Can I Use a Roth IRA in Estate Planning?

There are a number of reasons to consider Roth IRA ‘s as part of your estate planning efforts, says Think Advisor’s recent article entitled “How and Why to Use Roth IRAs in Estate Planning.” Let’s take a look:

One of the biggest estate planning benefits of a Roth IRA is the fact that there are no required minimum distributions or RMDs. This is a big estate planning tool and lets the money in the Roth grow tax-free for the benefit of a surviving spouse or other beneficiaries. This also eliminates the taxes that would otherwise need to be paid on these distributions.

Because the rules for inherited IRAs for most non-spousal beneficiaries under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (Secure) Act went into effect at the beginning of 2020, Roth IRAs have become a very viable estate planning tool because beneficiaries who aren’t classified as eligible designated beneficiaries must withdraw the entire amount of their inherited IRA within 10 years of inheriting it. The Act eliminated the ability to “stretch” inherited IRAs for IRAs inherited prior to 2020 for most non-spousal beneficiaries.

For inherited traditional IRAs, the whole amount will be taxed within 10 years of inheriting. The 10-year rule also applies to inherited Roth IRAs. However, if the original account owner satisfied the five-year requirement prior to his or her death, the withdrawals from the inherited Roth IRA are tax-free. It makes a Roth a beneficial estate planning tool because taxes that are bunched into a 10-year period can substantially erode the value of an inherited traditional IRA.

For those who already have a Roth, they’re set in terms of their spouse being able to inherit the account and use it as their own. For non-spousal beneficiaries, there’s a five-year rule. For those with a Roth 401(k), it’s important to roll this account over to a Roth IRA once you leave your employer to avoid RMDs.

For those who are eligible to do so, contributing to a Roth IRA each year can help you build a Roth balance to pass on to your beneficiaries. For those who have access to a Roth 401(k) account with an employer-sponsored plan or a solo 401(k) for the self-employed, contributing to a Roth 401(k) can offer a higher contribution limit with no income restrictions, when compared to a Roth IRA. The amount in the Roth 401(k) can later be rolled over to a Roth IRA with no tax consequences, which also avoids RMDs.

A Roth IRA conversion is a strategy to looking at for passing IRA assets to non-spousal beneficiaries, either directly or as contingent beneficiaries upon the death of a surviving spouse. It’s a good way for you to prepay taxes for beneficiaries. Beyond prepaying the taxes, the five-year rule can come into play if you didn’t previously have a Roth IRA.

Whether a Roth IRA conversion makes sense as an estate planning tool depends on several variables, including your current tax situation, your age and the taxes that would be incurred by the conversion. Roth IRAs have many potential benefits as a planning tool. With the Secure Act and the changing tax and estate landscape, a Roth IRA can play a key role in your estate planning in the right circumstances. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about whether it’s right for you.

Reference: Think Advisor (November 9, 2021) “How and Why to Use Roth IRAs in Estate Planning”

 

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What is the Purpose of an ILIT?

ILIT – Life insurance falls into two categories: life insurance and death insurance. Life insurance is used to take advantage of the tax-free returns that qualifying insurance products enjoy under federal income tax laws. There is a death component. However, the main purpose is to serve as a tax-deferred investment vehicle. Death insurance is used to provide financial security for loved ones after the owner passes, with little or no regard for tax and investment benefits.

Using both types of life insurance in estate planning can be a complicated process, but the resulting financial security is well worth the effort, as reported in a recent article “Keeping an Eye on ILITs” from Financial Advisor.

The Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust is a somewhat complex trust structured under state trust law and tax strategies under federal income tax laws. ILITs have been tested in court cases, audits and private letter rulings, so an estate planning attorney can create an ILIT knowing it will serve its intended purpose.

Life insurance in an ILIT is owned outside of the estate and enhances the after-estate tax wealth for the surviving spouse and heirs. Because the trust is irrevocable, the transfer of ownership is permanent.

The annual insurance premium is typically paid by the insured to the ILIT, subject to “Crummey” withdrawal powers, named after a famous case, which gives named people the power to withdraw all or a portion of the contributed premium amounts within specified periods. The time frame depends on the trust—usually it’s 30 or 60 days, but sometimes it’s annually.

There are many nuances and details.  The ILIT lets an insured buy life insurance “outside of their estate” for estate tax purposes, lets the person treat insurance premiums as non-taxable gifts under the annual exclusion provisions and provides safety and security to the beneficiaries.

The ILIT is often used as part of a buy-sell agreement for privately held family businesses to make it possible for the business itself or business partners to buy out the equity of a deceased partner. The payment obligations may be funded by the proceeds from life insurance. In some cases, each partner buys a traditional insurance policy in an ILIT. The estate planning attorney working on a succession plan can provide advice on the most effective way to use the ILIT.

Another use for the ILIT is for wealthy families with illiquid assets, like an art collection or a large real estate portfolio. An ILIT holding a life insurance policy with a death benefit lets the beneficiaries use the proceeds to pay estate tax liabilities, without dipping into their own or the estate’s assets. The investment returns of the ILIT increase the policy owner’s wealth substantially, without increasing their taxable estate.

Reference: Financial Advisor (December 1, 2021) “Keeping an Eye on ILITs”

 

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Caregiving – How Do I Handle Mom’s Healthcare Needs as She Ages?

Livestrong’s recent article entitled “5 Tips for Handling a Loved One’s Medical Needs as They Age” gives us direction on how to assume the medical caregiving of an aging parent or other loved one who can no longer make his or her own medical decisions.

  1. Prepare. Make certain that all your loved one’s legal affairs are in order, while they’re still healthy and able to make sound decisions. This means signing a health care proxy or power of attorney for health care. Ask an experienced elder law attorney to help them create a legal document that allows the proxy to talk to their loved one’s healthcare team and to access medical records, if the loved one can’t make medical decisions for themselves.

Your loved one should also create a living will that describes specific medical treatments he or she may or may not want.

  1. Go with Your Loved One to Their Medical Visits. Plan to attend their doctor appointments together, even for those who aren’t incapacitated.
  2. Make Certain that Info is Shared Among All Medical Providers. Don’t assume members of your loved one’s medical team are communicating with each other. Keep track of tests, diagnoses and treatments and share the information with your loved one’s health caregiving providers. Compile a complete list of all over-the-counter and prescription medications, supplements and vitamins your loved one is taking to each office visit.
  3. Keep Your Loved One Engaged. Make sure that you understand your loved one’s values and wishes in any situation, so you can make the best decisions about their care. That may entail asking them to write down questions for the doctor before an appointment and having honest conversations with them about their condition and how it’s impacting their quality of life.

This is especially important if you’re discussing hospice or palliative caregiving. In managing their health care, you need to respect their wishes.

  1. Switch Doctors if You Need To. If your loved one’s physicians don’t return calls, seem to be in hurry and distracted during appointments or they dismiss the concerns of either you or your loved one, get a second opinion. If you have a disagreement with a medical provider about your loved one’s treatment plan, schedule a separate appointment to discuss your issues.

Reference: Livestrong (Nov. 9, 2021) “5 Tips for Handling a Loved One’s Medical Needs as They Age”

 

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Handling Guilt When Moving Loved One to Assisted Living Versus Nursing Home

Just 5% said they wanted to be cared for in an assisted living community, and only about 13% actually moved into a community.

McKnight’s Senior Living’s recent article entitled “Family feels less guilt when loved one moves to assisted living versus nursing home: study” says that a family that moved an older adult into assisted living reported having greater feelings of guilt related to that move due to limits in their ability to provide assistance (35%) compared with providing care at home (22%), moving an older adult into a caregiver’s home (15%), or moving an older adult to an adult day facility (9%). However, the feelings of guilt were more for families with loved ones that moved into nursing homes(40%).

The pandemic increased the belief in the importance of early planning. About a third (29%) of respondents in 2021 said they believed in long-term care insurance, compared with 15% in 2018. However, the number of people who actually bought long-term care insurance hasn’t changed significantly (14% as in 2018). The study points out that insurance impacts where care is delivered. Owners of long-term care insurance (25%) were significantly more likely than non-owners (11%) to receive care in an assisted living community, where, researchers said, residents may have more space and better accommodations than what typically is provided in nursing homes.

Compared with 2018, family caregivers were more likely to use professionals when looking for support and knowledge about caregiving options. This included social workers (23% of respondents said they used them in 2021; compared to just 18% in 2018), financial professionals (20% from 17%), and attorneys or elder law specialists (11% up from 7%). The primary “helpful” resources for family caregivers in 2021 were television programs (70%), internet-based social networks (68%), attorneys or elder law specialists (66%), financial advisers (65%) and nonprofit groups (61%).

However, the average time families spent researching professional caregivers dropped from 7.6 hours in 2018 to 6.8 hours in 2021. Overall, the study found longer lifespans and more demand for complex care are complicating caregiving. Care needs are more severe and longer lasting compared with 2018 study results, the researchers found.

According to the most recent research, about half (49%) of care recipients need assistance with all activities of daily living. That’s an increase from 39% in 2018. And the average duration of care needed rose from 3 years to 3½ years.

Seniors also have more age-related limitations (47% had such limitations in 2021, up from 44% in 2018), cognitive impairments (32%, up from 26%) and accidents requiring rehabilitation (23%, up from 21%).

Reference: McKnight’s Senior Living (Nov. 2, 2021) “Family feels less guilt when loved one moves to assisted living versus nursing home: study”

 

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How Can I Conduct a Family Meeting about Family Wealth Planning?

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “It’s Never Too Late for a Family Meeting – Here’s How to Do Them Well” emphasizes that no matter the amount of wealth that a family has, wealth education is crucial to overall financial education, preparing for the future and to becoming a good steward of an inheritance.

Family meetings are a great way of bringing members of a family together with a goal of facilitating communication and education. This allows for sharing family stories, communicating values, setting goals to help ensure transparency and helping members across generations understand their roles around stewardship and wealth.

Here are some ideas on how to have an effective family meeting:

Prepare. The host of the meeting should spend time with each participating family member to help them understand the reason for the meeting and learn more about their expectations. There should be a desire and commitment from the participants to invest time and effort to make family meetings a success.

Plan. Create a clear agenda that defines the purpose and goals of each meeting. Share this agenda with participants before the meeting. Select a neutral location that makes everyone comfortable and encourages participation.

Have time for learning. Include an educational component in the agenda, such as an introduction to investing, estate planning, budgeting and saving, or philanthropy.

Have a “parking lot.” Note any topics raised that might need to be addressed in a future meeting.

Use a facilitator. Perhaps have a trusted adviser facilitate the meeting. This can help with managing the agenda, offering a different perspective, calming emotions and making certain that everyone is heard and understood.

Follow up. Include some to-do’s and schedule the next meeting to set expectations about continuing to bring the family together.

Reference: Kiplinger (Sep. 1, 2021) “It’s Never Too Late for a Family Meeting – Here’s How to Do Them Well”

 

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How to Make a Few Bucks after Retirement

When you retire, it can be hard to generate extra income. However, if you can lower your spending, you won’t need to dip into your retirement funds as much. Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “7 Unusual Ways to Cut the Cost of Living in Retirement” gives us some atypical ways to lower your expenses in retirement:

  1. Move in with the children. Children these days often live at home until they’re in their 20s. They can return the favor by letting their retired parents live with them after they’ve formed their own households. However, prior to moving in with Junior, make sure that you reach an agreement about whether you’ll help out with household expenses.
  2. Rent out a room in your home. If you have empty bedrooms in your house because your children have grown up and moved away, consider renting one out. Companies such as Roommates4Boomers and Silvernest help seniors rent out extra space in their homes or find an older roommate with whom to reside. However, being a landlord requires some effort. You’ll need to screen tenants, collect damage deposits and collect the rent, unless you use a company that handles that for you.
  3. Get your green thumb going. You can max out your savings if you grow vegetables that can be easily stored or preserved, such as potatoes, onions and winter squash. Beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and sweet corn can be preserved by freezing or canning.
  4. Downsize your fleet. When you retire, you may be able to share a single vehicle with your spouse. That would eliminate the expenses associated with owning and operating a second car. Transportation-related costs are the second-largest type of expense for the average household led by someone who is 65 or older, after housing.
  5. Drop unhealthy habits. You can reduce your medical costs in retirement, if you make a greater effort to stay healthy. One way to do this is to avoid unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking alcohol to excess.
  6. Canceling your life insurance. The purpose of life insurance is to replace the income of household earners, providing for dependents in the event of a breadwinner’s untimely death. However, when you’re retired, odds are that your kids are grown and supporting themselves. If you no longer have dependents, the money you’re spending on life insurance might be better spent on your daily needs.
  7. Plan to age in place. If you take action now to make your home safe and accessible as you age, you may increase your chances of staying in your home longer. If you’re able to “age in place,” rather than moving into an assisted-living facility or nursing home, you’ll likely also save money.

Reference: Money Talks News (Sep. 3, 2021) “7 Unusual Ways to Cut the Cost of Living in Retirement”

 

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Should I Keep My Life Insurance Policy?

About half of adult Americans have a life insurance policy, and more say they’re interested in purchasing one. But needs can change later in life when children grow up, and a retirement nest egg seems big enough to absorb financial shocks. Those nearing and in retirement may see less need for their life insurance policy than when they first bought it and may see the premiums they pay as burdensome.

Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Other Uses for Life Insurance You May Not Know About” says that the tax benefits of a life insurance policy are potentially even more valuable now that the “stretch IRA” is no longer available to most of us. In 2019, the SECURE Act eliminated the stretch for most non-spouse beneficiaries. With limited exceptions, non-spouse beneficiaries can no longer “stretch” out RMDs (required minimum distributions) over the course of their lifetimes. Now, most non-spouse beneficiaries must withdraw their inherited tax-deferred retirement accounts within 10 years of the original owner’s death. This may result in an increased tax burden and a faster end to the tax benefits of the inherited account.

However, life insurance proceeds paid to beneficiaries are generally income tax-free, and some use life insurance to help transfer wealth to the next generation. Life insurance policies can provide business owners additional opportunities, such as paying off business debt, funding buy-sell agreements related to someone’s business or estate, or funding retirement plans.

It’s also estimated that 70% of Americans 65 today will need long-term care at some point, but many Americans nearing and in retirement don’t have long-term care insurance. Many people who do want to plan for long-term care costs may not want to invest in traditional long-term care insurance, because premiums can rise a lot, and there are typically no benefits if the owner ends up never needing long-term care.

An alternative option to long-term care insurance is to use a life insurance policy with long term care benefits. These combine the benefits of long-term care insurance with those of permanent life insurance through the purchase of an optional rider. They can still provide a death benefit if the owner passes away without having needed long-term care. If the owner does need long-term care, a certain amount of money or time is allotted to cover costs. If this amount isn’t used, some policies can offer a “return of premium” guarantee upon death or termination of the policy. If a remaining amount is passed on, beneficiaries may be able to enjoy it tax-free.

There are a number of potential benefits to life insurance beyond its traditional use when creating a retirement or estate plan.

Reference: Kiplinger (July 21, 2021) “Other Uses for Life Insurance You May Not Know About”

 

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Can You Have Bitcoin in IRA?

Experts on both sides of the cryptocurrency world agree on one thing: it’s still early to put investments like bitcoin into retirement accounts, especially IRAs. A recent article from CNBC, “Want to put bitcoin in your IRA? Why experts say you may want to rethink that, explains why this temptation should be put on pause for a while.

Investors who have remained on the sidelines on cryptocurrency are taking a second look as this new asset class surpassed the $2 trillion mark in late August. Looking at retirement accounts flush with positive growth from stocks, it seems like a good time to take some gains and test the crypto waters.

However, the pros warn against using cryptocurrency in retirement accounts. “Not just yet” is the message from both bulls and bears. One expert says using cryptocurrency in a retirement account is like taking a delicate and exotic animal out of its natural element and putting it in a concrete zoo. Cryptocurrency is not like “regular” money.

The accounts are structured differently The average investor also won’t be able to hold the keys to their own cryptocurrency investment. It’s a buy and hold, with no individual ability to move the assets around. While there are some investment platforms working to change that, an inability to move assets, especially such volatile assets, is not for everyone.

Cryptocurrency is a much riskier investment. A quarterly look at account updates would be like only checking your retirement accounts every five years. Cryptocurrency values are volatile, and an account balance can change dramatically from one week, one day or even one hour to the next one. Crypto is a 24/7/365-day market.

Self-directed IRAs are allowed to have crypto assets, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Another reason: stocks, bonds and real estate have a stated market value, which means they are taxed when withdrawals are taken. However, the expected value of cryptocurrencies is not clear. They are not regulated, while IRAs are among the most highly regulated accounts. This is a big reason as to why most IRA account administrators don’t permit cryptocurrencies in their accounts.

Investment decisions are based on the eventual use of the funds. For IRAs, the intention is not to lose money, and ideally for it to grow, so there is more money for your retirement, not less. Separate margin or trading accounts are typically used for riskier investments.

One expert advised limiting cryptocurrency investments to 5% of your total retirement accounts. If money is lost, it won’t destroy your retirement, and any wins are extra money. Another expert says investing such a small amount won’t be worth the time or effort, so don’t even bother.

For those who are determined to get in the game, a Roth IRA may be preferable if you have an extended time horizon and can stand the ups and downs of cryptocurrency investments. The appreciation in a Roth IRA will be tax-free.

Reference: CNBC (Aug. 17, 2021) “Want to put bitcoin in your IRA? Why experts say you may want to rethink that

 

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How Do You Survive Financially after Death of a Spouse ?

The financial issues that arise following the death of a spouse range from the simple—figuring out how to access online bill payment for utilities—to the complex—understanding estate and inheritance taxes. The first year after the death of a spouse is a time when surviving spouses are often fragile and vulnerable. It’s not the time to make any major financial or life decisions, says the article “The Financial Effects of Losing a Spouse” from Yahoo! Finance.

Tax implications following the death of a spouse. A drop in household income often means the surviving spouse needs to withdraw money from retirement accounts. While taxes may be lowered because of the drop in income, withdrawals from IRAs and 401(k)s that are not Roth accounts are taxable. However, less income might mean that the surviving spouse’s income is low enough to qualify for certain tax deductions or credits that otherwise they would not be eligible for.

Surviving spouses eventually have a different filing status. As long as the surviving spouse has not remarried in the year of death of their spouse, they are permitted to file a federal joint tax return. This may be an option for two more years, if there is a dependent child. However, after that, taxes must be filed as a single taxpayer, which means tax rates are not as favorable as they are for a couple filing jointly. The standard deduction is also lowered for a single person.

If the spouse inherits a traditional IRA, the surviving spouse may elect to be designated as the account owner, roll funds into their own retirement account, or be treated as a beneficiary. Which option is chosen will impact both the required minimum distribution (RMD) and the surviving spouse’s taxable income. If the spouse decides to become the designated owner of the original account or rolls the account into their own IRA, they may take RMDs based on their own life expectancy. If they chose the beneficiary route, RMDs are based on the life expectancy of the deceased spouse. Most people opt to roll the IRA into their own IRA or transfer it into an account in their own name.

The surviving spouse receives a stepped-up basis in other inherited property. If the assets are held jointly between spouses, there’s a step up in one half of the basis. However, if the asset was owned solely by the deceased spouse, the step up is 100%. In community property states, the total fair market value of property, including the portion that belongs to the surviving spouse, becomes the basis for the entire property, if at least half of its value is included in the deceased spouse’s gross estate. Your estate planning attorney will help prepare for this beforehand, or help you navigate this issue after the death of a spouse.

It should be noted there is a special rule that helps surviving spouses who wish to sell their home. Up to $250,000 of gain from the sale of a principal residence is tax-free, if certain conditions are met. The exemption increases to $500,000 for married couples filing a joint return, but a surviving spouse who has not remarried may still claim the $500,000 exemption, if the home is sold within two years of the spouses’ passing.

There is an unlimited marital deduction in addition to the current $11.7 million estate tax exemption. If the deceased’s estate is not near that amount, the surviving spouse should file form 706 to elect portability of their deceased spouse’s unused exemption. This protects the surviving spouse if the exemption is lowered, which may happen in the near future. If you don’t file in a timely manner, you’ll lose this exemption, so don’t neglect this task.

Reference: Yahoo! Finance (July 16, 2021) “The Financial Effects of Losing a Spouse”

 

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