Early Planning For Retirement And Inheritance

Question: We are nearing retirement, and are becoming concerned about our future, and the future of our children.

Going through our books and records in preparation of our 2016 tax returns, we began to wonder what we should be doing now to make sure that there will be no surprises that can affect our future or the inheritance of our children.

Do you have any comments?

Answer: I could write a book on this subject. Too many of us live active lives, do not concern ourselves with future problems and basically are living on a “day-to-day” basis.

But if we take the time to think about these matters, and if we look around our house, we begin to realize that some careful planning is needed for the future.

Here are but a few ideas for you to consider. Clearly, you should discuss all of these matters with your family and your legal, tax and financial advisers.

Do you have adequate life insurance coverage? Many of us took out insurance policies years ago, and often have not reviewed the coverage to make sure it is adequate for the needs of our survivors.

More importantly, where beneficiaries change (because of divorce or death) the policy must be corrected to reflect the appropriate beneficiary. In recent years, insurance policies have changed, and the tax laws have changed. What you have obtained ten or fifteen years ago may not fit your current needs.

Indeed, some people begin to realize that as they get older, and their children become self-sufficient, the level of insurance can in fact be reduced. You should discuss all of these matters with your insurance adviser.

Is your house insurance adequate? Many insurance policies have automatic increase provisions to periodically boost the coverage.

Make sure the replacement value of your house meets industry standards, so you will not suffer a financial loss if your house is destroyed.

Do you have a Last Will and Testament? If not, you are strongly advised to give serious consideration to preparing one now.

And even if you have a Will, if it was written years ago, your legal and tax advisers must be consulted to make sure that the new tax laws will not adversely affect your Estate. With the new adminstration — and talk of serious tax reform — I recognize it is difficult to make decisions. However, don’t put your planning off; there is no guarantee that the tax laws will be changed in the foreseable future.

Additionally, you should consider signing Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney to cover situations where you may be in an accident and not able to handle your own affairs.

Indeed, the Supreme Court of the United States has made it clear that if you are medically diagnosed as totally “brain dead,” and you want the doctor to “pull the plug,” you must make your intentions quite clear — preferably in writing — so as to give guidance to the doctors. This is known as a “Living Will” or a “Declaration,” and will be necessary if you have to go into a hospital.

If you do not want to be artificially maintained by life-support equipment in the event of an accident, you should prepare a Living Will declaring your intentions while you are able to do so.

Are titles to the family assets in a form acceptable to you for inheritance and tax purposes? You should explore with your advisers the pros and cons of such things as (1) creating a revocable trust, or (2) preparing a “deed on death“. Many states have now adopted laws that allow you to prepare and file a deed that does not take effect until you die; but you have the abolute right to cancel the deed at any time during your lifetime.

You must also consider what will happen when your spouse dies. For every document that you enter into, always have an alternative person designated, just in case the person you do authorize to take certain actions is not able nor willing to assume that obligation.

Finally, if you die or are seriously incapacitated, will your family be able to find all of your legal documents and papers? Often, one party in the household handles the books and records. The other spouse has no idea whatsoever where things are.

Both of you should sit down one weekend and make a comprehensive list of your assets and liabilities. If you have stock certificates, certificates of deposit, life insurance policies, or other valuable documents, make a list where they are, so your family will not have to suffer more under the circumstances. You should also make a list of people who should be contacted in the event of a problem.

This list should include at the very least the names and addresses of your attorney, accountant, insurance adviser, executor of your Will and administrators of any pension plans.

Life has become quite complex. If you do not put your own “house in order,” the courts and the tax authorities will make decisions on your behalf (or on behalf of the Estate) which may not be in anyone’s best interest. Careful planning now can save considerable aggravation and frustration for your family in the long run.

Written by Benny L. Kass

8 Things You Need To Know About Buying A New Home

 

Buying a new home can be a truly exciting experience. Choosing your lot and floorplan, picking out all your fixtures, watching the progress from foundation to framing to finishes. Makes me want to run out and tour a model home right now!

Through all the excitement, though, there are a few realities that may be surprising for those buying new for the first time.

  1. You probably won’t be able to negotiate the price

New homes are not like resale, where there is the expectation of price negotiations back and forth. The price set by the builder is most likely the price you’re going to pay. The exceptions are when there are just a few homes left and when there is standing inventory that needs to be sold.

“Look for builder inventory homes that have been on the market for 45 days or more,” said Inman. “These are the homes in which a buyer might be able to get a good deal.”

  1. But you may be able get some upgrades at no cost

More typical in a new-home community is getting some upgrades thrown in—things like window coverings or nicer flooring. Negotiating a few must-haves into your deal can help offset your costs. Some builders may also help with closing costs as an incentive to buy.   3 STORY BRICK HOUSE

 

  1. There might also be incentives to using the builder’s in-house lender

Many builders have an in-house or preferred lender they work with to provide financing for buyers. There may be advantages to using this lender—better terms or a rate that’s bought down. By law, the builder can’t make you use their lender, so if you feel pressured, be sure to discuss with your real estate agent.

  1. Use a REALTOR®

Speaking of Realtors…you can use your agent to buy a new home, and, in fact, you should.   LIVING ROOM WHITE AND GRAY

“In general, builders’ model homes are staffed by agents who work directly for and represent the builder. A buyer also needs to have a real estate agent who represents them and looks after their best interests,” said Inman. “Keep in mind that most builders will require that the real estate agent accompany and register the buyer on their first visit to the builder’s model home or community.”

 

 

  1. Your home will not look like the model

When you tour a model home, it’s decked out with pretty walls and floors and lighting and countertops. The furniture is to scale and the fabrics are custom and the pictures are hung perfectly. It’s pretty seductive. But the empty shell you buy won’t look like this if you go with all the standard configurations and finishes. Be realistic about what you want, what you need, what you can afford, and how that translates to what you are seeing. The salesperson can point out which of the items you love in the model come standard and which are pricey upgrades.

  1. The price of the home as advertised is not what you’ll pay  NEW DEVELOPMENT

Typically, it will take many tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades and options to get the home you buy to look like the model. This can be a rude awakening for buyers who are trying to stick to a strict budget. The good news is rolling some of those upgrades into the mortgage can make good financial sense, according to Money Crashers.

Upgrading during the initial construction phase is generally cheaper than updating your home later on. For example, if you choose to upgrade from laminate flooring to hardwood, you’ll pay the difference in material costs—but you won’t necessarily have to pay extra for the installation itself, since your builder needs to install floors in the first place. The same goes for things like windows and bathroom features.”

  1. You’ll be dealing with construction noise and traffic. For a while.

The peaceful life you envision can be a reality, but probably not from the get-go. Depending on the community, it may take time to complete construction. Which means dealing with congestion and hassle for the time being. Amenities like pools, sport courts, and trails may also not be built out by the time you move in. Asking ahead of time about the construction schedule can help you manage expectations.

  1. Not everything will work perfectly

In any house, there are bound to be issues. New homes are no different. Builder warranties will help.

Warranties for newly built homes generally offer limited coverage on workmanship and materials relating to various components of the home, such as windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, and electrical systems for specific periods. Warranties also typically define how repairs will be made,” said the FCC. “The duration of coverage varies depending on the component of the house. Most warranties on new construction cover siding and stucco, doors and trim, and drywall and paint during the first year. Coverage for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems is generally two years. Some builders provide coverage for up to 10 years for “major structural defects.”

Written by Jaymi Naciri