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Time to do a paycheck withholdings analysis

The recent tax season is behind us unless the taxpayer decided to file an extension. With a year under our belt with the new tax laws, it is now a perfect time to reevaluate the number of withholdings used and make any changes with employers as soon as possible. This will sidestep tax season surprises (good or bad), or it can ensure that the taxpayer gets a bigger refund next year.

When evaluating withholdings from last year, be mindful of those that were in effect for the entire year and those that were implemented mid- to late-2018.

Tips for determining the right-sized mortgage

Most of us need a mortgage to buy a home. So determining the size of a mortgage is likely the most critical part of the process, some may argue it is more important than picking the actual house or condo.

Ideally, the right mortgage fit means that the homeowner is comfortable with the size of their mortgage payment, and should fit with other financial concerns as well as future personal and financial goals. An individual or couple will need to consider these matters in a manner that is realistic, pragmatic and strategic as they input numbers into a mortgage calculator. Below are four tips for addressing these concerns:

Famous folks who bounced back from bankruptcy

Many who file for bankruptcy know that they are doing the right thing, but they likely still have mixed emotions about it. Nevertheless, they are hardly alone -- there were 767,721 bankruptcies filed by non-businesses in 2017.

While there have been many average Americans caught up in debt, often for taking risks to accomplish great things or facing unforeseen challenges, we thought it would inspire to see a list published by Forbes of the people who have not only survived bankruptcy but went on to flourish.

What responsibilities does a bankruptcy trustee have?

Deciding to move forward with Chapter 7 bankruptcy may have brought about mixed feelings for you. You may have felt somewhat defeated because you believe that you somehow caused your financial affairs to get out of control but may have also felt somewhat relieved in knowing that you have chosen to take a path to get your financial affairs back in order.

Chapter 7 is a complex process to complete, and you will work with various parties throughout your case. In particular, a bankruptcy trustee will play an important part in the affairs of your bankruptcy proceedings.

Creditors can be held in contempt

The Supreme Court of the United States recently unanimously ruled in Taggart v. Lorenzen that creditors could be held accountable if they continue to harass those who have had their debt discharged through bankruptcy.

This ruling vacated the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which deemed that creditors should be given leeway even when it is unreasonable for them to try and collect a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy.

Beware of medical debt malpractice

Medical debt is one of the biggest causes of bankruptcy in the U.S., so it is no surprise that debt collectors commonly attempt to collect millions of outstanding bills. Unfortunately, the public interest group reports that some of these businesses are using aggressive tactics in an attempt to collect debts, sometimes from the wrong customers. In the latter case, this erroneously puts an individual’s credit at risk. The organization reviewed 17,701 medical collection complaints submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reveal that problems with medical collection are widespread.

The CFPB determined that:

Will student loans be included in bankruptcy?

Many are surprised to find out that student loans are one of the few debts that are not discharged through bankruptcy relief. However, there is now a bill called the Student Borrower Bankruptcy Relief Act of 2019, which has bipartisan support from U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as well as U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and John Katko (R-NY).

"Filing for bankruptcy should be a last resort, but for those student borrowers who have no realistic path to pay back their crushing student loan debt, it should be available as an option to help them get back on their feet," Durbin said in a statement. "Our nation faces a student debt crisis, and it's time to restore the meaningful availability of bankruptcy relief to student loan borrowers."

Owning a rental property can be a win-win proposition

The robust real estate market here in Austin is great for those who own property, particularly if they got in a while ago and bought low. Nevertheless, the competitive market should not prevent others from buying a rental property because it is still often an excellent investment.

Cash flow from rents

Common mistakes when filing bankruptcy

Filing bankruptcy is one of the most difficult things many will do. However, it can also be one of the smartest things an individual or couple can do to regain control of their lives.

Once the decision is made to do it, there is a sense of relief. But there is a difference between simply doing it and doing it right. Below is a short list of avoidable mistakes that can help before, during and after the process.

How long has it been since you've looked at your estate plan?

Do you have an estate plan, and if you do, how long as it been since you've looked at it? If your plans are more than a few years old or your life has changed significantly since you drafted it, it may be time to revisit them. Estate plans are not set in stone, meaning that you have the ability to go back and adjust things as needed.

It is impossible to predict what will happen in the future. Since you made your plan, you may have divorced, married, had children or gone through other things that will make parts your existing plans obsolete. Failure to adjust your plans to reflect these things can lead to significant complications in the future for your beneficiaries and heirs. Estate plans should reflect your goals and needs for the future, which are likely not the same as they were several years ago.

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William T. Peckham
1104 Nueces Street, Suite 104
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: 512-487-7604
Fax: 512-478-1790
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