My spouse just died. Do I have access to his or her accounts?

Generally, if your name does not appear on the account, either as a joint owner with rights of survivorship, trustee (if the account is held in trust), or a beneficiary, you probably can’t access the account unless authorized to do so by the probate court having jurisdiction over your spouse’s estate. Each state has its own laws dealing with this situation, and the applicable rules may differ from one state to the next. Even if you are named as agent in your spouse’s power of attorney with the right to access his or her accounts, that authorization ends upon the death of the person executing the power of attorney, namely your spouse.

 

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Planning for Retirement

I think it’s time to start planning for retirement. Where do I begin?

 

Answer:

 

Although most of us recognize the importance of sound retirement planning, few of us embrace the nitty-gritty work involved. With thousands of investment possibilities, complex rules governing retirement plans, and so on, most people don’t even know where to begin. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

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What to Keep, What to Shred

We often are asked the question of how long old paperwork, taxes and documents must be kept.   We are posting this just in time for our local clients and friends to take advantage of our annual shred week!

Permanent Records:

Personal papers such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, military documents, passports, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, insurance policies, veteran’s discharge papers, will, living wills, deeds and property titles and important contracts are PERMANENT records that should be kept indefinitely, preferably in a fire proof box. You will need them to re-establish your financial life in the event of fire, theft, or other disasters. Continue reading “What to Keep, What to Shred”

Understanding Probate

Paying income tax on most retirement distributions

When you die, you leave behind your estate. Your estate consists of your assets — all of your money, real estate, and worldly belongings. Your estate also includes your debts, expenses, and unpaid taxes. After you die, somebody must take charge of your estate and settle your affairs. This person will take your estate through probate, a court-supervised process that winds up your financial affairs after your death. The proceedings take place in the state where you were living at the time of your death. Owning property in more than one state can result in multiple probate proceedings. This is known as ancillary probate.

How does probate start?

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There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2018

 

Even though tax filing season is well under way, there’s still time to make a regular IRA contribution for 2018. You have until your tax return due date (not including extensions) to contribute up to $5,500 for 2018 ($6,500 if you were age 50 or older on December 31, 2018). For most taxpayers, the contribution deadline for 2018 is April 15, 2019 (April 17 for taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts).

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You can contribute to a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, or both, as long as your total contributions don’t exceed the annual limit (or, if less, 100% of your earned income). You may also be able to contribute to an IRA for your spouse for 2018, even if your spouse didn’t have any 2018 income.

Traditional IRA

You can contribute to a traditional IRA for 2018 if you had taxable compensation and you were not age 70½ by December 31, 2018. However, if you or your spouse was covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan in 2018, then your ability to deduct your contributions may be limited or eliminated, depending on your filing status and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). (See table below.) Even if you can’t make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA, you can always make a nondeductible (after-tax) contribution, regardless of your income level. However, if you’re eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, in most cases you’ll be better off making nondeductible contributions to a Roth, rather than making them to a traditional IRA.

 

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Gift Tax ?

 

I just made a gift.  Do I have to file a gift tax return

Answer:

A federal gift tax return must be filed if any gifts you made during the calendar year were other than:

  • Gifts to your U.S. citizen spouse
  • Gifts to a political organization for its own use
  • Gifts to qualified charities, if no other interest has been transferred for less than adequate consideration or for other than a charitable use
  • Gifts totaling $15,000 (in 2018, $14,000 in 2017) or less to any one individual, unless you and your spouse are “gift-splitting”
  • Amounts paid on behalf of any individual as tuition to an educational organization or to any person who provides medical care for an individual

However, you may want to file a gift tax return in certain circumstances even if the rules do not require it. For example, you should consider filing whenever you sell hard-to-value assets, such as real estate or stock in a family business, to a relative. This is because the IRS can claim that transactions between family members were actually gifts in disguise. Disclosing such transactions on a gift tax return means that the IRS has only three years to challenge the value.

If you file a federal gift tax return, you must use Form 709 and file by April 15 of the year following the year in which the gift was made.

The federal gift tax rules are complex. If you believe you have made gifts that might be subject to gift tax, you should consult an experienced tax specialist. Check with your state about its own rules regarding gifts, too.

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES Continue reading “Gift Tax ?”

Fall Is Here

“ A fallen leaf is nothing more than a summer’s wave goodbye”  author unknown  

As we wave goodbye to summer, we are “spicing” and sprucing things up here.  We are excited to say that if you are reading this article, our new website is finished and we are officially rolling it out.  Christine has been so busy writing content for the website, that she almost ran out of words for the newsletter, but not quite!  We simply shortened it this quarter, sending it to many of our folks along with their quarterly reports. But, we are now be able to share so much more on the website, and through this new “Straight Talk” Blog, as well as an IPI Facebook page, and perhaps, even a Twitter account.  Our teenagers are proud that we are finally improving our technology, and they are, of course, giving us pointers.  Continue reading “Fall Is Here”