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What is Conservatorship?

What Should I Know About Conservatorships?

In Virginia a conservatorship is when a court grants a ‘conservator’ the authority to manage the finances of another. However different states may use the terms “conservatorship” and “guardianship” in slightly different ways. The conservator has legal authority over certain aspects of the ward’s life, says KAKE.com’s recent article, “What is a Conservatorship and How Does It Work?” A conservator has total authority over the relevant aspects of their ward’s life. A conservatorship is granted when the person in question no longer has the capacity to make decisions on her own behalf. These cases are almost always dealing with judgments based on mental incapacity.

The general test for a conservatorship is: (i) whether the person is capable of knowing and understanding her actions; (ii) whether she is capable of providing for her basic needs, such as food, sanitation, and shelter; and (iii) whether she could be considered a danger to herself.

Although the specifics of a conservatorship hearing vary across jurisdictions, a conservatorship must be granted by an officer or appointee of the court. Medical paperwork is typically required before a judge will grant a conservatorship. However, the potential ward must have an opportunity to be heard by the court and to present her own case, as to why a conservatorship shouldn’t be granted. In addition, a person has the right to challenge a conservatorship in court, if she disagrees with the outcome, because a conservatorship means taking many aspects of freedom from an adult. This is not taken lightly by the courts.

There are several types of conservatorships. The most common are financial, physical, full and limited. A conservatorship is built around the needs of the ward, and the judge will typically consult with medical staff and social workers. A conservatorship is based on what the court believes will best keep the ward healthy and safe.

To make certain that a conservator doesn’t use the ward’s assets for his own gain, conservators must report to the court that appointed them. They’re required to keep records of every decision they make on behalf of the ward and must periodically present this information to the court. However, depending on the state, larger or more permanent decisions may require a court order, such as the decision to place the ward in an assisted-living facility.

Conservators are entitled to receive pay. However, it’s not uncommon for those who hold conservatorships over friends or family members to decline payment.

Conservatorships are controlled by state laws. Consult with an elder law attorney about the details how it might apply to your situation.

Reference: KAKE.com (December 11, 2019) “What is a Conservatorship and How Does It Work?”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Conservatorship, Guardianship, Ward, Incapacity

Do I Owe Estate Tax?

Is There Estate Tax on the Property I Inherited?

The vast majority of those who inherit real estate don’t end up paying any taxes on the property. However, there are some instances where estate or inheritance taxes could be assessed on inherited real estate. Motley Fool’s recent article, “Do You Have to Pay Estate Tax on Real Estate You Inherit?” provides a rundown of how estate taxes work in the U.S. and what it means to you if you inherit or are gifted real estate assets.

An estate tax is a tax applied on property transfers at death. A gift tax is a tax levied on property transfers while both parties are alive. An inheritance tax is assessed on the individual who inherits the property. For real estate purposes, you should also know that this includes money and property, and real estate is valued based on the fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death.

Most Americans don’t have to worry about estate taxes because we’re allowed to exclude a certain amount of assets from our taxable estates, which is called the lifetime exemption. This amount is adjusted for inflation over time and is $11.58 million per person for 2020. Note that estate taxes aren’t paid by people who inherit the property but are paid directly by the estate before it is distributed to the heirs.

The estate and gift taxes in the U.S. are part of a unified system. The IRS allows an annual exclusion amount that exempts many gifts from any potential transfer tax taxation. In 2020, it’s $15,000 per donor, per recipient. Although money (or assets) exceeding this amount in a given year is reported as a taxable gift, doesn’t mean you’ll need to pay tax on them. However, taxable gifts do accumulate from year to year and count toward your lifetime exclusion. If you passed away in 2020, your lifetime exclusion will be $11.58 million for estate tax purposes.

If you’d given $3 million in taxable gifts during your lifetime, you’ll only be able to exclude $8.58 million of your assets from estate taxation. You’d only be required to pay any gift taxes while you’re alive, if you use up your entire lifetime exemption. If you have given away $11 million prior to 2020 and you give away another $1 million, it would trigger a taxable gift to the extent that your new gift exceeds the $11.58 million threshold.

There are a few special rules to understand, such as the fact that you can give any amount to your spouse in most cases, without any gift or estate tax. Any amount given to charity is also free of gift tax and doesn’t count toward your lifetime exemption. Higher education expenses are free of gift and estate tax consequences provided the payment is made directly to the school. Medical expense payments are free of gift and estate tax consequences, if the payment is made directly to the health care provider.

Remember that some states also have their own estate and/or inheritance taxes that you might need to consider.

States that have an estate tax include Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The states with an inheritance tax are Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Maryland has both an estate and an inheritance tax. However, there are very few situations when you would personally have to pay tax on inherited real estate.

Fortunately, Virginia does not have an estate tax.

Estate tax can be a complex issue, so speak with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Reference: Motley Fool (December 11, 2019) “Do You Have to Pay Estate Tax on Real Estate You Inherit?”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Inheritance Tax, Asset Protection, Tax Planning, Probate Attorney, Estate Tax, Gift Tax, Unified Federal Estate and Gift Tax Exemption

Ready to Serve as Executor?

What Should I Know About Being an Executor?

You’re named executor because someone thinks you’d be good at collecting assets, settling debts, filing estate tax returns where necessary, distributing assets and closing the estate.

However, Investopedia’s article from last summer, “5 Surprising Hazards of Being an Executor,” explains that the person named as an executor isn’t required to accept the appointment. Prior to agreeing to act as an executor, you should know some of the hazards that can result, as well as how you can address some of these potential issues, so that being an executor can run smoothly.

  1. Conflicts with Co-Executors. Parents will frequently name more than one adult child as co-executor, so they don’t show favoritism. However, for those who are named, this may not work well because some children may live far way, making it difficult to coordinate the hands-on activities, like securing assets and selling a home. Some adult children may also not have the financial ability to deal with creditors, understand estate tax matters and perform effective accounting to satisfy beneficiaries that things have been properly handled. In addition, multiple executors mean additional paperwork. Instead, see if co-executors can agree to allow only one to serve, and the others will waive their appointment. Another option is for all of the children to decline and allow a bank’s trust department to handle the task. Employing a bank to serve instead of an individual as executor can alleviate conflicts among the children and relieves them from what could be a very difficult job.
  2. Conflicts with Heirs. It’s an executor’s job to gather the estate assets and distribute them according to the deceased person’s wishes. In some cases, heirs will land on a decedent’s home even before the funeral, taking mementos, heirlooms and other valuables. It’s best to secure the home and other assets as quickly as possible. Tell the heirs that this is the law and share information about the decedent’s wishes, which may be described in a will or listed in a separate document. This Letter of Last Instruction isn’t binding on the executor but can be a good guide for asset disbursements.
  3. Time-Consuming Responsibilities. One of the major drawbacks to be an executor is the amount of time it takes to handle responsibilities. For example, imagine the time involved in contacting various government agencies. This can include the Social Security Administration to stop Social Security benefits and, in the case of a surviving spouse, claim the $255 death benefit. However, an executor can permit an estate attorney to handle many of these matters.
  4. Personal Liability Exposure. The executor must pay taxes owed, before disbursing inheritances to heirs. However, if you pay heirs first and don’t have enough funds in the estate’s checking account to pay taxes, you’re personally liable for the taxes. Explain to heirs who are chomping at the bit to receive their inheritances that you’re not allowed to give them their share, until you’ve settled with creditors, the IRS and others with a claim against the estate. You should also be sure that you understand the extent of the funds needed to pay what’s owed.
  5. Out-of-Pocket Expenses. An executor can receive a commission for handling his duties. The amount of the commission is typically determined by the size of the estate (e.g., a percentage of assets). However, with many cases, particularly smaller estates and among families, an executor may waive any commission. You should pay the expenses of the estate from an estate checking account and record all out-of-pocket expenses, because some of these expenses may be reimbursable by the estate.

Being an executor can be a challenge, but somebody must do it. If that person’s you, be sure to know what you’re getting into before you agree to act as an executor.

Reference: Investopedia (June 25, 2019) “5 Surprising Hazards of Being an Executor”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Wills, Probate Court, Inheritance, Executor, Personal Representative, Letter of Last Instruction

Does Dad Need Caregiving Support?

How Do I Tell If Dad Needs Caregiving Support?

When you’re visiting older family members, you have a chance to judge how they’re doing in terms of health, safety, and quality of life. AARP’s recent article, “5 Signs Your Loved One May Need Caregiving Support,” advises us that any of the following five red flags may indicate that your parent needs help.

  1. Falls and safety. Look for things like unsafe indoor or outdoor stairs, especially without railings or poor lighting, along with loose rugs, clutter, or a laundry room that makes your mom or dad carry laundry baskets up and down stairs. You should evaluate fall hazards with a certified aging in place specialist (CAPS), an aging life care specialist, or a physical or occupational therapist. They can help evaluate your parent’s needs, abilities and the home environment. Consider installing safety measures, such as ramps, handrails on both sides of stairs, grab bars in the bathroom, or a walk-in shower.
  2. Unfinished business. If you see a lot of unopened mail and unpaid bills, or key financial, home or legal documents that haven’t been addressed, your mom may be cognitively, physically, or emotionally unable to handle them. You may want to help your parent simplify her affairs or engage a financial manager. You can also volunteer to assist with the more complicated matters, while she continues handling day-to-day household and personal finances. You should also be sure your parent has advanced directives and other legal documents in place, so you are able to help manage her affairs in an emergency.
  3. Auto accidents and moving violations. When you see multiple accidents—even minor fender benders—or several warnings or citations, scrapes, or dents on the car, it’s time to discuss driving. You can ride along and observe any health issues causing problems like vision, hearing or cognitive changes. You can suggest that he refresh his driving skills by taking a driver safety course, or if it’s time to stop driving, give him other viable transportation options.
  4. Isolation. Does your mom appear to be disconnected from friends, family and community? If her support system seems to be deteriorating, her physical and mental well-being are at risk. Discover with whom she regularly interacts. Ask if she feels lonely. Look for some activities she’d enjoy and help make arrangements for ongoing participation and transportation. Regular phone calls can help her connect, as well as using technology, including video chat, online communities and social media.
  5. A change in appearance. If you notice a change in your mom’s appearance, like a big gain or loss of weight, wearing the same clothes every day, or lack of personal hygiene, or if she appears sad, anxious, and distressed or has sleep issues—something is not right. Propose a complete medical and psychological evaluation to determine what’s normal for her, because there may be several reasons for these changes. Depression or anxiety may call for treatment.

Review her medications with a pharmacist and set up a pill organizer for her. Find out how she’s making or receiving meals. If appropriate, arrange for home-delivered meals, housekeeping, medication management and laundry assistance.

Tackle these conversations with love, concern, and a supportive attitude. Your objective is to help her remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible.

Reference: AARP (December 12, 2019) “5 Signs Your Loved One May Need Caregiving Support”

Suggested Key Terms: Elder Law Attorney, Elder Care

Talking to Parents about Money

From Gentle Persuasion to a No-Nonsense Approach, Talking About Estate Plans

Sometimes the first attempt is a flop. Imaging this exchange: “So, do you want to talk about what happens when you die?” Answer: “Nope.” That’s what can happen, but it doesn’t have to, says The Wall Street Journal’s recent article “Readers Offer Their Advice on Talking to Aging Parents About Estate Plans.”

Many people have successfully begun this conversation with their aging parents. The gentle persuasion method is deemed to be the most successful. Treating elderly parents as adults, which they are, and asking about their fears and concerns is one way to start. Educating, not lecturing, is a respectful way to move the conversation forward.

Instead of asking a series of rapid-fire questions, provide information. One family assembled a notebook with articles about how to find an estate planning attorney, when people might need a trust, or why naming someone as power of attorney is so important.

Others begin by first talking about less important matters than bank accounts and bequests. Asking a parent for a list of utility companies with the account number, phone number and if they are paying bills online, their password, is an easy entry to thinking about next steps. Sometimes a gentle nudge, is all it takes to unlock the doors.

For some families, a more direct, less gentle approach gets the job done. That includes being willing to tell parents that not having an estate plan or not being willing to talk about their estate plan is going to lead to disaster for everyone. Warn them about taxes or remind them that the state will disburse all of their hard-earned assets, if they don’t have a plan in place.

One son tapped into his father’s strong dislike of paying taxes. He asked a tax attorney to figure out how much the family would have to pay in estate taxes, if there were no estate plan in place. It was an eye-opener, and the father became immediately receptive to sitting down with an estate planning attorney.

A daughter had tried repeatedly to get her father to speak with an estate planning attorney. His response was the same for several decades: he didn’t believe that his estate was big enough to warrant doing any kind of planning. One evening the daughter simply threw up her hands in frustration and told him, “Fine, if your favorite charity is the federal government, do nothing…but if you’d rather benefit the church or a university, do something and make your desires known.”

For months after seeing an estate attorney and putting a plan in place, he repeated the same phrase to her: “I had no idea we were worth so much.”

Between the extremes is a third option: letting someone else handle the conversation. Aging parents may be more receptive to listening to a trusted individual, who is of their same generation. One adult daughter contacted her wealthy mother’s estate planning attorney and financial advisor. The mother would not listen to the daughter, but she did listen to her estate planning attorney and her financial advisor, when they both reminded her that her estate plan had not been reviewed in years.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (December 16, 2019) “Readers Offer Their Advice on Talking to Aging Parents About Estate Plans”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Attorney, Estate Taxes, Inheritance

Nursing Home

Nursing Home Placement – Know Your Rights

Whether you choose to reside in a nursing home, or circumstances require that you make the move, it’s a fact that you may give up a certain level of autonomy. This can lead to lapses in care. Understanding your rights as a nursing home resident is paramount to ensure that you receive the care you need and deserve. This article will walk you through those rights and provide you with resources to also ensure that you are not taken advantage of.

Nursing Home Resident’s Rights

In 1987, Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Law. In a nutshell, the law is designed to ensure that nursing home residents are provided whatever they need to function at the highest possible level. Specifically, the law provides the following rights:

  1. Unnecessary Physical and Chemical Restraints. Unless authorized by a physician, and only for a limited time, nursing home facilities may not restrain residents using sedatives or other chemical restraints, or seatbelts, gloves and other physical restraints.
  2. Contact with Physician. Nursing home facilities must provide residents with the contact information for their primary care physician and allow them to participate in care planning meetings.
  3. Communication Regarding Health and Treatment. If the resident’s health deteriorates, or if a physician deems a change in treatment necessary, the facility must inform the resident, the primary care physician and the resident’s legal representative or designated family member.
  4. Right to Medical Records. If a resident requests their medical records, the facility must provide them within one business day and at a cost that is reasonable within the community. In addition, the facility must explain how to access the records and/or transfer authority to another person.
  5. Notification of Rights. Nursing home facilities must provide residents with a written copy of:
    1. their legal rights
    2. state laws about advance directives, living wills and durable power of attorney for healthcare
    3. the nursing home’s policies on carrying out the directives.
  6. Notification of Services. Nursing home facilities must provide residents with a list of services (and fees) provided by the facility at the time of admission and during their stay. Any services or rates not disclosed in advance, may not be charged to the resident.
  7. Right to Privacy. Nursing home residents have the right to privacy in all matters, including:
    1. Visiting family and friends
    2. Personal needs
    3. Making phone calls
    4. Sending mail
  8. Right to Assemble. Nursing home residents must be able to share a room with their spouse, gather with other residents without staff present, and to meet with a local or state ombudsman, law enforcement, or other official representatives without staff interference or presence.
  9. Right to Leave. Nursing home residents may leave the facility for any reason and may belong to a church or other social group.
  10. Right to Manage Finances. Nursing home residents have the right to manage their own finances and must not be required to deposit funds with the nursing home.
  11. Individual Preferences. Nursing home residents have the right to choose when to get up or go to sleep, when they have snacks, what they eat, what they wear and how they spend their time. The nursing home must offer a variety of choices at main meals to accommodate different tastes. Nursing home residents also have the right to administer their own medications and go to the bathroom, whenever they want.
  12. Personal Possessions. Nursing home residents have the right to bring any personal possessions to the nursing home, such as clothing, jewelry and furnishings. Staff must assist in safeguarding these items and assist in locating them, should they become lost.
  13. Nursing home staff must treat residents with respect at all times. Residents are expected to be treated as adults.
  14. Changing Locations. Before a resident can be moved to a different room or facility, they must be notified and afforded time to appeal. The facility must show that the move is in the resident’s best interest or is necessary to the health of other residents.
  15. Freedom from Interference. All nursing home residents have the right to exercise their rights without interference, coercion or backlash for exercising their rights. Nursing home staff are expected to assist residents in raising concerns and helping to resolve concerns.

This is an overview of nursing home resident’s rights. For a full list of nursing home resident rights, check out the ombudsman’s list.

For more information on nursing home resident’s rights or to report an incident and receive help, visit the long term care ombudsman’s office.

Resources:

ElderLawAnswers. “The Rights of Nursing Home Residents” (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://www.elderlawanswers.com/the-rights-of-nursing-home-residents-12149

National Consumer Voice. “Nursing Home Resident’s Rights.” (Accessed November 29, 2019)  https://ltcombudsman.org/uploads/files/support/Module-2.pdf

National Consumer Voice.National Ombudsman Reporting System” (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://ltcombudsman.org/omb_support/nors

Suggested keywords: Nursing Home Resident’s Rights, rights as a nursing home resident

Caring for Aging Parents

Caring for Your Aging Parents – Top 5 Questions and Answers

Caring for aging parents can be stressful. It’s a new experience, and one that you’re not always prepared for. The good news is that there are plenty of resources out there to help you navigate this new chapter in your life. To help get the process started, we’ve curated the top 5 questions that people have about caring for an aging loved one and have provided answers to those burning questions.

Question #1 – How do I ensure their legal affairs are in order?

No one likes to think about, much less talk, about the end of their lives. Unfortunately, burying your head in the sand can lead to costly and frustrating situations, once your loved one has passed. Of course, coming out and asking if your parents have an estate-plan in place may not be the most tactful approach. Consider these icebreakers to get a conversation started:

  • “Bob and I just met with our estate planning attorney last week to update our will. Do you and dad have an estate plan in place?”
  • “I was so troubled to hear that Uncle Harry passed and left Aunt Hilary with such a financial mess. Do you think you and mom have your affairs, so that doesn’t happen to one of you?”
  • “We just sent Jenny off to college and our attorney recommended a HIPAA release and power of attorney, just in case something happens to her and we need to step in. Do you have a power of attorney?”

Question #2 – How can I gain access to their health information?

It’s not uncommon for parents to withhold healthcare information from their children. This is often because they don’t want to worry their adult children or grandchildren. It may also be because they don’t want to admit that they have a serious healthcare issue. Sometimes, this lack of disclosure can lead to lapses in care.

If you believe you need access to your parents’ medical records, you have a few options.

  • Go to the doctor with your parents. Ask questions.
  • Ask your parents to make you their personal representative for healthcare matters.
  • Ask your parents to request in writing that medical records be sent to you.

If your parent is incapacitated and unable to give consent, the healthcare provider may share personal healthcare information, if they believe that disclosure is in your parent’s best interest.

Question #3 – Is it time to move them to a care home?

When the family home becomes unsafe for one or both of your aging parents, it may be time to consider some sort of alternative arrangement. Nursing homes are not the only alternatives, however. You might consider an incremental approach that includes things like:

  • In-home Care
  • Senior Daycare
  • Assisted Living Communities
  • Additional Dwelling Units

Discuss these options with your parents and other family members to determine what is best for the whole family.

Question #4 – Should they be driving?

Driving is one of the most important activities to one’s independence. Losing the ability to drive is naturally one of aging people’s top fears. Therefore, of course, you want to let them drive as long as it is safe for them to do so. Once reflexes begin to slow, flexibility declines, hearing levels decrease and peripheral vision narrows, it’s time to start assessing the safety of their driving.

How do you assess their abilities? Take a drive with them. See how they do with highways, traffic, driving at night and during inclement weather. It may not be that they need to give up driving all at once. Perhaps night driving becomes a problem at first. If that’s the case, ask them to agree to let you drive at night.

Question #5 – Am I partnering—or parenting my parents?

Often, when adult children are faced with caring for their parents, the go-to position is one of “parent.” It may be one you’re naturally disposed to, because you have children of your own. It could also be that you’re simply mirroring the role your parents played with you. While natural, this may not be the best approach, because your parents may perceive this new scenario as you taking their independence from them.

Instead of dictating terms and telling them how it’s going to be, reframe your roles from parent-child to partnership. Just because they may be lower on energy or losing memory function, doesn’t mean they can’t make decisions. Talk to them like the adults they are, making sure that each of you is maintaining boundaries and autonomy. You may find them more receptive to your help, which will make things much easier in the long run.

Resources:

The Healthy. “8 Questions You Must Ask to Keep Your Aging Parents Safe and Healthy” (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://www.thehealthy.com/healthcare/caregiving/questions-to-ask-your-aging-parents/

HHS.gov. “Under HIPAA, when can a family member of an individual access the individual’s PHI from a health care provider or health plan?” (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/faq/2069/under-hipaa-when-can-a-family-member/index.html

Suggested keywords: caring for aging parents, questions for adult children of aging parents

Guardianship Hearing

Top 6 Questions (and Answers) about Conservatorships and Guardianships

What is a guardian?

When someone becomes incapacitated due to illness, injury or disability, the court appoints a guardian to handle healthcare and certain non-financial decisions for that person. A guardian can be anyone over the age of 18, but must also be able to show that they are qualified to make these decisions for their loved one.  A guardian is not necessarily the person who is the caregiver over the incapacitated individual.

What is a conservator?

A conservator is appointed by the court to make financial decisions for an incapacitated person. In some states, those who are appointed “conservator of the estate” are those who make financial decisions. Those who are appointed “conservator of the person” handle the same issues as a “guardian.” Conservators can be expensive, as is the process to obtain one. There is also the potential that the incapacitated individual may be taken advantage of. To avoid a conservatorship, designate a power of attorney for your financial and medical care.

Does my elderly loved one need a guardian?

If your family member is unable to make healthcare decisions on her own, due to an injury following an accident, an illness, or disability, and she has not designated a healthcare power of attorney, she will need a guardian.

When is a conservator more appropriate than a guardian?

In some cases, someone may be perfectly capable of making her own healthcare decisions, but are unable to manage her finances. In this case, a conservator would be more appropriate. If an individual cannot make financial or healthcare decisions, both may be appropriate.

Who does the court appoint as guardian or conservator?

A court will appoint the person it deems most competent to fill the role of conservator or guardian. In general, the person must be over the age of 18. The court’s first choice is a spouse, or other close family member. If none of those is available or is unwilling to serve, then they may consider extended family or friends. If those are unwilling or unavailable, then the court will appoint a neutral third party, such as an attorney, to act as conservator or guardian.

How do I relinquish guardianship over my wife?

To relinquish guardianship over any loved one, you must go to court and petition to do so. It is best if you have someone else in mind to take over when you submit your petition, to ensure your loved one’s needs are met.

Resources:

ElderLawAnswers. (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://www.elderlawanswers.com/questions-and-answers/Guardianship/Conservatorship

LawHelp.org. (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://www.lawhelp.org/dc/resource/guardianship-and-conservatorship-frequently-a

Suggested Keywords: conservatorship, guardianship

Taxing Your 401(k)

How Will My 401(k) Be Taxed When I Retire?

For most individuals and with most 401(k)s, distributions are taxed as ordinary income. However, the tax burden varies by the type of 401(k) you have and by how and when you withdraw funds.

Investopedia’s recent article, “How Is Your 401(k) Taxed When You Retire?” explains that distributions from a regular, or traditional, 401(k) are fairly simple in their tax treatment. Your contributions to the plan were paid with pre-tax dollars (taxes were taken “off the top” of your gross salary), which reduces your taxable earned income and the income taxes you paid at that time. Because of that deferral, taxes become due on the 401(k) funds, once the distributions start.

These types of distributions from such plans are typically taxed as ordinary income at the rate for your tax bracket in the year in which you make the withdrawal. However, there are a couple of exceptions, including if you were born before 1936 and you take your distribution as a lump sum.  You may then qualify for special tax treatment.

It’s much the same for a traditional IRA. Contributions to traditional IRAs are also made with pre-tax dollars. Therefore, taxes are due, when the money is withdrawn.

Note that Social Security retirement benefits aren’t usually subject to income tax, unless the recipient’s overall annual income exceeds a certain amount. A big 401(k) distribution could push a person’s income over that threshold and cause a large chunk of Social Security benefits to become taxable, when they would’ve been untaxed without the distribution being made.

With a Roth 401(k), the tax situation is different. Like a Roth IRA, the money you contribute to a Roth 401(k) is made with after-tax dollars, so you didn’t get a tax deduction for the contribution at the time. Since you’ve already been taxed on the contributions, it’s unlikely you’ll also be taxed on your distributions, provided your distributions are qualified. For distributions to qualify, the Roth must have sufficiently “aged” (that is, been established) from the time you contributed to it, and you must be old enough to make withdrawals without a penalty. There’s a five-year aging rule and the plan distribution rules to receive tax-free distribution treatment, once you reach the age of 59½.

Unlike the traditional 401(k), you can take distributions of your contributions from the Roth variety at any time without penalty. The earnings, however, still need to be reported on your tax return, as does the entire distribution. Like the traditional 401(k), the terms of Roth 401(k)s say that required minimum distributions (RMDs) must start by age 70½ (unlike Roth IRAs).

However, your Roth 401(k) isn’t completely in the clear tax-wise, because if your employer matches your contributions to a Roth, that part of the money is considered to be made with pre-tax dollars. Therefore, you’ll have to pay taxes on those contributions when you take distributions, and they’re taxed as ordinary income.

For certain taxpayers, other strategies for retirement accounts may give you a reduction in the tax bite. Some companies reward employees with stock, and frequently encourage them to hold those investments within 401(k)s or other retirement accounts. Although this has the possibility for disadvantages, its potential benefits can include more favorable tax treatment. Employer stock held in the 401(k) can be eligible for net unrealized appreciation treatment. This means that the growth of the stock above the basis is treated to capital gain rates, not ordinary income. This can be a big tax savings.

Like many other retirement decisions, the choice between Roth and regular accounts will depend on individual factors like your age, income, tax bracket and domestic status.

Reference: Investopedia (November 20, 2019) “How Is Your 401(k) Taxed When You Retire?”

Suggested Key Terms: Tax Planning, Financial Planning, Retirement Planning, Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), Social Security, Roth IRA, 401(k)

Silver Tsunami

Careful–the Silver Tsunami is Coming!

Approximately one in three homes in the U.S. is owned by someone who is 60 and older. As these millions of boomers decide it’s time to sell their homes and move to another location or to a retirement community, that will have an impact on housing markets, says the article from Market Watch “These housing markets will feel the biggest impact from the ‘Silver Tsunami.’”

In the ten years between 2007-2017, around 730,000 homes that had been owned by seniors went on the market every year. That number is expected to grow enormously over the next few decades. A news analysis from Zillow says that as many as 920,000 homes will go on the market between 2017-2027.  In the ten years after that, the figure may go as high as 1.17 million homes per year.

In total, says Zillow, almost a third of currently owner-occupied homes, around 20 million properties, will go on sale as the direct result of a boomers dying or deciding to move to a smaller home or retirement facility.

The wave won’t hit all at once, and it won’t strike all markets equally.

The biggest impact is expected to be in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area in Florida. The Tucson, Arizona area is next in line, with the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Port Saint Lucie and Orlando metro areas following.

At the far end of the spectrum, Salt Lake City, Utah, is expected to see the smallest impact from the Silver Tsunami. Less than 20% of homes there are expected to go up for sale, because of being owned by aging boomers.

A few other cities are expected to escape this trend with little impact. They include Austin, Houston, and Dallas, all in Texas.

In other cities, there are micro-neighborhoods that will feel the impact within cities. For instance, in greater Phoenix, all will be well. However, in the towns of El Mirage or Sun City, nearly two-thirds of all homes will be on the market, as they are mainly retirement communities.

Those who are planning to relocate for retirement may want to keep the Silver Tsunami in mind, if their retirement finances depend upon the value of their homes.

Reference: Market Watch (December 3, 2019) “These housing markets will feel the biggest impact from the ‘Silver Tsunami’”

Suggested Key Terms: Silver Tsunami, Retirement Communities, Home Values, Boomers

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