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Bob Williams

Articles by Bob Williams

What To Do After Your Spouse Dies: A Checklist

4 days ago

The wife of a friend of mine passed away recently. He’s going through the grief and loneliness you’d expect after being married 53 years. And now he has a new challenge, one I’ve seen with so many other widows and widowers—dealing with the long list of legal and financial items that come up after the death of a spouse.
The grief of losing a loved one obscures many of the mundane tasks required to settle your spouse’s estate. Here’s a checklist of what to do after a spouse dies.
Don’t make any life-changing decisions for 1 year
There are some things you may want to do, like sell the house, because of all the memories. But this is a very emotional time and emotional decisions can come back to haunt you. My dad always said, “If you have to make a decision right now, it’s generally the wrong

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The Estate Planning Excuses Game Show

7 days ago

Welcome to the show, where you, as part of the studio audience get to hear some of the most common reasons why people don’t plan for the distribution of assets after they’re gone. Listen closely, so you don’t make the same excuses.
Okay, maybe that’s a little over-the-top, but not creating an estate plan, even a basic one, opens the door to all sorts of problems you probably would like to avoid. But people come up with all sorts of reasons why they can’t or won’t take the time to create an estate plan.
Reason #1 on our excuse countdown…
It doesn’t matter because I’ll be dead
It’s true, you won’t know what happens to your estate because you’ll be playing a harp on a cloud (hopefully). However, having no plan sets up your family for fights about who gets what, and promises you made during

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IRA Required Minimum Distributions Get Smaller – By a Little

15 days ago

It’s a tiny little gift from the IRS, but it’s still a gift. Beginning January 1, 2022, Required Minimum Distributions on IRAs, qualified retirement plans, and annuities will be less. It’s your reward for living longer.
RMDs have to be taken by people turning age 72 after 2019. Older taxpayers were required to begin RMDs the year after they turned 70 ½. How much they were required to take was based on life expectancy tables that had been in place at the IRS for a long time.
But people are living longer and the life expectancy tables were out-of-date. In November 2019, the IRS issued proposed regulation changes which included updated life expectancy tables. The final version was released in 2020. But because IRA custodians and retirement plan sponsors need time to update their systems, the

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Take Advantage of These COVID Estate Planning Opportunities by the End of 2020

December 7, 2020

May you live in interesting times. Although that sounds like an ancient blessing, it’s believed to be a Chinese curse casting instability and uncertainty on the person who hears it.
Blessing or curse, it’s a great description of the year we’ve just come through, and in spite of all the turmoil, there are some things you can do before the end of 2020 to take advantage of all the madness. Strauss Attorneys PLLC has come up with a list of estate planning insights, cautions, and opportunities for you to consider.

• Falling Values: some assets, be they business, real estate, or stock, have decreased in value over the past year. It may be a good time to transfer those depreciated assets to a younger generation and let the assets regain their value in their hands, and not yours.
• Pause

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2020 Year-End Financial Checklist

November 30, 2020

The end of the year is always a good time to do a little financial maintenance, take advantage of last-minute tax deductions, and get your financial house in order for next year. Here’s a checklist of some items to consider.
Tax-Loss Harvesting
Do you have losses in your investment portfolio? It may be to your advantage to take them and offset capital gains you realized during the year. Review all investments worth less than you paid and ask yourself if you’d buy the same investment today. If not, sell it. Don’t hang on to it hoping it will, someday, be back to where you bought it.
But if you have losses in investments you really like, but could use the loss, keep in mind the Wash Sale Rule from IRS Code section 1092. It allows you to sell at a loss, deduct the loss, and buy back the

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Tips for Being an Estate Executor

November 16, 2020

Over the years I’ve had clients who knew they’d been named in estate planning documents as executor of an estate, and I’ve had others who found out only after a relative died that they had to settle an estate. In most cases, I’d get a call asking, “What do I do?”
Here are some things I’ve learned working with clients who have been thrust into the executor role.
Read the document
Reading the document helps you understand the wishes of the deceased. It also tells you what you have to do—settling with creditors, fulfilling bequests, distributing to heirs, etc. Be prepared. Some of it may be easy; some may not. Being an executor is work.
If you know ahead of time that you will be executor of an estate, request that the estate owner prepare a letter of direction to go along with the will to

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How Much Taxes Will Retirees Owe on Their Retirement Income

November 9, 2020

Planning for retirement. We spend most of our working career preparing for it, saving for it, covering every contingency. When you finally wave goodbye to the company, you’re ready for all that planning to take over. But does your planning take into account the taxes you’ll have to pay on your retirement income? It’s one of the biggest retirement planning mistakes people make.
Anqui Chen and Alicia H. Munnell at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College analyzed data from the most recent federal Health and Retirement Study. They published their findings in a preliminary paper, How Much Taxes Will Retirees Owe on Their Retirement Income. Chen and Munnell say that retiree households will pay approximately 6 percent of their retirement income in federal income taxes. But the

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6 Financial Tips to Know When You Turn 65

November 9, 2020

Planning, planning, it’s all about planning when your goal is retirement. When you hang up your career, you don’t want any surprises, or at least as few as possible. In the 21st century, retirement is completely different than it’s ever been.
As a kid, I saw people retire after working 40 or 50 years for the same company. On their last day, they were given a small retirement party, a few kind words, and a gold watch. The definition of retirement was going home and sitting in a rocking chair. And in many cases, the retiree was dead in a couple of years because there was no challenge—no reason to get out of bed. Those were the days when retirement happened at age 65.
But even though 65 is no longer the magic beginning of the golden years, it’s still an important age that needs to be planned

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17 States that Charge Estate or Inheritance Taxes

November 2, 2020

Death tax, inheritance tax, estate tax—call it what you will, they all mean that some government entity wants to put its hand in your pocket or your heirs’ pockets, after your demise.
On the federal level, the estate tax issue is not as big a deal as it was back in the day. Today individuals can pass on more than $11 million and couples can pass on more than $23 million before Washington comes after your money.
17 states, on the other hand, have not moderated their position on estate and inheritance taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia all charge an estate tax, which is levied on the value of the deceased’s assets after debts have been paid.

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5 Ways to Take Money from Your IRA Without Paying a Penalty

October 26, 2020

The IRA is a great retirement savings vehicle; money grows on a tax-deferred basis and that’s a good thing. Eventually, though, you have to pay the IRS piper when you choose to withdraw funds for retirement or when you’re forced to withdraw the Required Minimum Distribution at age 72.
Let’s be clear. You can take money from your IRA anytime you want. Do it before age 59 ½ and you’ll pay taxes plus that nasty 10% early withdrawal penalty. But hidden in a dusty corner of the IRS code are 5 exceptions that allow you to take money before 59 ½ without paying the penalty.
Unreimbursed Medical Expenses
Unreimbursed is the keyword here. You can withdraw money from your IRA to pay unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).
For example, if your AGI is

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5 Estate Planning Myths That Can Derail Your Estate Plan

October 12, 2020

You spend a lifetime earning, saving, acquiring. But the old adage is true—you can’t take it with you. So, what do you do with your assets when you’re gone? How do you want them distributed? That’s where a good estate plan comes in. However, some estate plans are based on ideas that just aren’t true. Plans are made based on emotion rather than logic, and that’s where the best-laid estate plans can go wrong.
Christopher D. Wright, JD is a CPA at Marks Paneth LLP. In more than 30 years of helping clients develop estate plans, he’s discovered 5 common misconceptions that should be avoided.
Myth #1:  An estate plan should be based solely on tax mitigation
No one likes to pay taxes and when you’re gone you want to leave as much to your heirs as possible, but escaping taxes should not be the

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Pre-Election Estate Planning Moves for High Net Worth Families

September 28, 2020

What to do? What to do? The 2020 presidential election is just around the corner and questions are being asked about how to protect your wealth, no matter who’s elected.
Each candidate has broadly divergent views about income taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes; how much you keep, and how much the government will come after.
With that in mind, our friends at Kiplinger have put together a list of moves that high net worth families can consider now before the election hits the fan.

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A Major Estate Planning No-No

September 25, 2020

Oh, my! I cringe every time I hear that someone has added their kids’ names to the deed of their house as an estate planning technique. It’s done for the right reasons, but it often backfires.
Sometimes, elderly people will add kids to the deed, thinking they’re removing the house from their assets in order to become Medicaid-eligible. Unfortunately, there are lots of rules regarding look-back periods and other issues that may pull the house back into the list of total assets even though mom or dad gifted the house away.
Another reason the kids are added to the deed stems from the belief that probate court costs will suck thousands of dollars out of the assets that are supposed to go to the heirs. Therefore, if the kids are already on the deed at the parent’s death, the kids own the house

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The COVID Penalty for Those Turning 60

September 21, 2020

If you turn 60 years old in 2020, your Social Security benefit may get hit with a double-whammy. People turning 60 this year are at the tail end of the Baby Boom generation, and the first Americans ever required to wait until age 67 to receive full Social Security benefits. Older Boomers have been able to claim full benefits at age 66.
But the other Social Security shoe may be about to drop. COVID-19 pushed the American economy into recession and quarantine keeping large numbers of people from working and earning a full year’s salary. For the 5 million people who turn 60 in 2020, it may mean a decline in Social Security benefits for the rest of their lives.
The Social Security Administration calculates benefits based on the average wage index (AWI) for the year a person turns 60. Normally,

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12 States That Keep Retirement Dollars in Your Pocket

September 15, 2020

“Will I outlive my money?” That’s one of the biggest concerns for most retirees. There’s the high cost of medical care, which gets more expensive all the time. There’s inflation, which raises the cost of goods and services, eating into your retirement budget. And then, there’s taxes, which are as certain as death, and the politicians who want to raise them.
So, if taxes are an issue where you live, and you’re thinking about moving to a place that’s more economically friendly to your retirement savings—where do you go?
There are nine states that have no state income taxes:  Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. With no state income tax, you don’t have to worry about paying taxes on distributions from 401(k) plans, IRAs, or

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Questions to Ask Before Claiming Social Security

September 9, 2020

The most frequently asked Social Security question I get is, “When should I claim my Social Security benefits?” Well, that’s a loaded question, because there are so many moving parts and everyone’s situation is different.  So, here are some considerations when you’re trying to figure out when is the right time for you to start Social Security.
Age and the size of my check
The age you begin claiming benefits will permanently affect how much money you receive every month. Key ages for claiming are 62, Full Retirement Age, and 70.
The earliest you can claim Social Security benefits is age 62. Some people claim at this age saying, “It’s mine and I’m going to take it now before the government runs out of money.” Others take it at 62 because they need the money or because of health issues;

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4 Ways to Get the Largest Social Security Check

August 17, 2020

Since the beginning of Social Security in 1935, a monthly Social Security check has become an expected part of retirement income for most Americans. And why not? Money has come out of your check every time you got paid and, supposedly, gone into the Social Security Trust Fund to ensure that you have money coming in for as long as you live. There have been questions about whether Social Security will survive, but as long as workers are paying into the Social Security system there will be money paid out to retirees.
Understandably, you want the largest Social Security check possible. So, what can you do now to maximize the amount you get later? Here are four actions to consider.
Wait to claim benefits until 70
You can claim Social Security benefits when you turn 62. But turning on your

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Who Should Watch Your Portfolio in a Post-COVID World?

August 10, 2020

The financial industry is in a state of flux, scrambling to adjust to the new normal thrust upon it by COVID-19. Most financial representatives are still working from home, talking to clients by video chat rather than the age-old norm of face-to-face, wondering if this is the way things will be from now on. Where’s it going? What does it mean? What’s the future of the financial world?
This is a time to ask questions. How will all this affect your investments, your retirement, your relationship with your financial person? In short—how will it affect your future?
I recently spoke with a friend who works for one of the large Wall Street brokerage firms. He expressed the concerns of a lot of his financial brothers and sisters. “I’m working from home, covering most of my expenses and the

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