This summer, the moving companies -- those that do longer-range, interstate work -- will be operating under new rules.
Actually, they'll be operating under fewer rules as the whole trucking industry becomes deregulated. When the airline industry was deregulated, you saw heavier competition and a whole list of low-cost fares.
You're going to see the same kind of thing happening with moving companies. In the past, the interstate moving companies were not allowed to offer a firm, fixed-price bid. They could only offer you an estimate. Later, after they weighed your truckload of belongings they could raise the price, if necessary.
And, if they encountered special difficulties at the other end, they could tack on extra fees. All this meant you might end up paying a good deal more than you anticipated.
So, now, under the new rules, moving companies are allowed to offer a guaranteed, firm price bid. What you see is what you pay. No surprises. Because they're not required to offer firm-price bids, some moving companies do and some don't.
As of this writing, Bekins is offering this feature on a national basis. United and North American Van Lines are offering it on a regional basis and may soon offer it nationally.
Some local or regional companies are also offering firm-price bids for interstate moves so it pays to shop around. In the past, it didn't really pay to shop because all the companies had to charge a fixed price based on the weight of the load and the distance.
Now, they can compete for your business. By estimating on the low side, a company can get your bid and be locked into the price quoted. Previously, they could bid low, get your job, and then hike the price later on. It's called "lowballing."
The interstate movers are also allowed to offer special discounts now. Red Ball gives a 5 percent discount to people who are age 60 or above and Interstate wil give 10 percent off if you pay the full amount 15 days before the move.
And, for the first time, moving companies are allowed to offer a guaranteed delivery date for an additional fee. If they are late, they pay you a refund. d
For example, Bekins will pay $100 for every day over the specified delivery date and Interstate will pay 25 percent off the bill every day over the deadline (up to the point of getting a free move).
The companies are also now allowed to offer full-replacement-cost insurance to cover lost or damaged belongings. Previously, they could only pay off on depreciated values and this caused all kinds of rows between shippers and the companies. You have to pay an additional fee for this replacement-value insurance, but a lot of customers seem to feel it's worth the peace of mind.
You must remember that a local move within your state or metropolitan area (even if a state line is crossed) is not governed by the interstate moving rules. Local rules are applied and you can find out what's going on by getting in touch with your local consumer protection office.
In general, on a local move, you can choose between a fixed price or paying by the hour. Pick the fixed price. It makes it easier to compare bids.
And be sure to get the price, the delivery date and all liability details down in writing in a contract.
Q. You should tell people how to make a holographic will so they can save money. You keep telling people to have an attorney do it. What's wrong with writing the will in your own hand and keeping the lawyer's fees?
A. In certain instances, in some states you can write a will in your own hand and it becomes a binding document. But, this hand-written or "holographic" will can present some serious problems.
First off, some states will not allow a handwritten or "holographic" will that is not properly witnessed. So, you have to find out what is possible in your state.
Secondly, you might want certain heirs to get certain property but don't state your intentions in the correct, legalistic gobbledygook. In this case, the will may become invalid or your intentions otherwise frustrated.
In many states, you can have a will typed up nice and neat and have the prescribed number of witnesses attest to the fact that it is your own document. This can make a will valid without the need of an attorney.
If you do a will in your own handwriting, it must clearly state that it is your last will and testament and there can be no other writing on the page.