Top 5 New Year’s Estate Planning Resolutions

Top 5 New Year’s Estate Planning Resolutions

Going into the holidays is a good time to start thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions.  As the year ends, we reflect on all that we have accomplished.  We should then consider what goals to set for the coming year.  In 2020, make the decision to SURPASS your 2019 accomplishments.  This motivated outlook doesn’t just benefit you.  As you succeed, your clients will succeed.  An easy way to begin is by setting some estate planning resolutions.  Below are 5 suggestions from Mercury Specialist Bruce Popper CFP®, ChFC:

Review Your Clients Estate Plan in Light of Tax Law Changes

Given the fluid environment of estate tax law, we believe it’s crucial for clients to continue planning while keeping flexibility in those plans.  In the event that the existing gift and estate tax exemptions are doubled, what changes to your client’s estate plans should be made to take maximum advantage of these changes?  And what if those tax exemptions turn out to be temporary?  Unfortunately, no one can predict the future.  Planning for estate taxes is only one very small piece of the puzzle and the beauty of a modern estate plan is that it can be made flexible enough to change as their life and the laws change…which they absolutely will.  Your clients will appreciate knowing that you’re following the tax law changes closely and keeping their best interests in mind.  Many advisors feel that it is the attorney’s or CPA’s job to discuss changes and opportunities with clients.  Actually, this responsibility is owned by no one and everyone at the same time.  How would the client feel if a significant opportunity was missed because no action was taken, mainly due to lack of guidance from their full advisory team?

Make Time for Policy Review

Existing Life Insurance is an asset and as such, should be reviewed to make sure it’s potential is being maximized for the benefit of the insured and the family.  This is true of personally owned life insurance, business-owned life insurance and trust-owned life insurance.  The choices of what to do are based on 3 things:

  1. the client’s objectives
  2. the workings of the existing policy
  3. the client’s financial situation

Current health is also an issue but there are workarounds for that.  Options could include keeping the policy as is, modifying the payment structure, exchanging it, canceling it, selling it or spending it.  Significant changes have been made in these products over the years and taking advantage of better pricing or features, should that be the outcome of the review, can often be done on a tax-free basis.  This activity ALWAYS leads to a “thank you” from clients as they get positive feedback in all cases, no matter what.  When is the last time a qualified third party provided an opinion on the options available?

Are Your Client’s Assets Protected from Creditors & Predators?

A legitimate question to ask is, “how can we safeguard your hard-earned wealth?”  Did you know that 40% of UHNW investors’ top financial concern is protecting their assets from creditors and predators?  In almost every state there is significant asset protection for assets held in LLC’s, FLP’s, certain trusts, life insurance and annuities.  Are your clients’ assets held appropriately or could it be worth reviewing in light of new acquisitions, personal objectives or legal changes?

Assure Your Client’s Assets are Going to the Right People, at the Right Time, in the Right Way.

A carefully crafted estate plan should also include a review of:

  1. how assets are titled
  2. the disposition of assets by will or trust
  3. the designated beneficiaries of retirement accounts and life insurance.

There is no one-size-fits-all beneficiary designation.  It is extremely important to coordinate the distribution of these assets with the client’s desired estate planning objectives.  If you are uncomfortable or unwilling to ask your clients some tough questions regarding their relationships with their beneficiaries or their thoughts about how certain future family scenarios may play out, we are more than equipped to handle those conversations with the tact necessary to get the answers while not offending anyone.  There is unparalleled peace of mind that comes from KNOWING that the legacy you choose to leave is left in a manner that nurtures and supports versus propping up counterproductive behavior.  Do your clients have that level of inner satisfaction with their existing plan?

Tax Efficiency.  Is There More You Can do to Reduce Current Income Taxes or Future Income Taxes?

A well-constructed estate plan also takes tax-efficiency into consideration as part of the overall plan.  After all, increasing tax efficiency can provide greater wealth transfer to heirs and/or charity.  If the current estate tax exemption doubles in size, many wealthy individuals will immediately turn their full attention to income tax planning.  Once a client’s goals and objectives are understood, there may be several options that can be considered by your clients to reduce income taxes now, in the future and possibly forever, no matter what the tax law may be.  Remember, you have to pay taxes but you don’t have to leave a tip!  Are you in front of the planning wave for your clients?

Any of the above resolutions, if considered and implemented, is a positive step forward.  Following through on all will provide comfort to your clients by knowing you are committed to them and their families. Are you ready to get started? Contact your local Planning Specialist or fill out our contact form.

Mercury Financial Group does not provide tax or legal advice. All clients are urged to seek counsel on such matters. Be sure to have your client contact their attorney and CPA before taking action.  

IS DO NOTHING A STRATEGY?

IS DO NOTHING A STRATEGY?

When we work with clients we like to present options and choices. Generally speaking, doing nothing is not one of our recommendations when it comes to planning matters.

When you’re talking about planning for your estate, your business, your charitable intentions, etc., doing nothing is typically not a great choice. It’s rare we’ve ever seen “doing nothing” work out well.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a number of tax law changes. So many changes, it seems, some clients have chosen to throw up their hands and say “what’s the use? They’ll just change it again next year!” While it’s totally understandable to be frustrated by all these changes, choosing to do nothing will not help your situation.

Given all these tax law changes, many of which were not necessarily expected by those of us who closely follow Washington, a sensible and popular strategy is to take a “wait & see approach”.

What does that mean?

First off, it means doing something—not nothing. Without doing a deep dive here and getting technical, it means taking some planning steps now but leaving yourself some very attractive options should the tax law change again down the road. So you implement some key steps now, all while building in various escape hatches in the event the law doesn’t go the way you hope. And if it does, we’ve built in alternate paths we can pursue that still put you in a far better position than simply doing nothing.

Rare is the client we’ve met with, years after the first meeting, where they chose to do nothing and it worked out well for them. In planning circles, it is known that time is our enemy. It is limited, and it is finite. And it is foolish to think “well, I’ll get to that one day.” Sadly, we can recall clients who chose the do-nothing path only to see it end very badly for them. And worse, for their family left behind with a mess.

Doing nothing never works out well. Taking steps now is the right path. And for those unsure of the future, a “wait & see” approach might fit the bill perfectly.

Are you ready to discuss solutions and engage your clients? Fill out our contact form.

Mercury Financial Group does not provide tax or legal advice. All clients are urged to seek counsel on such matters.

Year-End Planning Suggestions

Year-End Planning Suggestions

Year-End Planning Suggestions

It’s nearing the end of the year and with the recent market drops and volatility getting your clients worried, we have some year-end planning suggestions that can be win-win’s.

We can help with innovative planning strategies that can protect your clients’ assets, while still allowing them access to these assets.  This can also better prepare them for their planning needs in 2019.

SUGGESTIONS WORTH IMMEDIATE CONSIDERATION:

  • When asset values drop, suggest that your clients consider making gifts of these “beat up” assets to their children, grandchildren or a trust for their benefit at this reduced value.  When those assets rebound, the growth will then be in the hands of those who received the gift and that growth will be gift and estate tax-free.
  • Does your client not want to give the asset away because there may be a need for it later?  He or she may be able to make a gift of these “undervalued” assets to a specialized family trust that could provide income and/or principal to the husband or wife during their lifetime but be removed from their estates for estate tax purposes.
  • Also, gifts of these assets can be given upstream from an adult child to a parent to help support them. The parent could will these assets back and when they do the assets will get a stepped-up basis if certain timelines are met.
  • Transfers to GRAT’s and other estate planning vehicles can be incredibly powerful when assets that are currently undervalued are used.  All future appreciation occurs off the client’s balance sheet, can be asset protected and ultimately delivered to future generations gift tax-free.

Contact us for help getting started with any of these strategies, so that we can help you ease your client’s mind and help them continue along the path to achieving their financial goals, even while the market is down.

Mercury Financial Group does not provide tax or legal advice. All clients are urged to seek counsel on such matters.

Retirement Vehicle of the Fortune 500: Deferred Compensation Plans

Retirement Vehicle of the Fortune 500: Deferred Compensation Plans

Years ago I saw an eye-catching financial stat, oddly enough, in a Physician’s magazine.  The stat was in an article promoting the use of “deferred comp” plans for doctors.  In essence, the article was imploring physicians to use the very same retirement vehicle the Fortune 500 use for their senior executives: deferred compensation plans.

The specific stat said that 86% of Fortune 500 companies have a deferred comp plan (NQDC) and that a whopping 98% of those plans use a specific type of life insurance.  That may elicit a big, “Huh?” from many, but it didn’t surprise me at all. Why? Because I knew the Fortune 500 had long ago done their homework and determined that insurance was far and away the most efficient and effective tool to use for retirement planning.  It is the only asset that can provide:

  • Tax-deferred growth
  • Possible tax-free income
  • Tax-free benefits when the person passes away

No other asset offers this!

The KEY, and this is critical.

The key is to design the Plan so that it uses the minimum amount of insurance allowed.  That way, only a very small piece of the annual contribution goes toward the cost of insurance.  The rest grows tax-deferred and then later can come out tax-free.

The article was, therefore, imploring doctors to use this exact same strategy for themselves.  Set up their own.  We call these Personal Retirement Plans, PRP®’s.  PRP®’s are not bound by ERISA regs, so they can design the PRP® any way that they want.  They can exclude who they want from it and even implement a PRP® just for themselves.

Fast forward to the recent Forbes article, “The Rich Man’s Roth” and you can see that anyone can have the same chassis and engine that the Fortune 500 uses.  Subsequently, we have seen an explosion in the PRP® space with clients taking advantage of this powerful tool to drive their own tax-free income stream.

Like all things, it doesn’t work for everyone.  It’s my opinion that if someone has less than 9 years or so to retirement, this likely isn’t the train to get you there.  But if a person has at least 10 years to go, can contribute at least $25K/yr, they will find this asset is a very powerful tool that can drive tax-free income.   A CPA friend of mine put it like this: that’s income that will never see a tax return.  This means it is income that will not drive the client into a higher tax bracket in their retirement years and will not affect their Social Security etc.

The Rich Man’s Roth, as Forbes called it, is pretty accurate because like a Roth, this will drive tax free income.  But unlike a Roth, a PRP® has NO contribution limits.

So, ask yourself, “Which of my clients would benefit from this great strategy?” Fill out our contact form for help getting started.

Mercury Financial Group does not provide tax or legal advice. All clients are urged to seek counsel on such matters.

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In case you missed it:

.Here is a recent success story utilizing this Plan:

 

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Want more information? Here is a video we created on Personal Retirement Plans, PRP®’s

 

 

 

Planning in 2018: Now What?

Planning in 2018: Now What?

The tax law passed at the very end of 2017 has left many clients and advisors wondering about current estate planning needs:

  • Now what?
  • Does it affect me?
  • Do I need to take action regarding my planning?

The short answer is – probably!

We work with wonderful clients who think that once we’ve helped them craft their plan to achieve their dreams, they can just put that plan in a drawer and forget about it.  We always urge them to keep it handy.  As the world changes, their needs will change and therefore their goals will change.  Their plan is not meant to be “one and done.”  Think of it like a living document.

And, amazingly, a vast majority of high net worth clients have not done as much planning as you’d expect. Outside of a will, or maybe some basic living trust, they’ve gone no further.  And worse, even that limited planning likely hasn’t been updated in years!

Why is that a problem?  Well, does it take into account the huge changes one can leave their surviving spouse?

A quick illustration of where a review can change everything:

For many years, wills were written to say: “I want to leave the maximum amount allowed by law to my spouse to be placed in a Credit Shelter Trust.”  Sounds great right?  Well, the amount one can leave has gone up over the years from $600,000 to $1,000,000 to $3.5MM to over $5MM to now over $11 million.

So, what if their estate is worth $7 million?  Based on the above-outdated language, the will directs that the maximum amount allowed by law be passed to the spouse in that Trust….But wait.  That means their entire $7MM estate will be placed in Trust since the current law allows for up to $11.18MM.

Is that what you wanted??  Very likely not. It was likely written when the exemption amount was only $1 million, or even $600K.

Point of all this is that planning is critical. Planning brings peace of mind. Planning allows YOU to achieve your dreams.  It’s your plan.  You can design it any way you like. The key is to do the planning!

And that’s where we come in to help! Are you ready to review your client’s current plans and make sure they are up to date and still working towards their goals?  Have your clients done enough planning thus far?  Fill out our contact form.

Mercury Financial Group does not provide tax or legal advice. All clients are urged to seek counsel on such matters.

Estate Planning and The Forgotten Client

Estate Planning and The Forgotten Client

Estate Planning and The Forgotten Client

Over the past several years we’ve seen the estate tax exemptions jump from $1 million per person to now, temporarily, over $11 million per person.  Consequently, many estate planners have seen their practices scale back significantly because these larger exemptions translate to fewer people needing to do traditional estate planning.

But, that doesn’t mean these clients still don’t need planning of some sort.

Because of these exemptions increasing, we’ve seen clients with net worth’s in the $3 million to approximately $8 million range being left on the planning sidelines.  And yet, these clients need and deserve attention as much as any other clients.

In fact, it’s often these clients who are quite fearful of outliving their retirement nest egg and/or not being able to leave some sort of legacy.  Furthermore, they have grave concerns about the cost of care as they grow older.  Long-term care is front of mind for these clients.

Because of these fears, they end up not being able to enjoy their retirement for fear they will either run out of money or will spend it all on long-term care, essentially wiping out any chance of leaving a legacy.

Thankfully, there is a solution.

The Legacy Wealth approach solves all of these needs by providing financial security to these clients and to their heirs. How does it work?

Very simply, we reposition assets to acquire a life insurance asset for the benefit of both the clients AND the heirs.  It benefits the clients today because we design the coverage so that it provides ample LTC coverage, as well as a tax-free benefit to the heirs when the clients pass away. The insurance can be trust owned or owned individually.

The funding of the insurance is quite flexible. It can be paid in 1 lump sum or paid over 5, 10, or 20 years or even for a lifetime.  There are inherent advantages and disadvantages as to how long to fund, which can be addressed with each client.  But the end result is that funding the insurance asset does not impede on their lifestyle in retirement.

So, in the end, we have provided a substantial legacy to the heirs no matter how small the nest egg may have shrunk to at the client’s passing.  We have secured vital long-term care coverage for the clients so they can rest assured the cost of care will not bleed down their assets.  And, maybe most importantly, we have given the client’s peace of mind to know they can truly enjoy their retirement years without worry.  And that benefit clients tell us – is priceless.

The image below illustrates just how much life insurance can impact your net worth and preserve your legacy.  Click the button below, to see the details of how we arrived at this comparison.

Are you ready to discuss solutions and re-engage your “forgotten clients”? Fill out our contact form.

Mercury Financial Group does not provide tax or legal advice. All clients are urged to seek counsel on such matters.