Do You Have Sufficient Auto Insurance Coverage?

Imagine getting ready to leave your house and you open your door and the rain is pouring down. Now you start to frantically look for your umbrella…. ah, there it is! You step outside, open your umbrella, and you are now protected from that pouring rain. If it were a bright sunny day with no rain in sight you probably would not even care about where your umbrella is or if you even had one! The same is true about insurance. Until you need it, do you really care about it? Unfortunately, too many people realize that they have insufficient coverage only when an unexpected incident occurs and they have to place a claim with their insurance company.

So, a logical starting point to determine if you have proper insurance coverage is to understand the basics. To ensure that you do have the proper coverage, you first need to acquire a good understanding of the basics of auto, home, personal umbrella, and life insurance coverage. For this article, we will focus on auto insurance coverage.

Auto Insurance basically covers you for liability and property damage as it relates to your motor vehicle. There are other optional areas of coverage as well, but for our discussion let’s stay focused on the basics, which are the most important anyway. Your auto insurance policy’s first and/or second pages are the declaration pages of your auto insurance policy. The declarations pages describe your auto coverage limits in numeric dollar values.

Here is a sample of what you may see on your auto insurance policy’s declaration pages:

-Bodily Injury/Property (BIPD) 250/500/100

-Limited or Unlimited

-Medical (Med) $5,000

-Personal Injury Protection (PIP) 250 w/250 Ded

-Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) 250/500/100

-Collision $500 (Coll) Deductible

-Comprehensive (Comp) $500 Deductible

-Rental Insurance (RI) 80%/1500

Let’s take a look at each of these coverage definitions and amounts in more detail.

The BIPD represents Bodily Injury (BI) / Property Damage (PD). Basically, in the example above, this individual policyholder has liability protection for $250,000 per individual or $500,000 maximum per incident, plus $100,000 in property damage to the other party’s vehicle in a collision. Liability coverage is protection for times when you have been deemed and proven negligent in an auto accident and you therefore become legally liable for the resulting compensatory and/or punitive damages to the other party or parties. The BI, of the BIPD, will cover you for negligence on your part that resulted in bodily injury to the other party or parties. BI also covers the cost of attorney fees associated with any litigation brought against you by the other party. In the above example, this person has $250,000 in coverage for all inclusive liability and attorney fees per individual injured or $500,000 for the entire incident.

The PD, of the BIPD, covers the damage to the other party’s vehicle as a result of your negligence; thus, in the above example, up to $100,000 in property damage to the other party’s vehicle or property. Now, being cognizant of the litigious society that we live in, we ask if $250,000 per person or $500,000 per incident is enough BI coverage? This is a personal decision for every individual to make depending upon their current assets and net worth, and their knowledge of recent jury decisions and awards on BI cases. A major factor affecting this decision is an understanding that you are self-insured for any amounts awarded in excess of your BI coverage amount, should the jury award compensatory and punitive damages greater than your BI coverage amount. So, in this example, should the jury award $750,000 to the individual driving the other vehicle who suffered bodily injury because you collided with them as a result of your negligence, then you are self-insured for the amount in excess of $250,000 which in this case would be $500,000. If you do not have the $500,000 to settle the award, then the judge has many other options to ensure restitution to the injured party such as: garnishing your wages, selling off some of your assets, placing a lien on your property, etc. Now, you can get an umbrella policy to cover you up to a certain amount in excess of your underlying auto BI coverage. We will look at how an umbrella policy works in more detail in an upcoming article.

Next, we have “limited right to sue” versus “unlimited right to sue” coverage. Basically, under the “limited” right to sue lawsuit option, you agree not to sue the person who caused the auto accident for your pain and suffering unless you sustain one of the permanent injuries listed below:

-Loss of body part

-Significant disfigurement or scarring

-A displaced fracture

-Loss of a fetus

-Permanent injury

-Death

Please note that choosing this option does not waive your right to sue for economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages.

Under the “Unlimited” right to sue lawsuit option, you retain the right to sue the person who caused an auto accident for pain and suffering for any injury. Most people will choose the “limited” option because it is far less costly and it provides the ability to sue the negligent party for most major and permanent injuries. However, many attorneys will usually choose the “unlimited option” for their own personal coverage and pay the significant extra cost because they want the right to sue for any injury.

PIP coverage stands for Personal Injury Protection coverage. PIP is paid from your own policy. PIP covers medical expenses, and possibly lost wages and other damages. PIP is sometimes referred to as “no-fault” coverage, because the statutes that enacted it are generally known as no-fault laws. PIP is designed to be paid without regard to “fault,” or more properly, without regard to legal liability. PIP is also called “no-fault” because, by definition, a claimant’s, or insured’s, insurance premium should not increase due to a PIP claim. A PIP claim may be subrogated by your insurance against the other party’s insurance company if the other party was determined to be the neglligent party in the accident. PIP is a mandatory coverage in some states.

Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) is coverage from your policy that may pay for injuries to you and your passengers, and possibly damage to your property, when as a result of an auto accident the other driver is both legally responsible for the accident and determined to be “uninsured” or “underinsured.”

An uninsured driver is a person who has no auto insurance coverage, or had insurance that did not meet state-mandated minimum liability requirements, or whose insurance company denied their claim or was not financially able to pay it. In most states, a hit-and-run driver is also considered an uninsured driver as it pertains to paying for injuries to you or your passengers.

An underinsured driver is a person who had insurance that met minimum legal requirements, but did not have high enough coverage limits to pay for the damage caused by the accident. In these situations, UIM coverage can pay you for your damages. It is important to note that uninsured and underinsured is separate coverage, although in many states they can or must be purchased together. Some states mandate purchase of UM/UIM, but many do not.

Collision coverage insures you for damage to your vehicle. No matter if it is a collision between your car and another car, or your car and a stone wall. You are covered if your car sustains damage as a result of colliding into something or something colliding into it, whether you are at fault or not. Your deductible will usually apply. If you collide with another vehicle and the other party is at fault, then your insurance company may subrogate the claim against the at fault party’s insurance company to recover the claim amount.

Comprehensive (Comp) basically covers what collision coverage does not. When your car sustains damage that did not result from colliding with another motor vehicle or object, the comprehensive portion of your policy will pay for the damages. If you do not have comprehensive coverage then you would have to pay out of your own pocket for any damage to your vehicle not related to a collision. Here are the perils typically covered by comprehensive auto insurance coverage: fire, theft, vandalism, broken or damaged glass, animal inflicted damage, falling objects, storms (hail, wind, etc.), and water damage. Your deductible will usually apply.

Rental Insurance (RI) is coverage for you to rent a car while your vehicle is being repaired because of a covered incident. In the above example of declaration page values, the 80%/1500 means that you have coverage for $80 per day and $1,500 maximum total cost to rent a car while your vehicle is being repaired. This is an optional coverage that many people take, but some do not.

Well, that is it! That is the basics of understanding your auto insurance coverage. Not so bad, right? Now that you understand the basics of auto insurance coverage you can review and analyze your personal auto insurance policy’s declaration page coverage information while taking into consideration your personal financials to determine whether or not you have sufficient coverage.

Stay tuned for future articles that will explain the basics of understanding homeowner’s, personal umbrella, and life insurance coverage. You never know when it is going to rain!

Joseph Rubino, Agent

NJ Licensed Property & Casualty, Health, and Life

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Real Estate Agents – Strengths and Weaknesses in Listing Commercial Property Today

In this commercial property market there are some real pressures and challenges that confront a lot of property owners when they want to sell or lease their property. They need the help of top agents that really understand the local area, to help in moving the property.

Contrary to popular belief, it is in markets like this that good agents can make a lot of commission. It all comes down to the way in which they package their services and help their clients.

In simple terms, top agents and experienced agents can do very well today providing them work the local area and their database. A good database will always get you through any market conditions and frustrations. In saying, that I am a big believer that a salesperson's database should not be delegated to the office administrative staff to control.

Every salesperson should take ownership of their database; In this way they will get good activities from it. In this market you need leads that you can do something with. When a database is passed over to the administrative staff to control, the inevitable result is inaccurate and old data. The database soon becomes redundant. The salesperson does not keep it up to date.

Become Change Agents

So we are the 'agents of change' when it comes to helping our property clients an owners get results in this market. We should know how to attract the right people to every property listing that we take on. Exclusive listings are more important in today than ever before. Some top agents will not take on 'open listings' for the very reason that they are a waste of time and effort.

When you know the drawbacks of the industry and the listings today, you can offer the clients that you serve some solid solutions. So what are the drawbacks? Here is a list of some of the larger ones:

  1. The time that it takes to sell or lease a property can be longer today. Every client has to be conditioned for the best price or rent so the time on market is not lengthened. The first few weeks of every marketing effort are the most important. Position the property correctly to get the best inquiry in this time.
  2. High prices and high rents will achieve nothing. The price or rent for the property should be optimized for inquiry. You have to do more with less when it comes to marketing and inspecting of properties.
  3. A larger number of competitive properties can frustrate your marketing efforts and time on market. Check out these properties before you do anything with your listing.
  4. Buyers and tenants are slower to inquire, inspect the property, and then make a decision. Your skills with each stage of the listing should be optimized. Hone your skills accordingly.
  5. Limited finance can put some 'brakes' on the larger deals. Find out where your prospects can get finance from and what the criteria of approval may be.

Whilst these may be drawbacks in the market, they are also opportunities for agents that can get focused and organized. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

Are you a solution provider in this commercial real estate market? Top agents are just that. You can be too.

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Land Trusts in California

In California, general trust law is found in the Probate Code §§15000-19403. There is no specific land trust statute in California, unlike Illinois land trust law, (765 ILCS 405/410/415/420), Massachusetts business trust (MBT) law (M.G.L.c.182, §2), and Virginia land trust law (Va. Code Sec. 55-17.1).

So, land trusts created in California for California property are based on general trust law in the aforesaid California Probate Code. But an out-of-state land trust may be formed that would hold title through the trustee of a California property, to take advantage of more beneficial statute and case law of another state. Indeed, the Virginia Supreme Court in Air Power, Inc v. Thompson, 244 Va. 534, 422 S.E. 2nd 786 (1992), has confirmed that Va. Code Sec. 55-17.1 gives the trustee of a land trust both legal and equitable power of the real property, which protects the privacy of the beneficiaries.

Indeed, since California does not have a specific land trust statute, there is no legislative history nor developed case law on it in this state, only California general trust law and case law. But a general trust law may have some advantages over a specific land trust statute with more requirements. Indeed, Illinois land trust statute (75 ILCS 435) requires that holders of power of direction owe fiduciary duties to holders of beneficial interests. California general trust law does not have a similar requirement.

In any event, the avoidance of probate over a real property in a land trust trumps all difficulties in its creation.

I. California General Trust Law:

A. Creation Of Trust:

California Probate § 15000 states that “(t)his division (Division 9 of the Probate Code) shall be known and may be cited as the Trust Law.” And § 15001(a) states that “(e)xcept as otherwise provided by statute: This division applies to all trusts regardless of whether that were created before, on, or after July 1, 1987.”

Among other methods of creating trust, a trust may be created by: “(b) (a) transfer of property by the owner during the owner’s lifetime to another person as trustee,” under § 15200(b) of the California Probate Code. And “a trust is created only if there is trust property,” under § 15202 thereof.

“A trust may be created for any purpose that is not illegal or against public policy,” under § 15203 thereof. A land trust is not for an illegal purpose, nor is it against public policy in California, although it is not widely used in this state.

And “a trust, other than a charitable trust, is created only if there is a beneficiary,” under § 15205 thereof.

B. Trust Of Real Property And Personal Property:

So as not to violate the Statute of Frauds, which requires a written instrument to be enforceable, §15206 states that “a trust is relation to real property is not valid unless evidenced by one of the following methods: (b) By a written instrument conveying the trust properly signed by the settlor, or by the settlor’s agent if authorized in writing to do so.”

And under § 15207 (a) thereof, “(t)he existence and terms of an oral trust of personal property may be established only by clear and convincing evidence.” Under § 1528 thereof, “consideration is not required to create a trust….”

Lastly, “a trust created pursuant to this chapter (1, part 2, Division 9 of the Probate Code) which relates to real property may be recorded in the office of the county recorder in the county where all or a portion of the real property is located,” under § 15210 thereof.

II. Mechanics Of A Land Trust:

A. Advantages And Benefits:

(1.) Privacy:

One of the much-heralded advantages of a land trust is that a grant deed-in-trust of a trust property in the name of a different trustee (private or institutional) may be recorded with the County Recorder, but the land trust agreement that states the names of the truster/settlor/investor and the beneficiaries is not recorded.

Thus, the creator/grantor of the land trust: the trustor/settlor who invests in real property can keep his/her/its name, as well as the names of the beneficiaries out of the County Recorder’s and County Assessor’s books, and to a certain extent hide the investment from public view.

But a judgment creditor of a trustor/settlor or of a beneficiary can subject the latter to answer written interrogatories on his/her/its assets, or to debtor’s examination under oath in court to determine assets, and not merely rely on County Recorder and Assessor asset searches.

The land trust agreement may also use a name for the land trust different from the name of the trustor/settlor who created it. This is another asset protection benefit. And if the beneficiary thereof is also the same trustor/settlor, the latter may designate his/her living trust or wholly-owned limited liability company as the beneficiary to hopefully avoid gift tax issues.

(2.) Avoidance Of Probate:

Moreover, just like successor trustees may be designated in the land trust agreement, successor beneficiaries may also be selected to avoid disruptions in distribution of trust assets at termination of the trust, outside of probate proceedings.

A land trust may be created as revocable (terms of the agreement may be changed) or irrevocable (cannot be changed), but the latter requires the filing of separate tax returns and is taxed at a higher rate than the trustor/settlor’s individual tax rate, unless considered a simple trust in which all incomes created are taxed to beneficiaries. For federal income tax implications, if the grantor/trustor is also the beneficiary, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) classifies it as a grantor trust that has tax consequences that flow directly to the trustor’s Form 1040 and state return.

(B.)Disadvantages And Pitfalls:

(1.) Separtate Agreement For Each Property:

In order to preserve the privacy of the investment or transaction and the asset protection benefits of the land trust, only one real estate property can be listed as held in it. Thus, a different land trust agreement is created for each property. This could be cumbersome, although the same trustor/settlor, trustee, and beneficiary can be named in each agreement.

(a) Simpler Alternatives:

Simpler alternatives are to purchase investment or rental properties through a limited partnership (LP) or a limited liability company (LLC), or transfer such properties to a more flexible living trust that does not require the filing of separate tax returns, or transfer the ownership interests of an LLC (not title of the property) to a living trust.

An LLC may also create a land trust by conveying title of a property to the trustee, and designate itself (LLC) as the beneficiary for privacy of ownership. Sometimes less is more; for indeed, creditors can see through and have recourse against avoidance of execution of judgment on properties through asset protection schemes. And transfers of ownerships of properties may result in tax assessments.

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The Fireman’s Rule – Law Prevents Firefighter From Suing For Injuries Received While Fighting Fire!

When I first heard the term, "The Fireman's Rule," I thought that I had obviously stumbled upon a rule of law that would be of benefit to firefighters through the country. What I learned after a couple of hours of research was that this rule of law was of no benefit to firefighters, but instead served to benefit the property owner / occupant who Negligent acts or omissions may have been the primary cause of injuries to a firefighter while Fighting a fire. In fact, the Fireman's Rule operates to bar a fireman from suing a property owner / occupant when the acts or omissions of the property owner / occupant caused or contributed to injuries the firefighter received while fighting a fire on the concessions of the owner / occupant.

The fireman's rule is a common law, and in some states statutory, based on a judiciously recognized public policy that encourages people to freely call the fire department for help without concern if they will be held liable to the firemen for injuries that are beyond their ability To control. In other words, the courts believe that a person should be able to call for help when their kitchen is on fire without worrying if a fireman will sue them if he is bitten by the family dog. The courts have held that these risks go along with the job.

In order to understand what the fireman's rule is and is not and how it operates, it is necessary to take a brief look at what the courts have been saying when deciding such cases. In one case, Whittenv v. Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Authority (Fla. 1978), the Florida Supreme Court explained the duty owed to a firefighter by the owner / occupant of the concessions which is the subject of the emergency. The Court ruled that a fireman has the legal status of a licensee, and as a licensee the only duty owed to a fireman was a duty not engaged in conduct that is considered to be either wanton (deliberate, without regard) or willful and / or To warn the fireman of any dangerous defect that is not open to the regular observation by a fireman.

As a basis for the fireman's rule, the Florida Supreme Court explained in Kilpatrick v. Sklar (Fla. 1989) that the fireman's rule is based on public policy. It purpose is to permit individuals who require fire department assistance to call for help without stopping to consider whether or not they will be held liable for any injuries to a firefighter which, in most cases, are beyond their control. In the Kilpatrick case the Court observed that firemen (and policemen) usually enter buildings and structures at unforeseeable times and under extreme emergency circumstances where most people do not have the time nor opportunity to prepare the concessions for their visit. And there should not be held responsible for any injuries that occur to the firefighters as a result.

Lastly, in Lanza v. Polanin 581 So.2d 130 (Fla. 1991) (cites other cases used in article) the Court noted that a firefighter who enters a house or dwelling does so without any guarantee that he will not find a bulldog waiting to bite him. These are dangers inherent in the job and caution should be exercised by the fireman since he is a trained professional. Again the Court emphasized that the policy behind the fireman's rule is to encourage people to call the fire department when needed by limiting the circumstances under which a person may be liable to the firefighter for injuries he may receive responding to and while fighting the fire, or Otherwise handling the emergency.

To summarize, the fireman's rule is a rule of law based on public policy which protects the owner / occupier of property from lawsuits by Firefighters for injuries which receive while on the promotions fighting a fire or handling an emergency. In other words, if you the firefighter are injured while fighting a fire, and you can prove that those injuries were caused by the negligent acts or omissions of the property owner / occupant, you will most likely be barred from recovery unless you can show that Such conduct that led to the injuries was willful or wanton or that the owner / occupant failed to warn of a danger known to exist. All of which is near impossible considering the unlimited variables present in a fire or other emergency. The fireman's rule is no friend of the fireman.

Michael Hendrich, JD FirehouseToday.com

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Factors That Affect the Price of an Airline Ticket

The wide range of prices encountered when shopping for an airline ticket, make this a daunting task. What factors affect the price?

  • Fuel cost has one of the greatest effects on tickets. As the price of crude rises, so do the airline's costs. Airlines that negotiate fuel acquisitions well into the future can avoid sudden spikes, and pass on savings to the customer.
  • A weak economy causes people to cut back on non-essential travel. This encourages airlines to give discounts to lure fliers back. Conversely, when business is good, and planes are filled to capacity, there is little incentive to offer low price airline tickets.
  • Airport fees are another part of ticket prices. Airlines using smaller airports save on fees.
  • Destination is a factor. Competition will greatly affect price. An airline that enjoys a virtual monopoly for a particular route can charge pretty much what they want. Those flying international routes have stiff competition from other countries, and have to keep prices in line with what they are offering.
  • Budget airlines can sometimes provide the cheapest airline tickets through a "no-frills" approach. This is most effective on short-haul domestic flights.
  • Timing plays a role. If departure time is nearby, and a flight still has a lot of empty seats, the airline may offer them at a substantial reduction. If flying on a particular day is not critical, it may worth holding out until the last minute.
  • Where the ticket is purchased can affect its cost. Travel agents get bargains from the carriers, but charge for their services. The internet produces some bargains, but be careful who you are dealing with. Occidentally the airlines' own websites have unadvertised discounts.
  • Plain, old-fashioned greed. Air travel is a market driven economy, and airlines will charge as much as they can get away with. Do not believe anyone. Do your own research.

When shopping for cheap flights, be aware of what you are actually comparing. One airline advertisements a flight to an Asian destination, as $ 800, while another gives a price of $ 1300. Reading the fine print shows that the "cheap fare" has another $ 700 in hidden fees and surcharges, meaning it is actually $ 200 more than the all-inclusive fare.

There are many factors that affect the cost of an airline ticket. How well the carrier manages these costs will determine their bottom line. Competition is the key, airlines that most want your business will offer the best deals. Careful shopping will help find the cheapest flights.

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Rental Property – The Responsibilities of the Renter and the Owner

When you rent someone’s property, it’s good to know how what your responsibilities are in order not to have inconvenient situations. When some people rent someone else’s property they think that they are responsible only for a few little things and the rest of responsibilities should be taken care by a leasing agent. But usually it is vice versa. When someone rents a house or apartment, they are usually obligated to sign a contract where all the responsibilities of leasing agent and renter are fully described. In case if something happens both parties understand what they are responsible for.

Responsibilities Of Renters

Normally, renters bear responsibility for the area that is around their apartment and for the apartment itself. Usually, these are areas inside the apartment as well as their backyard. So this includes common sense responsibilities and rules of maintenance and cleanliness of the area. Such things such as repairing certain parts of the interior or the exterior or painting the walls are the responsibilities of the renter.

But still, this is not it. Renter is responsible for some other things in leasing agent’s house. If something happens with the bathrooms, the renter is also responsible for fixing it if it’s possible. But if such things happen and that renter doesn’t feel comfortable to accomplish this job she might contact the maintenance contractor for proper help.

Renters must know their responsibilities and always show respect to other renters in their area and not cause damage intentionally. Not picking up trash after yourself if you left it somewhere is the same as intentional littering. Renters that don’t follow these rules are fully responsible for their actions and might be forced to pay fines.

Responsibilities Of Leasing Agents

If something happens with that exterior of the building or the equipment is not working properly then it is the responsibility of the leasing agent. Leasing agent is always supposed to take care of his renters and make sure that they are always provided with all the necessary utilities and that everything is working properly in his apartment. For instance, if problems with water occur in the apartment then the leasing agent he supposed to contact maintenance staff.

And also, one more of responsibilities of a leasing agent taking care of public areas. This is usually that surround that area of the apartment, such as grassy parts of the land.

So basically, the leasing agent is always has to take care of his renters and make sure they don’t have any complaints or concerns. If the leasing agent doesn’t pay attention to any complaints that he’s renters might have, this may lead to having problems with clients or with the local housing authority. Again, if the client or the renter is not provided with what he expected and paid for, he will be very disappointed about the maintenance service. In these cases renter might call a maintenance company to resolve the situation and bill the expense to the owner.

So before you rent an apartment to a renter as a leasing agent make sure that both of the above are working fine. A renter faced with this kind of problems, can contact the department of housing and ask them to provide advice what to do in this situation.

In some cases, leasing agents may break their rules of that agreement and disobey points of the contract. The department of housing is usually responsible for enforcement in this kind of situation and if the renters still have complaints, they have the authority to force the owner to provide a remedy.

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Monopoly Game Rules

One game has always been a favorite with all people associated to all age groups and that is Monopoly. The game has its fans across borders and all around the world. Still, a lot of people are unaware of all the rules of this game. It is imperative to know and understand Monopoly Game Rules in order to be a champion while playing this game. Let us have a closer look at the Monopoly Game Rules:

  1. Build Hotels: Many people think that they only need to have four houses on every property in group color before they can actually start buying hotels. Well, it is not correct. Apart from this condition, optimum number of houses should be available in the bank as well. In absence of enough homes, one can not buy hotels.
  2. Going to Jail: If as a player one goes in the jail then even though he scores doubles, his turn will come to an end. Such a player will not get an opportunity to roll again.
  3. Income Tax: As a player, if a person ends up on income tax block after passing GO, his money worth $ 200 is included in his total worth. In this case a player gets to decide whether he wants to pay 10% of his total worth of $ 200.
  4. Fine amount in case of Utilities: A player is not required to roll again to determine the amount of fine on utilities. The numbers which come from the dice in first roll are considered for the fine amount.
  5. Together try to win: Mergers are not considered as part of the official Monopoly Game Rules, however, there are many players who add it in their personal rule book. In this situation, two players can decide to play together as partners. In such a situation, the assets of both the players can not be combined. Instead of this, one of the two players has to quit the game and then the second one continues playing.
  6. Quitting the Monopoly Game: At any point of time, if a player wants to quit the game then his assets are returned to the bank. The player can not gift his assets to any other player. Yes of course, a player can decide to sell off his property to some other player even gifting is not possible.
  7. No immunity against rent: At no point in the game a player can offer immunity to another player against rent.

Players often forget these simple rules and end up losing the game. There are many people who have twisted the rules of this game as per their convenience though the fun of playing Monopoly is more when played with the original rules of the game. Monopoly Game Rules were designed keeping in mind all the possibilities in this game and here one should follow them to play the game in the best and accurate manner. If one plays the game with all the rules then the chances of disagreements on various things can be avoided and game can be enjoyed thoroughly.

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Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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Geode Crystals & Astral Travel

Astral travel can be enhanced by working with crystals and their vibrational field levels during your session. But where do you start and how to help? There are many different suggestions for this, as well as different ones will resonate within different people and their energy fields.

A good place to start is by working with the crystals you enjoy the most. If you are not sure where to start, go with your intuition and follow your gut instincts as they will not steer you wrong.

A wonderful way to work with them in astral travel and meditation sessions are in geode form. The best ones I have come across that have the highest energy vibrational level are clear quartz, amethyst, citrine and calcite. It is best to work with just one type of crystal within the geode, but you can combine them in your circles if you wish. The energy field will be a combination of the different types and will have them make a weaving type of pattern within the energy field. This is a very unique type of field to work within, but may not always be the best, as opposed to a single type of stronger vibrational field you would receive with just one type of geode.

During your astral travel session, surround yourself with as many geodes as possible, in a circle, or alternating the type of crystal found within. The more the better, and even if they are small, the geodes still put out a lot of vibrational fields for you to work within!

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Mandatory Provident Fund

Ideally, retirement means a person retire from their regular career; Enter a new life span to review what they have contributed to their profession through their early and middle adulthood. When a person entering retirement, they must enjoy the rest of their life, the fruitful harvest gain from their previous efforts and pursuing a new goal with their spare leisure time.

The beautiful picture of retirement can only be achieved if you are being protected with a good retirement protection, such as provident funds or personal savings. Without these schemes, I am afraid the retirement will only be a start of a nightmare. In fact, before the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, only about one-third of the work of 3.4 million people have some form of retirement protection.

Contribution from the advancement of education level, numerous breakthrough in the medical treatment, modern technology to combat the natural disasters and so on, Hong Kong's population is living much larger than before, but also getting older in a fast tempo. Nowadays, already ten percent of our population is aged 65 and above. By 2016 the proportion will be 13 percent and one senior citizen in every 5 people by 2035.

Without some way is found of funding the welfare and health needs of the growing population of elderly, a massive burden will fall on the shoulders of the taxable working population. Their wages will be heavily taxed to meet the claims. Without sufficient financial resources, the scarce resources will jeopardize the well medical services and welfare we are enjoying now, something must be done to cope with the predicted situation.

The Pathway to Retirement Protection — Mandatory Provident Fund

The World Bank has outlined a framework of the protection for the elderly, so called 'three pillars of old age protection'. This recommended that old-age programs should protect the old and also promote economic growth. The three pillows recommended by the World Bank are
Mandatory, privately managed, fully funded contribution scheme.
Publicly managed, tax-funded social safety net for the old.

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

The SAR government is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which provides basic social security to the needy, and after much debt it was decided in 1995 that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme should be introduced, there was a reasonable argument as to the Best system for Hong Kong. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings, Hong Kong will have in place all the three pillows for old age protection.

Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Order requires all employees (irrespective of their status as a temporary staff or part time worker) and self-employed persons to join a MPF scheme under which contributions will be saved for retirement. The ideology is to ensure people are adequately provided for upon reaching retirement age.

Employer and employee each pay 5 percent of an employee's monthly salary into a privately run pension plan. The MPF law gives an employee a range of investment choices under an employer's MPF scheme. Generally speaking, without other circumstances, the member can only collect the lump sum of the MPF benefits when they attain the retirement age of 65.

Problematic MPF?

Mandatory Provident Fund scheme which begins in December 2000, this scheme represents a starting point for coercing individuals to plan for their retirement. Beside helping to provide for the retirement needs of millions of people, the MPF is likely to radically reshape savings habits and investment attributions and it will extend the pension umbrella to the remaining two million employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies.

Different retirement protection systems have their advantages and disadvantages. After careful consideration, it is generally accepted that MPF best suits Hong Kong 'needs, but as we know, no system is prefect, MPF is no exception, this controversial policy has drawn many criticisms.

Libertarians claim the system run contrary to the Hong Kong spirit, as individuals and firms are coerced into savings decisions that are better placed to make alone.

Other claim Many workers with high mobility are able to avoid taxation by constantly changing employment and a lack of information about them would make it difficult to capture them in the MPF network.

Many more violations and oppositions have also targeted the MPF, in the following paragraphs; I will divide it into different aspects and analyze these practices and oppositions, so that we can get more detailed picture about this far-reaching policy.

Protection for all?

MPF is adding a pillar for our retirement protection; If it is true, it will consolidate the foundation of an enjoyable retiring life and the retired people are no longer worried living under poverty. In fact, will it really protect all future retired people in Hong Kong? It seems to be the most challenging questions and controversial part of the MPF policy. Will the scheme really protect the elderly, unemployed, housewives and so on? I will divide the question into four parts — high income group, low income group, no income group and young, middle and old aged worker to look for the answer for the above questions.

High income people

Before we consider who will benefit the most from the scheme, we should know what you get out of the scheme depends on what you put in. As a result, low-income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid worker.

Many high-income people are working large companies and occupying the middle, high or senior position. Since they are specialized in their relevant profession and they possess some kind of expertise knowledge in their working field, their bargaining power in the labor market are relatively higher, so their companies and organization will provide them many welfare and special allowances in order to lure them Staying in the company. Nearly all of them will enjoy a pleasant retirement even without the implementation of the MPF, since many of them have significant amounts of personal saving, high value property or investment and existing pension fund.

Now the MPF has been implemented, both employers and employees will have to pay a minimum contribution of 5% of relevant income, this group of people seems to be much protected and secured from the policy.

Low-income people

As the points illustrated above, low income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid because what you get out of the MPF scheme depends on what you put in.

The greatest untruth of the MPF is that a gross 10 percent deduction from salaries, capped at a maximum income of $ 20,000 a month that can make a meaningful dent in funding old age. This mandatory contribution level of the scheme is a good basis to start with, but it is not enough. People will need to pay more to get a better life in retirement. A simple example will illustrate more about the concept, for example, a young man who starts to pay into an MPF ​​plan at 20 years old with an average income of HK $ 15000 per month. Assuming the investment grows with 5 percent inflation, after 45 years of contributions, he would receive just HK $ 771429, that would leave him just HK $ 4300 per month for the 15 years after retirement, if we assuming he die at age 80 (the average life Expectation in Hong Kong).

We should remember most low-income workers are approaching only around $ 10000 or below per month. After many years of contributions, they would receive just around $ 2000-3000 a month. Also due to their income would berely cover their monthly expenses, they are without personal savings, their retirement may not be funded in a pleasant way, the effectiveness of the MPF scheme may not create a beautiful picture for this group of people.

The MPF scheme not only can not provide an effective retirement protection for them, but also create some difficulties and hardships for them. Some unscrupulous employers are avoiding pay extra for the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme by slashing wages and making their staff become self-employed. Many of these problems came from the catering and construction industries.

Since Hong Kong are still recovering from the 1997 Asia financial turmoil, the most hard hit industries (transports, catering, restaurants, construction, manufacturing) are still struggling, most low income workers are working in these sectors (an estimated 500,000 people are working in The construction and catering industries, which account for about 17 percent of the total work in the SAR). Some employers were 'playing tricks' to avoid their financial responsibility because the MPF is an additional cost for these employers. They only cut staff salaries to save costs rather than taking risks to break the law.

Some restaurant owners treated part of their staff wages as special allowances instead of basic salaries in an attempt to lower the employers' contribution. Others effectively cut salaries by imposing an unpaid holiday arrangement on staff. Some construction firms had modified staff into self-employed contractors to avoid liability. The affected construction workers would have no longer enjoy the benefits of MPF or other staff welfare scheme.

Transport employees are also affected by the scheme. A survey conducted by the Container Transportation Employees General Union members found 86 percent had experienced some reduction in pay and benefits by employers using the MPF as the reason. The cutbacks include reducing pay and benefits such as bonuses, travel allowances and telephone payments, signing new contracts that waive past years of services without compensations. They were forced to register as a business so they have self employed status. Since it is very difficult to find a job in the current climate, so they have to accept the new arrangement reluctantly in order to survive.

All those unscrupulous employers are not only exploiting these low-income workers that are also under the effects of the SAR government to build a fund fund system for Hong Kong.

We can see clearly the long-term benefits are far from the low-income workers, but the immediate negative consequences that they should face now, so there is no doubt why the most opposite voice is coming from this sector.

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

The benefits from MPF not only depend on the salary input, but also depends on the choice of funds. The choice of fund may be greatly influenced by the age of employee and what you can collect after retirement. For example, a young worker can afford to invest more in high risk, higher reward funds because if markets tank, they have a long time to recover. By contrast, an employee close to retirement can not afford to risk short-term volatility taking a chunk out of his capital. Young workers seem to be the most benefit from the MPF scheme, compare with the middle or near retiring aged people. The majority of low income earners in their 40s and 50s have no chance of achieving what pension planners call a minimum replacement rate sufficient to fund a pleasant retirement, for example, a man who works for the next 25 years on the median wage of $ 10000 a Month may get only $ 1700 a month upon retirement, based on commonly quoted return rate of two percent, less than social security assistance for a single person.

Finally, as workers can not take any money back before reaching 65, and there are investment risks involved. The private sector rather than the government will manage the funds. The MPF in no way safeguards every citizen's right to the security of basic provisions in life.

No income group

Many people have criticized the MPF scheme which starts in December 2000, neglects the elderly, unemployed and women particularly housewives, since the MPF requires 'employer' and 'employee' to contribute to the scheme, so the well being of the no income people will not Be guaranteed.

MPF scheme as a compromise package that does not serve the well-being of the most vulnerable. There are now 600,000 people over 65 and in 1996, one quarter of people over 60 were living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of under $ 2500.

Women will also remain stuck in a dependent role under the MPF scheme, less than half of the labor forces coerced by the scheme are women because many are either workers workers or housewives. When they get old, they can only expect to relish on their husband, if they have one or obtain comprehensive social security assistance.

At present, Hong Kong is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which offers basic social security to the needy. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings and CSSA, Hong Kong will indeed have in place all the three pillars for old age protection. In fact, it is far from saying that the scheme provides an effective retirement protection for all and easily believes the problem of elderly poverty will be eradicated.
Burden for investors in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong acts as a financial center in the world and playing a significant role in the Asia. The implementation of MPF will certainly affect the investors, no matter the multi-national investors, big business entrepreneur, small and medium sized enterprises.

Investors of big business

Big companies in order to recruit the talents from the labor markets, many of them have been offering various welfares for their employees, these including a well-sound pension system. Before the implementation of the MPF systems, many big companies have start selecting their company's MPF provider. For example, Swire Pacific said the process of selecting the company's provider began two years old. As one of the Hong Kong's largest companies, Swire are operating companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, hotel, trading, marine and properly-development and employing 25000 employees, for this kind of big companies, it is important to have a provider with a Sound administration system to deliver pension services to all their employees, since employees are the largest assets for these big business operators.

Large companies appeared to be concerned about their employees' statements when choosing a provider, it can reflect large companies seem to support MPF scheme and it come along with their existing pension policy, it seems not to create financial burdens for this kind of companies compare with Small and medium sized companies.

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Coming at a time when small and medium firms are struggling back into the black after the financial crisis, it is not surprising that the MPF is off to a shaky start. There is no doubt that the MPF presents an extra financial burden for companies that work on narrow profit margins when these kinds of companies were badly hit by the Asia financial turmoil. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have protested vociferously over the MPF's introduction, insisting they can not afford it with the economy still recovering from recession.

Although MPF will extend the pension umbrella to the two million, employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies, the financial burden seems to be unbearable for the investors.

For small business investors, they are reluctance to join the scheme is not just about the financial burden. They also resented the time consumed by MPF decision-making and paper work because many of them were far too busy with the day-to-day business of running the firm to take on extra paper work.

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong 'economy?

MPF not only will have far reaching effects on the fund-management industry, service providers, but also the general economy. Since MPF is an investment programs, it will increase the pool of institutional funds invested in the SAR, broadening and deepening the financial markets, promoting their efficiency and theby economic growth, it will bring positive charges for financial market.

On the other hand, some people criticize the MPF scheme will eventually upset the flexibility of Hong Kong because workers can not take any money back before reaching 65 and there are investment risks involved. This compulsory saving scheme, unable an employee who leaves a company can get cash in a lump sum or use it to buy property or whatever and invest in other areas.

Conclusion

Although it is far from saying that MPF provides an effective retirement protection for all and older poverty will be eradicated, it really encourages people to save for their old age. No schemes are perfect, the MPF is no exception, but it is the scheme most suitable for Hong Kong 'needs. Since Hong Kong has a well-established and sound financial services sector. A privately managed retirement system under prudential regulation and oversight is the most effective and secure way offer retirement protection to the work. Also under a free competition environment, it tends to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the MPF scheme, which will benefit scheme members extremely.

Nowadays, a large part of the social welfare expenses are spending on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), in the long run, MPF scheme may reduce the financial burden of CSSA, spare welfare expenses can be spent on other social welfare areas, every Citizens will benefit at large.

The scheme may be viewed with some skepticism at the moment, but after people have a chance to see the plan in action, attitudes towards long term saving and retirement should change. Then retirement could be something to look forward to with pleasure, rather than worry. But one thing should be bear in mind, our government should also take care of the most vulnerable people in our society as the paragraphs mentioned above, provide them with appropriate assistance, especially the low income people. Only with that, Hong Kong will be a better, fairer society for everyone to live in.

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