Category: Retirement Planning

Funds Available to Help Seniors Age in Place

Funds Available to Help Seniors Age in Place

The federal government has made funds available to help seniors age in place. Seasons’ recent article entitled “Federal grant will fund $15 million in aging-in-place home projects” provides everything you need to know about the latest on aging in place. The government, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is making $15 million in funds available to help seniors age in place. This funding is made available through HUD’s Older Adult Home Modification Program.

“The funding opportunity … will assist experienced nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and public housing authorities in undertaking comprehensive programs that make safety and functional home modifications, repairs and renovations to meet the needs of low-income elderly homeowners,” HUD officials said in a statement.

The goal of the program is to assist low-income and older adult homeowners (at least age 62) to remain in their homes by providing low-cost, low barrier and high-impact home modifications to reduce their risk of falling, improve general safety, increase accessibility and to improve functional abilities in the home.

“This is about enabling older adults to remain in the comfort of their family home, where they have made their life,” the spokesperson said, “rather than having to move to a nursing home or other assisted care facilities.”

With an estimated 20% of the population reaching age 65 by 2040, the home modification program aims to assist older adults who remain in their homes safely with honor and respect.

“We must allow our nation’s seniors to age-in-place with dignity,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge in a statement. “This funding will give seniors the flexibility to make changes to their existing homes—changes that will keep them safe and allow them to gracefully adjust to their changing lifestyle.”

Eligible applicants include experienced nonprofit organizations, state and local governments and public housing authorities that have at least three years of experience in providing services to the elderly. Individuals, foreign entities and sole proprietorship organizations are not eligible to apply or receive funds, according to HUD. As a result, there’s no individual application homeowners or family members need to fill out to receive funding. Homeowners, family members, caregivers and other interested parties who want to get help and receive home modifications need to apply through a certain institution by contacting organizations in their area in the process of applying for funds or that have already received funds.

“Caregivers can contact the local organization that has a home modification grant, and let the grantee know that they are caregivers for a family with a family member that is age 62 and older, who owns the home they live in and are interested in having the family’s home modified under HUD’s Home Modification grant program to help them age in place,” a HUD spokesperson said. If you would like to learn more about aging in place, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference:  Seasons (Sep. 19, 2022) “Federal grant will fund $15 million in aging-in-place home projects”

Photo by Marcus Aurelius

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 3 – Mis-Titled Assets Can Wreck Your Planning out now!

 

Read our Books

Frequently Asked Questions about Series I-Bonds

Frequently Asked Questions about Series I-Bonds

With series I bonds in the news lately, it is worth considering if they are beneficial to your estate planning. Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “What Are I-Bonds?” compiled answers to some frequently asked questions about series I bonds.

How is the interest rate determined? The composite rate has two parts: (i) a fixed rate that stays the same for the life of the bond; and (ii) an inflation rate based on the consumer price index (CPI). Each May and November, the U.S. Treasury Department announces a new fixed rate and inflation rate that apply to bonds issued during the following six months. The inflation rate changes every six months from the bond’s issue date.

How does interest accrue? They earn interest monthly from the first day of the month of the issue date, and interest is compounded semi-annually. Interest is added to the bond’s principal value. Note that you can’t redeem an I-Bond in the first year, and if you cash it in before five years, you forfeit the most recent three months of interest. If you check your bond’s value at TreasuryDirect.gov, within the first five years of owning it, the amount you’ll see will have the three-month penalty subtracted from it. As a result, when you buy a new bond, interest doesn’t show until the first day of the fourth month following the issue month.

How many I-Bonds can I buy? You can purchase up to $10,000 per calendar year in electronic bonds through TreasuryDirect.gov. You can also buy up to $5,000 each year in paper bonds with your tax refund. For those who are married filing jointly, the limit is $5,000 per couple.

How are I-Bonds taxed? I-Bond interest is free of state and local income tax. You can also defer federal tax until you file a tax return for the year you cash in the bond or it stops earning interest because it has reached final maturity (after 30 years), whichever comes first. You can also report the interest every year, which may be a good choice if you’d rather avoid one large tax bill in the future.

If you use the bonds’ proceeds to pay for certain higher-education expenses for your spouse, your dependents, or yourself, you may avoid federal tax. However, you must meet several requirements to be eligible. Among them, the bond owner must have been at least 24 years old by the issue date and have income that falls below specified limits. Discuss these frequently asked questions about series I bonds with your estate planning attorney. If you are interested in learning more about bonds, and other retirements planning options, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Oct. 11, 2022) “What Are I-Bonds?”

Photo by Vanessa Loring

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 3 – Mis-Titled Assets Can Wreck Your Planning out now!

 

Read our Books

 

Managing your Inherited Retirement Account

Managing your Inherited Retirement Account

The SECURE Act of 2019 reset the game for IRAs and other tax deferred retirement accounts, says a recent article from Financial Advisor titled “IRAs, Taxes and Inheritance: Planning Becomes a Family Affair.”  Managing your inherited retirement account can be tricky. Prior to SECURE, investors paid ordinary income tax rates on withdrawals, whether they were voluntary or Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from these accounts, except for Roths. When individuals stopped working and their income dropped, so did the tax rate on their withdrawals. All was well.

Then the SECURE Act came along, with good intentions. The time period for payouts of IRAs and similar accounts after the death of the account owner changed. Non-spouse beneficiaries now have only 10 years to empty out the accounts, setting themselves up for potentially huge tax bills, possibly when their own incomes are at peak levels. What can be done?

Heirs of individual investors or couples with hefty IRAs and investment accounts are most likely to face consequences of the new tax regulations for RMDs and inheritances from the SECURE Act.

A widowed spouse faces the lower of either their own or the partner’s RMD rate—it’s tied to birth years. However, there is a pitfall: the widowed spouse files a single tax return, which cuts available deductions in half and changes tax brackets. Single or married, consider accelerating IRA withdrawals as soon as taxable income lowers early in retirement. Taking withdrawals from IRAs at this time voluntarily often means the ability to defer and as a result, optimize Social Security benefits to age 70.

For non-spousal beneficiaries of inherited IRAs, there’s no way around that 10-year rule. Their tax rates will depend on income, whether they file single or joint and any deductions available. If a beneficiary dies while the account still owns the assets, those assets may be subject to estate taxes, which are high.

Here’s where tax planning is could help. IRA owners may try to “equalize” inheritances among heirs with tax consequences in mind. For instance, a lower earning child could be the IRA beneficiary, while a higher earning child could receive assets from a brokerage account or Roth IRAs. Alternatively, an IRA owner could establish trusts or make charitable bequests to empty the IRAs before they become part of the estate.

Your estate planning attorney will help you create a road map for distributing IRA and other tax deferred assets based on the tax and timing for beneficiaries or what you want to fund after you pass.

Another strategy, if you don’t expect to exhaust your IRA assets in your lifetime, is to systematically withdraw money early in retirement to fund Roth IRAs, known as a Roth conversion. The advantage is simple: inherited Roth IRAs need to be drawn down in ten years, but the money isn’t taxable to beneficiaries.

Decumulation planning is complicated to do. However, your estate planning attorney will help you manage your inherited retirement account. He or she will evaluate your unique situation and create the optimal income sourcing plan for your family based on their assets, including taxable and tax-advantaged accounts, Social Security benefits, pensions, life insurance and annuities. If you would like to learn more about retirement accounts and estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Financial Advisor (Sep. 29, 2022) “IRAs, Taxes and Inheritance: Planning Becomes a Family Affair”

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 3 – Mis-Titled Assets Can Wreck Your Planning out now!

 

Read our Books

Include Your Business in Estate Planning

Include Your Business in Estate Planning

Have you made the decision to include your business in your estate planning? Forbes’ recent article entitled “The Importance of Estate Planning When Building Your Business” says that every business that’s expected to survive must have a clear answer to this question. The plan needs to be shared with the current owners and management as well as the future owners.

The common things business owners use to put some protection in place are buy-sell agreements, key-person insurance and a succession plan. These are used to make certain that, when the time comes, there’s both certainty around what needs to happen, as well as the funding to make sure that it happens.

If your estate plan hasn’t considered your business interests or hasn’t been updated as the business has developed, it may be that this plan falls apart when it matters the most.

Buy-sell insurance policies that don’t state the current business values could result in your interests being sold far below fair value or may see the interests being bought by an external party that threatens the business itself.

If your agreements are not in place, or are challenged by the IRS, your estate may find itself with a far greater burden than anticipated.

Your estate plan should be reviewed regularly to account for changes in your situation, the value of your assets, the status of your (intended) beneficiaries and new tax laws and regulations.

There are a range of thresholds, exemptions and rules that apply. Adapting the plan to make best use of these given your current situation is well worth the effort. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about your plan.

Include your business in your estate planning. This will provide valuable guidance in terms of how best to set up and manage your broader financial affairs.

Financial awareness can not only inform how you grow your wealth now but also ensure that it gets passed on effectively. The same is also true of your business.

A tough conversation about what happens in these situations can be a reminder to management that over dependence on any key person is not something to take for granted. If you would like to learn more about business succession planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Sep. July 12, 2019) “The Importance of Estate Planning When Building Your Business”

Photo by Christina Morillo

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 3 – Mis-Titled Assets Can Wreck Your Planning out now!

 

Read our Books

A Pet Trust will keep your Animals Safe

A Pet Trust will keep your Animals Safe

For one woman in the middle of preparing for a no-contest divorce, the idea of a pet trust was a novel one. She was estranged from her sister and didn’t want her ex-husband to gain custody of her seven horses, three cats and five dogs if she died or became incapacitated. Who would care for her beloved animals? Creating a pet trust will keep your animals safe.

The solution, as described in the article “Create a Pet Estate Plan for Your Fur Family” from AARP, was to form a pet trust, a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of companion animals in the event of a person’s disability or death.

Creating a pet trust and establishing a long-term plan requires state-specific paperwork and funding mechanisms, which are different from leaving property and assets to human family members. An experienced estate planning attorney is needed to ensure that the protections in place will work.

Shelters nationally are seeing a big increase in animals being surrendered because of COVID or people who are simply not able to take care of their pets. Suddenly, a companion pet accustomed to being near its human owner 24/7 is left alone in a shelter cage.

When pet parents have not made plans for their pets, more often than not these pets end up in shelters. However, not all animal shelters are no-kill shelters. In 2021, data from Best Friends Animal Society shows an increase in the number of pets euthanized in shelters for the first time in five years.

For pet owners who can’t identify a caregiver for their companions, the best option may be to find an animal sanctuary or a shelter providing perpetual care.

The woman described above had a pet trust created and funded it with a long-term care and life insurance policy. The trust was designed with a board of three trustees to check and balance one another to determine how the money will be allocated and what will happen to her assets. Her horse property could be sold, or a long-term student or trainer could be brought in to run her barn.

It is not legally possible to leave money directly to an animal, so setting up a trust with one trustee or a board is the best way to ensure that care will be given until the animals themselves pass away.

The stand-alone pet trust (which is a living trust) exists from the moment it is created. A dedicated bank account may be set up in the name of the pet trust or it could be named as the beneficiary of a life insurance or retirement plan.

A pet trust can also be set up within a larger trust, like a drawer within a dresser. The trust won’t kick in until death. These plans prevent the type of delays typical with probate but is problematic if the person becomes incapacitated.

If a trust is created as part of another trust, there can still be delays in accessing the month, if the pet trust is getting money from the larger trust.

With costlier animals likes horses and exotic birds, any delay in funding could be catastrophic.

How long will your pet live? A parrot could live for 80 years, which would need an endowment to invest assets and earn income over decades. A long-living pet also needs a succession of caregivers, as a tortoise with a 150 year lifespan will outlive more than one caregiver. Speak with your estate planning attorney about creating a pet trust that will keep your animals safe. If you would like to learn more about pet trusts, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: AARP (Sep. 14, 2022) “Create a Pet Estate Plan for Your Fur Family”

Photo by Pixabay

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 3 – Mis-Titled Assets Can Wreck Your Planning out now!

 

Read our Books

IRAs can be used to make Charitable Bequests

IRAs can be used to make Charitable Bequests

While death is a certainty, some taxes aren’t. IRAs can be used to make charitable bequests, explains a thought-provoking article titled “Win an Income-Tax Trifecta With Charitable Donations” from The Wall Street Journal. For those who are philanthropically minded and tax-savvy, this is an idea worth consideration.

There are few better ways to leave funds to a charity than through traditional IRAs. The strategy is especially noteworthy now, given the growth in traditional IRA values over the last decade, even with the recent selloffs in bond and stock markets. At the end of 2022’s first quarter, traditional IRAs held about $11 trillion, more than double the $5 trillion in IRAs at the end of 2012.

With the demise of defined benefit pensions, traditional IRAs are now the largest financial account many people own, especially boomers. Therefore, it’s wise to know about applicable tax strategies.

The first advantage is tax efficiency. Donors of IRA assets at death win a three-way tax prize: no tax on the contributions going to the charity, no tax on annual growth and no tax on assets at death.

Compare this to donations of cash or investments, such as a stock held in a taxable account. For example, let’s say Jules wants to leave a total of $20,000 to several charities upon her death. She expects to have more than $20,000 in each of three accounts at this time. One account is cash, the other is a traditional IRA, holding stocks and funds, and the third is a taxable investment account holding stocks purchased decades ago.

A charitable bequest of assets from any of these three accounts will bring a federal estate-tax deduction. However, Jules’ estate will be smaller than the current estate tax exemption of about $12 million, so there are no federal estate taxes to consider.

Jules should focus on minimizing heirs’ income taxes on any assets she’s leaving them and donating traditional IRA assets is the way to go. If she leaves the IRA assets to heirs, they will have to empty the IRA within ten years and withdrawals will be taxable.

Giving IRA assets gets pretax dollars directly to the charities, which don’t pay taxes on the donation. A cash donation would be after tax dollars.

Donating the IRA assets to charity is also typically better than giving stock held in a taxable account. Because of the step-up provision, there is no capital gains on such investment assets held at death. If Jules bought the now $20,000 stock for $5,000, the step-up could save heirs capital gains tax on $15,000 when they sell the shares. If she donates the stock, heirs won’t get this valuable benefit.

Next, IRA donations allow for great flexibility. Circumstances in life change, so a will that is drawn up years before death could be changed over time, to give a bequest of a different size or to a different charity. It’s easier to make these changes with an IRA. One way is to set up a dedicated IRA naming one or more charities as beneficiaries and then moving assets from other IRAs into it via direct (and tax-free) transfers. Beneficiaries and the percentages can be easily changed, and the IRA owner can raise or lower the donation by transferring assets between IRAs.

If the IRA owner is 72 or older and has to take required minimum distributions, the owner can take out donations from different IRAs. Note the funds must go directly to the charity when making the donation. Speak with your estate planning attorney about how IRAs can be used to make charitable bequests. If you would like to learn more about charitable giving, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (Sep. 2, 2022) “Win an Income-Tax Trifecta With Charitable Donations”

Photo by RODNAE Productions

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 3 – Mis-Titled Assets Can Wreck Your Planning out now!

 

Read our Books

Maximizing Lifetime Social Security Benefits

Maximizing Lifetime Social Security Benefits

Unless you know your date of death, it’s challenging to know how to start maximizing lifetime Social Security benefits. But, as explained in an article titled How to Calculate Your Social Security Break-Even Age” from U.S. News & World Report, you can get close.

Age 62 is when people can start taking payments, but they will be reduced compared to those taken at full retirement age. To achieve the maximum monthly benefit, wait to take benefits at age 70. The total monthly benefit will be higher if you start collecting at a later age, but it will take a while to receive the same amount if you start taking benefits earlier. The “break-even” point comes when the payments later in life begin to exceed the value of taking payments earlier.

A number of factors are at play:

  • Your personal and family health history
  • Your spouse’s age and benefits level
  • Other income streams

Here’s one example. If your full retirement age (FRA) is 67 and your benefits will be $2,000 per month, but you decide to collect at age 62, your monthly benefit is reduced by up to 30%. You’ll receive $600 less if you start payments at age 62, and your monthly benefit will be reduced to $1,400. If you can wait until your Full Retirement Age, the monthly benefit will be $2,000. Every additional year after age 67 you don’t take benefits, your monthly benefit increases by 8%. This would give you a monthly benefit of $2,480 per month at age 70.

Taking the wider view, claiming at age 62 means a total of around $470,000 in benefits if you live to 90 (not including any COLAs, or Cost Of Living Adjustments). Claiming at Full Retirement Age would net about $595,000 by age 90. If you started claiming benefits at age 62, you’d have to reach age 80 to break even with what you would have received if you’d waited until Full Retirement Age (FRA).

But there are other things to take into consideration. Since none of us knows when we are going to die, deciding when to start taking Social Security benefits should look at other considerations. One is your life expectancy. In some families, living into the late 90s is common, while others rarely make it past 70. If you have a chronic medical condition like diabetes, a heart condition or cancer, you may want to start taking benefits earlier.

Another element is your spouse’s medical status and benefits. If the main breadwinner takes benefits early, the surviving spouse’s benefits will be reduced. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse will receive the higher of the two benefits.

Whether you are still working is another factor to consider. Earning more than $19,560 while collecting Social Security means any benefits will be reduced. If you earn more than $19,560 in 2022 and are collecting benefits before your FRA, your benefit will be temporarily reduced by $1 for every $2 earned above the limit. When you reach FRA, then you can earn an unlimited amount with no reduction in Social Security benefits.

Talk with a financial advisor and your estate planning attorney for help maximizing lifetime social security benefits. If there are other income streams for the household, it may make sense to use those accounts for income and hold off on Social Security. But if funds are tight and you don’t expect to live a long life, it may make more sense to file for benefits earlier, rather than later. If you would like to learn more about social security, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (Aug. 26, 2022) “How to Calculate Your Social Security Break-Even Age

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer's Guide to Dying is out now!

 

Read our Books

 

Preparing for Retirement with a Special Needs Child

Preparing for Retirement with a Special Needs Child

For parents of children with disabilities, the challenges of preparing for retirement with a special needs child are far higher than for families with healthy, high-functioning adults. Planning for your own retirement, while needing to secure the stability and basic needs of a child who will be a dependent forever often feels impossible, according to the recent article “Planning for Your Retirement, and for a Child’s Special Needs, All at Once” from The New York Times.

Even under the best of circumstances, where there’s plenty of money available and many hands to help, caring for an adult child with special needs is emotionally and physically challenging. As parents age, they have to address their own needs plus the needs of their adult dependent. Who will care for them, provide safe and comfortable housing and care for them when their parents no longer can?

Understanding the entire picture can be difficult, even for parents with the best of intentions. First, they need to understand how preparing for their retirement will be different than other families without a special needs child. Their investments need to be multi-generational to last not just for their lifetimes, but for their child’s lifetime. They can’t be too conservative because they need long-term growth.

In addition, special needs parents need to keep a certain amount of funds liquid and easily accessible, for times when their child needs a new piece of expensive equipment immediately.

One of the parents will often leave the workforce to provide care or take a lower paying position to be more available for care. This creates a double hit; the household budget is reduced at the same time its strained by costs not covered by benefits or insurance. Paying for gas to drive to therapy appointments and day program, buying supplies not covered by insurance, like adult diapers, waterproof bedding, compression garments to promote circulation, specialized diets, etc. adds up quickly.

Even with public health assistance, finding affordable housing is not easy. One adult may need supervised care in a group home, while others may need in-home care. However, the family home may need to be modified to accommodate their physical disabilities. With wait times lasting several years, many families feel they have no choice but to keep their family member at home.

Another challenge: if the parents wanted to downsize to a smaller house or move to a state where housing costs are lower, they may not be able to do so. Most of the public benefits available to special needs people are administered through Medicaid at the state level. Moving to a state with a lower cost of housing may also mean losing access to the disabled individuals’ benefits or being placed at the end of the waiting list for services in a new state.

For disabled individuals, maintaining eligibility is a key issue. Family members who name a disabled individual as a beneficiary don’t understand how they are jeopardizing their ability to access public benefits. Any money intended for a disabled person must be held in a specialized financial instrument, such as a special needs trust.

The money in a special needs trust (SNT) may be used for quality-of-life enhancements like a cellphone, computer, better food, care providers, rent and utilities among other qualified expenses.

There are two main categories of SNTs: first party trusts, created with assets belonging to the individual. Any money in this trust must go to reimburse the state for the cost of their care. Another is a third-party special needs trust, established and funded by someone else for the benefit of the disabled individual. These are typically funded by parent’s life insurance proceeds and second-to-die life insurance policies. Both parents are covered under it, and the policy pays out after the second spouse dies, providing a more affordable option than insuring both parents separately. Your estate planning attorney can assist you in preparing for retirement with knowledge that your special needs child’s future is secure. If you would like to read more about planning for families with a disabled loved one, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The New York Times (Aug. 27, 2022) “Planning for Your Retirement, and for a Child’s Special Needs, All at Once”

Photo by RODNAE Productions

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer's Guide to Dying is out now!

 

Read our Books

Business Owners need an Exit Strategy

Business Owners need an Exit Strategy

Letting go of a business is not easy, says a recent article titled “Estate Planning Strategies for Business Owners Planning an Exit” from CEOWorld Magazine. Where the exit is to sell the business or retire, or the result of an unexpected events, business owners need an exit strategy.

When should you establish a plan? It should be early, perhaps even when you become a CEO. A long-term strategy is as important as short-term decisions. Not having an estate plan could mean your interest in the business goes through probate, which is both public and time consuming. The business may never recover from the distribution of assets and the exposure. No estate plan also means missed changes to leverage discount gifting or any other tax-reduction strategies.

Consider the following when talking with your estate planning attorney:

What is the exit strategy—to sell, be acquired or merged, have a family member take over, or sell to key employees?

How much money to do you need and want at the exit? Do you want to create a stream of income or a lump sum?

Do you have a charitable giving plan to reap tax advantages and support an organization with meaning to you? Structuring a gift far in advance avoids using a reduced fair market value and have it deemed as a cash gift.

Transferring the business to family members instead of selling to outside parties creates many different planning opportunities. With family members, emotions come into play, even though this is not always productive. If some offspring are not involved in the business, will they receive a share of the business? Do you want to equalize your inheritance? Assets can be divided by the use of trusts, for example.

You’ll want to work with an estate planning attorney with experience in creating a succession plan with a tax model. This is often overlooked in succession planning and can cause significant cash flow management issues as well as lost tax benefits.

Determine if you want to make gifts using business interests or sales proceeds early on and whether these gifts will go to family members or charities. The earlier the planning occurs, the more you can maximize the income and estate tax benefits.

Clarify your own retirement needs and goals. Business owners often fail to correctly calculate the expected investment income on after-tax proceeds from the sale of the business. Will it be sustainable enough for the lifestyle you want in retirement? If not, is there a way to structure the sale of the business to achieve your financial goal?

Business owners need exit strategy, and the earlier the planning, the higher the likelihood of a successful transition. If you would like to read more about business succession planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: CEOWorld Magazine (Aug. 16, 2022) “Estate Planning Strategies for Business Owners Planning an Exit”

Photo by RODNAE Productions

 

The Estate of The Union Season 2, Episode 2 – The Consumer's Guide to Dying is out now!

 

Read our Books

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.
Categories
View Blog Archives
View TypePad Blogs