Having a "will"

Like the saying goes, there are only two sure things in the world, death and taxes, and since we are covering taxes this month.

Planning your estate, for when you pass on, is a sensitive subject but is of great importance. There are responsibilities you must take to insure that when you are gone, your affairs will be handled to your liking. A “will” is an important legal testament for you after your death. Without a “will” you are considered “intestate,” and the government determines the fate of your estate. A “will” can also avoid any family quarrels that may arise from the state dispersing the estate.

Many attorneys handle estate planning and “will” writing for a nominal cost. Ask questions, as each case is different per individual. It’s important to update your "will" with any new children, marriages, property, or assets you acquire throughout the years.

If you have a spouse it is a good idea to work on your “wills” together. Consider the chance that if the both of you were to die, who would be guardian of your children. Confirm that they are dedicated to take on that responsibility if needed. Don’t feel obligated to choose a family member, just someone you trust.

Your “will” should include personal property and to whom you want to give it to. List guardians of any minor children you have. It should also include the “will’s” Executor and Trustee.

Even if you and your spouse have joint ownership, it is still important for both of you to have a “will”. Some assets cannot be handled through joint ownership. And again, if in the unfortunate incident that both you and your spouse died together, it would make it easier to disperse your property accordingly.

Keep a copy of your “will” in a place that is easily accessible. The original should be kept in the office where it was drafted. A safe deposit box is generally NOT the best place to keep your “will”, as it may require a court order to obtain it.

Many people today also choose to have a “living will”. This includes your medical preferences if something were to happen to you and you were left in a comatose or vegetative state.

Though uncomfortable, your “will” is your peace-of-mind when you leave this earth.

Top 10 Reasons to make a "will"
1. Make the most difficult time for loved ones easier.
2. Name who takes care of your children.
3. Prevent bitter family battles.
4. Simplify the legal process.
5. Name who gets your assets.
6. Prevent confusion.
7. Protect the family home or business.
8. Minimize legal costs.
9.Eliminate cost for administrator bond.
10. Gives consideration to your personal choices.





With the tax deadline just weeks away, many people are still trying to gather their information to hastily file their 2007 return. It's when you are approaching this deadline where you may miss opportunities to maximize your return or where you may make mistakes that can cost you.

Here are some last minute tax tips that will help you file an accurate return.

The biggest mistake that most people make involves numerical errors. Something as simple as a missing or incorrect number in your Social Security number can lead to long delays. Simple math mistakes may lead to the IRS further inquiring about your return, which could lead to additional delays. Here are some things to double check when you are filling out your paperwork to avoid pointless delays.

Make sure that your filing status is correct.

Double check all Social Security numbers, yours, your spouse, and any dependents that you are claiming.

Make sure your reported income is correctly written down. There is a difference in writing down $32,345 and $23,345.

Double-check all your calculations to make sure your deductions and allowances are correct.

Make sure you sign everywhere that is required and you date where needed.

If you are filing jointly make sure your spouse signs where needed.
Make sure all of the required forms are enclosed including your W-2's, 1040's, 1099's, and so on.

Take it to the post office to ensure you have the correct amount of postage required.

When you are fixed for time you may not only make mistakes you may actually miss a tax credit or deduction that you qualify for. Taking the time to thoroughly examine any of the tax credits and deductions can save you a substantial amount on taxable income and may increase your return. If you do find breaks that you qualify for, make sure you record the numbers accurately and double-check them.

If you are running low on time and have access to a secure Internet connection you may want to look into filling out your return online or buying a tax preparing software. The process can be quicker and easier and it may prevent you from making mistakes. Many online programs will catch any errors that are made and require you to double check your numbers before you can continue with the next step.

Tax software will ask you simple questions that will help guide you through the process and may even save you more money or get you more of a return. However, if you have unique tax situations or are having a difficult time filling out your taxes you may want to contact a professional in order to avoid any costly mistakes.





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What's Free and What's Not

If you've spent any time on the Internet you have seen countless banner ads and junk mail promising you free gifts. Of course you were then asked to fill out a survey or such and maybe you spent all the time to fulfill the requirements and still didn't receive anything for your efforts. These types of situations happen everyday to many of us and there are times where you may be able to capitalize on the legitimate offers and avoid the bogus ones.

Believe it or not, there are some actual legitimate companies that will have you fill out surveys to gain important demographic information, and some of them may compensate you for your time and effort. As far as making a lot of money or collecting a lot of great prizes don't expect much.

Many companies will rope you in with flashy headlines and graphics that promise you a free videogame system or $100 gift certificate for example and all they ask in return is a few minutes to fill out a survey. They may even have a fun little game that when you play it will send you to another site and have you fill out additional information.

In many cases even if you fill out the necessary forms you are only entered into a drawing for the prize they were advertising. So you are competing with many other people and probably spent more time than you would have liked.

Other promotions will have you fill out a survey and in order to claim your compensation you need to refer 5-10 friend's email addresses and then have them complete the survey before they will consider sending anything to you.

Many research companies that are legitimate will make you fill out a pre-survey to make sure you fit the desired demographics before they even consider letting you take market research surveys.

Here are some tips to help you avoid the potential scams.

Avoid any offer that requires you to provide them with important sensitive information such as your Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card information. This is a sure sign that your account will be charged at some point.

Read their terms and conditions policies. These are meant to be long and boring so you will avoid reading them and then they can disclose all of the tricky stipulations. Many times you will find that they have reserved the right to sell your personal information to other companies and this is where a lot of the spam that fills your inbox comes from. If you can't find the terms and conditions policies it's best to avoid them all together.

Research the name of the company. If you are already on the Internet, search for the companies name and see what other people have said about them. You will find out very fast if they are a scam or if people are generally happy with their results.

Check with the Better Business Bureau ( They will feature reports which will have any complaints filed against the company. You may even request a report for a company that may not have a profile with the BBB.

Another tip is to setup a free email account through a site like Yahoo! or Hotmail. Then you can use your new email address and not worry about having your primary email address loaded with potential spam from websites.

Contact the company beforehand. They should have contact information somewhere on their page. Send them an email or call their displayed number to ask more questions. If there is no answer from the phone number be leery of the legitimacy of the company.

If you are willing to spend the time to fill out surveys or forward messages on to friends and sort through spam you may be rewarded, just don’t be surprised if promising riches never find their way to you.

Resources: - A great website to research the quality of service from a variety of companies. - Customer generated warnings and complaints about companies




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If You Need More Time

The tax deadline is fast approaching and there are many people who will simply not be ready to file their return by the April 15 deadline.

There are many reasons you may have to file for an extension. You may not have received some important information needed to file your return, or you may just have questions and ran out of time to file. What you need to do now is file for an extension.

The first thing you will want to do is obtain Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Income Tax Return, the official IRS tax extension form. You will need to fill out the form and return it before the tax deadline of Tuesday, April 15, 2007. This will give you an extension until October 15, 2008 to file your 2007 return. You can also file for an extension online and the IRS website listed below.

You will fill out the form and have to estimate what your tax liability is for 2007. There are instructions with Form 4868 that will help you with the figures. This will give you an idea of how much you need to pay if you owe taxes. Along with filing the extension you will need to make a payment. If you can't pay by the deadline then you may be subject to penalties.

If you owe taxes as of April 15 you can still request an extension to file, but you can expect to pay interest and penalties on the amount that you owe.

If you don't file for an extension by the deadline you will receive a Failure to File Penalty. This penalty runs at a rate of 5% of the balance due per month, up to a maximum of 25% of taxes owed.

You will receive a Failure to Pay Penalty if you file for an extension and you owe more than 10% of your final tax liability or $1,000, whichever is more. The penalty rate if 0.5% per month.

You can also expect to earn interest on any tax balance that you have after April 15. The interest rate is approximately at 8%, which is a cheaper rate than most credit card companies, if you were considering paying off your taxes with a credit card.

If you still can't pay your taxes by the extension date of October 15 than you may need to make payment arrangements with the IRS. You will fill out and complete Form 9465 and attach it to the front of your federal income tax return. This form will ask how much you can pay each month and on what day of the month you will make the payment. You will not be able to setup an installment payment plan if you still owe on the previous years taxes however.

Another thing that you will want to consider is the 2008 Economic Stimulus Rebate is based on your 2007 tax filing. If you file for an extension you will not receive your government rebate check (if you qualify) until you file.

For those who happen to be traveling abroad or find yourself out of the country you are not exempt from the tax deadline. They will have to also file for a tax extension.

Qualifying military personnel will be allowed an automatic two-month extension, which gives them until Monday, June 16 (June 15 falls on a Sunday) to file their return. The IRS will still charge interest on any unpaid tax not paid before the April deadline. If they cannot file within the extra two month extension they can file Form 4868 to receive the additional four months to extend it to October 15.

The most important thing to remember is do not be intimidated by your taxes. Even if you know you can't afford to pay your tax bill you will only cause yourself more problems by avoiding the situation.

The IRS is like many other collectors and will be willing to work with you in resolving your situation, but they can't help you if you choose to ignore them. So if you need more time get your Form 4868 filled out and turned in by April 15.

Resources: - You can download and print Form 4868 and search for any other questions you may have.

(This information is not to be taken as tax advice. If you have any questions or concerns you should contact a certified tax advisor.)



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Spring, what a wonderful time of year.

We finally got our taxes filed and I don't know why it took us so long to do it this year. Once we sat down and filled everything out it only took around 45 minutes to get everything done. It's kind of silly because we knew that we were going to get money back this year but still couldn't find 45 minutes to get it done so we could receive our return.

This year went even quicker because we used the same software that we used last year and since not much had changed in our lifestyle we didn't have to change any information. They have a lot of our personal information already stored so we saved a bunch of time by not having to fill out things like our name and address and such. We just have to check to make sure all the information is correct and then go on to the next step, yet another benefit of filing our return online.

Since we know how much we are going to get back we have been discussing ways in which we should spend the money. We will probably put some away in savings like we have always done, but we are going to reserve some of it for some home improvement projects.

Our main objective will be replacing our old worn carpet with nice and easier to maintain wood floors. We have begun shopping around and recruiting help to do it ourselves. We are pretty excited to get this done.

As I was researching car-buying tips I was reminded of my first vehicle, a 1979 Plymouth Volare. Not many of my friends had cars that were older than them; I guess I was just lucky. Looking back I was probably very lucky to avoid any accidents, as I'm sure there weren't many safety features that would have protected me.

I remember one instance where I was turning a sharp corner and almost lost control of my car because the door didn't latch very well and it flew open and I almost fell out of the car. It was a good thing I was wearing my seatbelt. What it lacked in safety features it made up in price. My first car cost just under $400 and lasted me a solid two years before I was handed down the family Ford Tempo. It was a step up and eventually made the trek down to college with me.

However, I still wanted a car to call my own so I saved up for a whole summer of work after my freshman year and right before school started I purchased a 1989 Ford Bronco II that was in seemingly great shape for the affordable price of $3500. I bought it outright as to avoid trying to come up with payments over the school year. My dad was gracious enough to help me out a little and I got a set of new tires that it needed and a couple of tune-ups.

I used the rest of my summer money to put in a new CD player and not because I wanted it but for the fact that the older radio was broke, and by broke I mean it was stuck in the “on” position with the volume turned to the maximum. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't last too long blowing my eardrums out to radio static on the 5 hour drives between home and school

Well, I was driving back home a couple months later and the good old engine blew up on me. After limping it home I took it in and found out that the cost to fix the multiple problems with the engine would be just over $3,000. So my bargain car just doubled in price in less than 3 months.

Over the next 5 years that I owned it I probably invested 3-4 times the amount than what the initial cost of the car was. A lot of repairs came at a time when I had little to no money and found their way onto my credit card. Not to mention that it wasn't the most gas-friendly car and would cost a ton to fill up and didn't run very efficient so it would burn the gas pretty fast.

I finally decided that I had to sell it and I found a very worthy buyer, my younger brother.

If anything I learned from my first cars and spend a lot more time researching potential vehicles and I definitely appreciate the vehicles I have now.

Well, until next month I hope you are enjoying the Spring , good luck and have fun.



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Truth & Misconceptions

Many of you have probably experienced or about to approach the fact that your teenager will be approaching the privileged milestone of driving. Along with a lot of responsibility come more costs for both you and your new young driver. Here are some tips that may benefit both groups when it comes to finding and buying that first car and other costs that comes with teen driving.

I'm sure many of us would love to be able to provide our child with their dream car, but realistically it probably won't happen that way. Most of us have to settle for something that is both affordable and reliable. The first thing you will want to do is involve your child in the selection process. It may be tempting to buy them the car and surprise them with it, but they will learn a lot more by comparison shopping and researching the vehicle themselves. They will have to buy a car on their own someday, so why not get the practice now.

A lot depends on how much money you are planning to spend, or what you or your teen can afford to pay each month. If your teens have a job than they can use some of their income to save for a down payment and to make the monthly payments. For arguments sake we will avoid what money responsibilities will be bestowed upon which party. You just need to decide what you are going to help pay and what your teen is financially responsible for.

Chances are you will have to at least co-sign on a loan if they need to borrow money to buy the car. This will probably be the first time they apply for any type of credit so they will not have enough to obtain the loan on their own. A good idea would be to have your child pay you directly then you pay the bank on time. A late payment can damage the credit of both parties, and this way you know the payment will get there on time.

You won't do yourself any favors buying a cheap junker that is going to spend more time in the repair shop than on the road. You are better off spending a little more up front for a more reliable vehicle than spending a lot more in continuous repairs. However, if you or your teen are quite gifted when it comes to auto repair than you may be able to get a cheaper car that you can work on yourselves.

You also want to consider the safety factor of the cars you are shopping for. Nobody wishes for a car accident but they do happen, and more often with teens. Some older cars may not meet the safety standards of today's vehicles and the up front savings can end up costing you a lot more if the car is in an accident. This applies for insurance as well, as important safety features can save you a few bucks on your premiums.

Make sure you check all possible places for a car. Don't just visit local dealerships and car lots. You can find very good vehicles in the classifieds or from private sellers. Buying from a private buyer saves you a lot in terms of the price mark-ups that come with buying a car from a dealership. However, you may not be able to obtain as much information on a car that you purchase from a private seller.

You can always ask the seller for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and then you can go online to search the information on the vehicle to make sure it is in good condition. You will also want to look for other vehicles with the similar make and model so you know if the price they are asking is comparable to other companies with the same vehicles.

Another thing that you will have to consider is the fact that your insurance rates will increase if you have a teen driver under your policy.

Contact your insurance provider to ask them what you or your teen driver can do to help lower the premiums. They may be able to enroll in a defensive driving class or get a break for having good grades.

Having a teenage driver can be a scary thing, but so can the costs that come with it. Take your time and shop wisely, pass on safe driving tips, and hopefully your teenager will learn a little about the responsibilities that comes with a major purchase.

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