Launch Financial- How To Work Through Money Conversations With Your Significant Other, with David Pearl

Check out our new podcast episode, “How To Work Through Money Conversations With Your Significant Other, with David Pearl” (You can find the direct download here). In this episode, we are joined by David Pearl, a LCSW a psychotherapist and consultant who specializes in treating professionals, couples, performing artists and athletes. Together we explore tips and advice on the money conversations you should be having with your significant other and when entering a new relationship. When two people with different backgrounds, risk tolerances, and views on money begin to merge their lives, things can get messy. David walks us through how to make those situations lighter and easier on your relationships.

A little about David, he aims to provide a safe and supportive environment to strengthen self-esteem and facilitate more meaningful connections with family, friends, professional colleagues, or teammates.

David obtained his Master’s degree from The Silver School of Social Work at NYU and his Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is formally trained in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), and has certifications in Imago Relationship Therapy and Prepare/Enrich Premarital and Marital Counseling. David is dual licensed in New York and Tennessee, and works with clients on an ongoing basis in both locations.

Prior to founding Music City Psych in Nashville, TN, David provided psychotherapy and performance coaching at Union Square Practice in NYC, counseling to individuals, couples, and families struggling with hematologic cancers at Mount Sinai Hospital, as well as psychodynamically oriented individual and couples counseling at The National Institute for the Psychotherapies (NIP).

How A Presidential Election Affects the Stock Market

During every major election period, there is always talk about the impact that the person winning the White House will have on the stock market. As Americans prepare to elect a president in the coming week, many investors attempt to figure out what the outcome will mean for your portfolio. However, it’s not just as simple as which party wins.  

A look back at history shows that presidential election cycles do correlate with stock market returns, but there are a few things to consider in election years. Bear markets, recessions and wars tend to start in the first two years of a president’s term, says The Stock Trader’s Almanac; bull markets and prosperous times mark the latter half. But over the past century, the stock market has mostly run briskly across most of the presidential cycle before losing momentum during election years.

Democrat or Republican?

Even though you might feel strongly about one party or the other when it comes to your politics, when it relates to your portfolio, it doesn’t matter much which party wins the White House.

According to Bespoke Research, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 4.8% annually since 1900. There are many who would suggest that Republicans, who are supposedly more business-friendly than the Democrats, would be more beneficial for your stock holdings, but that’s not entirely the case. In actuality, the average Republican administration saw gains of 3.5% per year, while the Democrats saw gains of almost twice as much, at 6.7% per year.

Divided vs. United Government:

Another myth is that markets do better when the government is divided. This theory derives from the idea that divided power saves both parties from their worst instincts. With neither party in control, government is somewhat neutral, leaving markets free to flourish. However, this hasn’t always been the case either.  

Y Charts has looked at stock returns going back to 1930 under three separate scenarios. When one party controls the White House and both houses of Congress, the Dow averages 10.7% annual returns. When there’s a split Congress, stocks average 9.1% returns. But when the president is in the party opposite of both the House and Senate, stocks deliver a mere 7% average annual return. Consider this breakdown of scenario by party, using S&P 500 data from RBC CapitalMarkets data going back to 1933:

It is important to remember that all of this information is looking at the performance of the broader stock market. Presidential elections can and will continue to have more specific consequences for the market, depending on each party’s agenda and how much of Washington they control.

Predicting the Future:

It turns out that the stock market has a remarkable ability to predict who will likely win the White House. If the stock market is up in the three months leading up to the election, the incumbent party is more often the winner. Losses over those three months tend to elect the opposing party.

With the final stretch of the election upon us, it’s still nearly impossible to guess how the stock market will react to next week’s vote. Our firm recommends that no one should make investment decisions based on the outcome of an election. Regardless of who wins the election, expect a continued economic rebound that will support future equity gains. In similarly polarizing elections in 2008 and 2016, investors who maintained their stock allocations were rewarded with future gains, so it’s best to avoid making any major moves with your portfolio over the next few months. If you have any questions relating to the stock market and your financial goals, please contact us and we would be happy to help you set up your portfolio respectively. 

 

Top 5 Pieces of Financial Advice

advice resized

As we are all adjusting to the new norm that the coronavirus pandemic has created in our world, we are also learning pieces of advice that we could share from this experience. When going through an economic crisis, it’s important to keep some tips at top-of-mind to help you navigate the bumpy waters. In a CNBC Select Article, we found 5 great pieces of financial advice that we want to share with you to put in your financial repertoire.

First and foremost, try not to accumulate credit card debt. Racking up credit card debt can have very negative long term consequences, so it’s important that you pay the full balance on time. When you do not pay the full balance on time, your card will quickly accumulate interest, which often can get so high that it’s hard to pay off. 

According to recent Federal Reserve data released in September, the average interest rate for all credit card accounts is 14.87%. Among accounts assessed interest, or accounts with outstanding finance charges, the average interest rate rises to 16.88%. But for consumers with credit scores below 670, interest rates can near 30%, CNBC Select reports.

Next, make sure you don’t buy things you can’t afford. Although this one seems obvious, it’s much more common than you think. Avoid overspending and spending on things you can live without. Start putting that extra money into savings accounts where you can be accruing interest and earning money. 

Third, invest the year’s expenses or anything saved after you have the year’s expenses saved? Before the pandemic, many people were saying how you should have several months of rent and expenses in a savings account for a rainy day, but as we have seen the economic hardships the coronavirus has inflicted upon our society, we are suggesting to save about a year’s worth of expenses before investing it elsewhere. 

Fourth, start to think like a savvy businessman or woman. Learn to negotiate. Especially in the world we are living in today, make sure you are constantly looking for deals and inquiring about credit card versus cash options. Oftentimes, places will charge you less if you pay in cash. So, before swiping that card, make sure you think about all your options. 

Lastly, buy in bulk. With Amazon becoming increasingly popular and making it possible to get what you need in a matter of hours, take advantage of deals and places you can buy in bulk. If you can save a few dollars here and there, take advantage of it. It’s important to be a smart shopper, especially when buying something pricey, such as groceries for a large family. 

By implementing some of these basic money management tips into your daily routine, you will find yourself becoming a more savvy shopper and saving more money. It is especially important during an economic recession to take these concepts into consideration and make the most of your finances. If you have any questions on other ways you can maximize your financial portfolio and find places in your budget where you can save money, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com or visit our site at www.shermanwealth.com. Check out our other blog posts for more financial advice and tips! 

 

Why Choose A Financial Advisor With A Big Tech Stack

tech

In the times of the coronavirus pandemic and with working-from-home becoming our new norm, we are all learning how to conduct our daily lives from the confines of our laptops and smartphones. Furthermore, while adjusting to this new way of life, it is crucial that the platforms and technology we use to connect with other professionals is as high-tech as possible. This is why having a financial advisor with the most current and state-of-the-art technology is crucial. 

In an article written by the Financial Advisor Magazine, they said that advisors with inadequate technology  weren’t able to conduct all aspects of their business during the pandemic. The article further states that more than three quarters of U.S. and Canadian advisors in a recent survey reported losing business due to inadequate technology as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. 

As mentioned previously, the ability to meet with your clients virtually and interact with them as if you were face to face is the only way to make these unprecedented times feel somewhat normal and keep your clients happy. According to the survey, eighty-nine percent of the respondents said their desktop software and firm-provided technology had become more essential during stay-at-home mandates; and 74% wished their firm had access to better technology tools.

Sherman Wealth has always utilized the most high-tech and innovative technology to serve our clients with. From staying in touch virtually via zoom meetings, texting, digital forms, screen sharing, or conference calls, to allowing our clients to constantly check their portfolio with the simple click of a button that takes them to our client app, this technology keeps our clients on top of their portfolio at all times. It also allows them to add in held away accounts that are not managed here or any bank accounts and debts to get a full financial picture. Our online scheduler allows our clients to book appointments at the tip of their fingers in order to stay connected at their leisure. Furthermore, our firm offers a risk tolerance questionnaire, where our clients can check their risk number at any time, to see how much risk you are actually taking within your portfolio. When choosing your financial advisor, make sure to think about choosing a firm that can reach you and give you the best service, especially during times like these when face-to-face communication is not possible. If you would like to inquire more about any of the technological services we offer to our clients, please reach out and we would be happy to share more information with you.

We Stand In Support Of Racial Equality And All Those Who Search For It

The senseless killing of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement has shaken this nation at its core. His death, along with countless others’ has once again brought these injustices to the forefront of our society. For far too long, Black Americans have suffered under systems of racism and oppression.

This time, there are no excuses – we have had enough.

We will no longer stand silent as these issues continue to plague our citizens, neighbors and friends. We stand in solidarity with the black community and equal rights for all. We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it.

There are many ways you can help:

Sign a petition;

Donate to one of these causes (www.naacpldf.org; www.policingequity.org/donate; www.wallstreetbound.org; www.eji.org) or another organization of your choice;

Watch this with your children – www.cnn.com/2020/06/06/app-news-section/cnn-sesame-street-race-town-hall-app-june-6-2020-app/index.html.

Should You Take Social Security Early in Light of a COVID-19 Related Layoff?

resized

Whether you are just entering the workforce or winding down toward retirement, COVID-19 has likely affected both your professional and financial life. For those between the ages of 62 and 70, you have the opportunity to begin claiming your Social Security benefits, whether you were planning to or not. While this “safety net” of sorts could be an appealing opportunity to replace the income you may have lost due to the current pandemic, it is a decision that requires much thought and analysis. Here are a few things to consider before deciding whether or not taking your Social Security benefits earlier than expected is right for you during these uncertain times.

Considerations to Make Before Taking Social Security During COVID-19

If you weren’t already planning on claiming your Social Security benefits soon, then take the time to review your other options first. Even though you are eligible to begin receiving benefits at age 62, your benefits will increase with every year you wait until age 70. While it’s tempting to take the money now, you could be missing out on thousands of dollars in future Social Security benefits.

Is There Other Income I Can Use?

If you’ve been saving diligently for retirement, you may already have the funds tucked away to get you through the foreseeable future. Review your 401(k) and IRA accounts, and remember to account for income through any pension plans you may have through work. After taking stock of these accounts and any emergency funds you have saved away, you may determine that claiming Social Security benefits early is not necessary. Even putting off claiming your benefits by six months or a year could make a considerable difference in your future benefits.

It’s also important to consider that if you’re earning less now than you were in previous years, you’ll likely be in a lower tax bracket come tax season 2020. This would make now an advantageous time to tap into your retirement savings accounts, as your tax obligation on this income may be lower than if you had worked full-time in a normal year otherwise.

Have I Applied for Unemployment?

The CARES Act was passed at the end of March in response to the detrimental financial impact COVID-19 has had on Americans. As a part of this legislation, the government boosted unemployment benefits, offering eligible unemployed individuals an additional $600 per week for four months on top of their normal benefit amounts. In addition, this bill allows unemployed individuals to receive benefits for an extended period of 13 weeks.

If you were laid off or furloughed as a result of COVID-19 and have yet to look into receiving unemployment benefits, you may want to do so immediately. This income may be sufficient in covering your expenses until you’re able to work again.

What if My Other Options Are Limited?

It may be necessary to begin claiming Social Security benefits early if you’ve exhausted other resources, or you don’t have much savings to begin with. For example, your primary alternative may be to remove funds from your portfolio. But with the onset of COVID-19, markets are volatile and values have dropped significantly. If at all possible, it may be better to leave your assets where they are as long as possible in an effort to recoup recent losses. Either way, this is a decision you’ll want to make with your financial advisor first.

However, if your only other alternative is to rack up high-interest debt, taking the Social Security benefits early is almost always going to be the preferred choice. Falling into a deep hole of debt is not an easy position to overcome, and certainly not an ideal way to start your retirement.

Important Notes About Taking Social Security Early

If you do choose to take Social Security early to help ease the financial burden of losing your job, there are a few important things to remember.

The Impact of Working While Receiving Social Security

What happens if you begin claiming Social Security, but you get your job back? If you begin working again or find a new job, you may be subject to having a portion of your benefits withheld. This would be based on how much you are making above the SSA’s exempt limit. The SSA uses a retirement earnings test to help determine this amount.2

Withdrawing Your Application to Receive Social Security Benefits

You could choose to withdraw your application for benefits within 12 months of becoming entitled to retirement benefits. For example, say you’ve chosen to take benefits now in the midst of COVID-19 because you were furloughed or laid off. In a few months from now, if your financial situation has turned around and you’re earning again, you might choose to withdraw your application.

This would mean you’d stop receiving Social Security payments, and would essentially “reset” them. When you choose to receive them again later, that future date would be the date that determines how much you receive. If you choose this route, however, it’s important to note that you would be required to pay back any benefits you had already received.3

Even though claiming Social Security benefits now to address your sudden loss of income may be tempting, it’s important to take some time and consider all of your options. It may be the best move for some, but others could be robbing their future retirement unnecessarily. If you find yourself in this position or have any questions about taking your Social Security benefits earlier than expected, please contact us.  We are here to help!

  1.        https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text
  2.        https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/rtea.html
  3.        https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/withdrawal.html

The Economic Impact of COVID-19: Next Steps For Those Struggling Financially

struggling financially

The coronavirus has affected us all in many ways.  This pandemic has had an immense impact on our physical well-being and our mental health, as well as our finances. This virus has spread throughout the globe and as many businesses are forced to cease operation, people worldwide are losing jobs at record rates.

Roughly 22 million Americans filed unemployment claims over a four-week period starting March 14 – marking a record-breaking high for the U.S. Department of Labor.1 These numbers are unprecedented as everyone everywhere struggles to make ends meet amidst this widespread pandemic.    

For those struggling financially, how do we begin recovering from this? Here are some critical next steps for those impacted by the first-hand economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Step #1: Reevaluate Your Spending 

Whether you suddenly have a stop in income, a decrease in your paycheck or you’re now reliant on financial assistance from the government, any change in your normal cash flow is a reason to look at your spending.

Even though it may seem obvious, it should be done immediately and with care. You should look over your weekly or monthly budget to determine any non-essential costs that can be eliminated. Since many businesses you may have frequented are likely not open anyway, you should consider reallocating any money normally budgeted for this to cover other necessary expenses.  Any money that may have been budgeted for a night out at a restaurant or a movie ticket could be used to start or contribute to an emergency fund instead.

Step #2: Acknowledge the Change

These times are unprecedented and are affecting the lives of nearly everyone across the globe. We are all fighting the spread of a deadly virus while people in a wide variety of industries – hospitality, retail, food, travel and more – have been left jobless for the foreseeable future.

Our current circumstances are likely to have made many stressed, angry, sad and devastated emotionally. When it comes to standing tall and moving forward financially, the sooner you can recognize the emotional toll these global events have had and come to terms with the “new normal,” the sooner you can begin planning ahead. 

Part of this acceptance is recognizing any bad habits you might have, specifically financial spending habits triggered by stress. If you like to “take the edge off” with online shopping or use eating out as a way to cheer yourself up, now is a good time to practice restraint.  When you become aware that these are emotional responses, you can try to come up with other ways this money may be better spent, such as paying off debt, putting it into savings or creating an emergency fund.  

Step #3: Be Aware of Changing Policies

Both federal and state governments have been working hard to accommodate out-of-work citizens. Legislation has been passed in an effort to amp up benefits for unemployed individuals.  Some local governments have made it illegal for power and utilities to be shut off due to a missed payment during the pandemic and others have urged landlords to halt rent payments temporarily.

Even some insurance agencies and gyms have paused memberships or reduced rates in an effort to accommodate out-of-work individuals. Given the current situation with so many struggling, many companies have created more lenient payment policies. If you are unable to pay certain monthly bills, you should begin contacting those companies or agencies immediately since they may be willing to assist you.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great feeling of uncertainty about the future for most of us.  If you are struggling financially, you are certainly not alone. There are resources available to you now, such as stimulus checks and unemployment insurance, to help make this time a little easier. However, if you still have concerns about how to move forward financially during these trying times, please contact us. We are here to help and we are all in this together!

  1. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/OPA/newsreleases/ui-claims/20200632.pdf

The CARES Act Has Waived RMD Distributions for 2020 – What You Should Know

rmd image

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and was signed into law on March 27, 2020. COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the financial and physical health of Americans and businesses across the country. There are many features of this new law, but one specific change to required minimum distributions (RMDs) has presented an interesting opportunity for retirees. 

The CARES Act – RMDs 

In Section 2203 titled, “Temporary Waiver of Required Minimum Distribution Rules for Certain Retirement Plans and Accounts,” those who are typically required to take minimum distributions from their retirement savings accounts will not be required to do so for the remainder of 2020.1  This will affect anyone who would normally have to take an RMD in 2020, whether it’s coming from a company 401(k), 403(b) or an IRA. 

Back in December 2019, the SECURE Act was passed which changed the age at which an individual is required to begin taking minimum distributions. According to the IRS: “If you reached the age of 70½ in 2019 the prior rule applies, and you must take your first RMD by April 1, 2020. If you reach age 70 ½ in 2020 or later you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year after you reach 72.”2

However, the CARES Act has put a pause on RMDs – even for those who turned 70 ½ in 2019. 

The CARES Act – Inherited IRAs

Even though the language of the CARES Act does not mention Inherited IRAs specifically, it does say RMDs have been put on pause for all retirement accounts. Unless further clarification is presented, it is implied that those who have inherited an IRA are not required to take RMDs in 2020.

I’ve Already Withdrawn Money – Can I Return It?

This change to RMDs is valid for the entire year of 2020, starting January 1, but the CARES Act did not go into effect until the end of March. If you had already taken your RMD for the year, you can not return it. However, if you have taken an RMD within the last 60 days, you do have the option to roll this amount over into an IRA. This option can only be done once in a 12-month period, but it may be beneficial for those who took their RMD just before the law was passed. It should be noted that this 60-day rollover option is not available to those withdrawing from an inherited account.

Should I Skip My RMD In 2020?

The biggest advantage of skipping your RMDs for 2020 is a reduced tax bill. If you choose to take your RMD as usual, this money taken out would count as income, so you would have a higher tax bill next year. In a time where many are facing critical financial struggles, the government is looking to ease financial stress for retirees by allowing them to skip RMDs this year. 

It is also important to note that RMDs are based on “the account balance as of the end of the immediately preceding calendar year divided by a distribution period from the IRS’s ‘Uniform Lifetime Table,’” according to the IRS.3  In other words, your RMD would be determined based, in part, on the account balance as of December 31, 2019 – a time in which markets were strong and nearing a peak. Since then, the market has experienced general economic volatility and waiting to take RMDs until 2021 will hopefully give retirees a chance to see their accounts regain some of those lost values. Taking the money out now means retirees would be left paying taxes on value that no longer exists in their accounts.

One of the aspects of The CARES Act has presented retirees with a potentially advantageous opportunity. While those that need are still able to withdraw from their retirement accounts, those who typically have RMDs are not required to take them until 2021. If you have any questions about whether or not to take your RMDs this year, please contact us – we are here to help!  

  1. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text
  2. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-required-minimum-distributions
  3. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-required-minimum-distributions-rmds

An Overview of the Newly Passed $484 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package

new stimulus bill photo

Earlier today (Friday, April 24, 2020), President Donald Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. This additional $484 billion relief package comes less than a month after the historic $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which offered relief funds for businesses, families, unemployed individuals and others affected by the current pandemic. This new legislation is more restricted in scope, focusing primarily on replenishing funds for the Paycheck Protection Program and offering more financial relief for hospitals and healthcare workers across the country. The specifics of this relief package and how it may pertain to you, your business and your local healthcare facilities are detailed here.

Hospitals, Health Systems & Care Providers

This bill is allocating an additional $75 billion to go toward hospitals, health care providers and systems across the United States. As a part of the “Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund,” this money is meant to reimburse providers for related expenses or revenue lost as a direct result of COVID-19.1 This money can not be used in cases where reimbursements have already been received through other means.  Providers who provide diagnoses, treatment or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19 are eligible to access these funds. 

Such healthcare providers include:

  • Public hospitals
  • Medicare and Medicaid enrolled suppliers or providers
  • For-profit hospitals and healthcare providers
  • Not-for-profit hospitals and healthcare providers1
Research and Testing For COVID-19

In addition to the above, the “Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund,” will receive $25 billion “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” in the form of research, development, manufacturing, purchasing, administering and testing individuals who may be currently infected or previously exposed to the virus.1 This fund is also meant to help healthcare providers procure additional protective equipment necessary to administer tests safely. 

Here’s how the $25 billion will be split amongst healthcare facilities and researchers:

  • $11 billion for states, localities, territories, tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations or health service providers to tribes.
  • $4.25 billion for states, localities and territories to be divided formulaically based on the relative number of COVID-19 cases.
  • $2 billion to states, localities and territories in accordance with the Public Health Emergency Preparedness agreement. 
  • $1.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health – Office of the Director.
  • $1 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • $1 billion to assist healthcare providers testing uninsured patients.
  • $1 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
  • $750 million for tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations or health service providers to tribes, in accordance with the Director of the Indian Health Service.
  • $600 million in grants through the Health Resources and Services Administration – Primary Health Care.
  • $500 million for the National Institutes of Health – National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
  • $306 million for the National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute.
  • $225 million for rural healthcare clinics looking to expand their COVID-19 testing capabilities.
  • $22 million for the “Department of Health and Human Services – Food and Drug Administration – Salaries and Expenses.”1

The Department of Health and Human Services Secretary will also be required to issue a report every 30 days that includes the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths as a result of COVID-19. In these mandatory reports, the Secretary will be required to provide distinguishing demographic characteristics such as race, sex, age, ethnicity, etc. until the health emergency has ended.1  

The Paycheck Protection Program

This new legislation will make an additional $320 billion available to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a reminder, the Paycheck Protection Program is designed to assist small businesses with 500 or fewer employees. Qualifying businesses may receive up to $10 million in loans administered by banks or other lenders, and the interest rate would not exceed one percent.2 

The Paycheck Protection Program offers qualified employers the potential to receive loan forgiveness if at least 75 percent of the money received is used to maintain payroll through June of 2020. They may also use the loan to pay interest on mortgages and rent and utilities.2 In order to be eligible for loan forgiveness, the business must maintain the same number of employees (equivalents) in the eight weeks following the date of origination of the loan as it did from either February 15, 2019 through June 30, 2019, or from January 1, 2020 through February 29, 2020.

Small Business Administration

$62.1 billion will be granted to the Small Business Administration to assist small businesses who have been hit hard by the current pandemic.

This amount will be broken down by:

  • $2.1 billion in salaries and expenses
  • $50 billion for the “Disaster Loans Program Account” to cover the cost of direct loans authorized by the SBA
  • $10 billion for emergency EIDL grants1   

The newly passed Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act is designed to assist those who have been hit hard by this global pandemic – small businesses forced to cease or reduce operations and healthcare providers on the frontlines. If you’re a small business owner hoping to take advantage of these available funds, refer to official government sites, such as the SBA’s Guidance & Loan Resources for further assistance.

As always, if you have any questions for us during this unprecedented time, please contact us – we are here to help and are all in this together!

  1. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/266/text
  2. https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program#section-header-4
  3. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text

Estate Planning in Uncertain Times

estate planning 2

Although planning for your future is always a necessity, many people tend to wait until they are older to put their legal documents in order in the event something should happen to them. However, the rapid spread of the coronavirus has led to a skyrocketing demand for wills, even for those who aren’t middle aged or older. What once appeared to be a scourge that was primarily affecting the elderly and those with underlying health issues has now been revealed to hospitalize and kill those who are younger, seemingly at an alarming rate. The search term “getting a will” has risen sharply since March 8 and there have been tweets from doctors and nurses in recent days about wanting to get advanced health-care directives—living wills, power of attorney for health-care decisions and do-not-resuscitate orders—because they know their work might expose them to the virus.  Whether or not you are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, it is a good idea to make sure you have the following information completed and updated for you and your family should the need arise.

Wills & Beneficiaries

Now is a good time to check your existing beneficiary designations for each of your retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance policies to make sure they are current and you do not have any lapses. In cases where family situations have changed, possibly because of divorce or birth of children or grandchildren, these designations aren’t often up to date. In the event you do not have a named beneficiary who survives you, your estate will be the beneficiary, which is rarely a good result. With a Will, you can generally leave any type of property to whomever you wish, with some exceptions. Wills can be contested in probate court, but beneficiary designations are legally binding.

Many people haven’t had an opportunity to change or update their beneficiaries since the SECURE Act was implemented.  See (https://www.investopedia.com/what-is-secure-act-how-affect-retirement-4692743) to review how your retirement may be impacted by the SECURE Act).

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a written document where you designate another person (agent) to act on your behalf. In the event you become physically or mentally incapacitated, it enables your agent to handle your affairs. A person’s ability to name a power of attorney normally terminates upon their incapacity. With an immediate durable power of attorney, you grant your agent the authority effective immediately.

Health Care Proxy

Also called a durable power of attorney for health care, this document appoints a representative to make medical decisions on your behalf. You decide what your representative will have control over  (i.e., selection of health care providers, approval of tests and procedures, etc.). It is important to have an active health care proxy in place in the event you become incapacitated.

If you have adult children, you might want to make sure they also have health care proxies in place. In addition to having a health care proxy, a living will allows you to approve or decline certain types of medical care, such as life support, even if you will die as a result.

Trusts

If you have previously established a living or irrevocable trust, now is a good time to confirm that your trustees and successor trustees are still alive, willing to serve, and that you still want them to serve should the need arise. You should also confirm that all the assets you want to pass through your trust are correctly titled.

While the above topics are often difficult to think about, this also might be a good time to take a look at your financial plan as well. Depending on your circumstances, it might be beneficial to gift highly appreciated assets out of your estate at deep discounts. If you are in a low tax bracket, converting part or all of your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to a Roth IRA could be an asset to your long-term retirement plans.  

Should you need any referrals for an estate lawyer, we are happy to put you in touch with someone.  If you have any financial questions, please contact us anytime.  We hope you are staying safe and healthy – we are all in this together!