June 23, 2009

DON’T GET JILTED BY A RUNAWAY BRIDE OR GROOM

Summer weddings are de rigueur, and everyone aspires to walk down the aisle without a glitch.  However, news stories of the runaway bride or groom have prompted many brides and grooms to ask what they need to know before they say “I Do.”

Insure Your Options – Wedding insurance will not cover a change of heart if you or your betrothed gets cold feet.  However, if for some unforeseen reason your best-laid plans fall through, wedding insurance may cover your costs and afford you some protections.  For example, many policies will cover you if key people essential to the wedding are unable to attend due to illness or injury.  Wedding insurance will also generally cover inclement weather that prevents the nuptials from taking place, or prevents the majority of guests from attending.  Be careful, stormy skies and light rainfall usually will not qualify as a reason to cancel.  Insurance may also cover you if the caterer does not arrive with the food, if the photographer is a no show, if the wedding reception site burns down or goes out of business, if your wedding dress gets ruined or lost, or if some mishap occurs at the reception.  If you do opt to insure, do your homework and weigh whether the coverage justifies the expense of the policy.  Read the policy critically, and focus on the fine print.

Vow To Open Up Both Your Heart And Checkbook – Couples are not always in simpatico when it comes to money.  Often, we do not realize how disparate our views and priorities are until we are faced with a major financial decision.  To avoid sparks that are far from romantic, communicate, learn attitudes, and ask questions.  Delaying money talks may only compound your problems.  Questions to embrace include: 1) what assets do you have; 2) do you want to put everything in joint names, or do you want to maintain separate accounts; 3) who will handle the checkbook and household bills; 4) will you both have the freedom to spend as you please, or will you have to answer to each other each time you make a purchase; 5) if there is only one wage earner, will the non-earning mate have access to the checkbook, and does the earned income belong to both of you equally; 6) do you have a plan for putting money into savings, and will you set aside savings for emergencies, and towards education and retirement?

Do Not Become Indebted – Just because you merge hearts does not mean that you have to assume debt.  Do you know if your mate carries a lot of debt, such as student loans, car payments, or credit card bills?  If you do not have a handle on their financial picture, now is the time to take a snapshot.  Debt can hamper your joint financial goals, such as applying for a mortgage, or obtaining a loan together.  Any joint credit accounts that you have, such as auto loans, credit cards, and mortgages will show up on both of your credit reports.  If your mate does have credit problems, it may be a wise idea to keep all of your accounts and assets separate.  Even if they do not have a problem with debt, it is sensible to have some credit and assets in your own name, since not every relationship works out.  You always want to ensure that you have a credit history of your own, and a degree of financial independence.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to Elisha Hoffman Abrams, Esq. at elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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June 19, 2009

LEGALLY INFORMED CONSUMER ALERT

Did you know that the $250,000 limit on FDIC insurance has been extended until December 31, 2013?  This extension may be helpful if you are contemplating investing in a long-term CD.  To find out more about FDIC insurance, go to the FDIC website at: http://www.fdic.gov or call 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342)

Please send your consumer and legal questions to Elisha Hoffman Abrams, Esq. at elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address:www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


June 18, 2009

Will John Edward’s Return Be 100 Percent Honest?

According to his Interview with the Washington Post (6-18-09), John Edwards is not ruling out a political future.  In his interview, he claims that his campaign message when he was running for president “…was real 100 percent real.”  If only his honesty was 100 percent real…..

John Edwards’s statement  about his affair ”but being 99 percent honest is no longer enough” speaks volumes about his bastardized notions about honesty. One cannot be a little bit dishonest. Being 99 percent honest should never be enough. That 1 percent of dishonesty could represent the most devastating lie of all.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to Elisha Hoffman Abrams, Esq. at elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address:www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


June 17, 2009

CASH IN WHEN YOUR BANK MERGES

This frothy and ever-changing economic imbroglio that we are all facing, highlights how mega-mergers are de rigueur in the world of high finance.  Many of us have dealt with, or are facing the prospect of our bank merging.  For the uninitiated, this wave of mergers can be frightening, confusing, disruptive, and costly.  To avoid a fiscal fiasco, you should invest some time, and learn the basic facts and figures about mergers, checking accounts, deposits, and banking products.  This is knowledge that you can “TAKE TO THE BANK.”

Switching banks may not be the answer when your bank merges.  Making a move will entail filling out a slew of new forms, moving account balances, ordering new checks, and dealing with different bank managers and representatives.  There can also be high transaction costs associated with making a switch.  With any change in bank ownership, you must be vigilant, since bank rates and terms often will change.  The key to whether you stay or leave your bank should hinge on the quality of service provided, your banking needs, and the fees charged by your newly merged banking institution.  Do the proper checks and balances, and ask questions of your bank, which will cost you nothing, and may even protect your bottom-line.

Consider Asking The Following Questions:

>Will there be a change in bank fees?  For example, will the minimum balances on your accounts be raised?  What will happen to your on-line banking account and privileges, and is there a monthly access fee?

>Will new checks and account numbers be issued?

>Will your banking branch be closed, and if so, what nearby options are

available?

>Will teller service still be available, and will these services be free-of-

charge?

>Will ATM fees be increased?  Does the new bank have ATM’s, and are you charged each time you use another bank’s ATM?

>Will phone numbers and addresses for account services, balance inquiries, and other services change?

>Will the bank’s privacy policy change?

>If you have questions and problems regarding the merger and the effect on your account, will there be someone at the bank to address your concerns, or will you be required to call a toll-free number?

Protect Your Interest

For your added protection, there are key steps to take which will help to insure your account’s security. During any merger, accounting errors may occur, so you should scrupulously scrutinize your bank statements.  Keep copies of every transaction, and save your ATM receipts until you confirm that the money was placed in the proper account, or the correct amount was debited.  You also have legal protections and rights that require your bank to disclose all fees, interest rates, annual percentage rates, and the bank’s privacy policy.  Be on the lookout for these disclosure notices.  These notices are easy to overlook.  They often are stuffed in with your account statements, or they will look like junk mail. If you are dissatisfied or concerned about the merger, or with the way that your account is being handled, make your views known, and assert your rights.

If you do opt to switch banks, comparison shop, and calculate your banking needs and checking account habits.  Factor in how many banking products and services you really use.  For example, do you use ATM Machines, do you take advantage of on-line banking?  You should also take stock of, and tally up the fees and penalties that you typically pay for monthly account maintenance, ATM’s, and bounced checks.  To find the best rates in your area, log on to http://www.bankrate.com.  You can also assess the financial soundness of a particular bank or credit union at Bankrate.com’s “Safe and Sound” rating guide.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to Elisha Hoffman Abrams, Esq. at elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


June 16, 2009

SUCCESSFULLY COUPLE LOVE AND FINANCES

Having a heart to heart with your mate about finances allows you both to learn each other’s economic circumstances, limitations, expectations and goals.  Without this knowledge, your relationship is bound to suffer both emotionally and economically.  To avoid undue surprises, and unnecessary problems, now is the time to communicate, and to take steps at opening up both your hearts and wallets

VOW TO OPEN UP BOTH YOUR HEART AND CHECKBOOK

Couples are not always in simpatico when it comes to money.  Often, we do not realize how disparate our views and priorities are until we are faced with a major financial decision.  To avoid sparks that are far from romantic, communicate, learn attitudes, and ask questions.  Delaying money talks may only compound your problems.  Questions to embrace include: 1) what assets do you have; 2) do you want to put everything in joint names, or do you want to maintain separate accounts; 3) who will handle the checkbook and household bills; 4) will you both have the freedom to spend as you please, or will you have to answer to each other each time you make a purchase; 5) if there is only one wage earner, will the non-earning mate have access to the checkbook, and does the earned income belong to both of you equally; 6) do you have a plan for putting money into savings, and will you set aside savings for emergencies, and towards education and retirement?

DON’T BECOME INDEBTED

Do you know if your mate carries a slew of debt, such as student loans, car payments, credit card bills, etc?  If you do not have a handle on his/her financial picture, now is the time to take a snapshot of how much your partner owns, and how much your partner owes.  Your mate’s debt can hamper your joint financial goals, such as applying for a mortgage, or obtaining a loan together.  Any joint credit accounts that you have, such as auto loans, credit cards, and mortgages will show up on both of your credit reports.  If your mate does have credit problems, it may be a wise idea to keep all of your accounts and assets separate.  How you choose to own and title your property and other assets, establishes what you can do with your property, how protected it is from creditors, and where it goes when you die.  Even if your significant other does not have a problem with debt, it is sensible to have some credit and assets in your own name, since not every relationship works out.  You always want to ensure that you have a credit history of your own, and a degree of financial independence.  If you do want to merge your finances, consider having a joint account for living expenses and joint purchases, and separate accounts for personal purchases.

JOIN HEARTS AND MINDS

When it comes to love and money, you must use both your hearts and minds, and exercise common sense.  Consider developing a plan for long-term financial goals, like purchasing a home, raising a family, paying for college, and planning for retirement.  You also want to create a budget, and establish a realistic plan for saving and investing toward your goals.  You should ensure that you have sufficient health, life, and disability insurance to provide your partner with some financial security in the event of a death, illness or injury.  You want to be sure to exchange information with your partner about the location of important papers in the event of an emergency.  If you are both employed, check your insurance policies to make sure you are not paying for duplicate coverage that you do not need.  You should also prepare an estate plan that includes preparation of a will, a living will, and a durable power of attorney.  Joining hearts and assets can also have tax implications that you may want to discuss with a tax advisor.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


June 13, 2009

TAKE INTEREST IN REFINANCING

Is refinancing your mortgage in your best interest?  Interest rates and mortgages are plummeting, and hitting all time lows.  This trend makes refinancing de rigueur.  Refinancing can be a worthwhile option.  However, it sometimes does not make good financial sense, and it is not in everyone’s best interest.  Before you clean house, and restructure your finances, take the time to crunch the numbers, to ask the right questions, and weigh the pros and cons that invariably accompany this important refinancing decision.

CRUNCH THE NUMBERS

Refinancing your mortgage is not a cost-free endeavor.  When you refinance, you are in essence applying for a new mortgage.  This entails paying most of the same closing costs and other fees that you paid to obtain your original mortgage.  Costs that you may incur include: application fees, loan origination fees, points (a point equals one percent of the loan amount), appraisal fees, title search, credit check, and lawyer’s services.  You also want to ascertain whether there is a prepayment penalty on your present mortgage if you pay it off early.  The mortgage documents that you have for your existing loan will state if there is a penalty for prepayment.  The law requires that the mortgage lender furnish you with a written disclosure statement of the costs and terms of the financing before you become legally obligated for the loan.  Before you agree to sign up for a new mortgage, it is essential that you carefully review this disclosure statement, and understand all of the credit terms, conditions, implications, and fees.  If there is an application fee, ask the lender whether the fee is refundable if you opt not to take the loan, or if you are not approved for the loan.

DO PRELIMINARY HOUSEKEEPING

Always take the time to shop around, and compare and contrast annual percentage rates, interest, points, and fees.  Obtain information from a variety of sources.  Different lenders may quote you significantly different prices.  If you have Internet access, http://www.bankrate.com offers a list of rate comparisons.  Do not be afraid to negotiate the terms of your loan.  Most things are negotiable, and it costs you nothing to ask for better rates and terms.  You also do not want to overlook your current mortgage lender.  Oftentimes, in order to keep you as a customer, they will offer you lower refinancing fees, and better rates than their competitors.  After doing your homework, if you determine that refinancing is not the best option, ask your lender whether you may be able to modify the terms of your existing mortgage instead of having to refinance.

TAKE INTEREST IN SAVING

Refinancing may be a wise idea if you desire to get out from under a high interest rate loan; if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage and you want to move to a fixed-rate in order to have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what the mortgage payment will be over the life of the loan; or if you want to build up equity more rapidly by converting to a loan with a shorter term.  For example, you may want to change your thirty-year mortgage to a 15-year term.  You want to take into account how long you intend to live in your home.  It makes best sense to refinance if you intend to stay in your house long enough to recoup the additional fees that it will cost to refinance.  As a general rule of thumb, refinancing may be worth your while if the current interest rate on your mortgage is at least two percentage points higher than the prevailing market rate.  Caveat, there are a myriad of considerations other than the interest rate that should dictate whether refinancing is the right choice for you.

Please send your consumer and legal questions to elisha.abrams@att.net, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46, Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address: www.legallyinformed.com

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.