Improve Your Home and Improve Your Life

A girl once said that there’s no place like home and she couldn’t have been more right. Our home is our castle, our fortress from the world, and a place where we can put up our feet to relax. Our home is such an important part of our lives and we all want to make them better and more comfortable to live in.

Home improvement can be defined as any enhancements or additions made to your home to make it bigger, more comfortable, or more aesthetically pleasing. Home improvements encompasses all projects, great or small. A project can be something as simple as repainting a wall a new color, or as grandiose as adding a new room to the house.

Whether it is out of necessity, or if you just feel like your tired of your surroundings and want to make a couple of changes , there is always something that can be done to make our homes that much more special. Doing so can make a tremendous positive impact on you and your family’s daily lives.

Once you’ve decided to start a new project, there are several important decisions that will have to be made. First of all, you have to take in consideration the scope of the project to be undertaken. Decide whether it’s something that you can do yourself, or if you’re going to need to hire outside help.

Home improvement doesn’t necessarily have to be earth shattering stuff. If it is at all possible to do the work yourself, then you might want to consider doing it and save yourself some money.

You can even ask some of your friends and family to come and help out. Chances are, a few of your good buddies would be more than happy to lend a hand with painting the house, or whatnot in exchange for a couple of cold ones.

However, there are some jobs that might require special skills or are simply too big to do yourself. In these cases you’ll have to employ the services of a contractor.

Next and most importantly, is the planning and budgeting. Getting this wrong can end up giving you lots of headaches, so be sure to plan this out carefully.

When preparing a budget, first get an accurate price list of all the materials that you are going to use. Be sure to allot an amount for unexpected expenses. Something can and inevitably will go wrong when implementing your project so be certain to have some money set aside to cover any possible problems.

When looking for a contractor, be sure to ask plenty of different contractors for their estimated prices. The prices they offer can change depending on how booked they are, or how far they are from the building site. Keep looking around for the best offer.

More importantly, ask around about the contractor’s history and legitimacy. Choose one with a good reputation for competence and honesty and ask them for customer references. Don’t choose a contractor nicknamed Bob, “The Homewrecker”.

Be sure to have everything well planned out before sealing the deal with the contractor. Ensure that the contract contains all of the necessary information such as agreed upon price, a detailed description of what the project entails, and the completion date. Also, avoid making changes midway through the project as this will require additional payments.

A home improvement project will generally require a lot of time and space, so discuss your plans with everyone living in the house beforehand. Some of the more expansive projects will require everyone to move out for a while so it would be a good time to schedule a family vacation while the work is being done.

You might also have to move all of your stuff out during the job. If the garage isn’t enough to fit all your stuff you can consider renting a temporary storage space.

After all the work is done you’ll find that your home an even more wonderful place to live in. And once you see the work that you have done, you will be amazed how just a little work here and there will do wonders to improve the atmosphere of your house.

It won’t even have to cost you that much money. It’s up to the home owner how much money they will be investing towards the improvement of their abode.

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Improve Your Home And Improve Your Life: These Tips Will Show You How

It can be exciting and difficult to do your own home improvements. You will need the advice here if you do not have a lot of experience. Read along and follow all the tips here so you can see great results with your new skills.

You should look for home improvements that will last when you are planning them. This method factors in the age of the homeowner to determine which improvements will provide the most for your home improvement dollar. Whether you plan or selling the house or keeping it for the foreseeable future, age-in-place is always a worthwhile thing to consider.

You can inexpensively create dramatic effects in your rooms with just a little creative painting. There are many different painting techniques to choose from, and painting supplies are rather inexpensive.

Remember to put good ventilation (e.g. a window) in your bathroom. Humidity from taking showers can create environments where mold can spread and grow. Painting the bathroom is a good way to hide the mold but it will not treat the problem. It is better to make a change to prevent it from forming in the first place. Windows or the right ventilation should be installed so that your space can be dehumified, which will prevent mold growth.

Painting is an affordable way to give a room a fresh look quickly and easily. Consider your options by visiting your hardware store and examining the paint chips it has available. Look for the ones you like and do it. If it doesn’t turn out the way you wish, it is easy to paint over it!

Hire a contractor for some tips on how to do home improvements to get more value out of your property. They can give you suggestions on what you can improve to help you get the most bang for your buck.

Consider your climate and other local circumstances when planning home improvement projects. Do you really want a deck if the wind frequently blows strongly where you live? The wrong home improvement will not give you the payback you though it might and money will be lost.

Being Watched From Guard Towers

Although it is a well-known fact that there have been and are some innocent people serving time in prisons of the world, most who are incarcerated are guilty of some crime. When people maintain their innocence, even though they may have been found guilty by a jury of their peers, there is a slight chance that they are innocent. Some people have been exonerated after years of serving time in prisons throughout the nation. They are usually financially compensated for their unjust incarceration. Yet they have virtually lost years of their lives.

During World War II after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, tens of thousands of innocent people were forced to be imprisoned within barbed wire enclosures at camps, which had been constructed in remote and desolate areas of the country. That order allowed the military commander to remove persons from certain locations. They lived in the camps where they lost their freedom. They were watched over by armed guards in towers who watched the prisoners with the guns pointed inward.

The United States was at war with Japan. The order could have been used with others, but it was only enacted against people who were of Japanese heritage. The Western Defense Command, which took in most of the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, was where the vast majority of the population of Japanese ethnicity lived. It was used to force them from their homes and lock them up in what have come to be known as “American concentration camps.” Two thirds of those incarcerated and treated in this unfair manner were citizens of the United States of America. They had been born in this country, but the Constitution and the government did not protect them. They faced discrimination and prejudice, which caused them to be treated in this manner.

After the war had ended, the people were sent out to resume their prior lives as free citizens. Most had no money and nowhere to go. Some returned to their homes, which might have been cared for by caring neighbors in their absence, but most found that any property or belongings they had left or stored were gone. They tried to rebuild their lives after the lost years of incarceration. It was a difficult task.

Although World War II ended seventy years ago, the story of what happened to Japanese Americans during that period of time is still not well-known among much of the population. The incarceration is covered slightly in some American history classes in high schools, but many people are unaware that the episode even happened. Indeed, some hateful people insist that the mass incarceration did not occur.

It is a painful memory in the lives of Japanese American people who lived through the experience. Government leaders have subsequently tried to erase such racism and discrimination, which caused it to happen. Yet some of those problems still exist in the world today. Most Japanese Americans would like to keep the history alive and let people know of their experiences of World War II in order to prevent such mistreatment from happening to any other people.

Top Tips for Buying a New Build Luxury Condo

For many people, investing in a new build property can be extremely exciting, with the possibility of tailoring it to exactly what they want proving very appealing. With the option of customizing floor plans and selecting luxury finishes, for many watching their new condo being created before their very eyes can be a thrilling experience.

On the other hand, some people find it difficult to invest their hard earned money into a property which is not yet compete. There can be many rewards to doing this however, so consider the following few points in order to secure the right new build property for you and enjoy the associated benefits.

Firstly, as mentioned above, buying a condo for sale that has not been built yet can seem like a major risk. Ask you can not see precisely what the finished project will look like it can be hard to decide whether it is worth it or not. This, however, does give you a distinct advantage when it comes to negotiating the price of the property.

Very often, property developers offering luxury condos for sale will provide significant discounts on the price, so the earlier you get in the better. Developers are looking to shift as much of the property as possible in order to make a return on their investment, and you could also benefit from the capital appreciation with the property increasing in value over time.

It is worth, therefore, seriously considering this option if you are interested in getting a good deal on your condo compared to other choices out there. This applies when you are looking for a condo for sale for your own personal use or as an investor.

Secondly, make sure that you research the area where the building is being constructed in order to make a good investment with your money. If you are planning to live in the property, it is essential that you find out whether you want to live in the particular neighbourhood, and whether or not it has all the amenities that you could want.

If you are an investor looking for a condo for sale, do thorough research on the property market in the neighbourhood, and find out how much demand there is for rental properties in the area. This will inform you on whether or not the property you are thinking of buying is indeed worth the investment of your money.

Thirdly, you should look carefully into the specifications of the luxury condo for sale that you are thinking of buying. All reputable property developers will have a model condo which will be built to the specifications that you can expect your new purchase to be. That said, make sure you not only visit the model, but ask plenty of questions as well.

Some of the things you should ask about include the dimensions of the property, the finishes and details of the parking facilities and the communal areas. You will often have the opportunity to customize your floor plan, your finishes and integrate appliances and fixtures. Check what is possible with the developer before you make the decision to purchase.

You will also need to check the aspect of the luxury condo for sale that you are thinking of purchasing; what kind of views will you have? Will you be looking out onto a road, a park or into a neighbor’s bathroom window? This can be hard to visualize, so visit the site of the construction to get a clear idea and speak to the developer about your concerns.

Investing in a new build luxury condo can be a great opportunity to get a high standard of property for a reduced price, and is a fantastic solution for both investors and people looking to move into a new home. By following the tips above, it can be easier to make a decision on whether or not the condo for sale you are looking at is the right one for you.

Green Plumbing Solutions That Save Money

Go Green & Save Money

One thing we know in the plumbing industry, is that new parts and repairs will cost you a lot of money if you don’t buy the right energy saving equipment. We know this day and age is offering more alternative cost saving technology that will conserve energy, but also save you money.

When remodeling your home or property, research the market on green friendly supplies, it may cost more in the beginning, but in the long run you will save more money. One thing you can do to see the difference is try smaller scale projects and keep track of the cost, savings, and overall progress of the new implemented equipment.

If you notice big changes on this project, then move forward with more alternatives, if not then you may find it easier to using the current method. Switching to the greener side of living will not only make you feel better about the environment, energy saving, but also add market value on your home.

Reports have shown an increase in real estate stock when homes are implemented with energy saving equipment, people tend to look for the more Eco-friendly homes than the ones that don’t offer any energy saving. It helps brighten up your value by adding green fixes.

MAKING THE SWITCH

According to GreenAndSave.com, you can do these changes that will significantly save your home money and also push you to the green side of the grass. Most of these fixes will be quite and simple, it can create and generate substantial ROI just on basic switches. Take a look below on some of the things you can do now to save money.

PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTATS

  • Added cost: $115
  • Annual savings: $180
  • ROI: 156.5%

STANDBY POWER REDUCTION

  • Added cost: $20
  • Annual savings: $24
  • ROI: 120%

COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHTING

  • Added cost: $60
  • Annual savings $80
  • ROI: 133%

HOT WATER HEATER BLANKETS

  • Added cost: $25
  • Annual savings: $30
  • ROI: 120%

HEATING SYSTEM TUNE-UP

  • Added cost: $200
  • Annual savings: $180
  • ROI: 90%

SEAL DUCT LEAKS

  • Added cost: $450
  • Annual Savings: $300
  • ROI: 67%

GreenAndSave.com estimates an ROI of at least 30 percent on all of these projects, and none of them have an additional cost per project of over $3,000, according to their figures. The list doesn’t stop here, there is many more ways changing your home to become more green.

There is small scale projects to potential 10 year alternatives that will last you a decade. Switching to green will be a big step in energy saving, home value, and eco-friendliness. Make the change and see the difference.

3 Steps When the Appraisal Comes In Low

The appraisal report is what most lenders are concerned with as it ensures they are not servicing more money than what the property is actually worth. But what if it comes in low? Can you still close the deal and close that mortgage? Here are three steps to take if this happens to you.

Renegotiate the Purchase Price – If your appraisal comes in low compared to the contractual purchase price, you may be able to rework the purchase price so that it is in line with the appraised value of the property. The pitfall however is when you don’t have an appraisal contingency in the purchase contract, which will make you obligated to buy the specific property.

An appraisal contingency basically protects the buyer in the even the appraisal report comes in low, where the contract can be terminated and the earnest money refunded. An appraisal contingency may include several terms. Perhaps most importantly ones that prevents the buyer to move forward with the sale even if the appraisal value is low generally with a certain number of days of receiving the official notice of appraisal value. In this case, the seller might be able to renegotiate and try to lower the price to match the appraisal amount.

Modify Financing Terms – In the event the appraised value of a home falls slightly short, there are still chances the deal will go through. Remember, buying a home generally requires a certain percentage as downpayment, which serves as a cushion in case you fall short. If this is the case, you can speak to your mortgage broker or loan officer to adjust the loan amount appropriately. It is important to note that a larger loan amount attracts a higher loan to value, which may result in higher interest rates. There are several loan to value tiers including 65-70%, 70-75%, 75-80%, and 80% or greater, and the higher the tier, the more adjustments and resulting interest rates. This is why it is important to get things clarified before you agree to the modified terms as interest rates may change drastically.

Get a Second Opinion – Just because your appraisal came in low doesn’t mean you can’t get another one. Appraisals vary and so do appraisers so if the value of the home falls short in the first round, you can always speak to your lender about getting a second opinion especially if you think the value is present. Here’s the kicker! Taking this route may backfire as the value of the home may come in even lower than the first time with an in-depth review. As an alternative, you can always confer with a different lender in the hopes that they may be able to change things around for you.

Appraising a home is far from perfect science so there will always be variations and with that will bring in more options.

Tips for Finding a Ventilation Expert for Your Home or Business Premises

Proper ventilation in any building is of key importance, not only to keep fresh air circulating throughout the premises, but also to protect in cases such as a fire outbreak or if toxic gases are released into the environment. With many different ventilation systems on the market today, finding the right solution for each building is especially important to ensure maximum efficiency.

For anyone looking to install ventilation in their premises – whether it is a new build home, a car park or an office building – finding the right ventilation expert is a top priority. A good service provider will be able to help you choose the right bespoke solution to meet your specific needs.

The first thing to consider when looking for a ventilation systems expert, is that you need to search for a company that has a vast experience in delivering on projects just like yours. If you are looking for help for your domestic property, search for a service provider that specialises in this area.

If, on the other hand, you are a property developer or architect endeavouring to construct a new community centre in a town, searching for a provider that has vast experience already supplying these kinds of solutions for this type of construction is a wise idea.

There are some major companies who can cater to projects both big and small, with extensive teams of engineers who can create custom ventilation systems to meet the needs of each and every type of client. Even if this is the case, be sure to ask the company to provide you with references or case studies in order for you to be able to verify the quality of the work they have carried out.

The next thing to consider is what types of ventilation systems the company that you are considering offers; this is because some will specialise in natural solutions, whereas others focus the majority of their work on carrying out the installation of mechanical ventilation.

Mechanical vent systems, for example, are widely used in structures like car parks, where natural ventilation is not sufficient to deal with the removal of exhaust and toxic fumes that accumulate here. On the other hand, residential properties such as small homes will rarely require this kind of mechanical solution, instead using natural ventilation.

Again, there are many providers that offer a range of different solutions, and can tailor what they install in your premises according to your specific needs. This can be an entirely mechanical or natural solution, or instead, a combination of the two in varying amounts.

When choosing a provider of ventilation systems solutions, aim to select one that offers a free initial consultation or complimentary advice, as this can help you make a decision on the right provider for you, without the need to pay upfront fees. For those who are unsure about which solution is best for them, asking for information and quotes from a number of suppliers is a good idea.

After obtaining advice from a number of sources, you can then narrow down your search and choose the service provider that seems to be the most qualified for the job. You may also choose to work with companies that offer high quality brand name vents and actuators, such as Brakel, Mingardi, Topp and UCS, as a sign of a good quality of service.

Choosing the right supplier of ventilation system solutions does not have to be difficult, despite the complexity of the industry. Look for a company that has extensive experience providing successful solutions for properties just like yours, one who offers bespoke solutions, and one that can provide you with friendly and complimentary advice on how to best meet your specific needs.

The Key to a Successful Refinance: The House Appraisal

When you are refinancing your mortgage the appraisal is the most important part of the process. You want the value of your home to come back as high as possible in order to make the loan to value ratio as low as possible. If your appraisal value puts your home equity at less than 20%, the higher the amount of equity in your property (the difference between the home’s value and your mortgage balance) the more competitive the interest rate you are likely to get since lenders consider borrowers with more equity to be less risky. If you are refinancing your mortgage you need to understand the home appraisal’s essential role in the process.

What Is a Home Appraisal?

An appraisal is an opinion of a home’s value provided by a third party who is qualified to provide this opinion. The appraiser gets paid for providing the service of valuing your home. In a refinance transaction, the appraisal protects the mortgage lender by ensuring that it doesn’t provide a loan of more than the property is worth. If the property later goes into foreclosure or power of sale for any reason, the lender wants to be able to resell the property and get its money back.

The appraiser will contact you to schedule the appointment and often their visit to your home will be between 30 and 45 minutes to tour through the whole house and take pictures and notes on the finishes and condition, measure its dimensions, and evaluate its overall condition both inside and out. The appraiser will then go back to his or her office and conduct research on your property, the legal description, the lot dimensions, sales history, etc. and then he will search for adequate comparables. Ideally the appraiser will be able to find comparable sales that took place in your immediate neighbourhood in the past 3 months. Based on the home visit and these records, the appraiser arrives at a professional opinion of how much your property would sell for if you put it on the market. The mortgage lender then uses this value, along with your income, assets and credit history – to determine how much it will lend you and at what rate.

How Home Appraisals Work in Today’s Market

The lender or mortgage broker often will order the appraisal through a third party called an appraisal management company (AMC) or contact the appraisal company directly. Many lenders have direct referral relationships with a small panel of appraisers and don’t use an AMC. Or the lender may have an in-house independent appraisal department. The appraiser should have local knowledge of the area (called market competence). Appraisers are expected to follow the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice issued by their Appraisal Foundation.

Home Appraisal Fees

Residential home appraisal fees vary based on the size of the home and other factors, but typically you should expect to pay $250 to $400 for an appraisal of a standard single-family home. More complex properties are more expensive because the inspection takes more time.

You may be required to pay the fee up front at the time of the appraisal or in other cases it will be paid for from the proceeds of the mortgage refinance, regardless of whether your loan closes, the appraiser still did the work and needs to be paid. While the fee may seem worthwhile if it enables you to get the refinance terms you want, it can seem like a waste of money if a low appraisal means you can’t refinance.

An option is to ask a real estate agent to do a comparative market analysis and provide you with printouts of recent comparable sales from the Multiple Listing Service, taking this step could potentially save you hundreds of dollars by saving you from wasting your money paying for an appraisal if the value is too low to refinance.

Improving Your Chances of a High Appraisal

The value the appraiser gives your home largely depends on the recent sales prices of comparable properties, but there are definitely steps you can take to help secure a higher value.

The biggest thing is making sure your property is neat and clean, uncluttered and easy to inspect. Any pets should be contained and smells masked. Ensure your appraiser feels comfortable in the home and can focus on taking in all the features of your home. Having a dirty or unkempt home definitely will give the appraiser a bad first impression and will make the home appear in poorer condition than it actually is.

The biggest thing an appraiser takes into account is:

  • exterior and interior condition
  • total room count
  • functionality, including interior room design and layout, and functional obsolescence
  • improvements to kitchens and baths, windows, the roof and the home’s systems (heating, electrical and plumbing) over the previous 15 years that make the home more up-to-date, functional and livable by today’s standards
  • condition and age of the home’s systems
  • exterior amenities such as garages, decks and porches
  • location
  • unappealing features, such as an exterior appearance that’s inconsistent with the rest of the neighborhood

It’s a good idea to create a list of your property’s features to provide to the appraiser when he or she arrives.

Getting a Second Opinion on a Low Appraisal

A lot of homeowners are not realistic about their home’s value, there is definitely an emotional factor that can lead to the homeowner thinking their home is worth more than reality, however there are definitely cases where the appraiser may have determined a final value that is on the conservative side and this may sink your refinance.

Keep in mind an appraisal is just one person’s opinion, the appraiser should be well trained and educated, however as with all professions, there are good and bad practitioners.

If the homeowner does not like the value of the appraisal, they can write a letter of appeal to the lender or AMC, but the chance of an appraiser changing his or her opinion is very slim, unless the homeowner has overwhelming evidence that the value is off.

You may be able to make a case by pointing out that the comparables used were in an inferior school district or an inferior subdivision, or that they have other adverse influences affecting value, such as being on a busy street.

The Bottom Line

Understanding how the appraisal process works will give you the best chance of getting an appraiser to assign the highest possible value to your property. Appraisals don’t always come in at the values borrowers hope for, and they are a human process with room for subjectivity and mistakes. You can appeal a low appraisal, but you’ll only succeed with strong data to back you up.

Asset Protection – A Must For The Business Owner

Asset Protection refers to protecting an individuals and businesses from civil judgments by using methods, systems, techniques and procedures developed from statutory law (regulated by Congress or state legislatures) and common law based on court decisions.

Asset Protection Planning is a strategic, preemptive preparation to prevent creditors from obtaining assets in the event of a civil judgment. It does not mean that a person ignores his debt obligations. It means that a person will control his debt obligations.

Plans are all encompassing, whereas protecting your home entails protecting a single asset. Though it is good to protect a single asset, one must keep in mind “flow through” liability. Liability can be passed or transferred just as proceeds, profits and cash revenue can be passed and transferred.

Personal liability is different from business liability, but it is possible to mix the two. However, it is also possible to compartmentalize or separate liabilities and this is a main objective of asset protection plans. A skilled planner will understand the options available for specific circumstances.

Oftentimes, it is beneficial to go offshore, which may increase security and privacy, in addition to providing interesting planning opportunities, such as greater rates of return on investments and asset protection. All of these considerations are built into an asset protection plan.

Do you need Asset Protection? The emotional hurdle is as to whether or not you think you need Asset Protection. The first question is, do you own anything? If you do, you are someone who should understand the basics. This is the reason we have provided this educational and informative guide.

Whether or not you need Asset Protection depends on whether or not you own any assets. If you do, you are vulnerable to many of the potential entities, such as creditors and judgments that can potentially attack your assets. It was once thought that only the rich needed to protect their assets. New tools and techniques are available and are widely used, in estate planning, through insurance products and pension etc., to practice asset protection.

It is a simple fact that nine out of ten lawsuits filed and litigated in the world occur in the US. If you have assets, you are most likely a target. When your assets are visible, you are the bull’s eye. You and your belongings are what litigators refer to as “deep pockets.” Even if you create a stealth lifestyle, your assets are discoverable by a motivated creditor.

The core goal of Asset Protection is to set up your business affairs in such a way that raises the bar for the professional takers. It does not mean that a person ignores his debt obligations. It means that a person will control his debt obligations, and your asset protection plan is in essence a proactive step in performing self-help tort reform. You in fact will control your assets and your life, instead of the courts.

Asset Protection does not give you the authority to commit fraud or engage in illegal behavior. There is a legal strategy and systematic planning that occurs when you protect your assets from creditors. This plan is specific to your assets and your financial situation and must comply with the IRS and the law.

With Asset Protection Planning, you will organize your business and personal affairs in advance of duress, in order to reduce or eliminate liability exposure or financial misfortune by placing assets beyond the reach of future creditors. Asset protection planning has also become a full-grown sub-specialty of estate planning.

Asset Protection Planning is a science and as in all areas of science, there are ethical issues.

Science – any systematic knowledge or practice

Ethics – a set of principles or moral conduct

The roots of Asset Protection are founded in debtor-creditor law. The goal is to remove the assets from the legal title and ownership of the debtor while the debtor retains control and beneficial enjoyment of the assets. An Asset Protection Plan should change the financial face of the client so that creditors have a much more difficult time attaching and seizing the assets, making negotiations favorable to the debtor. A properly constructed asset protection plan also allows the debtor to answer honestly in the face of a judge in court.

The goal is not to avoid debts; the goal is to control debts and settlements. The word debtor may scare you or bring negative connotations at this time because your debts are currently paid. Not only is this understood, but also, it is the most beneficial time to protect your assets. The word debtor refers a person in a in a “post” state of affairs as the accused or judged; in your current state you may have no creditors. However, there are “assumable risks” that you take for granted.

Ownership and Control – Learning to Separate

An American legend and tycoon of the 1930’s and ’40’s, John D. Rockefeller, believed that you should minimize your risk by owning nothing, but controlling everything. This American icon set a standard for preserving wealth and protecting assets. Over the years, a field of law emerged mainstreaming its way into debtor-creditor courts and establishing a basis in Statutory Law.

Literally, thousands of techniques have evolved for separating ownership (or title) from control and beneficial enjoyment. Every asset had a best way for protection depending on the type of asset, the financial control over the asset and the situation of the owner of the asset. The possibility of a creditor attacking the asset depends on the availability and ease necessary for the seizure and the aggressiveness and intelligence of the creditor.

Protecting assets falls into general philosophies. These include transferring ownership by way of person or trust, encumbering the property financially, and recording a naked deed of trust, selling assets under long-term contract. The objective is to choose real protection rather than to set up a smoke screen.

Assets must be protected before there are any claims by creditors otherwise the creditor may claim a fraudulent transfer of assets.

What is an Asset Protection Plan?

Every plan is different, but every plan must fit within the statutory framework and within the assets and their needs. First, the planner must identify and quantify the risk of the client. Then the planner must analyze the asset and the structures available for that asset. The planner should take great care in the profile of future and potential creditors. The more sophisticated the creditor the more encumbrances over the assets should be in place.

Transferring any asset falls under the laws and the tax issues of the jurisdictions involved. A fraudulent transfer is a dream come true for a creditor and may give them automatic domain over the asset and the legal right to pursue the transferred assets. This is why we say that the assets should be protected when the seas are calm.

Very few of us would hesitate at arranging our affairs to pay less income tax. The majority of people think it moral to try to reduce estate and inheritance taxes. It is legal to reduce taxes without committing fraud or tax evasion. In law, obligation is defined by “duty” and “Duty of Care”; it means what you owe by specific circumstances.

Then what Duty of Care does a person owe an injured party? There is a famous saying by lawyers in answering this question, “that depends.” Herein is the answer to the question. “Is it ethical to do asset protection planning?”

Should you become the injured party, you will be subject to the ethics of others and will have no control over the outcome or the consequences you will suffer. One could argue that the party who is right will prevail. There are no guarantees and there is no magic wand.

Your solution could be a combination of asset protection trusts, family limited partnerships, insurance, LLCs, or many other various tools in the toolbox. Be aware that the toolbox is filled with many options when the financial seas are calm and that once your assets are financially challenged or in duress, these options become limited.

What is a Trust?

There are many definitions and different ways to explain what a trust is. Below are a few definitions all explaining what a trust is.

• A trust is the right, enforceable solely in equity, to the beneficial enjoyment of property of which another holds the legal title.

• A trust is a legal relationship in which one person (or qualified trust company) (trustee) holds property for the benefit of another (beneficiary). The property can be any kind of real or personal property–money, real estate, stocks, bonds, collections, business interests, personal possessions and automobiles. It is often established by one person for the benefit himself or of another.

• A trust is a fictitious legal entity (not a bricks and mortar entity) that owns assets for the benefit of a third person (beneficiary). It is common to put whole bank and brokerage accounts, as well as homes and other real estate, into a trust.

• A trust is a relationship in which a person, called a trustor, transfers something of value, called an asset, to another person, called a trustee. The trustee then manages and controls this asset for the benefit of a third person, called a beneficiary. An asset is any kind of property.

You will find many definitions in different states or different law books. The above meanings all mean the same thing.

How does a Trust work?

Generally a Trust involves at least three people: the grantor (the person who creates the trust, also known as the settler or donor), the trustee (who holds and manages the property for the benefit of the grantor and others), and one or more beneficiaries (who are entitled to the benefits).

The Grantor (or settlor) of the Trust is the person who set up and gave money to the Trust. The Trustee of the Trust is the person charged with keeping the assets safe, invested properly, and finally distributed to the Beneficiary at the proper time. The Grantor can decide how the money must be kept (in interest bearing accounts, in real estate, or only in government insured FDIC accounts, etc.), and when it may be distributed. The Grantor of the Trust can also be the Trustee of the Trust, if the Grantor decides to set the Trust up in such a manner (e.g., Grantor sets himself up to be the Trustee of a Trust for his child).

How is a Trust used?

What are the uses of a trust? Trusts have several uses and they can be of much benefit when properly set up and managed. One of the uses of a trust is to provide flexible control of assets for the benefit of minor children. A trust set up for the benefit of minor children can avoid the necessity of further legal proceedings, such as the appointment of a conservator. A conservator is someone who is appointed by the court to control the assets of minor children. Conservators are restricted by law and must be bonded and file annual accountings with the probate court.

Children cannot legally handle their own financial affairs before they reach the age of 18. One purpose of creating a trust for a child is to assure the trustor that the child will be benefited but will not have control of the trust assets until the child is older. In establishing a trust, the trustor selects a trustee and specifically instructs the trustee how the assets will be used for the beneficiary. A trust for the benefit of minors often takes effect when both parents have died. It is usually set up to provide for the support, care and education of the children until they have reached the age set by their parents to actually receive the assets being held by the trustee.

Putting property in trust transfers it from your personal ownership to the trustee who holds the property for you. The trustee has legal title to the trust property. For most purposes, the law looks at these assets as if they were now owned by the trustee. For example, many trusts have separate taxpayer identification numbers. But trustees are not the full owners of the property. Trustees have a legal duty to use the property as provided in the trust agreement and as permitted by law. The beneficiaries retain what is known as equitable title, the right to benefit from the property as specified in the trust.

The donor may retain control of the property. Putting assets “in” a trust does not mean that they change location. Think of a trust instead as an imaginary container. It is not a geographical place that protects your car, but a form of ownership that holds it for your benefit. On your car title, the owner blank would simply read “the Mr. Jones Trust.”

After your trust comes into being, your assets will probably still be in the same place they were before you set it up–the car in the garage, the money in the bank, the land where it always was–but it will have a different owner: the Mr. Jones Trust, not Mr. Jones

Offshore Trusts

According to the IRS – In general, a trust is a relationship in which one person holds title to property, subject to an obligation to keep or use the property for the benefit of another.

The laws that govern trusts are subject to the jurisdictions in which that trust is recognized whether onshore or offshore. There are domestic trusts called onshore trusts and offshore trusts which are outside the US domain. It is critical to choose the proper jurisdiction for your trusts because not all jurisdictions offer the same protection and benefits. Some jurisdictions offer very favorable protection of assets. (Remember that the beneficiaries enjoy those very same assets without holding title). Other jurisdictions may only offer limited protection.

Most assets, titled and untitled, can be transferred to offshore locations; real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, securities, businesses, precious jewels, gold and art are examples. The Trust Company must be knowledgeable and familiar with the statutes and legislation in order that the trustee is afforded the best protection and services available.

The primary benefit of a trust is protection. A judge cannot compel the forfeiture of an asset in a jurisdiction which he does not rule from or from which he has no authority. Therefore, the assets remain safely in place where they have been all along. Offshore trusts are especially powerful tools of protection since it is unlikely that a creditor would spend the time and money in litigation for the slim chance of gaining anything. A creditor would be forced to begin litigation in the jurisdiction of the trust (if the jurisdiction will even hear the case). The very heart and purpose of trust legislation as set by their statutes is to create a durable entity. It is very much like the expression “chasing your tail” and this is not a desirable result for a creditor.

While in some jurisdictions, you can name yourself as the sole beneficiary, in others you cannot. This is another reason why a plan must be strategically created to fit your individual needs. It is important that the trustee be bonded and licensed to provide trustee services. In some cases, insurance companies may stand in as the trustee. In any event, the beneficiary may remove the trustee and replace them if they are not satisfied if and only if the provisions have been made in the operating agreement. Again, this is why an experienced and trusted company should be employed for your Asset Protection Plan because technically the beneficiary owns nothing.

If the sound of owning nothing scares you and makes you skeptical, understanding the legal concept of ownership and custody may put you at ease. A person or entity with custody has full possession and control over a thing regardless of who the owner is. Only the owner can pass this custody and possession, but once it is passed the custodian or possessor (sometimes the same and sometimes not) have the full benefits according to the law. Now you know that placing your property into a trust does not increase your ability to be removed from the benefits of the property or asset.

Often an offshore LLC is used in conjunction with the formation of the trust. This LLC is the management LLC inside the trust and owned 100% by the trust. You operate the trust on a day-by-day basis, unless you are in duress, and then by operating agreement policy, the management of the LLC is passed to a licensed and bonded trustee on a temporary basis until the time of legal duress passes. The trustee that the trust is passed to is outside the jurisdiction of the judgment and therefore does not have to comply with creditors or with the judgment. The assets then remain safely within the trust. This agreement for the trust is set up before any duress occurs avoiding any fraudulent conveyance.

The time for transfer for avoiding penalties of Fraudulent Conveyance varies in different jurisdictions and by the nature of the asset as well. Some jurisdictions have more favorable movement of assets, but there is one steadfast rule – the assets that are protected with the greatest security are moved before duress, or as we say, when the seas are calm.

Complementary Flooring for Your New Kitchen Cabinets

Installing bespoke wood kitchen cabinets is one of the simplest ways to dramatically enhance the look of your kitchen. Even without upgrading any other feature of the room, the difference brought by this one change is often astounding.

However, new kitchen cabinets are often installed as part of a whole makeover. And of all the elements in the kitchen that can be upgraded, not much makes as big an impact on the overall look as the type of flooring used.

Depending on what factors the homeowner deems most important, there are a number of options. Each one brings its own benefits while complementing the look of the new bespoke wood cabinets in its own way.

Whether seeking a wooden style to match the cabinets, a classic stone aesthetic to add contrast or the practical benefits of a modern synthetic surface, no homeowner should ever be short of options.

Wood you believe it

For the homeowner who wishes to maintain the natural look created by their new bespoke kitchen cabinets, a traditional hardwood floor will be the preferred option. Attractive and durable, natural wood floors can also increase the resale value of a home.

Protection from excess moisture should be applied, but it’s a small price to pay for the traditional, rustic look and feel of a real wood floor.

For a slightly different aesthetic, eco-friendly flooring materials such as bamboo and cork also provide an all-wooden environment to show off bespoke kitchen cabinets. With the former being a fast-growing plant and the latter providing a naturally soft feel, each option brings its own merits.

Made of stone

While the various types of wood flooring available can all help to maintain the aesthetic created by bespoke wooden kitchen cabinets, sometimes a contrast is more desirable.

For those who want the durability of hardwood yet want to make the cabinets stand out rather than blend in, a stone-based floor is a great option. While concrete may have a cold and gray reputation, modern examples of its use in kitchen flooring reveal the versatile and stylish properties it actually possesses.

With options for stamping, staining, polishing, stenciling and waxing, concrete can be customized more than most other flooring materials.

Stone flooring is another option for complementing bespoke wooden kitchen cabinets. Durable and easy to clean, marble, travertine and slate are all popular choices.

The vinyl countdown

When practical benefits such as cost, simple installation or easy cleaning are more important than looks, there are a number of synthetic flooring options available.

Thankfully, this no longer means pairing your bespoke kitchen cabinets with unattractive linoleum. Vinyl flooring options are affordable and come in a variety of textures and styles. For kitchen use, their water-proof properties are especially appealing. Rubber flooring is similarly easy to install and clean, and has the added bonus of being non-slip.

Another option for those wanting a simple installation that complements their bespoke kitchen cabinets is wood-effect laminate flooring. Adding a layer of padding underneath leave it soft underfoot while the top layer remains durable and easy to clean.

With or without any other renovations, installing bespoke wooden kitchen cabinets is a great way to upgrade the look of any kitchen. However, for those undertaking a complete makeover, the choice of flooring can have a huge effect on both the final aesthetics and budget.

Whether natural wood, stone-based or synthetic, the best choice for each homeowner depends entirely on their needs.