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Bob Williams

Articles by Bob Williams

New IRS Rule Helps Protect Your Tax Refund from Scammers

7 days ago

Identity theft is one of the major plagues of modern society costing its victims billions of dollars and untold man-hours to recover from it. In 2020, 1.4 million Americans were successfully attacked, which translates into a victim every 3 seconds.  That’s more than double the number from the year before. Sophisticated scammers are breaching the walls of major corporations and individuals alike, and the information they steal gets traded on the dark web like pieces on a monopoly board.
Armed with stolen identities, digital thieves have found a lucrative market at the IRS, stealing tax refunds. Imagine waiting and waiting on your tax refund only to be told that it’s already been sent and the check cashed—by someone else! In 2020 the IRS discovered $2.3 billion dollars in tax fraud schemes.

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10 Social Security Mistakes That Can Devastate Retirement Income

27 days ago

Social Security, even with all its problems, is unquestionably an important component of retirement income for millions of American retirees. For about half of seniors, Social Security is 50% of their income, and 1 in 4 seniors say it makes up at least 90% of their income.
There are more parts to Social Security than most people realize. Only in the last 10 years, Social Security planning has become widely discussed. And even with all the information available, retirees are making common mistakes that can cost them more than $100,000 or more in lifetime Social Security benefits.
Married couples often leave Social Security money on the table because they fail to coordinate, their benefit decisions. They decide individually when to begin receiving benefits without thinking about what happens

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6 Tax Breaks Retirees Often Don’t Think About

March 15, 2021

Let’s update some two-thousand-year-old tax advice—Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but don’t give him more than that. Today, tax deductions and credits help determine how much Caesar gets. As an old guy told me a long time ago, “If it’s in the IRS code, it’s there to be used.”
Unfortunately, there are tax breaks available to retirees that get overlooked. Here are some of the most common.
Higher standard deduction
For years, the IRS has provided a higher standard deduction for people who reach and exceed the age of 65.
For the 2020 tax year, the standard deduction for people who don’t itemize is $12,400 for single taxpayers and $24,800 for couples filing jointly. But if you’re over the age of 65, singles get an extra $1650 making their standard deduction $14,050 and married couples

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4 Social Security Planning Steps BEFORE You’re Ready to Retire

March 9, 2021

Social Security is an important part of almost every retirement plan, whether you’ve saved enough or not. That’s why it’s important to know as much about your Social Security situation as possible. And you don’t want to wait until you’re about to retire to gather the facts and take appropriate steps. Social Security planning needs to start 5 years before your target retirement date.
Check your estimated benefit amount
The easiest way to check Social Security’s estimate of how much you’ll receive is to check online. Go to and create a My Social Security account. This is where you can find:

Estimates of how much you’ll receive if you claim benefits early, at your Full Retirement Age (FRA) or at age 70.
Your most recent Social Security statement
Your eligibility for Social

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Don’t Forget the Health Care Power of Attorney

March 9, 2021

The mention of estate planning usually evokes thoughts of a will or trust. But there are other documents that should always be part of any estate planning package, such as a living will, a durable power of attorney, and a health care power of attorney.
Planning for the distribution of your assets after you’re gone is certainly important. But what happens if you become incapacitated and can’t care for yourself or make decisions about your health and the treatments you need? That’s why a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) should always be included in your estate planning.
Brad Henry is an estate and elder law attorney at Strauss Attorneys PLLC. Here is his primer on HCPOAs.
The Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) is a document where the client appoints someone else to make medical

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States with the Biggest and Smallest Retirement Tax Bite

March 1, 2021

Remember that sage financial warning, “It’s not how much you make. It’s how much you keep.” Truer words were never spoken when it comes to retirement income. And taxes, federal and state, are one of the biggest determinants in just how much retirees have to live on.
Here are some taxes you’re likely to see in retirement, who’s doing the taxing, and how friendly—or unfriendly—they are to you.
Social Security
For many, Social Security is a major portion of retirement income. The myth is that Social Security benefits are not taxed. Not true! In fact, more than 55% of retirees who receive a Social Security payout have to pay federal taxes on 50% to 85% of their benefit.
The IRS will tax your Social Security:

If you’re single and your combined income is between $25,000-$34,000 you’ll have to

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The Biggest Mistake of Having a Living Trust

February 22, 2021

Your estate planning is complete. A living trust was created because it was the best vehicle to accomplish what you want to do. Now you can breathe easily. Or so you think.
Over the years, I’ve had new clients come to me who had invested lots of time and money to set up a trust. But when I asked if everything had been put into the trust, I got one of two reactions. The first was a quizzical look because they didn’t know what I was talking about. The other was a sheepish look because they knew what they were supposed to do and just hadn’t done it.
The biggest mistake of having a living trust is having an empty trust. If you don’t put anything in, the benefit of the trust is wiped out. That can be costly to you and the people you want to benefit. Funding a trust is simply transferring

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Medical Expense Deduction Tax Relief

February 19, 2021

It’s only taken Congress 34 years, but the threshold for claiming a medical expense deduction has finally been made permanent. For 2021 and forevermore, medical expenses above 7.5% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is the law of the land if you itemize on your federal tax return and your total itemized deductions are greater than the standard deduction.
For the last ten years, like a ping pong ball in an Olympic match, the threshold has bounced back-and-forth between 7.5% and 10%. Congress voted on the medical deduction every year.
But the history of the federal medical expense deduction goes way back. It began with the United States Revenue Act of 1942. The law said the deduction was for extraordinary medical expenses that exceeded 5% of AGI. There were no specifics of what “extraordinary”

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Retirement Exit Strategy Checklist

February 10, 2021

Retirement. It’s a magic word and it’s supposed to be a magic time in your life. You’ve planned for it, worked for it, anticipated it, and expected a great life that comes after it.
Today, people are retiring at a rate 27% higher than 10 years ago. Much of the increase is because of unplanned, early retirement due to declining health of the worker, leaving the workforce to care for a family member, taking an early retirement package because of worry about future employment, or they’re being laid off or fired because of current economic conditions.
Whatever the reason for retirement, you need to be prepared with an exit plan, or as the old farmer philosophers used to say where I grew up, you need to have your ducks in a row. The decisions you make or don’t make before retiring can impact

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The Insatiable Appetite to Tax Social Security Benefits

February 8, 2021

First, it was 10%, then 20%, and today more than 50% of U.S. retirees pay taxes on their Social Security benefits, and the number is expected to go even higher. The cause seems to be that one government hand doesn’t know, or care, what the other government hand is doing.
The rub comes because income tax brackets are adjusted for inflation each year. But income thresholds determine if you pay taxes on Social Security, and how much, haven’t been adjusted for inflation since 1984 when benefits first became taxable. That’s why, over almost four decades, the number of retirees forced to pay taxes on their Social Security has gone from 10% to almost 56%.
Here are the rules that determine if you have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefit?

If you’re single and your combined income is

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5 States Lowering Taxes in 2021

January 25, 2021

To modify an old journalism adage, “When a state raises taxes, that’s expected. But when a state lowers taxes, that’s news!” And, believe it or not, there are some states doing just that in 2021.
Yes, across the United States taxes are still going up in lots of places. According to the Tax Foundation, 26 states and the District of Columbia are making substantial changes to their tax codes. Estate tax rules are changing in Connecticut and Vermont. Colorado, Georgia, and Oregon will charge more taxes on cigarettes and vaping. And Arizona and New Mexico are adding new higher tax brackets.
But who are these renegade states who have the audacity to give more of the people’s money to the people? There are five.
Tennessee has had no state income tax for decades. But, since 1929, it’s

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The Role of the Living Will

January 19, 2021

Go to an attorney for a Will and you’ll get not one document, but several—the Will, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, and what may be the most overlooked and under-appreciated of the documents, a Living Will. The Will lays out what happens after you die. The other three documents focus on what happens while you’re alive.
Brad Henry is an estate and elder law attorney at Strauss Attorneys PLLC in Asheville, North Carolina. He says “Living Will” is a confusing name and is often confused with the “Will.” But the Living Will is rather unique within the bundle of documents you receive.
The purpose of the Living Will is for you to give directions to medical providers about whether or not to continue life support in three situations at the end of life:

You have an

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What To Do After Your Spouse Dies: A Checklist

January 14, 2021

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

January 11, 2021

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

January 4, 2021

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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