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Q: I have inherited jewelry and collectibles from family members over the years. Are they covered under my homeowner’s policy?
The American healthcare system is, in a word, complicated. It also can be extremely expensive. And that’s before we even reach retirement age.
Health expenses are rising faster than inflation, and even insured workers are finding it harder to pay their portion from year to year (premiums, copays, coinsurance, and deductibles), much less plan for the future. The stakes are even higher for early retirees (younger than 65) and self-employed individuals who must purchase their own health insurance and bear the entire cost themselves.
If you give away money or property during your life, those transfers may be subject to federal gift and estate tax and perhaps state gift tax. The money and property you own when you die (i.e., your estate) may also be subject to federal gift and estate tax, and some form of state death tax. These property transfers may also be subject to generation-skipping transfer taxes. You should understand all of these taxes, especially since the passage of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (the 2001 Tax Act); the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the 2010 Tax Act); the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the 2012 Tax Act); and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The recent Tax Acts contain several changes that make estate planning much easier.
Charitable giving can play an important role in many estate plans. Philanthropy can not only give you great personal satisfaction, it can also give you a current income tax deduction, let you avoid capital gains tax, and reduce the amount of taxes your estate may owe when you die.
Throughout your career, retirement planning will likely be one of the most important components of your overall financial plan. Whether you have just graduated and taken your first job, are starting a family, are enjoying your peak earning years, or are preparing to retire, your employer-sponsored retirement plan can play a key role in your financial strategies.
By definition, estate planning is a process designed to help you manage and preserve your assets while you are alive and to conserve and control their distribution after your death according to your goals and objectives. But what estate planning means to you specifically depends on who you are.
You may have heard about the horrors of probate, but in truth, probate has gotten an undeservedly bad reputation, especially in recent years. If you bypass probate, your estate will go to your beneficiaries without any court proceeding, and you may save a certain amount of time and expenses. However, there is usually little reason for most people to avoid probate today. States continue to revise their probate laws, making them more consumer friendly, particularly for small estates. For most modestly sized estates, the probate process now costs little. In fact, there are some good reasons to distribute your property by will. Decisions are binding and have legal finality once your will is probated. Creditors who fail to file claims against your estate within a specific amount of time, usually six months after receiving notice, are out of luck.
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