Social Security is a truly wonderful program that distributes nearly 64 million benefit checks to more than 15 million retired workers. These monthly payments also benefit the survivors of deceased workers and those on long-term disability. This is a lifeline many cannot afford to lose. However, many might not realize that your Social Security benefit might be taxable.
This article by The Motley Fool has a great article that delves into the history behind the taxation of social security benefits as well as offers more information on whether or not you may be taxed. Social Security taxation, a controversial addition to the Amendments of 1983, was originally aimed to only impact upper-income households in order to avoid cutting benefits for retired workers.
The odds of future retirees’ benefits being taxed is currently at about a 50/50 chance. When the taxation of benefits was put into place, people or couples whose modified adjusted gross income exceeded $25,000 and $32,000 were subject to the tax. In 1993, the second tier of taxation was created, aimed at those whose MAGI were more than $34,000 and $44,000. However, these thresholds have never been adjusted for inflation, and therefore more and more seniors are being subjected to the taxes of Social Security benefits.
This taxation, while unpopular, is a large chunk of what is helping keep Social Security benefits afloat. Social Security is facing an imminent funds shortfall, and the Board of Trustees has anticipated the program’s $2.9 trillion in asset reserves will be depleted completely by 2035.
Read more about the taxation of Social Security benefits here. With Social Security’s wellbeing in flux, it is more important than ever to have a plan for your retirement and later years. Contact us at Rhodes Law Firm today to get started on your future.
Taking care of loved one’s assets and debts while also grieving their passing is not an easy task. When it is time for you to choose an executor for your estate, there are a few things that would be beneficial to take into consideration. This article by the Washington Post discusses factors that should be contemplated before naming your executor.
First, success is not everything. You may think that your child who works as a successful accountant may be the obvious choice to take care of your estate. However, oftentimes people who are successful with their line of work struggle to tie that discipline over into their personal lives. Taking care of a parent’s estate requires patience above all, as it could take years to handle.
Second, you don’t have to automatically choose your firstborn. Just because this child is the eldest does not mean he or she can inherently handle all that comes with being the executor of your estate. Also, while one child may be great at dealing with finances, it may be best to choose one that will prioritize keeping the peace between family members during this delicate time. A child who is a mediator is often the wisest choice.
Carefully planning your estate is the best way to minimize any emotional and/or financial chaos in the wake of your death and leave your loved ones in a much better position to handle these matters.
Rhodes Law Firm can help walk you through the entire estate planning process, including choosing executors. We know this is a tough topic for most, but we are here to help you make the best decisions for your family and loved ones. Let us help you today! Give us a call or stop by our office to speak with our experienced team.
The numbers are also growing: 57% of people aged 35 to 44 whose first marriages end go on to enter a second marriage, and 63% of those 45 to 54 do the same. Even half of all people 65 and older tie the knot again. The trend is more prevalent among those 55 and older, but singles under 35 are likely to couple up again, just perhaps without signing the dotted line.
When you remarry, you need to update any estate plans you had with your first spouse. If you don’t and something happens, your survivors could wind up seeing real – and expensive – complications in probate court.
What changes when you enter your second marriage? Keep reading for an introduction.
1. Consult Your Divorce Agreement
In most states, including South Carolina and Georgia, spousal support ends with the remarriage of the supported spouse or death of either of the former spouses. So spousal support generally isn’t a concern for your estate.
However, there may be other financial or contractual obligations lodged in there, especially if you own property together that you maintained without splitting.
Start any second marriage estate planning by including any necessary provisions from the first marriage. These either need to be resolved in advance or written into your estate to avoid complications during probate.
2. Talk With Your Children
If you have children from both marriages (biological, step-children, or adopted), you need to update your estate plan to reflect all children.
The estate should include both guardianship issues (if your children are under 18) and long-term financial goals for providing for your children.
As with the divorce agreement obligations, these need to be hashed out with both your current spouse and your ex-spouse when possible so they can plan accordingly too.
3. Decide Whether to Combine Your Estates
Your estate has changed dramatically since your divorce. It no longer includes your ex’s property, and it could now feature your current spouse’s assets.
It’s at this juncture that you need to decide whether to keep the assets you both brought into the marriage separate or to join them. South Carolina, like most states, is a marital property state. As a result, your spouse has a right to all the real and personal property you accumulate during your marriage, but not before it.
Deciding whether to combine your estates is difficult compared to the decision during your first marriage.
You might be significantly older than you were when you entered your first marriage, which means one of you might bring substantially more into the union after several years of a successful career.
The issue of combining assets impacts childless couples, but it tends to affect couples with children from a previous marriage most. You may find you prefer to keep assets aside to save for your biological children. It’s not uncommon to want to set aside the assets you brought into the union for your children outside it.
It’s Okay to Leave Pre-Marriage Assets out of Your Married Property
Why? Because bringing them into the estate risks losing those assets for your children.
A good example is when a newly married couple moves into the home purchased by one of the spouses before the second marriage.
If you’re the owner and decide to bring it into the estate, then your new spouse gets the house if you pass away first. If they have the right to the home, they can do as they please with it, even if it goes against what your will says.
For example, they can leave it to their children. They have a legal right to do, so even if you wanted to pass it on to yours.
This makes second marriage estate planning more complicated: the plan you might’ve chosen with your first spouse – with whom you share children – won’t work because you don’t legally share the children.
Similar issues arise with retirement plans and life insurance. If you name your new spouse as the new beneficiary, they can then pass it on as they see fit in their estate.
These are difficult discussions to have, but you must make them early. The conversations become even harder if you’re not there to broker them and express your wishes.
However, it’s also important to remember that the reverse can also be true. If you don’t update your estate, you could leave your spouse and any children from your second marriage out in the cold, even if that wasn’t your intent. It’s very difficult and expensive for them to fight these things in probate court.
4. Consider Remarriage Protection
Just as getting married once doesn’t automatically guarantee a second marriage, neither does your second wedding mean you’ll get married a third time. But things don’t always go as we plan. If your second marriage ends pre-maturely – either through divorce or death – then the estate becomes even more complicated, particularly if the surviving or ex-spouse remarries.
Think about all the intricacies of restructuring your estate above. Now, consider your first marriage twice removed from your estate.
Remarriage protection doesn’t just apply to second marriages; all couples benefit from it.
In most cases, remarriage protection involves a trust, which provides protected assets for each spouse’s children. However, it can also include other options. An estate attorney can help you work through the possible options to prevent the complexity that comes with commingled assets.
A Second Marriage Always Requires Estate Updates
Whatever your circumstances and whatever your assets, a second marriage always requires at least some estate paperwork, if only to switch your life insurance beneficiary.
Although the conversations aren’t easy, it’s essential to work them out early and to communicate with all parties involved. You also shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to protect the assets you want to give to your children from a previous marriage. It’s both reasonable and smart to take steps that ensure your estate is executed according to your wishes.
Do you have questions about updating your estate? Share your questions with us and start your second marriage off on the right financial footing.
There are many different issues to take into account while making your estate plan, specifically when it comes to beneficiary designations. This article by Forbes highlights seven of the most common issues that can really impact your plan if your beneficiaries were not carefully chosen. While it may seem like a simple task, but there are many factors that ultimately can undermine your intended plan. It is very important to go over your choices and your overall plan with a qualified estate planning attorney. Here are just a few of the possible issues you should look out for when making your estate plan.
- All about the cash – Make sure that you have enough money in your estate if you plan to give monetary gifts to people or various charities.
- Make sure to have your estate tax liability covered – if assets pass outside of your estate to a beneficiary, there should be enough money in your estate and trust to pay estate liability tax.
- Keep your tax savings protected – it is a good idea to make sure enough assets go into your trusts to maximize estate tax savings. If there aren’t enough assets in your trust, your beneficiaries may end up paying more in taxes.
- Double Check Everything – Make sure all information on the change of beneficiary form is correct and up to date.
- Choose wisely about naming your spouse as a beneficiary – This may defeat your estate planning.
- Think twice about making any last-minute changes – It could be wise to trust the choices that have already been made with much thought and consideration.
- Be Wary of Qualified Accounts – Always consult your attorney before naming a trust as a beneficiary of a qualified account such as an IRA.
If you want to revisit your estate plan and beneficiaries, contact us today. We can work with you to help make the best decisions for your specific plan.
According to the Longtermcare.gov the average cost of a nursing home is
- $6,844 per month for a semi-private room
- $7,698 per month for a private room.
Many elderly individuals are not thinking about how to pay for long-term care. However, the cost of long-term care requires proactive planning to ensure that you have the resources you need to care for yourself, while still leaving something for future generations.
Read on to learn more about long-term care planning.
What is Long-Term Care Planning
Long-term care planning determines how you will live if you have require in-home or residential care as you age. Its goal is to make your assets last as long as possible and to ensure that you are provided for in the way you want if you are unable to advocate for yourself due to illness or injury.
What is Estate Planning?
Everyone needs some sort of estate planning. Estate planning is simply protecting the resources you have accumulated over your lifetime while at the same time providing for your family after you pass.
If done correctly, and Estate Plan ensures that your assets are divided and used the way you want them to be versus the way the courts decide. It also removes the emotional burden of making those decisions from your loved ones.
Estate planning covers a variety of matters:
- Living Will
- Long-term care planning
- Business succession planning
- Asset protection
- Charitable support
The other reason to estate and long-term care plan is to help prevent arguments over your final wishes. If you make them clear, family members are less likely to argue over them.
Components of A Long Term Care Plan
You should begin planning for long-term care in the early part of your life so that you can be ready as you age. It is, however, never too late to start planning.
If you are diagnosed with Alzheimer or Dementia you should begin planning as soon as possible.
A long-term care plan can be as simple or as complex as you need. Below are common components of a long-term care plan.
As you age, do you want to stay in your home? Most people prefer to stay in their home as long as possible. It is important to consider how that will look if you can no longer care for yourself.
Do you have a family member that is able to help you or will you hire help? This can be as simple as who will manage the maintenance and lawn care of your home, to who will take you to doctor’s appointments and manage medications.
One other thing to consider here is can you modify your home to allow you to stay in it longer. This could include plans to remodel the first floor to allow for a 1st-floor bedroom or remodeling a bathroom with a walk-in shower.
You should also plan for the scenario that you cannot stay in your home. Ideally, you can identify the nursing or assisted living facility you would like to move to.
Below is a discussion of advanced directives that will help your family members make decisions for you if you can’t. These are important.
An equally important part of long-term planning is taking care of your health and health issues, now.
If you keep yourself healthy it helps to prolong the time you are able to live independently. Explore options to improve your health today.
Activities to improve your health can be as simple as getting regular exercise, improving eating habits, stopping smoking, and limiting alcohol.
Advanced Directive and Living Wills
An advance directive allows you to decide how much intervention you receive at the end of your life.
A living will is one type of advanced directive. It determines if you want to be kept on life support if you become terminally ill or injured.
The goal of both is to ensure that your medical wishes are followed. when you can no longer speak for yourself.
Decisions About Finances
The cost of long term care is high. The amount of money you will need for long-term care is unknown. it is important to consider how to pay for the different services you might need ahead of time.
Some individuals use personal funds to pay for long-term care needs. This can be retirement accounts, savings, and investments.
Long-term care insurance is also a popular method to pay for your care needs.
Veterans and individuals covered by the Older American Act have benefits they can use for long-term care.
Note: Medicaid covers long-term care, but Medicare does not.
Talk to Your Family about Long-Term Care
It is important to talk to your family about your long-term care wishes. It will help you, and them, understand why you are making the plans that you are.
In addition, it may help to reduce conflicts after you need them to make decisions for you. Finally, consider the potential situations objectively.
You may want to stay in your home forever, but is it realistic for a family member to care for you during that time? Do you have the funds for 24/7 in-house nursing care? These are all questions to consider as you develop your plan.
Long-term care planning helps you to protect your current assets, ensure that your wishes are implemented, and provide for your family after your death.
Begin your long-term care planning now, you will appreciate the peace of mind it provides.
Are You Ready to Plan for Your and Your Family’s Financial Future?
We want to help you protect your assets while you are alive and after you pass. Estate planning and long-term care planning are both important pieces of insuring that you take care of yourself and provide for your family’s future.
Contact us, our talented team is here to help.
Talking about you or your loved ones’ inevitable passing can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary in planning your estate. It is very important to discuss your assets and estate plan so that when you do pass, the people who are closest to you won’t have added difficulty on top of their grief. This article explains the importance of having all of your assets are updated and your estate plan is current.
According to the article, roughly 50 percent of people do not have an estate plan in place. If you are one of these people, the state will designate your assets. This will, more often than not, result in ways you would not have intended and is usually very complicated and time consuming.
There are a few dos and don’ts for estate planning that you should know. If you have a blended family, there is a statutory formula that depends on how many children there are and can affect who gets what. It’s important to sort these things out now, as it can get very complicated. Do make a plan and keep it updated as your family grows.
Also, while difficult to discuss, it’s important to consider who you want in charge of your healthcare decisions should you become unable to do so yourself. Who would you trust to make the tough choices if you were hit by a bus tomorrow?
Don’t assume that a will can control all of your assets. A lot of people don’t realize that a will does not control things like joint bank accounts, life insurance policies, or retirement accounts. It’s very important to designate a beneficiary on these accounts.
If you are ready to make an estate plan or update an existing plan, Rhodes Law Firm is here to help. Call or come by our office today!
You know what they say — giving is better than receiving. That might be why donor advised funds, or DAFs, rocketed past $100 billion for the first time in recent years.
Want to give but don’t know if a donor advised fund is right for you? Have questions about charitable planning?
There are many things to know before pledging donations to a charity. Our guide to sponsored donations will answer any questions you have about guidelines and regulations related to charitable giving.
What is a Donor Advised Fund?
The IRS defines a donor advised fund, or DAF, as a separate account run by a 501(c)(3) organization. Multiple donors contribute to the one account, called a sponsoring organization.
Once funds are placed in the sponsoring organization’s control, they are the ones in charge of the money. The donor at this point can’t make a guarantee or specific pledge with the assets.
What Assets Can Go Into a DAF?
While money is always an easy option, it’s not the only thing to put into your DAF. Anything valuable that the charity can use is welcomed.
Some options are stocks or even real estate. Valuable holdings, like artwork, can even be put into your sponsoring organization’s account.
This flexibility is one of the reasons a DAF is appealing to so many people. Let’s examine some other reasons you might want to set one up for yourself.
Benefits of Having a DAF
DAFs are a popular way for individuals to give back to their favorite charities. There are tons of benefits to managing your donations through them.
As we mentioned before, you can use almost any kind of asset for donations to your sponsoring organization. You can donate as often as you’d like as well.
When you work with a DAF, you don’t have to stick with just one charity. You can suggest different ones, and ask to allocate funds accordingly.
One of the biggest reasons DAFs remain popular? You get an almost instant tax refund from contributing to them — a win/win!
Different Kinds of DAFs
In general, there are three types of DAFs. Each comes with their own set of guidelines that donors and sponsoring organizations are to follow.
Here’s a quick overview of the three main kinds you’ll see:
- Single-issue funds: usually focused on one cause or institution, like a university or religious institute
- Commercial funds: managed by separate non-profit branches of commercial investment services, like Goldman Sachs
- Community-foundation funds: these are more local and engaged organizations, great for those who want to be involved but need help
There are overall legal guidelines each DAF has to follow. The type you choose to join might have its own set of rules and regulations you’ll have to abide by.
Make sure to ask questions before committing your funds in any specific organization.
Pledging Donations Through a DAF
Now that we understand the basics of sponsoring organizations, what about fulfilling pledges using a DAF? The IRS has made some changes in recent years to clarify their position on the matter.
The short answer is that no, your DAF can’t be used to fulfill a legally binding pledge. If the IRS suspects that any of your DAF funds have been used to fulfill a pledge, they’ll tax it.
Ultimately, if the donation is assumed to give some sort of benefit to the donor, it’s taxable. In this example, it would be because the donation fulfills the original donor’s pledge.
But there is a gray area. Let’s look at ways your DAF can help you fulfill a pledge.
Gray Areas for Pledges
Once an asset is handed over to the DAF, the donor loses control of it. They can’t get it back, either.
At that point, the donor becomes the advisor. The sponsoring organization is under no obligation to use funds as suggested by the original donor.
Each state has its own laws concerning what it means to fulfill a pledge. Adding on that, each case of donation is different, too.
As you can see, this muddies the waters when trying to determine if someone does or doesn’t fulfill a pledge. Because nailing down these facts is murky, the IRS doesn’t require DAFs to figure out if a donation qualifies as a pledge.
One note of concern: the charities themselves can’t ask the sponsor if the gift is for a pledge. The sponsoring organization can’t mention pledges either.
What to do Instead of a Pledge
Sounds complicated? It doesn’t have to be.
When you can’t fulfill a pledge through a DAF, you still have options.
For example, recommending a pledge isn’t the same thing as demanding it. As we mentioned before, your sponsoring organization is under no obligation to fulfill it.
As long as your pledge isn’t legally binding, you can suggest your funds be used to fulfill it. Some organizations even have online forms where you can mention non-legally-binding pledges.
Be Careful with Your Wording
The most important thing is to stay vague. Don’t make written promises and be careful with anything you say.
Some states consider verbal promises a legally binding pledge. Make sure that you’re within what local laws allow.
A non-binding letter of intent can also be your friend in this situation. That way you can give your preferred non-profit an idea of how much they can expect in the future and budget accordingly.
Make Your Donations Count and Pledge the Right Way
Pledging donations through a DAF can be a little complicated but not impossible. It’s important to make sure any promises made aren’t legally binding, or considered so, in your state.
Our guide can help you with the basics of charitable planning. If you want to do it right, consider finding someone to help you navigate the murky waters of donating with a DAF.
There are financial institutions that can help you form a sponsoring organization. There’s also those with knowledge of local laws ready to help.
We’re here to answer any legal questions you might have about charitable giving. Contact us today and get the answers you need!
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act law created sweeping changes to the income tax system in 2018, but it also impacted federal estate and gift taxes. For high-net-worth planners, the impacts were simple in terms of legislation. However, the implications of the large increase in the estate and gift tax exemption are complex and affect everyone planning their estate – not just the small percentage who will still file estate tax returns. This article featured on The Tax Adviser reviews the changes to the tax framework and discusses how the changes affect the 99% of people who will not be filing a Form 706 (United States Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Return).
As of 2018, only 17 states as well as Washington, D.C., maintain either an estate tax or inheritance tax. The state exemption amounts have also increased dramatically for a number of those states. Because of this, the number of taxable assets has gone from small to microscopic. Between the increase in the federal level exemption and states eliminating their estate taxes, the landscape of estate tax planning has drastically changed in the last 20 years. Pair this with how infrequently the average person revisits his estate documents and there are more likely than not a vast number of outdated estate plan documents in most people’s dusty file drawers.
Many people think estate planning does not apply to them since the federal tax exemptions are so high. However, the numerous nontax factors warrant attention. These include custody of minor children, how assets will be administered for a surviving spouse, addressing special needs and more. If you haven’t thought about planning your estate or haven’t looked at yours since you created it in the ‘90s, now is the time to give it some attention.
If you are ready to discuss your estate plan, give Rhodes Law Firm a call today!
According to the Giving USA 2019 report, in 2018, there was a $20 billion increase from slightly over $400 billion donated in 2017. The donations mostly went to environmental causes, higher education institutions and disaster recovery projects.
Before you decide to donate, there are certain things financial advisers would want you to know. We’ll explore some of these in a little more detail below.
What Should You Know Before Giving to Charity
Making charitable contributions has the advantage of the “feel good” factor for the individual. You can also benefit from tax incentives. Talk to your financial adviser so that you can plan appropriately. Consider the following before writing that check.
1. What Charity Are You Donating To
Many people will donate money to charities that deal with issues close to their hearts. It could be about health, economic issues, social issues or even arts and culture. Make sure that they are using your money efficiently and effectively.
Look at the reputation of the programs they’re running, so that you’re sure that your money is making a difference. Factor in whether they get tax deductions because not all non-profit organizations qualify.
Remember there are so many organizations you can donate to, and it can get confusing. With over 1.5 million registered charities, you need to use the resources available to find the right one. Don’t rush the process, avoid telemarketers who’re asking for money, seek relevant facts and most importantly follow your gut instinct.
Avoid sharing any personal information because you can never quite know who you’re dealing with. Be especially careful about any new organization, because many scammers are operating under the guise of charities.
2. Organize Your Donations to Charities
Donating money to charities is very much like coming up with a business plan. It’s not something you do on the whim of the moment. Try and spread your donations, so that you avoid giving to the same charity over and over again.
Also, ensure that you get a receipt so that you use it for your tax returns.
3. Donating to Appreciated Stocks or Assets Is a Good Idea
You could have avoided paying capital gains tax by donating appreciated stock. The value of the charitable tax deduction will be the full market value, thus savings for you. You will not get the same benefit if you donate cash.
The charity then has the option of selling the stock when they require money for a mission. If you’re giving money to those you love, give them appreciated stocks so that when they sell the assets, they pay less tax.
If you’re dealing with depreciated assets, sell them yourself and give away the cash. You’ll have to bear the tax loss.
4. Gift Tax Exclusions
It’s a good idea to take time to think before you donate. It’ll help you choose the right option. You can, for example, give up to $15,000 as an individual, or $30,000 together with your spouse. You’ll not face any consequences with regards to the gift tax; neither will you require filing a gift tax return.
The best way to do it is to spread your donations as opposed to giving it all at once. You can also avoid gift tax by donating to medical or educational institutions, or paying tuition for healthcare bills for an individual. Talk to your financial adviser on the different consequences of making the donations.
5. Life Insurance Is an Excellent Way to Donate to Charity
You have many options concerning contributions. You can donate a car to charity, or even give a life insurance policy. The death benefit amount will be larger than if you give cash. You also have the option of changing beneficiaries without having to explain yourself to anyone.
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle, you can give up full control of the policy to the charity, but continue to have it as a deduction on your income tax. You’ll enjoy the tax benefit if you continue to pay the premiums.
6. Non-Cash Donations; Best Charity to Donate To
You’ll find several items in your home that you have no use for. How about using this as your donation instead of giving out money. You help retain your cash flow while getting rid of clutter. Since it is a donation, don’t give out anything that no longer has value.
Only donate what you can still use; meaning it should be in good condition. Make sure you have receipts for anything less than $250. Also, have a written acknowledgement for anything you donate that is $250 or more. You may also need an appraisal for items worth $500 and above.
Your time can also be a valuable asset. Volunteer services for certain missions, and enjoy tax deductibles by noting your expenses like auto mileage.
7. Charity Should Not Be a One-Off
Giving donations to charities should be part of your life plan. Allocate charitable donations by setting up trust funds two organizations or even family members. Depending on the advice your financial adviser gives you, you can provide an income to charities long after your demise. A good plan will also include your beneficiaries.
Donor-advised funding will also allow you to claim the tax deductions for any money you give to an investment account, for a charitable organization. You get to recommend how you’d want the money allocated.
By having a plan, you don’t have to deal with every appeal that comes your way. You only give to those you really care about and can leave a lasting legacy.
Donating to Charities Is Fulfilling
We’ve shared with your seven important factors to consider when thinking of giving to charity. You have the benefits of tax deductions and the peace of mind of knowing that you are doing your bit to make a difference in this world. Getting proper legal and financial advice will protect you in the long run.
Remember, it is not all about giving to every charity out there; it requires a more organized thought process on your part to be able to make the most difference. You need a plan, and we can set you on the right path. Contact us for more information.
At Rhodes Law Firm, we’re focused on providing our clients the best possible service regarding personal estate planning, as well as business planning and asset protection. One of our clients, Jeff Annis of Advanced Services Pest Control, talks about the important of having business plans in place and his experience with our firm. If you are looking for help with your business plan or estate plan, contact us today.