Fraudulent Tax Returns Filed Under Your Name

By | E-Alert, Estate taxes | No Comments

I recently received an official letter from a state that I have never lived  nor preformed business in.  This letter was from the state’s tax department informing me they needed more information before they could respond to my request for a tax refund.  The next day I received another letter from a second state.  Then one from the IRS.  I learned from the second state that this request had been done using my wife and my names in six states. The good news is the states taking measures to catch these false claims simply by asking for more information.

 

In my case, the individuals were not trying to receive a tax refund since no taxes had been paid.  They were trying to get benefits from each state. It is not known what specific benefits, but trying to collect whatever benefits they can from each state.

This is very troubling and of significant concern.  What is happening?  What is at risk?  I contacted our banker and accountant to discover  that this is not an unusual event any more.  This article by Money Magazine, http://time.com/money/3709141/stolen-tax-refund/, gives a great deal of information about what is happening. More importantly,  article provides  very helpful advice on what to do and how to handle the situation.

The article outlines steps that are imperative for situations such as this.  It is a priority to follow the outlined steps to ensure the records in those states are corrected.  Additional steps will be taken to protect us from  impact to our credit as well as possible  tax fraud.

As a side note,  our federal tax return is on an extension. In those other states, a tax return has not been, and will not be filed. You have to stay alert; as you never know how someone is accessing and then using your personal information to defraud you.  In my case, I have no idea how they found our information and do not believe we will ever know.

As our client you are very important.  We will continue to provide you with information that will protect you and your family today and in the future.

dan-morrisContributed by Morris Hall Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Senior Partner, Dan R. Morris.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

Same-Sex Marriage and Estate Planning after US Supreme Court Decision

By | Estate Planning, Historical Events, LGBT | No Comments

In a 5-4 decision by the United States Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated: “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The Petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex . . . .” Justice Kennedy concludes the opinion by saying: “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, every state must respect same-sex marriages performed in any other state.

With this decision, same-sex couples will have the following rights that every other married couple has:

  • They can travel within the United States without concern that their marriage will not be recognized. However, their marriage may not be recognized in other countries.
  • If they choose to divorce, they may do so wherever they are living.
  • They may be able to seek a state income tax refund for past open years.
  • They can file state income tax returns as a married couple.
  • They would get a state level gift/estate/inheritance tax marital deduction for assets gifted or left to their spouse, just like a traditional couple.

Simply because LGBT couples may now legally marry in every state does not mean they will. Thus, it is imperative for unmarried LGBT couples to create an estate plan; otherwise, should one of them die or become incapacitated, the significant other may not receive anything or have any rights.

dave-eastman  Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Arrowhead, Scottsdale and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, David T. Eastman.

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

 

Planning for Incapacity

By | Attorney Andrea Claus, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Guardianship | No Comments

The thought of incapacity is unpleasant, thus many people fail to plan for the consequences of incapacitation.  Incapacity can be the result of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but it can also happen suddenly due to a stroke or an accident.  The issues that surround incapacity are not limited to medical decisions; there is a financial component as well.

If you are unable to manage your assets and do not have documents addressing incapacity, your family may have to seek a conservatorship from the probate court.  A conservatorship is a probate proceeding that appoints someone (a conservator) to control an incapacitated person’s property if they have no power of attorney.  The court will order a conservatorship under  two general circumstances: 1) if a person is unable to manage his estate and affairs effectively for reasons related to physical or mental incapacity; or 2) the person has property that will be wasted or an estate that will be dissipated unless proper management is put in place.

If the incapacitated person doesn’t have planning documents in place, and a dispute arises within the family, the court might appoint a non-family member to manage the incapacitated person’s assets.  Creating a power of attorney and putting a living trust in place can address these issues and avoid court involvement.  To discuss these or other estate planning issues, contact one of the attorneys at Morris Hall for a free consultation.

andrea-claus  Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC  Phoenix and Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Top 10 Reasons To Have an Estate Plan

By | Estate Planning, Estate taxes, Other | No Comments

Do we know if we are going to become incapacitated? I think if we are honest, we would say the answer is no. However, do we know if we are going to die? We know the answer is yes. The following are the top 10 reasons why an estate plan is essential.

  1. Someone needs to be in place to take care of your financial and health
    care needs when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself.
  2. Nominate someone to be the guardian of your minor children.
  3. Protection of your assets and decide who will receive them after you pass away.
  4. To provide for children of a prior marriage.
  5. To provide for the needs of a special needs person in your life.
  6. To distribute your estate down your bloodline and out of reach of your children’s spouses/ex-spouses.
  7. To provide your children with asset protection for the share you leave them.
  8. To provide retirement assets to your beneficiaries with a continued “stretch out” of the distribution.
  9. To ensure your family business stays intact with proper management.
  10. Keep your financial and personal matters private, and out of the public eye.

 

We have reviewed thousands of estate plans and what we often find is that personal and law changes are not in the plan which can cause beneficiaries to lose asset protection against their creditors, divorcing ex-spouses and loss of Medicaid spend-down protection.

If you don’t have an estate plan in place, now is the time to start the discussion with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys. If you have an estate plan in place but it’s been more than three years since you have had it reviewed by an attorney, it’s time for a checkup.

Wendy-Harn-PhotoContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC,  Tucson and Oro Valley Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, Wendy W. Harn.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

 

Why You Need a Living Trust

By | Estate Planning, Other, Preparedness | No Comments

This will be the first of a four-part series on why you need a living trust.  I recently read an article from a well-known business publication that provided four reasons why you don’t need a living trust.  In this four-part series, I will identify the reasons provided by the article and examine why those reasons are severely misguided and flawed.

~ You don’t need a trust to protect assets from probate ~

The article states that you can arrange your assets using alternative methods to transfer outside of probate. Common methods include: holding jointly owned property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, beneficiary designations, “POD” (payable on death) or “TOD” (transfer on death) accounts, and beneficiary deeds, to name a few.

These planning methods are risky and should not be offered as sound estate planning advice.  Here are a few examples to illustrate:

  • If an asset is owned jointly with a right of survivorship, and the joint tenants die simultaneously, it will need to be probated.
  • If a surviving joint tenant died without funding the asset into a living trust, or failed to find another joint tenant, it will need to be probated.
  • If the designated person on a TOD, POD, or a beneficiary designation predeceases you, and you fail to update the account, the asset will need to be probated.
  • If your designated beneficiary is a minor, or is declared mentally incapacitated at the time of distribution, the asset will need to be probated to determine a conservator and guardian for the beneficiary.
  • If you use a beneficiary deed to transfer a piece of real estate upon your death, but the deed doesn’t get recorded properly or on time, or you live in a state where beneficiary deeds are not recognized, the real estate will need to be probated.

The above examples are only a few of the things that can occur when using the first method directed by the article.  Please consult a qualified estate planning attorney to help you determine the best approach to your estate planning needs.

darren-richardsonContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney, Darren L. Richardson.

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Planning is for Everyone

By | Estate Planning, Financial Planning, Other, Planning Ahead: One Week at a Time, Will | No Comments

I have talked before about everyone having an estate.  This just means we all have something.  And once we know that we have something, then the next logical thought is that we all have something to plan for.

And you may be saying that you have your plan in place.  So I will say “Kudos!” You are better than 70% of Americans.

But what about your parents?  What about your adult children (keep in mind that “adult” is 18 years and older)?  Have you talked to them about getting their plan in place?  What about your friends and neighbors?  Don’t you want to share the relief and peace of mind you have by getting your estate properly planned?

And I know that estate planning (i.e. death and taxes) is not an easy subject.  “So, have you given any thought to dying, and the impact it will have on your loved ones?”  That sentence just does not roll off of your tongue.

But remember, everyone has an estate, so you don’t have to get into any details.  You can simply talk about how good you feel but talking with your Morris Hall attorney and getting your affairs in order.  You just need to open the door with those positive feelings.

 

Planning is for everyone.  The plan content differs by the needs and goals of the individual.  As you know, the first step is meeting with one of our attorneys.  We can’t call your parents, or your kids.  We can’t call your friends and neighbors.  But you can have them call us, and they can have what you have – a great estate plan and peace of mind.

jim-plitzContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, James P. Plitz.

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

Why You Want to Avoid Probate

By | Death Probate, Estate Planning, Living Probate, Other, Probate | No Comments

Have you or a loved one ever gone through a probate? Here are five reasons why you would want to avoid Probate.

  1. Lose your privacy. Probate proceedings are available to the public and will be published in a local newspaper. Anyone can gain access to your personal information through the courthouse.

  1. Time Consuming. Probate proceedings have the potential to be very long in duration. On average, a probate can last from 9 months to 2 years.

  1. Assets are Frozen. During the Probate process your assets are frozen until the process is over. If the market is good to sell real property, the probate process has to be over before the property can be sold.

  1. Probate can be costly. Besides your estate paying taxes and creditors, there are many fees associated with probate. These fees include attorney fees, personal representative fees, appraisal fees, and court fees. Probate fees vary from state to state, but on average it can range from 3-6% of the value of your estate.

  1. Probate could happen more than once. If you have property in more than one state, your estate will have to go through probate in each state. This means you will have probate fees in each state as well.

Wendy-Harn-PhotoContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Tucson and Oro Valley Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, Wendy W. Harn.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Trusts: Not Just for Estate Tax Avoidance

By | Attorney Andrea Claus, Estate Planning, Other, Preparedness | No Comments

It is true, a trust can be used to safeguard assets from estate taxes, however, that is not the extent of what a trust can accomplish. The two primary purposes of a trust are to manage assets during life and control their distribution at death.

During life, a trust can address issues encountered in the event of incapacity.  A properly drafted trust, used in conjunction with other estate planning documents, can eliminate the need for court involvement during a period of incapacity.  There are also types of irrevocable trusts that can help protect you from the cost of care if you need nursing or home health care via the State’s Medicaid program.

At death, properly drafted trust can address remarriage or blended family concerns.  For instance, in the event a surviving spouse remarries, a trust can ensure that, at his death, his assets pass directly to his children rather than to the children of this new spouse, even though Arizona and New Mexico are community property states.

I’ve only mentioned a few things beyond estate tax mitigation that a trust can achieve.  A properly drafted trust can achieve many other things.  It can protect beneficiaries, can be used as an income or capital gains tax planning tool, and it can even be used to incentivize certain achievements. .  Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your unique situation is the first step to putting a proper plan in place.

andrea-clausContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Phoenix and Prescott Estate Planning Attorney, Andrea L. Claus.

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Multiple Decision Makers is Asking for Trouble

By | Estate Planning, Other, Trustees | No Comments

One of the biggest decisions you will face when creating your estate plan is picking your decision makers.  Too often we hear, “I will just have both of my kids be my decision makers.”  That is just asking for trouble.

It does not matter that they are “best of friends” or “peas in a pod”, the fact is, even if those statements are 100% true, there are practical hurdles that add time and complexity to an already complicated situation (keep in mind, your choice of decision maker is coming into effect during an emotionally charged time – death or incapacity).

I can say that my three brothers and I get along.  But we live across three states, have varying “world views”, and have spouses that may not share our perspective on life and finances.  We also only see each once or twice a year – it is a different view of “getting along” versus if we were neighbors.  If my parents chose to have two or more of us to administer their estate, the one thing that would be assured - it would not be easy (or cheap) to get it all done.

 

So I advise my clients to pick one, and then instruct them to collaborate “behind the scenes”.  This gives the estate “one face”, one person to sign on the bottom line.  And it still achieves the unity objective of the client (since there should be collaboration).   If my client says they don’t know which one to pick, I tell them, half-jokingly, to “pick the one they like least,” since it is that person who will be doing the work, while the other simply reaps the benefits of being a beneficiary.

Who is your decision maker?  Make sure it is someone you trust to do what is best and right by you.  And if you are thinking of having multiple people fill the role, come in and meet with one of our estate planning attorneys so we can discuss the pros and cons, to make the transition as easy as possible for those who you care about.

jim-plitzContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, James P. Plitz.

About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Do I need an A/B trust?

By | Attorney David Eastman, Estate Planning, Other | No Comments

I had an interesting conversation today with one of our clients. The sole purpose of them coming in to see me was to discuss whether they needed to have an A/B trust in place, which is what we had created for them.  I asked what prompted them to ask that question and the response back to me was that they had attended a seminar where an estate planning attorney here in town had advised them that they did not need an A/B trust any longer and they really needed to restate their whole trust. I asked what his reasons were for them not needing an A/B trust any longer and they informed me that his answer was that there was a new and better way of doing things and nobody needs an A/B trust any longer.

Often times at my seminars I tell the audience there are bad mechanics, bad doctors, and bad dentists, and then I ask them, in a half sarcastic tone, are there any bad attorneys? They usually all start laughing, knowing full well there are bad attorneys. Unfortunately, there is some bad advice being given out there, and telling a client that they do not need an A/B trust can be bad advice.

So why would a client need an A/B trust? There are many reasons, but the one that seems to be focused on most is to avoid or minimize paying an estate tax. The argument can be made that since there is a $5 million estate tax exemption, indexed for inflation, there is no need to have an A/B trust, if an estate does not exceed this amount. This is being shortsighted in my opinion. If the sole reason for doing an A/B trust was for tax reasons then there may be an argument to not have an A/B trust, but the reality is there are other reasons to do an A/B trust that have nothing to do with taxes.

One of the reasons why an A/B trust is so good is because we can protect up to half of the estate value in the B trust when one spouse dies from future creditors of the surviving spouse.  This seems like a pretty important and relevant goal considering there are approximately 1 in 12 Americans that are involved in some type of litigation.

Another important reason for doing the A/B trust is to protect the decedent’s heirs in the event the surviving spouse gets remarried. If this happens then we can ensure that the estate of the decedent is passed on to his/her heirs instead of the new spouse that the surviving spouse just married. We can also protect up to half of the estate in the event the surviving spouse gets divorced from the new spouse. This can be a very significant protection to both the surviving spouse and the deceased spouse’s heirs considering 50% of all marriages end in divorce.

Finally, one of the other reasons we recommend doing the A/B trust is that in addition to there being a federal estate tax there are also state estate taxes, and most state estate tax exemptions are less than the federal estate tax exemption.  Currently the state of Arizona does not have a state estate tax, so Arizona is still a good state to die in, but things could change. Arizona could adopt a state estate tax or you could end up moving to a state that does have a state estate tax when your health starts to decline and you want to be closer to your kids. By having an A/B trust in place it will mitigate any state estate taxes as well as federal estate taxes.

 

It is crucial that you meet with an attorney that knows what they are doing when it comes to estate planning.  Unfortunately there are many people out there that profess to know how to do estate planning, but lack the skill and knowledge to give good sound advice when it comes to these important matters.  The people that end up paying for that bad advice are the general public.  The attorneys at the law firm of Morris Hall have been doing estate planning for over 40 years in Arizona.  We belong to two nationally recognized institutions, the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. We have given numerous seminars to both the private and public sector on various estate planning topics.  If you are interested in sitting down with one of our estate planning attorneys for a free consultation please feel free to give us a call.

dave-eastmanContributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Arrowhead, Scottsdale and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner David T. Eastman.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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