What Is the Difference Between an Heir and a Beneficiary?

The term ‘heir’ refers to a person who is entitled to property owned by a deceased family member. Individuals can bequeath property to heirs through their last will and testament or a trust. When a person dies without leaving a Will, their assets are given to rightful heirs according to state probate laws.

An heir can be a surviving spouse, minor or adult children, mother, father, or siblings. Heirs can also include direct lineage relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Individuals can bequeath property to whomever they desire. If they gift items to anyone outside the family, those individuals are referred to as beneficiaries. Although somewhat confusing, heirs can be beneficiaries, but beneficiaries are not always heirs.

The only way to ensure property is distributed according to your wishes is to execute a legal Will. When property is held in a trust, the Will is used to provide directives regarding distribution. Unless inheritance assets are placed into a trust, the estate must undergo the probate process.

Probate is required to settle decedent estates. Two types of probate exist – testate and intestate. Testate refers to estates which include a last Will, while intestate refers to estates where no Will exists. The probate process varies depending on the type. Intestate estates take longer to settle because additional procedures must be taken.

The last will and testament is also used to designate a probate personal representative. This person is responsible for all tasks required to settle the estate. This can include paying any outstanding debts owed by the decedent; filing a final tax return and paying outstanding taxes; obtaining appraisals for valuable property; securing personal property owned by the decedent; and distributing inheritance gifts left to heirs and beneficiaries.

The last will can also be used to disinherit an heir. When a person decides to leave a direct lineage relative out of their Will they must include a disinheritance clause which states the reason for exclusion. While this clause does not prevent heirs from contesting the Will, it can minimize the risk. If a disinheritance statement is not included, heirs can prolong the probate process by claiming the decedent was influenced by another person or not in their right mind when executing the Will.

Contesting a Will is a costly process that often bankrupts estates due to excessive legal fees. Those who have direct lineage relatives whom they do not want to bequeath gifts to should consult with a probate lawyer to ensure their Will is properly executed.

Engaging in estate planning can keep certain assets out of probate and allow quick distribution to heirs. Individuals with checking or savings accounts can designate beneficiaries to receive funds at death. This is referred to as payable on death (POD) beneficiaries. Account holders must fill out POD beneficiary forms to provide the names, addresses, date of birth, and social security number. Upon death, beneficiaries must provide photo ID and a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to claim funds.

Individuals with retirement accounts or financial portfolios can assign transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries. Upon death, heirs can elect to transfer funds into a new account to avoid estate taxes or cash-out the account. It is best to consult with a tax attorney to discuss tax ramifications before accepting lump sum cash.

Executing a last will and testament is one of the best gifts you can leave loved ones. Wills should be updated when major events occur. These might include buying or selling real estate; starting or closing a business; or when a new heir is born or a designated heir dies.

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The Relationship Between Insurance and Finance

Insurance and finance are closely interwoven fields of business, not least because they both involve money. They also often both involve speculation and risk, and often where one goes, the other will follow. Take property investment for example, it involves a large amount of capital out lay, swiftly followed by insurance to protect the capital investment. It would be ridiculous to spend such a vast sum of money on a venture and not protect it against possible damage. It therefore makes sense to store information on these two subjects together, as the relationship is so logical.

Insurance is a form of risk management used to protect the insured against the risk of a loss. It is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss from one entity to another in exchange for a premium. There are different kinds of insurance for just about every conceivable event. The most common insurance is probably life insurance, which provides a monetary benefit to a decedent’s family or other designated beneficiary.

It can cover funeral or burial costs and can be paid out to the beneficiary in either a lump sum or as an annuity. Property insurance is one of the more necessary insurances as property is extremely expensive and if it is lost or damaged for some reason (fire, earthquake, flood) it can be very difficult to replace without adequate reimbursement. Travel insurance used to be seen as an unnecessary expense and is still viewed as such by many. Its importance is, however, being increasingly recognised by the public at large. It is cover taken by those who travel abroad and covers certain unforeseen events such as medical expenses, loss of personal belongings, travel delays etc. There are numerous other types of insurance, too many to mention, all vital if you want to protect something of particular importance to you or another.

In the world of finance there are many sub-categories, also too numerous to mention but a few will be included here. Forex, or the foreign exchange market wherever one currency is traded for another. It includes trading between banks, speculators, institutions, corporations, governments, and other financial markets. The average daily trade in the global forex is over US$ 3 trillion.

Tax consulting usually involves CPAs and tax lawyers in addressing any tax issues that you may have. There may also be Professional Strategic Tax Planners and Enrolled Agents, depending on the company that you hire. They will help you reduce your tax debt, eliminate tax penalties, an innocent spouse claim, tax liens, bank levies, and preparing unfilled tax returns, as well as any other tax resolution problem that you might have.

Property investment is usually when an investor buys property with an eye to generate profit and not to occupy it. It is an asset that has been purchased and held for future appreciation, income or portfolio purposes. In some instances an investment property does not have to be held for profit, as some landlords in New York lease office buildings to non-profit organisations for tax purposes. Homeowners consider their homes to be investments but they aren’t classified as investment properties. Perhaps if you’re buying your second or third home, it can be considered an investment property, especially if you plan to rent it out to help pay off the home loan.

Business networking is a marketing method, which is as old as business itself. It’s been around since ever since people learned to hold a glass of whiskey and schmooze. In fact, its probably been around a lot longer, Cro-Magnon man probably gathered around the newly discovered fire and showed each other their collection of animal teeth and traded them. Creating networks of crocodile teeth owners and sabre toothed tiger owners, who tried a take over bid against the sabre toothed leopard owners. Business networking is designed to create business opportunities through social networks. It helps if the people involved are of the same frame of mind.

These days a very handy way of business networking is via the Internet on the various social media available. But it must be said that very little can beat the intimacy and trust created by face-to-face relationships. Also, where would our businessmen be without their whiskeys and weekly schmooze?

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Property Tax – Pros and Cons

Property tax can be the fairest and at the same time the not so fair tax collected by municipalities.

Two of the determining factors of how it can affect what an individual will pay for this type of tax are where you live and a person’s economic condition.

Even though we all can appreciate the good points of owning a home vs. renting, when it comes to property tax, renting is by far the better option. States will collect property tax on the following:

Any additions to the property such as improvements to the land

Land itself

Any structures that are not permanent to the property

The assessment is commonly made by an exclusive county tax collector in each state. An individual’s property and land will be appraised of its value and subsequently mailed as a tax payment notice. This usually is paid through a homeowner’s escrow amount stated on their mortgage.

Many times this can negatively affect a property or land owner as the taxes in a specific state can sometimes double or triple in amount and leave the homeowner unable to afford to pay their taxes, forcing them to sell their property or land.

People on a fixed income such as Senior citizens who have retired, can be greatly affected by the increase of property tax. The value of their homes increase, but at the same time they find themselves unable to pay their taxes because of their reduced income. Unfortunately, property tax doesn’t allow much wiggle room in the event of acts of nature or personal tragedy.

Although 2.3 seems to be the average percentage for property tax, it varies greatly from state to state, making it seem highly unfair for certain states such as New Hampshire, as it is a high 4.9 percent.

It also seem unfair when states like Alabama pay 1.3 percent and yet just a little distance away in neighboring Georgia would be required to pay 2.6 percent, then even more in Florida at a rate of 3.1 percent.

So who determines how the money generated from this income is spent or in some cases wasted? The state legislatures will determine this along with the decision to increase or decrease property tax and how frequent it is collected.

Even though property tax can absolutely help states with income,the amount of property tax to be paid can be a determining factor in one’s decision where to reside to achieve the American Dream of land or home ownership.

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