Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Estate Planning in a Down Market

Wealth transfer is a huge issueopen your eye for those who expect their heirs will have to pay estate taxes at rates up to 45%. The tax code permits $3.5 million to be exempted from estate taxes, $1 million of which may be giventhe love of my life away before death as gifts. The estate tax is in play in Washington now. Under current rules, it disappears briefly in 2010, then returns with a lower exemption and a higher rate in 2011. But experts believe Congress will take action before the tax disappears and that the $3.5 million exemption is likely to remain.
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For 2009 you can give away up to $13,000 per beneficiary without having to pay taxes. (The $1 million lifetime limit applies to gifts abovecomputer key that yearly gift exclusion.) When asset values are depressed, as they are now, that gift-tax exclusion is more valuable. Consider: If you have 500 shares of Stock A thatno word traded at 100, with the gift-tax exclusion at $13,000, you would have been able to transfer only 130 shares before bumping up against the hefty tax. But if the shares have been knocked down by 40%, in line with the broader market, you can transfer 217 shares tax-free. The same thinking applies to getting the most out of the $1 million exemption. (The downside risk: If the stock keeps falling, you've used up part of your exemption for nothing.)

This is the simplest of all estate-planning moves for a down market. "You're trying to reduce the size of your balance sheet before you die," Weigandt says. "The question is, are you comfortable reducing your current assets to save your kids something on the estate tax? That question is harder now. But it's not all or nothing: You could take steps to give away heavily discounted assets in smaller increments."http://www.fpdf.de/forum


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Thursday, May 6, 2010

House committee will look into recall of children's drugs after Tylenol recall

A congressional committee has launched an investigation into the problems that led to a massive recall of children's and infants' Tylenol and other widely used over-the-counter pediatric medicines, with lawmakers pledging to scrutinize the performances of both the drugmaker and federal regulators.
Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a joint statement that they are "deeply concerned" about the recall, which affects an estimated 70 percent of the market for over-the-counter pediatric liquid medicines. It involves such brand names as Motrin, Benadryl and Zyrtec, in addition to Tylenol.
The pair pledged to ask "tough questions about the conditions of the manufacturing plant and controls put in place by the drug company's management, and about whether FDA's inspection and recall procedures were sufficient." They expect to schedule hearings in the coming weeks, they said.
The investigation comes a day after the Food and Drug Administration released documents compiled by federal inspectors who catalogued widespread quality control problems at the Pennsylvania facility where the recalled medicines were manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson.
At the McNeil plant, the FDA identified defects in quality-control methods and manufacturing processes, including a failure to track customer complaints and spot trends that may signal systemic problems, a lack of written procedures and a failure to adequately train employees.
The FDA began what it termed a 10-day "routine inspection" of the McNeil facility on April 19. On the last day of the inspection, last Friday, McNeil announced a voluntary recall of 43 types of Tylenol and other best-selling brand names made at the facility. It also suspended operations at the plant indefinitely.
Federal investigators found that raw materials had "known contamination" with unspecified bacteria and "were approved for use to manufacture several finished lots of Children's and Infant's Tylenol drug products."
FDA officials said Tuesday they could not identify the bacteria.
But McNeil said that the raw materials it used for finished products were tested and found free of contamination.
Towns and Issa said they hope their investigation will clarify the conflicting accounts.
McNeil has said some of the recalled medicines may have a higher amount of active ingredient, others may contain inactive ingredients that do not meet internal standards, and still others may contain black particles.
FDA inspectors said that McNeil first learned it had a problem with black particles in some of the medications when it began receiving consumer complaints last June but that the company failed to fully investigate the problem and correct it. McNeil received 46 complaints between June and last month.
Federal officials said no health problems have been linked to the recalled medicines, but that their investigation continues. They have advised parents and caregivers to stop using the recalled medicines and to switch to generic versions, which are not affected by the recall. Impossible made possible
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At Virginia, a Vigil and the First Attempts at Healing

On a night that was supposed to be a quiet one, with final exams just a day away, more than 1,500 students at the University of Virginia put down their books Wednesday and paid tribute to a fellow student killed this week.
An amphitheater was packed for an hour with students and administrators, some holding candles, all honoring the memory of Yeardley Love, the lacrosse player who was found dead in her apartment early Monday.
Another Virginia lacrosse player, George Huguely, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death.
During and after the vigil, Love’s teammates and sorority sisters huddled together to weep and hug. None spoke to reporters. Some members of the men’s lacrosse team were there, too, with a few leaving early. But many students there were not close to her.
“I didn’t know her personally, but her death deeply affected the entire community because it was someone inside this community that killed her,” Michael Minneman, a 21-year-old junior, said at the vigil. “You wouldn’t think something like that would happen.”
Court documents released this week, though, gave details of how that fateful night unfolded. In an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant, Huguely, a 22-year-old senior from Chevy Chase, Md., told the police that he and Love, also 22, had recently ended a romantic relationship. He said he broke into her bedroom and attacked her, shaking her as her head repeatedly hit a wall. The police said Love’s head was badly bruised.
The two had been in physical altercations before, including at a party near campus this spring, according to two students who were there. Those students, both athletes at Virginia, said they did not want their names to be published for fear of retribution from their teammates, who have chosen not to speak to reporters.
Speaking at the candlelight vigil, John Casteen, the university’s president, urged students to use Love’s death as a valuable lesson. He said he hoped her death “inspires an anger and a sense of outrage” about violence.
“If your relationship is toxic, seek help,” he said as his voice cracked. “Don’t hear a scream, don’t watch abuse, don’t hear stories of abuse from a friend. Speak out.”
Three days after the death that shook this college town, students tried to return to their routines. Some hunkered down to write final papers or cram for tests, although Love’s teammates and friends could ask to postpone those tests, university officials said.
The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams announced Tuesday that they would continue their seasons, and they did so with the blessing of Love’s family, Athletic Director Craig Littlepage said. Both teams are awaiting seeding in the N.C.A.A. tournament on Sunday. The men are ranked No. 1, while the women are No. 5.
At the same time, Love’s body remained at the state medical examiner’s office in Richmond, where the autopsy was completed Tuesday and toxicology tests are pending. Only the cause and manner of death will be released, said Steve Murman, a district administrator at the medical examiner’s office. Her funeral is scheduled for Saturday in Baltimore, not far from her hometown, Cockeysville, Md.
Huguely, who was set to graduate this month, is in a Charlottesville jail. He is awaiting his next hearing, on June 10.
For Casteen, the entire incident is hard to take. He said at a news conference that there were “a number of gaps in this situation that concern” him. One of those was that the university had not been aware of Huguely’s 2008 arrest about 70 miles from here, for public swearing, intoxication and resisting arrest, until it was reported in the news media this week. The arresting officer said that Huguely threatened to “kill everyone” in the police department if he was arrested.
Casteen said he was startled to learn that universities were not automatically notified when one of its students had been arrested. From now on, he said, Virginia will be periodically checking a statewide database for any of its students, especially athletes, who are arrested and charged with a crime.
“We should be using it in a defensive way to protect our students,” he said.
Still, Huguely had no record of aggressive behavior or discipline issues at Virginia, university officials said.
“There is absolutely nothing in my office to indicate that there was any problems or conduct issues with Mr. Huguely,” said Allen Groves, the dean of students.
Littlepage also said no incidents had been reported to him. He said, “I think the information and communication gaps are things we have to examine.”
According to documents filed with the Charlottesville Circuit Court on Wednesday, which have since been sealed by a judge, the police have searched Huguely’s apartment since Love’s death. They found a University of Virginia T-shirt that was stained red, a letter to Love and various other items that may be used as evidence in the case against Huguely, according to a report on the Web site of The Charlottesville Daily Progress.
Among the items seized by the police were two laptop computers, a spiral notebook, two socks, a bathroom rug, a shower curtain, the apartment’s entryway rug, a pair of cargo shorts and a polo shirt, the newspaper said. Investigators also took DNA swabs from several places in the apartment, including from the bathtub and the kitchen’s trash can. Make yourself heard
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