Seminar this Wednesday: Estate Planning for Blended Families

I’ll be presenting a seminar at the Orem Public Library on Estate Planning for Blended Families.
When                 Wed, April 5, 7pm – 8pm
Where                Orem Public Library, Media Auditorium (map)
Description       Couples with blended families face special challenges when it comes to making sure that stocks, bonds, real estate, and other property and family heirlooms go to the right persons at the right time when a spouse dies. This seminar will address such issues and discuss ways to solve them, using wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents.
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Hope to see you there.

Just Leave It Alone?

As many will recall, then candidate Trump promised to eliminate the estate tax. That was then. This is now–he’s the President. What will he actually do? Will he also eliminate the estate tax’s two siblings: the gift tax and the generation skipping tax? No one knows, though many people care, especially those who preach tax fairness.

Given that married couples currently have to be worth almost $11 million dollars before  the estate tax kicks in–it’s more complicated than that, but still–eliminating the estate tax is going to help only the very, very wealthy. And maybe that’s a bad (or a good) thing.

I’m here to argue for the advisor. Estate planning attorneys, life insurance and investment advisors, CPAs and financial planners. I’m betting that each and every one of them agree with the following:

Because the estate tax generates a meager 0.005 percent of annual tax collections, according to I.R.S. figures, it generates far more political debate than federal revenue. And among many tax planners, the calls aren’t so much for reform as for stability, or at least a period of benign neglect.

“Just leave it alone so we can plan,” Mr. Jenney said. “But every administration seems to want to put their own twist on the estate tax.”

Estate Planning Seminar at Pleasant Grove Library

I’ll be presenting a seminar on DIY — Do It Yourself — Estate Planning at the Pleasant Grove Library on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 7 PM. Come an enjoy the discussion. The address is 30 E Center St, Pleasant Grove.

If you have a question about wills, trusts, and other aspects of estate planning, maybe I can answer it.

Caregivers, Does this Describe You?

Northwestern Mutual recently published a survey of caregivers, those who take care of the infirm and aged. Among other things, this is what they found, according to Financial Advisor magazine:

Caregivers comprise a massive population segment, with 40 percent of the survey’s 1,003 respondents saying they were caregivers. Another 20 percent expect to step into that role.

While only 25 percent of future caregivers thought of financial support as a key attribute of caregiving, 64 percent of current caregivers ended up providing some level of financial support to their charges. Expenses related to giving care comprised nearly one-third of their budgets, according to the current caregivers.

Most future caregivers, 70 percent, expect to incur financial costs, yet only 60 percent said that they were equipped to handle the potential financial aspects of caregiving. (Emphasis supplied)

Just one more reason for people–both caregivers and those who will need it–to plan for the future. Long-term care insurance, life insurance, trust planning anyone?

When Dave Ramsey’s Wrong, He’s Really Wrong

Zander_2016-04-15_1200I’ve listened to Dave Ramsey. My wife owns a couple of his books. I get what he does, and I think he probably does a some good–in the debt area, at least. But he’s not always right. For example, I don’t care for some of his opinions about life insurance and much of his investment advice is off the mark as well. Further, his one-size-fits-all approach and his dismissive attitude towards insurance agents and other financial advisors are a real turn off for me. Seems that everybody’s out to get you but Dave and those he recommends. (I have more to say on this point, but I won’t.)

In short, I’m basically not a fan.

So you will not be surprised that I’m posting this link to a blog post by attorney Richard Chamberlain in response to a wildly uniformed excerpt about living/revocable trusts from one of Dave’s books. Make sure to read the entire post and the links in the post.

I must add my two cents on living/revocable trusts: Though they are just one part of a well-executed estate plan, they are an important part. Among many good reasons to establish a living/revocable trust, there’s this: setting one up and funding it will help you and yours get your minds around what you own, how you own it, and how you want it distributed or handled upon your death or incapacity. Mind you, I could add more than two cents to this conversation, but I’ll stop here.

Divorced? Going through a Divorce? Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. And Change Your Beneficiary Designations

At least that’s the moral of this story. Actually, here’s the moral as stated at the end of that story:

“The moral of the story for practitioners is clear.  Whenever you have a client that is either going through a divorce or is already divorced, do everything you can to get the client to change both his/her beneficiary designations and his/her will as soon as possible.  The results in Smoot and Egelhoff could easily have been avoided with proper planning.”

Read the story and then follow the writer’s advice. Got it?

Stretch IRAs Under Seige?

What’s a stretch IRA, you say? Well, it’s not a new type of IRA, rather it’s a strategy to preserve the value of an inherited IRA, to defer the tax on as much of the IRA as possible for as long as possible. As the law now stands, the owner of an IRA has to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) for his or her IRA at 70 1/2. Those RMDs are based on the person’s life expectancy at that time.

Should the IRA owner die, the beneficiary of the IRA must then take RMDs based on the beneficiary’s life expectancy–regardless of how old the beneficiary is at the time. Typically, beneficiaries are spouses, people of roughly the same age as the owner, so their RMDs will be more or less the same as the IRA owner’s.

To “stretch” the tax deferral benefits of an IRA, some advisors suggest their clients change the beneficiary designation on their IRA from their spouse to their children, that is, if their spouse has other income and will have no need for the income from the IRA. Though the children beneficiaries will have to take RMDs as well, those RMDs will be “stretched” out over a longer life expectancy and therefore will be much smaller and therefore more dollars will remain in the IRA for a longer period, safe from the tax man–for now.

Got that?

Well apparently stretch IRAs are under attack, according to a piece at Wealthmanagement.com. Here’s the first paragraph, with a teaser at the end. Yes Virginia, there are some possible solutions to the problem.

The stretch IRA is under siege.

If it’s eliminated, a non-spouse beneficiary of an IRA will be required to pay income taxes on the entire inherited IRA within five years of the IRA owner’s death. Here are two promising solutions using tax-free income that your clients can act on before the law changes. Let’s discuss Roth IRA conversions and life insurance.

There’s much to talk about with regard to IRAs, so check back later.

Two-Year-Old Granddaughters and Estate Planning

My entire immediate family was in town for the last five days. My three children, my son-in-law, and my one grandchild–a two-year-old girl with lots to say and not enough words to say it.

Now actually, what I just wrote is true and not true at the same time. What I just described is that part of my immediate family that has my blood flowing through its veins (no, my son-in-law, doesn’t, but you get my point). I also have four sons by marriage, three daughters-in-law, and four more grandchildren, plus two very much on the way. I love them all and treat them as my own. That part of my family–colloquially known as my stepfamily–presents estate planning issues, issues I’ve discussed elsewhere and which I’ll return to in the future.

But today it’s that two-year old. She’s sparked some thoughts on the nature of estate planning. Sure it’s about the immediate future. I want my wife taken care of should I die. I want to pass something on to my children. I was to avoid taxes if possible. And on and on. But what about the two-year old? What do I do about her, if anything?

My daughter, her mother, turns 40 a month from tomorrow. Forty years old. Her little girl won’t be 40 for 38 more years. Will my estate plan be durable and well-thought-out enough to have an impact on her life? I most likely won’t be around then to make it happen. So what can I do?

Two thoughts come to mind: trusts and life insurance. Both tools have more permanence than I do. If set up and funded properly, both can be there when I can’t to make sure my hopes and dreams for my granddaughter are fulfilled. Yes, I could rely on her parents–and I might–but if I absolutely, positively want my hopes for her fulfilled, trusts and life insurance are the tools of choice.

How are you going to insure that your dreams for your family come true?

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