Why Do You Need a Will?

It may not sound enticing, but creating a will puts power in your hands.

Provided by Michael Snow

 

According to the global analytics firm Gallup, only about 44% of Americans have created a will. This finding may not surprise you. After all, no one wants to be reminded of their mortality or dwell on what might happen upon their death, so writing a last will and testament is seldom prioritized on the to-do list of a Millennial or Gen Xer. What may surprise you, though, is the statistic cited by personal finance website The Balance: around 35% of Americans aged 65 and older lack wills.1,2

 

A will is an instrument of power. By creating one, you gain control over the distribution of your assets. If you die without one, the state decides what becomes of your property, with no regard to your priorities.

 

A will is a legal document by which an individual or a couple (known as “testator”) identifies their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets after death. A will can typically be broken down into four parts:

 

*Executors: Most wills begin by naming an executor. Executors are responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in a will. This involves assessing the value of the estate, gathering the assets, paying inheritance tax and other debts (if necessary), and distributing assets among beneficiaries. It is recommended that you name an alternate executor in case your first choice is unable to fulfill the obligation. Some families name multiple children as co-executors, with the intention of thwarting sibling discord, but this can introduce a logistical headache, as all the executors must act unanimously.2,3

*Guardians: A will allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children. The designated guardian you appoint must be able to assume the responsibility. For many people, this is the most important part of a will. If you die without naming a guardian, the courts will decide who takes care of your children.

*Gifts: This section enables you to identify people or organizations to whom you wish to give gifts of money or specific possessions, such as jewelry or a car. You can also specify conditional gifts, such as a sum of money to a young daughter, but only when she reaches a certain age.

*Estate: Your estate encompasses everything you own, including real property, financial investments, cash, and personal possessions. Once you have identified specific gifts you would like to distribute, you can apportion the rest of your estate in equal shares among your heirs, or you can split it into percentages. For example, you may decide to give 45% each to two children and the remaining 10% to your sibling.

 

A do-it-yourself will may be acceptable, but it may not be advisable. The law does not require a will to be drawn up by a professional, so you could create your own will, with or without using a template. If you make a mistake, however, you will not be around to correct it. When you draft a will, consider enlisting the help of a legal, tax, or financial professional who could offer you additional insight, especially if you have a large estate or a complex family situation.

 

Remember, a will puts power in your hands. You have worked hard to create a legacy for your loved ones. You deserve to decide how that legacy is sustained.

 

 

Michael Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Adviser offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser. Tower Financial Strategies Corp. is also a licensed insurance agency. Not licensed in all state.

 

Citations.

1 – https://news.gallup.com/poll/191651/majority-not.aspx [4/24/18]

2 – https://www.thebalance.com/wills-4073967 [4/24/18]

3 – https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/naming-more-one-executor.html [12/3/18]

 

 

Why the U.S. Might Be Less Affected by a Trade War

 

The nature of our economy could help it withstand the disruption.

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

A trade war does seem to be getting underway. Investors around the world see headwinds arising from newly enacted and planned tariffs, headwinds that could potentially exert a drag on global growth (and stock markets). How badly could these trade disputes hurt the American economy? Perhaps not as dramatically as some journalists and analysts warn.1,2

 

Our business sector may be impacted most. Undeniably, tariffs on imported goods raise costs for manufacturers. Costlier imports may reduce business confidence, and less confidence implies less capital investment. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which regularly surveys firms to learn their plans for the next six months, learned in July that businesses anticipate investing less and hiring fewer employees during the second half of the year. The survey’s index for future activity fell in July for the fourth month in a row. (Perhaps the outlook is not quite as negative as the Philadelphia Fed reports: a recent National Federation of Independent Business survey indicates that most companies have relatively stable spending plans for the near term.)1,2  

  

Fortunately, the U.S. economy is domestically driven. Consumer spending is its anchor: household purchases make up about two-thirds of it. Our economy is fairly “closed” compared to the economies of some of our key trading partners and rivals. Last year, trade accounted for just 27% of our gross domestic product. In contrast, it represented 37% of gross domestic product for China, 64% of growth for Canada, 78% of GDP for Mexico, and 87% of GDP for Germany.3,4

     

Our stock markets have held up well so far. The trade spat between the U.S. and China cast some gloom over Wall Street during the second-quarter earnings season, yet the S&P 500 neared an all-time peak in early August.5

 

All this tariff talk has helped the dollar. Between February 7 and August 7, the U.S. Dollar Index rose 5.4%. A stronger greenback does potentially hurt U.S. exports and corporate earnings, and in the past, the impact has been felt notably in the energy, materials, and tech sectors.6,7

       

As always, the future comes with question marks. No one can predict just how severe the impact from tariffs on our economy and other economies will be or how the narrative will play out. That said, it appears the U.S. may have a bit more economic insulation in the face of a trade war than other nations might have.

 

Michael R Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal or accounting services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

 

Citations.

1 – reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy/us-weekly-jobless-claims-hit-more-than-48-and-a-half-year-low-idUSKBN1K91R5 [7/19/18]

2 – nytimes.com/2018/07/24/upshot/trade-war-damage-to-us-economy-how-to-tell.html [7/24/18]

3 – money.cnn.com/2018/07/25/news/economy/state-of-the-economy-gdp/index.html [7/25/18]

4 – alliancebernstein.com/library/can-the-us-economy-weather-the-trade-wars.htm [7/17/18]

5 – cnbc.com/2018/08/06/the-sp-500-and-other-indexes-are-again-on-the-verge-of-historic-highs.html [8/6/18]

6 – barchart.com/stocks/quotes/$DXY/performance [8/7/18]

7 – investopedia.com/ask/answers/06/strongweakdollar.asp [3/16/18]

 

Financial Elder Abuse: Perception vs. Reality

 

Someday, you or your parents could be at risk.

 

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

You may know victims of financial elder abuse. According to a new Wells Fargo Elder Needs Survey, almost half of Americans do.1

 

As you read or hear stories about seniors being financially exploited, you may think: not me, I would never fall prey to that in my old age. Your parents? Same thing. They are too smart and too vigilant to be taken for a ride by a con artist or an unprincipled relative or caretaker.

 

This perception is only natural. When we are young, we never picture ourselves, or our parents, in decline. We are told 60 is the new 40, and 80 is the new 50. Perhaps so, but as some of the Wells Fargo survey data bears out, we may be overconfident in our ability to evade financial scams as we age.

 

Nearly 800 Americans aged 60 and older were asked if they believed senior citizens were vulnerable to financial abuse. Ninety-eight percent of the respondents said yes, but 81% were confident that it would never happen to them. Just 10% thought they were susceptible to such exploitation, and only 24% even worried about the possibility.1

 

The surveyors also contacted nearly 800 Americans aged 45-59 with elderly parents, and 75% of these Gen Xers and baby boomers felt their moms and dads would never succumb to such fraud.1

 

In short: financial elder abuse might happen to other people someday, but not to us.

 

This assumption may be flawed – after all, half the people Wells Fargo contacted said that they knew elders who had been financially exploited. Any perception that strangers are committing most of these crimes may be equally unfounded. The Jewish Council for the Aging states that 66% of financial elder abuse is carried out by family members, friends, or trusted third parties.1

 

What actions can be taken to try and shield your parents from such abuse? As a first step, you and your parents can meet with an estate planning attorney to put a signed financial power of attorney in place (if one is absent). Should your mom or dad lose the capacity to make financial decisions on their own, this document can authorize you (or another family member) to make worthy decisions on their behalf.1

 

There are also software programs, such as EverSafe, that are designed to pinpoint odd financial transactions for a household or business. Such activity is flagged, and a financial advocate for the person or business is then signaled.1

 

 

You can also meet the bank or investment professional who works with your parent(s) and request that you become a trusted contact on their account. You can do this by filling out a form.2

 

You may already be named as a trusted contact. Since February, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has required investment firms to ask their clients to provide the name and information of such persons, though clients do not have to comply with the request.2

 

The financial services industry is taking further steps in this regard. In May, President Trump signed the Senior Safe Act into law. This legislation, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, guides banks and investment firms to train their financial professionals to spot and report what appears to be shady financial activity. To encourage such reporting, it gives them a degree of immunity from liability and breaches of privacy laws.3

 

The bottom line: act now to guard against the risk of elder financial abuse. It happens too often, and though it may seem improbable today, that may not be the case tomorrow – for your parents or you.

 

*Michael R Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results.  This information should not be construed as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser. 125 N. Market ST., Suite #1603, Wichita, KS 67202

 

Citations.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/youre-in-denial-if-you-think-you-or-your-elderly-parents-wont-be-scammed-2018-06-25 [6/25/18]

2 – cnbc.com/2018/05/15/advisors-are-asking-their-clients-for-a-trusted-contact-choose-wisely.html [5/15/18]

3 – wealthmanagement.com/high-net-worth/new-senior-safe-act-encourages-reporting-financial-abuse [5/29/18]

 

Should You Leave Your IRA to a Child?

 

What you should know about naming a minor as an IRA beneficiary.

 

Provided by Michael Snow

  

Can a child inherit an IRA? The answer is yes, though they cannot legally own the IRA and its invested assets. Until the child turns 18 (or 21, in some states), the inherited IRA is a custodial account, managed by an adult on behalf of the minor beneficiary.1,2

  

IRA owners who name minors as beneficiaries have good intentions. Their idea is to “stretch” a large Roth or traditional IRA. Distributions from the inherited IRA can be scheduled over the (long) expected lifetime of the young beneficiary, with the possibility that compounding will partly or fully offset them.2

 

Those good intentions may be disregarded, however. When minor IRA beneficiaries become legal adults, they have the right to do whatever they want with those IRA assets. If they want to drain the whole IRA to buy a Porsche or fund an ill-conceived start-up, they can.2

 

How can you have a say in what happens to the IRA assets? You could create a trust to serve as the IRA beneficiary, as an intermediate step before your heir takes possession of those assets as a young adult.

 

In other words, you name a trust as the beneficiary of your IRA, and your child or grandchild as a beneficiary of the trust. When you have that trust in place, you have more control over what happens with the inherited IRA assets.2

 

The trust can dictate the how, what, and when of the income distribution. Perhaps you specify that your heir gets $10,000 annually from the trust beginning at age 30. Or, maybe you include language that mandates that your heir take distributions over their life expectancy. You can even stipulate what the money should be spent on and how it should be spent.2

 

A trust is not for everyone. The IRA needs to be large to warrant creating one, as the process of trust creation can cost several thousand dollars. No current-year tax break comes your way from implementing a trust, either.2

 

In lieu of setting up a trust, you could simply name an IRA custodian. In this case, the term “custodian” refers not to a giant investment company, but a person you know and have faith in who you authorize to make investing and distribution decisions for the IRA. One such person could be named as the custodian; another, as a successor custodian.2

 

What if you designate a minor as the beneficiary of your IRA, but fail to put a custodian in place? If there is no named custodian, or if your named custodian is unable to serve in that role, then a trip to court is in order. A parent of the child, or another party who wants guardianship over the IRA assets, will have to go to court and ask to be appointed as the IRA custodian.2

 

You should also recognize that the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act reshaped the “kiddie tax.” This is the federal tax on a minor’s net unearned income. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) from inherited IRAs are subject to this tax. A minor’s net unearned income is now taxed at the same rate as trust income rather than at the parents’ marginal tax rate.3,4

 

This is a big change. Income tax brackets for a trust or a child under age 19 are now set much lower than the brackets for single or joint filers or heads of household. A 10% rate applies for the first $2,550 of taxable income, but a 24% rate plus $255 of tax applies at $2,551; a 35% rate plus $1,839 of tax, at $9,151; a 37% rate plus $3,011.50 of tax, at $12,501 and up.3,5

 

While this is a negative for middle-class families seeking to leave an IRA to a child, it may be a positive for wealthy families: the new kiddie tax rules may reduce the child’s tax liability when compared with the old rules.4

 

One last note: if you want to leave your IRA to a minor, check to see if the brokerage holding your IRA allows a child or a grandchild as an IRA beneficiary. Some brokerages do, while others do not.1

 

Michael Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such.

 

Michael Snow offers Investment Advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

 

Citations.

1 – investopedia.com/articles/retirement/09/minor-as-ira-beneficiary.asp [6/19/18]

2 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T021-C000-S004-pass-an-ira-to-young-grandkids-with-care.html [5/17]

3 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2018/05/08/the-kiddie-tax-grows-up/ [5/8/18]

4 – tinyurl.com/y7bonwzx [5/31/18]

5 – forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/03/07/new-irs-announces-2018-tax-rates-standard-deductions-exemption-amounts-and-more/ [3/7/18]