SPECIAL SECTION ADVERTISING
What do you do when you need to make an important decision and you’re unsure of how to proceed? You seek guidance and ask others for input. That guidance can be especially valuable if you’re able to consult with experts in the subject in question, be it law, finance, real estate, insurance, precious gems, or even self-development.
It’s smart to find experts with whom you can build a relationship and trust that you’re getting good advice. Being able to rely on an experienced adviser for the information you need will save you time, effort, and unnecessary expense.
Sound advice can help you maximize the price of a home you’re selling, find the house of your dreams, and furnish it in style. A creative expert can assist you in designing the perfect wedding ring. A professional who’s knowledgeable in law can help protect your premarital assets, assist you in planning for your financial future while saving on taxes, or help you determine the value of your business, should you choose to sell. There are even experts who can make learning easier, for you or your child.
Consider consulting with the following experts when you need qualified advice.
Q: What do you mean by “ease of doing business” with First Independent–Descamp Insurance?
A: “Ease of doing business” can mean different things. For an individual or business to entrust an agency with their asset protection, a personal and professional relationship must be established. Taking the time to learn about your business operations and personal exposures is critical. The First Independent–Descamp Insurance Agency (FIDA) consistently offers programs for new and long-term clients that promote peace of mind, at the best available pricing, shopped from numerous insurance lines. Let’s be frank: any insurance business can only be successful if it is able to ensure its clients have the best asset protection position possible. That’s FIDA’s vision of “ease of doing business”!
Q: We’re thinking about selling our home in the near future. How can we increase its value?
A: Whether you’re getting ready to sell or will continue to live in your home, there are several ways you can increase its value:
- Curb appeal. First impressions count, so sprucing up landscaping and making the front entry look inviting are a good start.
- Kitchen and bathroom updates. Even minor remodeling will make a difference (painting cabinets, new hardware, fixtures) in the return on these rooms.
- Minimal improvements. Make buyers feel your home has been well maintained (patching walls, HVAC inspection, etc.).
- Energy-efficiency. While you may not want to upgrade windows, appliances, and insulation just to sell, those improvements help reduce energy costs and will only be a benefit you when you decide to sell.
- A bigger house. Adding square feet always helps, but finishing a basement, building a deck, or adding outdoor living space is a bonus.
- A smarter home. Updating thermostats, lighting, carbon monoxide detectors, and security devices in this age of technology will be noticeable to buyers.
You can often get away with doing less to update your home in a “hot” market, but you risk having to settle for a lower selling price. Cindy Obron Kahn, of Hall & Hunter Realtors, is happy to meet with homeowners who want to add value to their home, with an eye toward selling.
Q: What’s the fashion trend in bridal jewelry?
A: At Redford Jewelry & Coin, halo engagement rings — which have diamonds all around the center — are a popular trend. Instead of having a simple round or square shape, these rings are more artistic. Rings that are oval or marquise-shaped offer more of a vintage look. Another trend is putting a band on either side of the wedding and engagement rings.
Solitaires remain in style, with round diamond engagement rings continuing to be in demand, followed in popularity by oval rings. Colored engagement stones are gaining in popularity, especially sapphires. Interest in yellow gold also has been increasing among younger couples.
If a couple would like something even more distinctive, the team at Redford Jewelry & Coin can help them design beautiful, custom pieces.
Q: I love the rustic look of 19th-century farm tables, but the ones I’ve found are too short for my husband and our chairs. What can I do?
A: The average European was significantly shorter a century ago. So, of course, the scale of furniture crafted over 100 years ago is often incompatible with the taller stature of contemporary furnishings and people.
At Judy Frankel Antiques, the solution has been to customize select antique pieces. Sometimes you need to blend the “old” with the “new” to make a beautiful, vintage piece functional. For example, Frankel works with highly skilled English cabinet makers who create new custom bases for antique table tops. They’ve also reworked old dressers into side cabinets that pair well with today’s larger, contemporary sofas. Updating the functionality while preserving the original character of a piece is the goal in creating bespoke antiques. This way, you can truly enjoy the look of the piece and actually use it.
Q: Why is it important to know the value of my private health care practice, and how does it relate to retirement planning?
A: As a health care practitioner, you’ve spent years working tirelessly to provide your patients with the best care. Usually practitioners like you don’t think of your private practice as an asset. At CIG, clients are encouraged to think of their practice as a business and to understand that most businesses have value. The practice can be one of the larger assets in your portfolio and should be part of your retirement planning.
Think of the valuation of your practice as a yardstick for measuring practice performance. Every decision you make can have an impact in how it’s valued. Given the current state of the health care industry, there’s a good chance that you’re being approached by different parties that want to buy your practice. Knowing your practice’s value can tell you which of these are worth considering and how/when to best position your practice for your exit transition.
Whether you plan to retire in the next few months or in a few years, knowing the value of your practice is important. Remember, your practice’s value is likely at its peak while you are — not after you’ve started slowing down. Start planning early!
Q: How do I maximize estate planning opportunities?
A: Families are often looking for ways to maximize gifting opportunities and reduce estate taxes. There are four “tools” you can use to minimize these taxes:
- Make annual exclusion gifts.
- Make gifts that use the gift tax exemption.
- Take advantage of discounts by restructuring the ownership of your assets.
- Give to charity, either during your life and/or upon death.
If these are your objectives, now’s the time to enhance your estate plan. A properly created and funded estate plan, including well-drafted lrrevocable Trusts, can:
- Provide an income-tax and estate-tax-free inheritance for your beneficiaries.
- Benefit charity.
- Avoid gift, estate, and generation-skipping taxes.
- Maintain ownership and control of all assets, other than those given to the trust.
Assets owned by an Irrevocable Trust, in most cases, aren’t subject to estate taxes, such as appreciated assets (e.g., real estate, stocks, business interests) and life insurance proceeds.
This arrangement often increases the amount of wealth available to your family and other beneficiaries. Consult with a solid financial team to maximize your estate planning opportunities.
Q: How important is it to work with an agent who specializes in luxury homes, if I’m in that market?
A: It’s very important! Howard Hanna is the third-largest real estate company in the nation, and its agents thoroughly understand the world of Michigan high-end homes. They know that luxury home marketing requires special attention to detail.
From Ann Arbor to Birmingham, Howard Hanna strives to be best-in-class through its high-value, personalized buying and selling experience. The company provides discerning Michigan buyers with the resources they need to sell or purchase a luxury home through its exclusive Homes of Distinction program.
With more than 650 affiliates in 25 countries, listing a luxury home with Howard Hanna means you’ll have unmatched marketing power, with elevated print and digital media. Howard Hanna’s Homes of Distinction program ensures your listing will be seen by affluent buyers worldwide.
Whether you’re looking to invest in a second home or upgrade to a more luxurious estate, take the worry out of the process. As a Howard Hanna client, you can expect a seamless concierge-style experience from beginning to end. They’re not only one of the top real estate brokers in the U.S.; they’re the leader in all of their market areas when it comes to high-end properties.
To learn more about the luxury Homes of Distinction program, please visit:
Q: In light of Allard v Allard, can a valid prenuptial agreement still be drafted in Michigan?
A: Yes. However, it’s more difficult, with stricter requirements. Allard v Allard set the precedent that if certain language is contained in prenuptial agreements they will not be enforced.
In January 2017, the Michigan Court of Appeals struck language from an otherwise valid prenuptial agreement that was intended to waive each party’s right to “invade” separate property assets, based upon need or contributions made during the marriage by the non-owning spouse. Also, prenuptial agreements cannot divest the court of its related “equitable jurisdiction.”
Previously, a prenuptial agreement could waive a party’s ability to invade separate property assets. Now, you cannot eliminate the ability to invade separate property. If one spouse owned a business before the marriage and the other spouse contributed to it in some way, you cannot eliminate the non-owning spouse’s ability to make a claim toward that business. Part of the reason for this change — and other states are following Michigan’s lead — is to avoid having a divorced spouse end up penniless.
In the wake of this decision, there have been concerns regarding the enforceability of existing prenuptial agreements, as well as drafting enforceable new agreements. A prenuptial agreement should be drafted well in advance of a wedding, by an attorney who knows current divorce law.
Q: Can I determine how much my home is worth from Internet websites such as Zillow and Trulia?
A: The answer to this frequently asked question is no!
Third-party websites aren’t local to every real estate market, yet they provide estimates of home values for almost any home in the United States. How is it possible that a third-party headquartered in California or New York can provide an accurate value for a home located in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.? It’s not!
Websites such as Zillow and Trulia use computer-generated home values based on calculations and algorithms, but don’t consider what’s going on specifically in your area (neighborhood preferences, school districts, etc.), which can influence home values. By providing inaccurate estimates, these websites can create a false sense of hope and lead to frustration. It’s critical that when you’re selling a home, the value is determined by a top Realtor in your local area who knows the market, not an internet website!
Q: What are the signs of a student needing extra help for future academic rigor?
A: Are you an adult who has gone back to school, or a student who has trouble reading or taking tests? The list below includes some ways a reading challenge can interfere with learning, but know that the right professional can help if you:
- Excel in the classroom and with homework, but not with test performance.
- Study longer than most to get good grades.
- Reread information when the material is difficult.
- Dislike reading or are a slow reader.
- Enjoy reading, but dislike reading material outside your knowledge base.
The RTS Success® program is for students in grade eight through postgraduate school. The bulk of the work centers on comprehension, which involves processing — it’s not about reading; it’s brain training. The program focuses on the working memory and delves into vocabulary, note-taking, and test-taking. Once students are reading and taking notes properly, they only need to review their notes before an exam because they already know the information. The traditional student is a memorizer, which is short-term learning, while conceptualization for learning is long-term.
Because writing is a reciprocal skill of reading, once students complete RTS, they also report that their writing and memory have improved.