Don't fret over delinquent payment

DEAR BRUCE: I have always had excellent credit. Recently, I discovered that I forgot to mail out my mortgage payment. When I received my monthly statement, I noticed that they had not credited me with my payment, and, when I went digging around, found it among other papers. I promptly paid it, bringing what I owed, current. Just to be on the safe side, I called the mortgage company to verify they had received my payment. I asked them if they had reported this as being late on my credit report. They said yes and that, by law, it could not be removed. Is there anything I can do? How much will this impact my future loan applications? Will I still be able to get the best rates available? How long will this be on my credit report? — Reader in Michigan

DEAR READER: While consumer credit is in the tank these days, one late payment is not something to be suicidal over. Sometime in the future you may be penalized for the single late payment. The first thing you ought to do is to pull your credit report from all three agencies. See what your FICO score is and if in fact the deficiency is being reported on each report. I don't think this is going to adversely affect you to the point where you should try some remedial action, but it conceivably could result in paying a little higher interest rate in the near term. Pull the reports and see where you go from there.

DEAR BRUCE: I was joint owner with right of survivorship on a number of CDs with a friend. The other owner died, and the CDs were transferred into my Social Security number. Was I obliged to pay inheritance tax to the state? According to your column, inheritance tax is paid by the decedent.— Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: This is a perfect example of seeking advice from a qualified accountant. You did not share any numbers with me, but the amounts of money involved here are important. If it's a minor amount, they will receive very little attention. Large amounts are a different matter. What was the size of the person's estate? How the state looks at the ownership is another issue. In many cases, half would be assumed to be yours, but it would be foolish for me to comment without looking at the specifics of your situation. The best advice that anyone can give you is to seek the services of a local accountant knowledgeable in state and federal tax matters.

DEAR BRUCE: I went to a lawyer recently and had my will drawn up. Will it have to go through probate court, as all my property is in my daughter's name anyway? — T.M, via e-mail

DEAR T.M.: You did well to have a lawyer draw up your will. If the property is all as you described, there is no reason the will should be filed for probate. It can be filed but not probated since there are no assets. In the event that you've overlooked the assets, the will is there to cover that eventually. You've done well.

Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. E-mail to: Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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