Podcast: Insurance For Homeowners and Real Estate Investors

Insurance For Homeowners and Real Estate Investors

For this podcast about insurance I chatted with Matt Kincaid of Meridian Captone.  In the podcast we discussed insurance for homeowners and real estate investors.  Topics included first time homebuyer tips for arranging insurance, insurance for real estate investors with long term tenants and insurance for investors working in the short term rental space.

I hope you enjoy the podcast and find it informative.  Please consider sharing with those who also may benefit.

Listen via YouTube:

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You can connect with Matt at LinkedIn,  You can reach out to Matt for more information on their insurance products by emailing him at mkincaid@meridiancapstone.com.

You can connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.

About the author: The above article “Podcast: Insurance For Homeowners and Real Estate Investors” was provided by Luxury Real Estate Specialist Paul Sian. Paul can be reached at paul@CinciNKYRealEstate.com or by phone at 513-560-8002. If you’re thinking of selling or buying your investment or commercial business property I would love to share my marketing knowledge and expertise to help you.  Contact me today!

I work in the following Greater Cincinnati, OH and Northern KY areas: Alexandria, Amberly, Amelia, Anderson Township, Cincinnati, Batavia, Blue Ash, Covington, Edgewood, Florence, Fort Mitchell, Fort Thomas, Hebron, Hyde Park, Indian Hill, Kenwood, Madeira, Mariemont, Milford, Montgomery, Mt. Washington, Newport, Newtown, Norwood, Taylor Mill, Terrace Park, Union Township, and Villa Hills.

Transcript

[RealCincy.com Insurance Podcast]

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

Paul S.:             Hello everybody, this is Paul Sian with United real estate home connections. Real estate agent licensed in the state of Ohio and Kentucky. And with me today is Matt Kincaid with Meridian. Hi Matt, how are you doing today?

Matt K.:            I’m doing great, Paul, thanks for having me.

Paul S.:             Great to have you on here, and looking forward to our podcast today. Where we’re going to discuss insurance for homeowners, for investors as well as looking in-depth into the insurance policies and how that’ll help out buyers and investors, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background? When did you get started in insurance?

Matt K.:            Yes. It really started in junior/senior year of college. I went to NKU, graduated in 2015. My best friend actually dropped out of school and started selling commercial trucking insurance to long-distance truckers. So he thought it might be a good part-time job for me to do, do some customer service work.

So that’s what I did my senior year mostly. And picked up on it pretty quickly, and after I graduated, I started selling full-time, and it just happened to be when I stuck with. Ended up transitioning to more personal lines. So I still do a lot of commercials, but our main focus is personal. So we’re typical home auto landlord insurance that sort of thing, so that’s kind of how I got started.

Paul S.:             Great. And you’ve been with Meridian ever since?

Matt K.:            Yes. I’ve been with Meridian. It’ll be four years in September; I’ve been in the industry for about six years now.

Paul S.:             Nice. So I understand a lot of people don’t know that you’ve got your insurance brokers, which I believe Meridian is an insurance broker, and then you got your insurance agents. Can you explain a little bit the difference between an insurance broker and an insurance agent?

Matt K.:            Yes. So in the insurance world, there’s independence and captives; captives are just what it sounds are captive to one product, one company. Whereas with independence Meridian particular, we have about 15 different companies that we’re able to shop around through. So one of our companies is, for example, is Allstate. A lot of captives also have Allstate, but we have the same exact product.

But we also have 12 other companies that we can shop around through, to make sure that you’re getting the best. So it’ll really benefit to the customer and me as an agent, or I’m not if I was just one company, I know I have to stand behind that product 100% no matter what. Whereas being a Meridian, I can just do whatever is best for the customer.

Paul S.:             Yes. So the ideal then I guess is that you can shop around from multiple policies. Just like going into the store, you can compare different types of bread, and whatever price works best for you, whatever flavor works best for you. That’s similar to what you’re able to provide.

Matt K.:            Yes, that’ll be a good example. For like your typical, this may not be what we’re talking about but, but for like your home and auto, most of time, it’s best to be with one company, but not all the time. So I’m able to mix and match if need be, whatever is going to save the customer most money, whatever they’re company is having.

Paul S.:             Great. So let’s move on to first-time homebuyers. Insurance is a, especially for homeowners, insurance is the new thing for first-time homebuyers if they don’t really know what they’re looking for. When’s a good time for them to start having that conversation with their insurance person?

Matt K.:            So I think whenever you get in contract is a good time to start looking. Getting a quote is never going to hurt, you’re not bound to any coverage, or you’re not going to be paying. 90% of time, you’re not going to be paying the full 12 months up front.

So it’s good to start getting your quotes shops around, getting some final numbers to give to your lender if you have one. So they can finalize numbers and give you a good picture of what you might be looking at going forward. So it’s never too early in my opinion, but once you get into contract, I think is an ideal time.

Paul S.:             Yes. That’s something I agree with too. And it should be pointed out for those first-time homebuyers who don’t know, I mean insurance is required if they’re financing the purchase, and the lender is going to require homeowners insurance.

Matt K.:            Yes. A lot of people know that it’s not a law that have home insurance, but the lender can make that stipulation that you have to have it upon closing.

Paul S.:             Great. And when a homebuyer first time, whether homebuyer existing or first-time homebuyer. What exactly is the insurance company looking at when they’re pricing out policies?

Matt K.:            So a big one is, you’ll hear this term going out a lot, insurance score. It’s a credit-based score; you don’t need a social to run it. But they’re able to calculate a similar score based on the amount of claims you’re turning in, your payments.

Are you making your payments on time? That sort of thing. So they’re able to get a good a good picture of the type of risk that the insurance company is taking on so that I mean if you’re looking at the property itself, the construction of the property, how old it is, the exterior that sort of thing.

Paul S.:             So does that involve a hard credit pool or a soft credit pool?

Matt K.:            It’s soft; you won’t see it on your credit at all.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. So that’s something that doesn’t have, even though during the home shopping process there’s going to be a bunch of credit pools, whether from a couple of lenders. But insurance it’s not one of those things that the buyers have to look at.

Matt K.:            No, absolutely not. Especially, that would be a big pain. Especially if I’m shopping through 15, and I’m running NVR and insurance score. But no, it won’t even show up on your score.

Paul S.:             Okay. So what are some of the best ways that homebuyers can improve their chance of getting a better insurance rate?

Matt K.:            Right. So prior insurance history is a big one, making your insurance payments on time. The area that you are in is going to be a big factor. The zip code, there’s different what’s called protection classes based on where the home is. So that’s based on how far you are from the fire hydrant, and also how far you are from the fire department.

So the highest protection class you can have is ten, that’s a maximum risk. You’re over five miles away from the nearest fire department, and your insurance rate is going to be higher. Simply do the fact if there was a fire or total catastrophe, it’s going to take longer for them to reach you.

Paul S.:             Okay. Let’s talk about the risk; you mentioned risk in there. How does risk play into it? Let’s say whether of the buyer themselves and if they’ve had past history of claims or the house even if they’ve never been in the house before what about the risk associated with that.

Paul S.:             Yes. So like I said before pass to insurance, history is big. With these landlord policies, it’s hard to tell what the price is exactly going to be. Because obviously, they’re going to rate it based off the buyer’s insurance score.

But they don’t know who’s going to be living in there. They don’t know the type of risk for who’s going to occupy that home. So it’s very limited; there’s more of a baseline price just based off the buyer’s insurance score and the protection class and the age and the property itself.

Paul S.:             Okay. In terms of the property itself, there’s a CLUE report which a lot of buyers probably have not heard about. Can you explain what the clue report is, what does it stand for, and what does that exactly provide?

Matt K.:            Yes. So I kind of describe it as a moto vehicle report for your home.  So it stands for the comprehensive loss underwriting exchange. So a lot of times, LexisNexis, you’ll get your reports from there. It’s just a big aggregate of claims that are turned in by insurers, and obviously, when I’m running your clue report, it’s going to pull up based off your name, your date of birth and the address if there are any claims that correspond to you, the insurance company can grade it importantly.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. Is there any cost for you pulling a clue report for a buyer?

Matt K.:            No, absolutely not. So for a personal policy, so if we’re talking landlord, that’s four units, four family and under. Most of the times, the company can run that itself. If it’s a commercial policy, it’s a little bit more different.

For example, if this is not a new purchase, maybe you’ve had this property for a few years, and you’re shopping right around, you may have to order that from your prior insurance company. But if it’s a new purchase, a lot of times it’s not going to be necessary, if it’s a commercial risk.

Paul S.:             Okay. Let’s talk about a homeowner who’s been in their house for a few years now, and they had a policy in place with an insurer. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions for them? I mean, do the rates get better? Do the rates get higher if they get another quote?

Matt K.:            So it’s kind of a cache one to it. It’s almost impossible to know what the insurance company is going to do. Obviously, you want to find a company that is A-rated or higher, that means they have a good financial stability, so they’re not just going to raise your rates for no reason.

But insurance is kind of like the stock market in some ways. If a company is taking big losses a certain year, they may try to recoup by raising rates, and that’s just going to be across the board based on your zip code. But I always just say just keep track of your rates. I know Meridian we have somebody who’s dedicated to be shopping if your policy goes up a certain percentage. So I think that’s great to have. But just pay attention to it, and re-shop it every couple of years if need be.

Paul S.:             Okay. By the fact of them, somebody re-shopping it, that’s not necessarily going to increase their rates, will it?

Matt K.:            No, absolutely not. Companies like to see that you’ve been insured, they don’t want to see you bounce around all the time, because that means they’re probably going to lose that risk in a year. But to answer your question, there’s no harm in re-shopping. I have customers that will call me each and every year to make sure that we have the best rate, that’s totally fine by me.

Paul S.:             Okay, that’s great and helpful information. To move on to investment real estate, can you talk about the differences in commercial versus residential investment real estate insurance?

Matt K.:            Yes, so kind of hard to describe the four. Commercial is going to be the five units and above, personal is going to be four and under. Coverages on that, the only differences that you’re going to see with commercial, instead of having a one hundred thousand or three hundred thousand liability limit, most of the time they’re going to include a general liability policy, which is going to include one million in liability.

A bunch of different other things that fall under that, so that might look different. Other than that, the forms are fairly similar. You just want to make sure that you have replacement cost, or if you want actual cash value, deductible, loss of rent. So those things are going to be similar, it’s just a matter of how many years you have, that sort of thing.

Paul S.:             Okay. In terms of investors who are owner occupying, they’re buying a duplex or four-unit, and they want to live in one unit. Are the insurance rates generally better for that type of situation?

Matt K.:            There’s not a clear answer for that, I mean it’s still going to be written on the same type of form. There might be some discounts being that the insurance company is able to calculate their risk, maybe a little bit more accurately. I mean, that could be a good thing or a bad thing for the customer.

But really, you just want to make sure that you’re asking those questions, make sure the agent is writing the policy correctly. So down the road, if there are any changes or let’s say the insurance company audits you and that information is inaccurate, that could then raise your rate.

Paul S.:             Okay. So I guess the answer is it depends?

Matt K.:            Yes. With a lot of insurance, it just depends, unfortunately.

Paul S.:             That’s still good to know. So let’s talk a little bit about insurance riders, I guess insurance riders applies both to regular homeowners as well as investors. What can you tell me? I guess first, let’s explain what’s an insurance rider, and why would somebody want one or need one.

Matt K.:            Yes. So with any insurance policy, there’s going to be a lot of things that are automatically included. Like if we’re talking landlord policy wind, hail, fire, that sort of thing. And then if you want to have personal property protection, let’s say you’re furnishing some of the items may be the appliances in the home can have that. Otherwise, the writers are going to look fairly similar to what you’re going to see on a typical homeowner’s insurance policy.

Or do you want water and sewage backup? Do you want replacement cost on your belongings or the roof? So those are going to look fairly similar. If the agent is asking the right questions and going over it thoroughly, there should be no question on how you want it covered. Some other things that might be on there is earthquake that’s not included; flood insurance it’s a totally separate policy, so there’s always that misconception that flood is included in the homeowners; it’s never included.

Whether it’s a landlord policy or homeowner’s policy, the way to differentiate that with water coverage is where the water is originating from. If the water originated from outside the house, that is flood. If the water is originating from inside, let’s say you have a pipe that burst, or a toilet that overflows or some pump that’s water inside the house and that’s something that could be covered either automatically or with a rider.

Paul S.:             Okay. And just look a little further into flood insurance that applies to both regular buyers and investors, but that’s also like you said this based on external factors close to a river, close to the lake. Where would somebody find out if their property falls under that, or requires flood insurance?

Matt K.:            So a lot of the times, the lender may have an idea if it’s required or not. Otherwise, just asking your insurance agent. There’s not like an automatic identification that is going to tell you. In the loan process, it will probably come up that flood insurance is required, and then at that point, the insurance agent can find out what flood zone you’re in, what kind of rate impact that’s going to have on you, and that sort of thing.

Paul S.:             And then flood insurance too is not something you provide directly, I believe that’s provided from the government, correct?

Matt K.:            Yes. So it’s a FEMA based product, but we do also have a private flood company if your loan accepts that, which can be up to 40% off of a FEMA back product, and it’s the same exact coverage.

Paul S.:             Okay. So let’s talk a little bit more about the private insurance coverage you said for flood insurance, as opposed to FEMA. That’s something you said the lender would have to allow it. Otherwise, they have to go through the government program?

Matt K.:            Yes. So I mean the laws are changing for this all the time, most of the time if it’s a Government loan, they’re not going to allow private flood insurance. But that could depend on a bunch of different factors.

So the best thing to do is just ask your lender if private flood is acceptable because if it is, that’s going to save you a ton of money. I just did one a couple of weeks ago, where FEMA wanted 1,500 bucks, and my private flood carrier came back at like 700. So that could be a big difference, especially if you have a certain down payment you need to make for the home, and just cut cost in general.

Paul S.:             That’s 1500 versus 700 is that a yearly cost?

Matt K.:            Yes, flood is always going to be a 12-month policy, just like your homeowners.

Paul S.:             Okay. Is it worth it? Let’s say somebody’s not listed as a; the property is not listed in flood zone, so they don’t require flood insurance. Is it worth it for them to maybe they happen to live behind a, there’s a small lake behind them? Is it worth it to get flood insurance for them?

Matt K.:            I think it’s at least worth having that conversation, you know everybody’s different. You know there are some customers they’re going to want all the bells and whistles, they are going to want earthquake even if you’re not even close to a fault, that sort of thing.

So it’s just having that conversation, I mean you can never be too covered. It’s never a bad idea to cover all your paces, but it’s just a matter of what the insured is willing to spend, and if they think it’s worth taking that risk or not.

Paul S.:             Okay. Most of the insurance policies we’re talking about, and I shouldn’t say most, I should say all the policies we’re talking about right now are generally applied to like long term whether you as a long term owner-occupant or as a long term investment property, where you have a one continuous tenant may be staying a year after a year or long-term leases basically.

Let’s talk a little bit about short term tenants like your Airbnb, your VRBO, I mean, are there different insurance requirements for that, different insurance policies? What would you recommend? And what have you seen for other people who are looking for that type of insurance?

Matt K.:            Yes. So honestly, I’ve ran across it a few times. The one thing you want to make sure of is most companies will either not write it, or they’ll have an endorsement done for a short-term rental. So that’s going to be a surcharge for you. Other than that, it’s going to be fairly similar. You just want to make sure if you’re going through air Airbnb or VRBO make sure what they are going to cover.

They’re going to include an insurance policy, so you don’t want to have any overlaps, we also don’t want to have any gaps in the insurance. I know Airbnb will, for example, not cover bodily injury or property damage, so that’s something that’s going to fall under your insurance policy. So it’s just making sure that you understand the verbiage. So if you do have an Airbnb home that you want to get insured, take a look at that policy, send it to your insurance agent. Have them write over it, and make sure that you’re fully covered.

Paul S.:             Okay. That’s something that you’d provide if somebody’s coming to look for a policy through you for a short term rental that you would be able to assist them with too?

Matt K.:            Yes, absolutely. I did one last week; the customer was very concerned about the pricing. He was coming from USAA; they wanted like 2,500 bucks on the year for a single-family Airbnb.

I have a great company called Berkshire Hathaway; they have a product specifically for Airbnb or VRBO. I was able to cut his price almost in half. So we definitely have products for it; off the top of my head I probably have three or four that I can quote through.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. And just to go back to your company’s footprint, Meridian, basically, are you able to offer insurance all 50 states? Are you limited anywhere?

Matt K.:            So yes, we’re not available in all 50 states, but we are available in the Tri-State as well as Tennessee, Illinois, a lot of the southeast. So if you have any questions about that, please give me a call.

That being said, I have a lot of property investors that are coming from either across the country or overseas. That is totally fine, as long as the property that they’re buying is within our scope, we can definitely accommodate.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. And what’s the best way for somebody to reach out to you if they want to get some more information?

Matt K.:            So you can reach me either by phone or email. I’m also very active on Facebook. My phone number is 513-503-1817. Or you can reach me by email that is MKincaid@Meridiancapstone.com.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. That’s all the questions I have for you today, Matt, thanks for being on.

Matt K.:            Yes, thanks for having me.

[End of Recorded Material]

Source: cincinkyrealestate.com

How Interest Rate Hikes Affect Personal Loan Investors – SmartAsset

How Interest Rate Hikes Affect Personal Loan Investors – SmartAsset

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In December 2015, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by a quarter of a percentage point. That was the first time the Fed had raised rates in nearly a decade. While federal funds rate changes don’t directly impact peer-to-peer (P2P) loan interest rates, lending platforms may begin increasing their rates. If you’re investing in peer-to-peer loans, it’s important to understand how that may impact your portfolio.

Rising Rates May Mean Better Returns

Personal loan investors make money by claiming a share of the interest that’s paid on the loans, in proportion to the amount that’s invested. If the platform you’re using raises rates for their borrowers, that means you’ll likely see higher returns.

That’s especially true if you’re open to funding high-risk loans. Peer-to-peer platforms assign each of their borrowers a credit risk rating, based on their credit scores and credit history. The loans that get the lowest ratings are assigned the highest rates. For example, Lending Club’s “G” grade loans (the loans that go to the riskiest borrowers) have interest rates of 25.72%.

Assuming borrowers don’t default on their payments, these investments can be more lucrative than lower-risk loans. Using Lending Club as an example again, F and G grade loans historically have had annual returns of 9.05%, which is nearly double the 5.22% return that investors earn from low-risk “A” grade loans.

The Downsides of a Rate Increase

While rising interest rates may put more money in investors’ pockets, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. For one thing, it’s possible that as rates rise, borrowers could decide to explore other lending options. If that happens, there would be a smaller pool of loans for investors to choose from.

To compensate, peer-to-peer lenders may resort to issuing lower-quality loans as rates rise, but that could be problematic for investors who prefer to steer away from riskier borrowers. If the platform you use no longer offers the kinds of loan products you want to invest in, you’ll have to reallocate those assets elsewhere to keep your portfolio from becoming unbalanced.

Finally, rising interest rates could result in a higher default rate. Increased rates mean that borrowers have to pay a lot of money for taking out personal loans. If the personal loan payments become unmanageable, a borrower may end up defaulting on their loan altogether. Some platforms refund the fees that investors have paid, but they usually don’t refund their initial investments after borrowers default.

What Investors Ought to Consider

If you’re an active P2P investor or you’re thinking of adding P2P loans to your portfolio, you can’t afford to overlook the risk that’s involved. Financing the riskiest loans is a gamble, so it’s important to consider the consequences of putting money into those kinds of investments.

A good way to hedge your bets is to spread out your investments over a variety of loan grades. That way, if a high-risk borrower defaults you still have other loans to fall back on.

If you want more help with this decision and others relating to your financial health, you might want to consider hiring a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with top financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Ondine32, ©iStock.com/Tomwang112, ©iStock.com/xijian

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Personal Loan

Consider This Before Getting a Personal Loan – SmartAsset

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It’s a new year and if one of your resolutions is to get out of debt, you might be thinking about consolidating your bills into a personal loan. With this kind of loan, you can streamline your payments and potentially get rid of your debt more quickly. If you plan on getting a personal loan in 2016, here are some key things to keep in mind before you start searching for a lender.

Check out our personal loan calculator.

1. Interest Rates Are Going Up

At the end of 2015, the Federal Reserve initiated a much anticipated hike in the federal funds rate. What this means for borrowers is that taking on debt is going to be more expensive going forward. That means that the personal loan rates you’re seeing now could be a lot higher six or nine months from now. If you’re planning on borrowing, it might be a good idea to scope out loan offers sooner rather than later.

2. Online Lenders Likely Have the Best Deals

The online lending marketplace has exploded in recent years. With an online lender, there are fewer overhead costs involved, which translates to fewer fees and lower rates for borrowers.

With a lower interest rate, more money will stay in your pocket in the long run. Lending Club, for example, claims that their customers have interest rates that are 33% lower, on average, after consolidating their debt or paying off credit cards using a personal loan.

Related Article: How to Get a Personal Loan

3. Your Credit Matters

Regardless of whether you go through a brick-and-mortar bank or an online lender, you  likely won’t have access to the best rates if you don’t have a great credit score. In the worst case scenario, you could be denied a personal loan altogether.

You can check your credit score for free. And each year, you have a chance to get a free credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If you haven’t pulled yours in a while, now might be a good time to take a look.

As you review your report, it’s important to make sure that all of your account information is being reported properly. If you see a paid account that’s still showing a balance, for example, or a collection account you don’t recognize, you’ll need to dispute those items with the credit bureau that’s reporting the information.

4. Personal Loan Scams Are Common

As more and more lenders enter the personal loan arena, the opportunity for scammers to cash in on unsuspecting victims also increases. If you’re applying for a loan online, it’s best to be careful about who you give your personal information to.

Some of the signs that may indicate that a personal loan agreement is actually a scam include lenders who use overly pushy sales tactics to get you to commit or ask you to put up a deposit as a guarantee against the loan. If you come across a lender who doesn’t seem concerned about checking your credit or tells you they can give you a loan without doing any paperwork, those are big red flags that the lender may not be legit.

Related Article: How to Avoid Personal Loan Scams

5. Not Reading the Fine Print Could Cost You

Before you sign off on a personal loan, it’s best to take time to read over the details of the loan agreement. Something as simple as paying one date late could trigger a fee or cause a higher penalty rate to kick in, which would make the loan more expensive in the long run.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/DragonImages, ©iStock.com/Vikram Raghuvanshi, ©iStock.com/MachineHeadz

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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Source: smartasset.com

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable?

Are Social Security Disability Benefits Taxable? – SmartAsset

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Social Security benefits, including disability benefits, can help provide a supplemental source of income to people who are eligible to receive them. If you’re receiving disability benefits from Social Security, you might be wondering whether you’ll owe taxes on the money. For most people, the answer is no. But there are some scenarios where you may have to pay taxes on Social Security disability benefits. It may also behoove you to consult with a trusted financial advisor as you navigate the complicated terrain of taxes on Social Security disability benefits.

What Is Social Security Disability?

The Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) pays benefits to eligible people who have become disabled. To be considered eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you have to be “insured”, which means you worked long enough and recently enough to accumulate benefits based on your Social Security taxes paid.

You also have to meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disabled. To be considered disabled, it would have to be determined that you can no longer do the kind of work you did before you became disabled and that you won’t be able to do any other type of work because of your disability. Your disability must have lasted at least 12 months or be expected to last 12 months.

Social Security disability benefits are different from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security retirement benefits. SSI benefits are paid to people who are aged, blind or disabled and have little to no income. These benefits are designed to help meet basic needs for living expenses. Social Security retirement benefits are paid out based on your past earnings, regardless of disability status.

Supplemental Security Income generally isn’t taxed as it’s a needs-based benefit. The people who receive these benefits typically don’t have enough income to require tax reporting. Social Security retirement benefits, on the other hand, can be taxable if you’re working part-time or full-time while receiving benefits.

Is Social Security Disability Taxable? 

This is an important question to ask if you receive Social Security disability benefits and the short answer is, it depends. For the majority of people, these benefits are not taxable. But your Social Security disability benefits may be taxable if you’re also receiving income from another source or your spouse is receiving income.

The good news is, there are thresholds you have to reach before your Social Security disability benefits become taxable.

When Is Social Security Disability Taxable? 

The IRS says that Social Security disability benefits may be taxable if one-half of your benefits, plus all your other income, is greater than a certain amount which is based on your tax filing status. Even if you’re not working at all because of a disability, other income you’d have to report includes unearned income such as tax-exempt interest and dividends.

If you’re married and file a joint return, you also have to include your spouse’s income to determine whether any part of your Social Security disability benefits are taxable. This true even if your spouse isn’t receiving any benefits from Social Security.

The IRS sets the threshold for taxing Social Security disability benefits at the following limits:

  • $25,000 if you’re single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er),
  • $25,000 if you’re married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year,
  • $32,000 if you’re married filing jointly,
  • $0 if you’re married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year.

This means that if you’re married and file a joint return, you can report a combined income of up to $32,000 before you’d have to pay taxes on Social Security disability benefits. There are two different tax rates the IRS can apply, based on how much income you report and your filing status.

If you’re single and file an individual return, you’d pay taxes on:

  • Up to 50% of your benefits if your income is between $25,000 and $34,000
  • Up to 85% of your benefits if your income is more than $34,000

If you’re married and file a joint return, you’d pay taxes on:

  • Up to 50% of your benefits if your combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000
  • Up to 85% of your benefits if your combined income is more than $44,000

In other words, the more income you have individually or as a married couple, the more likely you are to have to pay taxes on Social Security disability benefits. In terms of the actual tax rate that’s applied to these benefits, the IRS uses your marginal tax rate. So you wouldn’t be paying a 50% or 85% tax rate; instead, you’d pay your ordinary income tax rate based on whatever tax bracket you land in.

It’s also important to note that you could be temporarily pushed into a higher tax bracket if you receive Social Security disability back payments. These back payments can be paid to you in a lump sum to cover periods where you were disabled but were still waiting for your benefits application to be approved. The good news is you can apply some of those benefits to past years’ tax returns retroactively to spread out your tax liability. You’d need to file an amended return to do so.

Is Social Security Disability Taxable at the State Level?

Besides owing federal income taxes on Social Security disability benefits, it’s possible that you could owe state taxes as well. As of 2020, 12 states imposed some form of taxation on Social Security disability benefits, though they each apply the tax differently.

Nebraska and Utah, for example, follow federal government taxation rules. But other states allow for certain exemptions or exclusions and at least one state, West Virginia, plans to phase out Social Security benefits taxation by 2022. If you’re concerned about how much you might have to pay in state taxes on Social Security benefits, it can help to read up on the taxation rules for where you live.

How to Report Taxes on Social Security Disability Benefits

If you received Social Security disability benefits, those are reported in Box 5 of Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement. This is mailed out to you each year by the Social Security Administration.

You report the amount listed in Box 5 on that form on line 5a of your Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR, depending on which one you file. The taxable part of your Social Security disability benefits is reported on line 5b of either form.

The Bottom Line

Social Security disability benefits aren’t automatically taxable, but you may owe taxes on them if you pass the income thresholds. If you’re worried about how receiving disability benefits while reporting other income might affect your tax bill, talking to a tax professional can help. They may be able to come up with strategies or solutions to minimize the amount of taxes you’ll end up owing.

Tips on Taxes

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor as well about how to make the most of your Social Security disability benefits and other income. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help. By answering a few simple questions you can get personalized recommendations for professional advisors in your local area in minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • While you don’t have to reach a specific age to apply for Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits, there is a minimum age for claiming Social Security retirement benefits. A Social Security calculator can help you decide when you should retire.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/kate_sept2004, ©iStock.com/JannHuizenga, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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How to Invest in Gold as a Beginner

Gold is one of the oldest investment strategies there is and continues to be relevant even today. Gold tends to move in the opposite direction as the stock market, so it can be a worthwhile asset in the event of a market downturn.

gold on table

When you imagine investing in gold, you may picture people hiding gold bars underneath their bed. This is an option, but it’s probably not the smartest investment strategy. And there are actually many ways you can invest in gold, even as a beginner.

Why invest in gold?

Before we get into how to invest in gold, it can help to understand why gold is still a sound investment in 2021. The biggest reason is that gold is considered to be an inflation hedge.

An inflation hedge is an investment that protects the purchasing power of currency from rising costs due to inflation. An inflation hedge either maintains or increases its value over a long period of time.

For instance, the dollar bill is not an inflation hedge because its value decreases over time. In comparison, an ounce of gold can still purchase roughly the same amount of goods as it could 200 years ago.

You don’t want to have all of your assets tied up in gold. But for investors that are looking for ways to protect themselves from inflation, buying gold isn’t a bad choice. And gold can help you diversify your portfolio outside of the stock market.

Pros and Cons of Investing in Gold

There are many advantages to investing in gold, but there are downsides to consider as well. If you’re on the fence about whether or not buying gold is the right strategy for you, here are a few pros and cons to think about first.

Pros

  • Gold has intrinsic value
  • It can serve as a hedge against inflation
  • A good way to diversify your portfolio
  • Buying gold can provide a feeling of security
  • It’s fairly easy to buy and sell gold coins
  • There are multiple ways to get started investing in gold

Cons

  • It can be hard to know if you’re getting a good deal
  • Storing gold can be expensive
  • Dealers can charge a number of hidden fees
  • Gold doesn’t pay interest or dividends

5 Ways to Invest in Gold

Now that you understand why gold is a good investment, you may be wondering how to get started. Well, it’s actually easier than ever to invest in gold because there are so many options available.

However, this can cause many new investors to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how best to start. If you’re new to investing in gold, here are five solid options you can consider.

1. Physical gold

The most straightforward way to invest in gold is by purchasing physical gold, either online or in-person. You can buy gold bars, coins, or bullions from gold dealers.

There are advantages to going this route, and the biggest is that it’s a tangible asset that you own. Having a tangible asset can provide many people with a sense of security, and more control over their investment.

However, if you purchase gold coins or bars, you’re going to have to choose carefully when it comes to the company you work with. Some dealers will mark up the price of gold heavily, so it can be hard to know if you’re getting the best deal.

And if you purchase physical gold, you’ll need to have a way to store it, so you’ll likely end up paying storage costs. Plus, gold is not a liquid asset, so you may have a hard time selling it down the road.

2. Gold mining stocks

One of the biggest issues many people have with investing in gold is that there’s no growth potential. Sure, gold retains its value, but it’s not going to earn you any money, which is the entire point of investing.

If this issue has been holding you back from buying gold, then you might consider gold mining stocks. Instead of purchasing physical gold, you’ll purchase stocks of companies engaged in mining precious metals.

There are many gold mining stocks that consistently outperformed the market during the fallout of COVID-19. For instance, Goldcorp, Franco Nevada Corp., and Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd. are all good options you can consider.

However, you aren’t really investing in gold; you’re investing in that business. And that always comes with inherent risks. If you choose to go this route, you’ll need to pay close attention to what’s going on with that company.

3. Gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs)

Gold ETFs are a great option for anyone that wants to invest in gold without having to pay for storage costs. An ETF holds gold bullions at a storage facility and allows investors to buy shares of the fund.

Gold ETFs are a great option for beginners because you can invest in the asset without having to physically manage it yourself. You can purchase gold ETFs through a regular brokerage firm.

4. Gold certificates

Gold certificates are another way to invest in the asset without having to physically purchase it and store it yourself. Essentially, you buy a note issued by a company that owns and sells gold. The note isn’t issued for any specific type of gold, but the company verifies that it has the assets to back the note.

Gold certificates are not a bad option for beginners, but you’ll need to choose the company wisely. Otherwise, it could be easy to fall prey to scam artists. If you’re not sure about going this route, then gold ETFs may be a better option for you.

5. Gold mutual funds

And finally, if you’re interested in the idea of owning stock in companies that deal with gold, you might consider investing in a gold mutual fund. A mutual fund allows you to own a portfolio of gold mining companies, as opposed to just investing in one company.

A gold mutual fund is a great way to diversify your portfolio, though the fees may be higher. If you’re considering this option, you’ll want to find a broker that you trust who can advise you.

What’s the Best Gold Investment Strategy for Beginners?

If you’re new to investing in gold, then you may be wondering what the best option is. The truth is, there are no perfect investment strategies, so you’re going to have to evaluate the risks and rewards of each one.

Consider what your goals are and why you want to invest in gold. If your only strategy is to protect yourself against inflation, then buying physical gold may be the right choice for you. Whereas, if you want an income-producing asset, then gold stocks or mutual funds may be a better choice.

Just keep in mind that gold should only be one part of your total investment strategy. Ideally, it will be less than 10% of your total portfolio. That way, you’ll diversify your assets without putting too much at risk.

Bottom Line

By now, you understand what the benefits and downsides are to investing in gold, as well as your options for getting started. If you want to move forward and begin investing in gold, it’s best to start small and slowly increase your assets over time.

Make sure you do your homework when it comes to the company you choose to work with. When you talk to potential companies, try to get a sense of how transparent they are and forthcoming about the fees they charge. It’s also a good idea to check their ratings and reviews so you can see what kind of experience other customers have had.

But if you take your time and invest wisely, you could protect yourself from future market downturns.

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What Is Medicaid Estate Recovery?

What Is Medicaid Estate Recovery? – SmartAsset

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Medicaid is a government program that can help eligible seniors pay for nursing home care. If you’re helping an aging parent navigate Medicaid because they don’t have long-term care insurance or you think you’ll need it yourself someday, it’s important to understand how the program works. For instance, you should be aware that the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program (MERP) may be used to recoup costs paid toward long-term care. Medicaid estate recovery is intended to help make the program affordable for the government, but it can financially impact the beneficiaries of Medicaid recipients. Make sure you’re handling this kind of situation in the wisest possible way by consulting a financial advisor.

Medicaid Estate Recovery, Explained

Medicare is designed to help pay for healthcare costs for seniors once they turn 65. While it covers a number of healthcare expenses, it doesn’t apply to costs associated with long-term care in a nursing home.

That’s where Medicaid can help fill the gap. Medicaid can help with paying the costs of long-term care for aging seniors. It can be used in situations where someone lacks long-term care insurance coverage or they don’t have sufficient assets to pay for long-term care out of pocket. You may also use Medicaid to pay for nursing home care if you’ve taken steps to protect assets using a trust or other estate planning tools.

But the benefits you or an aging parent receives from Medicaid aren’t necessarily free. The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program allows Medicaid to recoup money spent on behalf of an aging senior to cover long-term care costs. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 requires states to attempt to seek reimbursement from a Medicaid beneficiary’s estate when they pass away.

How Medicaid Estate Recovery Works

The Medicaid Estate Recovery Program allows Medicaid to seek recompense for a variety of costs, including:

  • Expenses related to nursing home or other long-term care facility stays
  • Home- and community-based services
  • Medical services received through a hospital (when the recipient is a long-term care patient)
  • Prescription drug services for long-term care recipients

If you or an aging parent passes away after receiving long-term care or other benefits through Medicaid, the recovery program allows Medicaid to pursue any eligible assets held by your estate. What that includes can depend on where you live, but generally, it means any assets that would be subject to the probate process after you pass away.

So that may include:

  • Bank accounts owned by you
  • Your home or other real estate
  • Vehicles or other real property

Some states also allow Medicaid estate recovery to include assets that aren’t subject to probate. That can include jointly owned bank accounts between spouses, Payable on death bank accounts, real estate that’s owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, living trusts and any other assets that a Medicaid recipient has a legal interest in. It’s important to understand the laws in your state regarding what can and cannot be used to recover Medicaid benefits when you or an aging parent passes away.

It’s also worth noting that while Medicaid can’t take someone’s home or assets before they pass away, it is possible for a lien to be placed upon the property. For example, if your mother has to move into a nursing home then Medicaid could place a lien on the property. If your mother passes away and you inherit the home, you wouldn’t be able to sell it without first satisfying the lien.

What Medicaid Estate Recovery Means for Heirs

The most significant impact of Medicaid estate recovery for heirs of Medicaid recipients is the possibility of inheriting a reduced estate. Medicaid eligibility assumes that recipients are low-income or have few assets to pay for long-term care. But if your parents are able to leave some assets behind when they pass away, the recovery program could shrink the estate that passes on to you.

It’s also important to note that while Medicaid estate recovery rules disavow you personally from paying for your parents’ long-term care costs, filial responsibility laws do not. These laws, though rarely enforced, allow healthcare providers to sue the children of long-term care recipients to recover nursing care costs.

So even if Medicaid doesn’t take anything away from your parents’ estate after they pass away, a nursing home could still sue you personally to recover money paid toward the cost of their care. The care facility has to be able to prove that you have the means to pay but this could add a wrinkle to your financial picture if you’re responsible for wrapping up a deceased parent’s estate.

How to Avoid Medicaid Estate Recovery

Strategic planning can help you or your loved ones avoid financial impacts from Medicaid estate recovery.

For example, you may consider purchasing long-term care insurance for yourself for encouraging your parents to do so. A long-term care insurance policy can pay for the costs of nursing home care so you can avoid the need for Medicaid altogether.

If you’re interested in long-term care insurance for yourself or an aging parent, compare the cost for premiums against the benefits the policy pays out. If you’re unsure whether you or a parent may need long-term care at all, you might consider a hybrid policy that includes both long-term care coverage and a life insurance death benefit.

Another option for avoiding Medicaid estate recovery is removing as many assets as possible from the probate process. Married couples, for example, can accomplish that by making sure all assets are jointly owned with right of survivorship or using assets to purchase an annuity that transfers benefits to the surviving spouse when the other spouse passes away.

It’s important to understand which assets are and are not subject to probate in your state and whether your state allows for an expanded definition of recoverable assets for Medicaid. Talking to an estate planning attorney or an elder law expert can help you to shape a plan for protecting assets.

The Bottom Line

Medicaid estate recovery may not be something you have to worry about if your aging parents leave little or no assets behind. But it’s something you should still be aware of if you expect to inherit anything from your parents when they pass away. If you’re targeted for estate recovery, you may be able to avoid it if you can prove that it would cause you an undue financial hardship. Again, this is where talking to an estate planning professional can help you avoid any unexpected surprises.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about Medicaid and how to plan for long-term care costs. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors online. It takes just a few minutes to get personalized recommendations for financial advisors in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Consider a living trust. It will let you transfer assets to the control of a trustee, who will manage them according to your wishes on behalf of your beneficiaries. Trust assets aren’t necessarily exempt from Medicaid recovery, but this could still be a useful estate planning tool for minimizing taxes and ensuring a smooth transition of assets to your beneficiaries.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/FatCamera, ©iStock.com/FatCamera, ©iStock.com/Dennis Gross

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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What Is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax?

What Is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax? – SmartAsset

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Estate planning can help you pass on assets to your heirs while potentially minimizing taxes. When gifting assets, it’s important to consider when and how the generation-skipping tax transfer (GSTT) may apply. Also called the generation-skipping tax, this federal tax can apply when a grandparent leaves assets to a grandchild while skipping over their parents in the line of inheritance. It can also be triggered when leaving assets to someone who’s at least 37.5 years younger than you. If you’re considering “skipping” any of your heirs when passing on assets, it’s important to understand what that means from a tax perspective and how to fill out the requisite form. A financial advisor can also give you valuable guidance on how best to pass along your estate to your beneficiaries.

Generation-Skipping Tax, Definition

The Internal Revenue Code imposes both gift and estate taxes on transfers of assets above certain limits. For 2020, you can exclude gifts of up to $15,000 per person from the gift tax, with the limit doubling for married couples who file a joint return. Estate tax applies to estates larger than $11,580,000 for 2020, increasing to $11,700,000 in 2021. Again, these exemption limits double for married couples filing a joint return.

The gift tax rate can be as high as 40%, while the estate tax also maxes out at 40%. The IRS uses the generation-skipping transfer tax to collect its share of any wealth that moves across families when assets aren’t passed directly from parent to child. Assets subject to the generation-skipping tax are taxed at a flat 40% rate.

This tax can apply to both direct transfers of assets to your chosen beneficiaries as well as assets passed through a trust. A trust can be subject to the GSTT if all the beneficiaries of the trust are considered to be skip persons who have a direct interest in the trust.

How Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Works

Generation-skipping tax rules cover the transfer of assets to people who at least one generation apart. A common scenario where the GSTT can apply is the transfer of assets from a grandparent to a grandchild when one or both of the grandchild’s parents are still alive. If you’re transferring assets to a grandchild because your child has predeceased you, then the transfer tax wouldn’t apply.

The generation-skipping tax is a separate tax from the estate tax and it applies alongside it. Similar to estate tax, this tax kicks in when an estate’s value exceeds the annual exemption limits. The 40% GSTT would be applied to any transfers of assets above the exempt amount, in addition to the regular 40% estate tax.

This is how the IRS covers its bases in collecting taxes on wealth as it moves from one person to another. If you were to pass your estate from your child, who then passes it to their child then no GSTT would apply. The IRS could simply collect estate taxes from each successive generation. But if you skip your child and leave assets to your grandchild instead, that removes a link from the taxation chain. The GSTT essentially allows the IRS to replace that link.

You do have the ability to take advantage of lifetime estate and gift tax exemption limits, which can help to offset how much is owed for the generation-skipping tax. But any unused portion of the exemption counted toward the generation-skipping tax is lost when you die.

How to Avoid Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax

If you’d like to minimize estate and gift taxes as much as possible, talking to a financial advisor can be a good place to start. An advisor who’s well-versed in gift and estate taxes can help you create a plan for transferring assets. For example, that plan might include gifting assets to your grandchildren or another generation-skipping person annually, rather than at the end of your life. Remember, you can gift up to $15,000 per person each year without incurring gift tax, or up to $30,000 per person if you’re married and file a joint return. You’d just need to keep the lifetime exemption limits in mind when scheduling gifts.

You could also make payments on behalf of a beneficiary to avoid tax. Say you want to help your granddaughter with college costs, for example. Any direct payments you make to the school to cover tuition would generally be tax-free. The same is true for direct payments made to healthcare providers if you’re paying medical expenses on behalf of someone else.

Setting up a trust may be another option worth exploring to minimize generation-skipping taxes. A generation-skipping trust allows you to transfer assets to the trust and pay estate taxes at the time of the transfer. The assets you put into the trust have to remain there during the skipped generation’s lifetime. Once they pass away, the assets in the trust could be passed on tax-free to the next generation.

This strategy requires some planning and some patience on the part of the generation that stands to inherit. But the upside is that members of the skipped generation and the generation that follows can benefit from any income the assets in the trust generates in the meantime. Trusts can also yield another benefit, in that they can offer asset protection against creditors who may file legal claims against you or your estate.

Another type of trust you might consider is a dynasty trust. This type of trust can allow you to pass assets on to future generations without triggering estate, gift or generation-skipping taxes. The caveat is that these are designed to be long-term trusts.

You can name your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and subsequent generations as beneficiaries and the transfer of assets to the trust is irrevocable. That means once you place the assets in the trust, you won’t be able to take them back out again so it’s important to understand the implications before creating this type of trust.

The Bottom Line

The generation-skipping tax could take a significant bite out of the assets you’re able to leave behind to grandchildren or another eligible person. If you’re considering using this type of trust to pass on assets or you’re interested in exploring other ways to transfer assets while minimizing taxes, it’s wise to consult an estate planning lawyer or tax attorney first.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to your financial advisor about how to best shape your estate plan to minimize taxation. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized recommendations for advisors online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • Creating a trust can yield some advantages in your estate plan. In addition to helping you minimize tax liability, the assets in a trust are not subject to probate. That’s different from assets you leave behind in a will.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/ljubaphoto, ©iStock.com/baona, ©iStock.com/svetikd

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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Public Records on Credit Reports – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

If you’ve ever looked at your credit report, you’ve probably noticed a section called “public records.” These are entries that are also on file with local, county, state or federal courts. Keep reading to learn more about which public records appear on credit reports.

What Are Public Records?

Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered confidential. Some examples include arrest records, marriage certificates and some court records. These are records that other people or entities could look up about you, as the information isn’t private or protected.

In the context of your credit report, historically, only three types of entries were public records: tax liens, civil judgments and bankruptcies. Now, only bankruptcies should show up as a public record on an individual’s credit report.

The Public Record Entries

First, it’s essential to understand the three types of public record entries that can impact your credit report.

A tax lien is a law-imposed lien upon property for the payment of taxes. Typically, a tax lien occurs when a person fails to pay taxes owed on property (personal and other), income taxes or other forms of taxes.

A civil judgment is a legal ruling against a defendant in a court of law. It refers to a judgment on a noncriminal legal matter and often requires the defendant to pay monetary damages.

Bankruptcy is a legal process in which people or other entities who cannot repay debts to creditors try to seek relief from some or all of their debts. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is usually imposed by a court and is often initiated by the debtor.

Understanding the Updated Public Record Policy

In 2017, the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP) went into effect and changed how data is collected for civil judgments and tax liens before these entries appear as public records on credit reports. The act was initially launched in 2015 by the three major credit bureaus to modify credit reporting rules and set stricter standards. These new standards would ensure that the data found on credit reports are more accurate and up to date.

There are two primary ways this act affects how credit bureaus obtain and report tax lien and court judgment data on consumer credit reports. First, for either of these types of entries to appear on a credit report, the public record must contain a person’s:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security number or date of birth

This standard applies to both new and existing records that are already on credit reports.

Secondly, public records reported on credit reports must be checked by the credit bureaus for updates every 90 days to ensure their accuracy. If the records are not checked, they should be removed from the credit report.

Bankruptcy records already hold these strict requirements, which is why the changes don’t impact this type of public record. However, many tax liens and civil judgments do not uphold these standards, in large part due to different standards of record-keeping at various courthouses.

This higher standard for public records is estimated to have positively impacted millions of US consumers. As this change applies to public records that were already on credit reports before the NCAP, it’s essential to review your personal credit reports to see if any public records are still being shown. Generally, tax liens and civil judgments shouldn’t be on your credit reports anymore.

By 2017, almost half of all tax liens and civil judgments were removed from consumer credit reports, and by April 2018, the three credit bureaus had removed all tax liens from credit reports. Currently, the only type of public record that should be present on your credit report is a bankruptcy.

Not a Permanent Change

It’s crucial to note that tax liens and civil judgments might not stay off credit reports forever. This is because reporting on them isn’t illegal and the credit bureaus only promised to remove them for a time. This could change sometime in the future, so you still want to avoid incurring these types of public records if possible.

How Do Public Records Affect Your Credit?

Typically, when a public record is added to your report, it’s considered a negative item. That’s because most public records on credit reports stem from a debt or financial delinquency. Therefore, it will usually lower your credit score.

Bankruptcy

A bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years.

If you go through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must repay a portion of the money you borrowed. This type of bankruptcy has a shorter impact on your credit report (seven years) because you paid some of the money back.

Under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the individual doesn’t pay any of their debts back. This type of bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Bankruptcy will have a devastating impact on your credit, lowering it by anywhere from 130 to 200 points.

It is difficult to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy filing, but not impossible. For example, while you may not be approved for a regular credit card, you can start with a secured credit card. You will still have financial options available to you.

Tax Liens and Judgments

The Consumer Data Industry Association revealed that the changes showed “only modest credit scoring impacts” on consumer reports. Still, millions of Americans had public records wiped from their reports, which was beneficial overall.

While these two types of entries may not be on reports anymore, they can still affect your finances and life in general. For example, a judgment can impact your ability to qualify for a loan or credit. Lenders may check to see if you have outstanding judgments and reject your application. Similarly, the presence of a tax lien may cause a lender to reconsider your application.

What Can You Do About Public Records on Your Credit Report?

If bankruptcy is on your credit report, and all the information is accurate, you can’t do very much to remove it from the account. However, if the bankruptcy data is incorrect, you can file a dispute.

For tax liens and civil judgments, file a dispute to remove these public records from your credit report. You can contact each of the three major credit bureaus by phone or email and ask them to remove the public records from your file.

For more detailed information on how to remove a tax lien, check out this blog post. And for step-by-step instructions on removing a civil judgment from your credit report, refer to this resource.

It’s essential you check your credit report regularly so you can note when new data appears on your report. If a negative item appears and it’s inaccurate, you should dispute it quickly, before it can significantly impact your credit score.

Your Credit Can Recover From Derogatory Marks

Having derogatory marks on your credit report is not a life sentence. With sound financial behaviors, your credit score can recover. You’ll need to make payments on time, get rid of debts and maintain a good credit utilization ratio. If you don’t know where to start, consider credit repair services.

Lexington Law knows how to spot incorrect data on your credit reports and give you helpful credit tips. Credit repair takes time, so it’s essential you start today.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

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Source: lexingtonlaw.com

What To Know Before You Buy Lakefront Property

Many people dream of owning waterfront property, and for those in landlocked states — that dream is a lakefront home. And, since COVID-19 has left people to their own devices when it comes to staying home, the interest in lakefront properties has increased dramatically. In markets all across the country, lake sales have soared in the midst of the pandemic with most of the sales being vacation and second homes as more employers and schools are allowing remote and virtual work.

With the threat of another lockdown or quarantine always looming, people want a place to enjoy with space, recreation, and relaxation while confined to home. However, before you sign on that dotted line to purchase a lakefront property of your own, there are several important factors to consider.

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You May Pay More In Insurance

Lakefront buyers may be surprised to learn that home insurance rates tend to be higher the closer you are to water. However, there are other factors that also impact insurance rates. Amanda Cabe, Realtor and lake expert at Drake Realty Lake Area in the Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee area says “Homeowner’s insurance will take into consideration that it is, more than likely, a second home. It will take into consideration any watercraft, it will also take into consideration where there is water hydrant, and if the fire department is a volunteer department or run by the county.”

Read: Why You Should Buy More Than the Minimum of Homeowner’s Insurance

Tip For Buyers:

Before you make an offer, call several home insurance companies to get a specific quote on the property you’re interested in. This can avoid any surprises down the road. It can also enlighten the buyer as to items that will be of significant to home insurance companies.

You May Not Have Full Control Over Your Property

Cabe explains that lake buyers are shocked to learn that “there are rules to what you can do with your lake home.  For example, these rules can dictate if a home can have a dock or not. They can dictate what type of dock. These rules can dictate something as simple as changing boards on a dock to taking down trees along the shoreline.” While not all lakes are part of Homeowner Associations, some are subject to the rules, design, and upkeep created by an HOA, municipality, or Corp of Engineers. Cabe continues by saying that “Not all property can be built on, not everyone can have a dock, not all trees can come down at the whim of the homeowner.” From building a dock to cutting trees, many of these projects require permits and approvals on lakefront homes.

Read: Before You Move: What to Know About Homeowner Associations

Tip for Buyers:

Call the local HOA, Corp of Engineers, county, or local governing body to learn more about what permits are required, as well as what is and is not allowed on the property. Cabe explains that their local body, “will even meet with the potential homeowner to discuss their questions and concerns.” It is important that this meeting either happen before you make an offer or that your offer is contingent upon your satisfaction of the discovery period.

Some Lakefront Homes Could Be Harder To Finance

While not all lakefront homes are vacation, a large percentage are second homes. If homeowners are not present all the time, they may be aware of deferred maintenance items, failing systems, or damage from elements. If a buyer is obtaining loans like an FHA or VA, there are minimum property standards that must be met. If a home sits in a flood plain, Cabe explains that “Homes that sit on the 350-degree contour line will usually need flood insurance, these are typically flat lots and the homes are typically closer to the water.” Depending on the previous flood history with that property, it could impact financing.

Tip For Buyers:

As with any real estate purchase, it’s critical to have an in-depth conversation with your lender about the potential hurdles the lake property might have. Choosing a local lender that is familiar with lake front property financing will be critical in helping to address any problems.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Each lake area has their own rules and procedures, and it’s critical that buyers are fully informed of the rules for the property. According to Cabe, the best way to do that is to “get a local Realtor! Most agents locally know the rules and guidelines…Local agents know details about the location of the home and the water it sits on.  For example, is it shallow or deep?  Are there tree fields under the water that are impossible to navigate with a watercraft?  Can you get good internet service in the location they are looking??  Local agents typically have a boat and can show the home by water.  Local agents know the land managers, they know the area and know the rules.”

Tip For Buyers:

Research your Realtor before choosing one! It’s okay to ask if they’re local to the area, how long they’ve been selling lake real estate, and what connections do they have in the lake community. Homes.com allows you to find an agent and search for your lakefront home!


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com