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1 Free Legal Consumer Guide Series Brought To You By Meeting All Your Legal Needs for 50 Years

2 2 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE If you read this guide, you will discover what you need to know about your legal issues, and learn about your options. Then you will be armed with information so you can make an informed, intelligent decision about what to do. What you should do now if you need legal advice: Read this Free Legal Consumer Guide. You should be informed before you talk to an attorney. Call an attorney. At least get an initial consultation to discuss the unique facts of your situation. The best solutions come from applying the law to the facts of your case. No book can do that. Most attorneys offer a 1 hour consultation to discuss your case. We have many good choices in Southern Maryland. Of course, we hope you choose us! We want to be your family s attorney. Contact us today. Disclaimer: (1) Using this guide will not make you a lawyer, and is no substitute for hiring one. Do not represent yourself in any serious legal matter. (2) This guide gives general information and advice. Effective legal advice requires understanding the unique facts of your situation, and applying the law to those facts. (3) Using this guide does not create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The only way to do that is by meeting with us. (4) The legal advice and information in this guide applies only to Maryland.

3 3 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation Table Of Contents Preventative Legal Medicine 4 Storage of Documents Part I..5 Your Assets Part I...6 Storage of Documents Part II..7 Your Assets Part II.. 7 Taxes.7 Will.8 Power of Attorney & Living Will.8 Car Insurance.9 Homeowner s insurance...10 Life Insurance..10 Disability Insurance 11 Your Credit Report.11 Do You Need To See An Attorney. 12 Copyright 2013

4 4 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation PREVENTATIVE LEGAL MEDICINE Far too many people see a lawyer only when they have a crisis on their hands. Yet many legal problems can be prevented by seeking sound legal advice before a crisis develops. It is much easier and less expensive to prevent a problem than to fix it. And there are several preventative measures you can take without seeing a lawyer. You can place yourself in a relatively safe position simply by spending some time every year to review your financial and legal situation. We are attorneys who believe in preventative medicine. Just as you should practice preventative medicine for your body s health, you should do the same for your legal and financial health. We believe everyone should regularly assess their legal and financial situation, make sure they are protected from possible legal hazards, and plan to avoid a crisis. This guide provides a basic list of things to review each year, along with steps you can take to protect yourself. Review it every year, and make sure you are healthy legally speaking, that is.

5 5 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation STORAGE OF DOCUMENTS PART I You need a safe place to store your most important documents. The best and most popular places are a fire proof safe or a bank safe deposit box. Things like birth certificates, social security cards, stock certificates, bonds, insurance policies, etc. should go here. Fireproof safes are fine, but get one highly rated for being fire and water proof. Most cheap safes only survive 30 in a fire, and may not be water proof. Remember, the firefighters will be spraying water if your house is on fire, so you do need a safe that is waterproof as well as fireproof. If you intend to get a safe, you should spend the extra money to get a good one. If you use a safe in your home, make sure your heirs know its location and the combination. If you have a safe deposit box, make sure your heirs know where it is, so they don t have to scour the local banks looking for a safe deposit box. The best practice is to give someone besides yourself the right of access to your safe deposit box. If not, the bank will seal the safe deposit box upon your death and open it only with a court order, regardless of who has the key. That will cause delay and cost to your heirs at a time when they don t need extra grief.

6 6 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation YOUR ASSETS PART I If you died tomorrow, would your loved ones be able to figure out what you own, how much you own, and where it all is? Do your family a favor and keep a comprehensive list of all your assets, including insurance policies and real property. List each one, and the holder of the account or location of the property. Provide account numbers and contact information. It would also be helpful to include the estimated worth of those assets. You should review this list every year and revise it (hopefully upwards!). You should read our Free Legal Consumer Guide about Wills. At the end is an example of a letter you can use to inform your heirs of everything they need to know to make their job easy. Here are things you should include in your list: bank accounts, retirement accounts, any other investment accounts, stocks, bonds, insurance policies, real property, and valuable personal property. You should probably keep a list of debts too, even though you may prefer not to think about them. Your heirs will need to know.

7 7 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation STORAGE OF DOCUMENTS PART II You need a filing system for bank statements, credit card statements, investment statements, etc. Your loved ones shouldn t have to wade through a pile of junk to find these and handle your affairs. And doesn t it stress you out too? Get the paper pile in some sense of order one that would make sense to someone else. It doesn t have to be a filing cabinet with tabbed files, but that is the best way to do it. Those little metal filing cabinets are cheap. YOUR ASSETS PART II You don t have all your eggs in one basket, do you? Are you properly diversified? Do you have a nice mix of stocks, bonds, and other asset classes? If your assets are too heavily concentrated in any one spot, think about diversifying. If you don t know why this is important, make time to see a financial planner soon.

8 8 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation TAXES Your taxes are a great summary of your financial situation. Therefore, you should pay some attention to them even after you mail that envelope to the IRS. Did you owe taxes? Why? Are you losing a dependent s tax deduction next year? Perhaps you need to adjust your withholding? Keep copies of your last 7 years of tax returns. The IRS can go back 7 years to audit you (and even longer if they suspect fraud). YOUR WILL Do you have one? If so, review it and make sure it is still relevant. If you need changes, see your attorney. If you do not even have one, it is past time to see the attorney. Getting a will done is simple and inexpensive. Read our Free Legal Consumer Guide about Wills on our website, so you can figure out what you need to do now.

9 9 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation If you find yourself with significant assets to pass on, you should find out if you need a trust. Call us for advice and we will tell you, and we will steer you to reputable attorneys who can help you get a good trust that protects your assets. POWER OF ATTORNEY & LIVING WILL A Power of Attorney grants power to another person to manage your finances if you are disabled. A Living Will contains your wishes regarding medical care if you are disabled. If you do have them, review them and make sure they are still relevant. Are your appointed agents still local? Are they still the right people to have that power? If you do not have these items, at least spend a few minutes thinking about whether or not you need them.

10 10 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation INSURANCE Are you covered? Are you covered enough? These are two very important questions you need to ask if you want to live through a crisis if one occurs. Insurance is all about preventing a crisis. Make sure you have it, and have enough to cover you. CAR INSURANCE You have to have car insurance, but do you have enough? If not, and you cause an accident where someone is injured and gets a judgment higher than your insurance limit, you personally have to make up the difference! Maryland only requires you to get a minimum policy for liability only, covering you with $30,000 for any one injured person, and a total of $60,000 no matter how many are injured. This is known as a 30/60 policy. That is not enough! The injured person s medical bills alone could eat that up! The old rule of thumb was to get at least a 100/300 policy, but a 250/500 policy is safer and more reasonable. At least call your insurer and find out how much it would cost to increase your insurance. You may find it is quite reasonable.

11 11 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE Again the question is do you have enough? With home prices continuing to rise, you may find out that the policy you got when you purchased your home no longer covers it. If your house burns down, and your insurance won t be enough to rebuild or pay off the mortgage, what are you going to do? Also ask yourself will you be able to replace the contents of your house if it burns? Do you get the replacement value or just the fair market value of your home s contents? Get replacement value. Are you covered if somebody slips and falls on your property and sues you? How much? Read the fine print and call your agent if you have questions. LIFE INSURANCE Do you have children? Or a spouse that relies on your income? If so, you better have life insurance. Your heirs will not be able to live without it. And do you have enough? Will the money replace your income? Will your kids go to college? At least give this some thought. If you think you need more insurance, see an agent. Term life insurance is generally inexpensive, especially if you are relatively young.

12 12 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation DISABILITY INSURANCE Everyone knows they should buy life insurance in case they die. But did you know it is far more likely that you will become disabled? And yet few people get disability insurance. If you do not have it, you should seriously consider it. Ask yourself if I became disabled and could not work, how would my family survive? OTHER INSURANCE Do you have significant assets to protect? A business? A special situation? There is a lot of insurance available. Perhaps a consultation with an agent can open your eyes to insurance you did not even know you needed. At least give it a few moments thought in your annual review. YOUR CREDIT REPORT By law, you can receive one copy of your credit report free every year. Get it. See what is on it. Is there anything unusual? Make sure nobody is trying to steal your identity. Plus, a credit report is a nice back up list of your debts and assets (for your family to use if you are gone). Go to to get your free credit report. This is the government sponsored central site for requesting your credit report.

13 13 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation YOUR RESUME How secure is your job? It pays to keep an updated resume in case you find yourself needing it. Review your qualifications and job history. Add anything new. DO YOU NEED TO SEE AN ATTORNEY? Do you need legal advice about these issues or anything else in your life? Are you starting a new business, contemplating buying real estate, or making a major life change that has legal ramifications? If so, this may be the time to see an attorney to make sure you take the right actions and get it set up right. Remember, it is a lot less expensive to pay an attorney for preventative action than for fixing problems. CONCLUSION We hope you find this list useful and helpful. If you do need an attorney, please consider us. We want to be your family attorneys, and we would like to help you avoid problems before they start. It is a pleasure to see clients when they are not having a problem. We don t get to do that enough. Most people don t think ahead and practice preventative legal medicine. You should.

14 14 How to Do An Annual Review of Your Legal & Financial Situation THE FREE LEGAL CONSUMER GUIDE SERIES at Everything You Need To Know About Car Accident Cases What You Need to Know About Bankruptcy and Foreclosure What You Need to Know About Divorce and Child Custody What You Need to Know About Workers Compensation What You Need to Know About DUI & DWI How To Handle A Traffic Ticket Why You Need A Will & What To Do About It How to Handle Your Own Small Claims Case GET MORE FREE LEGAL ADVICE Sign up for our free monthly newsletter, with more legal advice, tips on how to keep your family safe, and our insiders commentary on newsworthy legal events like sensational crimes and new laws. Find the sign up form on our home page. You can also see past examples of our newsletters.

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