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Learn from Aretha Franklin: Get a Will

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While the Queen of Soul is known for her timeless songs, she also struggled with one of the common things many people forget to do before they die – have a will. Aretha Franklin wasn’t alone. Prince also didn’t have a will when he died.

No one wants to think of death, but not having a will means your assets from property, cars, and bank accounts can get locked up in the courts for many years if there are multiple people claiming rights to it. According to an AARP survey, 2 out of 5 Americans over the age of 45 don’t have a will.

This AARP story says there are 10 Things You Should Know About Writing a Will:

What is a will?

A will is simply a legal document in which you, declare who will manage your estate after you die. Your estate can consist of big, expensive things such as a vacation home but also small items that might hold sentimental value such as photographs. The person named in the will to manage your estate is called the executor because he or she executes your stated wishes.

A will can also serve to declare who you wish to become the guardian for any minor children or dependents, and who you want to receive specific items that you own.

What happens if I die without a will?

If you die without a valid will, your estate will be settled based on the laws of your state that outline who inherits what. Probate is the legal process of transferring the property of a deceased person to the rightful heirs.

Do I need an attorney to prepare my will?

No, you aren’t required to hire a lawyer to prepare your will, though an experienced lawyer can provide useful advice on estate-planning strategies such as living trusts. But as long as your will meets the legal requirements of your state, it’s valid whether a lawyer drafted it or you wrote it yourself on the back of a napkin.

Do-it-yourself will kits are widely available. Conduct an Internet search for “online wills” or “estate planning software” to find options.

Should my spouse and I have a joint will or separate wills?

Odds are you and your spouse won’t die at the same time, and there’s probably property that’s not jointly held. That’s why separate wills make better sense.

Who should act as a witness to a will?

Any person can act as a witness to your will, but you should select someone who isn’t a beneficiary. Otherwise there’s the potential for a conflict of interest. Some states require two or more witnesses. If a lawyer drafts your will, he or she shouldn’t serve as a witness.

Not all states require a will to be notarized, but some do. You may also want to have your witnesses sign what’s called a self-proving affidavit in the presence of a notary. This affidavit can speed up the probate process because your witnesses likely won’t be called into court by a judge to validate their signatures and the authenticity of the will.

Who should I name as my executor?

You can name your spouse, an adult child, or another trusted friend or relative as your executor. If your affairs are complicated, it might make more sense to name an attorney or someone with legal and financial expertise. You can also name joint executors, such as your spouse or partner and your attorney.

One of the most important things your will can do is empower your executor to pay your bills and deal with debt collectors. Make sure the wording of your will allows for this, and also gives your executor leeway to take care of any related issues that aren’t specifically outlined in your will.

How do I leave specific items to specific heirs?

If you wish to leave certain personal property to certain heirs, indicate as much in your will. In addition, you can create a separate document called a letter of instruction that you should keep with your will.

A letter of instruction, which isn’t legally binding in some states, can be written more informally than a will and can go into detail about which items go to whom. You can also include specifics about items that will help your executor settle your estate including account numbers, passwords and even burial instructions.

Where should I keep my will?

If you put the will in a bank safe deposit box that only you can get into, your family might need to seek a court order to gain access. A waterproof and fireproof safe in your house is a good alternative.

Your attorney or someone you trust should keep signed copies in case the original is destroyed. Signed copies can be used to establish your intentions. However, the absence of an original will can complicate matters, and without it there’s no guarantee that your estate will be settled as you’d hoped.

How often does a will need to be updated?

It’s possible that your will may never need to be updated — or you may choose to update it regularly. The decision is yours. Remember, the only version of your will that matters is the most current valid one in existence at the time of your death.

Who has the right to contest my will?

Contesting a will refers to challenging the legal validity of all or part of the document. A beneficiary who feels slighted by the terms of a will might choose to contest it. Depending on which state you live in, so too might a spouse, ex-spouse or child who believes your stated wishes go against local probate laws.

A will can be contested for any number of other reasons: it wasn’t properly witnessed; you weren’t competent when you signed it; or it’s the result of coercion or fraud. It’s usually up to a probate judge to settle the dispute. The key to successfully contesting a will is finding legitimate legal fault with it. A clearly drafted and validly executed will is the best defense.

To read the full story, go to the link.

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Considering a Home Loan?

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By Lisa Harrison Rivas

If you’re thinking of buying a home soon, now is a good time to get your financial house in order.  But where do you start?

Understanding what is required to obtain a mortgage can be confusing and overwhelming, especially with so much information available on the internet.

Maurice Matthews, a loan officer with Gold Financial Services at 2822 N. Loop 1604 in San Antonio, suggests prospective homebuyers sit down with a lender before house hunting.

Matthews, who has been a loan officer for 14 years, discussed his job and what people should know about the mortgage process.

Q: When people find out you’re a loan officer, what are some of the first things they ask?

A: The first thing they ask is what is the interest rate. And the interest rate is determined by a lot of different things. A lot of times, people just don’t understand the depth of what the interest rate is determined by. It’s determined by the credit score and the loan amount size. People also ask what their payment might be.

Q: Do you specialize in a certain type of loan?

A: Being prior military (Air Force), I specialize in VA loans. I can do all loans, but I guess I’m sort of partial to military loans. This is a military town. I love my veterans. The VA is probably the best loan out there because it requires no down payment and there is no mortgage insurance on the loan.

Q: What should people know before applying for a home loan?

A: Before you have your Realtor run you around, you need to know where you stand with your credit score and with your debt ratio.  You need to know if you qualify, if you’re a qualified buyer, that’s what a Realtor wants.

Q: How long does it generally take for an applicant to find out how much he or she is qualified for?

A: I can tell them the same day. Once I see where their income is, I can have a really good idea of if they’re qualified or not.

Q: Which type of home loan do most people get?

A: In San Antonio, most of them are VA. But people are hedging toward FHA loans. An FHA loan allows them to get a bit more buying power as compared to a conventional loan. FHA allows them to put 3.5 percent down and the debt to income ratios are not as stringent which again allows people to have more buying power. (FHA guidelines recently changed allowing some applicants to borrow more.)

Q: What do you consider a low credit score?

A: The low on the FHA is about 580. Now if you do what we call a non-qualified loan, which is anything outside of your standard loans such as FHA, VA or USDA, lenders can go a little bit lower than a 580 credit score. But with that there are a few more hurdles that borrowers might have to climb. They might have to put more money down. It’s a case by case basis.

Q: What are some of the financial mistakes prospective homebuyers make during the loan process?

A: Going out shopping. I tell clients not to spend or look at anything until you close.

Q: Can you share an unusual scenario you’ve come across in your career as a loan officer?

A: Man, I’ve seen it all. But when it’s all said and done my objective is to help people. For some it might be immediately, some a year from now. My goal is to help in every single scenario, regardless of what it is.

Lisa Harrison Rivas is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Don Johnson, Realtors. Contact Lisa at 210-380-9006 or lhrivas@realsa.com

Maurice Matthews is a loan officer with Gold Financial Services, a full-service mortgage banker. He can be reached at 210-366-1070 or mmatthews@goldfinancial.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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San Antonio City Manager Announced Retirement

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During the mid-term election, Bexar County voters told the San Antonio City Council very loudly through a 59 percent vote on a proposition that a city manager should be limited to eight years and caps future manager’s pay to 10 times the lowest paid city employee.

Today, San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley announced her retirement next summer. Sculley has been in her position for the last 13 years and is one the highest paid employees in the city. In her tenure, she has served four mayors and oversaw a multi-billion city budget.

Sculley said in a video that it has been a “fabulous experience and a wild ride from time to time.”

Councilman Rey Saldaña said Sculley’s announcement comes after a successful career of working under the hood of San Antonio’s major operations for 13 years.

He added as any athlete knows, one day you’ll throw your last pitch or make your last pass, the question will be if your team will be stronger in your absence. Having witnessed the team Sheryl has put together, I’m confident that we will be a stronger city because of what she has built.

“From filling potholes to creating nationally recognized Pre-K centers, her leadership guided the team that has made it possible,” Saldaña said.
“We are hiring more police officers, graduating more fire fighter cadets, building more streets, increasing pay for city employees, and enhancing our parks/library system since she arrived in 2005 – all without increasing taxes.”

San Antonio is in a better place because of her professionalism, experience, and management, Saldaña added.

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East Side Development Group Selects a New CEO

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San Antonio for Growth on the East Side, one of the leading economic generators for development on the East Side, has selected Tuesdaé Knight to be its new CEO.

SAGE’s Board of Directors selected Knight, who was formerly vice president of Membership and Business Development at the San Antonio Chamber of commerce for the last eight years. Prior to that she worked in marketing and communications for the YMCA both in San Antonio and in Houston. Knight received an MBA from Texas A&M International University.

SAGE started the holiday season a little rough. First, its longtime CEO Jackie Gorman departed in late September. And in early November, interim CEO Akeem Brown also resigned.

As a 501(c)3, SAGE receives funding from both public and private sources, including the city of San Antonio. According to its website, SAGE identifies the needs of the Eastside business community and provide assistance to businesses that already have a foothold in its commercial corridor.

The recent turnover in executive staff at SAGE raised questions of who will lead the organization forward especially during a time when many investors are looking at the area for redevelopment. In 2014, a portion of the East Side was designated one of the nation’s first “promise zones,” which made it eligible for millions in federal grants.

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