Category: FINANCIAL ARTICLES

Budgeting Basics: Part I
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Budgeting Basics: Part I | Sallie Mullins Thompson

Many small business owners seek resources and information for both business and personal budgets. I am pleased to share guidelines and best practices for both types of budgets. Below, I discuss the development of household/family budgets; in Part II, I will discuss business budgets. Why is it important to have a budget? Here are a few common reasons:

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Relax and Enjoy the Summer! There Will Always be Storms to Weather
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Relax and Enjoy the Summer! There Will Always be Storms to Weather | Jeff Holland

The market, like almost everything in life, has cycles and seasons. But unlike weather patterns, the market’s seasons are not predictable. Snow laden terrain and short days can be depressing; but, as long as we know that spring is on the horizon, the winter’s challenges are more easily accepted. The same is true for the market—expecting the market’s cycles and seasons will help you to manage your counterproductive emotions, particularly anxiety.

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Late Notice is Not Always Late!
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Late Notice is Not Always Late! | Evan Schwartz

A case was just decided in January of this year by the highest court in the state of Maryland, which is known as the Maryland Court of Appeals. What the Maryland high court did was require that the insurance company, National Union, cover an animal rights group’s portion of a $16M settlement for a RICO violation against two high-profile circus operators.

Two of the circus operators (including Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus) alleged that the animal rights activists paid off witnesses to testify about their mistreatment of African Elephants in order to shut down the circus performances. These large circus act companies sued multiple animal rights groups alleging Federal Civil RICO violations—allegations that ultimately resulted in an almost 16-million-dollar settlement.

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Insurance Company Reservation of Rights Letters—Better be Specific!
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Insurance Company Reservation of Rights Letters—Better be Specific! | Evan Schwartz

A recent case decided by the Supreme Court of South Carolina, Harleysville Group Insurance v. Heritage Communities Inc., exemplifies an important lesson for lawyers on both sides of the insurance recovery spectrum—particularly concerning reservation of rights letters sent by insurance companies.

In the case, two Myrtle Beach condominium complexes were built with major construction defects. A lawsuit was brought against a series of developers, resulting in multi-million dollar verdicts. Harleysville Group Insurance was one of the insurance companies that was going to be partially responsible for paying out these verdicts—indemnifying its insured, Heritage Communities.

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“Someday” and “Maybe” Numbers: The Challenge of Dividing Retirement Assets Part 3
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“Someday” and “Maybe” Numbers: The Challenge of Dividing Retirement Assets Part 3 | Rachel Alexander

{4:00 minutes to read} In Part 2, we discussed marital vs non-marital retirement assets and how some of those assets require an actuary or other expert to figure out the “present value” before the asset can be divided.

We now arrive here: How do folks equitably divide these assets? Particularly because the present value doesn’t actually exist in a divisible form. It’s a theoretical, projected number!

Below are some popular options:

QDRO (NJ QDRO Overview)

A court order goes to the plan administrator, directing it to divide the asset in the way set forth in the order. This method avoids any tax consequences pursuant to this division at the time it is made.

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“Someday” and “Maybe” Numbers: The Challenge of Dividing Retirement Assets – Part 2
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“Someday” and “Maybe” Numbers: The Challenge of Dividing Retirement Assets – Part 2 by Rachel Alexander

{4:00 minutes to read} Just because we determine a value for something does not mean we divide it!Often spouses are concerned that the mere mention of an asset puts it on the auction block and forfeits their exclusive rights to it. Not so!

Getting a comprehensive picture and value of ALL assets is an important part of creating a solid settlement agreement. An agreement should even specify assets whose separate nature is undisputed, with the other party waiving any rights, title or interest thereto.

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Via Four, A Trusted Financial Partner
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Via Four, A Trusted Financial Partner | Jeff Holland

When you partner with Via Four, you are not only gaining decades worth of experience from our advisors, you are also getting the security of our national brokerage custodians. According to Wikipedia, a custodian is a specialized financial institution responsible for safeguarding a firm’s or individual’s financial assets and is not engaged in “traditional” commercial or consumer/retail banking, such as mortgage or personal lending, branch banking, personal accounts, or automated teller machines.

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Do Your Current Work Conditions Match Your Expectations?
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Do Your Current Work Conditions Match Your Expectations? | Fabienne Swartz

{3:32 minutes to read} After graduating from college, women approach their emergent careers with vigor and determination—eager to advance, become breadwinners, and pursue their passions. Somewhere along the career trajectory, many women also yearn to start a family.

Career aspirations and the drive to start a family are not mutually exclusive. Yet, corporate America seems to think they are, making it challenging for women to have the best of both worlds. For many women, working leads to inner satisfaction. Without it, a sense of self is lost, which makes the “mommy track” of the corporate world so devastating for women who want to work—and work hard.

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Audits Are Down, But Don’t Get Your Hopes Up
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Audits Are Down, But Don’t Get Your Hopes Up | Nawrocki Smith

For six straight years, the number of audits conducted by the Internal Revenue Service has decreased. In 2016, the rate at which people were audited fell 16% from the previous year, with about 0.7% of all taxpayers facing higher scrutiny of their returns. Digging deeper into the statistics, one can see that the higher the taxpayer’s income, the greater the chance of being audited. For example, taxpayers earning over $200,000 per year were audited at a rate of 5.8%, meaning they were over eight times more likely to be audited than the population as a whole.

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Is Now a Good Time to Invest? Yes!
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Is Now a Good Time to Invest? Yes! | Jeff Holland

{3:00 minutes to read} Everyday, the stock market has an expected rate of return. This means that on the day that you invest, you have the potential to earn an expected rate of return. If you wait for that “perfect” time and hold off, you miss capitalizing on the market’s rates of returns. When it comes to investing, you’re either in or you’re out.

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3 Crucial Estate Planning Documents
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3 Crucial Estate Planning Documents | Peter Gordon

{4:40 minutes to read} Why should you have a living will, healthcare proxy, and power of attorney? People are living longer and enjoying fuller lives. However, it is possible that because of a sudden illness or injury, you may be unable to talk to a doctor to make decisions about your treatment or direct your financial decisions. To plan in advance, it is important to prepare a few simple legal forms.

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CLE Course: Recent Litigation and Legislation in Insurance Law
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CLE Course: Recent Litigation and Legislation in Insurance Law | Evan Schwartz

In addition to my law practice, I have the honor of serving as a faculty member on LawLine.com, which is the largest online, continuing legal education (CLE) provider in the United States. I have 11 lectures available, some of which I delivered on my own, and some with the help of my partner, Matthew Conroy. Those lectures are available for purchase and viewing on LawLine. Today, I want to talk to you about two lectures that Matthew Conroy and I will be giving on May 1st. The first part of the series is titled, “Recent Litigation and Legislation in Insurance Law.” We will offer an update for the legal profession on the trends in insurance coverage litigation.

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Divorce and 401(k)s and IRAs – Part 3
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, Financial Planning & Insurance, MEDIATION, on .
 Divorce and 401(k)s and IRAs – Part 3 | Ada Hasloecher

{4:54 minutes to read} In Part 1 and Part 2 of BJ Mann’s article on retirement plans and divorce, we talked about retirement funds in general and the differences between 401(k)s and IRAs. Now to the topic of dividing the plans. No matter how these plans are divided (equally or some other sharing arrangement), the math must be done first.

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The Power of the Purse: Financial Abuse in Marriage
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The Power of the Purse: Financial Abuse in Marriage | Fabienne Swartz

{5:05 minutes to read} In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of knowing what you are signing when filing a joint tax return. While devastating, and potentially life altering, tax fraud is only one facet of financial abuse. In a large context, financial abuse can be found in every demographic, in every socioeconomic stratum.

Put simply, financial abuse is the attempt of the abuser to control the victim by various financial means. Victims can be male or female but trend heavily toward stay-at-home moms who gave up their highest earning years to raise their children.

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Mental and Nervous Limitations in Long-Term Disability Policies
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Mental and Nervous Limitations in Long-Term Disability Policies | Evan Schwartz

Many, if not all, group long-term disability policies contain a mental and nervous limitation, as do some individual disability insurance policies. Typically, the limitation stipulates that the policy will only pay the insured for disabling psychiatric conditions for a finite period of time. Usually, the period is 24 months, but it can be shorter or longer depending on how the policy is written. It is important that disabled individuals fully understand the limitation including:  •What it states; •What it applies to; and •What it does not apply to.

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Fraud and Employee Theft 101
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Fraud and Employee Theft 101 | Nawrocki Smith

What is fraud? In criminal law, fraud is intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual. Fraud is a crime, but it is also a civil tort under common law. There are two main types of fraud:

1. Occupational Fraud - The use of one’s occupation for personal enrichment through the deliberate misuse or misapplication of the organization’s resources or assets.

2. Consumer Fraud - Schemes devised to defraud individuals, like identity theft, Ponzi schemes, phishing schemes, and advanced-fee schemes.

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Divorce and 401(k)s and IRAs – Part 2
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Divorce and 401(k)s and IRAs – Part 2 | Ada Hasloecher

{3:54 minutes to read} In Part 1 of this series, BJ Mann reviewed the three main types of retirement funding. In Part 2, we move on to the important details for the mainstay of the typical retirement plans: 401(k)s (and their sisters) and IRAs in all their permutations. These do not address pensions, which will be discussed in a future post. Of particular interest is the difference between qualified and non-qualified plans, which require different sets of instructions for dividing.

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Insurance Policies Part 1: Personal
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Insurance Policies Part 1: Personal | Nadine Riley

{4:54 minutes to read} Oftentimes, the demands of everyday living make us forget about protecting our most valuable asset, ourselves. We protect our identity, our homes, vehicles, phones, appliances, etc. without thinking twice about it. Our day is filled with the to-dos of today, the plans for tomorrow and the regrets of yesterday, but when was the last time we slowed down to think about life’s what-ifs?

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Before You Sign a Joint Tax Return, Be Aware of What You’re Signing!
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Before You Sign a Joint Tax Return, Be Aware of What You’re Signing! | Fabienne Swartz

{3:55 minutes to read} Tax time is a great prompt—for some people the only prompt—to think about finances. I have found that many of my clients actually know very little about the marital finances, trusting instead that their spouse will make appropriate decisions. Unfortunately, women who do that are putting themselves at risk for a variety of reasons:

  • If your spouse were to die: The consequences of your spouse dying without a will are grave. It could result in a lengthy probate process while you are forced to make due without any money from the estate. That is why it is essential that you know…

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Divorce and 401Ks and IRAs
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, FINANCIAL ARTICLES, Financial Planning & Insurance, on .
 Divorce and 401Ks and IRAs | Ada Hasloecher

{3:18 minutes to read} My colleague and fellow mediator, BJ Mann, who practices in Rochester, NY, has written as comprehensive, cogent and concise a primer on the basics of retirement plans for divorcing couples as I have ever read. She graciously allowed me to post it on my site for you, dear reader. After all, why reinvent the wheel? I’ve broken it down into 4 posts for easier digestion.

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Trying a Long-term Disability Case: The Big Gamble?
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Trying a Long-term Disability Case: The Big Gamble? | Evan Schwartz

{3:35 minutes to read} Having participated in a number of long-term disability trials over the years, I can tell you that the trial process is an exhilarating experience—for an attorney—but is a very daunting and painful process for you, the claimant. It is extraordinarily expensive, time-consuming, and high-risk. A long-term disability trial is an all-or-nothing proposition. In most cases, you either win and get all your back-benefits and benefits paid into the future, or you lose and get nothing.

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Ensure that Your Portfolio Is a Winner: Diversify!
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Ensure that Your Portfolio Is a Winner: Diversify! | Jeff Holland

{1:30 minutes to read} According to Nobel Prize winner and economist Harry Markowitz,diversification is the only “free lunch” in economics. The smartest investors diversify—by doing so, you drastically minimize risk and the potential sabotage of your financial future. By diversifying your assets, you’ve ensured a “win.” The Kentucky Derby provides a fitting analogy; all the horses are great, but their prowess can vary from race to race, from year to year. By diversifying, you bet on all of the horses—and you always win! (And hopefully you will sell some of the winning “horses” and buy some of the losing ones knowing that they will be winners one day).

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Tax Court Finds That Doctor’s Cut of Surgery Center Income Not Subject to Self-Employment Tax
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Tax Court Finds That Doctor’s Cut of Surgery Center Income Not Subject to Self-Employment Tax | NawrockiSmith

In Hardy v. Commissioner, an important, recently decided tax case, the Tax Court found that the share of income received by a doctor due to his ownership in a surgery center may not be subject to the self-employment tax. Dr. Hardy was a plastic surgeon specializing in pediatric reconstructive surgery. He bought a minority interest in a surgery center run through an LLC. The opinion in the case held that he did not have self-employment income on his share of the center’s income. It found that Hardy had no meaningful non-surgery related service responsibilities with the surgery center and never managed it, having no day-to-day responsibilities there.

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Website Map for Sallie Mullins Thompson
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Website Map for Sallie Mullins Thompson | Sallie Mullins Thompson

In this announcement of my new website at www.smtcpapllc.com, I want to let you know what’s available and how to navigate! Please spend some time browsing through the new website, as I think you will find it to be a comprehensive resource for gaining knowledge about various aspects of your financial life.

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Top Tips to Prepare for Tax Season!
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Top Tips to Prepare for Tax Season! | Peter Gordon

Tax day is drawing near. For our clients, we ensure their tax information is properly organized throughout the year so that when we prepare their tax information report, everything is properly categorized. With this done, we pass their report over to their individual accountants, making it a much more efficient process and often resulting in lower accounting bills.

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Why You Need a Lawyer Before Filing an LTD Claim
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Why You Need a Lawyer Before Filing an LTD Claim | Evan Schwartz

3:40 minutes to read} Many years ago, before 1995, a professional could file a long-term disability claim on their own and likely get paid. After 1995, the industry changed dramatically. Many companies went out of business in the long-term disability space, claims were being denied and terminated like wildfire, and litigation spawned all over the country on a massive basis; a huge industry shakeup happened. About ten years later, long-term disability insurers started selling these policies again, but they changed their claims management model.

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Pursuing A Bad Faith Claim Against Your Insurance Company
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Pursuing A Bad Faith Claim Against Your Insurance Company | Evan Schwartz

{3:20 minutes to read} An insurance company engages in bad faith when it unreasonably denies, delays, terminates or underpays your claim. For example, if the insurance company refuses to pay for your homeowner’s claim or your business interruption claim, or to compensate you for harm caused due to water or fire damage, these denials may have been made in bad faith.                             Bad faith conduct happens frequently. There is an analysis that requires a skilled attorney to help you determine whether there is a possibility that the insurance company has engaged in bad faith conduct, based on how they have treated your claim.

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How Life Insurance and Divorce Can Impact Retirement Planning – Part 2
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 How Life Insurance and Divorce Can Impact Retirement Planning – Part 2 | Ada Hasloecher

{3:54 minutes to read} The scenarios Steve Kobrin outlined in Part 1 of this series are something to which most married couples don’t give much thought until the time is upon them to make the decision. At that time, it may be too late to make the choice they would prefer. If they were to take Option #1 (and who wouldn’t want that – you receive the maximum amount the plan would pay out on a monthly basis), the participant is probably at an age where it is unlikely they could obtain a substantial and affordable life insurance policy to cover the difference, were they to die once in payout status. Therefore, they may likely opt for Option #2.

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Deductibility or Long Term Care Insurance and the 2017 Limitations
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Deductibility or Long Term Care Insurance and the 2017 Limitations | Ronald A. Fatoullah

By: Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq. and Elizabeth Forspan, Esq.

{4:22 minutes to read} Many people wisely choose to purchase a long-term care insurance policy which will pay for all or some of the costs of long-term care services, such as care at home or in a skilled nursing facility. It is important to understand that the government provides certain incentives, in the form of tax deductions and credits, for those who purchased and continue to pay for such policies. There are tremendous added tax benefits that individuals with such policies must understand before “tax time” rolls around.

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