Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2015 Scams to Watch Out For

As long term readers know, once a year I write an article exposing scams and con artists. This year we explore three scams of 2015. By no means are these the only ones out there as con artists never cease to amaze in their abilities to reinvent past scams and come out with new ones. If you don't want to read the detail you can get the scam summary at the beginning of the article.

2015 Scam Summary:

The three scams and their variations discussed below are:

1. The phone scam.
2. The lunch or dinner scam.
3. The job scam.

You can read more about these scams below which I encourage as the detailed descriptions also contain resources on how to avoid each of these scams. Here are the details:

1. The phone scam.

This is a scam that has been around for decades and comes in almost infinite varieties. Simply phone scams are those that call you on your phone and try and get you to buy crap or give up your personal data like credit card or bank account.

Protecting yourself is easy, just hang up the phone and get on the Do Not Call list. Here is a great article on what not to do:

What Not to do on the phone:

2. The dinner or lunch scam.

The lunch or dinner scam sucks you in with a free meal. However nothing is EVER free. After these supposedly free meals you get hit with a hard sell and sometimes heavy and illegal pressure. While we all like a free meal, the best way to avoid the lunch or dinner scam is to not accept that invitation

Sometimes a free meal is just that. So how do you know which "free" meals to avoid? If you are asked to make a buying decision on ANYTHING as a result of the meal, then you should just say no and tell the promoter to never bother you again and to remove your name from their list. Examples include: pre-paid professional services  investment scams  and cell phone scams

3. The job scam.

This scam and it's varieties lure you in with the promise of a job, typically one you can do from your own home. These scammers target single parents with the promise of easy supplemental income. Here are some tips on how to avoid these scams: Online job scams and Spotting a job scam

Scams take two players: 1) The con artist and 2) The victim. Since few con artists will read this article, let's focus on how to avoid being the victim. First and most important is the willingness to say NO! For some of us that is easy but for others, especially the elderly, infirm, disabled or sick that is not as easy. Scams on seniors have been on the increase for years and the reason is that seniors are vulnerable.

Second is our natural impulse that attracts us to getting something for nothing. The problem is that there are truly very few things that have no cost at all. We all know this, officials in every community in the country preach this and yet we still seek that something for nothing. The best general rule is that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Here are some more resources to protect yourself:

Tips from law enforcement

Avoiding Internet Scams

Avoiding Email Scams

Avoiding financial scams

Protecting yourself from con artists and avoiding being scammed is much like preventing forest fires: only you are your best protection and only you can actually prevent being scammed. Please read these articles and apply these tips to your own life. Exercise your ability to say know, to turn down that free lunch or dinner and to understand that offers to good to be true really are.

If you know or are a senior there are some additional steps to consider. First is understanding that seniors are targeted by con artists. What the FBI says about seniors Seniors and the elderly are among are most vulnerable citizens. Here are some good resources for seniors seeking to protect themselves and family members seeking to protect an elderly loved one:

Protecting yourself as a senior

Protecting an elderly loved one

Let me know your thoughts and please join our conversation. Protecting ourselves and loved ones is a big job and I hope that this article and resources will help you avoid scams and con artists. Thank you.

Bernie Greenberg

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Estate Planning for Your High School Graduate? Yes!

So your high school graduate is off to college or soon to be? Congratulations and best wishes to your graduate!

In addition to all the things you have thought of and stressed over, have you also remembered the estate planning documents that are a must for everyone over the age of 18? Chances are you need several additional items you may not have thought of.

Why estate planning for your graduate is important:

This article is a good discussion of the basic estate planning documents any high school graduate should have. These are:

1. Durable Power of Attorney.

2. Health Care Durable Power of Attorney.

3. Advance Directive or Living Will.

4. HIPAA Release.

Article on estate planning for your graduate.

In case reading the article is too tedious, here is a short video where I discuss estate planning for your graduate:

 Make sure your graduate has what they need to be successful and safe at school.

Let me know if you have any questions about obtaining these documents for your graduate. You can call me at 303-688-3535 or email me at: bgreenberg@kgattys.com

You can also visit our firm's website at: www.kgattys.com

Thank you for your interest.

Bernie Greenberg

Friday, September 4, 2015

The New Estate Planning: It's All About the Family!

What is Estate Planning Really About?

Are you like 70% of the folks out there who don't like to think about or hear about wills, trusts and estate planning? Well, if you are, don't fret. Many people believe that estate planning is only for the rich. Not only is that false, wills and trusts actually do more to protect people who don't have millions of dollars and property.

Why estate planning is not for the rich folk!

As the preceding article from one of the top companies in the world reveals, estate planning is about your family. Creating certainty, protecting your spouse and loved ones, protecting children, it's ALL about your family.

So how did the myth start that estate planning was only for the rich? It dates back to when the federal exemption against the federal estate tax (some call it the "death tax") was very low. Do you know the history of this exemption? The exemption is used by the government to define when YOU are wealthy (rich) enough to have to pay estate tax when you die.

The History of the Federal Estate Tax:

Thanks to the good people at Cook & Cook, here is the history and it's shocking.

History of the federal estate tax exemption and rates:

Let's start with the year 1978, the year I started practicing law. The federal estate tax exemption (the definition of wealthy) was a mere $134,000! If your estate was greater than $134,000, you paid federal estate tax and if you look at the chart, the marginal rate of that tax was a horrifying 70%! As you can see from the chart, the exemption has increased over time, not even coming to close to keeping up with the economy or inflation.

So here is where the myth about estate planning started--we were all concerned as estate planners with reducing or avoiding this tax, the highest tax ever imposed on citizens of our country. When the exemption was low, the focus was estate tax planning. Most people were so incensed about the estate tax that they didn't pay proper attention to the real reason for estate planning--protecting the family.

The Federal Estate Tax in 2015:

So where are we today? In 2015, the exemption against the federal estate tax is $5,430,000 and is scheduled to increase in 2016 to approximately $5,515,000! Now that's more like what someone would expect as a real definition of wealth.

With the exemption against the estate tax at this level, the old, historical focus on estate tax planning is less relevant for most families. As you might think, far fewer families have estates over $5,430,000 than that old exemption of only $134,000. Because the exemptions are at historically high levels, the focus for most families is on protecting the family.

Most common is the desire to protect the spouse, then children and then other family members. I have always believed that protecting family should always be the driving reason for a client's estate planning and this focus should be reflected in documents such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney.

Good estate planners never let the tax tail wag the family dog! That's a good rule of thumb to remember when you think about your estate plan. Just because taxes are not a concern doesn't mean that we don't care about our families. We do and here are three short videos that illustrate just how important this is.

Estate planning for young families:

Estate planning for children over 18:

Estate planning for blended families:

So when someone says to you, "I don't have enough money to do a will or estate plan" share this article with them so they can have the full story.

Let know your thoughts on this and please join our conversation by commenting or sending me an email. Thank you for your interest.

Bernie Greenberg