Category: Assets

Should You have an Irrevocable Trust?

Should You have an Irrevocable Trust?

You may have heard the terms “revocable trusts” and “irrevocable trusts.” Both are created to hold assets for different purposes. Which is right for you? Should you have an irrevocable trust? The differences are explained in a recent article from Kiplinger, “With Irrevocable Trusts, It’s All About Who Has Control.”

Both types of trusts are separate legal entities created through contracts. They name a trustee who is in charge of the trust and its assets. The trustee is a fiduciary, having a legal obligation to manage the assets in the trust for the beneficiaries. Depending on how the trust is structured, these are the people who will receive assets or income generated by the assets in the trust.

With the revocable trust, the grantor—the person who creates the trust—can be a trustee and maintain total control of the trust. They can change the terms of the trust, beneficiaries, and successor trustees at any time. In exchange for this level of control, however, come some downsides. The revocable trust doesn’t have the same level of protection as an irrevocable trust while the grantor is living.

The irrevocable trust trades control for benefits. The grantor of an irrevocable trust can’t change the trust once it’s been created, nor can they move assets in and out of the trust at will. Beneficiaries may not be changed either. However, when the irrevocable trust is properly created with an experienced estate planning attorney, they achieve many estate and tax goals.

Your estate planning attorney will be able to explain which irrevocable trust suits your situation, as there are many different kinds.

An irrevocable trust where the grantor is also the beneficiary is referred to as a Domestic Asset Protection Trust or DAPT. The grantor is allowed to be the beneficiary of the trust, but it has to be created in one of the 20 jurisdictions where the grantor is allowed to be the beneficiary. You can have a trust created in a jurisdiction other than your own.

The first step is to determine how to fund an irrevocable trust, where assets are transferred into the trust. There are fine points here. For instance, you can’t fund an irrevocable trust if there are issues with the IRS or the threat of litigation from a creditor. If the dispute goes to court, a judge can set aside the transfers into the trust as they were made with the intent to circumvent a creditor’s claim under fraudulent transfer laws.

If a trust seems like the right planning structure for your assets, discuss with your estate planning attorney if you should have an irrevocable trust. Decisions about naming trustees, successor trustees, beneficiaries, and funding sources should be discussed with an experienced estate planning attorney first. Creating irrevocable trusts, like much of estate planning, needs to be completed before issues arise. If you would like to learn more about different types of trusts, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (April 28, 2024) “With Irrevocable Trusts, It’s All About Who Has Control”

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Diverse Family Structures Have Unique Estate Planning Challenges

Diverse Family Structures Have Unique Estate Planning Challenges

American family law has traditionally focused on the nuclear family. However, Forbes reports that only 18% of American adults now fit this model. There are many new types of families today, such as blended families, single-parent households and LGBTQ+ families. Dated legal definitions of family could be a hurdle in your estate planning. Diverse family structures have unique estate planning challenges. However, it’s a hurdle you can overcome with knowledge and legal guidance.

Most legal protections and rights cater to the assumption that a family is a married couple with blood children. This alone creates obstacles for many families, even those that look traditional. Many heterosexual couples have children but haven’t yet married. This can deprive them of various rights and may exclude partners from inheritance.

Blended families with stepchildren also frequently struggle with inheritance. If the parents fail to lay out the rights of the children, it can go to a lengthy probate process. Likewise, the children of single parents face a uniquely uncertain future should their parents die unexpectedly. Another diverse family type that frequently struggles with family law is LGBTQ+ families. The rights of same-sex couples vary widely by state, which makes estate planning especially important for them.

These diverse families and more can find themselves underserved by laws that don’t have them in mind. However, that doesn’t mean that their wishes must go un-respected. There are many estate planning tools available that can help people clarify and execute their wishes once they’re gone.

Advanced estate planning techniques can give anyone greater control of their estate.  Everyone with a significant estate or minor children should have an estate plan. However, diverse families need to use these tools to safeguard their wishes.

  • Wills: A well-drafted will is Step One. It makes it far easier to ensure that your assets go to your inheritors as you wish.
  • Trusts: Trusts offer greater control over asset distribution while avoiding will-related pitfalls. Living trusts can be adjusted during one’s lifetime, while irrevocable trusts protect assets but are permanent.
  • Powers of attorney: Financial and healthcare powers of attorney let a trusted person decide if the primary individual is incapacitated.
  • Testamentary guardianship: Single-parent, blended families and same-sex couples should appoint guardians for minor children in their wills.
  • Beneficiary Designations: Designate the beneficiaries for life insurance, retirement and investment accounts. This ensures that the executor of your will transfers assets according to your wishes.

The evolving definition of family challenges conventional estate planning. Unmarried couples, blended families and other non-traditional arrangements often need tailored estate plans. However, untangling estate law on your own isn’t easy.

Diverse family structures have unique estate planning challenges. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney, who will address local laws and your unique family structure, to craft a comprehensive estate plan. If you would like to learn more about planning for blended families, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Forbes (April 2, 2024) How Expanding The Legal Definition Of Family Helps Us All

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Updating Beneficiaries after Gray Divorce

Updating Beneficiaries after Gray Divorce

Navigating the complexities of estate planning after a mid- to late-life divorce, or “gray divorce,” requires meticulous attention to detail and proactive measures, according to Kiplinger’s article, Don’t Forget to Update Beneficiaries After a Gray Divorce. Updating beneficiaries after a gray divorce is critical to estate planning. This article explores essential considerations for those undergoing a gray divorce, emphasizing the importance of reevaluating estate plans to reflect current intentions and relationships.

While family law attorneys primarily focus on asset division during divorce proceedings, it’s imperative to consider the fate of these assets post-divorce, particularly concerning beneficiaries. Updating beneficiaries on investment accounts, retirement funds and life insurance policies is paramount. Failure to do so could result in unintended consequences, potentially leaving assets to a former spouse.

Many states have statutes that automatically revoke a former spouse as a beneficiary post-divorce. However, these laws vary, and some exceptions exist, notably under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans. Understanding the nuances of state laws and ERISA regulations is vital to ensure compliance and avoid costly mistakes.

In some divorces, waivers might be used in decrees to address survivorship benefits related to retirement plans. The effectiveness of these waivers relies on adherence to plan documents and detailed planning. Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney and incorporating specific language in property settlement agreements can mitigate risks and ensure comprehensive protection of assets.

Key Takeaways:

  • Proactive Approach: Do not wait until after your divorce is finalized to update your beneficiaries. Proactively review and revise beneficiary designations on all relevant accounts.
  • Understanding State Laws: Familiarize yourself with your state’s automatic revocation laws and how they affect beneficiary designations. Ensure that these laws align with your post-divorce intentions.
  • Consulting with Professionals: Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to navigate the complexities of beneficiary updates and ensure compliance with state laws and ERISA regulations.
  • Detailed Planning: Use specific language in property settlement agreements to address survivorship benefits associated with retirement plans and other assets. Attention to detail is essential to avoid potential conflicts and ensure that your wishes are upheld.

In conclusion, updating beneficiaries after a gray divorce is critical to estate planning. By taking proactive measures, understanding relevant laws and seeking professional guidance, you can protect your assets and secure the financial future of your loved ones. Ready to embark on your post-divorce estate planning journey? Schedule a consultation today and gain peace of mind knowing that your assets are in trusted hands. If you would like to learn more about divorce and reevaluating your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (April 15, 2024) Don’t Forget to Update Beneficiaries After a Gray Divorce

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Avoiding Trouble with Your Trustee

Avoiding Trouble with Your Trustee

Estate planning and elder law considerations linger in the background of our senior years. We plan for senior living, incapacity, and Medicaid. We create an estate plan to protect and preserve your wealth and provide for heirs after you are gone. Trusts are a smart and well-known estate planning tool that names or appoints a trustee to administer and distribute the assets according to the terms. However, how often do estate owners ask, “What if something goes wrong and the trustee breaches their duties?” This blog offers tips on avoiding trouble with your trustee.

The case discussed in WealthCounsel’s article, Trustee of Living Trust Who Was Beneficiary of Decedent’s Residuary Estate Had Duty to Collect and Protect Assets Not Yet Transferred to Trust,” reminds us to take steps in appointing the right trustee and to draft the trust’s terms carefully.

The case discussed in WealthCounsel’s article involved three beneficiaries, three co-trustees and assets meant for a restated revocable trust. One of the trustees did not collect and protect untransferred trust assets. The deceased’s three children and their mother sued that trustee for breaching fiduciary duty.

The Barash v. Lembo case underscores a critical aspect of trusteeship: the duty to protect and collect assets awaiting transfer into the trust designated for distribution from the trust. Despite the probate process, trustees must proactively preserve trust assets, even before their transfer.

In this case, the Connecticut Supreme Court emphasized that trustees are entrusted with a fiduciary duty from the moment of acceptance. This duty extends to diligently administering the trust in the beneficiaries’ best interests, including the prudent collection and protection of assets.

Central to the trustee’s role is the obligation to uncover and address breaches of fiduciary duty by prior fiduciaries. Whether it’s compelling the transfer of assets or rectifying breaches, trustees must act in the trust’s best interests.

When a testamentary trust emerges as a will beneficiary, trustees are tasked with pursuing reasonable claims against the estate executor. This duty demands due diligence in securing all trust assets and ensuring comprehensive asset management.

While a duty of due diligence binds trustees, evaluating their performance hinges on contextual considerations. All trustee’s actions are scrutinized within the framework of trust administration dynamics, emphasizing the need for meticulous asset management.

In Barash v. Lembo, the court’s ruling underscores the significance of trustees’ proactive engagement in protecting and collecting trust assets. Trustees must exercise diligence and vigilance, leveraging legal avenues to preserve beneficiaries’ interests.

In your pursuit of avoiding trouble with your trustee, partner with a seasoned estate planning attorney who understands the intricacies of trust administration. If you would like to learn more about trustees and trust administration, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: WealthCounsel (Jan 19, 2024) “Trustee of Living Trust Who Was Beneficiary of Decedent’s Residuary Estate Had Duty to Collect and Protect Assets Not Yet Transferred to Trust.”

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Estate Planning should be a Major Consideration for Small Business Owners

Estate Planning should be a Major Consideration for Small Business Owners

Estate planning should be a major consideration for successful small business owners, especially if they intend to build generational wealth and create a legacy. The title of a recent article from Business Insider says it all: “You might not want to think about estate planning, but as a financial planner, I know it’s essential for small-business owners.”

There are more complex issues for business owners than employees for estate planning. Therefore, be sure to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who will create a plan to protect you, your family and your business. As you go through the process, keep these basics in mind:

Last Will and Testament. This document is the foundation of an estate plan, providing directions to the state probate court regarding your wishes for distributing assets. It also names a guardian responsible for minor children upon your passing. If you don’t have a will, assets are distributed according to your state’s intestacy laws, typically based on kinship. You can update and change your will throughout your lifetime, and it should be reviewed every three to five years.

Revocable Living Trust. Having a revocable living trust gives you more control over assets, which could be necessary to distribute business assets. A revocable living trust can be altered while you are living, so changes in your business can be reflected in the directions in the trust.

Financial Power of Attorney. This document is critical if you are the business owner who performs most of the financial tasks of your business. When a business owner becomes incapacitated, having someone named Power of Attorney gives the POA the ability to pay bills, make bank deposits and withdrawals, file business and personal taxes and make any other financial decisions you wish. POA can be limited if you only want someone to pay bills, or they can be broad, allowing the agent to do anything you would do to keep the business running while you are incapacitated. Your estate planning attorney can craft a POA to suit your needs.Benefi

Business Succession Plan. A business succession plan should be in place as soon as your business gains traction and becomes successful. Distributing shares of the business after you pass is fine. However, what if your heirs don’t have a clue how the business works? Do you want them to sell it after you pass or maintain it for the next generation? A succession plan requires the help of an estate planning attorney, CPA and financial professionals to create a management team, define roles, set performance guidelines, etc.

Digital Estate Plan. We spend so much time online. However, few have plans for our digital assets. If your business is online, has a website, and uses social media, online finances, and cell phones, you need a digital estate plan to identify assets and provide instructions on what you want to be done with those assets after you have passed.

Review Beneficiary Designations. Any account that can name a beneficiary, such as retirement plans, investment accounts, or life insurance policies, must be reviewed every few years or whenever a trigger event, including birth, death, divorce, or remarriage. Upon your passing, these assets will be passed directly to the beneficiary. Be sure the person you named twenty years ago on your life insurance policy is still the right person to receive proceeds upon your passing.

Estate planning should be a major consideration for successful small business owners. An experienced estate planning attorney can review your current estate plan to ensure that it covers all bases for you and your business. If you would like to learn more about planning for business owners, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Business Insider (March 22, 2024) “You might not want to think about estate planning, but as a financial planner, I know it’s essential for small-business owners”

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How Does an Estate Plan Address Young Beneficiaries?

How Does an Estate Plan Address Young Beneficiaries?

How does an estate plan address young beneficiaries? Certain beneficiaries require more intentional estate planning than others. While the law sets the age of adulthood at 18, specific testamentary instruments can redefine at what age a beneficiary is considered an adult. A recent article from The News-Enterprise, “When planning for young beneficiaries, consider all options,” explains how this works.

Young beneficiaries, especially 18-year-olds still in high school, are still immature, and their brains are still developing. Add a strong dose of grief to a teenager’s life, and even a bright, stable adolescent may not make good decisions.

Young adult beneficiaries are categorized in two ways: primary and contingent.

A primary beneficiary is one who the testator or grantor expects to be a young beneficiary at the time of distribution of assets or who is young when the estate planning documents are executed. This is typically the parents of young children or grandparents who intend to leave property to young grandchildren.

Contingent beneficiaries are those who are not anticipated to receive property as young beneficiaries. However, they could inherit if a primary beneficiary dies, such as when a grandchild receives an inheritance following their parent’s death.

Even for contingent beneficiaries, some level of planning needs to be done to define the age of majority and provide options for distribution. This is done through an immediate split of assets, with assets going into a general needs trust or a common pot trust.

Assets are most commonly left to young beneficiaries through an immediate split of assets upon estate distribution. Assets are held in a separate trust for each beneficiary, with a trustee appointed for each trust. Assets within the trust are typically available for the child’s health, education, maintenance, or support until the child reaches the predetermined age.

Upon reaching the age defined by the trust, the child may receive the assets either outright or incrementally over a period of time.

Another option is to use a common pot trust. This is used for parents with multiple minor children. This type of trust allows the assets to remain in one trust to be used for the needs of all children until a triggering event, such as the youngest child reaching age 18. At that time, the remaining trust assets are split into as many shares as there are beneficiaries, and the shares are distributed according to the remaining instructions. Each separate share is usually left in an ongoing general needs trust until a certain age.

Leaving property in trust for young beneficiaries doesn’t cut off their ability to use the money property. The trustee can continue to use the assets for the beneficiary’s care. However, whatever is left is distributed to the beneficiary upon reaching the distribution age.

Your estate planning attorney can help you determine how to address young beneficiaries in your estate plan. He or she will let you know the best way to structure trusts for your children or grandchildren based on your wishes and their ages. By redefining the age of majority and outlining specific directions for distributions, young beneficiaries can receive the most value from their inheritance. If you would like to learn more about managing assets for your beneficiaries, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The News-Enterprise (Feb. 10, 2024) “When planning for young beneficiaries, consider all options”

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Life Insurance is vital to Estate Planning

Life Insurance is vital to Estate Planning

Life insurance is vital to comprehensive estate planning. Integrating life insurance policies into estate planning can provide financial security for your heirs and ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. When used effectively, life insurance can solve a range of estate planning challenges, from providing immediate cash flow to beneficiaries to helping cover estate tax liabilities.

Incorporating life insurance into your estate plan requires careful consideration of the type of policy that best suits your needs, whether term life insurance for temporary coverage or whole life insurance for permanent protection. It’s essential to understand the insurance company’s role in managing these policies and ensuring that they align with your overall estate objectives.

Life insurance can play a crucial role in estate planning. It can provide a death benefit to cover immediate expenses after your passing, such as funeral costs and debts, thereby alleviating financial burdens on your heirs. Furthermore, life insurance proceeds can be used to pay estate taxes, ensuring that your beneficiaries receive their inheritance without liquidating other estate assets.

When selecting life insurance for estate planning purposes, it’s important to consider the different types of policies available, such as term insurance for short-term needs and permanent insurance for long-term planning. An insurance agent can be a valuable resource in this process, helping to determine the right policy type for your estate planning goals.

Term life insurance offers coverage for a specified period and is often used for short-term estate planning needs, such as providing financial support to minor children. On the other hand, permanent life insurance policies, like whole life or universal life insurance, offer lifelong coverage and can build cash value over time, which can be an asset in your overall estate.

Life insurance trusts, particularly irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs), play a significant role in estate planning. By placing a life insurance policy within a trust, you can exert greater control over how the death benefit is distributed among your beneficiaries. The trust owns the policy, removing it from your taxable estate and potentially reducing estate tax liabilities.

Since the trust is irrevocable, it provides a layer of protection against creditors and legal judgments, ensuring that the life insurance payout is used solely for the benefit of your designated beneficiaries.

When considering life insurance in estate planning, it’s important to evaluate how the death benefit of a life insurance policy will impact your estate’s overall financial picture and the inheritance your heirs will receive. The proceeds from a life insurance policy are typically not subject to federal income tax. However, they can still be included in your gross estate for estate tax purposes, depending on the ownership of the policy.

One of the primary uses of life insurance in estate planning is to provide funds to pay estate taxes. This is especially relevant for larger estates that may face significant federal and state estate taxes. The death benefit from a life insurance policy can be used to cover these taxes, ensuring that your heirs do not have to liquidate other estate assets to meet tax obligations. In planning for estate taxes, working with professionals, such as estate attorneys and tax advisors, is essential to ensure that your life insurance coverage aligns with your anticipated tax liabilities.

Life insurance can offer substantial financial support to your heirs and beneficiaries upon your passing. Whether providing for a spouse, children, or other dependents, life insurance can ensure that your loved ones are cared for financially. This is particularly important in cases where other estate assets are not readily liquid or if you wish to leave a specific inheritance to certain beneficiaries.

When selecting life insurance for this purpose, consider the needs of your heirs, their ability to manage a large sum of money and how the death benefit will complement other aspects of your estate plan.

In conclusion, life insurance plays a vital role in comprehensive estate planning. By carefully selecting the right type of policy, designating appropriate beneficiaries and considering the use of trusts, you can ensure that your estate plan effectively addresses your financial goals and provides for your loved ones after your passing. If you would like to learn more about life insurance and estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

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A Subtrust is a Multi-Tool that serves various Purposes

A Subtrust is a Multi-Tool that serves various Purposes

A subtrust is a separate entity created under the umbrella of a primary trust or a will. A subtrust becomes active based on the terms of the trust or will when certain events happen, such as the death of the primary grantor, or creator. Subtrusts are used by estate planning attorneys to help families pass on inheritances and protect their heirs from creditors or issues such as lawsuits or divorce. A Subtrust is a multi-tool that serves various purposes, depending on the beneficiaries’ specific needs and the grantor’s goals.

A subtrust is created as part of a primary trust, often a revocable trust. The primary trust acts as a container for your assets, answering critical questions about who gets them, what they receive, when and how. The subtrust, on the other hand, is like a specialized compartment within this container, designed for specific purposes or beneficiaries. Subtrusts remain dormant within the primary trust until a triggering event, typically the death of the grantor. Upon this event, the subtrust becomes active and, in most cases, irrevocable. This means that the terms of the subtrust cannot be changed.

The activation of a subtrust initiates a process known as trust administration. This process involves naming the subtrust, obtaining a tax ID and setting up a bank account. In addition, an appointed trustee will need to manage the trust assets, including making distributions to beneficiaries, filing tax returns and ensuring that the trust operates according to the trust provisions and the grantor’s intentions.

How Do Subtrusts Work If Created Under a Will?

Subtrusts can also be effectively created under a will, offering a flexible approach to estate planning. The will itself can directly establish these trusts or designate a revocable trust as the beneficiary in what is known as a “pour-over” will. This method ensures that the assets are transferred into the trust upon the grantor’s death.

How are Subtrusts Different from Revocable Trusts?

Subtrusts offer enhanced protection for your assets and beneficiaries. Unlike a revocable trust, which can be altered during the grantor’s lifetime, a subtrust becomes irrevocable upon activation, providing a firmer legal structure. This irrevocability protects the assets from the beneficiary’s creditors and in cases of legal challenges, such as divorce or lawsuits.

What are Subtrusts Commonly Used for?

Subtrusts serve various purposes, depending on the beneficiaries’ specific needs and the trustor’s goals. They can be used to protect beneficiaries who are minors, financially irresponsible, or have special needs. Subtrusts can also safeguard assets from beneficiaries’ creditors, ensuring that the inheritance is used as intended by the grantor.

Subtrusts have many different names and types, each serving a unique purpose in estate planning, as outlined in an article by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys titled Basics of Estate Planning: Trusts and Subtrusts.

How Do Subtrusts Avoid Probate?

A Subtrust is a multi-tool that serves various purposes, but one of the primary reasons is to avoid the lengthy and often costly process of probate. Having assets in a subtrust bypasses the court-supervised distribution process, making things smooth, quick and easy for your family and heirs after your death.

Subtrusts provide a layer of protection for beneficiaries against their creditors or their own irresponsibility. This is particularly important in cases where a beneficiary may face financial difficulties, divorce, legal disputes, or even car accidents. The subtrust provides a shield for the assets to protect them from external claims. If you would like to learn more about trusts, please visit our previous posts. 

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Avoid Adding Adult Children as Joint Owners

Avoid Adding Adult Children as Joint Owners

It is generally wise to avoid adding adult children as joint owners of your accounts. The conversation may concern a checking or savings account or both. Unsolicited advice usually goes something like this: “If you want to have your children to be able to pay your bills if something happens to you, you need to add them to the account.” While the intentions are good, a recent Spokane Journal of Business article advises otherwise: “Adding adult children to accounts can be problematic.”

People are made to worry even more when they are told that if there is no second name on the account, it will be frozen upon death and no one can access it until a lengthy and costly probate process has occurred.

To do the right thing, many people respond by adding their most responsible adult child to the account. They don’t realize they are creating more problems than they are solving. A better solution exists, and it should be something taken care of when preparing or revising your estate plan.

Why wouldn’t you want to add an adult child to your accounts? Simply put, your last will and testament doesn’t apply to a bank account if it is a joint account. Most bank accounts are owned with a “joint tenancy with right of survivorship.” This means if the primary owner, the parent, should die, the adult child becomes the sole owner of assets in the account, regardless of what your will says.

Assuming that your intention is to split the assets in the account among several beneficiaries, this may or may not happen. The new account owner is under no legal obligation to share the assets, as they are solely and legally entitled to these funds.

Another problem: if the child decides to split the funds and transfer them to siblings, the IRS may see this as a gift subject to the requirement to fill out a gift tax return.

By having a joint owner, you may also expose these assets to creditor claims. What if the child named on the bank account causes a car accident and is sued? Those assets are considered owned by the child and could be attached by a creditor. If your child gets divorced, those assets may also be part of a divorce settlement.

Estate tax reporting gets more complicated. The IRS places an additional burden on accounts held as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. If the child unexpectedly dies first, the law places the burden on the estate to prove the child did not own the asset.

Is there a solution? Yes, a power of attorney.

A power of attorney is a legal document allowing an agent to act on behalf of the parent, providing authorization without ownership. The parent’s goal is almost always to provide authorization and access, but not ownership.

The POA can be made effective immediately upon signing to allow the child immediate access to the account for bill paying. It can apply not only to bank accounts but to all assets. Alternatively, it can also be limited to specific assets.

Avoid adding adult children as joint owners of your financial accounts. Your estate planning attorney can create a POA to authorize an agent to give them as much or as little control as you want. You’ll be able to determine precisely what you do and do not wish your agent to do. If you would like to learn more about managing financial and retirement accounts, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Spokane Journal of Business (Nov. 9, 2023) “Adding adult children to accounts can be problematic”

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Tax Planning may Impact your Medicare Costs

Tax planning may impact your Medicare costs. How much retirees pay for Medicare Part B premiums is based on income levels, and an income increase of even $1 can trigger higher tax rates, explains the recent article, “Year-end tax strategies may affect how much retirees pay for Medicare. Here’s what to know” from CNBC.

Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 3.2% increase in benefits in 2024 based on the annual COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment). According to the Social Security Administration, this will result in an estimated increase of more than $50 per month, bringing the average monthly retirement benefit for workers from $1,848 in 2023 to $1,907 in 2024.

How much beneficiaries will actually receive won’t be known until December, when annual benefit statements are sent out. One factor possibly offsetting those benefit increases is the size of Medicare Part B premiums, which are typically deducted directly from Social Security monthly benefits.

Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, some home health care services, durable medical equipment and other services not covered by Medicare Part A.

Medicare Part B premiums for 2024 have not yet been announced. However, the Medicare trustees have projected the standard monthly premium possibly being $174.80 in 2024, up from $164.90 in 2023.

Some beneficiaries may pay more, based on income, in what’s known as IRMAA or Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts. In 2023, it is the standard Part B premium for those who file individually and have $97,000 or less (or $194,000 or less for couples) in modified adjusted gross income on their federal tax return in 2021.

Monthly premiums can go up to as much as $560.50 per month for individuals with incomes of $500,000 and up, for couples with $750,000 and up.

Beneficiaries receive the same Medicare services regardless of the monthly Part B premium rate.

In 2024, the monthly Part B premiums will be based on 2022 federal tax returns. Beneficiaries need to pay attention to how their incomes may change when implementing year-end tax strategies.

For instance, if you do a Roth conversion, taking pre-tax funds from a traditional IRA or eligible qualified retirement plan like a 401(k) and moving them to a post-tax retirement account, you’ll trigger income taxes, which may trigger higher Medicare Part B premiums later.

Tax planning may impact your Medicare costs. People who do end-of-year tax loss harvesting, selling off assets at a loss to offset capital gains owed on other profitable investments, may reduce adjusted gross income and future Medicare premiums.

If you’re taking distributions from IRAs and want to make charitable donations, you might want to make those donations directly from your retirement account, known as a qualified charitable distribution. These funds don’t appear on your tax return and won’t increase income taxes or future Medicare premiums. If you would like to read more about Medicare and tax planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: CNBC (Oct. 12, 2023) “Year-end tax strategies may affect how much retirees pay for Medicare. Here’s what to know”

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Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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