Tag Archives: Financial Planning

Is an Inheritance a Gift or an Entitlement?

26 Sep

MetroBoston publication date September 25, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

The answer depends not only on your personal philosophy but whether you are the one inheriting or giving.

More people these days are considering whether it is better to leave all or a sizeable portion of one’s money and property to a charity rather than one’s children.

A frequently asked question is whether an inheritance will help one’s children in some important way or provide an incentive to do little or nothing with their lives, personal growth, or career development.

Frankly, too many children of wealthy or financially well-off families seem to do far less with their lives while waiting for an inheritance and become hostile later on when they don’t believe they received enough.

In my view, the number one purpose of earning money and acquiring assets over a lifetime is to take care of oneself first and foremost. What you leave to your children afterwards is something you earned. That point should be emphasized to one’s children.

Many believe today that the best estate plans remove the cost burden of education and medical expenses for one’s children or grandchildren, provide support where needed and incentives to do more with their lives.

More next week.

© 2013 George Warshaw.  George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, litigates real estate matters, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions.

Love and Kisses until Your House is Gone

15 Mar

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: March 14, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

It’s like a scene from “The Bachelor.”

It’s all love and kisses, “til death do us part,” and syrup on the pancakes – until reality sinks in. It’s back to the daily job and routine daily life? Does anyone get or stay married?

Is it any different when an older parent deeds the family home to one’s kids for love and affection? “We’ll use it to take care of you – and the government won’t get it!”

But the deed’s in someone else’s name! What if son or daughter gets divorced, sick or sued? Or if son or daughter needs personal money and borrows against the house – temporarily, of course?

One way of protecting a home is through a trust. A trust is a set of rules constructed by a lawyer to accomplish a goal or protect an asset, oftentimes both.

The trustees own the house on behalf of the trust and not personally – and a parent can name a trusted advisor as co-trustee who can have veto power on the sale or mortgaging of the home.

The house is thus protected from unnecessary sale or mortgage and the personal creditors of the son or daughter.

Caution: Check with a Medicaid attorney before transferring property out of an older parent’s name.

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Real Estate for Christmas

30 Nov

By Attorney George Warshaw

It’s Christmas and Hanukkah time. Naturally one’s thoughts turn to gifts.

As families get together, oftentimes the discussion shifts to a parent’s home. Is it better to gift it now or inherit it later?

While the answer requires a careful discussion with a tax advisor, it’s helpful to review a key gifting rule.

When a person receives a gift of real estate, the gift is valued for tax purposes at the same cost+ value (or “tax basis” in accountant-speak) as the giver has in it.

Bought a home years ago for $200,000, put $50,000 in improvements into it, and your tax basis is likely $250,000.

Give it to your kids today and the IRS will likely value the gift as worth $250,000. It doesn’t matter if the house is worth $1,000,000, the gifting value is still $250,000.

If your kids later sell it for a million, the IRS deems they made a profit of $750,000 (sale price minus tax basis) – and they may have to pay a tax on the $750,000 gain at the time of sale. That’s painful!

Next week: Is it better to Inherit Real Estate?

Always consult your tax advisor or attorney before gifting real estate. The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Only an in person consultation with an attorney can establish an attorney-client relationship. © 2011 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Where Are Interest Rates Going?

11 Aug

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: August 10, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

Lost in the debris of the deficit debacle and the stock market free fall is the effect on mortgage interest rates. Will they rocket upwards, stay the same or decline?

Mortgage rates rise or fall based on something. But what?

There are actually two types of mortgage loans and two types of rates: first mortgages are long-term interest rates; home equity loans are short-term monthly rates. The rate on each is established differently, and often go in different directions based on the exact same news.

When the Fed announces that it is lowering or raising rates, that immediately affects the monthly rate charged on home equity loans, not first mortgages.

First mortgage rates are determined by the longer-term bond market. I’ve heard it said that first mortgage rates follow “the 10-year Treasury” or “mortgage backed securities” instead. In other words, as prices on a specific longer-term “fixed income investment” rise or fall on Wall Street, first mortgages interest rates ultimately bounce along with it.

Confused? Since no one seems to be managing our economy right now, you are not alone. Be safe. If you can lower your first mortgage rate, do it now.

Need a recommendation for a good mortgage lender? Email me. I know several good lenders.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All Rights Reserved.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Should You Rent Your Condo?

26 Jul

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: July 20, 2011
Expanded Content

By Attorney George Warshaw

Consider, for a moment, a significant asset that you already own; one that could generate a stream of revenue well into the future – your condo. 

Rather than sell your condo to buy a new home, would you rent it instead? There are numerous possible benefits. 

The key is to get your interest rate as low as possible today while you are still living in the condominium. By doing so, you place yourself in the best position to generate future “positive cash flow”; one that will allow the rent to cover your mortgage, taxes and condo fees.

With interest rates at distress levels, now is the perfect moment to plan for the future. As an owner-occupant your rate will be lower than what would otherwise be available after you move.

Given the vagaries of the stock and bond markets, the prospective lack of a sufficient future social security payment – at an age when you might actually enjoy it, real estate is a reliable extra revenue source.

If you decide to rent your condo rather than sell it, keep one important thing in mind: if you plan to refinance shortly before you move and rent, the standard Fannie Mae mortgage form used with owner-occupied loans requires the homeowner to live in the condo for 12 months after signing.  Make your plans well in advance.

So be a smart condo owner – plan now for the future, and get the benefit of rents paying your mortgage. 

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and legal author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

Money When You Need It

26 Jul

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: July 13, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

I’ve always relied on a simple lending principle: banks will gladly loan you money when you don’t need it; but not necessarily when you really need it.

That’s why home equity loans are a key financing planning tool.

A home equity loan (often called a HELOC) is a loan against the equity in your house or condo. The interest rate is typically based on the prime rate and can float or change monthly as the prime changes. It functions like a credit card.

I spoke with William Schulz, a banker at Citibank (617-725-0104, william.h.schulz@citi.com), a specialist in home equity loans.

“Because interest is often (i.e. not always) deductible on your taxes, many people use it for their children’s college education, home remodeling, medical expenses, or to have money available should they need it,” he said.

“The process is simple. It costs the borrower nothing in fees, and nothing if you don’t use it. Once you provide the necessary paperwork, it’s usually 30 days to closing.”

Since interest paid on a credit card is often not deductible, a HELOC can be a sensible way of making major purchases – but be careful: like any mortgage loan, it has to be repaid!

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and legal author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

It’s Tax Time Again – Deducting Interest

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: March 30, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw 

Last week I wrote about the advantages of paying off your mortgage early. A reader asked whether that was wise since a homeowner gets a tax deduction for all or part of the mortgage interest one pays. 

I’ve known many homeowners who say they like to have a mortgage so that they can deduct the interest on their taxes. I’ve never fully understood the rationale. 

A mortgage is not an investment; it’s a debt.  A dollar of mortgage interest does not reduce your taxes by a dollar. A homeowner only gets to offset income taxes by a percentage of that dollar. 

A tax deduction is not a tax credit. A tax credit reduces your taxes dollar for dollar. A deduction merely reduces the amount of income subject to tax. Here’s an example: 

Let’s suppose you are single and your taxable income is between $34,000 and $82,400. Of every taxable dollar you earn over $34,000, 25% (or 25 cents) is paid to the IRS in income taxes. Since a dollar of mortgage interest merely reduces your income by a dollar, a dollar of interest saves you only 25 cents. 

If you don’t need a mortgage, talk to your accountant or lawyer about the best tax strategy for you. © 2011 George Warshaw. 

The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Consult an attorney to see how or if the foregoing applies to you.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties, prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate, and trusts that protect your children and pets. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.