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Surviving, Then Thriving

When facing the inevitable, it may help to take time to deal with the practical details beforehand.

May 15, 2018
 
Few things are as sad and traumatic as the death of a loved one. From the loss itself, to the ways it can impact you physically and emotionally, to navigating the logistic and financial complexities that come with it, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And when it comes to talking about death, it can be as awkward beforehand as it is difficult afterward.

Talking with family along with friends and professional advisors, however, can be the key to preparing as much as you can and getting through the inevitable with as little upheaval as possible.

But just how do you approach a loved one with the subject of their death? And where do you go from there? Perhaps first consider how you would want everything handled, and then start the conversation from that perspective.

Start Small, Go Slow

Like many endeavors, it’s often good to start small and be patient.

Put it on the radar. Rather than sitting down for a heavy talk, try simply mentioning the subject and see how it goes. You might even break the ice with gentle humor: “You know, at some point we could consider chatting about the big scary death thing.” Remember, this can be a series of conversations.

Meet them where they are. Death is emotional and its effects are complicated. When your loved one is ready to talk, get a sense of what’s top of mind for them. Is it unsolved relationship issues? Finances? Legal hurdles to address? Listen for cues, and you’ll find the appropriate starting point. From there, the rest of the dialogue should come naturally.

The Gift of Planning

Once the conversation has begun, everyone will soon start to feel more comfortable. And while certain topics can be difficult, it will be apparent that working through them and being on the same page will pay emotional dividends later on.

Beyond family. Once you’ve gotten a little more comfortable, encourage your loved one to share pertinent details with their family attorney, accountant and financial advisor who can help fill in any blanks and help ensure as smooth a transition as possible when the time comes. From reviewing beneficiaries and titles to make sure they align with the will, to practical matters like having access to liquid cash, to making decisions without liquidating assets or waiting for life insurance proceeds, the details become easier with professional guidance.

Wills and trusts. Everyone needs a will to express the desired transfer of financial and tangible assets. If desired, encourage your loved one to work with professionals to help document their wishes accurately. For some, a trust may be appropriate to help dictate how assets are distributed, while keeping affairs confidential by avoiding probate.

Letters and proxies. Not everything is covered by a will, so ask your loved one if they’d like to write a personal letter to communicate any additional wishes. It can be a way for them to share their values, life lessons and faith with the next generation. It’s also important that they designate a durable power of attorney – someone who can be trusted to handle financial business and make healthcare decisions on a person’s behalf.

Living wills. This advanced care directive specifies how someone wants healthcare providers to handle their life-sustaining treatment and end-of-life care in the event they cannot do so themselves.

Funerals and obituaries. Everyone has a different idea of what they want when it comes to final respects. Some prefer celebrations, while others want solemn occasions or even creative gatherings. Regardless, listen to what your loved one desires and perhaps help research costs and make arrangements in advance.

Security codes and passwords. When someone passes away, survivors will need documented information to access or shut down a variety of personal and financial accounts.

The Afterward

It’ll be important to surround yourself with love and support after the loss. Conventional wisdom suggests holding off on major decisions and taking at least a year to heal. However, certain practical matters will likely arise and need attention during this time. With help and professional guidance, tasks that seem daunting can be accomplished gracefully and peacefully.

Let people know. Make those you know aware of the loss. Reach out to family, friends and spiritual counselors for emotional support.

Confirm final arrangements. Contact the funeral home to confirm or clarify your loved one’s planned services. If you need clarification yourself, look to the will or personal letters for instructions.

Ample certificates. It is recommended you get two to three dozen original copies of the death certificate from the county where the death occurred. One will be needed for every account relating to the estate, as well as one to forward the person’s mail from the post office.

Time off and childcare. If you’re able to, take time off work – many companies offer bereavement leave for the loss of close loved ones. Keep the little ones in mind, too; they’ll need support and possibly childcare as you deal with the details and services.

As a practical matter, although this may be a difficult discussion to have for all parties, the time to create a plan is now, while everyone has the opportunity to contribute fully to helping ease the painful transition in the future. As you work through your loved one’s wishes, consider your own planning needs. While planning for death and its aftermath can be somber and uncomfortable, it’s never too early to start talking. 

Sources: Raymondjames.com; caregiverslibrary.org; nextavenue.org; psychcentral.com


Trust in Your Business Future

 

As you plan for the future of your business, tools and strategies exist to help ease the impact of taxes.

May 8, 2018
 
An estimated $30 billion to $40 billion in wealth is set to transfer from baby boomers to their heirs or favorite charities. This includes wealth tied up in a family business. As you plan for the future of your business, you may earmark the proceeds from the sale of the business to support your lifestyle, your family or a preferred charity for years to come. But it’s also important to consider the potentially significant toll taxes could take. Fortunately, tools and strategies exist to help ease the impact.

One such tool is a trust – a fiduciary relationship in which you as the grantor give a trustee the right to hold title to assets for the benefit of your beneficiary. While there are many types of trusts, here are four that are commonly used in business planning.

Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT)

This irrevocable trust enables you to enjoy the proceeds from the sale of your business, then potentially pass significant wealth to beneficiaries with little or no gift tax. To create a GRAT, the grantor transfers assets into the trust and receives annuity payments over a fixed number of years. These annuity payments are calculated so that the grantor is treated as having made little or no taxable gift to the GRAT beneficiaries because, relative to present value, the grantor will receive back everything put in. Appreciation in the trust assets in excess of the IRS assumed rate of return eventually passes to the benefi­ciaries gift-tax free.

For a GRAT to be effective, two conditions must be met: First, the assets in the GRAT must grow faster than the IRS’s assumed rate of return so there is something to pass along. Second, you must outlive the term of the GRAT. If not, assets will revert back to your estate. However, creating a series of short-term GRATs can mitigate some of the mortality risk.

In some cases, the IRS has held that trusts established after signing letters of intent violated the Anticipatory Assignment of Income Doctrine that was adjudicated by the Supreme Court in 1930 to limit tax evasion. Consult your tax, legal and financial professionals regarding the date you intend to sell your business and any estate planning or wealth transfer you wish to do around the sale.

Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT)

An IDGT creates a complete transfer of assets to a trust for transfer-tax purposes, but an incomplete (defective) transfer for income tax purposes. Assets, such as a business, are transferred by a completed gift or a fair market value sale (or installment sale), in which both are disregarded for income tax purposes in regard to the estate.

As a result, you will no longer retain any powers that would cause estate tax inclusion, and the future value of the transferred assets is removed from your estate. Although the trust is irrevocable, it is treated as a grantor trust for income tax purposes because the grantor retains other powers. This means the grantor, though not a beneficiary, is taxed on all the trust’s income, even though you would not be entitled to any trust distributions.

Incomplete-Gift Non-Grantor Trust (ING Trust)

Some states’ income taxes can reach significant percentage levels. This is where the establishment of an ING trust may help. To date, ING trusts have been used for nearly 20 years and have received more than 70 private letter rulings from the IRS that the trust structure is valid.

The trust is effective due to its designation as a taxpayer for income tax purposes. Therefore, the trust and trustee must be domiciled in a no-income-tax state. When business ownership is transferred to the ING trust, the transfer is not a taxable event. When the trust later sells the company, the income will be attributed to the trust, a resident of a no-income-tax state. While the proceeds and earned investment income remain in the trust, they will receive the benefits of tax savings. When the trust is requested to distribute funds, income tax is then paid to the home state.

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)

If you would like the proceeds of selling a business to benefit a favorite charity, yet also desire to receive income from the pro­ceeds, a CRT is an option. It is, however, an irrevocable trust so once established, terms cannot be changed nor assets moved.

To establish a CRT, you would transfer business shares or proceeds from a sale to the trust. You would name yourself or another beneficiary as recipient of the income from the trust. When the terms of the trust end, the chosen nonprofit group receives the remainder. You also will receive an income tax deduction equal to the estimated present value of the remainder interest. The charity selected must be approved tax exempt by the Internal Revenue Service. The trustee is also required to maintain tax records.

A trust in the future of your business may invigorate your trust in the future, too. Just be sure to consult with professionals to determine what works best for your personal and professional situation. 

This article is general in nature and provided for informational purposes only. Raymond James and your Raymond James financial advisor do not provide tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.


April Overview: Running in Place

Heading into May, markets will likely see even more back-and-forth action as interest rates rise, though earnings could provide a boost.

April 30, 2018
 
Volatility has obviously picked up in 2018, and the bouncing around has left the S&P 500 essentially flat year to date, according to Senior Research Associate Andrew Adams. Although the broad market S&P 500 has rallied off its earlier lows, we’re likely to see even more back-and-forth action in the near term as interest rates rise, though earnings could provide a boost. First quarter earnings are coming in strong, with the majority of S&P 500 companies reporting better-than-expected top-line and bottom-line growth, according to Joey Madere, senior portfolio analyst for Raymond James.

Economic data releases for the first quarter were generally softer than anticipated, but moderation in growth is not unusual following a strong quarter. Growth is widely expected to pick up for the second quarter and beyond, though the tight job market could become more of a constraint, according to Chief Economist Scott Brown. Inflation is expected to move toward the Federal Reserve’s 2% goal, but not much higher, allowing the central bank to tighten gradually over time, with the next rate hike expected at the June meeting.

The major indices, namely S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, eked out positive returns for April, although they slipped into the red year to date. The NASDAQ remains positive over both time periods.

 

12/29/17 Close

4/30/18 Close

Change YTD

% Gain/Loss YTD

DJIA

24,719.22

24,163.15 

-556.07

-2.25%

NASDAQ

6,903.39

7,066.27 

+162.88

+2.36%

S&P 500

2,673.61

2,648.05 

-25.56

-0.96%

MSCI EAFE

2,050.79

2,042.83 

-7.96

-0.39%

Russell 2000

1,535.51

 1,541.88

+6.37

0.41%

Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index

2,046.37

1,999.46 

-46.91

-2.29%

Performance reflects price returns as of 4:30 EDT on April 30, 2018. The EAFE and Barclays reflect the previous close.

Here is a look at what’s happening in the economy and capital markets, as well as key factors we are watching:

Economy

Equities

International

Fixed Income

Bottom Line

Your advisor will continue to watch for legislative updates as well as economic developments. In the meantime, please reach out to him or her if you have any questions. 

There is no assurance any investment strategy will be successful. Investing involves risk, and investors may incur a profit or a loss. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the Research Department of Raymond James & Associates, Inc., and are subject to change. Past performance is not an indication of future results and there is no assurance that any of the forecasts mentioned will occur. Economic and market conditions are subject to change. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an unmanaged index of 30 widely held stocks. The NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ National Stock Market. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks. The MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australia, Far East) index is an unmanaged index that is generally considered representative of the international stock market. The Russell 2000 is an unmanaged index of small cap securities. The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market. An investment cannot be made in these indexes. International investing involves additional risks such as currency fluctuations, differing financial accounting standards, and possible political and economic instability. These risks are greater in emerging markets. Small and mid-cap securities generally involve greater risks. Companies engaged in business related to a specific sector are subject to fierce competition and their products and services may be subject to rapid obsolescence. There are additional risks associated with investing in an individual sector, including limited diversification. The performance noted does not include fees or charges, which would reduce an investor's returns. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit nor protect against a loss. Debt securities are subject to credit risk. A downgrade in an issuer’s credit rating or other adverse news about an issuer can reduce the market value of that issuer’s securities. When interest rates rise, the market value of these bonds will decline, and vice versa. Price/Earnings Ratio is the price of a stock divided by its earnings. It gives investors an idea of how much they are paying for a company’s earning power. While interest on municipal bonds is generally exempt from federal income tax, it may be subject to the federal alternative minimum tax, state or local taxes. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the U.S. government and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and guaranteed principal value. *Chris Bailey is with Raymond James Euro Equities and James Camp is with Eagle Asset Management; both companies are affiliates of Raymond James & Associates, and Raymond James Financial Services. Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors. Not approved for rollover solicitations.

 


Protecting Your Social Security Payout

To handle payments for a disabled senior, it's not enough to put powers of attorney, medical directives or guardianship arrangements in place.

May 3, 2018
 
One in three seniors will die with dementia.¹ It’s a sobering statistic, and when you consider it alongside increasing longevity, it’s easy to see why planning for the potential impact of diminished capacity on your or a loved one’s future finances is critical.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and more than 15 million Americans are providing unpaid care for someone struggling with dementia.¹ Numbers like these prove that planning for the possibility of long-term care and considering who will make decisions if you can’t isn’t simply smart, it’s necessary. And that planning now – before you have the need or are unable to share your wishes – is essential.

Protecting Yourself

While you may think creating legal documents that grant authority for someone to act on your behalf, financially or even medically, will be enough to protect your wishes, in some cases, more is required.

When it comes to handling Social Security payments for a disabled senior, establishing powers of attorney, medical directives or guardianship arrangements are not enough. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires a special designation known as representative payee.

A representative payee is someone who acts on behalf of another person who is incapable of representing themselves and is responsible for directing payouts exclusively to meet a beneficiary’s needs. The SSA may determine that an individual is incapable of managing or directing someone else to manage his or her benefits and would then appoint a representative payee. Family members may also consult the SSA if they believe their family member necessitates a representative payee. Generally, a family member or friend serves as representative payee. If friends or family are not able to serve as payees, the SSA will look for qualified organizations to be representative payees.

The SSA requires that all legally incompetent adults and most minor children (a disabled child or young adult entitled to Supplemental Security Income, for example) have a representative payee. In most cases, the person in this role cannot be paid for the work they do on behalf of the incapacitated person. And the SSA requires them to keep careful records.

A critical thing to keep in mind about the responsibilities of acting as a representative payee is that the permissions that accompany the role do not extend to other facets of your affairs. Making medical decisions or signing legal documents on your behalf will still require that someone be granted powers of attorney or guardianship.

Protecting a Loved One

If you assume the role of representative payee, the SSA offers a range of resources via ssa.gov, including a series of training videos, a downloadable guide, and a frequently asked questions page. The process will likely require a trip to a Social Security office and a completed SSA-11 form explaining why the beneficiary needs assistance and why they have selected you for the job. Recall, too, that this designation will be in addition to any other legal or medical role you might be playing for your loved one. It’s one piece of the larger whole that, with forethought and planning, can help ensure your loved one’s – or your own – future is secure. 

1 Alzheimer’s Association, “2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” 2017


Five Considerations for Your Social Security Strategy

As you prepare to start claiming benefits, be sure to ask yourself these questions.

April 19, 2018
 
In 2018, about 63 million Americans will receive approximately one trillion dollars in Social Security benefits. If you are planning to join that total and claim your benefits, timing, strategy and sound decisions can all help you maximize the outcome for your household. When and how you claim, your marital status, your health, and even whether you have dependents can all affect what benefits you receive.

To get the most out of your hard-earned benefits, focus on developing the right plan for you and your family. Doing so could help you enjoy a more secure and comfortable retirement.

Where Do I Start?

Given the complexities involved in claiming benefits, creating a plan of action for Social Security can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Your financial advisor can help you develop an appropriate retirement income strategy based on your individual circumstances – but there are a few key questions you can ask yourself beforehand to jumpstart the conversation.

Five Key Considerations

Before making any decisions, it’s important to consider the elements of your life that could influence your individualized Social Security strategy. To prepare for your meeting with your advisor, start thinking through these key questions:

When are you planning to retire? Is this date relatively fixed, or is it more flexible? 

What will your earnings look like if you continue to work past the age of 62? Would these come from continuing in your current role, or are you considering taking on new or part-time work down the road?

What other sources of income will you have in retirement? In addition to your Social Security benefits, will you be receiving any pension payments, employment income (part-time work) or annuity payouts? What about any business sale proceeds, insurance policies or inheritances? And of course, consider any retirement accounts or additional savings you've built up over the years.

How long do you expect to live? Consider your current health as well as your family history.

What does your family situation look like? Are you single, married or divorced? Do you have any dependents?


As you think through these questions and begin shaping a strategy with your advisor, consider creating a free “My Social Security” account at SSA.gov. Within your account, you can review a statement detailing your estimated benefits as well as explore other resources for developing a sound plan.  

Sources: SSA.gov


Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors.