Tax Planning in Your Retirement Planning – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Once you are retired, the only tax you will not have to pay will be—can you guess? Yes, payroll taxes. However, there are plenty of other taxes to be paid, advises Forbes in the article that answers the question “What Taxes Will I Owe In Retirement?”

People who are accustomed to having employers handle income taxes throughout their working lives, are often surprised when they learn that not working does not mean you are not paying taxes. Income is taxable, whether you are working or not. You will not have to pay into Social Security when you retire, and Medicare becomes a premium, not a deduction from your paycheck. However, there are still taxes to be paid.

Federal income taxes range from 10 to 37 percent, depending on your income bracket and marital status. Pensions, annuities, IRA withdrawals, defined benefit plans, 457 or any other pre-tax retirement accounts will generate tax liabilities.

Is any income tax-free in retirement? Withdrawals from Roth IRAs are tax free, since you paid tax on the money before it went into these accounts. The same goes for the Roth 401(k)s.

Are there taxes on Social Security? Approximately 60% of retirees will not owe federal income taxes on Social Security benefits. However, your Social Security benefits might be taxed, depending upon your retirement income. This tax also varies depending upon where you live. Some states tax Social Security benefits, others do not. Rental income and royalties are also counted as income.

Consumer taxes. Sales tax and property taxes will still need to be paid. For many people, property taxes are their highest tax expenses.

Is there a tax on Medicare? The Medicare Surtax, also known as the Unearned Income Medicare Contribution Surtax or NIIT, is a 3.8% Medicare tax that applies to income from investments and regular income above specific thresholds. For 2020, if you have MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income) above $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly), you will have to pay NIIT. This is one that most people do not know about, and can add up quickly, especially if you have great market returns and realized gains.

With good planning, you may be able to replace 100% or more of your pre-retirement income. In many cases, it may mean paying about the same amount in taxes as you did while working. If you do a good job of saving and have a large income during retirement, you will most likely end up paying at least some taxes on retirement income. It is a good problem to have, but still a problem.

All of these retirement taxes add up to quite a nice tax bite, if you are not prepared for them. This is another example of how advance tax planning can make a big difference in the quality of your retirement.

Reference: Forbes (Feb. 23, 2020) “What Taxes Will I Owe In Retirement?”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How Can I Fund A Special Needs Trust? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

TapInto’s recent article entitled “Ways to Fund Special Needs Trusts” says that when sitting down to plan a special needs trust, one of the most urgent questions is, “When it comes to funding the trust, what are my options?”

There are four main ways to build up a third-party special needs trust. One way is to contribute personal assets, which in many cases come from immediate or extended family members. Another possible way to fund a special needs trust, is with permanent life insurance. In addition, the proceeds from a settlement or lawsuit can also make up the foundation of the trust assets. Finally, an inheritance can provide the financial bulwark to start and fund the special needs trust.

Families choosing the personal asset route may put a few thousand dollars of cash or other assets into the trust to start, with the intention that the initial investment will be augmented by later contributions from grandparents, siblings, or other relatives. Those subsequent contributions can be willed to the trust, or the trust may be named as a beneficiary of a retirement or investment account. It is vital that families use the services of an elder law or special trusts lawyer. Special needs trusts are very complicated, and if set up incorrectly, it can mean the loss of government program benefits.

If a special needs trust is started with life insurance, the trustor will name the trust as the beneficiary of the policy. When the trustor passes away, the policy’s death benefit is left, tax free, to the trust. When a lump-sum settlement or inheritance is invested within the trust, this can allow for the possibility of growth and compounding. With a worthy trustee in place, there is less chance of mismanagement, and the money may come out of the trust to support the beneficiary in a wise manner that does not risk threatening government benefits.

In addition, a special needs trust can be funded with tangible, non-cash assets, such as real estate, securities, art or antiques. These assets (and others like them) can be left to the trustee of the special needs trust through a revocable living trust or will. Note that the objective of the trust is to provide the trust beneficiary with non-disqualifying cash and assets owned by the trust. As a result, these tangible assets will have to be sold or liquidated to meet that goal.

As mentioned above, you need to take care in the creation and administration of a special needs trust, which will entail the use of an experienced attorney who practices in this area and a trustee well-versed in the rules and regulations governing public assistance. Consequently, the resulting trust will be a product of close collaboration.

Reference: TapInto (February 2, 2020) “Ways to Fund Special Needs Trusts”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Should You Move Your 401(k) to A Roth? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Overhauling the retirement savings system is the subject of considerable talk in Washington these days, with the focus on how to give an immediate boost to government tax revenues. With retirement fund accounts being measured in the trillions, it is no surprise that they are being eyed.

One of the ideas being discussed, according to the article “What ‘Rothifying’ 401(k)s Would Mean for Retirees” from The Wall Street Journal, is to repeal the current structure of pretax contributions to retirement accounts and adopt a system where contributions would come only from after-tax contributions, just as Roth IRAs do now. It also has a name, “Rothification.” It could become very popular in the not too distant future.

However, behind this need to plug the gaps in the national budget could be a dismal scenario for workers saving for retirement.

Those U.S. savers who do save money for retirement now contribute to their IRA, SEP, and other tax-deferred accounts with money that is deducted from their taxable income. They only pay taxes on this money when they take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) during retirement, or after age 72. The tax deferral provides a powerful incentive to save. The Investment Company Institute reports that defined contribution plans and IRAs were valued at $18.3 trillion as of the third quarter of 2019.

With a federal deficit now at more than $1 trillion and the federal debt at $23 trillion (according to the U.S. Treasury), the money has to come from somewhere. The Treasury also estimates that it will forgo $2.4 trillion in tax revenue from the nation’s tax-deferred retirement savings over the next ten years.

With Social Security having an additional $43 trillion in underfunding, according to the 2019 report of the Social Security and Medicare trustees, government funds are going to have to come from somewhere.

Under “Rothification,” savers would make their retirement fund contributions with after-tax income, and the Treasury would get its money now, rather than waiting for current workers to retire or die.

The challenge is that people do not save as much as they need to for retirement. Many of them are depending upon Social Security to cover the lion’s share of their retirement income. Removing the tax incentive for retirement saving will discourage retirement saving.

What will that mean for estate planning? Adjusting to the changes from the SECURE Act already has estate planning lawyers reviewing estate plans for the new ten-year withdrawal requirements for IRA beneficiaries. Once the “Rothification” discussions move from talk to legislation, expect large push-back from the financial services industry, which runs these accounts, now worth $18.3 trillion.

Reference: The Wall Street Journal (February 17, 2020) “What ‘Rothifying’ 401(k)s Would Mean for Retirees”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Preparing for the Inevitable: The Loss of a Spouse – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Becoming a widow at a relatively young age, puts many people in a tough financial position, says the article “Preparing for the Unexpected Death of a Spouse” from Next Avenue. At this point in their lives, they are too young to draw Social Security benefits. There is no best time, but this is a hard time to lose the prime breadwinner in the household.

Women are more likely than men to lose a spouse. They are typically left in a worse financial position if their spouse dies before they are old enough to take retirement benefits.

One of the best ways to plan for this event, is for both spouses to have life insurance. This can replace income, and term life insurance, if purchased early in life, can be relatively affordable. The earlier a policy is purchased, the better. This can become a safety net to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle.

Another key component for surviving early widowhood, is being sure that both members of the couple understand the couple’s finances, including how household bills are paid. Usually what happens is that one person takes over the finances, and the other is left hoping that things are being done properly. That also includes knowing the accounts, the log in and password information, and what bills need to be paid at what dates.

Having that conversation with a spouse is not easy, but necessary. There are costs that you may not be aware of, without a thorough knowledge of how the household works. For instance, if the husband has done all of the repairs around the house, maintaining the yard and taking care of the cars, those tasks still need to be done. Either the widow will become proficient or will have to pay others.

Couples should work with an estate planning attorney and a financial advisor, as well as an accountant, to be sure that they are prepared for the unexpected. What survivor’s benefits might the surviving spouse be eligible to receive? If there are children at home age 16 or under, there may be Social Security benefits available for the child’s support.

Discuss what debt, if any, either spouse has taken on without the other’s knowledge. Any outstanding medical bills should also be discussed. The last thing a loved one should have to cope with when a spouse passes, is a tangle of debt. However, this often happens.

If the spouse was a veteran, the surviving spouse might be eligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration. Find out what information will be needed to apply for benefits.

Talk with your estate planning attorney to make sure that all proper documents have been prepared. This includes a last will and testament, power of attorney, health care proxy and any trusts.

Reference: Next Avenue (Dec. 18, 2019) “Preparing for the Unexpected Death of a Spouse”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How to Prevent The Top Six Retirement Planning Mistakes – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their retirement, is not realizing what they don’t know, says the Chicago Sun-Times in the article “The 6 biggest retirement mistakes—and how you can avoid them.” By misunderstanding how Social Security works, underestimating life expectancies or failing to plan for big expenses, like long-term care or taxes, people put themselves and their families in financial binds.

These are not the people who make an effort to educate themselves. They are sure they know what’s what—until they realize they don’t. Most people don’t seek out objective advice before they retire. They wing it, hoping things will work out. Often, they don’t.

Retirement is complicated. Here are the top six most common mistakes:

Expecting to die young. If you die young, you have fewer worries about retirement funds. Live a long life and you could easily outlive your retirement savings. One smart move is to wait to collect Social Security as long as possible. Each year you put it off from age 62 to 70, increases your benefit by 7-8 percent.

Ignoring your spouse’s needs. One of you will die first. When that happens, one of your Social Security checks goes away. The survivor will need to get by on only one check. This is why it is vital to maximize the survivor benefit by having the higher earner delay filing for Social Security as long as possible.  Married people who receive a pension, should consider a “joint and survivor” option that lets payments continue for both lives.

Bringing debt into retirement If you’re rich, debt may not be a big deal. You have plenty of income to make payments. Your investments may be earning more than you are paying in interest payments. However, if you are not rich, are you pulling too much from your savings to pay down the debt? This would increase the chances you’ll run out of money. If you take big withdrawals from retirement accounts, it could push you into a higher tax bracket and increase your Medicare premium. Try to get rid of your debt before retiring. However, be careful about tapping retirement accounts to pay off big debts, like a home mortgage.

Neglecting to plan for long-term care. Someone turning 65 today has a 70 percent chance of needing help with daily living tasks, like bathing, eating or dressing. Family and friends may be willing to help, but about half will need long-term care at a cost of $250,000 a year or more. Long-term care insurance is the most obvious solution. However, if you didn’t purchase it when you were healthy, you may need to earmark certain investments, or consider tapping your home equity to pay for this cost.

Thinking you’ll just keep working. About half of retirees report leaving the workforce earlier than they had planned. Most retire because they lose their jobs and cannot find a replacement job or can’t find one at the same income level as their previous job. Others retire because of ill health or the need to stop working to care for a loved one. Working longer can help you make up for not saving enough, but don’t count on it.

Putting off retirement too long. Consider time, health and energy as finite resources. Spend the time and money to speak with professionals, including an estate planning attorney and a financial advisor to determine when you can retire, prepare an estate plan and enjoy retirement.

Reference: Chicago Sun-Times (September 23, 2019) “The 6 biggest retirement mistakes—and how you can avoid them.”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

How Can I Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Healthcare can be one of the biggest expenses in retirement.

Fidelity Investments found that a 65-year-old newly retired couple will need $285,000 for medical expenses in retirement. That doesn’t include the annual cost of long-term care. In 2018, that expense ran from $18,720 for adult day care services to $100,375 for a private room in a nursing home, according to Investopedia’s recent article, “How to Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement.”

Despite saving and preparing for retirement their entire lives, many retirees aren’t mentally or financially prepared for these types of expenses. A survey by HSA Bank found that 67% of adults 65 and older thought that they’d need less than $100,000 for healthcare. However, Fidelity calculated that males 65 and older will need $133,000—and females, $147,000—to pay for healthcare in retirement.

There are two important numbers for healthcare expenses in retirement: how much money is coming in and how much is going out. A typical person in their 60s has an estimated median savings of $172,000. On average, those 65 and older spend $3,800 per month, but Social Security only replaces about 40% of their working-life income.

Medicare can pay for some healthcare spending in retirement. However, there are some limitations. If a senior doesn’t have a Part D prescription drug policy, Medicare won’t cover medications. Medicare Parts A and B won’t cover dental and vision care, but Medicare Advantage plans typically do. Medicare also doesn’t offer coverage for long-term care. Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurers.

There are two ways pre-retirees can create a safety net for healthcare spending when they retire. One way is with a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs are available with high-deductible health plans and offer three tax advantages: (i) deductible contributions; (ii) tax-deferred growth; and (iii) tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses. HSA funds can be used to pay for certain medical premiums, like Medicare premiums and long-term care insurance premiums. If you’re in your 50s, you can still maximize these plans by taking advantage of catch-up contributions and employer contributions. However, those already enrolled in Medicare can’t make new contributions to an HSA.

You can also buy long-term care insurance to fill the gap left by Medicare. This policy can pay a monthly benefit toward long-term care for a two-to three-year period.

Healthcare spending can easily take a big bite out of a retirement budget. Estimate your costs and design a strategy for spending to help preserve more retirement assets for other expenses.

Reference: Investopedia (June 25, 2019) “How to Plan for Medical Expenses in Retirement”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Do You Have to Relocate For Retirement? – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Whether to relocate for retirement is a difficult question for some people and a snap to answer for others. Relocating in retirement, says The Motley Fool in the article “4 Reasons to Relocate in Retirement,” can make for a far more relaxed, financially easier lifestyle.

Take a look at these four reasons and see how they line up with your current and future living situation.

It’s Expensive to Live Where You Are. If you live in a city like New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Los Angeles, you know about the high cost of living. Food, gas, and housing are just more expensive. While living in an expensive city usually means your paycheck is also high, once you stop working, that higher cost may no longer be affordable. If you can’t live without the amenities of a big city, consider a neighborhood nearby where you can easily access the world-class museums, theater, medical care, etc., but costs are a little lower.

Local and state taxes are high. People who live in high tax states know who they are. Taxes take an even bigger bite out of your budget at retirement. You will have income from Social Security and retirement savings or maybe a part-time job or a business. However, the less taxes you have to pay, the more money you’ll keep.

Property taxes can be a problem, even if you enter retirement with a paid-off mortgage. When you are on a fixed income, high property taxes are a problem. Moving somewhere with lower property taxes could help your fixed income stretch further.

You live in a state that taxes your Social Security benefits. Most states do not tax Social Security benefits, but there are 13 that do. The good news is that some of them offer exemptions for low-income to middle-income households, so you may be able to avoid these taxes. Some also offer a far lower cost of living than others, so that should be only one factor in your decision. Here are the states:

Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.

You live in a place where you must have a car. The annual cost of car ownership is estimated at $8,849 on average, according to AAA. If you live in a walkable city, or one with good public transportation, you could save a fair amount of money. Living somewhere walkable will also keep you moving as you age, which is a good thing. At some point, there comes a time when it is necessary to hand over the keys. Losing your independence because there is no public transportation, is a difficult transition.

The idea of packing up and moving from a community where you have friends and family is not an easy one. However, the idea of having more money to enjoy your retirement years may make it worthwhile. Take your time considering how you’ll manage where you are and what you could do in a less expensive location.

Reference: The Motley Fool (Sep. 1, 2019) “4 Reasons to Relocate in Retirement”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

The Secret to Spousal Benefits for Social Security – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

Whether you are married now or were married in the past, it’s likely that you are eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, as reported in the article “How to Maximize Social Security With Spousal Benefits” from U.S. News & World Report.

Spouses who devote their lives to raising families and performing other tasks that are of value to society are entitled to a spousal benefit based on their spouse’s primary insurance benefits. If you decide to take spousal benefits, the amount you receive will be determined by a few factors, including your spouse’s full benefit, when you begin payments, and your own work history.

Here’s what you can expect when applying for Social Security spousal benefits:

  • You may receive up to 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefit,
  • You can apply for benefits if you have been married for at least one year.
  • If you have been divorced for at least two years, you can apply if the marriage lasted ten or more years.

You should be aware that if you start taking benefits early, it’s likely that your own benefits will be smaller than if you took them later. And if you have a work history of your own, you’ll either receive your own benefit or your spousal benefit, whichever is greater.

Want to maximize your spousal Social Security benefits? Start by learning what your benefit would be, and then look at the timing. When you decide to claim will have an impact on your benefits. You’ll need to have been married for at least one year before applying and you need to be at least 62 years old.

Also, your spouse must have started to apply for benefits for you to claim spousal benefits.

If you have been divorced, you must have been married to your ex for at least ten years to be eligible for a spousal benefit through your ex’s Social Security. What’s more, you will have to have been divorced for at least two years, and still be unmarried. If you are considering divorce, are near retirement and are planning on a spousal benefit, it’s a good idea to consider electing your spousal benefits before the divorce is finalized.

If there have been multiple marriages and divorces, you can choose to take the highest spousal benefit, if the other requirements have been met.  You will need your ex’s Social Security numbers and their dates of birth to make the enrollment process easier.

If you have a work history of your own, you may be eligible for a personal benefit. If this is the case, you can receive your own benefit if it is greater than the spousal benefit. Let’s say you are eligible for $1,000 as a personal benefit and $500 for a spousal benefit. The Social Security Administration will send you the higher amount of $1,000.

There’s plenty of information about spousal Social Security benefits at the Social Security Administration’s website or at your local SSA office.

Your spousal benefit will be 50% of your spouse’s benefit at their full retirement age. In 2019, the full retirement age is 66 and will rise soon to 67.

So, if you are married and your spouse is collecting $2,000 a month, your spousal benefit would be $1,000 if you wait to start payments at your own full retirement age.

Note that spousal benefits do not grow until age 70, like personal benefits. Instead, they max out at full retirement age. So, there’s no benefit to delaying a spousal benefit claim past your full retirement age.

Should you need to collect spousal benefits before your full retirement age, expect to receive a lower amount. Filing early for spousal benefits reduces your income forever, but many people file because they need the income.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (July 10, 2019) “How to Maximize Social Security With Spousal Benefits”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys

Even a Late Start toward Retirement is Better than None at All – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning

There are also people who wait until they become senior citizens to begin planning for retirement. That’s a little on the late side, but the important thing, says the article “Retirement Planning: Start now to help Social Security, Medicare” from Martinsville Bulletin, is to get started. That’s better than doing nothing.

It’s easier if you start earlier. Let’s consider the high school student who diligently puts away 10% of a $7.25 per hour gross minimum wage earning for a year on an average 20-hour work week. That’s $750 into a retirement plan after one year. If that student never went to college, never learned a trade, got a raise or a promotion, they would still have $34,600 in personal savings in 46 years. It’s not a lot, as retirement savings go, but it’s better than nothing.

If the same high school student put those savings into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), more would have been saved. The more time your money has to grow through compounding, the more money you’ll have.

Saving a little money every month could make a big difference later on. This year, the average monthly Social Security benefit rounds out at about $1,460 per person, calculated by combining a worker’s highest paid years in the workplace. That’s not enough for retirement. The answer? Start saving early.

It is not as easy to build a nest egg in a few years, but it’s possible.

Many people don’t wake up to the reality of retirement, until they reach age 62. There’s still time to plan. They can put money into IRA accounts, and at age 62 they can save as much as $7,000. Those IRA contributions count as tax deductions.

Roth IRAs are a little more flexible, but there are no tax deductions with contributions. On the plus side, when money is withdrawn, you’re not paying taxes on the withdrawals.

Another important planning point for seniors: if you’ve had health issues, it’s a good idea to keep working to maintain your employee health insurance. The healthier you are, the lower your health insurance costs will be during retirement. However, health costs do tend to increase with age, so that has to be factored into your retirement planning.

For people who take a lot of medication to control chronic conditions, they’ll need to look into health insurance outside of the workplace. That usually means Medicare. Most seniors are eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance, which is Part A of a four-part option, if they have worked and paid Medicare taxes.

Part A helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility after a hospital stay, some home health care and hospice care. Part B helps to pay for doctors and a variety of other services. Part C allows HMO, PPO and other health care organizations to offer health insurance plans for Medicare beneficiaries. Part D provides prescription drug benefits through private insurance companies.

The Social Security Administration advises people to apply for Medicare three months before they celebrate their 65th birthday, regardless of whether they plan to start receiving retirement benefits right away.

Whether you’re 26 or 56, you need to plan for retirement. You also need to have an estate plan, and that means making the time to meet with an experienced estate planning professional to discuss your life and your retirement plans. You’ll need their guidance to create a will and other documents.

Advance planning will always be better than waiting until the last minute, for retirement and estate planning.

Reference: Martinsville Bulletin (May 17, 2019) “Retirement Planning: Start now to help Social Security, Medicare”

Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jane Frankel Sims

410-828-7775

Contact: Frank Campbell

410-263-1667

Sims & Campbell Estates and Trusts

Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell
Merge to Form Sims & Campbell

Firm will offer comprehensive Trusts & Estates services through offices in Towson and Annapolis

TOWSON, Md. (April 26,2019)  Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell have jointly announced the merger of their firms to create a boutique Trusts & Estates law firm providing comprehensive services in the fields of Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Trust Administration and Charitable Giving. The combined firm will be named Sims & Campbell and have offices in Towson, Md. and Annapolis, Md.  Jane Frankel Sims and Frank Campbell will lead and hold equal ownership stakes in the firm.

Sims & Campbell will have 9 attorneys and 15 legal professionals that handle every facet of estate and wealth transfer planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, estate and gift tax advice, and charitable giving strategies.  The firm will focus solely on Trusts & Estates but will serve a wide range of clients, from young families with modest resources to ultra-high net worth individuals.  This allows clients to remain with the firm as their level of wealth and the complexity of related estate and tax implications change over time. 

“By joining forces, we have expanded our footprint to conveniently serve clients in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia” said Jane Frankel Sims.  We are seeing some of the greatest wealth transfer in our country’s history, and we want to continue to be on the leading edge of helping our clients maintain and enhance their family’s wealth.  In addition, we aim to serve our clients for years to come, and the new firm structure will allow Sims & Campbell to thrive even after Frank and I have retired.”    

“Jane and I have always admired each other’s firms and recognized the need to provide even greater depth and breadth of focused expertise to help families amass and protect their wealth from generation to generation,” said Frank Campbell.  “Now we have even greater capabilities to make a real difference for our clients.” 

The Sims & Campbell Towson office is located at 500 York Road, on the corner of York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Towson.  The Annapolis office is currently located at 716 Melvin Avenue, and is moving to 181 Truman Parkway in August, 2019.  For more information, visit www.simscampbell.law.