Articles

Fallen Tree Damage—Who Pays?

As a homeowner, are you responsible for the damage caused by a tree on your property that hits your neighbor’s home or other insured structure, such as a garage or shed?

In most cases, the answer is “no.”

When such damage occurs to your neighbor’s home due to forces outside your control, e.g., weather events, your neighbors may have to file a claim with their insurer to receive a reimbursement for the damage a down tree or branches cause.

There is one exception, however.

If it is determined that the tree damage stems from your negligence (e.g., dead limbs that you refused to cut down, or you chose to trim your tree as a weekend project), then the neighbor’s insurer may come after you to recover their loss—a process called subrogation.¹

You may want to check your policy or speak to your insurance agent to ascertain if your homeowners policy covers your liability in cases of negligence.

When Neighbors Sue

Some neighbors may seek to bring legal action against you, though often that is unnecessary.

First, determine what municipal laws are in place to cover such instances. Generally speaking, you are not responsible unless you knew, or should have known, about the danger. Proving what you knew or should have known can be difficult and costly in a court of law. It typically benefits both parties to arrive at a compromise that avoids an expensive legal process.

 

  1. The information in this material is not intended as as legal advice. Please consult legal or insurance professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.

Bitcoin 101

If you look up “currency” in Merriam-Webster, you will find it defined as “the money that a country uses” and “the quality or state of being used or accepted by many people.”

Recent news stories involving a new form of currency, bitcoin, have sparked the interest of many individuals.

How Bitcoin Works

Bitcoin has emerged as a digital currency that exists virtually. It is a “cryptocurrency” which uses cryptography to manage the creation of units, administer use, and provide security. Bitcoins are “mined” by solving complex mathematical problems. Ownership of bitcoins is anonymous.

Bitcoin is different than the currency we use in three fundamental ways.

  1. Bitcoin operates without a central authority (e.g., a central bank). The currency is managed by a peer-to-peer technology that is responsible for all functions, including issuance, transaction processing, and verification.
  2. Unlike the national currencies, bitcoin exists primarily as a digital currency, though bitcoin can be made available in physical form, if desired.
  3. The number of bitcoins is limited to 21 million. New bitcoins are created at a rate of 25 every 10 minutes (a rate which is reduced by 50% every four years).

Bitcoins can be purchased on a bitcoin currency exchange and transferred to a digital bitcoin wallet. It should be noted that bitcoins have been subject to sharp and rapid changes in value, rendering their value highly unpredictable at any given time. Its commitment to a limited production is fundamental to its objective of retaining value, unlike other national currencies, which may be devalued by printing excess supply to meet economic and political ends.

Once you have a bitcoin balance, you may begin to purchase goods or services from providers who accept them. However, bitcoin has limited acceptance, though it has found some appeal to parties engaged in illegal activities because of its anonymity.

Whatever the eventual public acceptance is of a digital currency, bitcoin is proof that a currency can be anything as long as it is used and accepted by people to transact business.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.

Critical Estate Documents

Financial Documents

Joint Ownership Durable Power of Attorney Living Trust
What does it do? Enables you to own property jointly with another person Authorizes someone to handle legal and financial decisions if you become incapacitated Holds your belongings until your death
Can it authorize someone to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to communicate? Generally, no check Generally, no
Can it specify how you want your belongings transferred after your death? check
But only those belongings owned jointly
Generally, no check
Is it private? check check check
When does it go into effect? As soon as joint ownership is recorded Either immediately or upon a specific trigger event (such as your incapacity) When the document is signed and the trust is funded
Does it require court involvement? No No No

Fast Fact: Without a Will. About 66% of Americans admit they don’t have a will.
Source: Everplans, September 16, 2015

Healthcare Documents

Living Will Power of Attorney Power of Attorney for Healthcare
What does it do? Provides specific instructions about medical care and artificial life support Authorizes someone to handle legal and financial decisions on your behalf Authorizes someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf
Can it outline your medical wishes if you are unable to communicate? check Generally, no Not generally, but it does authorize someone to make medical decisions on your behalf
Can it authorize someone to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to communicate? Generally, no check Generally, no
Duration No expiration; can be revised or revoked at any time Depends on specifics in the document; can be revised or revoked at any time Depends on specifics in the document; can be revoked or revised at any time
Is it private? check check check
When does it go into effect? Upon your incapacity Either immediately or upon a specific trigger event (such as your incapacity) Either immediately or upon a specific trigger event (such as your incapacity)

Tip: Delegation. When choosing someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, consider naming an individual who is trustworthy, level-headed in a crisis, and can make themselves available on short notice.

Note: Power of attorney laws can vary from state to state. An estate strategy that includes trusts may involve a complex web of tax rules and regulations. Consider working with a knowledgeable estate management professional before implementing such strategies.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.

Pay Yourself First

Pay Yourself First

Each month you settle down to pay bills. You pay your mortgage lender. You pay the electric company. You pay the trash collector. But do you pay yourself? One of the most basic tenets of sound investing involves the simple habit of “paying yourself first,” in other words, making the first payment of each month into your savings account.

Americans’ saving patterns vary widely. And too often, short-term economic trends can interrupt long-term savings programs. For example, the U.S. Personal Savings Rate jumped from 3.5% to nearly 8% in May 2008 during the housing and banking crisis. It then rose and fell sporadically as the economic environment appeared to stabilize.1

The Genius of Pay Yourself First

Anyone who’s ever managed their own finances knows that saving can be a challenge. There seems to be an endless stream of expenses that demand a piece of each month’s paycheck. Herein lies the genius of paying yourself first: you get the cream at the top of the bucket, and not the leftovers at the bottom.

The trick is to prioritize. Make it a point to put your future first. At first, saving may mean a small lifestyle change. But most individuals want to see their net worth increase steadily. For them, finding ways to save becomes more of a long-term commitment than a short-term challenge.

Putting Your Money to Work

What will you do with the money you save?

If retirement is your priority, consider taking advantage of tax-advantaged investments. Employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s, can be a great way to save because the money comes out of your paycheck before you even see it. Also, as an added incentive, some employers offer to match a percentage of your contributions.2

For money you may want to access before retirement, consider placing the funds in a separate account. When the balance hits your target, you may want to move the money into investments that offer the potential for higher returns. Of course, this may mean exposing your money to more volatility, so you’ll want to choose vehicles that fit your risk tolerance, time horizon, and long-term goals.

In the pursuit of growing wealth, sound habits can be your most valuable asset. Develop the habit of “paying yourself first” today. The sooner you begin, the more potential your savings may have to grow.

Ups and Downs

The U.S. Personal Savings Rate historically has fluctuated as Americans are influenced by the short-term economic environment.

Ups and Downs

Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2017, for the period January 1, 2007 through January 1, 2017. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2017
  1. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2017
  2. Distributions from 401(k), 403(b) and most other employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Generally, once you reach age 70½, you must begin taking required minimum distributions.
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.