Are you ready for 2010?

“If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you don’t do it, and it won’t happen.”
– Desiderius Erasmus

2009 is drawing to a close….

Have you done everything you can to protect yourself in 2009 from the IRS tax hounds?

I’m not sure if you know this, but the federal government is gunning after small business owners and families to ensure they collect as much revenue as possible this year. It’s a simple function of the fact that revenues for the government are way down. That includes good families, like yours, unfortunately.

If families don’t develop a plan now, many will be faced with a big surprise when they have their taxes prepared.

And to make things worse, there are significant changes on the horizon which promise to increase that tax burden even more.

It’s not too late to make some last-minute changes to your situation. Call us by the 30th…you won’t be disappointed.

Now, before we get to this week’s Strategy Note, a few interesting news items

Filed under: Another celebrity tax scandal: The Black-Eyed Peas
http://www.thewrap.com/ind-column/black-eyed-peas-lawyer-business-manager-failed-pay-their-taxes-11780
I can’t admit to actually knowing much about this band, but apparently they’re pretty famous. Enough so, that they were all over the “tax news” wires last week for failing to pay taxes. This one seems to be the fault of poor management, but the lesson is true even for families who don’t pay a business manager–have someone competent manage your taxes!

Filed under: Health Care Reform is coming
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5B83ZG20091221
Well, this was just a procedural vote, but over the weekend in DC, our Congressional leaders inched closer (in a seemingly decisive move) to passing the much-discussed health care legislation. I’m going to reserve comment until the final bill is passed…but needless to say, the tax implications will be significant for families and business owners. We’ll keep you in the loop.

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Now…to this week’s Strategy Note…one of the significant tax items under discussion has been a repeal of the “estate tax”. It’s still unclear what will occur, but it reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while–estate planning for families. It’s a significant “missed base” for many people, often because of misconceptions about it. So, I’ve got a two-part series on “Estate Planning Myths” which might clear up some of the confusion. And I also know that the holiday season can be painful for families who are processing the loss of loved ones in years past, so this isn’t at all intended to chafe those wounds. Instead, I hope you can see it as an opportunity to make proactive steps to lessen any future impact of losses.

Let me know your thoughts…and if you’d like to be put in touch with someone who can help you get this important process completed on your behalf!

“Real World” Personal Strategy
Part 1: Common Myths About Estate Planning

As of this writing, it’s a fact that almost 60% of Americans don’t have a basic will, and that’s a big problem.

One of the big reasons that most families don’t yet have this in place is because of some incorrect thinking about whether it’s right for them, or if it’s even necessary. And sure, some people just haven’t gotten around to creating a will or trust. Others think they don’t need an estate plan because they’re not rich. I’ve even heard from people that they don’t want to put it in place because when they do, it’s sending some sort of death wish into the universe (or some such).

Well, I’ll start by busting THAT myth: Preparing a plan for your succession will not speed your demise. Easy enough.

But here’s the problem–if you continue without an estate plan, you could leave a legacy of bad feelings and attorneys’ fees.

But, I’ll move off of that easy one, and speak to some of the more common misconceptions out there. I’ll start with two this week, and address three more in a future Note.

1. Only rich people prepare estate plans.

Do you own ANYTHING? Because if so, you need a will. You see, a will allows you to designate who will receive your property should anything happen. Continuing without one ensures that your assets will be distributed under the terms of your state’s “intestate succession” laws. That means your money and property could end up with family members you haven’t spoken to in years, instead of who you’d really like to see control your assets.

I won’t go into all of the different components of a will, trust, health care directive etc., as my purpose here is to emphasize that failing to plan is simply a decision to trust your assets to government bureaucrats.

Even if you think your situation is pretty straightforward, you may feel more comfortable hiring a lawyer to guide you through the process.

2. Everything goes to your spouse, if something happens.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. We deal with clients from different states around the country, and state laws vary. In fact, in most states, if you continue without a will (intestate), your inheritance will be divided among your spouse and your children. In New York, for example, when someone dies intestate, the spouse gets the first $50,000 of the estate and what’s left is divided 50-50 among the spouse and the children.

You can imagine how this could create all kinds of problems, particularly if your spouse was financially dependent on you or you have children from a previous marriage.

I’ll send a few more in the weeks ahead, but I hope you can already see that things are not always as we “think”.

I hope this helps. To your family’s financial and emotional peace…

Kathy BylkasAre you ready for 2010?