For the week of March 24, 2008

The Dow set another closing record last Tuesday, its second in as many weeks, surging 420 points after the Federal Reserve dropped the federal funds rate by three-quarters of a point. While the Dow dropped Wednesday amid profit taking, it surged another 261 points on Thursday to close the shortened trade week at 12,361.32. Markets were closed Friday in observance of the Good Friday holiday. The S&P ended the week up 1.09 percent to finish at 1,329.51 and the Dow gained 1.77 percent to close the week at 12,361.32. The NASDAQ lost 0.24 percent to end the week at 2,258.11.

Source: Morningstar.com. * Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Three and five-year returns are annualized. The S&P, excluding “1 Week” returns, is a reflection of return to an investor, by reinvesting dividends after the deduction of withholding tax.

Past 20 Years – The average home price has increased 5.0 percent per year over the past 20 years (1988-2007). The S&P 500 has increased 11.8 percent annually over the same period (Source: Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, BTN Research).

Global Shoppers – Americans bought $6.4 billion of foreign goods and services each day in calendar year 2007. Just five years earlier (2002), Americans bought $3.8 billion of foreign products each day (Source: Commerce Department, BTN Research).

I’ll Cut You Out – Ten percent of U.S. parents disinherit one or more of their children (Source: Money Magazine, BTN Research).

One In A Hundred – Of U.S. households, 1.2 million have a net worth of at least $5 million, not counting the family’s primary residence. There are approximately 110 million households in America (Source: Census Bureau, Investment News, BTN Research).

It’s All Up Here – Less than half of Americans (46 percent) have documented the financial plan they intend to follow to achieve their retirement objectives (Source: Opinion Research Corporation, Investment News, BTN Research).

Exports – The upside to a weak U.S. dollar is that theoretically the cost of U.S. exports is cheaper for a foreign buyer. The $148 billion of exports the U.S. recorded in January 2008 is an all-time monthly record. That total is 80 percent more than the monthly export total recorded five years earlier (Source: Commerce Department).

WEEKLY FOCUS – Executor Not Honorary Position

It appears that yet another celebrity estate battle has begun, this time involving the will of actor Heath Ledger, who died Jan. 22 at the age of 28. Ledger left behind a 2-year-old daughter, Matilda, but his will left his assets to his parents and siblings. His father and an independent executor have been handling Ledger’s affairs, and his uncles claim that may not be the wisest decision, as Ledger’s father was removed as executor of their grandfather’s estate 15 years ago.

Naming an executor for your will (or trustee for your trust) is not a way to reward or punish a friend or relative. While it requires no specific legal expertise, the position does require perseverance in making sure creditors of the estate are paid and the ability to deal with forms and the bureaucrats who thrive on them. In choosing an executor, you are essentially hiring someone to ensure that your estate is settled in the manner you wished, as promptly as possible and with the least tax consequences.

An executor is entitled to payment from the estate assets, however, a friend or family member will often waive this fee. That cost savings leads many individuals to choose the friends-and-family route rather than hiring a professional, such as an attorney or accountant. A better basis for the decision may be the amount of contention you anticipate among your heirs. If you expect some relatives to be disgruntled with the decisions laid out in your will, an objective third-party may be worth the cost. Additionally, if settling your affairs will involve operating a business until it is sold or new leadership has been named, an institution such as a bank may be a better choice than a family member.

As Ledger’s situation illustrates, your will should be updated after significant events like the birth of a child. For many people, this task winds up on the get-around-to-it list. If that sounds like you, consider reviewing your will on a certain date each year. If you wish, we can make this a part of your regular portfolio or financial plan review. We can even include other family members or your executor. Call our office any time for an appointment.

* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks. NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged, market-weighted index of all over-the-counter common stocks traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System. The Morgan Stanley Capital International Europe, Australia and Far East Index (MSCI EAFE Index) is a widely recognized benchmark of non-U.S. stock markets. It is an unmanaged index composed of a sample of companies representative of the market structure of 20 European and Pacific Basin countries and includes reinvestment of all dividends. WMCSAI# 272577