Why would I contest a Will or a Trust?   If your loved one’s Will or Trust is not what he or she really intended, there are corrective actions you can take so that your loved one’s wishes are properly carried out. Who can contest a Will or a Trust? A beneficiary of a Trust, a devisee of a Will, or someone who would have inherited if the deceased died Intestate (without a Will/Trust) has standing to contest a Will or a Trust. Under Michigan Law, spouses, children, grandchildren, parents and in certain circumstances, siblings, are considered interested persons, if the deceased died Intestate. What consequences should I be concerned with if I contest a Will or a Trust? Most Wills and Trusts have clauses in them stating that any interested person or beneficiary who contests the Will or the Trust will forgo their rights in the same – commonly...
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  By Jonathan Arnold Manager, Inlanta Mortgage Grand Rapids http://www.MichiganHomeLoanSolutions.com You've heard the Grand Rapids Real Estate market is on fire. You've been scheming and dreaming to trade up to your dream home. Or maybe you're going the other direction, selling the empty nest at peak profitability for a more carefree condo lifestyle. Either way, spring 2017 is a great time to list your house in Michigan. But before you start staging, cleaning out closets, or calling your real estate agent, have you thought about what's likely to happen the minute your house hits the market in this climate? The good news is, it will likely sell. The bad news is, it will likely sell -- immediately. Which means that finding -- and securing -- your dream home in a hot market becomes an exercise in stress-seeking behavior as you try to juggle finding just the right house, selling your existing house, and...
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Can a Trust own and manage my business? The short answer – yes, it can; however, there is more to it. Trusts can own businesses and manage them for the benefit of your heirs, but there are nuances to consider. S-Corp thoughts/considerations. For example, if your business is an S-Corp, you avoid corporate taxation, double taxation, because the shareholders receive the income and losses from the business (S-Corps are “pass through” tax entities). In other words, the business income gets treated like personal income for the shareholders, although certain exceptions apply. An S-Corp: Has fewer than 100 shareholders (family members and estates are treated as one shareholder); Does NOT have a shareholder that is not an individual (except for certain types of Trusts, and certain exempt organizations, such as a 501c3); Does NOT have nonresident aliens as shareholders; and Has only one class of stock. The take away. A Trust can own and manage...
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Maybe you just graduated college and landed your absolute dream job. Or maybe you have been working with the same company for ten years now and are considering a change of career. Regardless of what your situation is, one main source of focus should remain a constant; your workplace benefits. Having benefits in your workplace, and better yet; understanding what those benefits are is a very important aspect you should keep in mind as you are looking to start your career or perhaps exploring the idea of changing jobs. After all, millennials are the “job-hopping generation.” There are numerous staples to your financial future that a workplace can offer, many of these unfortunately tend to slip the mind throughout the application process. Beyond the seemingly bare minimum 401k match, keeping in mind benefits such as healthcare coverage, flexible schedules & vacation time, student loan repayment, and career & personal development should...
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I suppose there are a lot of lighter topics that one could talk about on the dawn of a new year, however in my line of work every year around this time I find myself providing counsel to individuals and couples that have decided to go their separate ways. Generally, it's not the holidays or the new year that actually done the relationship in. Although the stress of the holidays coupled with unwanted conversations over politics with in-laws that may have over stayed their welcome certainly doesn't help a struggling couple find their way. Typically, the relationship has been broken or been breaking for a long time leading up to these conversations. It's never easy for someone to open up about personal matters such as this and quite frankly especially when there are children involved, it can be a very emotional conversation. I decided to lay out some of the biggest...
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You have your “big stuff” booked.  The venues, caterers, and photographer, whew, you take a deep breath.  It’s organized and maybe even semi-payed for or you have already established payment plans within your budget!  It feels amazing!  You actually still have money!  Except, you don't. When you’re planning a wedding, there are a ton of little things that cost money that many brides and grooms forget about.  All of these things, even if they are small amounts can add up quickly, pushing past your budget.  Here are three things to think about and how to keep the costs low.   Stationery and Postage; In the digital age, most brides still want nice invitations.  I share the feeling.  It’s so exciting to pick out a beautiful invitation and send them out!  Yet, there is a harsh reality to the pretty paper. The average number is guests at a wedding is 120 people....
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Should I get a trust? The short answer – it depends. There are several factors to consider; primarily, trusts help clients avoid probate (saving time and money), thereby privately distributing assets upon the grantor’s death. However, not everyone needs a trust. Consider the following factors: How much of your estate will bypass probate? One of the main advantages of a living trust is being able to bypass the time and cost of probate (“probate,” definition: generally, assets are transferred from the decedent to the heirs; it is the process of administering an estate through the courts, a process that can take several months or years and can easily cost thousands of dollars). However, not all assets are subject to probate. For example, exemptions apply to jointly owned assets with rights of survivorship and assets with designated beneficiary forms, such as annuities, life insurance, and retirement accounts. Also, several states, such as...
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Tis the season for giving thanks, for pulling our loved ones close to us and letting them know how much we appreciate and love them, for being charitable and spreading joy and good favor to those less fortunate and in need. For a lot of you out there (if you're anything like me) this is a time for reflection; this is a time to look back at the prior year and often during this time, I think about some of the families and situations that we were privileged to work with. Now in business, just like with our families, things don't always go the way we planned and every year there's a handful of circumstances and situations that create complex issues that we as a team try to collaboratively solve. Here are few situations that we encountered in 2016. Disclaimer: We take our clients right to privacy extraordinarily seriously so...
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Millennials are often portrayed as the black plague for our country’s future. We are referred to as lazy, ungrateful, and incompetent. The consensus is that we will be detrimental to the future of our country because we don’t have a clue, but just how could that be? We are just beginning our adult lives and haven’t had a real impact on hardly anything yet. Most of the issues we face today started well before we were born. With our generation inheriting a seemingly endless national debt, a monumental student loan crisis, and little to no social security to utilize, how on earth could the most financially distraught generation be portrayed as becoming the wealthiest ever? Here’s some insight into answering that question… Entrepreneurship: Millennials have an undeniable drive to be independent and receive any and all praise associated with their accomplishments. What better feat to tackle than an aspiration to...
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Knowing where your information is coming from is crucial to your consumption of knowledge. Deciphering among the credible and non-credible can be a challenging feat, but there are some basic questions you can ask yourself before forming a conclusion or deciding an outcome based off the data obtained from the media. It’s obvious that the way we collect information has changed dramatically, and the amount of material available to us is insurmountable and only continuing to grow. Consequently; as a direct reflection of the growth of good information, the growth of false or misleading content has developed itself as well. Leading us to ask the question, how do you navigate the bad to ensure you are consuming only desired, factual information? Here’s where I can help. Some questions to ask yourself: Is it credible? Flash back to your college days for a moment. When writing a paper, a requirement to...
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Well it is finally over. No more political advertisements interrupting my enjoyment of the World Series. My Facebook feed has finally started to get back to cat pictures, fake news, and 12 people I need to wish a Happy Birthday. The question on everyone’s mind now is, “what does this mean?”. The reality is for some time we may not know exactly and uncertainty is not fun for anyone. A few things are certain and those are what we need to concentrate on right now, especially when it comes to our retirement planning. Have you planned for the possibility of a market sell off? Many thought this would happen immediately if Trump won the Presidency but as we have seen the opposite was the immediate reaction as the most indexes roared for 7 straight days higher. That’s not to say the danger is over or likewise that a collapse is...
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If you're anything like me then you dread going to the doctor, you dread going to the dentist, you dread shots, medical checkups, exams and tests that you can't pronounce the name of.  Just like most people when I hear the phrase "checkup", my "I don't want to do that" sensors immediately start to go off.  The term checkup is innocent enough but it can be associated with varying levels of pain, discomfort and scariest of all: the unknown!  Of course for me anyways these feelings and associations all happen in the blink of an eye, subconsciously. As a parent of two it certainly is my job to help my children understand the benefits of getting a checkup and to help them overcome the fear, the uncomfortableness and the potential pain of the dreaded exam.  So, in that parental spirit and without further ado, here are my six reasons why doing...
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  I recently returned from a trip to North Carolina. The reason for the trip was simple. We wanted to spend a few days with some friends who do not live near us, and we wanted to enjoy the beautiful countryside without the interruption of all of the news and noise that populates our life. Our main physical activity was our daily hikes in the mountains. On day 2 we woke to a soaked earth and wet leaves. During the night, the wind and the rain combined to create a slick surface. In addition the trail we were taking featured exposed roots, rocks, and a steep drop off to one side, causing us to make adjustments to how we hike this trail. We made sure to wear clothes that would keep us dry. We wore shoes that gave us the best grip, and slowed our pace to avoid slipping or falling....
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If you die without an estate plan, your loved ones may have to go through the probate court process, wasting time and money. In probate, you run the risk that the court’s decisions may not be consistent with your goals; rather, intestate succession (the process automatically applied when there is no trust or will) determines how your assets are distributed. Estate planning does not have to be expensive; however, even the most basic plans will offer you the following benefits: Designate Beneficiaries. Who would you like to leave your assets to? A will outlines these intentions; however, improperly titled assets can quickly undo the intentions of your will. Titling assets and designating beneficiaries with the advice of an attorney can avoid unintended consequences. Appoint a Guardian for Your Minor Children. The decision of whom you choose as a guardian for your children is perhaps the single best reason for creating a...
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We are just three months shy of the New Year and this is a great time to get a jumpstart on coming out ahead at tax time. A little strategic thinking, planning and taking action now could give you a reduction in your tax bill come April, perhaps boost your retirement savings and college fund savings. You might even see a significant reduction in any debt you might owe.   A great place to start is to take a close look at your investments. Your portfolio may benefit from a rebalance, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve made any changes. With the recent volatility in the market you might discover that your allocations may not match your risk tolerance.    If you have a 401(k) look into maxing out your contributions before the end of the year. If you’re under 50 years old, you can contribute a total of $18,000....
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Greece, China, Puerto Rico, the sudden long drops, followed by the upside down turns of the global marketplace is not thrilling. In fact as an investor it is a time when many people scream, “Stop the ride I want to get off!”Before you get off the ride, though, you might want to review your asset allocation along with your risk tolerance. Getting off the ride when the market is down means you’d be selling low.This might be the time to sit down with your financial advisor and rebalance your portfolio. If you haven’t done that in awhile, or never, it is that counterintuitive process where you sell winners and buy losers in order to achieve and/or maintain the desired asset mix. Do you have enough cash on hand? Are you properly allocated between stocks, bonds and alternative assets?Even if your gut is telling you that you want off the roller coaster,...
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When the DOW opened down 1,100 points on August 24th, did your heart take a nosedive into your stomach?  And if you’re one of those investors who have decided to save a few bucks and trust your investments to a robo-advisor, what kind of guidance or reassurance did you get from that advisor? Did you panic and sell out of the stock market fearing it would continue to plummet? If so, you weren’t alone. If you had a real financial advisor to talk you back from the ledge, you may have rallied later in the day just like the stock did. You could have saved a lot more than you lost. Nothing could more poignantly emphasize the value of a real, live human financial advisor better than this most recent event. Only a real advisor will keep you from selling at the worst possible moment. So much focus has been on...
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We’ve entered an age where yet another industry is slowly beginning to give way to robots. It makes sense when you’re dealing with repetitive actions that can be accomplished precisely and without damage to human muscles. However, when you consider the volatile and personal nature of finances, it’s difficult to reconcile a world where “robo-advisers” will be handling investments. Yet, robo-advisers are here and robo-adviser companies are growing by leaps and bounds.  The very phrase “robo-adviser” conjures up images of the Star Wars character, R2D2, but that’s not exactly the correct image. Just what is a robo-advisor and can they really serve investors better than a trained, experienced and educated living human being? Robo-advisers are online wealth management sites that provide automated investment services. Currently they represent a small, but fast growing segment of the market. No human interaction is required. They use computerized algorithms to manage mutual funds, exchange-traded funds...
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A quiet revolution is happening in the financial world and it’s starting to get a lot of buzz. The role of the investment adviser may be in danger of being taken over as young investors turn their money-management over to robo-advisers. Robo-advisers present prospective clients with a series of online questions to determine risk tolerance. Then, based on the answers, they select investments that are supposed to meet a individual clients’ specific temperaments and goals.  The question is, are robo-advisers going to be able to generate the stable wealth for clients that can see them through the unpredictable ups and downs of life events and prepare them for retirement? According to the Wall Street Journal, just in the past six years alone more than 200 companies have made it clear that they believe robo-advisers are the future, at least for some investors. These companies have taken the dive into the business...
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Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age in record numbers. The question many have is, when is the best time to claim Social Security benefits? Several things must be taken into consideration when making this decision. The most important is one of life expectancy. Do you take your retirement benefits at the earliest possible age of 62 or at the very latest possible age of 70? Many of the wealthiest people are using a delaying tactic called File and Suspend to manipulate the system and receive the highest benefits. The President is moving to put an end to this so I won’t go into the details. The truth is that every person has unique circumstances when it comes to retirement. However, there are factors that can lead you to make smarter decisions about when to claim your Social Security benefits. The following five areas of consideration are intended to help you make...
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The Social Security Administration has made an assumption about what retirees should want that could reduce your Social Security benefits by 4% annually. On top of that you’ll also lose out on an entire half-year of Social Security income. How this happens is as follows. Say you come in to the Social Security office to apply for your benefits just a few months shy of your 70th birthday as you are directed to do by the SSA. You’ve decided to delay your retirement benefits until the latest possible date in order to get the most Social Security. You fill out the application. Then you go home thinking your full benefits are going to kick in when you turn 70. Much to your surprise, you receive a lump sum check for six months of what they refer to as “retroactive benefits.” You may think nothing of it or you may pick up...
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Even if you have millions of dollars set aside to see you through life, the toll of long-term healthcare can derail even the best financial plans. Establishing a solid plan for long-term healthcare is essential no matter your income level. Recent polls indicate that nearly half of wealthy individuals have not done much, if any planning for the potential need for long-term care. They do however feel secure about being able to meet their medical costs now and in retirement, while the less wealthy are more concerned about how they’ll meet their medical costs. Not planning for long-term care is like playing Russian roulette. It’s a big gamble and could put the financial assets of many at risk. No matter where you are financially, the importance of putting a long-term care plan in place is integral especially if you want to leave assets to heirs. A variety of options are available...
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A vast majority of Americans don’t give much thought at all to long-term healthcare.  Across the board, the wealthy are like most other Americans when it comes to this subject. They just don’t think about it. One reason many do not consider provisions for long-term care is because it can come with a hefty price tag. However, the cost of not considering it can be financially devastating. We’re Living Longer. With one of the largest segments of the population approaching retirement age and the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation already retired, the need for long-term healthcare costs is becoming more and more apparent. According to a 2010 study, “The fact is that the average American will need adequate assets for 25-30 years – or longer than previous generations. On average, one in five 65-year-old males will survive to age 90. A 65-year-old woman has a three in 10 chance....
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Retirement age sneaks up on us before we know it! And it’s happening to as many as 10,000 Americans every day. Prepared or not, many employees are often forced to take early retirement due to economic setbacks and other corporately conceived reasons.  While some people start planning for retirement with their very first jobs, many don’t think about planning till the eleventh hour. Some don’t plan at all. Hopefully you’re somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. No matter what, unless tragedy strikes and you become disabled or die, retirement will become a reality for everyone at some age. How you meet retirement says a lot about how you’ll spend your retirement years.  I have prepared a list of steps to address before you retire that will help you meet this stage of life with dignity and grace. Hopefully you will also arrive with a portfolio that will keep you financially...
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In the U.S., 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age everyday. These statistics beg the question: If you are nearing retirement age, how ready are you, psychologically and even more importantly, financially for this life event? Every individual will have different needs and desires for their retirement years. No matter what those are and how they differ, the more clearly you envision your future during retirement and plan before hand to be as prepared as possible, the more you’ll enjoy this phase of your life. Some of the topics that need to be visited as you get closer to retirement include deciding how you’re going to spend your time and how much money you’ll spend each month. You want to take into consideration gifts, vacations, taxes, and emergencies among others. The cost of health care is a biggie to consider, without an employer no longer paying part or all of your medical...
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You may think that breaking up with your financial advisor is a crazy idea, but believe me it’s not as off-kilter as you think. Especially, if you’re like many people who hire a financial advisor then never revisit the decision you made until it’s time to retire. Or maybe you inherited your financial advisor due to a death or other life situation and have just left the investments in their care. Inertia is one of the most difficult forces to overcome.  While your financial advisor may have had your best interest in mind when you first hired them, they may not actively monitor your account to keep pace with the economy and with investment vehicles that may serve you better as your life and circumstances change. If you inherited the advisor, you may find that the person you inherited them from had not looked into their investments in some time.  In...
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While breaking up with your financial advisor may not have all the legal complications of ending a marriage, it can be an agonizing decision to make. Especially if you’ve been in a long-term relationship with your financial advisor and you’ve discovered he or she has not really had your best interests at heart. According to a recent survey by Spectrem Group, 4 to 6% of U.S. investors change financial advisors in any given year. A variety of reasons are attributed to the ending of these relationships. High on the list are major life events such as death, divorce or inheritance, as well as lack of communication and frustration with complex or hidden fees. If you inherited your financial advisor, the good news is you can now shop around for your very own. Finding a financial advisor you trust may take more time than you’d like and there is a lot of...
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Are you aware of how 401k plans came into existence? Most people are not. The fact is they came about by accident when a benefits consultant read a sentence in the government’s Revenue Act of 1978 regarding deferred compensation. This astute consultant took it upon himself to inquire whether the statement would apply to all compensation. When the answer was in the affirmative, the 401k Retirement Savings Plan was born. In 1985, there were a mere 30,000 401k plans. By 2013 that number had soared to 638,000 plans with 89 million plan participants. The 401k Plan is without question the most popular vehicle for retirement savings. Recently a wave of 401k related lawsuits have been filed against companies for a variety of issues, which may mean the 401k may not be the best place for your money. These suits have made their way all the way to the Supreme Court. Mismanagement,...
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401K Plans have traditionally been used as incentives to lure and keep employees. They have become increasingly popular with large corporations as well as small, to mid-size businesses. However, the Supreme Court is looking more closely at corporate 401K plans. The end result could be more profitable for the participating employees and a potential sticking point for employers. The reason the Supreme Court is looking into two separate cases regarding 401K plans is to determine the responsibility employers have to provide good plans. For instance, there are many different share classes, some of which are far too expensive and may not offer employees the most beneficial return on their investment. Most employers, once they’ve signed off on a company 401k plan, will rarely, if ever review that plan again. Even though the economy goes through its ups and downs, no one is monitoring the 401k to determine whether or not it...
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In 2013 I decided to start looking for ways that Forest Hills Financial could be more involved in a local organization.  One that could speak to all of my advisors, employees, and clients.  I knew that we were all individually working with and supporting, both financially and through volunteerism, multiple charities.  I wondered...how much of an impact could we make if we started to change our focus and commit to collectively supporting one charity? By late 2013, we decided that for 2014 and beyond that charity would be Kids’ Food Basket.  Kids’ Food Basket has the accessibility I envisioned for my advisors, employees, and clients. They can all be hands on. Kids' Food Basket offers numerous outlets to get involved in, from volunteering time, packing Sack Suppers, bringing a Wish List food item to a client event, or giving a monetary amount if they choose.  The involvement with Kids' Food Basket...
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As people prepare for retirement, social security is one component of the equation that will be used to determine the amount of retirement income one will have to live on. If saving and planning has come natural, social security can be viewed as a supplement for your retirement.  If you have struggled in saving and properly planning, your dependency on Social Security retirement income will likely be greater. For many of us, retirement will be a substantial time in our life, and planning on how we are going to pay for it is increasingly difficult. With that being said, this is just one of many factors to consider when planning for retirement and more importantly to address your own situation with a professional independent advisor.                                                                          To receive a report on your estimated social security retirement benefits, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount . Once you have created your account you can then download...
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Chances are if you have been investing for any amount of time you have learned that a proper asset allocation has a percentage of Bonds and a percentage of stocks.  It may also include something loosely called Alternatives.  When people hear the words “Alternative Investments”, they have a knee jerk reaction based on a dated idea of what they entail.  You may think of the commercials on Satellite radio or late night TV promoting metals or owning your own gas well and think to yourself, “No thanks”.  Recent research shows that by doing so you may be selling yourself and your portfolio short. The 2013 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments found when they gathered info from 835 US colleges and Universities that many of these stalwarts of investment conservatism were heavily invested in Alternatives.  With an average return of 11.7% in 2013 no one would accuse them of being overly aggressive as...
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