Gunning Daily News

Q: What Should I Know about Mechanics’ Liens?

November 15, 2013 6:21 pm

A:  A mechanic’s lien is a “hold” against your property that provides contractors and suppliers legal recourse to assure payment for services.  The liens vary from state to state and allow for a cloud on the title of your property and foreclosure action.  Also, if you paid the contractor, but he failed to pay the subcontractors and laborers – who do not have a contract with you – then the workers may file a mechanic's lien on your home.  This could result in a double payment by you for the same job.  You can protect yourself from unwarranted liens by selecting your contractor carefully and managing your construction project responsibly.  Also, most construction lenders will specify a payment distribution process that involves the securing of lien waivers.  The remodeling contract should address this as well, assuring that the general contractor is responsible for all payments as well as any costs required to remedy lien disputes that may arise.


5 Tips for Winter Tire Safety

November 14, 2013 9:57 pm

Safety on the road is important all year-round, but winter weather calls for extra caution behind the wheel to keep you and your passengers safe. That's why many auto safety experts including Discount Tire, the world's largest tire and wheel retailer, urge motorists to keep road safety top of mind this winter and switch to tires specifically designed for cold weather driving.

Winter tires are designed for driving in temperatures 45 degrees or below. If there's any chance you'll encounter snow, ice, slush, black ice or wet roads on a consistent basis you should prepare your car for these conditions.

Often, drivers aren't aware that commonly used all-season tires have a rubber compound that gradually hardens when temperatures dip below 45 degrees. When this happens, braking and turning is compromised as there is decreased road traction and less grip. It's also important to note that snow and ice often pile up in the tire grooves and tread blocks on all-season tires which can impact your vehicle's performance.

Winter tires are made with higher silica compounds. This allows the tire to deliver much better traction which reduces skidding and improves braking. In fact, in temperatures below 45 degrees, winter tires can provide 25 to 50 percent more traction than all-season tires. In addition, the tread block design includes thousands of very small interlocking slits—known as sipes—to provide extra road biting edges for improved winter traction.

"Every aspect of a winter tire has been engineered to provide the best performance in winter conditions and temperature fluctuations while maintaining traction on any surface," said Mark Marrufo of Discount Tire. "The winter tire advantage will maximize your safety and provide piece of mind during the winter months.”

5 Tips for Winter Tire Safety

  1. Replace your all-season tires with winter tires for driving in temperatures 45 degrees or below. Make sure to replace all four tires with winter tires to avoid an unsafe traction mismatch.
  2. Don't forget the wheels when switching to winter tires. Having a set of wheels specifically for your set of winter tires will save money in the long run.
  3. Check tire inflation pressure regularly and don't forget the spare. Under-inflated or over-inflated tires may result in poor handling, uneven tread wear and poor fuel consumption.
  4. Rotate your tires at least every 6,000 miles or earlier if irregular or uneven wear develops.
  5. Make sure the tire shop that gets your tires ready for cold temperatures torques the lug nuts to the proper specifications for your vehicle.


Source: www.discounttire.com.


5 Things You Shouldn't Include in Your Will

November 14, 2013 9:57 pm

Having a will and other estate plans are essential to ensuring your assets pass on to their intended recipients when you pass on.

However, there are certain provisions that don't belong in your will, as they simply can't be enforced under the law.

Here are five of the most common things you shouldn't include in your will:

1. Funeral Plans.

Although it may seem fun to memorialize your wish to be cremated and turned into a well-cut diamond, your will isn't the best place for burial preferences.

Your body technically isn't property, so it cannot be a part of your estate. You can try to include burial preferences in your will, but because your body isn't under your estate's control, your wishes may not be carried out according to your plan.

A good alternative is to discuss funeral plans ahead of time with your executor and arrange for services to be paid out of your estate -- this can be done in your will. But be wary of pre-paid funeral plans.

2. Your 'Digital Estate.'

If you died today, you would likely leave behind a sizeable amount of "property" in your digital estate. This includes iTunes purchases, eBooks, and items in other cloud-based online accounts.

This area of law is likely to be more sophisticated in the future, but for the moment, your digital bequests are unlikely to be enforceable. You may, however, choose to bequeath your account info and passwords.

3. Jointly Held Property.

Pretty much the defining feature of a joint tenancy is the right of survivorship, meaning that when you or the other joint tenant dies, the survivor automatically owns the property in full. So putting your interest in a joint tenancy in your will is meaningless, as when you die, that interest disappears.

4. Life Insurance and Retirement Funds.

Life insurance and retirement plans require you to designate a beneficiary of the plan upon your death. When you die, the assets associated with your life insurance or retirement fund will immediately transfer to the intended beneficiary, so they can't be distributed by your will.

5. Illegal Gifts and Requests.

You may be literally dying to unload a cache of illicit drugs or to have your relatives burn down a building in honor of your death, but the law frowns upon wills containing those kind of illegal requests.

Source: Findlaw

 


Word of the Day

November 14, 2013 9:57 pm

Quit-claim deed. A conveyance by which the grantor transfers whatever interest he or she has in the real estate without warranties or obligations.


Q: Is Private Mortgage Insurance Always Required on Low-Down Payment Loans?

November 14, 2013 9:57 pm

A: Lenders require private mortgage insurance (PMI) on most loans with less than a 20 percent down payment.  They believe there is a correlation between borrower equity and default.  They have found that the less money borrowers put down, the more likely they are to default on a loan. PMI guarantees the lender will not lose money if this happens and a foreclosure is necessary.

A growing number of private lenders, however, are loosening up their requirements for low-down payment loans. In fact, the Homeowners Protection Act states that PMI must be dropped on any loan originated after July 29, 1999. Borrowers can request that PMI be canceled when they pay down the principal balance on their mortgage loans to 80 percent of the purchase price. Lenders must automatically cancel PMI when the balance hits 78 percent.


Are You Ready to Downsize Your Kitchen

November 14, 2013 8:57 pm

In our last segment, I dove into the subject of downsizing kitchens. Whether it's simplifying arrangements of cabinets and appliances as we age in place, or a desire for a modern or minimalist cooking zone, there is no shortage of good advice on how to get started and get through it.

Mariette Mifflin, a housewares and appliances writer at about.com says a large number of baby boomers are eyeing moving to low maintenance apartments or condos, while others will plan to retire to their smaller cottages or vacation homes to age in place.

Mifflin says consider the many more compact appliances that offer energy saving options, like an economy dry settings on dishwashers, 1 and 2 hour auto shut-off on coffee makers, and low water features on washers.

According to Mifflin, delay start has now become a great energy saving option for those areas that pay for electricity based on when they use it, with peak and off-peak rates. You can set a dishwasher with this feature while you're loading it, but it will only start later in the evening when energy off-peak rate is lower.  

Cambria Bold design and lifestyle editor for The Kitchn (thekitchn.com) says don't be afraid of using darker colors - done right a darker color scheme can actually make a smaller kitchen space appear bigger.

At cultivate.com, Susan Serra writes that visual tricks will be actively incorporated to create a more open feeling. For example, backsplashes that are more simple in design than ever before, such as single sheets of glass (a hot material), engineered stone or other seamless surfaces, such as stainless steel.

The reason this works: A seamless backsplash has a huge effect on a kitchen's "visual clutter", is a natural complement to the modern kitchen and a practical solution for small kitchens where appliances are in close proximity to surfaces.

Serra says large interesting nooks and crannies decoratively illuminated in the kitchen can create new focal points as well as adding a spacious look. And she says appliances will largely disappear from view in 2013, allowing even high-end, chef's style appliances to be seamlessly incorporated into any kitchen space.  


8 Tax breaks Set to Expire This Year

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

April 15 may seem a long way off, but consumers should check with a tax advisor to see if they qualify for one or more of eight tax breaks scheduled to expire at the end of 2013:

Teacher’s classroom expenses - Educators can deduct up to $250 worth of unreimbursed classroom expenses. This is an above-the-line deduction, which means teachers can take this deduction before they get to adjusted gross income.

Exclusion of indebtedness cancellation on principal residence – The U.S. tax code treats forgiven debts as taxable income. But if your principle residence is foreclosed or sold in a short sale before the end of the year, this provision allows you to exclude up to $2 million of forgiven debt from taxable income

Transit benefits. In 2013, employees can spend up to $245 pretax per month on transit benefits like rail passes, which is on par with the $245 pretax they can spend on parking. That parity is scheduled to end this year, so the benefit for public transportation would drop to $130 per month pretax, while higher parking benefits remain.

Mortgage insurance premiums - Homeowners who have less than 20 percent equity typically pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). The provision to deduct those premiums is scheduled to expire.

IRA distributions to charity - People older than 70 1/2 must take minimum distributions from their individual retirement accounts. This provision allows them to contribute that money to charity without counting the distributions as income.

State and local sales tax - State and federal sales taxes are deductible from federal taxes if you itemize. This provision allows you to deduct state sales tax if your state doesn't have sales tax (i.e. Florida) or if the amount you paid in sales tax was higher than income tax.

Electric vehicles - Consumers who buy a qualified electric plug-in vehicle may be eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500 depending on the size of the car's battery pack.  Some lessees may also be eligible for this credit.

Remodeling for energy efficiency - Homeowners who remodel for energy-efficiency can take a credit of up to $500 over their lifetime. There is a separate $500 credit available for energy-efficient appliances. If you haven't used the credit yet, there are two months left to install new windows or an energy-efficient air conditioner.


Smart 'Green' Options that Help Homeowners Save Green

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

(BPT) - With the average American household spending more than $1,000 on heating and cooling expenses each year, more homeowners are seeking smarter, green options to reduce the strain on their wallets. Incentives through the U.S. government's Energy Star program and other state and federal programs have made it easier for homeowners to create an energy efficient and greener home.

While it may be tempting to take advantage of every incentive program available in your local area, experts recommend taking the time to assess your home's overall performance. A home inspector or certified Energy Rater can inspect your home and provide cost-effective recommendations that provide immediate and long-term savings and efficiencies.

For example, one area homeowners often overlook is their home's envelope - that is the walls, windows, ceiling and floors. Gaps and cracks within the building envelope can add up to the size of a basketball. While that may not seem sizeable, the U.S Department of Energy Savers suggests that air leakage from these areas can account for up to 40 percent of the energy lost by your home. Air leakage could potentially cost thousands of dollars annually.

Homeowners can reduce air leakage in several ways. Ensuring your home has a polyolefin plastic house wrap is one common method to minimize air leakage. Caulking and sealing is another simple, common and quick approach that provides some relief to rising heating and cooling costs. Another consideration for homeowners is high-efficiency windows. The U.S Department of Energy Savers says that air leakage through windows equates to around 10 percent of the energy lost in the home. High-performance, low-emissivity, double-glazed windows can help homeowners conserve energy, reduce heating and cooling bills, and add value to their home.

One of the most effective methods to eliminate air leakage and live greener is replacing your home's traditional fiberglass insulation. Traditional insulation types are prone to sagging, leaving gaps as well as absorbing moisture which can have significant health impacts on occupants. Replacing your home's insulation with a high-performance material such as spray foam insulation will both insulate and air seal the entire home and lead to major cost savings. Insulation experts from Icynene suggest that quality spray foam insulation can noticeably reduce heating and cooling costs, in some cases by up to 50 percent.

A growing number of building professionals are recommending spray foam insulation as a valuable, cost-effective solution. Suitable for any climate, spray foam insulation helps retain the conditioned air within the building, allowing the heating and cooling equipment to work more efficiently rather than excessively. As a result of the improved energy consumption, heating and cooling costs are kept down and air leaks become a thing of the past.

Source: icynene.com


Uncontested Divorce Basics: 5 Things to Consider

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

Thinking about getting an uncontested divorce? You'll want to know some basics first.

Many couples who are ready to end their marriage will pursue an uncontested divorce, thinking it's a shortcut to living happily apart for ever after. But it may not be quite as simple as you think to get a "quickie" divorce.

Before you and your soon-to-be ex start down this path, here are five things you'll want to consider about an uncontested divorce:

  1. You and your spouse will need to agree on everything. Uncontested divorces are meant for couples who are on the same page regarding all crucial divorce issues, including child custody, spousal support, and property division. You can come to your own agreement or use state-provided forms, but read those forms carefully -- for example, some states' uncontested divorce forms say that both parties agree to give up their rights to alimony.
  2. You still need to fulfill eligibility requirements. Just because you've both agreed to divorce doesn't mean you can skip over the basic eligibility requirements for any divorce. This includes meeting residency requirements and paying court filing fees, among others.
  3. You may still need to wait a while for the divorce to be finalized. While an uncontested divorce may entail a more streamlined process, you still can't avoid the mandatory waiting period. Most states have a specific waiting period (some more brutal than others) before you can finalize a divorce.
  4. You may be giving up more than you realize. When it comes to property division in an uncontested divorce, many couples will simply agree to walk away with the assets that they brought into the marriage. But if you're in a community property state, know that by default, you are generally entitled to 50 percent of all community assets -- including real estate and your spouse's job earnings -- acquired between your date of marriage and your date of separation.
  5. You may want to consult a lawyer. Property division is just one of the reasons why consulting an experienced divorce lawyer is still advisable for each spouse, even in an uncontested divorce. A local attorney will be familiar with your state's laws, and will be able to make sure you're looking out for your own best interests.

Source: Findlaw.com


Q: What Can I Do to Minimize Danger and Stress Once a Construction Project Has Begun?

November 11, 2013 9:39 pm

A:  Plan ahead.  Since your home will become a worksite once the remodeling begins, inconveniences will arise that can be minimized with a little planning.  Begin by having a frank discussion with the contractor to set guidelines and develop a clear understanding upfront about the various project stages and the processes involved.  Talk, for example, about where building materials will be stored, how to best protect your belongings from dust and debris, areas of your home that will be off limits to workers and whether you will need to vacate the home for any reason over the duration of the work.  

If a kitchen or bath will be out of commission, plan accordingly.  It’s okay to move the refrigerator, microwave and toaster oven to the basement or another designated area where you can prepare meals to avoid eating out.  Equally important are the rules that dictate how workers can conduct themselves in your home.  Will they be able to use your bathroom and the telephone?  Will they be prohibited from smoking, playing their radios or using profanity? Finally, remember to preserve a safe haven in your home where you can flee the chaos and dust and attempt to maintain your sanity.