Insurance Law – An Indian Perspective

INTRODUCTION

"Insurance should be bought to protect you against a calamity that would otherwise be financially devastating."

In simple terms, insurance allows someone who suffers a loss or accident to be compensated for the effects of their misfortune. It lets you protect yourself against everyday risks to your health, home and financial situation.

Insurance in India started without any regulation in the Nineteenth Century. It was a typical story of a colonial epoch: few British insurance companies dominating the market serving mostly large urban centers. After the independence, it took a theatrical turn. Insurance was nationalized. First, the life insurance companies were nationalized in 1956, and then the general insurance business was nationalized in 1972. It was only in 1999 that the private insurance companies had been allowed back into the business of insurance with a maximum of 26% of foreign holding .

"The insurance industry is awful and can be quite intimidating." Insurance is being sold for almost anything and everything you can imagine.

Concepts of insurance have been extended beyond the coverage of tangible asset. Now the risk of losses due to sudden changes in currency exchange rates, political disturbance, negligence and liability for the damages can also be covered.

But if a person thoughtfully invests in insurance for his property prior to any unexpected contingency then he will be suitably compensated for his loss as soon as the amount of damage is ascertained.

The entry of the State Bank of India with its proposal of bank assurance brings a new dynamics in the game. The collective experience of the other countries in Asia has already deregulated their markets and has allowed foreign companies to participate. If the experience of the other countries is any guide, the dominance of the Life Insurance Corporation and the General Insurance Corporation is not going to disappear any time soon.
The aim of all insurance is to compensate the owner against loss arising from a variety of risks, which he anticipates, to his life, property and business. Insurance is primarily of two types: life insurance and general insurance. General insurance means Fire, Marine and Miscellaneous insurance which includes insurance against burglary or theft, fidelity guarantee, insurance for employer's liability, and insurance of motor vehicles, livestock and crops.

LIFE INSURANCE IN INDIA

"Life insurance is the heartfelt love letter ever written.

It calms down the crying of a hungry baby at night. It relieves the heart of a bereaved widow.

It is the comforting whisper in the dark silent hours of the night. "

Life insurance made its debut in India well over 100 years ago. Its salient features are not as widely understood in our country as they bought to be. There is no statistical definition of life insurance, but it has been defined as a contract of insurance wheree the insured agreements to pay certain sums called premiums, at specified time, and in consideration thereof the insurer agreed to pay certain sums of money on certain condition Sand in specified way upon happening of a particular event contingent upon the duration of human life.

Life insurance is superior to other forms of savings!

"There is no death. Life Insurance exalts life and defeats death.

It is the premium we pay for the freedom of living after death. "

Savings through life insurance guarantee full protection against risk of death of the saver. In life insurance, on death, the full sum secured is payable (with bonuses wherever applicable) whereas in other savings schemes, only the amount saved (with interest) is payable.

The essential features of life insurance are a) it is a contract relating to human life, which b) provides for payment of lump-sum amount, and c) the amount is paid after the expiration of certain period or on the death of the secured . The very purpose and object of the assured in taking policies from life insurance companies is to safeguard the interest of his dependents viz., Wife and children as the case may be, in the even of premature death of the secured as a result of the happening In any contingency. A life insurance policy is also generally accepted as security for even a commercial loan.

NON-LIFE INSURANCE

"Every asset has a value and the business of general insurance is related to the protection of economic value of assets."

Non-life insurance means insurance other than life insurance such as fire, marine, accident, medical, motor vehicle and household insurance. Assets would have been created through the efforts of owner, which can be in the form of building, vehicles, machinery and other tangible properties. Since tangible property has a physical shape and consistency, it is subject to many risks ranging from fire, allied perils to theft and robbery.
Few of the General Insurance policies are:

Property Insurance: The home is most valued possession. The policy is designed to cover the various risks under a single policy. It provides protection for property and interest of the insured and family.

Health Insurance: It provides cover, which takes care of medical expenses following hospitalization from sudden illness or accident.
Personal Accident Insurance: This insurance policy provides compensation for loss of life or injury (partial or permanent) caused by an accident. This includes reimbursements of cost of treatment and the use of hospital facilities for the treatment.

Travel Insurance: The policy covers the insured against various eventualities while traveling abroad. It covers the insured against personal accident, medical expenses and repatriation, loss of checked baggage, passport etc.

Liability Insurance: This policy indemnifies the Directors or Officers or other professionals against loss arising from claims made against them by reason of any wrongful act in their Official capacity.

Motor Insurance: Motor Vehicles Act states that every motor vehicle plying on the road has to be insured, with at least Liability only policy. There are two types of policy one covering the act of liability, while other covers insurers all liability and damage caused to one's vehicles.

JOURNEY FROM AN INFANT TO ADOLESCENCE!

Historical Perspective

The history of life insurance in India dates back to 1818 when it was conceived as a means to provide for English Widows. Interestingly in those days a higher premium was charged for Indian lives than the non-Indian lives as Indian lives were considered more risky for coverage.

The Bombay Mutual Life Insurance Society started its business in 1870. It was the first company to charge same premium for both Indian and non-Indian lives. The Oriental Assurance Company was established in 1880. The General insurance business in India, on the other hand, can trace its roots to the Triton (Tital) Insurance Company Limited, the first general insurance company established in the year 1850 in Calcutta by the British . Till the end of nineteenth century insurance business was almost entirely in the hands of overseas companies.

Insurance regulation form began in India with the passing of the Life Insurance Companies Act of 1912 and the Provident Fund Act of 1912. Several frauds during 20's and 30's desecrated insurance business in India. By 1938 there were 176 insurance companies. The first comprehensive legislation was introduced with the Insurance Act of 1938 that provided strict State Control over insurance business. The insurance business grows at a faster pace after independence. Indian companies strengthened their hold on this business but despite the growth that was witnessed, insurance remained an urban phenomenon.

The Government of India in 1956, brought together over 240 private life insurers and provincial societies under one nationalized monopoly corporation and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) was born. Nationalization was justified on the grounds that it would create much needed funds for rapid industrialization. This was in conformity with the Government's chosen path of State lead planning and development.

The (non-life) insurance business continued to prosper with the private sector till 1972. Their operations were restricted to organized trade and industry in large cities. The general insurance industry was nationalized in 1972. With this, nearly 107 insurers were amalgamated and grouped into four companies – National Insurance Company, New India Assurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company and United India Insurance Company. These were subsidiaries of the General Insurance Company (GIC).

The life insurance industry was nationalized under the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) Act of India. In some ways, the LIC has become very flourishing. Regardless of being a monopoly, it has some 60-70 million policyholders. Given that the Indian middle-class is around 250-300 million, the LIC has managed to capture some 30 odd percent of it. Around 48% of the customers of the LIC are from rural and semi-urban areas. This probably would not have happened to the charter of the LIC not specifically set out the goal of serving the rural areas. A high saving rate in India is one of the exogenous factors that have helped the LIC to grow rapidly in recent years. Despite the saving rate being high in India (compared with other countries with a similar level of development), Indians display high degree of risk aversion. Thus, nearly half of the investments are in physical assets (like property and gold). Around twenty three percent are in (low yielding but safe) bank deposits. In addition, some 1.3 percent of the GDP are in life insurance related savings vehicles. This figure has doubled between 1985 and 1995.

A World perspective – Life Insurance in India

In many countries, insurance has been a form of savings. In many developed countries, a significant fraction of domestic saving is in the form of donation insurance plans. This is not surprising. The prominence of some developing countries is more surprising. For example, South Africa features at the number two spot. India is nestled between Chile and Italy. This is even more surprising given the levels of economic development in Chile and Italy. Thus, we can conclude that there is an insurance culture in India since a low per capita income. This promises well for future growth. Specifically, when the income level improvements, insurance (especially life) is likely to grow rapidly.

INSURANCE SECTOR REFORM:

Committee Reports: One Known, One Anonymous!

Although Indian markets were privatized and opened up to foreign companies in a number of sectors in 1991, insurance remained out of bounds on both counts. The government wanted to proceed with caution. With pressure from the opposition, the government (at the time, governed by the Congress Party) decided to set up a committee headed by Mr. RN Malhotra (the then Governor of the Reserve Bank of India).

Malhotra Committee

Liberalization of the Indian insurance market was filed in a report released in 1994 by the Malhotra Committee, indicating that the market should be opened to private-sector competition, and eventually, foreign private-sector competition. It also investigated the level of satisfaction of the customers of the LIC. Inquisitively, the level of customer satisfaction appeared to be high.

In 1993, Malhotra Committee – chaired by former Finance Secretary and RBI Governor RN Malhotra – was formed to evaluate the Indian insurance industry and recommend its future course. The Malhotra committee was set up with the aim of complementing the reforms initiated in the financial sector. The reforms were aimed at creating a more efficient and competitive financial system suitable for the needs of the economy keeping in mind the structural changes currently occurring and recognizing that insurance is an important part of the overall financial system where it was necessary to address the need for Similar reforms. In 1994, the committee submitted the report and some of the key recommendations included:

O Structure

Government bet in the insurance Companies to be bought down to 50%. Government should take over the holdings of GIC and its affiliates so that these affiliates can act as independent corporations. All the insurance companies should be given greater freedom to operate.
Competition

Private Companies with a minimum paid up capital of Rs.1 billion should be allowed to enter the sector. No Company should deal in both Life and General Insurance through a single entity. Foreign companies may be allowed to enter the industry in collaboration with the domestic companies. Postal Life Insurance should be allowed to operate in the rural market. Only one State Level Life Insurance Company should be allowed to operate in each state.

O Regulatory Body

The Insurance Act should be changed. An Insurance Regulatory body should be set up. Controller of Insurance – a part of the Finance Ministry- should be made Independent.

O Investments

Compulsory Investments of LIC Life Fund in government securities to be reduced from 75% to 50%. GIC and its affiliates are not to hold more than 5% in any company (there current holdings to be brought down to this level over a period of time).

O Customer Service

LIC should pay interest on delays in payments beyond 30 days. Insurance companies must be encouraged to set up unit linked pension plans. Computerization of operations and updating of technology to be carried out in the insurance industry. The committee emphasized that in order to improve the customer services and increase the coverage of insurance policies, industry should be opened up to competition. But at the same time, the committee felt the need to exercise caution as any failure on the part of new competitors could ruin the public confidence in the industry. Here, it was decided to allow competition in a limited way by stipulating the minimum capital requirement of Rs.100 crores.

The committee felt the need to provide greater automation to insurance companies in order to improve their performance and enable them to act as independent companies with economic motives. For this purpose, it had proposed setting up an independent regulatory body – The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority.

Reforms in the Insurance sector were initiated with the passage of the IRDA Bill in Parliament in December 1999. The IRDA since its incorporation as a statutory body in April 2000 has meticulously stuck to its schedule of framing regulations and registering the private sector insurance companies.

Since being set up as an independent statutory body the IRDA has put in a framework of globally compatible regulations. The other decision taken at the same time to provide the supporting systems to the insurance sector and in particular the life insurance companies was the launch of the IRDA online service for issue and renewal of licenses to agents. The approval of enterprises for attending training to agents has also ensured that the insurance companies would have a trained workforce of insurance agents in place to sell their products.

The Government of India liberalized the insurance sector in March 2000 with the passage of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) Bill, lifting all entry restrictions for private players and allowing foreign players to enter the market with some limits on direct foreign ownership. Under the current guidelines, there is a 26 percent equity lid for foreign partners in an insurance company. There is a proposal to increase this limit to 49 percent.

The opening up of the sector is likely to lead to greater spread and deepening of insurance in India and this may also include restructuring and revitalizing of the public sector companies. In the private sector 12 life insurance and 8 general insurance companies have been registered. A host of private insurance companies operating in both life and non-life segments have started selling their insurance policies since 2001

Mukherjee Committee

Immediately after the publication of the Malhotra Committee Report, a new committee, Mukherjee Committee was set up to make concrete plans for the requirements of the newly formed insurance companies. Recommendations of the Mukherjee Committee were never disclosed to the public. But, from the information that filtered out it became clear that the committee recommended the inclusion of certain ratios in insurance company balance sheets to ensure transparency in accounting. But the Finance Minister owed to it and it was argued by him, probably on the advice of some of the potential competitors, that it could affect the prospects of a developing insurance company.

LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA ON REVISION OF THE INSURANCE ACT 1938 – 190th Law Commission Report

The Law Commission on 16th June 2003 released a Consultation Paper on the Revision of the Insurance Act, 1938. The previous exercise to amend the Insurance Act, 1938 was amended in 1999 at the time of enactment of the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority Act, 1999 IRDA Act).

The Commission undertook the present exercise in the context of the changed policy that has permitted private insurance companies both in the life and non-life sectors. A need has been felt to toughen the regulatory mechanism even while streamlining the existing legislation with a view to removing portions that have become superfluous as a consequence of the recent changes.

Among the major areas of changes, the Consultation paper suggested the following:

A. Merging of the provisions of the IRDA Act with the Insurance Act to avoid multiplicity of legislations;

B. Delegation of redundant and transitory provisions in the Insurance Act, 1938;

C. Amendments reflect the modified policy of permitting private insurance companies and strengthening the regulatory mechanism;

D. Providing for stringent norms regarding maintenance of 'solvency margin' and investments by both public sector and private sector insurance companies;

E. Providing for a full-fledged grievance redressal mechanism that includes:

O The constitution of Grievance Redressal Authorizations (GRAs) comprising one judicial and two technical members to deal with complaints / claims of policyholders against insurers (the GRAs are expected to replace the present system of insurer appointed Ombudsman);

O Appointment of adjudicating officers by the IRDA to determine and levy penalies on defaulting insurers, insurance intermediaries and insurance agents;

O Providing for an appeal against the decisions of the IRDA, GRAs and adjudicating officers to an Insurance Appellate Tribunal (IAT) concluding a judge (sitting or retired) of the Supreme Court / Chief Justice of a High Court as presiding officer and two other members Having sufficient experience in insurance matters;

O Providing for a statutory appeal to the Supreme Court against the decisions of the IAT.

LIFE & NON-LIFE INSURANCE – Development and Growth!

The year 2006 turned out to be a momentous year for the insurance sector as regulator the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority Act, laid the foundation for free pricing general insurance from 2007, while many companies announced plans to attack into the sector.

Both domestic and foreign players robustly pursued their long-pending demand for increasing the FDI limit from 26 per cent to 49 per cent and towards the fag end of the year, the Government sent the Comprehensive Insurance Bill to Group of Ministers for consideration amid strong reservation From Left parties. The Bill is likely to be taken up in the Budget session of Parliament.

The infiltration rates of health and other non-life insurances in India are well below the international level. These facts indicate immunity growth potential of the insurance sector. The hike in FDI limit to 49 per cent was proposed by the Government last year. This has not been operationalized as legislative changes are required for such hike. Since opening up of the insurance sector in 1999, foreign investments of Rs. 8.7 billion have tipped into the Indian market and 21 private companies have been granted licenses.

The involvement of the private insurers in various industry segments has increased on account of both their capturing a part of the business which was earlier underwritten by the public sector insurers and also creating additional business boulevards. To this effect, the public sector insurers have been unable to draw upon their inherent strengths to capture additional premium. Of the growth in premium in 2004-05, 66.27 per cent has been captured by the private insurers despite having 20 per cent market share.

The life insurance industry recorded a premium income of Rs.82854.80 crore during the financial year 2004-05 as against Rs.66653.75 crore in the previous financial year, recording a growth of 24.31 per cent. The contribution of first year premium, single premium and renewal premium to the total premium was Rs.15881.33 crore (19.16 per cent); Rs.10336.30 crore (12.47 per cent); And Rs.56637.16 crore (68.36 per cent), respectively. In the year 2000-01, when the industry was opened up to the private players, the life insurance premium was Rs.34,898.48 crore which constituted of Rs. 6996.95 crore of first year premium, Rs. 25191.07 crore of renewal premium and Rs. 2740.45 crore of single premium. Post opening up, single premium had declined from Rs.9, 194.07 crore in the year 2001-02 to Rs.5674.14 crore in 2002-03 with the withdrawal of the guaranteed return policies. Although it went up marginally in 2003-04 to Rs.5936.50 crore (4.62 per cent growth) 2004-05, however, witnessed a significant shift with the single premium income rising to Rs. 10336.30 crore showing 74.11 per cent growth over 2003-04.

The size of life insurance market increased on the strength of growth in the economy and concomitant increase in per capita income. This resulted in a favorable growth in total premium both for LIC (18.25 per cent) and to the new insurers (147.65 per cent) in 2004-05. The higher growth for the new insurers is to be viewed in the context of a low base in 2003- 04. However, the new insurers have improved their market share from 4.68 in 2003-04 to 9.33 in 2004-05.

The segment wise break up of fire, marine and miscellaneous segments in case of the public sector insurers was Rs.2411.38 crore, Rs.982.99 crore and Rs.10578.59 crore, ie, a growth of (-) 1.43 per cent, 1.81 per cent And 6.58 per cent. The public sector insurers reported growth in Motor and Health segments (9 and 24 per cent). These segments accounted for 45 and 10 per cent of the business underwritten by the public sector insurers. Fire and "Others" accounted for 17.26 and 11 per cent of the premium underwritten. Aviation, Liability, "Others" and Fire recorded negative growth of 29, 21, 3.58 and 1.43 per cent. In no other country that opened at the same time as India have foreign companies been able to grab a 22 per cent market share in the life segment and about 20 per cent in the general insurance segment. The share of foreign insurers in other competitive Asian markets is not more than 5 to 10 per cent.

The life insurance sector grew new premium at a rate not seen before while the general insurance sector grew at a faster rate. Two new players entered into life insurance – Shriram Life and Bharti Axa Life – taking the total number of life players to 16. There was one new entrant to the non-life sector in the form of a standard health insurance company – Star Health and Allied Insurance, taking the non-life players to 14.

A large number of companies, mostly nationalized banks (about 14) such as Bank of India and Punjab National Bank, have announced plans to enter the insurance sector and some of them have also formed joint ventures.

The proposed change in FDI cap is part of the comprehensive amendments to insurance laws – The Insurance Act of 1999, LIC Act, 1956 and IRDA Act, 1999. After the proposed amendments in the insurance laws LIC would be able to maintain reserves while insurance companies Would be able to raise resources other than equity.

About 14 banks are in queue to enter insurance sector and the year 2006 saw several joint venture announcements while others scout partners. Bank of India has teamed up with Union Bank and Japanese insurance major Dai-ichi Mutual Life while PNB tied up with Vijaya Bank and Principal for foraying into life insurance. Allaabad Bank, Karnataka Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Dabur Investment Corporation and Sompo Japan Insurance Inc have tied up for forming a non-life insurance company while Bank of Maharashtra has tied up with Shriram Group and South Africa's Sanlam group for non-life insurance venture .

CONCLUSION

It seems cynical that the LIC and the GIC will wither and die within the next decade or two. The IRDA has taken "at a snail's pace" approach. It has been very cautious in granting licenses. It has set up fairly strict standards for all aspects of the insurance business (with the probable exception of the disclosure requirements). The regulators always walk a fine line. Too many regulations kill the motivation of the newcomers; Too relaxed regulations may admit failure and fraud that led to nationalization in the first place. India is not unique among the developing countries where the insurance business has been opened up to foreign competitors.

The insurance business is at a critical stage in India. Over the next couple of decades we are likely to witness high growth in the insurance sector for two reasons namely; Financial deregulation always speeds up the development of the insurance sector and growth in per capita GDP also helps the insurance business to grow.

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Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

There is an old saying that goes: What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Personal property is the elephant of an estate. It is the responsibility that can take up most of your time, and it provides the estate with the least amount of money for the effort involved. But, dealing with the personal property cannot be avoided. The property must be inventoried, valued, distributed, or sold. Let us start our analysis by looking at what property we have (inventory); then we will determine what it is worth (valuation). In a future post, we will determine what to do with it (distribution/sale).

When you go to the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the form you will need to fill out for the inventory. The form will ask you to provide general categories and a value for each category you have listed. For example, you would list: furniture, $1500; office equipment, $300, etc.. You will not have to list the items separately, such as sofa, $100; chair, $5; typewriter, $25. I suggest that you do keep a list of the individual items, though. Although you will not have to go into a lot of detail for the court, you will likely want a more detailed inventory for yourself. You will want this for two reasons: to track the sale of estate property, and to protect yourself against claims of heirs and/or creditors.

You do not have to get real fancy with with the inventory; pencil and paper will do. If you are so inclined, there are home inventory record books available at office supply stores, or you can purchase software online. There are also companies that specialize in taking home inventories.

You will need a helper. One person sorts and counts while the other writes. Start inside the house, and work your way from the top of the house to the bottom. Go room to room with a consistent pattern so that you do not miss anything: always clockwise or counter-clockwise around the room. Write down what is on the walls as well, not just what is on the floor. For small goods, write down identifiable groups of items such as 200 hardcover books, 100 paperback books, 42 nick-knacks, etc.. On your list, put a star next to any item that you think may be valuable. If the nick-knacks are porcelain and the books are first editions, they are valuable items. When you are finished, follow the same procedure for the outbuildings: the garage, shed, workshop, or whatever. If there is a rented self-storage unit, vacation home, recreational vehicle or boat, they will need to be inventoried as well.

When you file the inventory at the courthouse, you will need to state a value for the personal property. For run-of-the-mill household items, a good resource for determining the value is the software program It’s Deductible that comes bundled with the income tax program Turbo Tax. It’s Deductible can also be purchased separately. The software lists the thrift shop value for most household items, and it is easy to use.

For the items that you have identified as being valuable, It’s Deductible will not work. There are several ways to determine the value of single items or collections. A good place to start is eBay ( http://www.ebay.com ). To use eBay to help set your values, you will need to be a registered user. Registering for eBay is free; just follow the instructions when you get to the website. Once registered, type in the item you are researching, and eBay will search for the item. When the search results come up, scroll down and look on the left side of the page to where it says Search Options, click on completed listings, then scroll down further and click on Show Items. The search results displayed will be for completed auctions, not for auctions in progress. The prices listed in green are items that actually sold; the prices in red are for items that did not sell. If you find your item listed, and the price is green, you have a good value. Compare the details of the item you found on eBay with the details of the item you have. Use the closest match as your value.

If you are unable to find your item listed on eBay, it is time to go to the library or bookstore. There you will find an assortment of price guides for every sort of antique or collectible. You will also find blue books for automobiles and equipment.

If you have lots of items and no time to research, then it is time to call in an expert. In your local phone book you will find jewelers, antique dealers, auctioneers, appraisers, and other professionals who will tell you what the property is worth. What they will offer you is an opinion of value, not an appraisal. An appraisal is based on actual sales data, not an opinion. I will cover appraisals below; for now, just be aware that there is a difference. For probate valuation purposes, the value placed must be the fair market value at the time of the decedents death. This is the value you should ask your expert to provide.

In my home state of Virginia, individual items or collections that are valued over $500 must have an appraisal. Personal property appraisers are not licensed like real estate appraisers, but the content of their reports is regulated. For a personal property appraisal to be valid and accepted for tax purposes, it must be performed by a qualified expert and follow the federal guidelines of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Most real estate appraisers do not appraise personal property. You can find a personal property appraiser online by checking the websites of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, the National Association of Auctioneers, or the American Society of Appraisers.

Estate Executors will find that the inventory and valuation of estate personal property is their most time-consuming task, but there are resources available to help.

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Understanding the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate in the Philippines

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

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

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

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

Publication requirement

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

Payment of Estate tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Construction Site Management – Accessibility

Construction sites offer different challenges as far as accessibility is concerned. This follows the fact that there is a mass movement of men (labor) as well as material haulers. These range from pick up trucks to trailers. Depending on the items being moved, the weight is different and as such the capacity of the route to and from site should match these requirements. There will also be visitors in light personal vehicles, especially consultants and prospective property buyers in case of commercial projects or prospective tenants in case of residential or other rental spaces. The available or provided access should well cater for these requirements as far as is possible. The different site conditions include;

· Virgin sites: This reflects to a new site where no other construction activity has been done before. This means that there is no access to the specific point of construction. Where such route may be available, it may not be sufficient and may need improvement. This may include works like cutting down trees, cutting high sections and filling low ones, dumping murram or other appropriate material. It will also include compact, wetting and curing of the dumped material. Being a new and sometimes temporary route, it will need maintenance. Where such access is to pass through other people's property, appropriate permissions should be thought. The local authorities must also be informed and provided with plans like ways of averting problems like ecological disturbance. It is usually wise to have the access route for construction being also the permanent access to the permanent route for accessing the completed facility.

· Existing sites: These are sites that have already been built upon previously. They may have existing access. The only hurdle would be where such access is still in use by others, as it will create an inconvenience and delivery use may be regulated to low peak periods only. There could also arise the need to provide alternative routes for the existing users. A good example here is road maintenance or improvement works, wherey diversions are created and maintained in good order during the construction period. Appropriate arrangements should be made to minimize inconvenience as well as prevent accidents.

· Tight Sites: These are unique sites in the fact that they have minimal space for maneuverability. Examples here are found in town centers or institutions. Regulation here is very strict and as such stringent measures should be put in place to follow such regulations. These sites are very difficult to manage as far as accessibility is concerned. An example is where concrete is to be delivered on site already mixed (In premix trucks). This presents the headache of timing as well as preventing inconvenience to other users.

The provision of access to sites should be a well thought out activity. Maintenance should be in top priority. The design of such access roads should also cater for the traffic envisaged for the said project. Road signage and other such furniture should also be provided and well maintained.

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Insurance Auto Auctions – Get Great Deals on Salvaged Cars and Trucks

Insurance auto auctions are a great way to get a great deal on salvaged cars and trucks. In fact, the company Insurance Auto Auctions is one of the most commonly used specialists in this area with auto auction locations throughout the United States. The company has been around since the early 1990s providing a variety of auto auction services for car owners, car buyers, and car sellers. If you are looking for a good way to get a car at a cheaper rate, insurance salvage deals are a great option!

Salvage vehicle auctions involve several elements – including a facilitation between buyer and seller as arranged by the Insurance Auto Auctions company. Although IAA is one of the more well known companies in this part of the automotive industry, many other companies exist with the same auto salvage specialty.

Automotive salvage occurs when an insurer considers a vehicle to be a "total loss" in insurance terminology. Essentially, this means that the vehicle is of no use to the insurance provider and the insurance carrier. When this happens, the salvaged vehicle can be sold or parted out. Many major insurance companies work with Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc. And similar companies. You will not be surprised to learn that Farmer's Insurance, and even GEICO are just some of the names on the IAA list of regular clients.

Percentage salvage auction sales are more common these days as such companies work hard to get a piece of the action! When a salvaged car is sold at rock-bottom prices, the insurance agency provider is very interested in obtaining rights to at least a small percentage of the insurance auto auction. Since this practice has become more common in recent years, more and more insurance agents and their representatives are seeking percentage shares with companies like Insurance Auto Auctions.

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Finding an Apartment for Rent: Not a Daunting Task Anymore

In the hierarchy of human needs housing stands at third position after satisfying the needs of healthy food and suitable clothing, because house is the place where a person relaxes according to his desires without any restrictions. Therefore, when it comes to construction of the personal house a person does not leave any stone unturned in furnishing his house with all necessary contemporary accessories.

But, what about the people who are compelled to live in a rented house, how these people can furnish their homes to enjoy the complete relaxation at their home after having working schedule at their workplace? Because these people have to literally rely on the facilities offered by their landlord and they can not make any type of change in their place and are bound to adjust with the limited facilities.

Interestingly, all these problems in today's scenario have become the folklores and now even you can enjoy the pleasure of relaxing in the rented an apartment in the same way as you can enjoy in your personal house. Today, trend of searching for rented apartment through local newspapers or through references has become an obsolete method of searching an apartment, now days there are various real estate agencies that will help you in tracking the apartments for rent according to your requirements. These agencies have the listed registered apartments available for rent with them and on your request they can help you in getting an apartment on rent dependent upon the budget available with you.

But, now you may question about the authenticity of these real estate agencies, especially about their higher service charges and condition of the apartments that they provide for your residential purpose. If this is so, then you are at an edge of doing mistake, because the charges of these agencies are dependent upon the type of service required by you. This in-fact is my personal experience as almost a year back, I also had to undergo the same situation of finding a suitable accommodation for myself when last year as my the part of my job responsibility I was transferred to Adelaide from home town Brisbane.

Anyhow, before sharing my experience, let me ask you a question that, Do you also feel that locating at a new place is always a daunting and scary task, especially in some new city? This question I am asking you, because last year I had to locate myself in one of the rented apartment due to my job. Although the distance between both these cities is about six hours or so, but as I had never been away from my apartment for a day travel of these six hours was not less than traveling to space.

The next big problem in front of me was finding an apartment for myself, although my company had granted me the housing allowance, but responsibility of finding a suitable apartment for my living was on my shoulder. Fortunately, one of my colleagues who had also faced the same situation suggested me to search for apartment for rent through online sources, because in the current era when all activities move around internet searching apartments for rent in Adelaide was not a difficult task.

An interesting feature which I realized while surfacing the portals of these real estate agencies is that they facilitate you to place the type of property you want to rent in and do not pressurize you to live in the apartment suggested by them. Moving ahead the experts of these agencies will let you visit the place before finalizing the deal with the property owner, moreover the experts of these agencies will help you in getting the formalities associated with renting an apartment pursuant to the rules and regulations promising specific region . One more interesting feature about the portals of these agencies is that they have the pictures of properties available for rent with them from both exterior and interior, so making it easier for you to at-least estimate the condition of the place you are going to live In.

Postscript : As visiting a new place during vacation is an exciting activity, locating at new place has just just to it. Because when you visit any new during vacation you just stay in some renovated hotel and return back to your city after three-four days, but when you locate to some unknown city for a long time you need to get yourself prepared according to its lifestyle. Moreover, as you are new to the city you are also unaware about the road and transport facilities which, along with the tension of finding a suitable apartment for rent enhances the series of problems you have to cope with.

But as a friend in need is a true friend indeed by browsing the different website you can search an appropriate apartment provided to you by some established real estate agency.

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10 Ways to Get a Shower on the Road

Hello travelers, people living out of a vehicle and other awesome folks, here are 10 Ways to Get a good Shower On The Road.

1) At a campground Campground showers vary from one place to the next. Some are excellent, some use solar power so you are out of luck if it’s after dark, and others are not heated at all. Water pressure is also a variable. Some have consistent water pressure while others will only get a weak stream when someone hops in the shower next to you or runs the sink. Campground showers can vary from deluxe with your own private changing room to just a primitive curtain or in rare instances, nothing at all. Some are well kept and impeccably clean and others you get to share with a few spiders and other mystery guests.

2) A community pool is another option. You may have to pay a few bucks to use the pool, but the showers are generally free. And hey, why not go swimming while you’re at it? They usually only accept cash and hours are limited.

3) Get a 5 gallon solar shower These are pretty cheap, usually less than $20 for a simple one, and can be quite useful when you’re roughing it. If you leave it in the sun for a few hours you’ll have a hot shower. If it’s not hot enough, a cup of near boiling water should do the trick. Just don’t burn yourself! If privacy is still a concern, for around $70 you can get a portable privacy shelter, such as the Texsport Deluxe Camp Shower/Shelter Combo. It works great for car camping.

4) The Solo 465 Stainless Steel Sprayer can be used as a medium pressure camp shower. Several people have commented they place it on a stove top burner and heat it up, then pressurize it and then it’s shower time. My friend tried this by pouring hot water into a 2 gallon plastic sprayer tank that he had and it made a great shower. It uses about 40 ounces per minute so that is a 6 minute shower using only two gallons. Another suggestion is to shower with Dawn Direct Foam soap instead of bar soap, then when it’s empty, you can refill it with your own scented soap and distilled water. The foaming soap lather won’t be affected by hard water. And it works for dishes too.

5) Get a day pass to a local fitness club. They usually run just $5 to $10, have really nice showers, and there is no excuse not to get a great workout while you’re at it!

6) Stop at a road house or large gas station such as Flying J, TA or Pilot, and other road trip stops with amenities for travelers and truckers alike. These tend to be some of the nicest showers you can get on the road as you get your own private bathroom with plenty of hot water and water pressure. Plus you get your own sink and toilet. Towels and soap are usually provided though you’re welcome to bring your own supplies. The cost is usually between $5 and $10 USD. If you’re traveling with your significant other, they’re usually willing to let you pay the one fee for a shared room. If you’re a little hard up for cash and feeling brave, you can also try asking a trucker if he or she has an extra shower coupon. Truckers often get free shower coupons when they buy gas and may have an extra to give away (or sell for a buck or two).

7) Visit a friend, relative or make a new acquaintance and ask to use their shower…sure, you might get a funny look, but what are friends for?

8) Try the “It Makes Sense Shower head.” You still need a water supply, but this device will help you save water. You can take a hot shower using very little water which is helpful when you’re on the road, so long as you don’t mind the chill in between the water spray. It has a chain to pull to adjust the flow of the water from a full spray to a trickle while you lather. It’s similar to a navy shower, and great for conserving water.

9) Zodi Hot Tap Single Burner Travel Shower runs off propane and 4 D batteries, so you can get a hot shower any time of day at the push of a button. It holds 4 gallons of water which is good for a 10 minute shower. Costs about $130

10) Hotels with swimming pools will sometimes let you use their pool for a small fee, and usually have public showers.

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Characteristics of Universal Life Insurance

As we mentioned in the previous article, universal life (UL) was introduced in 1981-82, in response to a historically high interest environment and a consumer awareness of the value of self-directed investments because traditional insurance could not compete with short-term interest rates.

Here are some characteristics as follow

1. Account Value

The account value of a universal life plan is the sum of the gross values of all the investment accounts within the policy, including income, after deductions for the current month expenses.

2. Cash Surrender Value

The cash surrender value of a universal life plan is the current account value, less outstanding loans and surrender charges. Surrender charges are usually based upon a multiple of the minimum required premium for the policy back-end charges are larger than front-end charges.

3. Premiums & Contributions

Premiums are those amounts needed to pay the cost of insurance charges and other expenses for the policy. Deposits are those excess amounts that are of a pure investment nature.

4. Death Benefit Options

The amount of death benefit payable under a universal life policy is based upon 1 of 4 different options

a)Level death benefit: Level coverage throughout the lifetime of the policy.

b) Level death benefit plus cumulative gross premiums: Death benefit increases by the amount of each gross deposit to the policy.

c) Level death benefit, indexed: The amount of death benefit increases, yearly, by a predetermined percentage.

d) Level death benefit plus account value: The total amount of death benefit is always equal to the initial face amount, plus the gross account value. This is the most popular chose by 90% of universal life insurance policies’ owners because

the gross account value is tax free.

5. Premium Flexibility

The premium deposits, plus accrued investment income, must be sufficient to pay for all expenses and deductions, so as to keep the policy in force, tax exempt life insurance contract, flexible premium.

Universal life is not for every consumer

It’s flexibility tends to be reflected in much higher administration costs than are found in traditional whole life plans and the variable nature of the plan may make it unsuitable for those clients wanting guarantees

I hope this information will help. If you need more information, you can read the complete series of the above subject at my home page:

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10 Reasons Why People Travel

When people decide to leave the comforts of their home and venture to other locations there is usually a reason behind it. Whether the cause to travel was a last minute whimsy or had an actual purpose, it makes one think about all of the reasons why people travel. Reflect on the last time you left your location and ventured to another one. Did it have a purpose behind it? Let’s look and see if your motive to travel matched any of the one’s listed below. These are not listed in any particular order.

1. Romance- There are thousands of people who are involved in long distance relationships. At some point though, they need to see each other. For the sake of love, people will travel for hours to spend as much time as they can with the love of their life.

2. Relaxation- All work and no play is not a good thing. People need to get away from the stress of everyday life, and a nice sunny location with a beach might just be what the doctor ordered.

3. Family/ Friends -Many people have family/friends that are located in different parts of the world. They need to visit with them even if it’s for a short period of time.

4. Religion- There are places in the world that hold religious importance for many people. Religious travel is often related to a purpose such as seeing where the last pope was buried, or traveling to the town where Jesus was born.

5. Death- A relative, friend or acquaintance has passed away and travel is required to attend the funeral which is located out of town.

6. Honeymoon- You’re getting married and are going somewhere special to celebrate. This usually occurs right after the wedding, but there are many occasions where people celebrate a honeymoon years later.

7. Education-You’re getting your education somewhere other than where you live or you are going away on an educational school trip.

8. Celebration- Wedding, Anniversary, Birthday, Birth- There’s always something to celebrate and it doesn’t always happen where you live.

9. Medical/Health- Sometimes the treatment you need isn’t available in the city/town where you live. Often the best medical care is costly and requires travel to receive it.

10. Work- Job requirements might mean a fair bit of travel is involved. Even if the travel is within your own country it still has a purpose attached to it.

Overall, traveling can be a wonderful experience or it can be draining, expensive and just plain torture. Nonetheless if you need to go then embrace it for what it is, and try to make the best of it even if it wasn’t planned.

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