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What is a Living Will? (in-depth)

A living will is sometimes called an advance directive or a medical directive, and it specifies a person’s wishes regarding life-prolonging medical procedures and other end-of-life issues. If a person is in a coma, for instance, it is intended to provide instructions for their care, including whether or not to use oxygen or “feeding tubes” to keep them alive. This might require a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) waiver of some kind, which tells medical staff not to intervene if the person is dying. The living will is different than the “will” that most people are familiar with, which is a Last Will and Testament, stipulating the person’s wishes for their estate after he or she has died. Continue reading...

Where do I Find a Good Attorney for my Estate Needs?

There are thousands of attorneys that specialize in estate planning, so choosing the right one for you can be a challenge. If possible, referrals are the best approach. Your Financial Advisor should definitely have resources and a network available to recommend a reliable estate and/or tax attorney for you — someone he or she has been working with for a number of years at least. Ultimately, the best source is a referral from a friend or someone else you trust. Continue reading...

What is Form 2848: Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative?

IRS Link to Form — Found Here Sometimes individuals need representation to argue their case to the IRS or the tax court. To this end, there is an IRS form, the 2848, which designates an individual to represent the taxpayer on tax matters. The person receiving agency must be qualified and certified to perform such work. CPAs, Enrolled Agents (EAs), tax attorneys, and a few other professionals are qualified to represent taxpayers (or non-taxpayers, as the case may be) on tax matters in a tax court or IRS audit. To give one of these registered tax advisors the authority to serve as your agent and proxy for such matters before the IRS and tax courts, you must file a Form 2848. Continue reading...

How Much Does it Cost to Prepare a Trust?

The cost of setting up a trust varies depending on the type of trust and its complexity, but generally speaking a trust will cost between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Basic trusts can typically be setup using online tools and guides from trusted sources, whereas complex trusts often require the help of an estate planning attorney and a tax attorney. There is also the matter of paying the trustees an annual fee for oversight of the trust, and there may be annual expenses associated with keeping the trust up to date with changes to the law and/or your estate plan. Continue reading...

What is Bankruptcy Court?

Bankruptcy court is a special judicial proceeding which determines how a debtor can settle accounts and move on. Bankruptcy courts are always federal, and not state, courts. They were established in the Constitution and given structure by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978. They give debtors a means of moving beyond debts that cannot be fully repaid. There are several kinds of bankruptcy filings (found here — ‘chapter 7-15’, some for individuals, some for businesses, some involving foreign entities or persons operating in the US. Some are for absolution and the dissolution of a business entity, and other filings are requests for partial debt forgiveness and reorganization of the entity. Continue reading...

How Much Does it Cost to Prepare a Will?

A simple will can be created for free if a person uses an online template from a trusted source and/or creates the document themselves. Having an attorney create a will may cost a few hundred dollars, depending on the complexity of the estate. If you opt for an online will, the cost will be extremely cheap compared to hiring a professional (possibly a few hundred dollars or even significantly less). Continue reading...

Do I Need Professional Help to Prepare a Trust?

In most cases, you should consult a tax professional and/or an estate planning attorney for help in setting up a trust. If you’re setting up a trust in the first place, it is likely because you have estate planning needs – which also means you have a level of assets that requires estate planning. Preparing a trust on your own runs the risk of setting it up incorrectly, which can lend itself to legal risks such as challenges from heirs and/or creditors. Continue reading...

Should I sell my house without a real estate broker?

While it is possible to sell your house without a broker, it may prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. If a person can sell their own house or property without a real estate broker, he or she can avoid paying broker’s fees out of the proceeds. A person should realize, however that brokers are well-acquainted with the real estate marketplace, and may possibly already have some potential buyers in their pipeline.They are also ready to spend the time and money to market and show your property. Continue reading...

What is a No-Cost Mortgage?

No-Cost Mortgages waive the initial closing costs by making a repayment structure for those costs into the interest payments on a mortgage loan. Closing costs can range from 2%-5% of the total cost of the home, and include attorney fees, underwriting fees, application fees, and so on. These costs are deferred and are paid in the form of additional interest on the loan. Closing costs are separate from down-payments of equity, and are a miscellaneous hodgepodge of a wide range of fees associated with closing a mortgage deal. These costs are sometimes covered by the seller, but most often they are paid by the buyer. Continue reading...

What is Face Value?

Face Value is the nominal value of a security or currency as written/stated by the issuer. It may vary from market price, since for securities like stocks the price is heavily influenced by supply and demand. In the case of bonds, interest is usually calculated as a percentage of face value. Also for bonds, the face value is generally equal to the par value (principal), usually the $1,000 paid to the holder at maturity. Continue reading...

What is a No-Fee Mortgage?

No-fee mortgages are synonymous with no-cost mortgages, which might apply to first mortgages or refinancing arrangements where the closing costs are paid by the lender, broker, or bank, but a higher interest rate is charged on the loan as a means of recouping those waived fees. Closing costs and fees are calculated based on the total amount being loaned, and might be about 3% for a first mortgage and 1.5% for a refinanced mortgage. When the fees and closing costs associated with a mortgage loan are waived for the borrower, they are usually baked in to a higher interest rate on the loan. Continue reading...

What is a Mortgage Rate Lock?

Mortgages take a while to process, but a broker or bank can lock in a rate for themselves or their clients. Locking-in rates costs money somewhere along the line, and the longer the rate is locked in, the more it costs. 60 days is generally the longest time frame you will see a rate locked in, due to the cost associated with that risk. Mortgage rates can be locked in for a period of time long enough to underwrite the loan. This might be for a period as short as 20 days or as long as 60 days. Continue reading...

What is the foreign corrupt practices act?

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act attempts to reduce the possibility that a corporation with American affiliations will engage in the bribery of foreign officials. The act was created in 1977 and has since been amended and expanded several times. The SEC and the Department of Justice are both responsible for enforcing the FCPA, which is a law designed to prevent US-based companies from engaging in corrupt practices abroad. Continue reading...

Where can I get information about private placements?

The short answer is, you can’t. Private placements have no reporting or registration requirements with the SEC or other entities. Sometimes this can be good for investors who enjoy the discretion. But it can also be a shield for unethical business people who prefer to avoid regulatory oversight. There is no source for detailed information about private placements unless you personally know a general partner who can describe to you his project, or who comes highly recommended with a lot of references. If an offering seeks to raise over $2 million in the capital in a year’s time, they are obligated under Regulation D to provide audited financial statements to the investors. Continue reading...

What is the Glass-Steagall Act?

The Glass-Steagall Act was passed in 1933 to place a dividing wall between commercial banking and investment banking. It was in an effort to protect consumers and the economy from the risks of speculative investment banking. JP Morgan and other large institutions were targeted. The act was partially repealed and replaced in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. After 2008, some opined that the repeal of the original act contributed to the financial crises, and they instituted the Volcker Rule, which reinstated part of the original Glass-Steagall act. Continue reading...

What is the Investment Company Act of 1940?

The ‘40 Act, as it’s sometimes called, defined and delineated rules for investment companies, which today are known as mutual funds, investment trusts, ETFs, and so on. The ‘40 Act, along with the Securities Act of 1933, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, have formed the foundation for regulation in the investment industry in the US. The ‘40 Act defines investment companies and stipulates how they are to represent themselves and disclose information about the funds they sell to the public. Continue reading...

What is a foreign fund?

A foreign fund is a mutual fund that invests solely in companies abroad and does not invest in corporations owned in the US. Owning foreign companies can be a very good diversification strategy and is considered a core holding in the portfolio of most investors. Foreign exposure means that if the US economy hits a rough patch, you may have a hedge in the foreign fund if the companies or markets in other parts of the world are not entirely correlated. Continue reading...

What is the Investment Advisors Act of 1940?

The IAA sought to regulate an industry that was deemed to be of public concern and within the Federal jurisdiction, though it did define some state-specific jurisdictions. It defines investment advisors and made laws dealing with fraud, advertising, non-public client information, disclosures, handling of client funds, and so forth. The Investment Advisors Act of 1940 established definitions for the capacity in which an investment adviser and investment advice could be defined, and made rules concerning the standards by which advisors should operate. Continue reading...

What is Investment Advice?

Professional investment advice is highly regulated, and all publications, seminars, correspondence and recommendations between professional advisors and clients must be kept on record and hold up to scrutiny. It is easy to mislead or misinform investors who have not had a chance to educate themselves, and their very livelihoods are at stake if their money is mishandled. Investment advice can be found at the local barber shop, bleachers, and beaches, but those who want to make sure their money is handled correctly will seek professional advice. Continue reading...

What is the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA)?

HERA was passed in 2008 in response to the subprime mortgage crisis that rocked the entire economy and left many Americans underwater on their mortgages. People would need to refinance their mortgages and this bill approved the funding to help that happen. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act did several things, all aiming to help American consumers and lending institutions get out of the recession left by the subprime mortgage bubble in 2008. Continue reading...