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July 2015

Elderly Hands

Elder Care: How to Help Your Parents Manage

It’s a decision most adults dread: having to take over the financial and day-to-day living decisions for parents who can no longer manage on their own. When caring for your parents, you may need to plan on three levels: managing finances, making health care decisions, and making sure their daily household needs are met. Finding qualified experts who can advise you in these areas may make it easier to manage the situation.

Managing Finances

If your parents currently are able to communicate, try to initiate a conversation about how they would like their money to be managed. Rather than telling them what to do, be clear that you would like to help and to make sure that their wishes are met. Access to bank and brokerage statements, insurance policies, and other financial documents may help you to safeguard your parents’ assets.
If your parents work with a financial advisor, try to arrange a joint meeting where all parties can review the situation. If you pay your parents’ bills and manage their checkbook, arranging for direct deposit of Social Security or pension benefits, as well as electronic delivery of recurring bills, could expedite the process.

Arranging for Health Care

If your parents are mentally competent, ask them about consulting a lawyer who can draft a health care proxy, a legal document designating you (or another person) to make decisions about medical care when they are no longer able to do so. If your parents have opinions about end-of-life care, their wishes can be incorporated into a living will, another legal document.
Even without these documents, the medical establishment is likely to look to you or other siblings to make decisions about health care, which could include arranging for long-term care or making end-of-life decisions. As part of this process, determine the type of medical insurance that your parents have and what it covers.

Overseeing Daily Living Activities

If your parents are able to remain in their home, you may need to consider helping them to manage medication, to conduct daily tasks such as bathing or meal preparation, and to make arrangements for assistance with household chores. A visiting nurse and home care agency may provide assistance in these areas.

You may want to consider consulting a Professional Geriatric Care Manager, a professional who may help arrange for home care, provide crisis intervention, and help you identify solutions to potential problems. You can learn more at www.caremanager.org.
Managing a parent’s affairs can be complicated, but arranging for support from qualified people may help you care for parents in a way that meets their needs and does not create too much stress on you.
© 2011 McGraw-Hill Financial Communications. All rights reserved.

Questions to Ask When Drafting an Estate Plan

Because you’ve worked hard to create a secure and comfortable lifestyle for your family, you’ll want to ensure that you have a sound financial plan that includes trust and estate planning. With some forethought, you may be able to minimize gift and estate taxes and preserve more of your assets for those you care about.
A qualified financial professional and tax professional can help ensure you are minimizing taxes and maximizing gains for your heirs. You can bring this four-part checklist to your initial meeting to discuss how to make your plan comprehensive and up-to-date.

Part 1: Communicating Your Wishes

  • Do you have a will?
  • Are you comfortable with the executor(s) and trustee(s) you have selected?
  • Have you executed a living will or health care proxy?
  • Have you considered a living trust to avoid probate?
  • If you have a living trust, have you titled your assets in the name of the trust?

Part 2: Protecting Your Family

  • Does your will name a guardian for your children if both you and your spouse are deceased?
  • Are you sure you have the right amount and type of life insurance for survivor income, loan repayment, capital needs, and all estate settlement expenses?
  • Have you considered an irrevocable life insurance trust to exclude the insurance proceeds from being taxed as part of your estate?
  • Have you considered creating trusts for family gift giving?

Part 3: Reducing Your Taxes

  • If you are married, are you taking full advantage of the marital deduction?
  • Are you making gifts to family members that take advantage of the $13,000 annual gift tax exclusion?
  • Have you gifted assets with a strong probability of future appreciation in order to maximize future estate tax savings?
  • Have you considered charitable trusts that could provide you with both estate and income tax benefits?

Part 4: Protecting Your Business

  • Do you have a management succession plan?
  • Do you have a buy/sell agreement for your family business interests?

Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Financial Communications or its sources, neither Financial Communications nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall Financial Communications be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber’s or others’ use of the content.
© 2011 McGraw-Hill Financial Communications. All rights reserved.

Tax Smart Investing Tips

Savvy investors have long realized that what their investments earn after taxes is what really counts. After factoring in federal income and capital gains taxes, the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and potential state and local taxes, your investment returns in any given year may be reduced by 40% or more. Luckily, there are tools and tactics to help you manage taxes and your investments. Here are four tips to help you become a more tax-savvy investor.

Tip #1: Invest in Tax-Deferred and Tax-Free Accounts

Tax-deferred investments include company-sponsored retirement savings accounts such as traditional 401(k) and 403(b) plans and traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs). In some cases, contributions to these accounts may be made on a pretax basis or may be tax deductible. More important, investment earnings compound tax deferred until withdrawal, typically in retirement, when you may be in a lower tax bracket.
Contributions to Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k) savings plans are not deductible. Earnings that accumulate in Roth accounts can be withdrawn tax free if you are over age 59 1/2, have held the account for at least five years, and meet the requirements for a qualified distribution.

Tip #2: Manage Investments for Tax Efficiency

Tax-managed investment accounts are managed in ways that can help reduce their taxable distributions. Your investment professional can employ a combination of tactics, such as minimizing portfolio turnover, investing in stocks that do not pay dividends and selectively selling stocks that have become less attractive at a loss to counterbalance taxable gains elsewhere in the portfolio. In years when returns on the broader market are flat or negative, investors tend to become more aware of capital gains generated by portfolio turnover, since the resulting tax liability can offset any gain or exacerbate a negative return on the investment.

Tip #3: Put Losses to Work

At times, you may be able to use losses in your investment portfolio to help offset realized gains. It’s a good idea to evaluate your holdings periodically to assess whether an investment still offers the long-term potential you anticipated when you purchased it. Your realized losses in a given tax year must first be used to offset realized capital gains. If you have “leftover” losses, you can offset up to $3,000 against ordinary income. Any remainder can be carried forward to offset gains or income in future years.

Tip #4: Keep Good Records

Keep records of purchases, sales, distributions, and dividend reinvestments so that you can properly calculate the basis of shares you own and choose the most preferential tax treatment for shares you sell.
Keeping an eye on how taxes can affect your investments is one of the easiest ways to help enhance your returns over time. For more information about the tax aspects of investing, consult your tax professional.

Source/Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended to be tax advice and should not be treated as such. You should consult with your tax advisor to discuss your personal situation before making any decisions.
© 2012 S&P Capital IQ Financial Communications. All rights reserved.

Five Strategies for Tax-Efficient Investing

You may be able to use losses within your investment portfolio to help offset realized gains. If your losses exceed your gains, you can offset up to $3,000 per year of the difference against ordinary income.

After factoring in federal income and capital gains taxes, the alternative minimum tax, and potential state and local taxes, your investments’ returns in any given year may be reduced by 40% or more. Here are five ways to potentially lower your tax bill.1

Invest in Tax-Deferred and Tax-Free Accounts

Tax-deferred accounts include employer-sponsored retirement accounts such as traditional 401(k)s and 403(b) plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and annuities. In some cases, contributions may be made on a pretax basis or may be tax deductible. More important, investment earnings compound tax deferred until withdrawal, typically in retirement, when you may be in a lower tax bracket. Contributions to nonqualified annuities, Roth IRAs and Roth-style employer-sponsored savings plans are not deductible. Earnings that accumulate in Roth accounts can be withdrawn tax free if you have had the account for at least five years and meet the requirements for a qualified distribution.

Withdrawals prior to age 59½ from a qualified retirement plan, IRA, Roth IRA or annuity may be subject to a 10% federal penalty. In addition, early withdrawals from annuities may be subject to additional penalties charged by the issuing insurance company.

Consider Government and Municipal Bonds

Interest on U.S. government issues is subject to federal taxes but is exempt from state taxes. Municipal bond income is generally exempt from federal taxes, and municipal bonds issued in-state may be free of state and local taxes as well. Sold prior to maturity government and municipal bonds are subject to market fluctuations and may be worth less than the original cost upon redemption.

Look for Tax-Efficient Investments

Tax-managed or tax-efficient investment accounts are managed in ways that can help reduce their taxable distributions. Investment managers can potentially minimize portfolio turnover, invest in stocks that do not pay dividends and selectively sell stocks at a loss to counterbalance taxable gains elsewhere in the portfolio.

Put Losses to Work

You may be able to use losses within your investment portfolio to help offset realized gains. If your losses exceed your gains, you can offset up to $3,000 per year of the difference against ordinary income. Any remainder can be carried forward to offset capital gains or income in future years.

Keep Good Records

Maintain records of purchases, sales, distributions, and dividend reinvestments so that you can properly calculate how much you paid for the shares you own and choose the most preferential tax treatment for shares you sell.

Keeping an eye on how taxes can affect your investments is one of the easiest ways you can enhance your returns over time.

1This information is general in nature and is not meant as tax advice. Always consult a qualified tax advisor for information as to how taxes may affect your particular situation.

Government bonds and Treasury bills are guaranteed by the US government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.

Municipal bonds are subject to availability and change in price. They are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise. Interest income may be subject to the alternative minimum tax. Municipal bonds are federally tax-free but other state and local taxes may apply.

Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Financial Communications or its sources, neither Financial Communications nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall Financial Communications be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber’s or others’ use of the content.

© 2013 Standard & Poor’s Financial Communications. All rights reserved.

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