I Didn't Know You Did That!
As we work with clients to help build their nest egg for retirement, inevitably we find ourselves discussing how to protect their assets and begin to design a plan for passing it onto the next generation. While this plan looks very different for each person, there are some items that fall into the universal category. This quarterly newsletter is dedicated to some areas that many may not realize we can give them guidance. While most of our time in a given day is devoted to investments and retirement planning, our experiences go far beyond these areas. If you have questions about estate planning, trusts, wills, health insurance, Medicare, Social Security, elder care or any other topic you see in the next few sections, let us know. We, and professionals we know, are a great resource for all of those areas and more!
What You Can Do with a Will
A will is often the cornerstone of an estate plan. Here are five things you can do with a will.
Distribute property as you wish
Wills enable you to leave your property at your death to a surviving spouse, a child, other relatives, friends, a trust, a charity, or anyone you choose. There are some limits, however, on how you can distribute property using a will. For instance, your spouse may have certain rights with respect to your property, regardless of the provisions of your will.
Transfers through your will take the form of specific bequests (e.g., an heirloom, jewelry, furniture, or cash), general bequests (e.g., a percentage of your property), or a residuary bequest of what's left after your other transfers. It is generally a good practice to name backup beneficiaries just in case they are needed.
Note that certain property is not transferred by a will. For example, property you hold in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety passes to the surviving joint owner(s) at your death. Also, certain property in which you have already named a beneficiary passes to the beneficiary
(e.g., life insurance, pension plans, IRAs).
Nominate a guardian for your minor children
In many states, a will is your only means of stating who you want to act as legal guardian for your minor children if you die. You can name a personal guardian, who takes personal custody of the children, and a property guardian, who manages the children's assets. This can be the same person or different people. The probate court has final approval, but courts will usually approve your choice of guardian unless there are compelling reasons not to.
Nominate an executor
A will allows you to designate a person as your executor to act as your legal representative after your death. An executor carries out many estate settlement tasks, including locating your will, collecting your assets, paying legitimate creditor claims, paying any taxes owed by your estate, and distributing any remaining assets to your beneficiaries. As with naming a guardian, the probate court has final approval but will usually approve whomever you nominate.
Specify how to pay estate taxes and other expenses
The way in which estate taxes and other expenses are divided among your heirs is generally determined by state law unless you direct otherwise in your will. To ensure that the specific bequests you make to your beneficiaries are not reduced by taxes and other expenses, you can provide in your will that these costs be paid from your residuary estate. Or, you can specify which assets should be used or sold to pay these costs.
Create a testamentary trust or fund a living trust
You can create a trust in your will, known as a testamentary trust, that comes into being when your will is probated. Your will sets out the terms of the trust, such as who the trustee is, who the beneficiaries are, how the trust is funded, how the distributions should be made, and when the trust terminates. This can be especially important if you have a spouse or minor children who are unable to manage assets or property themselves.
A living trust is a trust that you create during your lifetime. If you have a living trust, your will can transfer any assets that were not transferred to the trust while you were alive. This is known as a pourover will because the will "pours over" your estate to your living trust.
Generally, a will is a written document that must be executed with appropriate formalities. These may include, for example, signing the document in front of at least two witnesses. Though it is not a legal requirement, a will should generally be drafted by an attorney.
There may be costs or expenses involved with the creation of a will or trust, the probate of a will, and the operation of a trust.
Don't Wait to Ask Aging Parents These Important Questions
It's human nature to put off complicated or emotionally heavy tasks. Talking with aging parents about their finances, health, and overall well-being might fall in this category. Many adult children would rather avoid this task, as it can create feelings of fear and loss on both sides. But this conversation — what could be the first of many — is too important to put off for long. The best time to start is when your parents are relatively healthy. Otherwise, you may find yourself making critical decisions on their behalf in the midst of a crisis without a roadmap.
Here are some questions to ask them that might help you get started.
• What institutions hold your financial assets? Ask your parents to create a list of their bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, including account numbers, name(s) on accounts, and online user names and passwords, if any. You should also know where to find their insurance policies (life, home, auto, disability, long-term care), Social Security cards, titles to their house and vehicles, outstanding loan documents, and past tax returns. If your parents have a safe-deposit box or home safe, make sure you can access the key or combination.
• Do you need help paying monthly bills or reviewing items like credit card statements, medical receipts, or property tax bills? Do you
use online bill pay for any accounts?
• Do you currently work with any financial, legal, or tax professionals? If so, ask your parents if they want to share contact information and whether they would find it helpful if you attended meetings with them.
• Do you have a durable power of attorney? A durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows a named individual (such as an adult child) to manage all aspects of a parent's financial life if the parent becomes disabled or incompetent.
• Do you have a will? If so, find out where it is and who is named as executor. If the will is more than five years old, your parents may want to review it to make sure their currentwishes are represented. Ask if they have any specific personal property disposition requests that they want to discuss now.
• Are your beneficiary designations up-to-date? Beneficiary designations on your parents' insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, and investment accounts will trump any instructions in their will.
• Do you have an overall estate plan? A trust? A living trust can be used to help manage an estate while your parents are still living. If you'd like to learn more, consult an estate planning attorney.
• What doctors do you currently see? Are you happy with the care you're getting? If your parents begin to need multiple medical
specialists and/or home health services, you might consider hiring a geriatric care manager, especially if you don't live close by.
• What medications are you currently taking? Are you able to manage various dosageinstructions? Do you have any notable side effects? At what pharmacy do you get your prescriptions filled?
• What health insurance do you have? In addition to Medicare, which starts at age 65, find out if your parents have or should
consider Medigap insurance — a private policy that covers many costs not covered by Medicare. You may also want to discuss the need for long-term care insurance, which helps pay for extended custodial or nursing home care.
• Do you have an advance medical directive? This document expresses your parents' wishes regarding life-support measures, if needed, and designates someone who will communicate with health-care professionals on their behalf. If your parents do not want heroic life-saving measures to be undertaken for them, this document is a must.
• Do you plan to stay in your current home for the foreseeable future, or are you considering downsizing?
• Is there anything I can do now to make your home more comfortable and safe? This might include smaller projects such as installing hand rails and night lights in the bathroom, to larger projects such as moving the washing machine out of the basement, installing a stair lift, or moving a bedroom to the first floor.
• Could you benefit from a weekly or monthly cleaning service?
• Do you employ certain people or companies for home maintenance projects (e.g., heating contractor, plumber, electrician, fall cleanup)?
• Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you have a burial plot picked out?
• Do you have any specific requests or wishes for your memorial service?
Note: There are costs and ongoing expenses associated with the creation of trusts.
Note: A complete statement of long-term care insurance coverage, including exclusions, exceptions, and limitations, is found only in the long-term care insurance policy. It should be noted that carriers have the discretion to raise their rates and remove their products from the marketplace.
Four Tips for Downsizing in Retirement
Going through years of accumulated possessions and memories is probably not how you envisioned spending part of your retirement. It may sound like a daunting and emotionally draining task, but downsizing could be a savvy financial move, especially if you haven't reached your retirement savings goals.
1. Set goals for downsizing
Before you make any decisions, think about why you might want to downsize in the first place. Is it because you want to save on mortgage payments or other monthly expenses? Or are you looking to free up some cash to help pursue your lifestyle goals in retirement?
No matter what your specific goals may be, understanding the connection between them and downsizing can help motivate you to follow
through with it.
2. Determine the best time to downsize
It's said that timing is everything, so choosing when to downsize will be an important decision to make. One benefit of downsizing early in
retirement is that mortgage payments and other related expenses (such as utilities and real estate taxes) could decrease, presuming that you are downsizing to a less expensive residence. This could mean you have extra funds to pursue new hobbies and activities right away in retirement. You might even be fortunate enough to have sufficient funds from the sale of a larger home to pay for a smaller home with cash, thus eliminating or decreasing your mortgage payment, or significantly increasing cash flow.
But there may be advantages to delaying downsizing. If you wait to do it later in retirement, you might have a better sense of just how much you need to downsize to support your current lifestyle. Plus, timing your downsizing plans with a stronger real estate market could mean that you sell and/or purchase a new home at a more opportune time.
3. Be realistic about costs
There are several costs to think about if you are downsizing your home: the worth of your current home, the cost of a new home, and the fees and expenses associated with relocating. Before you start boxing up your belongings, run the numbers. Start by contacting local real estate agents to receive estimates of your home's value. Compare the estimates so you can develop an idea of how much you might be
able to get for your home. Research online to see what homes in your neighborhood have sold for recently — this can also help you
determine your home's potential selling price.
Take similar steps when you look for your new home. One option that might be available is to rent a new house or apartment for a length of time before buying it. That way, you'll learn whether the home and the location suit you, helping you avoid buyer's remorse.
If you're buying a new home, don't forget to account for the down payment, home inspection, closing costs, and other associated charges. Factoring all of the numbers into the equation may reveal whether downsizing makes the most sense for you and your
4. Consider downsizing your belongings, not just your home
For some people, downsizing might simply mean cutting down on clutter rather than relocating. It's easier said than done, particularly if you've amassed many belongings over time. When purging your home, consider the following:
• Take your time. Don't feel pressured to clear out your entire home in one fell swoop. Instead, make a plan to do one room or section of your home at a time.
• Involve your children. If you have kids, consider asking them for their help. Many hands make light work, and your children may end up expressing interest in items they would like to have.
• Sell valuables. Maybe you can't find a new home for that antique necklace you never wear or the rare baseball cards collecting dust in your attic. Consider having those items appraised and selling them to an auction house or online. Depending on how many items you're selling and their worth, you could wind up with quite a bit of money that you can use to help cushion your retirement fund.
• Donate gently used items. Find out if there are any local organizations in your community that could benefit from furniture, clothing, or
any other possessions in good condition that you want to get rid of. Some donation outlets may even offer free pickup of certain items, saving you time and hassle.
• Clear out junk. Chances are you've accumulated items that you simply won't be able to give away or sell. Discard belongings that serve no purpose other than taking up space in your home. You might be surprised by how much room you could free up.
Is a nursing home the only option for long-term care?
If you or a loved one needs long-term care, other choices besides nursing home care may be available. Here are some other options.
Most people would prefer to stay in their homes as long as possible. Depending on your needs, you may only need help with some common daily living activities such as laundry, shopping, cooking, and cleaning. First, talk to your family to see if they can help with your needs. There are probably home health-care agencies that can assist you with some of these chores.
Accessory dwelling units
If you or a loved one owns a single-family home, adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to that home may help you keep your
independence while getting some help with your daily activities. An ADU, or "in-law apartment," usually provides a separate living
space with a sleeping area, a place to cook, and a bathroom. Check with your local zoning office to be sure ADUs are allowed in your
area. Also, the cost of adding an ADU can vary widely, depending on the size of the unit and the cost for materials and labor.
Subsidized senior housing
There are federal and state programs that help pay for housing for some older people with low to moderate incomes. Some of these housing programs also offer help with meals and other activites like housekeeping, shopping, and laundry. Residents usually live in their own apartments in the complex. Rent payments are usually a percentage of your income.
These facilities generally provide more services than offered in subsidized senior housing. You may receive help with bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, taking your medications, and getting to appointments. Residents often live in an apartment and may share meals in a
common dining room. Social and recreational activities are usually provided. Some of these facilities have health services on site.
A nursing home may not be your only choice. Discharge planners and social workers in hospitals and home health agencies can explain your options and help arrange your care.
Why is it important to factor inflation into retirement planning?
Inflation is one of the key factors you will need to consider when planning for retirement. Not only will the cost of living rise while you're accumulating assets for retirement, but it will continue to rise during your retirement, which could last 25 years or longer. This, combined with the fact that you will not likely earn a paycheck during retirement, is the main reason your portfolio needs to maintain at least some growth potential for the duration of your retirement.
Consider this: If inflation runs at 3% (which is approximately its long-term average, as measured by the Consumer Price Index), the purchasing power of a given sum of money would be cut in half in 23 years. If it averages 4%, your purchasing power would be cut in half
in 18 years.
A simple example illustrates the impact of inflation on retirement income. Assuming a consistent annual inflation rate of 3%, if $50,000 satisfies your retirement income needs this year, you'll need $51,500 of income next year to meet the same income needs. In 10 years, you'll need about $67,195 to equal the purchasing power of $50,000 this year. And in 25 years, you'd need nearly $105,000 just to
maintain that purchasing power!1
Keep in mind that even a 3% long-term average inflation rate conceals periods of skyrocketing prices, such as in the late 1970s and early 80s, when inflation reached double digits. Although consumer prices have been relatively stable in more recent decades, there's always the chance that unexpected shocks could cause prices to spike again.
So how do you strive for the returns you'll need to outpace inflation by a wide enough margin both before and during retirement? The key is to consider investing at least some of your portfolio in growth-oriented investments, such as stocks.2
1 This hypothetical example of mathematical principles is used for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any specific investment. Note that these figures exclude the effects of taxes, fees, expenses, and investment returns in general.
2 All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018