Challenges for Women Facing Retirement are Especially Daunting

Add to the challenges facing women in retirement are the rising costs of health care, as well as other deeply-rooted economic factors, says Next Avenue in the article “What Could Help Women Facing financial Challenges for Retirement.” This issue is top-of-mind for many, with a focus from the Senate and the EBRI pushing this public policy matter into the spotlight.

The barriers for women to accumulate wealth are very real. At the Senate hearing, Linda Stone, a WISER member (Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement) presented some hard facts: there are 5.7 million more women than men at age 65, and of those who are over 85, 67% are female. One out of two women alive right now, will live until age 90. However, many people over age 85, and especially women, end up living in poverty or in near poverty, even if they were never poor throughout their lives.

The longer lifespan of most women comes with a resulting need for more income. Women traditionally have nine years with zero earnings, usually because they are rearing children or caring for elderly parents. Women’s careers also average 29 years compared to 39 years for men.

The gender mortality difference and the tendency for women to marry older men, leads to them outliving their partners and be more likely to live alone. This increases their chances of descending into poverty. Couples’ finances are also often exhausted by caring for the husband’s medical needs.

How can women be helped to achieve financial security in retirement?

  • Study ways to offer retirement protection to women, who spend significant time as caregivers, including considering providing Social Security credits for those years.
  • Encourage employers to offer retirement plans.
  • Allow part-time and temporary workers to participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

A briefing presented by the EBRI looked into the reasons why women tend to save less than men. The program referenced a blog post from Kimberly Blanton, of the Boston College Center for Retirement Research, which noted that “if the difference between paychecks for men and women is a gap, then the difference in wealth can be described as a chasm.”

The median net worth for women age 45 to 65 adjusted for inflation has actually declined in recent years. Older women of color have seen the largest decline in their net worth. The study was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work and the nonprofit Asset Funders Network.

The takeaway: there is a strong need for more public policy initiatives to help women save more for retirement.

Reference: Next Avenue (February 12, 2019) “What Could Help Women Facing financial Challenges for Retirement”

Should I Designate a Trust Instead of an Individual as a Beneficiary of my IRA?

There are many pros and cons to naming a trust, rather than an individual as a beneficiary of the IRA. However, there are many complex rules. You need to get it right, because this may be your biggest asset.

Investment News’ recent article on this subject asks “Should you name a trust as an IRA beneficiary?” The article explains that individual retirement account assets can’t be put into trusts directly during a person’s lifetime, without destroying the IRA’s tax shelter. Therefore, a trust may only be named as the beneficiary of the IRA. The trust would inherit the IRA upon the owner’s death, and beneficiaries of that trust would have access to the funds.

Asset protection is the main rationale for making this move, because trusts shield IRA assets from lawsuits, business failures, divorce and creditors. Taxpayers enjoy state and federal protections for IRA assets during their lifetime. However, heirs who inherit an IRA directly—not through a trust—don’t receive those protections, unless provided by state law. Trusts also allow for some control over the assets. The terms of a trust can stipulate the way in which distributions are made if an heir is a minor, disabled, financially unreliable, incapacitated or vulnerable.

Naming a trust as an IRA beneficiary may not be practical for people who plan to bequeath their IRA to a spouse, rather than their children, grandchildren or others. Spouses are allowed roll over the decedent’s IRA assets into their own IRA tax-free.

There are many technical rules to follow, like the IRA beneficiary form must indicate before a person’s death, that the trust is the primary beneficiary. After death, the IRA must be retitled as an inherited IRA. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) would still also be required for the IRA. This is an area where using the right type of trust is important. A “see-through” or “look-through” trust may be the best bet.

Structuring a trust this way maintains the IRA’s preferential tax treatment. That allows a trust beneficiary to spread the RMDs over a long period based on his life expectancy. This is called a “stretch IRA.” The RMD amount would be based on the oldest beneficiary of the trust. However, beneficiaries with separate trust shares would have different RMDs.

In addition, the trust’s language must also state that distributions from the IRA can only go to “designated beneficiaries,” not to pay expenses. The risk of not creating the trust as a see-through or including this language, is that the IRA assets are distributed and the resulting tax paid within a much shorter time frame—potentially five years.

Trusts may also be set up as “conduit” or “discretionary” trusts. With a conduit trust, the annual RMDs pass through the trust to beneficiaries, who pay tax at their individual rates. Discretionary trusts don’t distribute the RMDs out of the trust and pay tax at the more punitive trust tax rates. However, they keep the most post-death control over assets.

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about these trusts and how they can work with your IRA.

Reference: Investment News (February 22, 2019) “Should you name a trust as an IRA beneficiary?”

When Should I Review My Estate Plan?

As life changes, you need to periodically review your estate-planning documents and discuss your situation with your estate planning attorney.

WMUR’s recent article, “Money Matters: Reviewing your estate plan,” says a common question is “When should I review my documents?”

Every few years is the quick answer, but a change in your life may also necessitate a review. Major life events can be related to a marriage, divorce, or death in the family; a substantial change in estate size; a move to another state and/or acquisition of property in another state; the death of an executor, trustee or guardian; the birth or adoption of children or grandchildren; retirement; and a significant change in health, to name just a handful.

When you conduct your review, consider these questions:

  • Does anyone in your family have special needs?
  • Do you have any children from a previous marriage?
  • Is your choice of executor, guardian, or trustee still okay?
  • Do you have a valid living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or a do-not-resuscitate to manage your health care, if you’re not able to do so?
  • Do you need to plan for Medicaid?
  • Are your beneficiary designations up to date on your retirement plans, annuities, payable-on-death bank accounts and life insurance?
  • Do you have charitable intentions and if so, are they mentioned in your documents?
  • Do you own sufficient life insurance?

In addition, review your digital presence and take the necessary efforts to protect your online information, after your death or if you’re no longer able to act.

It may take a little time, effort, and money to review your documents, but doing so helps ensure your intentions are properly executed. Your planning will help to protect your family during a difficult time.

Reference: WMUR (January 24, 2019) “Money Matters: Reviewing your estate plan”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Will, Guardian, Executor, Trustee, Power of Attorney, Medicaid, Life Insurance

Why Should I Buy a Home with a Real Estate Trust?

If you place your home in a trust, you become the trustee of the property. When you die, your successor then becomes the trustee.

Being the trustee of a property gives you certain powers over where your home will pass once upon your death. It can also enable you to shield your estate from future economic problems, says Investopedia in the recent article, “Buying a Home in Trust.”

First, decide who will have the legal right to sell the home. Then, you need to determine what type of trust to set up for the estate. Let’s look at the two basic types: the revocable trust and the irrevocable trust.

A revocable trust is an agreement that establishes the rights and heirs of the estate. The owner of the trust has full control at all times and can change it, when he or she wants. Based upon the way in which you set up the documents, all or one of the future trustees can also change the document at any time. Revocable means “capable of being canceled.”

In contrast, an irrevocable trust generally doesn’t allow any changes or terminations of the trust without permission of the beneficiary. The trustee acts more like a fiduciary who’s charged with maintaining the assets for the beneficiary. Irrevocable trusts can protect assets from creditors, if the assets were placed in the trust before the credit problems.

Whether creating a revocable or an irrevocable trust, it’s important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. However, it is important to be aware of how putting a home may impact your eligibility for Medicaid, if that may be a future issue.

Buying a home in a real estate trust can give you and your beneficiaries advantages that otherwise wouldn’t be available.

Reference: Investopedia (October 13, 2018) “Buying a Home in Trust”

What Seniors Need to Know About Annuities

An annuity will pay income to you for the rest of your life. However, if you are considering buying an annuity, you need to understand what you are getting yourself into, before you hand over your life savings. Companies that sell annuities would go out of business, if they did not hedge their bets.  This means that you might receive a better return on your money elsewhere, but possibly with greater risk.

We understand that many seniors worry about outliving their money, and the peace of mind of guaranteed income for life might be worth a lower return. Your happiness and financial security are essential. To help you with your decision, here are some pointers on what seniors need to know about annuities.

There Are No Mulligans

Once you buy an annuity, that money is gone forever. It will not be there, if you have a medical crisis or some other need. You hand over a sizable lump sum. The annuity company gets to invest it, however it sees fit. The company will pay you a fixed monthly amount. It is betting that you will die, before they have to pay out an equivalent return on your money.

When you pass on, the annuity company keeps the money, even though it also enjoyed the income earned from investing it. You will not be able to leave the lump-sum to your heirs.

Experts recommend that if you are set on buying an annuity, that you only put in the minimum amount to cover the difference between your Social Security check and your basic living expenses. You can invest the rest of your money, control it, spend it as you wish and leave any surplus to your loved ones.

The Purpose of an Annuity

Some companies offer annuities as a way to invest now for a payout down the road. Traditional annuities, however, start paying you regular income right away.

Financial planners recommend that if you want to invest your money to use down the road, there are better ways to do this without forking over so much money to an annuity company. If you want to create guaranteed monthly income and you are about to retire, a single-premium immediate annuity might serve your needs.

Resist Sellers Without the Highest Credit Rating

Although it might promise generous monthly income payments to you, if you hand over your savings to a company that goes out of business in a few years, you have lost all of that money. Compare quotes from the annuity insurers with the highest ratings. You can check quotes and ratings online.

Make sure that you understand all the fees and surrender charges or penalties you will have to pay, if you absolutely have to get back some of your money for a significant emergency. Find out if your heirs will get any payout, if you pass on during the first 10 or 15 years of the annuity payments. You should also lock down in writing all terms, like application fees and any other up-front costs.

This article does not offer financial advice. You should talk with your financial advisor before making an investment decision.

References:

AARP. “5 Things You Should Know About Annuities.” (accessed January 25, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/retirement/retirement-savings/info-2019/annuities-buying-advice.html

You Should Decide – Not Your Kids!

Listen, no one wants to get older, but it is a part of life.  You can stay ahead of the game by taking charge and prepare for our future healthcare needs.  We would recommend you start touring your local Senior Living Communities, Assisted Livings and even Nursing Homes.  If a crisis situation should arise you will be better prepared and not scrambling to find a place of YOUR choosing.  If YOU’RE not making the choice, your KIDS will or even worse the HOSPITAL will be telling you that you must go here or there.  You never want to feel forced or stuck in a situation.  When people are well informed about their healthcare options, and get to choose where they want to go, they are more likely to be more satisfied with their quality of life in that living situation.  Don’t wait!  The time is now to be in charge of your future.

Kids Grown Up? Protect Them with These Three Documents

Without the right documents in place, you do not have the legal right to protect your own children, once they turn 18, says The National Law Review in an unsettling but must-read article titled “Three Critical Legal Documents Every Parent Should Get in Place Now to Safeguard Their Adult Children.”

There are only three documents and they are fairly straightforward. There is no reason not to have them in place. If your adult child was incapacitated by an accident or an illness, you would want to speak with the medical staff to find out how they are and what decisions need to be made. Whether you were making a phone call or arriving at the hospital, a nurse or doctor would not be permitted to speak with you about your own adult child’s condition or be involved with making any medical decisions.

It sounds unreasonable, and perhaps it is, but that is the law. There are steps you can take to ensure that you are not in this situation.

HIPAA Authorization Form gives you the authority to speak with healthcare providers. This is a federal law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) that safeguards who can access an adult’s private health data. HIPAA prevents healthcare providers from revealing any information to you or anyone else about a patient’s status. The practitioners could face severe penalties for violating HIPAA.

This is why you want to have a HIPAA authorization signed by your adult child and naming you as an authorized recipient.  This will give you the ability to ask for and receive information about your child’s health status, progress and treatment. This is especially important, if your child is unconscious or in an unresponsive state. The alternative? Going to court. That’s not what you want to be doing during a health emergency.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney needs to be in place, so you can be named his or her “medical agent” and have the ability to view their medical records and make informed decisions on their behalf. Without this (or a court-appointed guardianship), healthcare decisions will be in the hands of healthcare providers only. That’s not a bad thing, if you implicitly trust your child’s doctor. However, if your child is incapacitated in an out-of-town hospital with healthcare providers you don’t know, you will want to be able to make decisions on his or her behalf.

Note that physicians prefer a single medical agent, not a handful. The concern is that if time is a critical factor and a group of family members do not agree on care, it may compromise the healthcare services that can be provided. You can name multiple agents in priority order. A mother might be listed as the medical agent, and if she is unable or unwilling to serve, the second person would be the father.

The third document is a General Power of Attorney. This would give you the right to make financial decisions on your child’s behalf, if they were to become incapacitated. You would have the legal right to manage bank accounts, pay bills, sign tax returns, apply for government benefits, break or apply a lease and conduct activities on behalf of your child. Without this document, you won’t be able to help your child without a court-appointed conservatorship.

Keep in mind that these documents need to be updated every few years. If you try to use an older document, the bank or hospital may not accept them. Your adult child also has the ability to revoke these documents at any time, just by saying they revoke them or by putting it in writing. If you have an adult child living out of state, you want to have these documents prepared for your home state and their state of residence.

Finally, this is not a time to download forms and hope for the best. An estate planning attorney will know more specifically what forms are used in your state and help you make sure that they are prepared correctly.

Reference: The National Law Review (Feb. 11, 2019) “Three Critical Legal Documents Every Parent Should Get in Place Now to Safeguard Their Adult Children”

Why Do I Ned a Prenup for my Second Marriage After 50?

Many older people who remarry have significant assets—like pensions, retirement funds, homes, and maybe businesses and children from their prior marriage. The financial consequences could be significant, if their second marriage doesn’t last. Forbes’ recent article, “All About Prenups For Second Marriages,” says that a prenuptial agreement can address these issues:

  • Supporting the new spouse through retirement;
  • Paying expenses and accumulation of marital property, if the spouses have retired;
  • Leaving assets to children, if the new marriage is ongoing at the time of death;
  • Balancing the needs of the new spouse with helping their own children;
  • Making accurate financial results, if the marriage fails; and
  • Ensuring a peaceful divorce process, if the marriage fails.

In a prenup, the couple can decide how they will support themselves during the marriage and can create a plan for withdrawing retirement assets, depending on their relative wealth.

An issue with prenups for second marriages, comes from the distinction between “separate property” and “marital property.” Separate property is typically the property brought into the marriage and all past and future inherited property. Marital property are those assets that are built up through the efforts of the spouses, usually by lifetime earnings in the workplace.

However, what if the couple is retired, there is no opportunity to accumulate marital property and one of the spouses doesn’t have adequate separate property to provide for his or her retirement? That spouse may then feel vulnerable, if they divorce. This can foster bad feelings that fester during the marriage. A prenuptial agreement can alter this dynamic and provide a fair and easier result, if the marriage fails or if a wealthier spouse predeceases a less-moneyed spouse.

In a second marriage after 50, many people like to leave money to their children when they die and provide for their new spouse. A prenup can detail that an estate plan be created after the couple marries, to get the result they desire. The assets of the deceased spouse can eventually be distributed to the surviving spouse and the deceased spouse’s children. Some assets can be placed in a trust to benefit the surviving spouse during his or her lifetime. The rest can go to the children of the first spouse, after the death of the surviving spouse. In a second-marriage prenup, a couple can also decide that way in which they might assist their children financially during the couple’s lifetime.

A nice benefit of a prenup for a second marriage, is that it can specify the legal process to use if the couple divorces. For example, a prenup can require alternative dispute resolution, if there’s a divorce or if there is a disagreement between the heirs of a spouse and the surviving spouse.

However, sometimes, a prenup can even cause issues, typically in the process of negotiating one. Some couples even break off their engagements as a consequence. Talk to an attorney about creating an equitable prenup.

Reference: Forbes (February 13, 2019) “All About Prenups For Second Marriages”

Retiring Business Owners, What’s Going to Happen to Your Business?

When the business owner retires, what happens to employees, clients and family members all depends on what the business owner has planned, asks an article from Florida Today titled “Estate planning for business owners: What happens to your business when you leave?” One task that no business owner should neglect, is planning for what will happen when they are no longer able to run their business, for a variety of reasons.

The challenge is, with no succession plan, the laws of the state will determine what happens next. If you started your own business to have more control over your destiny, then you don’t want to let the laws of your state determine what happens, once you are incapacitated, retired or dead.

Think of your business succession plan as an estate plan for your business. It will determine what happens to your property, who will be in charge of the transition and who will make decisions about whether to keep the business going or to sell it.

Your estate planning attorney will need to review these issues with you:

Control and decision-making. If you are the sole owner, who will make critical decisions in your absence? If there are multiple owners, how will decisions be made? Discuss in advance your vision for the company’s future, and make sure that it’s in writing, executed properly with an attorney’s help.

What about your family and employees? If members of your family are involved in the business, work out who you want to take the leadership reins. Be as objective as possible about your family members. If the business is to be sold, will key employees be given an option of buying out the family interest? You’ll also need a plan to ensure that the business continues in the period between your ownership and the new owner, in order to retain its value.

Plan for changing dynamics. Maybe family members and employees tolerated each other while you are in charge, but if that relationship is not great, make sure plans are enacted so the business will continue to operate, even if years of resentment come spilling out after you die. Your employees may be counting on you to protect them from family members, or your family may be depending upon you to protect them from disgruntled employees or managers. Either way, do what you can in advance to keep everyone moving forward. If the business falls apart the minute you are gone, there won’t be anything to sell or for the next generation to carry on.

How your business is structured, will have an impact on your succession plan. If there are significant liability elements to your business, risk management should also be built into your future plans.

Reference: Florida Today (Feb. 12, 2019) “Estate planning for business owners: What happens to your business when you leave?”