Passage of SECURE Act anticipated by year-end

Estate planners have been watching Congress closely, waiting to see what will happen with the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. The legislation, designed to boost Americans’ retirement savings, has implications for individual savers and for those planning to pass an inheritance to the next generation. The SECURE Act passed the House of Representatives in May with a nearly unanimous margin of 417-3. The bill is considered to have strong bipartisan support and advocates are optimistic it will pass by year-end. If it doesn’t pass via a unanimous consent vote in the fall, pundits suggest it will…..

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Appraisals no longer on certain home sales

Starting in October 2019, some home sales under $400,000 no longer require an appraisal. Previously, appraisals were not required on home sales of $250,000 and below. But federal regulators just approved a rule that will raise the threshold for the first time in 25 years. Loans that are partially insured by, or eligible for sale to, a government agency such as the FHA, VA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will still require an appraisal, per each agency’s rules. Generally, that means loans affected by this rule are those held in a lender’s private portfolio or those sold to secondary market…..

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FHA reduces cash-out refinancing limits

The Trump administration is limiting the amount of cash borrowers can withdraw from their homes under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) financing program. As of September, the FHA now limits cash-out refinancing to 80 percent of the home value. Previously, borrowers could take out up to 85 percent of their property’s equity. The new FHA rule brings the limits in line with standards already in place at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Veterans Administration (VA) loans also face new cash-out limits. After Nov. 1, 2019, cash-out refinances with loan-to-value ratios exceeding 90 percent will no longer be eligible for Ginnie…..

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Will home equity affect financial aid for your college student?

With home values rising and college application time upon us, you may want to look at how home equity could impact financial aid decisions at your son or daughter’s school of choice. Nearly every school requires families to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which asks for basic income and asset information. However, more than 200 institutions nationwide also require the College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile to determine aid. The CSS questionnaire includes specific questions about home value and equity. The website features a free “home equity financial aid calculator” to help you determine how a…..

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Home-flipping seminars under scrutiny

Have you heard those radio ads for house-flipping seminars endorsed by HGTV stars? Did the sales pitch sound too good to be true? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) thinks so. The FTC filed a complaint against Zurixx, a company that hosts real estate seminars endorsed by “Flip or Flop” stars such as Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead and “Love It or List It” host Hilary Farr, and others. According to the FTC complaint, Zurixx makes a number of claims that are “false” or “unsubstantiated.” In promoting free seminars, Zurixx says its team of experts will teach consumers how to…..

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Challenging a quitclaim deed

The next-door neighbors convinced your aunt to sign over the deed to her house. Your stepfather’s long-lost son came to visit and walked away with a quitclaim deed to the family cottage. What do you do when you suspect someone did something “fishy” to get his or her name on a deed? A quitclaim deed is a legal tool that allows one person to release the interest they have in a piece of property. In most states, quitclaim deeds are difficult to overturn. To do so, you need to be able to prove the document was invalid in some way,…..

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How home selling has shifted in the past decade

If you haven’t sold a home in the last 10 years, you might be surprised by how much trends and expectations have changed over the years. Here are some leading factors changing the home sale market today: Real estate sites: More than 90 percent of homebuyers use the internet as one of the primary ways to find a home, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). With the popularity of online tools like Zillow and, many buyers are searching the market on their own and narrowing their preferred selections before they speak to a real estate agent. Photography…..

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Drafting a power of attorney that reduces the chances of abuse

A power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning documents you can create, but it is also one that can be misused. While it isn’t possible to entirely prevent the possibility of abuse, there are steps you can take in drafting the document to greatly reduce the chances. A power of attorney allows a person you appoint — your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” — to act in place of you —the “principal” — for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated. In that case, the person you choose will be able to step in and take…..

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Four Social Security myths debunked

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Social Security system. Here are four common myths and the facts about how Social Security works and its future prospects. Myth 1: You should collect benefits early. This is one of the biggest Social Security myths. Beneficiaries can start taking retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you take Social Security between age 62 and your full retirement age (which ranges from 65 to 67, depending on your year of birth) your benefits will be permanently reduced to account for the longer period you will be paid. On the other…..

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Don’t make the mistake of not signing up for Medicare supplemental coverage

If you are turning 65 and enrolling in Medicare as a healthy senior, do you really need to sign up for Medicare’s supplemental coverage as well? Not signing up initially could be very costly down the road. With all the deductibles, copayments and coverage exclusions, basic Medicare pays for only about half of all medical costs. To augment Medicare’s coverage, you can purchase a supplemental, or “Medigap,” insurance policy from a private insurer. There are 10 Medigap plans, each identified by a different letter of the alphabet and each offering a different combination of benefits, allowing purchasers to choose the…..

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