Tax Breaks for Charitable Giving

Charity fund-raising reached a peak during the holiday season.  Friends and family made donations in your name, and charities appealed for help at every corner and in every day’s mail. We wanted to give you some advice to understand the complex IRS rules.  With tax season in full swing, many charitable contributions are deductible and we want to make sure you know about them.

 

  1. Beat The Clock

Donations must be made before Dec. 31st.  If you mail a check make sure you mail it a few days early so the Postal Service has time to postmark the envelope.  A donation made by credit card is deductible in the year the charge is incurred even though you may not pay the bill until the following year.

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Stress Management

Halloween is over and the holiday season is here. Family will be visiting, preparing decadent holiday meals will begin and stressful holiday shopping will come along.  Let us help ease some of the stress that you will no doubt experience. You may not be able to avoid the stress that comes with the holiday season, but you should be better prepared to control it and hopefully ease a little of it.

We all know stress is a part of life.  You cannot avoid it.  But you can try to avoid the situations that cause the stress, and you can learn how to control the stress and your response to it.

The first step is to know your own coping strategies.  What are productive ways that you cope with a stressful situation?  Let’s highlight those coping strategies and make the best of them.  A ‘Stress Journal’ may help.  You can record stressful events, your initial response to the event and stress, and how you coped with the situation.  Once you know what is causing your stress, try making changes in your life that will help you avoid stressful situations.  Here are a few ideas that may help.

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Celebrities Update Their Estate Plans Too

I’m sure everyone knows who Britney Spears is.  She is a famous pop star, has a Vegas Residency that rakes in millions of dollars?  Sound familiar??

Ms. Spears had an estate plan prepared for her a long time ago.  She probably has managers and attorneys who drafted legal docs before she ever got married or had kids.  It was recently in the news that she is making changes.  Her Will and other docs were written a while ago and now need a tune-up.  She has two boys, who will soon be teenagers.

Previously, Ms. Spear’s estate plan stated that when she passes her children would inherit everything.  That’s pretty standard in estate planning documents.

The issue with a Will or estate docs that were drafted a long time ago is that they can become outdated.  In the case of Ms. Spears her documents were drafted and didn’t include any distribution stipulations for a child’s inheritance, should she have any.  Now she has two sons, Sean and Jayden, who would inherit her entire fortune.  Ms. Spears net worth is around 200 million dollars.  Its not the wisest decision to open the vault to 18-year-olds all at once.

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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.

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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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