Monday, May 20, 2013


There were over 10 million cases of stolen identity reported this past year, and the business of identity theft is on the rise.

One of the most popular and successful forms of theft is the use of fake charities. Don’t be taken in by fake charities. If you are duped into contributing, you may have given more than just money to the scam artists. You may have given them enough of your personal financial information to allow them to steal your identity.

Once the thief has your identity (name, address, phone number, account numbers, security codes, etc.), he or she is free to set up new accounts and make purchases in your name. Such activity can be financially devastating to you, and it could take months to straighten the problem out.

How does one keep from becoming a victim? Be especially cautious of those who contact you by telephone or e-mail. You could receive an e-mail from a charity with a name you think you recognize. Many scam artists are very clever at making up names that make you feel you might already know them. Their causes always sound good, such as save the whales, help poor kids in Africa, help abused animals. Once they have hit your hot button and you reply, they are on the road to easy money.

Here is an example of what might take place. Let’s say you get an e-mail from “Doctors Across Africa” which you mistake for the legitimate “Doctors Without Borders.” The e-mail does a good job of convincing you that this charity assists thousands who would have no medical help except for generous people such as you. The e-mail has a link to their Internet site which looks very professional and official. It may contain photos of all the excellent work being done by these non-existent doctors. But most important, the site will ask you for your credit card number, maybe even the three-digit security code, and your name and mailing address so they can mail you a receipt for your tax deduction. You can be sure that by the time you push the “Submit” button, you will have given them all they need to steal your identity.
Stay alert for charity scams, or your desire to help just might result in having your identity stolen.
Call us at (219) 769-3616 with your questions, or email them to







Friday, May 3, 2013

The New Estate Tax Rules Bring Calm After the Storm


Some individuals were in a panic late last year as the favorable estate and gift tax rules were set to expire in 2013. With Congressional action uncertain, no one knew how their plans might be affected. 

To the relief of taxpayers and planners, most of the estate rules changed only slightly. The estate and gift tax exemptions will be $5,250,000 in 2013, up from $5,120,000 last year, and adjusted for inflation going forward. The top tax rate for estates and gifts exceeding these amounts will be 40%, up from 35% last year, but better than the 55% rate that would have been the law had Congress not acted. And a surviving spouse will still be able to access the unused portion of the estate exemption of the deceased husband or wife 

It’s important to note that the exemption applies to both inheritances and lifetime gifts. The cumulative combined “transfer” exemption will be $5,250,000 whether the money is given away before or after you die. In addition, you can give away up to $14,000 annually to as many recipients as you like without tapping into your lifetime transfer tax exemption 
Average folks with estates far under $5 million might wonder how any of this applies to them. But the reality is that everyone needs an estate plan. The backbone of your estate plan, a will, is an essential legal tool intended to ensure that your final wishes are honored. A will can also indicate who will take care of your children should you pass away, and how the children can access their inheritance. If you want to include your favorite charity in your estate plans, there are strategies available to benefit both family and charity alike. 

Estate planners might be breathing a sigh of relief, but don’t let the current rules lull you into complacency. Contact us and your attorney for a review of your estate plan today.

Call us at (219) 769-3616 with your questions, or email them to