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posted: 12/7/2012 5:37 AM

About real estate: U.S. Job corps offers free training to millions

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Nearly 3 million Americans have learned construction-related skills or studied other professions in the Job Corps, a free program available to low-income youths between the ages of 16 and 24.

Q. Do you know anything about the Job Corps? A deacon at my church says it would be a good choice for my 16-year-old boy, who dropped out of school (against my wishes!) but has a knack for fixing stuff. I am a single parent with three children and a deadbeat ex-husband, so I can't afford to send him to an expensive trade school.

A. I am quite familiar with the Job Corps. It's one of the few government-run programs that really works, and your son might be an outstanding candidate.

Most people don't know about the federally funded Job Corps, but it has been around for nearly a half-century. I volunteer my time at my local center. Retired boxer George Foreman is a spokesman for the group, and arguably its most famous graduate.

Job Corps instructors team with labor unions and the nonprofit Home Builders Institute to provide hands-on training and certificates in a variety of construction-related trades, from carpentry and plumbing, to electrical work and bricklaying. Training also is offered in 100 other professions, including food preparation and nursing.

It doesn't cost anything to enroll in Job Corps, but applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 24 and come from a low-income family. Most students actually live at the 125 Job Corps centers that are scattered across the country, but some simply go to their classes and workshops during the day and then return to their families at night.

The food, shelter, medical and dental services that each center provides also are free. Most students earn a modest stipend while they are enrolled, and many qualify for a "readjustment allowance" to help them make ends meet after they graduate and begin looking for work.

Importantly, all students are given the help they need to simultaneously earn their high-school diploma or the equivalent, as well as job-placement help when they graduate -- typically in seven to 12 months.

You can find out more about the Job Corps by calling the organization at (800) 733-5627 or by visiting its website, jobcorps.gov.

Q. I served in the Marines for eight years before leaving in January. I eventually want to buy a house with a no-money-down VA mortgage, but I'm not quite ready yet. Do I have to use my eligibility within a certain period of time, or will it never expire?

A. There is no time limit on your ability to get a loan backed by the Veterans Affairs. If you received an honorable discharge and can meet the program's other requirements, you can get a low-rate VA loan with no down payment even if you wait for decades.

You can get more information about the VA's home-loan program by calling the agency at (800) 827-1000 or by visiting va.gov. And as we approach Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, a grateful nation thanks you for your service.

Q. I am finally getting around to writing a will. When I'm done, will I be required to file it with the local probate court?

A. No. You certainly should put copies of it in a safe place -- many choose to put one in a bank safety-deposit box, and leave another with their attorney -- but you don't have to file it with a local court or other government entity.

Instead, the person who has physical possession of the will document after you die will have to file it with the court and will face a stiff fine or possibly even a jail sentence if he or she doesn't.

Once the will is filed, it becomes a matter of public record, and everyone can see it. The information will include all of your assets and debts, as well as specifics concerning which of your heirs will get which of your assets. That can cause problems, especially if a sue-happy relative or other acquaintance feels like he or she has been shortchanged and files a lawsuit to contest the will's validity.

Forming an inexpensive living trust instead of using a basic will can avoid such problems. That's because a trust is considered a private document -- not unlike a love letter you may have once written to a sweetheart -- and therefore never has to be filed with the court before or after your death. This means that your estate will get to avoid the long and costly probate process and will be less likely to be attacked by bickering heirs or reviewed by nosy neighbors.

Real estate trivia: About 39 percent of all sales today involve first-time buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. They earn an average of $78,600 per year.

• For the booklet "Straight Talk About Living Trusts," send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405. All net proceeds will be contributed to the Wounded Warrior Project to help injured veterans and their families.

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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