Tax Reform & Estate Planning

Tax Reform & Estate Planning

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

At the time I am writing this article, no one knows exactly what will happen with tax reform. However, it appears that the estate tax exemption will be significantly increased.

Presently, estate taxes are not a worry for the average Alabamian as the exemption limit was increased to $5 million per person under President Obama in 2012. Today, the estate tax exemption is $5.49 million dollars per person. In other words, a person must have over $5.49 million before his or her estate will pay estate taxes. Of course, if estate taxes are an issue, the tax rate is a hefty 40 percent.

If, under President Trump, the estate tax exemption is further increased, it will work to solidify the fact that most Alabamians do not have to actively plan to avoid estate taxes. However, that does not mean that estate planning is not necessary. Tax reform is expected to change other areas such as business taxation and deductions such as medical deductions. These are areas of important interest to business owners and seniors paying for long term care. Planning to pay for long term care and asset protection will continue to be a problem as the baby boomers age and the reality of paying for long term care sets in. Families need to be aware of options and proactively plan the best ways to provide care for seniors.

As tax reform occurs, make sure you check with your estate planning attorney to determine if you need to make changes due to changes in the tax laws and take the time to review your estate plan for any other changes that need to be made. And remember, blended families and families with troubled relationship dynamics will continue to need estate planning to make sure assets are passed in the way that is desired and in the best manner.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Should We Reconsider What “Retirement” Means?

Should We Reconsider What “Retirement” Means?

Money Matters

presented by Vision Financial

An executive transitions into a consulting role at age 62 and stops working altogether at 65; then, he becomes a buyer for a church network at 69. A corporate IT professional decides to conclude her career at age 58; she serves as a city council member in her sixties, then opens an art studio at 70.

Are these people retired? Not by the old definition of the word. Our definition of “retirement” is changing. Retirement is now a time of activity and opportunity. Generations ago, Americans never retired- at least not voluntarily. American life either agrarian or industrialized, and people toiled until they died or physically broke down.

German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck often gets credit for “inventing” the idea of retirement. In the late 1800s, the German government set up the first pension plan for those 65 and older. When our Social Security program began in 1935, it defined 65 as the U.S. retirement age; back then, the average American lived about 62 years. By the 1970s, you retired in your early sixties, because your best years were behind you and it was time to go. You died at about 72 or 75. In between, you relaxed. If you lived to 81 0r 82, that was a good run. Turning 90 was remarkable. Today, baby boomers cannot settle for these kinds of retirement assumptions. This is partly due to economic uncertainty and partly due to ambition. Retirement planning today is all about self-reliance, and to die at 65 today is to die young with potential of one’s “second act” unfulfilled.

One factor has altered our view of retirement more than any other. That factor is the increase in longevity. When Social Security started, retirement was seen as the quiet final years of life; and now, it is seen as a decades-long window of opportunity. Working past 70 may soon become common. Some baby boomers will need to do it, but others will simply want to. Working full time or part time not only generates income, it also helps to preserve invested retirement assets, giving them more years to potentially compound. Another year on the job also means one less year of retirement to fund.

Perhaps we should see retirement foremost as a time of change- a time of changing what we want to do with our lives. According to the actuaries at the Social Security Administration, the average 65-year-old has about 20 years to pursue his or her interests. Planning for change may be the most responsive move we can make for the future.

-Bill Dowell 

Vision Financial Group, Inc.

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc. Investment Advisory services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through ProEquities, Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA & SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. and West Alabama Bank are independent of ProEquities, Inc. Securities and insurance products offered are not bank deposits, have no bank guarantee, are not FDIC insured, and may lose value.

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Young Aviator Calendar Supports Scholarship

Young Aviator Calendar Supports Scholarship

Cool Stuff

Enjoy keeping up with your engagements in 2018 while supporting The Southern Museum of Flight’s Mary Alice Beatty $5000 scholarship for women pursuing careers in aviation and aerospace technology. This year’s recipient will be chosen January 2018. The Southern Museum of Flight Young Aviator’s Bombshell Calendar features young children as early aviation legends like Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers.  Calendars are available for purchase at www.southernmuseumofflight.org/calendar or in the museum gift shop ($20). Future scholarship applicants may apply for the scholarship starting each September at www.southernmuseumofflight.org.

In 1966 Mary Alice Beatty began the aviation collection at Samford University which would develop into the Southern Museum of Flight. With Ms. Beatty’s daughter, Mary Alice Beatty Carmichael, the museum seeks to galvanize her family’s aviation legacy and financially support the achievements of women in aviation and aerospace. The museum is located in East Lake, two blocks from the Birmingham International Airport, at 4343 73rd Street North, 35206 and is dedicated to investigating, preserving, and promoting the rich stories of Southern Aviation and to providing exciting, interactive educational programming for people of all ages. Through collaborative partnerships with the community, the Southern Museum of Flight provides a continuum of exhibitions, displays, and educational services with a sincere devotion to cultural and historical literacy. †

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The Importance of a Good Credit Score

The Importance of a Good Credit Score

Money Matters

presented by Vision Financial

Whether buying a car or purchasing a home, credit has become an integral part of our everyday lives. Having easy access to credit goes hand in hand with having a good credit score, so it’s important to know how to maintain a positive credit score and credit history.

Your credit score is based on your past and present credit transactions. Having a good credit score is important because most lenders use credit scores to evaluate the creditworthiness of a potential borrower. Borrowers with good credit are presumed to be more trustworthy and may find it easier to obtain a loan, often at a lower interest rate. Credit scores can even be a deciding factor when you rent an apartment or apply for a new job.

How is your credit score determined? The three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) track your credit history and assign you a corresponding credit score, typically using software developed by Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). The most common credit score is your FICO score, a three-digit number that ranges from 300-850.

What’s a good FICO score? For the most part, that depends on the lender and your particular situation. However, individuals with scores of 700 or higher are generally eligible for the most favorable terms from lenders, while those with scores below 700 may have to pay more of a premium for credit. Finally, individuals with scores below 620 may have trouble obtaining any credit at all.

Factors that can negatively impact your credit score include a history of late payments, not enough good credit, too many credit inquiries and uncorrected errors on your credit report. If you find an error on your credit report, your first step should be to contact the credit reporting agency, either online or by mail, to indicate that you are disputing information on your report. The credit reporting agency usually must investigate the dispute within 30 days of receiving it. Once the investigation is complete, the agency must provide you with written results of its investigation. If the credit reporting agency concludes that your credit report does contain errors, the information on your report must be removed or corrected, and you’ll receive an updated version of your credit report for free. If you believe that your credit report error is the result of identity theft, you may need to take additional steps to resolve the issue, such as placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report. You can visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website at ftc.gov for more information on the various identity theft protections that might be available to you.

Due to the amount of paperwork and steps involved, fixing a credit report error can often be a time-consuming and emotionally draining process. If at any time you believe that your credit reporting rights are being violated, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at consumerfinance.gov.

-Hal B. Holland, Jr., RFC® 

Vision Financial Group, Inc.

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

 

 

Prepared by Broadridge Communication Solutions, Inc. Investment Advisory Services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.  Securities offered through ProEquities, Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA & SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. is independent of ProEquities, Inc.

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Do You Have Enough Automobile Insurance Coverage?

Do You Have Enough Automobile Insurance Coverage?

Legal Matters

presented by: Frank S. Buck P.C., Personal Injury

Do You Have Enough Automobile Insurance Coverage to Protect Yourself & Your Loved Ones in the Event of a Holiday Car Wreck?

Take Time to Check

You probably have automobile insurance, but do you understand the basics of your policy? The first step in reviewing your automobile insurance policy is to request a copy of the Declaration’s Page from your insurance company which contains details unique to your specific policy. It will list all drivers and automobiles that are insured under your policy as well as the policy number and the period of time that the policy insures you. It also contains the type of insurance coverage purchased, policy limits and deductibles. It is important to meet with your insurance agent to discuss the different types of automobile coverage available to you as well as the cost of each so that you understand your policy.

In Alabama, if you purchase liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory on your policy unless you specifically reject it in writing. You should never reject it. It is essential that in addition to your liability coverage, you also purchase uninsured motorist coverage, which is applicable when the person who caused the car wreck either has no insurance or does not have enough insurance to fully compensate the injured party or parties in the vehicle.

There is a common misconception that this coverage is expensive and unnecessary and therefore, many people chose to reject it. The cost difference of your monthly premium to add this insurance coverage to your policy is not very expensive compared to the benefits of having this coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is the only way you will be compensated if you are injured by a person who failed to keep insurance on their automobile. For example, if you and your family are headed home from church on Christmas Eve and a person who has no automobile insurance runs a red light and hits the family vehicle, causing serious injuries to your entire family, your own uninsured motorist coverage would kick in and compensate your family for your injuries.

A large percentage of Alabamians have no insurance at all so it is very important that you purchase uninsured motorists in case of an accident. Another layer of automobile insurance coverage that is good to purchase and beneficial in the event of personal injuries is medical payment coverage. This coverage applies toward your medical bills when you have been injured in addition to uninsured motorist coverage.

Protect yourself and your family by making sure you have proper insurance. Be sure to check with your insurance agent for insurance rates.

Frank S. Buck, P.C., Attorneys at Law have been offering professional legal services and serving Alabama citizens for over 43 years. We have experienced trial attorneys who have over 100 years of combined trial experience.  You can reach us 24 hours a day at (205) 933-7533.  Please call us for a free consultation.

Read more from Frank Buck at www.BirminghamChristian.com. Click on News/Family/Legal Matters

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$500 College Scholarship Opportunity

$500 College Scholarship Opportunity

$500 College Scholarship Opportunity from Birmingham Christian Family Magazine

Birmingham Christian Family will provide a $500 scholarship to a graduating 2018 senior high school student. Recipient may apply the $500 scholarship to education at any college or university.

Here’s How It Works:

Must be a high school senior living in Alabama who is graduating in the spring of 2018 and planning to attend college fall 2018. Tell us in 400 words or less,

“How will you use your college education to better live out your Christian faith in your community?”

SUBMIT ESSAY TO: bcfscholarship@gmail.com

Include: Name, Mailing Address, Phone Number, High School and Graduation Date

Finalists may also be asked to submit high school transcript and ACT score.

DEADLINE TO SUBMIT ESSAY: January 31, 2018

The winning essay will be published in the March Issue of Birmingham Christian Family magazine.

Special Thanks to our sponsor, Belhaven University!

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Holiday Conversations

Holiday Conversations

Legal Matters

presented by Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning

As families gather to enjoy food and holiday time together, it can be a good opportunity to discuss estate planning issues for parents. Consider your own family situation and decide if some of the following questions will be beneficial for your family to discuss:

  1. Do your children know that you have an estate plan? If so, do they know where to locate the documents when they are needed? Ideally, the person(s) that will be in charge should already have copies of these documents.
  2. Are your estate documents old? Do they need to be updated? Laws change and your documents may not have all the necessary powers that are needed.
  3. If you need to name a person(s) to act on your behalf for financial and medical decisions, have you told this person that you have nominated him or her? Will this person be prepared to act? If not, you may need to reconsider this person as your choice for agent.
  4. Do the children understand your wishes about how to care for you as you age? How do you feel about in-home caregivers, assisted living, memory care and nursing homes? Take into consideration what the family should do if you are no longer able to care for yourself and caregiving in the home is not working. This occurs most often when the person has serious medical needs or is an escape risk due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Giving permission to your children to place you in a nursing home can ease the guilt experienced by children when they feel forced to place a parent in a nursing home for safety issues.
  5. How do you feel about end of life decisions? Do your children know if you want to be kept alive by life support or feeding tubes; or, have you clearly stated you do not want to be kept alive if you cannot recover and have a meaningful life?
  6. Do you believe there will be disputes about your assets at your death? If so, a conversation clearly stating what you wish may help to prevent future disputes. Of course, in some families, this tactic will not work and you must judge your own situation.

These topics are not festive; but, discussing these subjects is crucial to a peaceful aging and estate process. Take time when everyone is available to make sure everyone clearly understands your estate plan; or, make the decisions necessary to create an estate plan.

Melanie Bradford Holliman 

Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC

Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.

2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124

205-663-0281, www.bradfordholliman.com

This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.

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Steps to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Steps to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Money Matters

presented by Vision Financial

Whether they’re snatching your purse, diving into your dumpster, stealing your mail, or hacking into your computer, they’re out to get you. Who are they? Identity thieves. You may never be able to completely prevent your identity from being stolen, but here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Check yourself out. Review your credit report periodically. Check to make sure that all the information contained in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity. You may get your credit report for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Secure your number. Your most important personal identifier is your Social Security number (SSN). Guard it carefully. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless you’ll need it. The same goes for other forms of identification (for example, health insurance cards) that display your SSN.

Don’t leave home with it. Carry only the cards and/or checks you’ll need for any one trip. And keep a written record of all your account numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place–at home.

When you toss it, shred it. Before you throw out any financial records such as credit or debit card receipts and statements, cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive in the mail, shred the documents, preferably with a cross-cut shredder.

Keep a low profile. The more your personal information is available to others, the more likely you are to be victimized by identity theft. To help minimize your exposure:

  • Stop telephone calls from national telemarketers, list your telephone number with the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry by registering at www.donotcall.gov
  • Remove your name from most national mailing and e-mailing lists, as well as most telemarketing lists by registering with the Direct Marketing Association at www.dmachoice.org
  • Remove your name from marketing lists prepared by the three national consumer reporting agencies, register online at www.optoutprescreen.com

Take a byte out of crime. Try to avoid storing personal and financial information on a laptop; if it’s stolen, the thief may obtain more than your computer. If you must store such information on your laptop, make things as difficult as possible for a thief by protecting these files with a strong password–one that’s six to eight characters long, and that contains letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols. And when it comes time to upgrade to a new computer, remove all your personal information from the old one before you dispose of it. Overwrite the hard drive by using a “wipe” utility program. The minimal cost of investing in this software may save you from being wiped out later by an identity thief.

-S. Joey Elmore 

Vision Financial Group, Inc.

4505 Pine Tree Circle, Birmingham, 35243

205-970-4909, www.vision-financialgroup.com

 

Prepared by Broadridge Communication Solutions, Inc. Investment Advisory Services offered through Investment Advisors, a division of ProEquities, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.  Securities offered through ProEquities, Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA & SIPC.  Vision Financial Group, Inc. is independent of ProEquities, Inc.

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Serving Veterans in Our Community

Serving Veterans in Our Community

Special Feature

Are you a veteran or know someone who is? The Alabama based non-profit Still Serving Veterans (SSV) was founded in 2006 to specifically assist veterans, at no charge, with securing employment.

SSV offers in person employment counseling to Veterans, transitioning military and members of the Guard and Reserves at its offices in Birmingham, Huntsville and Phenix City. SSV also has a virtual employment team that assists clients across the United States. Last year, SSV conducted over 10,000 one-on-one free counseling sessions and through SSV, 737 Veteran clients were hired resulting in 34.9 million in new salaries and benefits to clients. “Our approach to employment counseling is holistic: we help our clients not just during military-to civilian transitions but during life transitions, engaging one-on-one and person-to-person, not via webinars or chat rooms,” explains Al Wood, the Regional Director of SSV, Birmingham.

“My work with SSV helped me translate my military skills into civilian competencies which boosted by confidence.” said U.S. Army Veteran Jurann H. “Being unemployed for two months, I began to lose faith and doubt my abilities, but I am grateful for the SSV team which was proactive in following up with me even on unsuccessful interviews and helped me identify how to be better prepared for the next opportunity.” Another Still Serving Veterans client, Janice T, U.S. Air Force, adds, “Finding a job is a full-time endeavor. Many of the same jobs and companies that I applied to previously were opportunities that SSV sent me on a daily basis. The key difference this time was that I had an advocate on my side that was able to connect me with a recruiter; a real person. It was a game changer when SSV connected me to a real person, not only did I get an interview, I was offered the job.”

To learn more visit www.ssv.org or call 1-866-778-4645. †

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