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How to keep medical debt under control

Medical debt is often cited as a reason why people in Virginia and other states file for bankruptcy. While it might not be possible to predict when a health issue will arise, it may be possible to manage medical debt. Ideally, individuals will take time to read and understand their health insurance policies. In some cases, it will be necessary to obtain approval before seeing a specialist or having a procedure done.

Failing to get that approval may mean that a patient is responsible for paying for a procedure or to see a specialist. Prior to paying a medical bill, it is important to review it to ensure that the invoice is accurate. Otherwise, a person could pay for services that were never rendered. If a claim is submitted to the insurance company with the wrong medical code, that claim could be denied.

The importance of digital assets in an estate plan

When Virginia residents create estate plans, they may be wise to ensure that they do not overlook their digital assets. Important information today is often found on electronic rather than paper records, and not including usernames and passwords in an estate plan can leave executors, trustees and heirs in a very difficult position. Digital assets that may be left inaccessible by such an omission include computer files, online financial accounts, website domains, subscriptions, and social media, email and message board accounts.

In addition to digital assets, a comprehensive estate plan should contain a list of digital liabilities such as payments that are charged automatically to debit or credit cards each month. In Virginia, executors and family members of a deceased individual are able to access digital information because the state has adopted the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. However, executors must have express written permission in a trust, will, power of attorney or other legal document to access personal assets like social media and email accounts.

Avoiding taxes on forgiven mortgage debt through bankruptcy

Virginians who lost their homes through short sales or foreclosures were previously allowed to exclude up to $2 million in forgiven mortgage debt before 2018. However, the provision that allowed people to exclude forgiven mortgage debt ended in 2017. This means that people who have had mortgage debt forgiven may face thousands of dollars in taxes.

One possible solution for people who have forgiven mortgage debt that they will be taxed on is to file for bankruptcy protection. Under the tax code, people who are able to prove to the IRS that they are insolvent are allowed to exclude forgiven debt from their income tax returns. Being insolvent means that someone's debts exceed the value of their assets.

6 mistakes to avoid with your beneficiary designations

Estate planning is about beneficiaries; who you want to name and what kind of assets you want to leave to them.

When you discuss important estate planning matters with your attorney, the subject of heirs will come up often. Here are six mistakes to avoid regarding your beneficiary designations.

Ignoring estate planning is a mistake many people make

Virginians who have yet to craft even a basic estate plan should consider the various reasons why it is beneficial to do so. This is true for people of any age. Many people ignore the reality of needing an estate plan. This can cause problems for their loved ones if the person becomes incapacitated or passes on without a plan in place.

It is important to understand common mistakes. One is not having a will at all or putting it in a location where it cannot be located. A basic will is essential for people who have significant assets to distribute and those who have less. It may sound simple, but it should also be in a place where it can be easily found.

Two major kinds of bankruptcy for Virginia individuals

People in Virginia who are struggling to make payments on their debts might consider filing for bankruptcy. There are a number of factors they should consider before they file, including the total amount of debt, types of debt and income levels. For most individual filers, there are two types of bankruptcy that might work to discharge their debts: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the petitioner liquidates his or her assets in order to pay off debts as much as possible. In many cases, the petitioner will be able to keep some important assets like a car or tools of the trade. Not every person can get a discharge via Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The petitioner must first pass the means test by comparing income and allowed expenses to determine disposable income, which must be below a certain amount to qualify for Chapter 7.

Few Americans have estate plans in place

Many Texas residents agree that it is important to plan for the future when it comes to protecting their assets and making sure their loved ones are taken care of. This is in harmony with recent surveys showing that the majority of Americans understand how important estate planning is, but few actually have a plan in place.

In one survey, over 75% of the respondents said that legacy and estate strategies were important for everyone, even individuals who were not wealthy. However, less than 25% had actually taken the step of designating beneficiaries in case of their death. On the bright side, it is good that Americans recognize the importance of proper estate planning. It puts a person in control of what happens to the people and things they love if they are no longer able to care for them, like dependents, minor children and financial assets.

What does mandatory credit counseling involve?

There are several hoops you need to jump through before the court approves your bankruptcy. One is that you must attend classes where you learn about proper debt management. Virginia residents can take these classes online or in-person, but they are essential to get your finances back on the right track. 

Bankruptcy has helped numerous Virginia citizens overcome debt. However, it is much harder to go through bankruptcy than most people realize. There is one class you have to take before you file and another one to go through before a given deadline. You do not want to ignore these classes, or else it could jeopardize your bankruptcy proceedings. 

Reasons why bankruptcy fillings are low

Virginia residents may be interested in knowing some of the reasons why bankruptcy filings are at a 10-year low. According to a report from a Supreme Court Justice, both consumer and corporate bankruptcy filing rates are the lowest they have been in a decade. But the reason is not necessarily that people are doing better financially.

Around 1.6 million petitions were filed for bankruptcy in September 2010. Consumer cases made up the majority of those petitions. Under 800,000 cases were filed in September 2018, with 97 percent being consumer cases. The number of cases dropped by more than half in just eight years.

Using a pour over-will with a trust

When asked if a couple needed both wills and a trust, one attorney with an estate planning background provided answers. Virginia residents might have questions about estate planning documents and want to know more about this piece of advice.

Due to testamentary benefits, trusts can be used to transfer assets after a person passes. This is also one of the basic functions of a will. However, a will is likely needed even when an individual or couple has one or more trusts.

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