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Legal Resources

Credit card companies make it harder to get a mortgage

Some people are finding it harder to get a mortgage these days … because of their credit card company. Why? Because credit card companies have reacted to the recent economic downturn by reducing many cardholders’ credit limits and cancelling inactive cards. The companies’ goal is to reduce the risk of non-payment. The problem is that whether you can get a mortgage – or how good the terms of that mortgage are – depends to a great

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You might be paying too much in property taxes

Many people are paying too much in property taxes, and may be eligible for a reduction or a refund. Property taxes are calculated by taking the assessed value of your home and multiplying it by the local property tax rate. But since home prices in so many areas have decreased recently, it’s possible that the assessed value of your home is now larger than its actual value – in which case you might be entitled to

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Gift tax exclusion increases to $13,000 in 2009

The amount that you can give to someone without having to pay the federal gift tax has been increased to $13,000 a year, effective for 2009. The previous maximum was $12,000 a year. Many people will want to take advantage of this new limit to increase their annual giving as part of their estate plan. The limit is the amount that any one person can give to any other person. So for instance, if a married

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Landlord can’t be sued for one tenant’s harassment of another

Even if a black tenant’s family was subjected to racist comments and verbal abuse by a white tenant’s family, the black tenant can’t sue the landlord, says the Ohio Supreme Court. The black tenant claimed she kept an extensive record of the harassment and reported each incident in writing to the landlord. However, the landlord (a public housing authority) allegedly didn’t do anything. An Ohio law prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants because of race. However,

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Condo could prohibit religious displays on doorways

A condominium association can prohibit owners from displaying any objects on or in front of their doorways – including Christmas decorations and crucifixes, says a federal appeals court in Chicago. In this case a woman sued because the condo rule had prohibited her from placing a traditional Jewish mezuzah on her doorpost. She claimed this amounted to religious discrimination. But the court said that the rule was valid as long as it was a blanket ban

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Family Limited Partnership saves family $120,000

If you’ve been wondering how a family limited partnership can save your family taxes, here’s a good example.  Bianca Gross was a widow who invested in stocks.  She had two daughters.  She decided to create a family limited partnership, in part so she could involve her daughters in her investment decisions and teach them about investing.  Bianca became the general partner, and the daughters became limited partners.  Bianca had complete management control over the partnership, and

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It’s not always easy being green

Homebuyers, businesses, and residential and commercial tenants are all showing interest in “green” buildings these days – those designed to save energy, use sustainable materials and have less of an impact on the environment. Many buyers and renters are willing to pay a little more for a green building – especially if they can recoup their money through energy savings. But if you’re serious about going green, think carefully about the legal aspects. You’ll want to

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How to leave a vacation home to your children

You might think it’s easy to leave a vacation home to your children in your will.  But there are many issues that can arise.  For instance, over time children might squabble over who will pay for major repairs or renovations, especially if some children use the property more than others.  Children might disagree about whether to sell the property.  And there are tax, liability and asset protection issues and opportunities as well. If you haven’t thought

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Who gets cash hidden in house by deceased former owner?

Imagine you bought a house and, a year and a half later, you discovered bundles of cash that had been hidden away by the deceased former owner. Who would be entitled to the money – you or the former owner’s estate? Confronted with just such a case, an Oregon appeals court determined that the new owner can keep the windfall. William and Helene Valoff owned a house in Milwaukie, Oregon. After Mr. Valoff’s unexpected death, all

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