Scam artists get very creative when trying to get your money. They use websites, emails, phone calls, text messages and all sorts of fake accounts to take advantage of people. Disasters are particularly attractive to criminals.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey has caused much devastation and suffering. Many of us want to make a contribution to help the victims that have lost family members and their homes. Law enforcement and consumer groups strongly encourage you to investigate the charity before you make a donation.
After Hurricane Katrina, the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) shut down more than 4600 websites that were suspected of fraud. Some of the websites had already collected over $40,000 before they were shut down.
The safest recommendation is to donate to national organizations. Investigate all charities before you make a donation. Never donate cash or write a check to an individual. Watch out for solicitations on Facebook and Twitter. The Federal Trade Commission has suggested the following list of websites you can use to investigate the charity’s history; Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and GuideStar.
If you suspect you are being scammed, you can report it to National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at (866) 720-5721.
Over the last 30 to 40 years, the U.S. has seen two trends that have led people to want to stay in the workforce past the traditional retirement age of 65.
The first is that people are living longer and are more capable of continuing to work in their 60s. The second is the decline of defined benefit pension plans and the rise of 401(k)s, as many people do not save nearly as much in their retirement accounts as they should.
Some companies have created special programs for older employees that allow them to stay on the job and gradually wind down. However, these programs are not as popular as many had hoped. This is because employees fear that entering them will put them out of line for raises and many of the programs have fixed schedules under which employees must retire.
Other companies are attempting to better assist their employees with finances, either by offering retirement education or increasing the amount companies contribute to employees' retirement accounts.
There is no simple solution to this problem.
Older workers would like to be able to retire. Companies would normally prefer that their loyal employees have that option, so younger workers can rise up and take their places.
In 2012, the famed portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz needed to earn some money quickly, since she had recently been in financial trouble. It is not certain who, but someone came up with an idea to help the situation.
A wealthy Canadian would purchase approximately 2,000 prints from Leibovitz for $4.75 million and donate them to a museum in Nova Scotia. The wealthy donor would then be able to get a tax break in Canada.
However, the idea has not gone over well with Canadian regulators, who must approve of it.
The problem is that the museum is trying to get a tax break of $20 million for the wealthy donor.
Three different independent auditors have supported that the pictures would be worth $20 million, if they were sold individually.
This has been difficult for regulators to swallow, since the donor would be receiving a break far greater than the amount that he actually spent.
Regulators have rejected the application for the break three different times, but the museum is attempting a fourth application.
In the U.S., the laws are different. However, it is still important to understand that large gifts of art to museums can be scrutinized closely by tax officials, especially if done as part of a plan to shrink an estate below the estate tax threshold.
The study tracked 783 people who had signed up for an Alzheimer's prevention program, because they had family who got the disease.
What did the researchers discover?
Those who suffered from a loss of hearing were more likely to become cognitively impaired.
They also found that people who suffered from slight losses in verbal communication skills were more likely to become cognitively impaired. These were people whose language became less sophisticated and specific, and people who took longer to express the same thoughts than they previously did.
They also found that people who began to need hospitalization in emergency situations more frequently, were more likely to become cognitively impaired.
This study could be an important step in discovering how to diagnose Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia as early as possible.
Whenever a debate comes up about the future of Social Security, there are people who argue from a belief that Social Security is not something very wealthy people receive. For some wealthy people, that is true.
They do not receive Social Security. However, others do.
It depends on how they earned their money.
If a person worked at least 10 years and paid into Social Security, they are eligible no matter how much money they have.
Whether wealthy people should get Social Security or if the program should be limited only to those without the means to take care of themselves, was a subject of debate at the time the program was founded.
Ultimately, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided that the program should not be means-tested, so it would be viewed as a universal right by people. He believed that would make the program much more difficult to cut or eliminate, if future politicians tried to do so.
Later events seem to have proven Roosevelt right about that.
Politicians have found it difficult to make cuts to Social Security.
If you have questions about Social Security and your eligibility, an elder law attorney should be able to assist you.
The legal battles over who is entitled to what from the proceeds of Michael Jackson's music and estate are never-ending. As part of that dispute, music producer Quincy Jones filed a lawsuit against Sony and MJJ Productions claiming they tricked him out of money that should have been his for producing some of Jackson's albums.
Jones alleges that the companies labeled some money as profit, when it should have been considered royalties to which he was entitled.
After filing that initial claim, he requested to add a claim of elder financial abuse to it, since he was over 64 at the time of the incident.
Financial abuse of the elderly is a serious and ongoing problem in the U.S.
While not enough details are known about Jones' allegations to know whether the judge ruled correctly, it is important to understand that every time an elderly person loses money, it is not necessarily elder financial abuse.
To rise to the level of elder abuse, there normally needs to be some sort of intent to take advantage of an elderly person's diminished mental capacity.
If you have questions about what is and is not elder financial abuse, contact an elder law attorney, especially if you think an elder you know might be getting abused.
Medicaid is the government program that provides health care to poor people. The debate over it, often focuses on how much is being spent on poor children and poor working age people.
What is often left out of the debate, is that Medicaid also provides services to a great many elderly people.
In fact, the majority of people in nursing homes today have their care paid for by Medicaid. With potential cuts possible in the future, Medicaid reductions have implications for people who are now nearing retirement age.
Although singer Michael Hutchence died having almost no assets, his estate might now be worth millions.
When the former lead singer of INXS committed suicide in 1997, his family was shocked to learn that he had almost no assets. His bank accounts were nearly empty. Real estate he had told them he owned, turned out to belong to other people.
It was not clear what happened to the rights to his music either.
However, now his family thinks Hutchence's daughter, known as Tiger Lily, could inherit millions when she turns 21 in the next few weeks.
It is not entirely clear why the family has this belief, since many details about the trust are not public and the family does not control the trust. It could be that the rights to Hutchence's music were placed into the trust, which would give it a regular income that could be given to beneficiaries.
Similar things can happen anytime an estate has a valuable asset that can earn a continual income.
For these types of estates, it is important to make sure that the people in charge of them know how to maximize the potential of the assets, in order to get the most income out of them.
We may learn soon whether the Hutchence's estate does have those people in charge.
Probate avoidance may be enough reason to have a comprehensive estate plan.
The article mentions a case where three lawyers were assigned by the probate court to find a deceased person's heirs and to oversee the estate distribution. In the end, the attorneys wasted most of the estate assets on themselves.
Even in cases where there is not outright fraud, money can be wasted in probate. Someone has to track down distant relatives and administer the estate.
That is not cheap.
Never think that you do not need an estate plan.
Just because someone is not married and has no children, does not eliminate the need for a solid estate plan.