Will electronic wills go viral?

More and more transactions are being done digitally, but estate planning has lagged behind technology. That may be changing, however. Even before the pandemic made social distancing necessary, electronic wills were gaining legitimacy. An electronic will (or “e-will”) is a will that is created completely electronically, without paper and ink, using digital signatures. The Uniform Law Commission (an organization that provides states with model legislation they can adopt) recently approved the Electronic Wills Act, which provides a framework for a valid electronic will. Under the act, states determine how many witnesses are required or if a notary is required, and…..

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Protecting your house from Medicaid estate recovery

After the death of a Medicaid recipient age 55 or older, the state must attempt to recoup from the estate whatever benefits it paid for the recipient’s care. This is called “estate recovery.” For most Medicaid recipients, their house is the only asset available, but there are steps that can be taken to protect it. Life estates For many people setting up a “life estate” is the simplest and most appropriate way to protect a home from estate recovery. A life estate is a form of joint ownership of property between two or more people who each have an ownership…..

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Changes could be coming to estate tax, stepped-up basis rule

A new administration usually means that tax changes are coming. While it remains unclear exactly what estate and inheritance tax changes President Joe Biden’s administration and Congress will usher in, two possibilities are lowering the estate tax exemption and eliminating stepped-up basis at death. The first change would affect only multi-millionaires, but the second could have an impact on more modest estates and their heirs. In 2017, the federal estate tax exemption was doubled and indexed for inflation. For the 2021 tax year, the exemption is $11.7 million for individuals and $23.4 million for couples. As long as your estate is valued at less…..

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How will the coronavirus pandemic affect Social Security?

The coronavirus pandemic is having a profound effect on the U.S. economy, and it may have a detrimental effect on Social Security’s long-term financial situation. High unemployment rates mean Social Security shortfalls could begin earlier than projected. Social Security retirement benefits are financed primarily through dedicated payroll taxes paid by workers and their employers, with employees and employers splitting the tax equally. This money is put into a trust fund that is used to pay retiree benefits. The most recent report from the trustees of the Social Security trust fund concluded that the fund’s balance will reach zero in 2035……

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Medicaid’s gift to children who care for parents at home

In most states, transferring your house to your children (or someone else) may lead to a Medicaid penalty period, which would make you ineligible for Medicaid for a period of time. However, there are circumstances in which transferring a house will not result in a penalty period. One of those circumstances is if the Medicaid applicant transfers the house to a “caretaker child.”  This is defined as a child of the applicant who lived in the house for at least two years prior to the applicant’s entering a nursing home and who during that period provided care that allowed the applicant to…..

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How to fix a required minimum distribution mistake

The rules around required minimum distributions from retirement accounts are confusing, and it’s easy to slip up. Fortunately, if you do make a mistake, there are steps you can take to fix the error and possibly avoid a stiff penalty. If you have a tax-deferred retirement plan such as a traditional IRA or 401(k), you are required to begin taking distributions once you reach a certain age, with the withdrawn money taxed at your then-current tax rate. If you were age 70 1/2 before the end of 2019, you had to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) in April of…..

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Understanding a living trust vs. an irrevocable trust

Trusts can be useful tools to protect your assets, save on estate taxes, or set aside money for a family member. But before you commit to adding a trust to your estate plan, make sure you understand the differences between revocable (also called “living”) and irrevocable trusts. Each offers advantages and disadvantages, depending on their purpose. While the two main types of trusts are both tools for setting aside assets and distributing them according to specific wishes and instructions, they differ in how they are structured and taxed. Structure As the name suggests, once an irrevocable trust is established, it…..

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When buying a medigap policy, it pays to shop around

Medigap policies that supplement Medicare’s basic coverage can cost vastly different amounts, depending on the company selling the policy, according to a recent study. The findings highlight the importance of shopping around before buying a policy. When you first become eligible for Medicare, you may purchase a Medigap policy from a private insurer to supplement Medicare’s coverage and plug some or virtually all of Medicare’s coverage gaps. You can currently choose one of eight Medigap plans that are identified by the letters A, B, D, G, K, L, M, and N (Those who were eligible for Medicare before January 1, 2020,…..

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Multifamily market to rebound in 2021

CBRE, a commercial real estate services firm, predicts a return to pre-COVID multifamily vacancy levels and a 6% increase in net effective rents in 2021. CBRE is forecasting a full market recovery occurring in early 2022. An economic recovery will likely lead to new demand for multifamily housing. CBRE analysts say this demand will come in part from “unbundling” as younger renters move out of their parents’ homes and co-renting friends split into their own apartments. The following factors will impact market demand: Income. Job loss and reduced confidence will slow recovery Remote work. New work-from-home capabilities mean renters will…..

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When sellers leave their junk behind

Ever toured a home and gotten a sneaking suspicion that the sellers were going to leave a lot of useless junk? If the seller intentionally leaves personal property behind, it could be considered “abandoned.” That means you now own all that stuff, and you’re on the hook for cleaning it out. To prevent that from happening, it’s a good idea to include language requiring sellers to be out of the house by a certain period of time prior to closing. Stipulate that all personal property, garbage and debris not included in the sale must be removed by that deadline. If…..

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