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May 16, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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May 16, 2003

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FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 16, 2003 PAGE 11R it is human to avoid topics that there are cer- that you avoid 'OWn peril. One of these is whether or not like to decline life When it isclear that permanent. life support sys- keep an individual's to tax refund in 2002 was for $1,900, accord- Revenue While tax refunds Windfalls - you've given the IRS an in- your hard- you should about how use this money. t COmes to making refund work for you, one right answer says the J paying off debt the greatest Rind. Others might investment is the For others still, to spend some worrying the monthly a much- ical boost. thing, say carefully think Le best use of your before spending ~JVely. ~n Credit card debt Paying double- n credit aSmgyour refund pour debt financial fact, there's a for ou. Not or re- Punt you owe card, but you :renal interest lich add to your recommend that he credit cards interest rgency fund rule, CPAs mancial profes- an body alive for years, even if the brain is no longer functioning or the person is in constant pain," notes Jack Rittenhouse, incoming president of the Na- tional Association of Estate Planners and Councils. A living will is a document which lets you decide whether or not to be kept on artificial life support. Often, these docu- ments also appoint someone to sionals recommend that you set aside three to six months of living expenses to carry you though an adverse event, such as a layoff or illness. If you don't already have an emergency fund, your tax return can help you get one started. Just be sure to keep the money in a fairly liquid investment, such as a money market account or short- term CD. Add to your portfolio If saving money from your weekly paycheck is difficult, investing your tax refund check can give you a jump start on creating an invest- ment portfolio. You might want to start with a mutual fund that has a low mini- mum opening deposit. If you have an existing portfolio, your refund check provides a good opportunity to invest in a new stock or to improve the diversity of your portfolio. Add it to your mortgage payment For many taxpayers, mak- ing an extra payment toward the principal on your mort- gage makes better financial sense than putting the money in a savings account. Trimming an extra $500 or more off your principal now can save you thousands of dollars in interest payments over the next 30 years. Here's another option: if you've been thinking about refi- nancing your home mort- gage, but didn't have enough cash to cover closing costs, your tax refund check can bring you closer. Spend wisely Using your tax refund for an important purchase, such your livin make important health care decisions on your behalf in case you are unable to do so. "A liv- ing will simply states that you desire to die a natural death and that you do not want extraordi- nary medical treatment if there is no reasonable hope of recov- ery," Rittenhouse explains. He offers five compelling reasons to draw up a living will now: 1. If you are competent and able to communicate, you can tell your doctor that you do not wish to have extraordi- nary means used to keep you alive. But if you are not able to communicate this decision and do not have a living will, someone else will have to de- cide for you. 2. When you execute a liv- ing will, you are protecting your family from a potentially stressful situation. It is wrenching for families to have to make the decision to stop life-saving measures fora loved one. Having a living will in place takes this burden off of your family and lets them know that it is what you want. 3. Although the choice to stop life support should never be a financial one, the fact is that it can cost as much as $5,000 a day to keep a patient on life support. Once again, if you have made your wishes known, you can avoid piling up expensive hospital bills for which your loved ones will be responsible after your death. 4. A living will gives you control. You can specify what types of treatment you do or don't want used. Do you want to work as a new computer or a ma- jor appliance, rather than buying it on credit, means you'll avoid interest pay- ments and have more money in your monthly budget to save or spend on necessi- ties. Make a donation You also might think about using your refund check to help the less fortu- nate. Not only will you help someone in need, but the amount you donate can be deducted on your tax return for 2003. Be sure you get a receipt for your donation from the charitable organi- zation. Have some fun For some, a tax refund is a windfall to be spent on some- thing exciting and unex- pected. If you've worked hard all year and saved dili- gently, you might just want to put the money toward a well-deserved vacation. Even a brief escape can reenergize you, and that's a better return on your money than a pile of cash register receipts. Finally, depending on the size of your tax refund, you may want to consider contacting your CPA for some financial planning advice. You can then apply the refund to specific fi- nancial goals. For more in- formation about putting your tax refund to work for you, consult with a CPA in your area. The FICPA is the profes- sional association represent- ing the interests of more than 18,000 CPAs with ap- proximately 4,400 offices throughout Florida. e you' the hospital to try cardiac re- life medical care with friends ner and Estate Planner Law suscitation but not to place andfamifydoesnotmeanyour Specialist. For more informa- you on a mechanical respira- wishes will be carried out. tion, visit or tor? Would you want to be Without a legal document, call NAEPC toll-free at (866) placed on antibiotics, but not your decisions are not bind- 226-2224 for suggestions. fedthroughatube?Througha ing. Even if you have a will EDITOR'S NOTE: The living will, you can direct the that includes a living will, NAEPC is a national organi- type of care you want even check with your advisor to zation of professional estate when you may not be in a make sure it is still valid. Re- plannersandaffiliatedEstate position to make your wishes cent tax law changes have Planning councils focused on known. Don't worry about made manywills outdated, establishing and monitoring locking yourself into a deci- There are many profession- the highest professional and sion you maywant tochange alstrainedandqualifiedtohelp educational standards. later. Signingalivingwill does you make your will and estate NAEPC offers public aware- not take away your decision- planning effective. Check with ness of the quality services making power. It goes into yourstateorlocalbarassocia- rendered by professionals effect only ifyou are unable to tionforalocalCertifiedEstate who meet these standards. make decisions yourself and Planning attorney, or try the NAEPC builds a team ap- are unable to communicate, state CPA association. NAEPC proach involving cross-pro- 5. Finally, remember that offers a list of members who fessional disciplines to better simply discussing your beliefs have earned the special desig- serve the public's need in es- and thoughts about end-of- nationAccredited Estate Plan- tate planning. 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