Charitable giving under the new tax law

The new tax law makes it harder to claim a tax deduction for charitable contributions. Charitable giving should not be only about getting a tax break, but if you want to reap a tax benefit from your contributions, there are a couple of options. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in December 2017, nearly doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples. This means that if your charitable contributions along with any other itemized deductions are less than $12,000 for the tax year, the standard deduction will lower your tax bill more than itemizing your deductions. For most people, the standard deduction will be the…..

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Use a lawyer for Medicaid planning

Many seniors and their families don’t use a lawyer to plan for long-term care or Medicaid, often because they’re afraid of the cost. However, an attorney can help you save money in the long run and make sure you’re getting the best care for your loved one. Instead of proceeding based on what you’ve heard from others, doing nothing, or enlisting a non-lawyer referred by a nursing home, you can hire an elder law attorney. Here are a few reasons you should at least consider this option: No conflict of interest. When nursing homes refer families to non-lawyers to assist in preparing the Medicaid application, the preparer has dual…..

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Prenups as an estate planning tool

As more and more people marry more than once, prenuptial agreements have become an important estate planning tool. Without a prenuptial agreement, your new spouse may be able to invalidate your existing estate plan. Such agreements are especially helpful if you have children from a previous marriage or important heirlooms that you want to keep on your side of the family. A prenuptial agreement can be used in a second marriage when both parties have children. For example, suppose you get remarried and both you and your spouse have children from a prior marriage. You want your house to pass to your children, but without proper planning and an agreement in place, your spouse could inherit the house and then…..

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Prevent mistaken Medicare denials

Have you or a loved one been denied Medicare covered services because you’re “not improving”? Many health care providers are still unaware that Medicare is required to cover skilled nursing and home care even if a patient is not showing improvement. If you are denied coverage based on this outdated standard, you have the right to appeal. For decades, Medicare applied the so-called “improvement” standard to determine whether residents were entitled to coverage of particular care. The standard, which is not in Medicare law, only permitted coverage if the skilled treatment was deemed to contribute to improving the patient’s condition,…..

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Is it legal to put a camera in a nursing home room?

Technological advances have made it easier to stay connected with family. That includes the ability to install cameras in a loved one’s nursing home room, but these so-called “granny cams” have legal and privacy implications. The benefit of the surveillance camera is the ability to monitor your family member’s care. Being able to observe care from afar can give family members peace of mind that their loved one is being well taken care of, and can also serve as evidence if abuse is found. Even if there is no abuse, cameras can be helpful in learning if caregivers are using improper techniques that may injure a resident……

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Bias continues even with online mortgage lenders

It would seem that online mortgage lending would reduce discrimination against minorities, but a new study from University of California, Berkeley, found otherwise. The study showed that both in-person and online lenders charge black and Latino buyers higher interest rates. People of color and other minorities end up with up to half a billion dollars more in interest than white home buyers, the study found. The surprising thing is that it’s the technology itself that’s causing the bias. The authors of the study said that one of the main reasons for the discrimination is “algorithmic strategic pricing.” That is what…..

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Rise in home prices slowing down

The most recent data on home prices in 20 U.S. cities showed the slowest rise in four years, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index of property values. The data for the 20 cities covers eight months in row as of November 2018. The index increased 4.7 percent year over year. In the prior month, the rise in prices over the prior 12-month period was 5 percent. Despite the slowdown in the rise, all 20 cities in the index had increases year-over-year. The highest increases were 12 percent in Las Vegas and 8.1 percent in Phoenix. The weakest gains were…..

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Where one-third of millennials get the money for a down payment

It’s no secret that the housing market is competitive, especially in big metropolitan areas. Winning a bidding war for the home you want can mean making a bid above the asking price, too. Where do young, millennial homeowners find the money for a down payment? According to a recent Bank of the West survey of more than 600 adults ages 21-34, one-third of homeowners either withdrew from or took a loan against their retirement savings. The study also found that one in five millennials plan to do the same when they buy their first home. Borrowing or withdrawing money from…..

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Avoid problems with your mortgage application: Tips for applicants

There are all sorts of stories out there about predatory lenders being sued for fraud against homebuyers. On the other side of the coin, however, a study by CoreLogic found that fraud by mortgage applicants is also rising. According to the study, approximately 0.92 percent of all mortgage applications during the second quarter of 2018 included fraudulent elements, more than in the second quarter of 2017, when an estimated 0.82 percent of applications did. Even a small statement on your application that simply isn’t true could land you in big legal trouble. The federal crime of mortgage fraud brings with…..

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Protect assets, retain access with a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust

A Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT) is an estate planning tool that can be used to lock in the current estate tax exemption while still allowing a certain degree of access to trust assets. SLAT basics A SLAT is an irrevocable trust created by one spouse for the benefit of the other. The gift removes assets from your estate but allows your spouse to access the trust. It provides you with indirect access to the funds while protecting assets from both creditors and estate taxes. Here are the key benefits of creating a SLAT: Avoiding probate: Assets in a SLAT…..

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