Construction Insurance – Importance and Coverage

Construction involves large number of manpower and huge investments of money. The workers at a construction site risk their lives working at great heights, with dangerous tools, toxic materials, heavy equipment, under tunnels, etc. Hence, construction is associated with high amount of risk for money and lives. A slight negligence or bad fortune on part of the worker or owner may prove too costly. It may lead to a huge financial loss. These unfortunate events require tools, which can bail the company out of the situation. Here arises the need of ‘Construction Insurance’, the risk management tool, customised specifically for the construction industry. Construction insurance is like any other insurance, which is used to protect the various parties associated with construction process.

A comprehensive construction insurance policy covers all the expenses that may occur due to property damage or personal injuries at the construction site. This insurance not only includes the organization owner, but also workers, employees, tenants, sub-contractors, sole proprietors and business partners.

Importance of construction insurance

As discussed above, construction involves usage of heavy equipment, materials, labour, etc. and is more prone to accidents. Since the business stands liable for any accident on the construction site, it is the business owner or the contractor that should pay for the medical treatment charges of the injured or compensation to the families, in case of death of the worker.

Material costs associated with construction are very high. Any damage to the structure or the materials leads to huge financial loss. Insured with the construction insurance, one can seek financial assistance from the insurance company.

The buyers of the flats or the constructed property will have all rights to sue the construction company, in case of faulty construction. In such cases the construction company has to pay for the remodelling or repairing the constructed site. Construction insurance protects the builders from those claims, by providing financial assistance.

Apart from the above circumstances, construction insurance provides wide coverage, providing security to the business in case of unpredicted events.

Four main areas it covers

Construction insurance is very significant in terms of its coverage. It is very comprehensive and is specifically designed to cover every aspect of construction process, to make the business process flexible. Construction insurance covers four major areas of business insurance. They are:

Public liability insurance

Public liability insurance is a general insurance to be possessed by any business which involves interaction with the customers or people in general. Public liability insurance as part of construction insurance helps the businesses in case any damage to third party property or individuals is caused by employees or the tools used in construction.

Employers liability insurance

As the construction industry involves lot of risks, any worker can get injured or die at any point of time, due to the faulty equipment or negligence of supervisors or co-workers. Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees at construction site. Moreover, the employees will have every right to sue the owner and claim for compensation. In case of such unexpected events, the employer or the owner can benefit from the construction liability insurance, as the insurance company pays the medical costs or the compensation associated with the claims.

Contractors all risks insurance

Contractors all risks insurance is customised for construction businesses. It provides assistance for contract works of new houses, theft of materials or tools, damage to the materials or tools due to unexpected events, sudden stoppage of on-going works of new houses, owned or hired plants, etc. This insurance acts as a perfect help for the most commonly incurred accidents in the construction process.

Personal accident insurance

This insurance is specifically designed for managers, sole proprietors or business partners. This is useful in the cases, where the person injured can’t blame any other person for the injury caused to him. This is helpful in providing assistance during the period for which the injured person cannot get income.

Construction insurance is very important for construction businesses as the damage or the financial loss occurred is very hard to be recovered. Businesses should realise that the cost of premiums for insurance is less when compared to the compensation costs. Therefore, it can be concluded that, construction insurance is very valuable in making the business sustain for long run.

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Life Insurance – Should You Buy A Rider Or Complete Policy For A Spouse, Child Or Dependent?

There are many arguments as to who really needs a complete life insurance package and who needs some form of coverage in the form of rider. Does you really really need a rider if you already have a life insurance policy? Does you child or dependent really need one too?

To answer this question correctly we must understand the basic needs life insurance coverage meets …

A life insurance policy is basically meant for breadwinners or persons who demise will cause hardship for their survivors. Although there are other reasons why people buy life policies this is the main reason.

Some insurers have certain riders to cater for spouses and dependents. Such riders add term life coverage for such a spouse or dependent. It certainly makes more sense to buy a dedicated term life insurance for such a person if you think it's necessary. You'll almost always get a far lower rate per $ 1,000 coverage for the person in question if you get another complete term life insurance policy.

For the dependent, you really do not need any form of life insurance for a child unless you want to start a foundation in their memory or make a donation to their favorite charity if they pass on. If you're thinking in such lines then you'll serve that cause better by getting another life insurance policy for such a child or dependent instead of a rider.

We can make an exception for rare cases (like child actors) where the family fortunes will be dramatically altered if such a child passes on. Life insurance is a real necessity then. Like I explained when I talked about the main reason for a life insurance policy, such a child shares considering to the family's finances. Therefore the loss of that child will result in the loss of such financial contribution with the attendant consequences.

If you've decided to buy a life insurance for yourself, spouse or dependent, you'll get far better rates if you get and compare many quotes from many different insurers. This is due to the difference in rates from insurers for a particular policy could range from a few hundreds to a couple of thousand dollars.

If you already have a policy, you can also reduce your current rates by getting and comparing life insurance quotes from insurers you did not get quotes from before you bought your present policy.

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The Fireman’s Rule – Law Prevents Firefighter From Suing For Injuries Received While Fighting Fire!

When I first heard the term, "The Fireman's Rule," I thought that I had obviously stumbled upon a rule of law that would be of benefit to firefighters through the country. What I learned after a couple of hours of research was that this rule of law was of no benefit to firefighters, but instead served to benefit the property owner / occupant who Negligent acts or omissions may have been the primary cause of injuries to a firefighter while Fighting a fire. In fact, the Fireman's Rule operates to bar a fireman from suing a property owner / occupant when the acts or omissions of the property owner / occupant caused or contributed to injuries the firefighter received while fighting a fire on the concessions of the owner / occupant.

The fireman's rule is a common law, and in some states statutory, based on a judiciously recognized public policy that encourages people to freely call the fire department for help without concern if they will be held liable to the firemen for injuries that are beyond their ability To control. In other words, the courts believe that a person should be able to call for help when their kitchen is on fire without worrying if a fireman will sue them if he is bitten by the family dog. The courts have held that these risks go along with the job.

In order to understand what the fireman's rule is and is not and how it operates, it is necessary to take a brief look at what the courts have been saying when deciding such cases. In one case, Whittenv v. Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Authority (Fla. 1978), the Florida Supreme Court explained the duty owed to a firefighter by the owner / occupant of the concessions which is the subject of the emergency. The Court ruled that a fireman has the legal status of a licensee, and as a licensee the only duty owed to a fireman was a duty not engaged in conduct that is considered to be either wanton (deliberate, without regard) or willful and / or To warn the fireman of any dangerous defect that is not open to the regular observation by a fireman.

As a basis for the fireman's rule, the Florida Supreme Court explained in Kilpatrick v. Sklar (Fla. 1989) that the fireman's rule is based on public policy. It purpose is to permit individuals who require fire department assistance to call for help without stopping to consider whether or not they will be held liable for any injuries to a firefighter which, in most cases, are beyond their control. In the Kilpatrick case the Court observed that firemen (and policemen) usually enter buildings and structures at unforeseeable times and under extreme emergency circumstances where most people do not have the time nor opportunity to prepare the concessions for their visit. And there should not be held responsible for any injuries that occur to the firefighters as a result.

Lastly, in Lanza v. Polanin 581 So.2d 130 (Fla. 1991) (cites other cases used in article) the Court noted that a firefighter who enters a house or dwelling does so without any guarantee that he will not find a bulldog waiting to bite him. These are dangers inherent in the job and caution should be exercised by the fireman since he is a trained professional. Again the Court emphasized that the policy behind the fireman's rule is to encourage people to call the fire department when needed by limiting the circumstances under which a person may be liable to the firefighter for injuries he may receive responding to and while fighting the fire, or Otherwise handling the emergency.

To summarize, the fireman's rule is a rule of law based on public policy which protects the owner / occupier of property from lawsuits by Firefighters for injuries which receive while on the promotions fighting a fire or handling an emergency. In other words, if you the firefighter are injured while fighting a fire, and you can prove that those injuries were caused by the negligent acts or omissions of the property owner / occupant, you will most likely be barred from recovery unless you can show that Such conduct that led to the injuries was willful or wanton or that the owner / occupant failed to warn of a danger known to exist. All of which is near impossible considering the unlimited variables present in a fire or other emergency. The fireman's rule is no friend of the fireman.

Michael Hendrich, JD FirehouseToday.com

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Mandatory Provident Fund

Ideally, retirement means a person retire from their regular career; Enter a new life span to review what they have contributed to their profession through their early and middle adulthood. When a person entering retirement, they must enjoy the rest of their life, the fruitful harvest gain from their previous efforts and pursuing a new goal with their spare leisure time.

The beautiful picture of retirement can only be achieved if you are being protected with a good retirement protection, such as provident funds or personal savings. Without these schemes, I am afraid the retirement will only be a start of a nightmare. In fact, before the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, only about one-third of the work of 3.4 million people have some form of retirement protection.

Contribution from the advancement of education level, numerous breakthrough in the medical treatment, modern technology to combat the natural disasters and so on, Hong Kong's population is living much larger than before, but also getting older in a fast tempo. Nowadays, already ten percent of our population is aged 65 and above. By 2016 the proportion will be 13 percent and one senior citizen in every 5 people by 2035.

Without some way is found of funding the welfare and health needs of the growing population of elderly, a massive burden will fall on the shoulders of the taxable working population. Their wages will be heavily taxed to meet the claims. Without sufficient financial resources, the scarce resources will jeopardize the well medical services and welfare we are enjoying now, something must be done to cope with the predicted situation.

The Pathway to Retirement Protection — Mandatory Provident Fund

The World Bank has outlined a framework of the protection for the elderly, so called 'three pillars of old age protection'. This recommended that old-age programs should protect the old and also promote economic growth. The three pillows recommended by the World Bank are
Mandatory, privately managed, fully funded contribution scheme.
Publicly managed, tax-funded social safety net for the old.

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

The SAR government is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which provides basic social security to the needy, and after much debt it was decided in 1995 that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme should be introduced, there was a reasonable argument as to the Best system for Hong Kong. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings, Hong Kong will have in place all the three pillows for old age protection.

Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Order requires all employees (irrespective of their status as a temporary staff or part time worker) and self-employed persons to join a MPF scheme under which contributions will be saved for retirement. The ideology is to ensure people are adequately provided for upon reaching retirement age.

Employer and employee each pay 5 percent of an employee's monthly salary into a privately run pension plan. The MPF law gives an employee a range of investment choices under an employer's MPF scheme. Generally speaking, without other circumstances, the member can only collect the lump sum of the MPF benefits when they attain the retirement age of 65.

Problematic MPF?

Mandatory Provident Fund scheme which begins in December 2000, this scheme represents a starting point for coercing individuals to plan for their retirement. Beside helping to provide for the retirement needs of millions of people, the MPF is likely to radically reshape savings habits and investment attributions and it will extend the pension umbrella to the remaining two million employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies.

Different retirement protection systems have their advantages and disadvantages. After careful consideration, it is generally accepted that MPF best suits Hong Kong 'needs, but as we know, no system is prefect, MPF is no exception, this controversial policy has drawn many criticisms.

Libertarians claim the system run contrary to the Hong Kong spirit, as individuals and firms are coerced into savings decisions that are better placed to make alone.

Other claim Many workers with high mobility are able to avoid taxation by constantly changing employment and a lack of information about them would make it difficult to capture them in the MPF network.

Many more violations and oppositions have also targeted the MPF, in the following paragraphs; I will divide it into different aspects and analyze these practices and oppositions, so that we can get more detailed picture about this far-reaching policy.

Protection for all?

MPF is adding a pillar for our retirement protection; If it is true, it will consolidate the foundation of an enjoyable retiring life and the retired people are no longer worried living under poverty. In fact, will it really protect all future retired people in Hong Kong? It seems to be the most challenging questions and controversial part of the MPF policy. Will the scheme really protect the elderly, unemployed, housewives and so on? I will divide the question into four parts — high income group, low income group, no income group and young, middle and old aged worker to look for the answer for the above questions.

High income people

Before we consider who will benefit the most from the scheme, we should know what you get out of the scheme depends on what you put in. As a result, low-income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid worker.

Many high-income people are working large companies and occupying the middle, high or senior position. Since they are specialized in their relevant profession and they possess some kind of expertise knowledge in their working field, their bargaining power in the labor market are relatively higher, so their companies and organization will provide them many welfare and special allowances in order to lure them Staying in the company. Nearly all of them will enjoy a pleasant retirement even without the implementation of the MPF, since many of them have significant amounts of personal saving, high value property or investment and existing pension fund.

Now the MPF has been implemented, both employers and employees will have to pay a minimum contribution of 5% of relevant income, this group of people seems to be much protected and secured from the policy.

Low-income people

As the points illustrated above, low income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid because what you get out of the MPF scheme depends on what you put in.

The greatest untruth of the MPF is that a gross 10 percent deduction from salaries, capped at a maximum income of $ 20,000 a month that can make a meaningful dent in funding old age. This mandatory contribution level of the scheme is a good basis to start with, but it is not enough. People will need to pay more to get a better life in retirement. A simple example will illustrate more about the concept, for example, a young man who starts to pay into an MPF ​​plan at 20 years old with an average income of HK $ 15000 per month. Assuming the investment grows with 5 percent inflation, after 45 years of contributions, he would receive just HK $ 771429, that would leave him just HK $ 4300 per month for the 15 years after retirement, if we assuming he die at age 80 (the average life Expectation in Hong Kong).

We should remember most low-income workers are approaching only around $ 10000 or below per month. After many years of contributions, they would receive just around $ 2000-3000 a month. Also due to their income would berely cover their monthly expenses, they are without personal savings, their retirement may not be funded in a pleasant way, the effectiveness of the MPF scheme may not create a beautiful picture for this group of people.

The MPF scheme not only can not provide an effective retirement protection for them, but also create some difficulties and hardships for them. Some unscrupulous employers are avoiding pay extra for the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme by slashing wages and making their staff become self-employed. Many of these problems came from the catering and construction industries.

Since Hong Kong are still recovering from the 1997 Asia financial turmoil, the most hard hit industries (transports, catering, restaurants, construction, manufacturing) are still struggling, most low income workers are working in these sectors (an estimated 500,000 people are working in The construction and catering industries, which account for about 17 percent of the total work in the SAR). Some employers were 'playing tricks' to avoid their financial responsibility because the MPF is an additional cost for these employers. They only cut staff salaries to save costs rather than taking risks to break the law.

Some restaurant owners treated part of their staff wages as special allowances instead of basic salaries in an attempt to lower the employers' contribution. Others effectively cut salaries by imposing an unpaid holiday arrangement on staff. Some construction firms had modified staff into self-employed contractors to avoid liability. The affected construction workers would have no longer enjoy the benefits of MPF or other staff welfare scheme.

Transport employees are also affected by the scheme. A survey conducted by the Container Transportation Employees General Union members found 86 percent had experienced some reduction in pay and benefits by employers using the MPF as the reason. The cutbacks include reducing pay and benefits such as bonuses, travel allowances and telephone payments, signing new contracts that waive past years of services without compensations. They were forced to register as a business so they have self employed status. Since it is very difficult to find a job in the current climate, so they have to accept the new arrangement reluctantly in order to survive.

All those unscrupulous employers are not only exploiting these low-income workers that are also under the effects of the SAR government to build a fund fund system for Hong Kong.

We can see clearly the long-term benefits are far from the low-income workers, but the immediate negative consequences that they should face now, so there is no doubt why the most opposite voice is coming from this sector.

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

The benefits from MPF not only depend on the salary input, but also depends on the choice of funds. The choice of fund may be greatly influenced by the age of employee and what you can collect after retirement. For example, a young worker can afford to invest more in high risk, higher reward funds because if markets tank, they have a long time to recover. By contrast, an employee close to retirement can not afford to risk short-term volatility taking a chunk out of his capital. Young workers seem to be the most benefit from the MPF scheme, compare with the middle or near retiring aged people. The majority of low income earners in their 40s and 50s have no chance of achieving what pension planners call a minimum replacement rate sufficient to fund a pleasant retirement, for example, a man who works for the next 25 years on the median wage of $ 10000 a Month may get only $ 1700 a month upon retirement, based on commonly quoted return rate of two percent, less than social security assistance for a single person.

Finally, as workers can not take any money back before reaching 65, and there are investment risks involved. The private sector rather than the government will manage the funds. The MPF in no way safeguards every citizen's right to the security of basic provisions in life.

No income group

Many people have criticized the MPF scheme which starts in December 2000, neglects the elderly, unemployed and women particularly housewives, since the MPF requires 'employer' and 'employee' to contribute to the scheme, so the well being of the no income people will not Be guaranteed.

MPF scheme as a compromise package that does not serve the well-being of the most vulnerable. There are now 600,000 people over 65 and in 1996, one quarter of people over 60 were living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of under $ 2500.

Women will also remain stuck in a dependent role under the MPF scheme, less than half of the labor forces coerced by the scheme are women because many are either workers workers or housewives. When they get old, they can only expect to relish on their husband, if they have one or obtain comprehensive social security assistance.

At present, Hong Kong is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which offers basic social security to the needy. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings and CSSA, Hong Kong will indeed have in place all the three pillars for old age protection. In fact, it is far from saying that the scheme provides an effective retirement protection for all and easily believes the problem of elderly poverty will be eradicated.
Burden for investors in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong acts as a financial center in the world and playing a significant role in the Asia. The implementation of MPF will certainly affect the investors, no matter the multi-national investors, big business entrepreneur, small and medium sized enterprises.

Investors of big business

Big companies in order to recruit the talents from the labor markets, many of them have been offering various welfares for their employees, these including a well-sound pension system. Before the implementation of the MPF systems, many big companies have start selecting their company's MPF provider. For example, Swire Pacific said the process of selecting the company's provider began two years old. As one of the Hong Kong's largest companies, Swire are operating companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, hotel, trading, marine and properly-development and employing 25000 employees, for this kind of big companies, it is important to have a provider with a Sound administration system to deliver pension services to all their employees, since employees are the largest assets for these big business operators.

Large companies appeared to be concerned about their employees' statements when choosing a provider, it can reflect large companies seem to support MPF scheme and it come along with their existing pension policy, it seems not to create financial burdens for this kind of companies compare with Small and medium sized companies.

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Coming at a time when small and medium firms are struggling back into the black after the financial crisis, it is not surprising that the MPF is off to a shaky start. There is no doubt that the MPF presents an extra financial burden for companies that work on narrow profit margins when these kinds of companies were badly hit by the Asia financial turmoil. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have protested vociferously over the MPF's introduction, insisting they can not afford it with the economy still recovering from recession.

Although MPF will extend the pension umbrella to the two million, employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies, the financial burden seems to be unbearable for the investors.

For small business investors, they are reluctance to join the scheme is not just about the financial burden. They also resented the time consumed by MPF decision-making and paper work because many of them were far too busy with the day-to-day business of running the firm to take on extra paper work.

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong 'economy?

MPF not only will have far reaching effects on the fund-management industry, service providers, but also the general economy. Since MPF is an investment programs, it will increase the pool of institutional funds invested in the SAR, broadening and deepening the financial markets, promoting their efficiency and theby economic growth, it will bring positive charges for financial market.

On the other hand, some people criticize the MPF scheme will eventually upset the flexibility of Hong Kong because workers can not take any money back before reaching 65 and there are investment risks involved. This compulsory saving scheme, unable an employee who leaves a company can get cash in a lump sum or use it to buy property or whatever and invest in other areas.

Conclusion

Although it is far from saying that MPF provides an effective retirement protection for all and older poverty will be eradicated, it really encourages people to save for their old age. No schemes are perfect, the MPF is no exception, but it is the scheme most suitable for Hong Kong 'needs. Since Hong Kong has a well-established and sound financial services sector. A privately managed retirement system under prudential regulation and oversight is the most effective and secure way offer retirement protection to the work. Also under a free competition environment, it tends to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the MPF scheme, which will benefit scheme members extremely.

Nowadays, a large part of the social welfare expenses are spending on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), in the long run, MPF scheme may reduce the financial burden of CSSA, spare welfare expenses can be spent on other social welfare areas, every Citizens will benefit at large.

The scheme may be viewed with some skepticism at the moment, but after people have a chance to see the plan in action, attitudes towards long term saving and retirement should change. Then retirement could be something to look forward to with pleasure, rather than worry. But one thing should be bear in mind, our government should also take care of the most vulnerable people in our society as the paragraphs mentioned above, provide them with appropriate assistance, especially the low income people. Only with that, Hong Kong will be a better, fairer society for everyone to live in.

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Understanding the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate in the Philippines

Not a lot of people know what an extrajudicial settlement of the estate is. Well, not unless they have experienced losing a member of the family and dividing his remaining properties.

Extrajudicial settlement of the estate simply means drafting a contract where the properties are divided among the heirs, as the latter may see fit. Enumerated in the contract are the properties left by the deceased, collectively called the “estate”. The properties may range from real properties such as parcels of land, buildings, or personal properties such as money left in the bank, cars, jewelry, furniture and even shares in a corporation.

It should be well-noted that an extrajudicial settlement by agreement is only possible if there is no will left by the deceased. Even if there is a will but the will does not include all of the decedent’s estate, then those not covered can by extrajudicially partitioned by agreement.

Moreover, extrajudicial settlement is not possible if the heirs cannot agree on how the properties will be divided. In that case, they can file and ordinary action for partition.

Publication requirement

After the settlement agreement is signed, the heirs should cause the publication of the agreement in a newspaper of general circulation to ensure that interested parties, if there are any, such as creditors and unknown heirs, will be given due notice.

Payment of Estate tax

After the publication, transfer of title may follow. Upon the transfer of the estate, the Estate Tax must be paid in accordance with Section 84 of the National Internal Revenue Code of the Philippines.

Estate tax is defined as a tax on the right of the deceased person to transmit his estate to his lawful heirs and beneficiaries at the time of death and on certain transfers, which are made by law as equivalent to testamentary disposition. It is a form of transfer tax, not a property tax. More particularly, it is a tax on the privilege of transferring the property of the decedent to the heirs.

The Estate Tax Return must be filed within six (6) months from the decedent’s death. The deadline may be extended by the Commissioner of the BIR, in meritorious cases, not exceeding thirty (30) days.

It is interesting to note that the estate itself will have its own Tax Identification Number (TIN). The BIR treats the estate as a juridical person.

The Estate Tax Return is filed with Revenue District Office (RDO) having jurisdiction over the place of residence of the decedent at the time of his death.

If the decedent has no legal residence in the Philippines, then the return can be filed with:

1. The Office of the Revenue District Officer, Revenue District Office No. 39, South Quezon City; or

2. The Philippine Embassy or Consulate in the country where decedent is residing at the time of his death.

For estate taxes, the BIR imposes the pay-to-file system which means that you have to pay the estate tax at the same time the return is filed.

In cases involving a huge estate where the tax imposed can get too high, or in cases where the decedent left properties which are difficult to liquidate and they do not have the cash to pay the taxes, the BIR Commissioner can extend the time of payment but the extension cannot be over two (2) years if the estate is settled extrajudicially. If an extension is granted, the BIR Commissioner may require a bond in such amount, not exceeding double the amount of tax, as it deems necessary.

The estate tax is based on the value of the net estate as follows:

1. If not over P200,000, it is exempt

2. If over P200,000 but not over P500,000, then tax is 5% of the excess over P200,000

3. If over P500,000 but not over P2,000,000, then tax is P15,000 PLUS 8% of the excess over P500,000

4. If over P2,000,000 but not over P5,000,000, then tax is P135,000 PLUS 11% of the excess over P2,000,000

5. If over P5,000,000 but not over P10,000,000, then tax is P465,000 PLUS 15% of the excess over P5,000,000

6. If over P10,000,000, then tax is P1,215,000 PLUS 20% of the excess over P10,000,000

In computing the net estate, allowable deductions shall always be considered. These deductions include funeral expenses, share of the surviving spouse, medical expenses incurred by the decedent within one (1) year prior to his death, family home deduction of not more than P1,000,000.00, standard deduction of P1,000,000.00, among others. It is best to consult a lawyer or an accountant to determine to ensure that the heirs can properly indicate the deductions and exemptions and thereby determine the accurate net estate of the decedent.

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Homeowners Guide to Home Insurance Discounts, Reduced Rates and Savings

In today's economy, many homeowners are juggling higher bills on less earnings – facing tight family budgets in the wake of rising costs, credit limits or even job loss. Yet there's no need to struggle with the cost of home insurance. Despite industry increases, homeowners may be able to reduce their insurance rates by as much as 30 percent.

Neverheless, many homeowners are not using insurance discounts to lower rates – even those who apply discounts may qualify for more savings than they're getting. And lowered rates are still possible, even in today's economy.

Consider the findings reported by independent insurance agent association, Trusted Choice, in a 2009 national survey:

"53 million household responders 'admitted they are probably not taking advantage of all homeowners insurance discounts or said that they simply did not know' about policyholder discounts they are reasonably qualify for."

The survey also found that the largest percentage of respondents, about 26%, estimated they save 6-10% on their insurance premiums by using discounts. In fact, many insurance consumers could be saving significantly more-as much as 30%, according to independent insurance agencies, which often shop on behalf of consumers and help them find discounts and compare rates.

Homeowners are usually aware of the more common discounts – such as a multiple policy discount to insure both home and auto under one carrier. But there are other discounts and savings they miss.

How savvy are you as a homeowner and insurance consumer?

Find out using this quick list to explore or measure your potential for insurance discounts. It's also the knowledge you and your insurance agent need to reduce rates for savings:

  • Dual duty – Do not overlook the most common discount available: multiple policy discounts. When the same company insures your home and car, you can probably reduce your overall insurance costs by 10 to 15 percent.
  • New home, new homeowner? The same criteria used to qualify your home for a specific mortgage is often the same that qualifies your policy for discounts.
  • Living in a gated community? Then you may be eligible for discounts. Be sure to ask about auto insurance discounts if your car is evenly 'protected' to boot.
  • Rooftop savings – Some insurance companies offer hail resistant roof discounts for Class 4 roofs – naturally these credits may vary with locale. Moreover, be sure to ask your insurer about potential discounts before putting a new roof on your house – you'll probably want to capture savings if available and a flat roof without roof warranty may disqualify you from your current coverage alike.
  • Be a new policyholder – You may find additional savings extended to new customers based on new rating models that offer a 'sign up' discount. If your insurer extends this discount, your insurance agent may be able to capture it by applying for a new policy with the same company.
  • Your track record counts – make sure you discover discounts for home insurance customers who have a claim-free track record … when was the last time you filed a home insurance claim? A 10-year history typically qualifies you for this discount; If you've never filed a claim, you may save as much as 20 percent.
  • Risk reductions – Ask your agent to identify risk reduction discounts addressing a range of interior and exterior factors: fire and smoke alarms, electrical wiring, fireplace / chimney safety, heating apparatus, burglar alarms, curb and gutter system and landscaping elements. Proximity to a fire hydrant and your community's fire department also applies.
  • Preventive maintenance and home security – Make sure your insurance agent is aware of any alarm systems or preventive measures you take to secure property and to keep your home safe. Although discount criteria varies, you may be able to get savings of 10 to 15 percent for a combined system that may include two or more measures: deadbolt locks, lockable garages and storage buildings, fire alarms, fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, a burglar Alarm or home security system.
  • Good breeding gone bad – Like it or not, some pets have a reputation. You may adore your family pet but if Fido is a dog breed considered bite-happy or dangerous, your insurance rating may be affected or your coverage in jeopardy. Choose your pet wisely – be aware of the little issues that can turn your insurance into a big issue.
  • Score card – Expect your credit score to impact your home insurances rates. If married, you may be able to reduce your rate by listing the top scorer as the first named on the insurer's application. Plus, if you've had a less-than-score score and recently improved your numbers, let your insurance agent know. You may be able to get a policy adjustment: a lower insurance rate is still possible without the need to write a new policy.
  • Raise the limit – consider the difference a deductible makes. You can probably lower your rate by raising your deductible – $ 2,500 is the standard deductible and you can expect a lower rate if you raise it to $ 5,000.
  • Agent vs. Agent and the extended marketplace – Is your insurance agent an independent who can tap a broad product range? Or an agent affiliated with a name-brand company? Know the difference. Independent agents can shop around – explore options across the marketplace. Brand agents do not usually have the same agility – they're usually limited to the company practice or limited to brand products. Loyalty counts. Still, if you're committed to one company brand you may be just as limited as the insurance agent who is equally missing rate rates, discounts and savings offered by the brand's competition.
  • 'Home pride' and stewardship are vital – Even many insurance agents do not understand the role that stewardship plays in harnessing the broadest range of discounts possible. Why? The better care you take of your home, the more attractive you'll look to insurance carriers. And the best way to harness discounts is to identify as many discounts as possible – it stands to reason that more companies mean more potential for discounts.

So, you'll want to make sure your home qualifies for coverage from every company that offers coverage in your locale since increased competition generally decreases rates and opens your access to discounts.

In a nutshell, homeowners applying the discounts above will soon realize the many ways they can save on their home insurance – even when times are tough.

Get started on discounts for savings ….

  • Shop around to compare insurance company providers and rates – what companies provide home insurance in your community?
  • Get guidance on the details – an independent insurance agent is not tied to one brand, so these agents can help you see the whole marketplace and get the apples-to-apples lens you need to compare products, coverage and rates.
  • Identify discounts – make sure you identify the common discounts most homeowners hit, along with other discounts that frequently miss.
  • Do the 'homework' – the work at home that demonstrates stewardship makes you eligible to select from the broadest insurance product range possible.
  • Optimize selection, and then maximize discounts to benefit from reduced raters and savings.
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The Importance of a Balance Sheet

An individual has two primary tools for managing personal finances. The Personal Balance Sheet is ignored and the Budget is the darling of Financial Consultants and the media. The key to understanding personal finances is that you have to understand your Budget and Balance Sheet individually and also how they work in combination to give you a complete snapshot of your personal finances.

Your balance sheet is extremely important because it shows you where the gold is. It is your personal Fort Knox. It is also extremely important because you need to have a stash of gold in your personal financial picture. The gold in your Balance Sheet is not the Assets. They are the positive side of your Balance Sheet but the real picture of how much gold you have in your Fort Knox is your Net Worth. So just as important to your Balance sheet is your Liabilities. The total of your Liabilities is subtracted from the total of your Assets to give you your Net Worth.

You fill out your Balance Sheet and total up your Assets and Liabilities. You subtract the total of your Liabilities from your Assets. That number, your Net Worth will come out to either a negative amount, an amount of or near zero, or it will be substantially positive. These are the only 3 scenarios possible.

• If your net worth is a minus number, you are not managing your financial resources properly. Your Balance sheet is your report card and you are failing. It is that simple. If you are managing your money to deal with life's challenges and planning your personal finances with your retirement in mind, your Net Worth should be positive and growing. If your net Worth is positive, you can ride out financial storms like the current situation. At the time of your retirement, your Net Worth must be substantially positive so that you will be able to keep costs down and have investment income to replace your working income. During your working years, your Net Worth should be growing steadily because a retirement nest egg does not grow without years of nurturing.

• There are circumstances where where it is acceptable to have a Net Worth of Zero or near Zero. The first is when you are just starting out. It just makes sense that it would be zero. You may have student loans but that is offset by some form of education that will allow you to make more money in the course of your lifetime. The key is that this is the best time to start building your net worth. It allows the principal of compounding value to work its magic on your assets for decades. That saves you a lot of work later in life. However, most of us are not that wise and we find ourselves in our 30s and 40s with little or no Net Worth. This means you have less time for compounding to work. So you have to work harder and especially manage your money smarter to prepare for the financial challenges you face going forward. The nice thing is that you have probably made some mistakes that have made you much wiser. You should be able to recover much faster than you would have in your undisciplined youth.

• If you have a positive net worth that means that you are building assets. Just as important is that you are controlling your debt. This is the key that has probably gotten you to this situation. The key to a positive Balance Sheet is that debt offsets the value of your assets when you look at your personal finances as a complete picture so your debt / equity ratio should be less than one and get smaller and smaller. Debt servicing saps cash flow on your budget that could have been used to build assets that can be used to produce income in your retirement years. Clear title ownership of assets such as your home reduce cash draw and this is incredibly important as you approach retirement.

The financial crisis we are in now is described as a Balance Sheet crisis. We are in this crisis because nobody was paying attention to their Balance Sheets, not even at the rising heights of our financial infrastructure. The symptoms were everywhere. While researching I found that the top sites on the internet for Balance Sheet are those who want to sell you something so that they can gain access to any assets on your balance sheet that might be left after this disaster. Before the disaster, the only thing that had any importance was whether a potential buyer of anything could afford to make the payments on whatever he was buying assuming he made 120% of his declared income. The most outrageous symptom was that people would take appreciating home equity and borrow against it to buy depreciating assets and consumer goods. They overbooked their budgets and now they have gutted their balance sheet.

The resulting loss of home values ​​is the disaster we have now where people have either a zero or minus Net Worth. The other aspect is that we are now wiser. For the good of our society and our financial infrastructure we had better be. Going forward we must pay attention to our Balance Sheets and recognize that is where the gold is. You must save and protect your gold. Net Worth is where financial power is and that is the Importance of a Balance Sheet.

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Geode Crystals & Astral Travel

Astral travel can be enhanced by working with crystals and their vibrational field levels during your session. But where do you start and how to help? There are many different suggestions for this, as well as different ones will resonate within different people and their energy fields.

A good place to start is by working with the crystals you enjoy the most. If you are not sure where to start, go with your intuition and follow your gut instincts as they will not steer you wrong.

A wonderful way to work with them in astral travel and meditation sessions are in geode form. The best ones I have come across that have the highest energy vibrational level are clear quartz, amethyst, citrine and calcite. It is best to work with just one type of crystal within the geode, but you can combine them in your circles if you wish. The energy field will be a combination of the different types and will have them make a weaving type of pattern within the energy field. This is a very unique type of field to work within, but may not always be the best, as opposed to a single type of stronger vibrational field you would receive with just one type of geode.

During your astral travel session, surround yourself with as many geodes as possible, in a circle, or alternating the type of crystal found within. The more the better, and even if they are small, the geodes still put out a lot of vibrational fields for you to work within!

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Best Loans For Single Mothers – Learn How to Get Approved Fast

If you are a single mother, you may be among the many single parents who struggle to make ends meet each and every month. Many single mothers have no credit, slow credit, or even bad credit. Many single mothers are young and have not yet had a chance to establish positive credit history. There are different types of loans that you can qualify for as a single mother regardless of you past credit performance and bad credit history.

Personal Loans For Single Mothers

A bad credit personal loan is a loan that allows you to meet any needs that you might have. Perhaps you need money for major purchases like furniture or a computer. Or maybe you want to take a trip, pay for a class, or even buy a car. You can barrow amounts from $ 5oo up to as much as $ 15, ooo when you are applying for this kind of loan. Your personal loan can be ether secured or unsecured. A secured personal loan requires you to pledge collateral.

An unsecured personal loan does not require you to pledge collateral. However most single mothers do not have adequate collateral to pledge, and their only option is the unsecured version of the personal loan. To improve your chances for getting approved in the amount that you need, you can always ask a creditworthy cosigner to apply alongside you. This person can be a parent or other relative, friend, or anyone who will agree to pay your loan payments should you become unable to do so. Many lenders will allow you cosigner to be released from liability of payment once you have paid a certain number of payments on your loan.

Car Loans For Single Mothers

Single mothers who are in need of a new or used vehicle can qualify in most cases for a car loan. Because a car loan is secured by the car itself (or other vehicle), lenders are more lenient when approving car loan applications. A car loan of this type is usually funded for a period of four to seven years, depending upon the purchase price of the vehicle and whether or not you have a down payment. Having a down payment is the best way to purchase a car because it will make your monthly payments lower and easier to manage. Car loans are usually for $ 20,000 or less.

Cash Advance Loans For Single Mothers

Another option is the cash advance loan. This type of loan requires no credit check, making it the easiest to get loan not only for single mothers but for anyone with insufficient credit history. This loan is made for a short period of time, usually a month or less, and typically around the time of your next pay date. The only requirements to receive a cash advance loan is that you have a checking or savings account and a job that allows you to bring home a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly paycheck. Single mothers who receive benefits from Social Security, SSI, or other programs can also qualify for the cash advance loan. Cash advance loan amounts are available in amounts from $ 350 to $ 1,500, and the amount you can borrow will be based on your income.

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Twelve Secrets and Tricks to Buying Life Insurance

Secret #1: Don’t spend too much time on a life insurance quote.

Do not be fooled by the low price quotes you get online – they don’t apply to you unless you are extremely healthy. Statistically only 10% of people who apply actually get the lowest priced policy. The premium you end up paying has nothing to do with the initial quote you get online or from an agent. It is amazing to me how often I see people getting duped by an agent who quotes company X at a lower price than another agent.

Life insurance policies are the same price no matter who you buy from! One agent or website quoting a lower premium means nothing. Prices for any given policy is based on your age and health. There are a few exceptions to this but that is beyond the breadth of this article.

Most life insurance companies have 10-20 different health/price ratings and no agent or website can assure you the quote they give you is accurate. You have to apply, do a health check, and then go through underwriting (meaning you complete a mini-exam with a nurse in your home and then the company checks you doctor records and reviews and ‘rates’ your health) to get the real price of the policy. Remember that a health rating also factors in your family history, driving record, and the type of occupation you have. Only use quotes to help narrow down your choices to the top companies. You may want to consider a no load or low policy. The more that you save on commissions the more money builds up in your policy. You can even buy term insurance no load, and save a lot on premiums. You will not get the help of an agent, which may be worth something if they are very good.

The most important factor determining price is matching your particular health history with the company best suited for that niche. For instance company X might be best for smokers, company Y for cancer survivors, Company Z for people with high blood pressure, etc.

Secret #2: Ignore the hype on term versus cash value permanent insurance.

You can go crazy reading what everyone has to say on buying term insurance versus a whole or universal life policy. Big name websites give advice that I think borders on fraudulent. Simply put there is NO simple answer on whether you should buy permanent cash value policies or term insurance.

But I do think there is a simple rule of thumb – buy term for your temporary insurance needs and cash value insurance for your permanent needs. I have read in various journals and run mathematical equations myself which basically show that if you have a need for insurance beyond 20 years that you should consider some amount of permanent insurance. This is due to the tax advantage of the growth of the cash value within in a permanent policy. I am divorced and have taken care of my children should I die. I probably no longer need as much insurance as I now have. I have earned a great return on my policies and have paid no taxes. I no longer pay the premiums, because there is so much cash in the policies. I let the policies pay themselves. I would not call most life insurance a good investment. Because I bought my policies correctly, and paid almost no sales commissions my policies are probably my best investments. I no longer own them, so when I die my beneficiaries will get the money both tax free, and estate tax free.

Since most people have short term needs like a mortgage or kids at home they should get some term. Additionally most people want some life insurance in place for their whole life to pay for burial, help with unpaid medical bills and estate taxes and so a permanent policy should be purchased along with the term policy.

Secret #3: Consider applying with two companies at once.

Life insurance companies really don’t like this “trick” because it gives them competition and increases their underwriting costs.

Secret #4: Avoid captive life insurance agents.

Look for a life insurance agent who represents at least fifty life insurance companies and ask them for a multi company quote showing the best prices side by side. Some people try to cut the agent out and just apply online. Just remember that you don’t save any money that way because the commissions normally earned by the agent are just kept by the insurance company or the website insurance company without having your premium lowered.

Plus a good agent can help you maneuver through some of the complexities of filling out the application, setting up your beneficiaries, avoiding mistakes on selecting who should be the owner, the best way to pay your premium, and also will be there to deliver the check and assist your loved ones if the life insurance is ever used.

Secret #5: Consider refinancing old life policies.

Most companies won’t tell you but the price you pay on your old policies has probably come down dramatically if you are in good health. In the last few years life insurance companies have updated their predictions on how long people will live. Since we are living longer they are reducing their rates rather dramatically. Beware the agent may be doing this to obtain a new commission, so make sure it really makes sense.

I really am amazed at how often we find that our client’s old policies are twice as expensive as a new one. If you need new life insurance consider “refinancing” your old policies and using the savings on the old policies to pay for the new policy – that way there is no extra out-of-pocket costs. We like to think of this process as “refinancing your life insurance” – just like you refinance your mortgage.

Secret #6: Realize life insurance companies have target niches that constantly change.

One day company ‘X’ is giving good rates to people who are a little overweight and the next month they are super strict. Company ‘Y’ might be lenient on people with diabetes because they don’t have many diabetics on the books – meaning they will give good rates to diabetics. At the same time company ‘W’ might be very strict on diabetics because they are insuring lots of diabetics and are afraid they have too big of a risk in that area – meaning they will give a bad rate to new diabetics who apply.

Unfortunately when you are applying a life insurance company will not tell you, “Hey, we just raised our rates in diabetics.” They will just happily take your money if you were not smart enough to shop around. This is the number one area a smart agent can come in handy. Since a good multi-company agent is constantly applying with multiple companies he or she will have a good handle on who is currently the most lenient on underwriting for you particular situation. The problem is that this is hard work and many agents are either too busy or not set up to efficiently shop around directly to different underwriters and see who would make you the best offer. This is a lot harder than just running you a quote online.

Secret #7: Don’t forget customer service.

Most people shopping for insurance focus on companies with the lowest price and the best financial rating. Unfortunately I know of some A+ rated companies with low rates who I would not touch with a ten foot pole simply because it’s easier to give birth to a porcupine backwards then it is to get customer service from them.

Before I understood this I used a life insurance company that gave a client a great rate but 2 years later the client called me and said, “I have mailed in all my payments on time but just got a notice saying my policy lapsed.” It turned out the company had been making lots of back office mistakes and had lost the premium payment!

We were able to fix it because we caught the problem so early. But if the client happened to have died during the short period the policy had lapsed, his family might have had a hard time proving that the premium had been paid on time and they might not have received the life insurance money – a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in that case.

Secret #8: Apply 3-6 months ahead of the time you need the insurance if possible.

Don’t be in a hurry to get a policy if you already have some coverage in force. But go ahead and apply right away knowing that you might need months to shop around if the first company does not give you a good rate. Even though the life insurance industry is getting more automated your application will still often be held up for weeks or months while the insurance company waits on your doctor’s office to mail them a copy of you medical records.

If you are in a hurry and buy a quickie ‘no-underwriting’ policy without going through the full health checks and underwriting that a mainstream life insurance company requires, you will end up paying 20%-50% more because the insurance company will automatically charge you higher rates because they don’t know whether you are healthy or about to die the next day.

Secret #9: Avoid buying extra life insurance through work if you are healthy.

I am sure there are exceptions to this “trick” but I have rarely found one. By all means keep the free life insurance your employer provides. But if you are healthy and you are paying for supplemental life insurance through payroll deduction you are almost certainly paying too much. What is happening is that your ‘overpayments’ ends up subsidizing the unhealthy people in your company who are buying life insurance through payroll deduction.

Usually the life insurance company has cut a deal with your employer and will waive the required health exam for all employees – instead they just average the price for all the employees and offer one or two rates for males or females at any given age. Life insurance companies know they will pick up lots of unhealthy clients this way so they jack up the price on everyone so that the healthy people end up overpaying so that the unhealthy employees get a cheaper policy. Also, unlike the guaranteed term policies which we recommend, most life insurance you buy through work will get more expensive as you get older.

Also group life insurance is generally not portable when you retire or change jobs meaning that when you retire or change jobs you might have to apply all over again even though you will be older and probably not as healthy and risk being turned down for a policy. If the group plan does allow portability they generally limit your conversion choices and force you to go into expensive cash value plans.

I remember helping someone evaluate his supplemental life insurance. He was sure it was a better deal than any policy I could find him. Little did he know that the price of his group plan would go up every year? By the time he retired his premium would have risen to over $10,000/year. I found him a policy for around $1000/year that would never go up. Also, unlike his old group life policy, he could take the individual policy with him when he changed jobs or retired.

Secret #10: Do a trial application on a COD payment basis.

Only send money with the application if you need the life insurance coverage right away. Sending a check with the application is a traditional practice agents used to do – I think mostly because it got them their commissions faster. If you send money with an application you usually get temporary coverage immediately but if you already have plenty of coverage and are just trying to get better rates ask your agent to do a trial application on a COD basis so you only pay once the policy is approved. If you do not send money, and you die before paying for the policy there is no coverage.

Secret #11: Wear your shoes when the nurse measures your height.

When the insurance company sends out the nurse to do your health check try to be as tall as possible if you are overweight? In most states you are allowed to wear shoes and if you are a little overweight your taller height/weight ratio will look a little better to the underwriter who is determining your health rating and policy price. Also do your exam early in the morning with no food in you – this will make your cholesterol count and various health ratios look the best.

Secret #12: Be careful with extra perks and riders.

Most policies come with options like accidental death benefit, child riders, disability riders, return of premium etc. If you do the math on most of these “extras” they usually don’t make smart financial sense. Life insurance companies are out to make money and these riders are usually profitable because they either cover something that rarely happens or they are so stringent that the benefit never gets paid out. Keep things simple and focus mainly on getting a life policy to cover your life without many strings attached. Again a good agent can help you weigh the benefits of the extra riders. But be wary of an agent who tries to tack on every possible extra rider.

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