Detail oriented, meticulous and down to earth…

Simmons & Schiavo, LLP and Marco, specifically, have handled estate planning matters for several of my family members. I cannot say enough positive things about him. He is detail oriented, meticulous and down to earth. He takes the time to explain complex matters in a way that is easy to understand and is so patient when fielding the endless questions that come with complex estate planning matters. During the course of planning I felt Marco honestly wanted to help my family and make sure that everyone was comfortable with their decisions. I would, and have, recommended Marco to anyone looking for estate planning assistance.

Holly S. – Norwood, MA

Thinking of retiring abroad? Know the rules first

The idea of retiring on a beach in Central America or in a quaint village in Europe might seem idyllic. But before you think seriously about retiring in another country, be sure you know all the tax and estate planning rules.

A lot of people have been tripped up by these rules in the past. For instance:

* If you keep more than $10,000 in a foreign bank account, you’ll have to file annual reports with the U.S. government. And be sure you can even open a local account – a law passed by Congress in 2010 requires foreign banks to file detailed disclosures on accounts held by Americans, and many smaller foreign banks won’t even accept Americans as account holders anymore because they don’t want to deal with the paperwork.

* Some foreign countries don’t allow non-citizens to directly own real estate. As a result, you’ll have to own the real estate through a trust or a corporation, or have a local agent hold title while you contract with the agent to control the property. Owning real estate through a foreign trust or corporation can result in onerous tax and reporting requirements here in the U.S. [Read more…]

One-third of existing home sales are now in cash

Some 33% of sales of existing homes (as opposed to brand-new homes) are now cash-only deals, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.

The number of sales in which the buyer doesn’t take out a mortgage began to increase a few years ago during the recession, because well-heeled investors were purchasing large numbers of distressed properties with the goal of rehabbing and flipping them.

But according to the survey, in the last few years investors have been joined by a new group of cash purchasers – retirees. These older folks are selling their homes and using the equity to downsize, or are flush from the stock-market boom and are buying vacation homes or condos as an investment.

Cash offers are usually more attractive to sellers than those with a mortgage contingency, and as a result a cash buyer might be able to pay less for a property.

Planning for estate tax vs. planning for income tax

Traditionally, the federal estate tax was extremely burdensome to wealthier individuals, and the bulk of estate planning involved finding ways to minimize this federal tax.

In the last few years, though, the federal estate tax rates and exemption amounts have changed and become much less of a problem. On the other hand, federal income taxes, capital gains taxes and other investment taxes have gone way up. And many states have increased their income, estate and inheritance taxes.

As a result, these days smart estate planning involves looking at all the different possible taxes that heirs might be facing, and figuring out how best to reduce the overall tax burden.

Here’s one example: Let’s say Linda owns some stock that she bought years ago for $30,000, and it’s now worth $100,000. She thinks it will continue to increase in value, and at some point she wants it to go to Adam. [Read more…]

Professional, knowledgeable and thorough

I have recently worked with Marco on Estate Planning matters and found him to be very professional, knowledgeable and thorough. Estate planning can be very complicated and confusing, but Marco has been able to reduce things down to understandable terms so that I know what to do to preserve and manage my mother’s financial affairs. He presented us with all options available so we could assess and weigh our options and move in the right direction. Marco has a calm and assuring demeanor that makes you feel comfortable. The presentation of the final materials speak volumes to the level of attention to detail that Marco puts into his work. My mother says he is “the man who knows everything!”

Carol Lynn

What you need to know about easements on your property

An “easement” is a legal right of someone who doesn’t own a piece of property to use the property for a particular reason. Many properties have easements on them, so it’s important to know about them if you’re considering buying real estate.

An easement permits a third party (such as a neighbor) to use part or all of a property for a specific purpose. For instance, someone may have a right to walk or drive over part of the property to access their home, or to go hunting or fishing there.

The most common type of easement is a utility easement, which says that a utility company can access part of a property to maintain its services. This is generally no big deal – but if a utility truck shows up on your land one day and begins excavating a lot of dirt to upgrade a gas line, it can be very disruptive.

Another type of easement is a right of way – someone else’s right to use your property to get somewhere. This is common where two properties share a common driveway, for instance; one property owner might hold title to the driveway, but the other has a legal right to use it. [Read more…]

Fannie Mae will continue to back larger mortgages

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the quasi-government entities that insure or repurchase a high percentage of mortgages in the U.S., will continue to back mortgages as large as $417,000 – and as large as $625,500 in some high-value areas.

That’s the word from the new director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the two mortgage giants.

This is good news for buyers who want to take out larger mortgages. Mortgages of more than Fannie and Freddie’s maximum amounts are usually considered “jumbo” loans, and borrowers typically have to meet much higher standards and face many more restrictions.

The agency had planned last year to reduce the largest Fannie and Freddie-backed loans to $400,000 (and $600,000 in the most expensive locales), but it now says that continuing to insure larger loans will help the country’s housing recovery.

Above my expectations

I had some work done with Marco and I was very satisfied..Marco is a great person to work with and the results were above my expectations. I highly recommended his service.

Andreia O.

What will happen to your online accounts if you pass away?

As more and more people live their lives online, the question of what happens to online assets and records after someone dies is becoming more important – and confusing.

Consider all the things that you might “own” on the Internet – thousands of photos and e-mails, Facebook and other social media accounts, music libraries, blogs, genealogy records, domain names, and much more.

Then consider how many financial accounts you have or manage online – including PayPal and other accounts with credit balances, as well as online accounts with detailed financial records, automatic bill-paying processes, etc.

If you haven’t given any thought to what will become of these things – and who will manage them after you’re gone – it’s probably a good time to do so.

Increasingly, executors are being faced with very difficult questions about what to do with these online assets. How can they access them? To whom do they belong? What would the deceased loved one have wanted? [Read more…]

How to buy a vacation home with friends or family

Sales of vacation homes have been rising sharply lately. Across the country, the number of vacation homes sold last year was up 30% from the year before, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Vacation homes now account for 13% of all home sales. The median price last year was $168,700. Interestingly, most vacation home buyers are under age 45.

Many people have long dreamed of owning a second home, but buying one can seem like a big stretch. One solution is to join forces with friends or family and purchase a home together.

This can be an ideal solution – you get to use the home for part of the year, just as you planned, but you can also share the cost, the maintenance work and the expenses with others.

But before you take the leap, it’s important to think through everything that will be involved, and what will happen if something goes wrong. You’ll want to have a frank conversation with your partners and draw up an agreement that covers all the bases – a kind of “real estate prenup.” [Read more…]