Important Notice

To ensure compliance with the requirements imposed on us by IRS Circular 230 (31 C.F.R. 10.33 – 10.37, et. Seq.), we inform you that to the extent the information on this page mentions any federal tax matter, it is not intended or written and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding Federal Tax penalties.

The information contained in this website is for informational purposes only and is not and does not constitute legal advice on any subject. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting based upon this information without seeking your own professional legal counsel.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Put Estate Planning on Your List of New Year's Resolutions

As 2010 approaches and you are planning resolutions for the New Year, why not consider putting estate planning on your list? If you have not completed any planning before, this is a great time to get organized and plan for your family's future. If you have completed an estate plan, but have not reviewed it in a long time, now is a great time to dust it off and have it reviewed by an estate planning attorney.
We all resolve to live healthier and fitter by eating right and visiting the gym. Why not resolve to have your financial house in order, as well?
Please accept my wishes for a wonderful, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health Care Power of Attorney, Part 2 - The Elements of the HCPA

What are the elements of the Illinois Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney for Health Care ("HCPA")?
1.  An explicit appointment by you of your desired attorney-in-fact ("agent"). This designated individual will have the power under the document to "make any and all decisions for [you] concerning [your] personal care, medical treatment, hospitalization and health care..." They also will have the power to "require, withhold or withdraw any type of medical treatment or procedure, even though [your] death may ensue..." Finally, they will also be able to "authorize an autopsy and direct the disposition of [your] remains..."
2.  You also have the right to explicitly limit any of the powers conferred upon your agent, like denying them the ability to initiate a type of treatment that may conflict with your religious beliefs.
3.  A section is provided whereby three separate statements regarding life-sustaining treatment are set forth. You may, but are not required to, choose one of the statements if it matches your wishes regarding such treatment. You are also able to customize or create your own unique statement.
4.  The HCPA is generally effective upon signing and terminates upon death, revocation, or replacement. However, you may specify a specific start date and/or a specific end date, if you wish. This is useful if the HCPA is only intended to be active for a limited amount of time (like during a vacation).
5.  You may also designate successor agent(s) if your designated agent in paragraph 1 "shall die, become incompetent, resign or refuse to accept the office of agent or be unavailable..."
6.  If a guardianship is required for you, you may also designate your agent as the person whom shall become your guardian of the person.
7.  The form is signed and witnessed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Health Care Power of Attorney, Part 1

What if you are in an accident and are unable to communicate your wishes regarding your own medical care to the medical staff or your family? Who is entitled to make decisions for you? How will they know what you want? Would you want to be kept alive by artificial means if there is no reasonable chance of your recovery?
These are extremely important and difficult questions and unique to each individual's own set of circumstances. If you have completed no planning for this, Illinois has its own Health Care Surrogate Surrogate Act (755 ILCS 40/1-55) which lists, in order of priority, whom may make decisions for you. However, why leave this to the statute and potential disputes among your family regarding what they think your wishes might be? The easiest way to avoid this problem is to have an Illinois Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney for Health Care, otherwise commonly referred to as a Health Care Power of Attorney ("HCPA").
This document enables you to designate your choice for the person that you wish to be your health care agent, the person that may speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. This completely removes any question of your intent as to whom you wish to act on your behalf to protect you during a time of crisis. You may also designate one or more successor agents that may step in if your primary named agent is unable to act.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which will detail the elements of the HCPA.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Time to Spend Some Money

Small business owners that are calendar year, cash-basis, taxpayers should consider paying all of their outstanding bills this month so that a deduction may be taken on the 2009 returns. You may even pay bills now that are not due until after January 1st and take the deduction for 2009.
If a small business anticipates needing to purchase equipment in early 2010, why not buy it this month if it will qualify for the Section 179 deduction? This will allow a deduction for tax year 2009 and will help boost the economy a few months earlier!
Likewise, individuals that itemize deductions should consider making any charitable contributions, paying off medical bills and making any state estimated tax payments (that would otherwise be due in mid-January) before the end of the year. This will enable the deduction for 2009.
As always, please consult with your tax professional to make sure these strategies makes sense for your own tax situation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pay Attention to Lender Closing Costs

I usually do not get a call to handle a real estate purchase until after the client has signed the contract and has chosen a lender. This is fine, but when choosing a lender, it is very important to know exactly what you are being charged. Real estate closings may involve numerous types of fees from the lender. When choosing a lender, always demand a written Good Faith Estimate of Closing Costs ("GFE"). This form will detail the fees that are being charged by the lender and an estimate of fees for title, attorney and recording fees.
Save this form and bring it with you to closing. The lender fees should not change at all from the time you received the GFE at application to the time you are sitting at the closing table. If they did change, you should have received a call and an explanation from your loan officer well before closing.
New laws and lender requirements force lenders to be more upfront and transparent with their fees and charges. Just make sure that you are paying attention.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are Your Affairs in Order?

The best time to do a will or your estate planning is when you are not under any pressure to get it done. Too many of my clients are coming to see me when illness has already affected their lives. Too many of the people coming to see me are the spouses and family members of deceased individuals that never took the time to set up their estate plan.
Consider seeing an estate planner now, when it is not a necessity, but just a smart way to take care of business for you and your family.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

IRS Issues New Standard Mileage Rates for 2010

Per the IRS website:

The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2010 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

50 cents per mile for business miles driven
16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The new rates for business, medical and moving purposes are slightly lower than last year’s. The mileage rates for 2010 reflect generally lower transportation costs compared to a year ago.

The Basics of Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document used by someone (a "principal") to appoint an agent to act on their behalf. Generally there are two different types of powers of attorney: property and health care. This post will discuss powers of attorney for property.
The principal authorizes the agent to perform certain tasks regarding the finances of the principal. The power of attorney may be as broad or as narrow as the principal desires.
A power of attorney is only effective during the lifetime of the principal. It is ineffective when the principal dies.
An agent has a fiduciary duty to the principal and must handle the assets subject to the power of attorney solely for the benefit of the principal. Self-dealing is not allowed and is a breach of the duty owed to the principal.
If provided for in the power of attorney document, the agent may be compensated for their time.
Powers of attorney may be effective upon signing or triggered at the occurrence of a condition, like the determination of in the incapacity of the principal.
As long as the principal is competent, powers of attorney may be amended or revoked.
Many financial institutions insist that a power of attorney for property not be too old (or "stale"), as they are more comfortable that a more recent power of attorney is less likely to have been revoked by the principal.
Bottom line: Make sure you have an updated power of attorney for property.

Home Buyer Credit

A new law that went into effect on November 6th extends the first-time homebuyer credit to April 30, 2010 and expands the eligibility requirements for purchasers.
The new law extends the deadline for qualifying home purchases to April 30, 2010. Additionally, as long as the buyer has a contract by April 30, 2010, the buyer has until June 30, 2010, to close on the purchase.
The maximum credit amount remains at $8,000 for a first-time homebuyer.
However, the new law also provides a “long-time resident” credit of up to $6,500 to others who do not qualify as “first-time homebuyers.”