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Tip of the Week
Estate planning is an important component of your overall financial plan, regardless of your age, income or size of your estate. If you own property and have heirs, you need to think about estate planning. To do the job well, you'll need the help of a team of professional accredited estate planners such as a certified public accountant, a lawyer, insurance professionals and financial planners, and trust officers.
Professional fees can add up if you don't manage time well, so it's important to prepare for every meeting with your estate planning team members. It's a great time to think about how you can maximize the value of the time you spend with your estate planning team.
The NAEPC offers this advice on how to have productive working relationships with your planners:
- Before meeting with a professional, gather all your personal and financial information, make lists of your current financial advisers, assets and liabilities, collect financial documents such as retirement plans, life insurance policies, property deeds, partnership and business agreements and your income tax returns for the past two years.
- Write out your own personal goals, concerns and ideas. Identify people whom you would like to have inherit your property when you die, and specify what you would like to leave each. Make note of any special needs or situations, such as a dependent child or a spouse whose disability will prevent him or her from working. Identify people you would like to name as guardian for minor children, as well as an executor for your will.
- Seek out the right professionals. You'll find any number of people who profess to be estate planners, but NAEPC designees complete rigorous educational requirements for estate planning and adhere to a strict code of ethics. To find an accredited estate planner, visit the association's website, www.estateplanninganswers.org.
- Bring your notes and all the information you've gathered with you to your meeting. Being prepared can save you hours of billable time. Discuss your overall goals and find out how each professional can help you meet them. Ask for a list of the specific documents he or she will prepare for you.
- Realize that estate planning is an ongoing process. You should update your estate plan every few years or any time you experience a major life change, such as the birth of a child, marriage, divorce or death of a spouse or parent.
- Finally, once you've prepared for your loved ones' financial future, don't forget to take care of their emotional well-being. Estate plan documents are dry and technical, and they won't communicate your emotions to those you leave behind. Consider writing a letter to your spouse and family expressing your final thoughts and feelings. Keep the letter with key financial paperwork and make sure your loved ones know where to locate these items.
The BBB offers the following tips to help people decide where to direct donations in order to assist storm victims and their families:
- Be cautious when giving online. Watch out for spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you are seeking to give to a charity organization involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity's website.
- Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity. Be careful when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other websites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations and check if they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
- Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fundraising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.
- Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. See if the charity's website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Watch out for charities that don't already have staff in the affected areas as they may not be able to provide assistance quickly.
- Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider "avoiding the middleman" and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or at least check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to actually provide aid.
- Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations. In-kind drives for food and clothing-while well intentioned- may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need, unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
For more consumer tips and charities you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.
According to CNBC, here are the cities with the most affordable homes:
5. Modesto, Calif.
4. Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.
3. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.
2. Dayton, Ohio
1. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.
Number to Know
$3.83: Average price of a gallon of gas ahead of the Labor Day weekend, a record high for the time of year.
Ahead of the announcement of a new Kindle Fire, Amazon announced that it had sold out its first-generation tablet.
GateHouse News Service