?

Continue reading “Families are Evolving. Is Your Estate Plan?”

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.