Q&A: This trust avoids probate (but not death and taxes)

Dear Liz: Reading your articles I understand that having a revocable living trust makes transferring wealth quicker and easier. What about taxes? If you use a will to bequeath your house, for example, the beneficiaries get a stepped-up cost basis. What are the taxes with a revocable living trust? Do you pay taxes on assets going into the trust and again going out to the beneficiaries? What are the tax advantages and disadvantages of a trust?

Answer: Many kinds of trusts have tax implications, but revocable living trusts typically don’t. Your assets get the same tax treatment as if you held them outright.

Some people mistakenly believe that revocable living trusts can help them avoid or eliminate estate taxes. The purpose of a living trust is primarily to avoid probate, the court process that otherwise follows death. In some states, including California, probate can be lengthy and expensive, which often makes a living trust worth the cost and effort to set up.

Living trusts also offer more privacy because they don’t have to be made public, unlike a will, which becomes a public record at your death. Living trusts also make it easier for your appointed person to take over for you in case you become incapacitated.

Q&A: So many credit scores — here’s how to get yours

Dear Liz: You recently discussed FICO scores. Please let me know how I can get mine. My bank says it can only give my husband his score because he is the principal on our account.

Answer: Remember that you don’t have one FICO credit score, you have many. Lenders use different versions and generations of the FICO formula. In addition, FICOs will differ based on which credit bureau was used. So your bank may give your husband a FICO Bankcard Score 2 based on information from Experian, while an auto lender might use a FICO Auto Score 5 from Equifax. These scores almost certainly will differ from his FICO 8 scores, which are the most commonly used scores. The FICOs for credit cards and autos typically are on a 250-to-900 scale, while FICO 8 is on a 300-to-850 scale.

Anyone can get free FICO 8 scores based on Experian data from Experian’s consumer site, Freecreditscore.com, and from credit card Discover at Discover.com. Several other credit card issuers — including American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo — offer FICOs of various kinds to cardholders.

If you want to see a broader range of your FICO scores, you can buy a three-bureau report from MyFico.com for about $60 that includes FICO 8s, FICO 9s and the most commonly used scores in mortgage, credit card and auto lending from each bureau.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to cash in on short-term rentals like Airbnb. Also in the news: How to get your business out of debt in five steps, and how to make to make the most of your summer vacation.

How to Cash In on Short-Term Rentals Like Airbnb, VRBO
Generating extra income with your extra bedroom.

How to Get Your Business Out of Debt in 5 Steps
Taking the first step.

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Job
Put aside some cash.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The high cost of bad credit. Also in the news: 5 tips to finding a cheaper flight, auto-paying bills by credit card, and United States workers are losing out on billions of dollars in pay.

How Costly Is Bad Credit? Many Don’t Know, Survey Shows
Ignorance isn’t bliss.

5 Tips to Find a Cheap Flight
Saving a little extra.

Auto-Paying Bills by Credit Card: Help or Hassle? Yes.
It can be both.

Every year, U.S. workers lose out on billions in pay
Getting what you deserve.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: A guide to who needs life insurance. Also in the news: Budgeting for new parents, planning a summer family vacation, and how to still afford a house while spending all your money on avocado toast.

A Guide to Who Needs Life Insurance
Do you?

Budgeting for New Parents: From Day Care to College
Covering the next 20+ years.

It’s Not Too Late to Plan a Summer Family Vacation
Plenty of time still left.

How to Afford a House When You’re Spending All Your Money on Avocado Toast
You can keep your toast, Millennials.

How to ruin your finances fast

Some financial disasters are a long time in the making. It typically takes years of unfortunate choices — minimum credit card payments, forgone savings opportunities — to create suffocating debt or a poverty-level retirement.

Other disasters you can trigger almost instantly. The decision itself costs money, or the clock starts ticking toward a consequence you might not have foreseen. In my latest for the Associated Press, three common ways to trash your finances fast, plus how you may be able to undo or limit the damage.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How credit card bonuses got so big and hard to grab. Also in the news: VA Loan eligibility and requirements for 2017, how to detect scams that could ruin your retirement, and 10 numbers that may make or break your retirement.

How Credit Card Bonuses Got So Big and Hard to Grab
And you thought blackout dates were bad.

VA Loan Eligibility and Requirements for 2017
What you need to know.

How to Detect Scams That Could Ruin Your Retirement
Don’t put your savings at risk.

10 numbers that can make or break your retirement
Focus on the important ones.

Q&A: How to improve your FICO score

Dear Liz: My FICO score is just under 800. The reason given that it is not higher is that I don’t have any non-mortgage leases. What would be the cheapest way to remedy this without buying something expensive?

Answer: When you get your credit scores, you may be given sometimes-vague reasons for why they’re not higher or lower. The “reason code” you saw probably said something like “no recent non-mortgage balance information.” What that means is that you haven’t been using revolving accounts such as credit cards. To get higher scores, you’d need to dust off your plastic and use it once in a while. (You don’t need to carry a balance to get or keep good scores, however. You can and should pay credit card balances in full each month.)

Any improvement in your scores is likely to be modest, however. Your numbers are already high and the factor known as “mix of credit” — which means responsibly using both revolving and installment accounts — accounts for just 10% of your FICO scores. Plus, there’s no real point in having scores over 800, other than to brag about them. Once your scores exceed 760 or so, you’re already eligible for the best rates and terms.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do when you get an IRS audit notice. Also in the news: Budgeting for new parents, where to sell your stuff online, and how your credit score is linked to your chance of divorce.

I Got an Audit Notice From the IRS — Now What?
Take a deep breath.

Budgeting for New Parents: From Day Care to College
In it for the long haul.

Where to Sell Your Stuff Online
Getting rid of what you don’t need.

Your Credit Score Is Linked To Your Chance of Divorce
What the two have in common.