‘Do it yourself’ will-writing websites panned by Consumer Reports

A growing number of websites now allow people to plug in information about themselves and write their own will. But doing so can be very dangerous and can lead to big problems, according to an independent review by Consumer Reports.

The magazine analyzed three such sites – LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Quicken WillMaker Plus – and ran the results by a law professor who specializes in tax and estate law. All three websites had a variety of problems, according to the study.

The problems included:

Outdated information. Two sites applied federal tax rules that were already months out-of-date.

Not state-specific. The law of wills varies from state to state, but the programs didn’t take into account variations in state law. [Read more…]

Nursing home residents have rights!

Many people incorrectly believe that once seniors enter a nursing home, their freedom is over. In fact, nursing home residents have many rights, and it is important to know those rights and to be able to enforce them.

Nursing home residents’ rights are protected under federal law. In broad terms, nursing homes are required to ensure that every resident be given whatever services are necessary to function at the highest level possible. Here are some of the specific protections that residents have:

  • Residents have a right to privacy in all aspects of their care. This means that phone calls and mail should be private, and residents should be able to close doors and windows.
  • Residents may bring belongings from home, and nursing home staff members are required to assist residents in protecting those belongings. [Read more…]

Annual gift tax exemption has been increased to $14,000

The annual gift tax exemption has been increased to $14,000 in 2013, up from $13,000 last year. That’s due to an adjustment for inflation.

This means that you can give any person $14,000 this year without any gift tax liability at all. Making annual gifts of the exemption amount is one of the best and easiest forms of estate planning, because it transfers assets from one generation to the next without any tax liability whatsoever.

If you have multiple heirs, the amount you can give away tax-free multiplies quickly. For instance, if you have two children, and each child is married and has two children, you can give $14,000 to each child, spouse and grandchild. That’s eight recipients at $14,000 each, or a potential maximum gift of $112,000 a year. If your spouse gave an additional $14,000 to each recipient, that would be $224,000. [Read more…]

How to save money on long-term care insurance

Often, the best way to handle the problem of long-term health care costs is to buy long-term care insurance. If you can afford the premiums and you’re insurable, this can save you a lot of money in the long run.

However, long-term care insurance can be expensive. If you’re thinking about purchasing a policy, here are some things to consider:

How much coverage do you really need? A good way to get started, and to avoid overpaying, is to calculate how much of a benefit you actually require.

For instance, the national average cost of a private room in a nursing home is about $250 a day, and the average monthly base rate in an assisted living facility is $3,550, according to MetLife’s 2012 survey of long-term care costs. These numbers can vary widely from location to location. [Read more…]

Attorney Keleher will put your worries to rest.

Attorney Keleher is fantastic. From day one he showed genuine care for me and my situation regarding a former employer. I had been dealing with my situation for the better part of a year and was feeling hopeless that things would ever be solved. I am a recent college graduate and as such did not have a lot of money to spend on legal representation, but felt that my situation could not be resolved without getting outside help. Attorney Keleher understood that and put all of my worries at ease. He worked efficiently, was incredibly responsive and approachable, and made me feel like my case was important. He listened to all of my concerns and worked very hard to ensure I got the outcome that I was looking for. I definitely would recommend him a hundred times over. ~ Krystyna, a Employment client

Loans to family members often cause estate planning problems

Charlotte had several grown children, and from time to time she would give the children money. Sometimes she called it a gift, but sometimes she called it a loan. A few of the “loans” were small, but sometimes they were $25,000 or more, such as when a child was starting a business.

Sometimes the children promised to pay the money back, but they didn’t say when. Sometimes Charlotte called something a “loan,” but it was clear she didn’t really expect repayment.

That all sounds innocent enough…but the fact is that gifts and loans like these can have important tax implications. Anyone who provides significant amounts of money to children or other family members should be sure to discuss the matter with an estate planner. [Read more…]

Older wills need to be reviewed due to the new tax law

Some people have been reluctant to review their wills is recent years because the estate tax laws have been so uncertain. They’ve taken the attitude that they want to wait until the dust has settled.

Well, with the “fiscal cliff” law on the books, the dust has now settled – or at least things are far more settled now than they have been in a very long time.

That fact in itself is a good reason to have your estate plan reviewed. But you should also know that some of the provisions in the new law could wreak havoc with older wills that haven’t been looked at in a while. [Read more…]

Charitable donations from your IRA could save taxes

Congress has temporarily revived a law that lets you make charitable donations directly from your IRA, which might provide some significant tax advantages.

But the “IRA charitable rollover” will be allowed only until the end of 2013, so if you think this might benefit you, you should take advantage of it this year.

If you’re over the age of 70½, you’re required to take minimum distributions each year from your IRA, and you have to pay income tax on those distributions. But the “rollover” law lets you transfer assets from your IRA to a charity, and whatever amount you transfer reduces the amount you’re required to withdraw. So if you’re required to withdraw $20,000 in 2013, but you instead donate $20,000 to charity, you don’t have to withdraw any funds for yourself, and you don’t have to pay any income tax. [Read more…]

New tax rules for trusts mean careful planning is needed

Three big changes in the way that trusts are taxed starting in 2013 are making it far more important to be careful about trust distributions.

A trust’s income and capital gains will now be taxed very differently – and much more heavily – than income and capital gains for individuals. As a result, you’ll want to think very carefully about how you arrange distributions. And you might also want to have any existing trusts reviewed to see if changes can be made that would make it easier to save taxes.

The big changes are:

  • Starting in 2013, the top income tax rate is 39.6%, and the top rate for short-term capital gains is also 39.6%. Those rates apply to income over $450,000 for married couples and $400,000 for singles. But for trusts, those rates apply to all income over $11,950! So even though the new 39.6% rates are meant to apply only to people with very high incomes, they will also apply to trusts even at very small incomes. [Read more…]

Retirees & Veterans Workshop

Please join David M. Beliveau, Esq., CPA and Bernie Ross, Financial Adviser, at a seminar on estate, financial, and tax planning for retirees and veterans.

DATE: June 18, 2013
TIME: 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Days Inn, 159 Pelham Street, Methuen, MA
 
DATE: June 19, 2013
TIME: 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Wyndham, 123 Old River Road, Andover, MA
 
DATE: June 20, 2013
TIME: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (Lunch provided for $5 per person)
LOCATION: Oriental Garden, 400 Lowell Avenue, Haverhill, MA
 
DATE: June 25, 2013
TIME: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Free lunch provided)
LOCATION: The Chateau, 195 School Street, Waltham, MA
 
DATE: June 27, 2013
TIME: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Free lunch provided)
LOCATION: China Pearl, 288 Mishawum Road, Woburn, MA
 

 WHAT YOU WILL LEARN:

  • A little known benefit for up to $24,000 per year for war-time veterans, their spouses, or widows.
  • Do you need to update your current wills and trusts?
  • How can you avoid the costly delays of probate?
  • How can you prevent your children and grandchildren from irresponsible depleting assets you give to them?
  • How can you protect your life savings from a nursing home?
  • How can you protect your savings if your spouse is currently in a nursing home?
  • How giving away your savings may have potentially negative consequences.
  • Are you paying unnecessary taxes on income and investments?
  • How should you manage the taxes you pay on your Social Security benefits?
  • Is there a chance you may outlive your money?
  • Strategies to protect you from outliving your money.
  • Compare Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs: which one is right for you?
  • The best strategies to take advantage of today’s low interest rates.

REGISTRATION: Call (888) 649-2873 to reserve a seat for this seminar.  Seating is limited.