Archive for March, 2010
The Life Insurance Claims Lawyer
There are some occupations that are just plain irritating–and I’m not just talking about mimes and tax collectors, either. It makes one more than a little depressed to know that we actually need some of society’s professions. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t need experts in ballistics to determine who really shot who? Or child abuse therapists? Unfortunately, the world is a very imperfect place. People do gun one another down and child abuse is a reality.
While it may not be on par with those two examples, the life insurance claims lawyer is another profession that reminds you of our societal imperfections. These attorneys help the beneficiaries of life insurance policies collect proceeds after the policy-holders’ death. If you’ve ever lost a loved one (and that’s the situation of most beneficiaries), you know that the last thing anyone really needs at that time is a bunch of red tape and legal hassles.
Unfortunately, those problems often appear and it’s necessary to find a life insurance claims lawyer to handle the situation.
Why Insurance Companies Don’t Always Pay without a Fight
Insurance companies are much happier collecting premiums and sending out statements than they are paying claims. They’re in business to turn a profit and if they can avoid a payout, it works to the benefit of their bottom line.
When it comes to life insurance, that starts with the “period of contestability.” After someone gets a life insurance policy, the insurer has a period of time to look over the situation and to change their mind if the policy holder failed to meet the stated standards or if the policy holder made a “material misrepresentation” in their application process.
The length of that period of contestability is governed by state law.
The definition of “material misrepresentations” also varies with the jurisdiction, but there are some generalizations that may make the concept clearer.
One insurance law firm describes “material misrepresentations” like this:
Material misrepresentations are any discrepancies, fallacies, or distortions that would have caused the life insurance company to deny your life insurance policy had they been known at the time of approval. Material misrepresentations can occur within the:
* Life Insurance Application
* Life Insurance Application for Renewal
* Life Insurance Policy Amendment
* Life Insurance Application for Late Enrollment
Material misrepresentations must be misrepresentations in your life insurance application that are material enough to cause a life insurance company to deny a life insurance claim.
According the firm, some of the most common misrepresentations may include inaccurate reporting of occupation and employment history, age, tobacco or alcohol use, dangerous hobbies, the presence of other life insurance policies and income.
If a policy holder passes away during the period of contestability, the insurance company will investigate the deceased in search of any misrepresentations that may allow them to void the policy and to avoid making payment to the beneficiary.
How a Life Insurance Claims Attorney Helps
As you can guess, the questions of periods of contestability and material misrepresentations can get rather hairy. You can also imagine that many insurance companies aren’t all that worried about resolving problems quickly–they’d rather hold onto your money for as long as possible.
That’s why hiring a life insurance claims attorney may be in your best interest. Legal Match notes that an “attorney can help you fully understand your life insurance policy and explain how your state’s laws affect it. If you ever have to sue your life insurance provider, an attorney will know exactly how to do it.”
Additionally, some law firms report that insurance companies will use their power and wealth to protect their assets by improperly denying claims and otherwise making life difficult for beneficiaries at what is already a very difficult time. They claim that beneficiaries are far more likely to receive the money due to them if they hire a life insurance claims attorney.
Finding a Life Insurance Claims Attorney
If you’re in need of a life insurance claims attorney, you’ll want to look for someone who has extensive experience in the subject matter. Those who specialize in insurance law will be familiar with your state’s laws and will know how to work with the insurance companies to get your benefits released.
While it’s always preferable to work with someone locally who has a strong reputation and good referrals from others you know and trust, you may want to consult an online referral site to assist you in your search for an insurance claims lawyer.
‘Tis the Season to think about the Federal Mileage Rate…
April is coming. Unless you plan on dying soon, you’ll need to take care of your taxes. If you do pass away, someone else will need to pay them on your behalf. Rimshot. That’s my only tax joke for this post.
It also means that many people are interested in finding out about the standard federal mileage rate so that they can deduct the costs of using their cars for work, medical or charity purchases. Hey, every deduction counts and no one wants to overpay Uncle Sam, right?
Looking at the Numbers
The federal mileage rate was at fifty-five cents per mile in 2009. While the cost of living seems to be going up, the rate won’t. The Internal Revenue Service recently announced the 2010 federal mileage rate–it’s actually dropping back to fifty cents for this year. Charity driving will only be work fourteen cents per mile and eligible medial and moving miles will only be reimbursed at 16.5 cents, down from the previous twenty-four cent rate.
That’s not just an effort to stuff more cash into the government’s coffers, though. It’s also a reflection of reality. While we may not feel like we’re all doing better than we were last year, the price of operating vehicle has dropped. We’re not paying five bucks per gallon for gas these days and there’s little reason to anticipate a return to the sky-high prices in the near future. Thus, the feds feel as though it only makes sense to let the federal mileage rate take a dip.
Claiming the Mileage Rate Deduction
Here are a few things you should know about claiming the mileage deduction.
First, you don’t need to do it to recover the costs associated with eligible vehicle use. The IRS gives taxpayers the option to eschew the mileage rate and of determining the real cost of vehicle use as an alternative. Look into all options to see which makes better financial sense for you.
Second, the miles aren’t the only thing that matters. The federal mileage rate is only a piece of the puzzle. You can also deduct things like tolls paid, parking fees and other transportation-related expenses, consistent with the tax code.
Third, you need to have good records. This isn’t a good area for eyeballing, especially if the vehicle in question is used for something other than eligible work. A Wall Street Journal piece reminds us of that:
When the open road is your second office, it may be worth the effort to track mileage on your passenger vehicle or lightweight truck, says Fran Coet of Coet & Coet CPAs in Westminster, Colo. “If you use the IRS standard mileage rate, you have to keep a log, especially if it’s for mixed use,” she says.
Fourth, don’t try to double-dip. Calculating your deduction based on the federal mileage rate is one of a few different options, but that doesn’t mean you can use more than one system. The IRS states that a “taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recover System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for the vehicle.” Plain English: No double-dipping!
Be Careful or Call in the Professionals…
The federal mileage rate and its impact on your taxes is one of many different factors that may influence your tax bill or refund. However, it’s important to use it correctly. In other words, consult the code and the supplemental material provided by the IRS if tax time is a “do it yourself“ matter in your household. Alternatively, fork over the cash to hire a good accountant who can make sure you find all of the deductions to which your properly entitled. While all of the information provided in this post is believed to be accurate and correct, seek out the opinion or a professional and/or do your own homework in official materials regarding the federal mileage rate.
For many people, a trip to Disneyland isn’t a once-per-year event–that’s why you can get a Disneyland annual pass.
For me, it was once-in-a-lifetime thing. I went on a trip out west back in the late 70s and we made Disneyland part of the trip. I can still remember Disney pumping out the disco music and rolling out the floats with electric lights for some “electric parade” they were doing. I don’t think I’ll be back, but many people just can’t get enough (more about some of these people later). They might want to get an annual pass.
According to Disney, annual pass holders enjoy “a vast array of valuable discounts, outstanding offers and special events.” These include admission to the park (and the California Adventure theme park, as well), food discounts, parking, special hotel rates, a magazine subscription and email updates.
Disney is notoriously strict about their ticket replacement policy. Under most circumstances, those who lose a ticket should be prepared to buy replacements. That’s not the case with the Disneyland annual pass. They’ll actually replace lost passes, although there is a nominal fee involved.
I know many people will wonder if it’s really sensible to purchase a Disney annual pass if they don’t plan on living in the Magic Kingdom for several weekends out of the year. Obviously, that’s a completely individual decision based on your amusement preferences. If you regularly entertain guests in the Disneyland area or have kids who just can’t get enough Mickey Mouse, it may be the smartest purchase you’ve ever made.
There’s another situation that may justify buying a Disneyland annual pass even if you only plan on going once for a few days. If you’re bringing a larger group to the complex, you may want member of your party to buy a “Premiere Annual Passport.” These passes come with enough restaurant and shopping discounts that they can make the purchase worthwhile when applied to all members of the group. Just have the person with the pass use it to help out everyone.
While having a Disneyland annual pass does have its share of benefits, it also comes with a few limitations.
Initially, these tickets aren’t accepted at Walt Disney World. A Disneyland pass may be great for those in California, but it won’t do you a bit of good in Orlando. There is a “Premiere Passport” program for those who need ready access at both locations, however.
Additionally, the “So Cal Select” Disney annual pass (which is available only to California residents) is subject to a number of conditions, including a fairly substantial number of “blackout dates” and may not be regularly used for weekend admission. That’s something to consider when making a purchase as a California resident.
Oh, an one last word of warning. Remember when I mentioned that some people really couldn’t get enough of Disneyland? Hopefully you won’t be one of them. I’m referring to the people who buy a Disneyland pass and then start showing up at the park day after day after day–becoming weirdly fanatic in the process. These people actually go so overboard that they develop a reputation with the park’s employees. Seriously. Just check this out:
“Annual pass holders, and particularly premium APs, are a total pain in the ass,” said April Marie Cummings, a cast member who wishes to remain anonymous. “They constantly complain about cracked paint, whine that this or that thing isn’t ‘what Walt would have wanted,’ and ask us to eject people from the park because they smell like they’ve chewed gum. They are also always pumping us for information about what is changing in the park, when refurbs are going to be done, and things like that. We have sort of an informal policy to just make stuff up if someone gets annoying. “
So, stop short of becoming one of those folks if you do buy a Disneyland pass!
A few years ago, you couldn’t do any home buying or refinancing research without encountering Washington Mutual mortgage rates. Times have certainly changed. Good ol’ WaMu still exists in some form, but it’s no longer the industry giant it was only a few short years ago.
The lack of readily available information isn’t just a byproduct of the numerous complaints about the lender. It’s primarily due to the events of 2008. That’s when the United States Office of Thrift Supervision seized control of Washington Mutual, Inc., putting it under the control of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC.
Washington Mutual, Inc. was victimized by a bank run that lasted over a week during the height of the banking crisis. The failure is even more amazing when you consider just how big and popular WaMu was. As the sixth largest bank in the country, it was remarkably well-known and many people in search of loans made a point of investigating Washington Mutual mortgage rates, which were often some of the most competitive on the market.
The run on WaMu and the fallout that followed after was an unmistakable sign of a finance sector in trouble. This wasn’t a problem with a tiny corner bank that failed to remain properly capitalized. The Washington Mutual implosion was headline news.
The FDIC jumped in quickly and sold the institution to JP Morgan Chase for nearly two billion dollars. When Washington Mutual Bank was shut down, it represented the largest single bank failure in US history.
Today, as a wholly owned subsidiary of JP Morgan Chase, WaMu still offers mortgage loans, in a sense. They’re receiving some positive reviews, too:
If you are thinking about making an application for a second mortgage, there’s probably no better lender than Washington Mutual. They provide various refinance mortgage options along with excellent client service and support to make your liabilities less burdensome.
In all honesty, it’s tough to know how much stock to put into these reviews, which seem outdated and based on the pre-failure incarnation of Washington Mutual. It’s highly possible that entries like these are little more than republications of older material.
That seems likely because the bank now does business exclusively under the Chase flag. Even a trip to the site’s home page in hopes of checking Washington Mutual mortgage rates will immediately redirect you to Chase’s website. WaMu undoubtedly exists on paper in some shape or form, but one doubts many people are writing new memos on its letterhead, so to speak.
Trying to find the current rates for new loans and refinance opportunities produces very few results and many of them are of questionable accuracy. A search for Washington Mutual mortgage rates will often turn up sites like this one, which actually show rates from a variety of institutions, but fail to provide any information for WaMu itself. You’ll notice that most of these resources do, however, provide timely information regarding the interest rates at Chase.
Basically, WaMu has been a casualty of the nation’s financial meltdown. The once massive bank was right in the middle of the sub prime lending catastrophe and when the bubble burst, it ceased to exist as its own functioning entity. The future of Washington Mutual now sits n the hands of Chase. You may no longer be able to readily find actual Washington Mutual mortgage rates. Instead, you’ll be dealing with JP Morgan Chase, its purchaser. One can only hope that Chase avoids WaMu’s fates–and by all indications it is a sturdy institution that should survive as the problems in our financial sector are, hopefully, resolved.
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