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The SECURE Act (And What It Means For You)

In December 2019, the president signed into law the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, better known as the SECURE Act. As the name suggests, the law is intended to make it easier for American workers to save for their retirement. Let’s examine what the SECURE Act does, and how it might affect your retirement and estate planning.

End of the “Stretch” Provision

Prior to the SECURE Act, beneficiaries of inherited IRAs and 401(k)s could “stretch” distributions out over their life expectancy. This had a couple of distinct advantages. Because required minimum distributions (RMDs) were stretched out over a longer time period, perhaps decades, that additional income to the beneficiary was less likely to bump them into a higher tax bracket. In addition, of course, beneficiaries could count on a consistent payment amount year after year.

The SECURE Act has done away with the stretch provision, at least for many people. Under the SECURE Act, if the owner of a 401(k) or IRA dies after January 1, 2020, the beneficia… Read More

Guidance for Fiduciaries Regarding Digital Assets

When you think of assets, what springs to mind? If you're like most people, the answer is bank and investment accounts, real estate, and other tangible things with financial value. But you have other things of value that you can't put your hands on—that is, unless your hands are on your computer, phone, or tablet. In other words, your so-called "digital assets."

A decade ago, few people thought about digital assets. But now, when so many people have a social media presence on multiple platforms, and manage much of their financial life online, management of digital assets is increasingly important. And if you are not able to manage your own digital assets, either after your death or because you have been somehow incapacitated, what guidance is available for the person charged with doing so--your fiduciary? Or, what if you happen to be a fiduciary, in charge of managing assets or making decisions for someone else's benefit? What rights and limits do you have to access someone else's digital assets?

Managing Digital Assets for Someone Else

There are a number of scenarios in which you might act as a fiduciary with regard to another person's digital assets. O… Read More

The Risks of Joint Bank Accounts for Seniors

We talk a lot in this space of the advantages of estate planning tools that allow you to transfer assets seamlessly to your loved ones outside of probate, and there are a variety of ways to accomplish that goal. One of those is to have a joint bank account that grants the joint owners rights of survivorship: in other words, when one joint owner dies, the other one automatically becomes the full owner of the account, without the need for probate or very much in the way of paperwork, for that matter. All that is usually needed is presentation of the death certificate to the bank.

Furthermore, if you were to become incapacitated during your lifetime, the joint owner of your bank account would have assets to the funds to pay for your care and other needs, without having to petition a court or get permission from anyone else.

It might surprise you to learn, then, that having a joint bank account with your adult child is generally not a recommended way to plan for the transfer of assets. A joint bank account that you've had for years with a spouse is a different matter. We're talking here about your own bank account that you may be thinkin… Read More