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Do you have a will? A durable power of attorney? A health care proxy? If so, no reason to read on. If not, why not? Failure to create an estate plan risks causing discord in your family for generations to come. The following are four often stated reasons for not having an estate plan: Just Not Getting Around to It A discussion of why everyone needs an estate plan starts with a consideration of what “estate” means and what “estate plan” means. Your “estate” is simply everything you own: bank accounts, stock, real estate, motor vehicles, jewelry, household furniture, retirement…Read More »
Elder law and estate planning serve two different — but equally vital — functions. The main difference is that elder law is focused on preserving your assets during your lifetime, while estate planning concentrates on what happens to your assets after you die. Elder law planning is concerned with ensuring that seniors live long, healthy, and financially secure lives. It usually involves anticipating future medical needs, including long-term care. Elder law attorneys can help you develop a plan to pay for future care while preserving some of your assets. They can also assist you with qualifying for Medicaid or other benefits…Read More »
Don’t assume your estate will automatically go to your spouse when you die. If you don’t have an estate plan, your spouse may have to share your estate with other family members. If you die without an estate plan, the state will decide where your assets go. Each state has laws that determine what will happen to your estate if you don’t have a will. If you are married, most states award one-third to one-half of your estate to your spouse, with the rest divided among your children or, if you don’t have children, to other living relatives such as…Read More »
Revocable trusts are a very popular and useful estate planning tool. But the trust will be ineffective if you do not actually place your assets in the trust. Revocable trusts are an effective way to avoid probate and provide for asset management in the event of incapacity. In addition, revocable trusts — sometimes called “living” trusts — are incredibly flexible as you can also put out of state property in the trust and avoid ancillary probate in that state or you can also avoid lengthy ancestry searches if you have only distant heirs as well as have more seamless administration…Read More »
When you inherit property, such as a house or stocks, the property is usually worth more than it was when the original owner purchased it. If you were to sell the property, there could be huge capital gains taxes. Fortunately, when you inherit property, the property’s tax basis is “stepped up,” which means the basis would be the current value of the property. For example, suppose you inherit a house that was purchased years ago for $150,000 and it is now worth $350,000. You will receive a step up from the original cost basis from $150,000 to $350,000. If you…Read More »
Medicare premiums are set to rise a modest amount next year, but still cut into any Social Security gains. The basic monthly premium will increase $3.90, from $144.60 a month to $148.50. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the premium and other Medicare cost increases on November 6, 2020. The hike could have been much worse due to rising costs during the coronavirus pandemic, but the bipartisan budget bill passed in October capped the increase. While the majority of beneficiaries will pay the added amount, a “hold harmless” rule prevents Medicare recipients’ premiums from increasing more than…Read More »
As Medicare premiums rise, a Medicare Advantage plan can seem like an attractive option. But if you are considering switching from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, you need to know what to look for. Medicare Advantage plans are run by private insurers, unlike Original Medicare, which the federal government operates, although the medical providers are private. The government pays Medicare Advantage plans a fixed monthly fee to provide services to each Medicare beneficiary under their care. The plans often look attractive because they offer the same basic coverage as original Medicare plus some additional benefits and services that…Read More »
The rules around required minimum distributions from retirement accounts are confusing, and it’s easy to slip up. Fortunately, if you do make a mistake, there are steps you can take to fix the error and possibly avoid a stiff penalty. If you have a tax-deferred retirement plan such as a traditional IRA or 401(k), you are required to begin taking distributions once you reach a certain age, with the withdrawn money taxed at your then-current tax rate. If you were age 70 1/2 before the end of 2019, you had to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) in April of…Read More »
The Social Security Administration has announced a 1.3 percent rise in benefits in 2021, an increase even smaller than last year’s. Cost-of-living increases are tied to the consumer price index, and a modest upturn in inflation rates and gas prices means Social Security recipients will get only a slight boost in 2021. The 1.3 percent increase is similar to last year’s 1.6 percent increase, but much smaller than the 2.8 percent rise in 2019. The average monthly benefit of $1,523 in 2020 will go up by $20 a month to $1,543 a month for an individual beneficiary, or $240 yearly.…Read More »
Should Seniors Who Lose Their Job During the Coronavirus Pandemic Claim Social Security Benefits Early?
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment is skyrocketing. Seniors who lose their jobs may be tempted to claim Social Security benefits early, but should they, given the resulting reduction in future benefits?Read More »