Five tips to protect you from scammers

Last week we received two threatening voicemail messages on our home phone. The callers suggested we owed the IRS money and that a search warrant had been issued for our arrest. Here’s the thing: My husband has worked in law enforcement for nearly three decades, and I work in the wealth management industry. We knew for certain that those calls were fake. Still, they were creepy. On Wednesday, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced the arrest of five people in Miami, who are accused of tricking 1,500 people into paying a total of $2 million to a fake IRS account. This is just one example of a wide-reaching scheme that has scammed 6,400 victims out of more than $36.5 million, an average loss of $5,700. One report suggested that scams like this have increased 250 percent in the first quarter of 2016. As software and information mining technology becomes more sophisticated and widely available, consumers need to become even more vigilant. Here are some tips to help prevent you from becoming a victim of scams like this: Know that the IRS would never call or email you. They will only contact you via postal mail. If someone calls you and says they are representing the IRS, you know this is a scam. Don’t transfer funds from your account to a government account through a third party. In this recent incident, scammers demanded payment in iTunes and Toys R Us gift cards. At least 328 people paid out a total of $1.4 million this way. There is no way a legitimate government agency would ask you to pay them through a store gift card. Understand that there is an appeal process. The IRS will never demand immediate payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. If you get an email asking you to visit a website or answer personal questions,… | Read More »

Seven reasons you might need to spruce up your life insurance

Spring cleaning means sorting through paperwork, shredding some, and reorganizing others into appropriate files. It’s also the perfect time to review your insurance policies. Here are seven life changes that should prompt a review for effectiveness of coverage and appropriateness of premiums. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, we suggest you come in for an insurance review: Have you increased the size of your family through marriage, adoption or the birth of a child? If so, you may want to make sure you’ve purchased enough coverage and that your beneficiary designations are up to date. Have you decreased the size of your family through divorce or the death of a spouse? These are also life events that should spur you to update your beneficiaries and review the scope of your policy. Has anyone in your immediate family become disabled since you purchased your policy? If the financial increase is significant, the additional cost of care might prompt you to update your coverage. Have you lost a job, received a promotion, started a new business or expanded an existing one since you purchased your policy? Depending on your age, these changes in job status could affect your insurance needs, particularly if you now own your own business. Are you now a primary caregiver for an elderly parent or grandparent? Have your financial responsibilities increased due to this change? Is your policy close to expiring? Are you healthier now? Have you quit smoking or lost a significant amount of weight? If so, you could qualify for lower premiums. Life insurance policies tend to be items people purchase and store away.  This can lessen the effectiveness of the policy and eliminate the opportunity to save money on premiums. For these reasons, we recommend an annual review. If you have any questions or would like a review, our insurance specialist Matt Weyers would be glad to sit down with you… | Read More »

Why Prince needed a will (and so do you)

For an artist who maintained a legendary level of control over his music in life, Prince reportedly died without a will, an astounding omission that left his entire estate, including his vault of music, in flux. Without a will, Prince’s estate will have to go through probate, a public process that will expose everything the man fought so fiercely to protect – his assets, his lifestyle, his potential heirs and, most devastating of all, his music. The man once battled his record label so furiously to regain the rights to his music that he gave up his legal name for a period of time. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince earned a reputation as a fierce protector of his creative property. Prince Rogers Nelson, on the other hand, left his entire catalog vulnerable. Because he died without a will, his assets will be distributed according to Minnesota state law, and by a court designated administrator, likely someone who never had a single conversation with Prince. Without a will, all of the songs Prince produced, including those he wrote but did not release for reasons known only to him, will be part of the probate process. Also, though he supported several charities in his lifetime, Prince will not be able to direct his assets into any of them posthumously. Charitable donations will also be decided by the court designated administrator. Dying intestate, as Prince apparently did, exposes all the assets he worked so hard to accumulate to dramatic tax consequences and leaves the distribution of those assets, the naming of the heirs, up to a slow, expensive court system. A simple, revocable trust with a pour over will would have allowed Prince’s estate to avoid all of this, and to exert the control he so obviously valued. It’s a poignant lesson for all of us. Do you have a will? Have you updated it recently? Do you have a trust? Should… | Read More »