Lighthouse on the River

Financial Tools

Calculators

Cash Flow Analysis – This Cash Flow Analysis form will help you weigh your income vs. your expenses.

Estate Taxes – Use this calculator to estimate the federal estate taxes that could be due on your estate after you die.

Federal Income Tax – This calculator can help you estimate your annual federal income tax liability.

Home Affordability – Estimate of the maximum amount of financing you can expect to get when you begin house hunting.

Life Expectancy – Knowing your likely life expectancy is an important factor in making long-term financial plans.

Lifetime Earnings – This calculator is designed to help you attach a dollar figure to your life's work.

Loan Payoff – How much will it cost to pay off a loan over its lifetime?

Long-Term Care Self Insurance – Will you be able to afford nursing home care?/strong>

Mortgage Acceleration – This calculator can help you determine how soon you can pay off your mortgage.

Mortgage Refinancing – Determine whether you should consider refinancing your mortgage.

Personal Inflation Rate – Is your personal inflation rate higher or lower than the CPI?

Savings Accumulation – Estimate the future value of your current savings.

Savings Goals – How much do you need to save each year to meet your long-term financial goals?

E-Seminars

Income...Your Way – Longevity Risk Planning for the 21st Century

Flipbooks

Financial Management Insight: Strategies to Help Build Your Future – The decisions you make about money form the basis for your financial future and can help you pursue your goals.

Financial Protection: Using Insurance to Help Manage Life's Risks – Home, auto, life, disability — Protect your financial interests by having the appropriate insurance coverage.

Time to Get Tax-Savvy: Managing Your Tax Burden – Understanding tax rules and spotting tax-saving opportunities might help you put the money to better use.

Wealth Preservation: Planning to Leave a Legacy – An estate planning strategy could increase the value of your estate and help avoid potential conflicts and delays.

Research Articles

Do I Need Disability Income Insurance?

Although most of us are aware of the need for health insurance coverage when determining our risk management needs, many of us fail to consider the possibility that we could become disabled. A disability income insurance policy can help replace income lost because of an injury or illness. Few people would have an adequate “war chest” for an extended battle with a loss of income.

Unfortunately, many of us will need disability income protection before we retire. Without the appropriate coverage, a disability could spell financial disaster.

Disability at any age can disrupt income while medical expenses mount. Unless you have a battle plan, the effects of even a short-term disability could be financially debilitating and emotionally devastating.

Disability Protection

In the event that you become disabled and are unable to work, the benefits provided by disability insurance can help replace a portion of your earned income.

The appropriate amount of disability coverage will depend on your particular situation. However, there are a few issues you may want to consider.

First, consider carrying enough coverage to replace at least 60% of your earnings. Many companies limit benefits to between 50% and 80% from all sources of disability income prior to the disability. This would mean, for example, that the amount of any Social Security disability payments you receive could be deducted from your benefit amount.

If you are concerned about the cost of a private disability insurance policy, consider extending the waiting period, which is the time between the onset of the disability and when you start receiving benefits. Choosing a 90-day or 180-day waiting period (instead of 30 days) may help lower your premium.

Be sure to compare and review policy benefits carefully. Disability insurance can be an affordable way to help protect your assets in the event of a disability.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Are the Pitfalls of Probate?

Have you ever wondered what will happen to your estate after you die? How long will it take for your loved ones to receive the estate you've left them? Will each receive what you'd like them to have?

If you're like most people, your estate will go through a lengthy probate process.

Probate consists of the court proceedings that conclude all your legal and financial matters after your death. The probate court distributes your estate according to your wishes — if you left a valid will — and acts as a neutral forum in which to settle any disputes that may arise over your estate.

The probate process we have today is based largely on the medieval English legal system. In feudal times, only powerful families owned land. These large estates were normally passed down from father to son. This transfer was naturally a matter of great political consequence, and thus of great interest to the king. So the proceedings were made formal, complicated, and costly.

Over the years, while much of the legal system has been made easier and more accessible, the probate process has remained lengthy and complex.

There are a number of problems with the probate process that make it worth avoiding.

The probate process can take a great deal of time. It often takes a few months to a year or more. Complex or contested estates can take much longer. With few exceptions, your heirs will have to wait until probate is concluded to receive the bulk of their inheritance.

Probate costs vary depending on the state in which probate is carried out. Though all states require the payment of court fees (which may only be a few hundred dollars), attorney fees could add significantly to the total cost. Typically, attorney fees are based on what is reasonable for the required tasks. These fees can rise significantly if the will is contested or when other extraordinary issues arise.

Of course, all the probate court's “help” with your affairs comes at a price. Probate can be very expensive.

Depending on the state, probate and administrative fees can consume between 6 and 10 percent of your estate.1 That percentage is calculated before any deductions or liens are taken out.

The proceedings of the probate courts are a matter of public record. Anyone with the time and inclination can go to the county courthouse and find out exactly how much you left to each heir and to whom you owed money. This leaves your heirs with little or no privacy.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to help avoid the probate process altogether. A trust may enable you to pass your estate on to your heirs without ever going through probate at all. While trusts offer numerous advantages, they incur upfront costs and ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisers before implementing such strategies.

Proper estate planning could enable you to pass your estate to your loved ones privately, without undue delay or expense.

Source:
1) LegalZoom.com

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What are some tips for managing my money?

As with virtually all financial matters, the easiest way to be successful with a cash management program is to develop a systematic and disciplined approach. Spending a few minutes each week to maintain your cash management program, can help you keep track of how you spend your money and pursue your financial goals.

Any good cash management system revolves around the four A's — Accounting, Analysis, Allocation, and Adjustment.

Accounting quite simply involves gathering all your relevant financial information together and keeping it close at hand for future reference. Gathering all your financial information — such as income and expenses — and listing it systematically will give you a clear picture of your financial situation.

Analysis boils down to reviewing your financial situation once you have accounted for all your income and expenses. You will almost invariably find yourself with either a shortfall or a surplus. Ideally, you should be spending less than you earn. One of the key elements in analyzing your financial situation is to look for ways to reduce your expenses. This can help to free up cash that can either be invested for the long term or used to pay off fixed debt.

For example, if you were to reduce restaurant expenses or spending on non-essential personal items by $100 per month, you could use this extra money to prepay the principal on your mortgage. On a $130,000 30-year mortgage, this extra $100 per month could enable you to pay it off 10 years early and save you thousands of dollars in interest payments.

Allocation involves determining your financial commitments and priorities and distributing your income accordingly. One of the most important factors in allocation is to distinguish between your real needs and your wants. If you need to reduce your expenses, you may want to start out by cutting back on your discretionary spending. This can help free up cash that can either be invested for the long term or used to pay off fixed debt.

Adjustment involves reviewing your income and expenses periodically and making changes when necessary. Above all, be flexible. Any budget that is too rigid is likely to fail.

Using the four A's is an excellent way to monitor your financial situation to help ensure that you are on the right track to meet your financial goals.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How can my gift benefit me and the charity?

Giving basics

You're free to give almost any type of property to whatever organization you choose. But in order to retain the tax benefits associated with charitable giving, contributions need to be made to qualifying tax-exempt organizations that have been organized in the United States and meet certain criteria. In addition to common charitable organizations that operate exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, or educational purposes, you may give to veterans' posts, certain fraternal orders, volunteer fire departments, and civil defense organizations but not politically active groups.

The income tax deduction for your charitable gift will be determined in part by the type of property you give and the type of entity receiving it.

With an outright gift, you might receive an immediate income tax deduction that could equal the value of your gift, up to certain limits. You can carry forward any gift amount that exceeds these limits for up to five years. Noncash gifts are more restrictive.

In addition to outright gifts, planned giving offers a way to make larger gifts than you might otherwise be able to do. For example, by donating highly appreciated assets (such as stocks) during your lifetime, you may be able to help reduce or avoid paying capital gains taxes, thus potentially enhancing the value of your gift to the charitable organization and increasing your tax savings.

More gifting strategies

A gift of life insurance enables you to donate more than you might currently have available and results in a larger future gift to the charitable organization. If the charity is named as owner and beneficiary of the policy, you can receive an income tax deduction for the premiums you pay, within certain limits.

With a charitable lead trust, you (as grantor) place money or income-producing assets in the trust. The income generated from the assets is donated to the charitable organization for the duration of the trust. At the end of the trust period, the remaining assets are paid to you or to your heirs. This can help reduce, or in some cases even eliminate, estate taxes on appreciated assets that are eventually transferred to your heirs.

Using a charitable remainder trust, you (as donor or grantor) donate property to the trust, naming the charitable organization as beneficiary, and you receive regular payments from the trust for a specific number of years or your lifetime. You are generally taxed on distributions to you from the trust. You may also qualify for a current income tax deduction on the estimated present value of the remainder interest that will eventually go to charity. And even though you cannot take your gift back once it's in the trust, you can change the charity that will eventually receive your gift.

Giving strategically can benefit both you and the charitable organization you choose, and could potentially benefit your heirs. A properly planned gift might enable you to realign your investment portfolio, help diversify your holdings, increase your cash flow — and help leave a greater legacy.

Whatever gifting strategy you choose, planned giving can be very rewarding. It's wonderful to see your gift at work and to receive tax benefits as well.

While trusts offer numerous advantages, they incur up-front costs and ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You might consider enlisting the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisors before implementing such strategies.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How Can I Benefit from a Charitable Lead Trust?

Charitable lead trusts are designed for people who would like to benefit a charity now rather than later. You may have heard about some charitable trust strategies before but decided against them because you wanted to make an immediate gift to charity.

With a charitable lead trust, your gift can have an immediate impact, and you'll be entitled to other benefits as well. These trusts enable you to take advantage of tax benefits and still make a significant gift.

If you are accustomed to making outright contributions to your favorite charity, or if you typically sell an investment and give all or a portion of the money to charity, you may be attracted to the special advantages of using a charitable trust.

Avoiding capital gains taxes on an appreciated asset is a very appealing benefit for investors. It is also a way for charitable organizations to receive a much larger donation because they are not required to pay tax on capital gains. Once the trust is established and the assets are transferred, the trustee can then sell the assets and reinvest the funds.

If you structure the trust as a grantor charitable lead trust, you will be taxed as the owner for federal income tax purposes even though you don't receive the income yourself. You will receive an immediate charitable income tax deduction based on the present value of your gift. Basically, the trust is giving payments to the charity for the duration of the trust but you don't relinquish ownership of the assets. Your income tax deduction will be based on the payments to charity, the duration of the trust, and the IRS interest rate and tables used in the calculation. Your write-off may be limited to a portion of adjusted gross income but can be carried forward to future years.

With a charitable lead trust, the income from the reinvested assets will then go to the charity. The charity will receive distributions for the duration of the trust. You may specify that the trust last for a set number of years or the life of you or someone else. At the end of this period, the remaining assets are paid to you or your beneficiaries, for example.

A charitable lead trust may also help reduce family squabbles over an inheritance. If you were to actually gift the asset to the charity upon your death, your heirs may feel somewhat cheated. By giving income to the charity during your lifetime and having the remaining assets paid to your beneficiaries upon your death, you may avoid much of this potential controversy.

If you are interested in increasing your gift to a charity and your tax benefits during your lifetime, a charitable lead trust may enable you to accomplish your goals.

By taking the time to plan your charitable gifts, you may be able to take advantage of some special tax benefits and make charitable giving a real win-win situation.

While trusts offer numerous advantages, they incur up-front costs and ongoing administrative fees.The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You might consider enlisting the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisors before implementing such strategies.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How Can I Benefit from a Charitable Remainder Trust?

Sometimes it takes tough economic times and natural disasters to unite and bring out the best in people. Natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes have served to bring communities together and impact the nation as a whole. Americans have given generously to rebuild communities and help local residents through these difficult situations.

Many people have also responded to tragedies worldwide or have made donations to wildlife and environmental charities. And when we give, most of us simply give from the heart and do not always consider the financial implications.

In many instances, there are ways to enhance the value of your gifts. The charity can receive a more substantial gift and you can increase your tax benefits. The charitable remainder trust is a popular estate planning strategy that could enable you to gift an appreciated property or security and retain an interest income for you and your family.

Once your gift is put in a charitable trust, you may qualify for an income tax deduction on the estimated present value of the remainder interest that will eventually go to charity. Neither party will owe taxes on this transfer or upon the appreciation of the asset. The trust will usually sell the asset and reinvest the proceeds in an income-producing investment. You can receive this income in exchange for gifting the ownership of the asset to the charity.

You will then need to decide how you would like to receive income. You can receive either a percentage of the value of the trust or a fixed amount. With a percentage allocation, your income will vary based on the current value of the trust. You can also specify that payments will be made only from income, if that is less than the unitrust amount in any year. You can also provide a “make-up” clause. If the trust is not able to provide the designated income for one year, the shortfall will be made up from income in a later year.

Trusts that provide a fixed amount each year will not be able to take advantage of future growth or higher earnings of the asset, but they do offer consistent income even in a stagnating market.

Choosing a trustee and clearly stating your intentions in the trust document and to the trustee are of vital importance. Once the trust is in place, it is an irrevocable instrument. Even if the charity does not receive any benefit for several decades, it will eventually assume ownership. In the meantime, the trustee is in charge of controlling the assets in the trust. Choose someone who knows how to handle financial matters and who will carry out your intentions.

A charitable remainder trust may allow you to make a substantial gift to charity, avoid capital gains tax, and provide regular income for you and your family. A noncharitable beneficiary is generally taxed on distributions.

While trusts offer numerous advantages, they incur upfront costs and ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You might consider enlisting the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisors before implementing such strategies.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How Long Will It Take to Double My Money?

Before making any investment decision, one of the key elements you face is working out the real rate of return on your investment.

Compound interest is critical to investment growth. Whether your financial portfolio consists solely of a deposit account at your local bank or a series of highly leveraged investments, your rate of return is dramatically improved by the compounding factor.

With simple interest, interest is paid just on the principal. With compound interest, the return that you receive on your initial investment is automatically reinvested. In other words, you receive interest on the interest.

But just how quickly does your money grow? The easiest way to work that out is by using what's known as the “Rule of 72.”1 Quite simply, the “Rule of 72” enables you to determine how long it will take for the money you've invested on a compound interest basis to double. You divide 72 by the interest rate to get the answer.

For example, if you invest $10,000 at 10 percent compound interest, then the “Rule of 72” states that in 7.2 years you will have $20,000. You divide 72 by 10 percent to get the time it takes for your money to double. The “Rule of 72” is a rule of thumb that gives approximate results. It is most accurate for hypothetical rates between 5 and 20 percent.

While compound interest is a great ally to an investor, inflation is one of the greatest enemies. The “Rule of 72” can also highlight the damage that inflation can do to your money.

Let's say you decide not to invest your $10,000 but hide it under your mattress instead. Assuming an inflation rate of 4.5 percent, in 16 years your $10,000 will have lost half of its value.

The real rate of return is the key to how quickly the value of your investment will grow. If you are receiving 10 percent interest on an investment but inflation is running at 4 percent, then your real rate of return is 6 percent. In such a scenario, it will take your money 12 years to double in value.

The “Rule of 72” is a quick and easy way to determine the value of compound interest over time. By taking the real rate of return into consideration (nominal interest less inflation), you can see how soon a particular investment will double the value of your money.

The Rule of 72 is a mathematical concept, and the hypothetical return illustrated is not representative of a specific investment. Also note that the principal and yield of securities will fluctuate with changes in market conditions so that the shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.The Rule of 72 does not include adjustments for income or tEquitabletion. It assumes that interest is compounded annually. Actual results will vary.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What key estate planning tools should I know about?

By taking steps in advance, you have a greater say in how these questions are answered. And isn't that how it should be?

Wills and trusts are two of the most popular estate planning tools. Both allow you to spell out how you would like your property to be distributed, but they also go far beyond that.

Just about everyone needs a will. Besides enabling you to determine the distribution of your property, a will gives you the opportunity to nominate your executor and guardians for your minor children. If you fail to make such designations through your will, the decisions will probably be left to the courts. Bear in mind that property distributed through your will is subject to probate, which can be a time-consuming and costly process.

Trusts differ from wills in that they are actual legal entities. Like a will, trusts spell out how you want your property distributed. Trusts let you customize the distribution of your estate with the added advantages of property management and probate avoidance. While trusts offer numerous advantages, they incur up-front costs and ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisors before implementing such strategies.

Wills and trusts are not mutually exclusive. While not everyone with a will needs a trust, all those with trusts should have a will as well.

Incapacity poses almost as much of a threat to your financial well-being as death does. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you cope with this threat.

A durable power of attorney is a legal agreement that avoids the need for a conservatorship and enables you to designate who will make your legal and financial decisions if you become incapacitated. Unlike the standard power of attorney, durable powers remain valid if you become incapacitated.

Similar to the durable power of attorney, a health-care proxy is a document in which you designate someone to make health-care decisions for you if you are incapacitated. The person you designate can generally make decisions regarding medical facilities, medical treatments, surgery, and a variety of other health-care issues. Much like the durable power of attorney, the health-care proxy involves some important decisions. Take the utmost care when choosing who will make them.

A related document, the living will, also known as a directive to physicians or a health-care directive, spells out the kinds of life-sustaining treatment you will permit in the event of your incapacity.The decision for or against life support is one that only you can make. That makes the living will a valuable estate planning tool. And you may use a living will in conjunction with a durable health-care power of attorney. Bear in mind that laws governing the recognition and treatment of living wills may vary from state to state.

Estate Planning Tip

Keep all your important financial and legal information in a central file for your executor. Be sure to include:

  • Letters of instruction
  • Medical records
  • Bank/brokerage statements
  • Income and gift tax returns
  • Insurance policies
  • Titles and deeds
  • Will and trust documents

 

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

History of the federal estate tax

The history of estate taxes in America has been a long and winding road. Careful estate planning is still one of the most important ways to manage and protect your assets for your heirs.

The Stamp Act of 1797 was the first federal estate tax in the United States and was passed to help fund an undeclared war with France; it was repealed in 1802. The Revenue Act of 1862 reinstated the estate tax in order to fund the Civil War; it was abolished in 1870. To finance the Spanish American War, the War Revenue Act of 1898 was passed, and subsequently abolished in 1902. Due to the costs of World War I, the Revenue Act of 1916 reinstated an estate tax that, in some form or other, has been in effect ever since.

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 gradually increased the federal estate tax exemption, until finally repealing the federal estate tax altogether for the 2010 tax year only. The Tax Relief Act of 2010 reinstated the federal estate tax with a $5 million exemption, indexing the exemption for inflation after 2011. The provisions of the Tax Relief Act of 2010 expired on December 31, 2012.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 increased the federal estate tax rate from 35% to 40%, but left in place the higher exemption level, which reached $5.49 million in 2017 (up from $5.45 million in 2016); both provisions are now permanent. It also left in place the “portability” of any unused exemption between spouses.

The latest major piece of tax legislation is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on December 22, 2017. This Act doubled the federal estate tax exclusion to $11.18 million in 2018 (indexed annually for inflation) while retaining the 40% tax rate. In 2026, the exclusion is scheduled to revert to its pre-2018 level.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How can a living trust help me control my estate?

Living trusts enable you to control the distribution of your estate, and certain trusts may enable you to reduce or avoid many of the taxes and fees that will be imposed upon your death.

A trust is a legal arrangement under which one person, the trustee, controls property given by another person, the trustor, for the benefit of a third person, the beneficiary. When you establish a revocable living trust, you are allowed to be the trustor, the trustee, and the beneficiary of that trust.

When you set up a living trust, you transfer ownership of all the assets you'd like to place in the trust from yourself to the trust. Legally, you no longer own any of the assets in your trust. Your trust now owns these assets. But, as the trustee, you maintain complete control. You can buy or sell as you see fit. You can even give assets away.

Upon your death, assuming that you have transferred all your assets to the revocable trust, there isn't anything to probate because the assets are held in the trust. Therefore, properly established living trusts completely avoid probate. If you use a living trust, your estate will be available to your heirs upon your death, without any of the delays or expensive court proceedings that accompany the probate process.

There are some trust strategies that serve very specific estate needs. One of the most widely used is a living trust with an A-B trust provision. The purpose of an A-B trust arrangement (also called a "marital and bypass trust combination”) is to enable both spouses to use the applicable estate tax exemption upon their deaths, which shelters more assets from federal estate taxes.

Before enactment of the 2010 Tax Relief Act and the higher federal estate tax exemption (which increased to $5.49 million in 2017 as a result of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012), some estate planning was involved to ensure that both spouses could take full advantage of their combined estate tax exemptions. The latest major piece of tax legislation is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on December 22, 2017. This Act doubled the federal estate tax exclusion to $11.18 million in 2018 (indexed annually for inflation). In 2026, the exclusion is scheduled to revert to its pre-2018 level. Typically, it involved creation of an A-B trust arrangement. Now that portability is permanent, it's possible for the executor of a deceased spouse's estate to transfer any unused exemption to the surviving spouse without creating a trust.

Even so, 18 states and the District of Columbia still have their own estate and/or inheritance taxes, many have exemptions or exclusions of less than the federal exemption amount, and only one (Hawaii) has a portability provision.1 By funding a bypass trust up to the state exemption amount, you could shelter the first spouse's exemption amount from the state estate tax.

Thus, A-B trusts may still be useful, not only to preserve the couple's state estate tax exemptions but also to shelter appreciation of assets placed in the trust, protect the assets from creditors, and benefit children from a previous marriage. In most cases, however, when couples have combined estate assets of $22.36 million or less in 2018, they might be better off just leaving everything outright to each other.

A living trust with an A-B trust provision can help ensure that a couple takes full advantage of the estate tax exemption for both spouses. When the first spouse dies, two separate trusts are created. An amount of estate assets up to the applicable exemption amount is placed in the B trust (or bypass trust). The balance is placed in the surviving spouse's A trust (or marital trust), which qualifies for the estate tax marital deduction. This then creates two taxation entities, each of which is entitled to use the exemption.

The B trust is included in the taxation estate when the first spouse dies. But because it doesn't exceed the estate tax exempted amount, no estate taxes will actually be paid. The surviving spouse retains complete control of the assets in the A trust. He or she can also receive income from the B trust and can even withdraw principal when needed for health, education, support, or maintenance.

Upon the death of the second spouse, only the A trust is subject to estate taxes because the B trust bypasses the second spouse's estate. If the assets in the A trust don't exceed the applicable exemption amount, no estate taxes are owed. At this point, both trusts terminate and the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries, completely avoiding probate.

While trusts offer numerous advantages, they incur up-front costs and ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You should consider the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisors before implementing such strategies.

Source: 1)
Forbes, 2017

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

Am I Prepared for Long-Term Care Expenses?

In general, Americans are not sufficiently prepared to pay for long-term care. Many of them go through their lives simply hoping that they won't ever need it. Unfortunately, in the event that you or a loved one does need long-term care, hope won't be enough to protect you from potential financial ruin.

Self-insurance as an option

To self-insure — that is, to cover the cost yourself — you must have sufficient income to pay the rising costs of long term care. Keep in mind that even if you have sufficient resources to afford long-term care now, you may not be able to handle rising future costs without drastically altering your lifestyle.

The Medicaid option

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that covers medical bills for the needy. If you qualify, it may help pay for your long-term care costs. Unfortunately, Medicaid is basically welfare. In order to qualify, you generally have to have few assets or will need to spend down your assets. State law determines the allowable income and resource limits. If you have even one dollar of income or assets in excess of these limits, you may not be eligible for Medicaid.

To receive Medicaid assistance, you may have to transfer your assets to meet those limits. This can be tricky, however, because there are tough laws designed to discourage asset transfers for the purpose of qualifying for Medicaid. If you have engaged in any “Medicaid planning,” consult an advisor to discuss any new Medicaid rules.

Long-term care insurance

A long-term care insurance policy may enable you to transfer a portion of the economic liability of long-term care to an insurance company in exchange for the regular premiums. Long-term care insurance may be used to help pay for skilled care, intermediate care, and custodial care. Most policies pay for nursing home care, and comprehensive policies may also cover home care services and assisted living. Insurance can help protect your family financially from the potentially devastating cost of a long-term disabling medical condition, chronic illness, or cognitive impairment.

A complete statement of coverage, including exclusions, exceptions, and limitations, is found only in the policy.

Long-term care riders on life insurance

A number of insurance companies have added long-term care riders to their life insurance contracts. For an additional fee, these riders will provide a benefit — usually a percentage of the face value — to help cover the cost of long-term care. This may be an option for you.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How Likely Am I to Need Long-Term Care?

If you were to suffer an illness or disability that required long-term nursing care, would you be covered?

Maybe not. The vast majority of Americans go through their lives reassuring themselves that it will never happen to them. However, if past trends continue, the average 65-year-old woman can expect to spend 30 percent of her remaining life with a disability that prevents her from leading a fully active life. While the average 65-year-old man can expect to spend 19 percent of his life with a disability.1

That means it could very well happen to you. And while nursing home costs vary from area to area, the average cost of a one-year stay in a private room in a nursing home in 2017 is $97,455.2

Medicaid, the joint federal and state program that covers medical bills for the needy, pays a substantial portion of long-term-care costs but usually only for those who are impoverished.

And Medicare is not paying much of the cost of long-term care. That’s why the elderly should not rely on Medicare for their long-term-care needs.

Clearly, long-term-care costs pose a real problem for the elderly and their families. Long-term-care insurance can help preserve your accumulated wealth and provide coverage in the event you need long-term care. This can go far in helping to address financial need during retirement.

Sources:
1) BenefitsPro.com, March 21, 2016;
2) 2017 Cost of Care Survey, Genworth Financial, Inc.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How Will I Pay Estate Taxes?

Estate taxes. It’s not enough to simply know they exist and to know strategies to minimize them. When it comes down to it, you need to plan how you and your family will eventually pay them.

The Estate Tax Dilemma

Estate taxes are generally due nine months after the date of death. And they are due in cash. In addition to estate taxes, there may be final expenses, probate costs, administrative fees, and a variety of other costs. How can you be sure the money will be there when it’s needed?

Estate Tax Options

There are four main sources of funds to pay estate taxes. First, your current savings and investments. You or your survivors can use savings and investments to cover the costs of estate taxes, probate fees, and other expenses. This is often a sound alternative. However, sometimes savings and investments may not be sufficient. And if those savings were earmarked for other financial goals, you may need to rethink how you will achieve those goals.

Another option would be to borrow the money. Unfortunately, with this option you not only have to pay the estate taxes, but you or your survivors will be forced to pay interest on the amount borrowed to pay estate taxes. Remember to consider how your family’s credit standing will be affected by a death in the family.

The third option involves liquidation. If estate taxes are larger than the cash available to pay them, you or your heirs may have to sell valuable assets such as the family home, the family business, or other assets. Hopefully, they will sell for what they’re worth. In many cases, however, they don’t.

The fourth option — one that is often a prudent way to pay estate taxes — is life insurance.

What Can Life Insurance Provide?

Life insurance can provide a timely death benefit, in cash, that can be used to pay estate taxes and other costs. And it will be paid directly to the beneficiary of the policy, without being subject to the time and expense of probate.

Granted, life insurance does require premium payments. However, if appropriate to your situation, life insurance premiums can be looked at as a systematic way of funding future estate taxes. You get guaranteed liquidity and a death benefit that is generally free of federal income taxes. Indeed, the financial protection provided by life insurance can be invaluable to those who have the burden of paying estate taxes — your loved ones.

The cost and availability of life insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Before implementing a strategy involving insurance, it would be prudent to make sure you are insurable. As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have mortality and expense charges. In addition, if a policy is surrendered prematurely, there may be surrender charges and income tax implications. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing company. Before you take any specific action, be sure to seek professional advice.

Coping with estate taxes may be a difficult proposition for you or your survivors. When it comes to paying them, life insurance may be a strategy worth considering, and overlooking it could be costly.

An irrevocable life insurance trust can be used to keep the insurance proceeds from being subject to estate tax at your death. There are costs and expenses associated with the creation and operation of a trust.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is the Best Form of Property Ownership for Me?

In planning your estate, it is customary to consider wills and trusts (as well as intestacy) as a means of property distribution. As a matter of fact, the manner in which you hold title to your assets may supersede provisions contained in other transfer documents. Likewise, significant tax benefits can be gained (or lost) depending on the characterization of your property.

Let’s take a look at the general classifications of ownership.

Sole Ownership

Sole ownership occurs when someone owns a complete interest in property. Ownership is passed by the typical transfer documents, or by the laws of intestate succession. The complete interest is included in the estate of the decedent. Because of this, the beneficiary receives a full step-up in basis. This, in essence, brings the basis up to the fair market value at death, thereby eliminating a capital gain if the property is sold immediately after death.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancy exists when two or more persons share equal, undivided interests in property. Joint tenancy is not limited to spouses. Anyone can share joint interests, but there are tax benefits when this arrangement is shared only between husband and wife (qualified joint tenancy).

A joint property interest cannot be passed through traditional documents, such as a trust or a will. Ownership of a joint interest passes by “operation of law” to the surviving joint owner(s). Further, property held in joint tenancy will not be subject to probate.

Under qualified joint tenancy, half of the property is included in the first decedent’s estate. Because of this, the surviving spouse obtains a stepped-up basis only on the first decedent’s half of the property.

If any nonspouses participate in joint ownership, the entire value of the property is includable in the decedent's estate, reduced to the extent that the estate can prove that the surviving tenant(s) contributed to the cost of the property.

Another form of joint ownership — tenancy by the entirety — is similar to joint tenancy, but it can only be created between husband and wife. Unlike joint tenancy, an interest cannot be transferred without the consent of the spouse. Tenancy by the entirety is only recognized in certain states.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common provides an undivided interest in property between two or more people. Unlike other forms of joint ownership, however, these interests can be owned in different percentages.

A tenant in common can utilize the traditional transfer documents, but interest cannot be passed by operation of law.

Community Property

Under community property statutes, all property earned or acquired by either spouse while they are married is owned in equal shares by each spouse. The essential principle of community property is that the earnings of either husband or wife and the revenue from their community property belong not to the producer but to the community of the husband and wife.

For estate conservation purposes, there are no restrictions on how each spouse can give away his or her half of the community property. There is no law requiring one person to leave his or her half to the surviving spouse, although, of course, many do.

Currently, 9 states have community property laws: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. (Alaska adopted a community property system in 1998, but it is optional).

The amount includable in the estate of a decedent is based on his or her 50% of community property ownership. The beneficiary of the property interest receives a stepped-up basis on that portion of the property. The surviving spouse also receives a stepped-up basis on his or her 50% community property interest. It is important to remember that the beneficiary can be chosen by the decedent. This is in contrast to joint tenancy, under which the surviving joint tenant(s) automatically inherit the interest of the decedent.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Savings Alternatives Are Available?

As an investor, you know it’s important to have a portion of your holdings in savings. Opinions differ, but most financial professionals agree that adequate savings should form the basis of any sound investment strategy. There are a number of savings alternatives that could help you accumulate adequate savings and earn a reasonable rate of return.

Certificates of Deposit

Certificates of deposit are really just short-term loans to a bank, credit union, or savings and loan. They offer a moderate rate of return and relative safety because they are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000 per depositor, per federally insured institution, in interest and principal.

Asset Management Accounts

These accounts are much like checking accounts, except that they may be held by a brokerage instead of a bank. You can use your money to trade stocks and bonds and buy money market funds. Many brokerages will automatically sweep your earnings into a money market account.

Series EE Savings Bonds

For many years, when bonds were mentioned, people thought of U.S. savings bonds. Series EE savings bonds are sold in par values that range from $50 to $10,000 if purchased in paper form or from $50 to $5,000 if purchased electronically. Tax on the interest is deferred until maturity and may be eliminated if the proceeds are used to pay for a college education.

I Savings Bonds

These bonds are designed to offer protection from inflation. By linking the return of the bonds to an inflation index, the bonds are always guaranteed to earn a fixed rate above the inflation rate. They are a sort of hybrid between Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), which are issued as marketable securities, and EE bonds. I bonds can be purchased at banks where EE bonds are currently sold or electronically. They are available in $50, $75, $100, $200, $500, $1,000, and $5,000 denominations. You can purchase up to $5,000 per Social Security number per year.

Money Market Funds

In a money market fund, your investment is pooled with that of other investors. The resulting fund is invested in a diverse portfolio of short-term debt securities. Money market funds offer a high level of safety and moderate income.

Money market funds are neither insured nor guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in money market funds.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

Interest-Bearing Checking Accounts

These accounts combine the interest-earning capability of a savings account with the check-writing convenience of a checking account. They are offered through many banks, savings and loans, and credit unions. Some charge a fee if you fail to maintain a minimum balance.

Treasury Bills

Treasury bills are literally short-term loans to the federal government. They are sold at a discount from their face value in maturities of three months, six months, and one year. The interest on Treasury bills is exempt from state and local income taxes. Treasury bills are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. The principal value will fluctuate with changes in market conditions; if not held to maturity, T-bills may be worth more or less than their original cost.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is Tax Deferral?

“Tax deferral” is a method of postponing the payment of income tax on currently earned investment income until the investor withdraws funds from the account. Tax deferral is encouraged by the government to stimulate long-term saving and investment, especially for retirement.

Only investment vehicles designated as “tax deferred,” such as IRAs, plans covering self-employed persons, and 401(k)s, allow taxes to be deferred. In addition, many insurance-related vehicles, such as deferred annuities and certain life insurance contracts, provide tax-deferred benefits.

There is a substantial benefit to deferring taxes as long as possible, because this allows the entire principal and any accumulated earnings to compound tax deferred. The compounding effect can be dramatic over an extended period of time and can make a big difference in the accumulation of a retirement nest egg.

Additionally, investments in tax-deferred vehicles are often made when you are earning a higher income and subject to a higher tax rate. When you reach retirement and begin taking distributions from your tax-deferred accounts, it is possible that your tax bracket will be lower.

One note of caution: When formulating your tax plan, recognize that all withdrawals from tax-deferred plans are taxed as ordinary income. Early withdrawals (prior to age 59½) may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Once again, the government is encouraging a long-term outlook.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

United States Tax History

American tax law is a constantly changing landscape. The latest major piece of tax legislation is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on December 22, 2017, by President Donald Trump.

The 2017 law kept the 10% personal income tax rate and lowered the others to 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. It almost doubled the standard deduction, eliminated personal exemptions, and kept the long-term capital gains tax rates of 15% and 20%. In addition, the law limited the combined itemized deduction for state and local property taxes and local income taxes (or sales taxes in lieu of income) to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately). Qualifying mortgage interest can be deducted on up to $750,000 of mortgage debt ($375,000 if married filing separately); for debt incurred on or before December 15, 2017, the prior $1 million limit will apply. The law also nearly doubled the estate tax exemption but kept the federal estate tax rate at 40%. These tax law changes affecting individuals are scheduled to expire after 2025.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law on January 2, 2013, by President Barack Obama. It extended many of the provisions in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2010 and the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) of 2001.

The 2012 tax law extended indefinitely the federal income tax rates that had been in effect since 2003 (10% to 35%) and added a 39.6% rate that was in effect prior to enactment of the 2001 tax law. The law also extended the 0% and 15% tax rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends and added a 20% rate. The law also extended the federal estate tax provisions of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2010, with the exception that the top federal estate tax rate increased from 35% to 40%.

EGTRRA was signed into law by President George W. Bush on June 7, 2001. This bill provided the largest tax cut in two decades. Previous administrations have enacted other major tax packages. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration passed the Tax Reform Act of 1986. It not only reduced maximum tax rates and the number of federal income tax brackets but also eliminated many loopholes that existed in the tax code.

The Clinton administration also passed major tax legislation. The Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1993 eliminated some of the changes in the 1986 tax act and added two new federal income tax brackets to the existing three, with the top rate hitting 39.6%. The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 incorporated many reforms, including the reduction of long-term capital gains taxes and creation of the child and education tax credits, the Roth IRA, and the Education IRA, among other provisions.

Whenever major changes affect the tax law, there are potential ways that taxpayers can benefit their personal financial situations.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How can I benefit from a wealth replacement trust?

Charitable giving can be a rewarding experience by allowing you to both give and receive. To enjoy the benefits of charitable giving, you can utilize a variety of strategies.

The basics of charitable remainder trusts

To establish a charitable remainder trust, you transfer appreciated property to an irrevocable trust and designate the charity of your choice as the remainder beneficiary of the trust. The property in the trust is then sold and reinvested to provide income. You generally retain a lifetime interest in the income generated by the trust, and when the trust expires at your death, the remaining property in the trust is transferred to the charitable organization.

You are entitled to a current income tax deduction for the charitable gift, subject to certain limits. And because the property was sold within the charitable trust, you will not have to pay tax on any capital gains. (However, distributions you receive from the trust are generally subject to income tax.) This enables the full value of your property to be reinvested, which will increase the income generated by the trust. It also enables the charity to receive a larger gift.

If you have heirs, a charitable remainder trust has one major drawback: When the charitable trust terminates, the property in the trust is transferred to the charitable organization, rather than to family heirs. So while the charitable remainder trust offers many benefits, this strategy can effectively disinherit your heirs.

Replacing gifted assets

One effective solution to this situation could be a wealth replacement trust.

To create a wealth replacement trust, you use a portion of the income from a charitable remainder trust to buy a life insurance policy. You decide how much of the charitable gift to replace. You can buy enough insurance to replace only a portion of the property that will eventually pass to charity, or you may prefer to replace all of the property in the charitable remainder trust.

The wealth replacement trust is often designed so that upon the death of the second spouse, the life insurance death benefit goes to your heirs. These funds replace the property that passes to the charity from the charitable remainder trust.

And because the life insurance policy is owned by the trust, the proceeds of the policy will generally not be subject to estate taxes at either death.

An appropriate strategy?

If this strategy sounds interesting to you, there are a variety of considerations. The cost and availability of life insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have mortality and expense charges. In addition, if a policy is surrendered prematurely, there may be surrender charges and income tax implications. Before implementing this strategy, it would be prudent to make sure you are insurable.

In many cases, the wealth replacement trust could be an appropriate way to preserve family wealth.

While trusts offer numerous advantages, they incur up-front costs and ongoing administrative fees. The use of trusts involves a complex web of tax rules and regulations. You might consider enlisting the counsel of an experienced estate planning professional and your legal and tax advisors before implementing such strategies.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.


 

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