7 Immediate Steps to Protect Your Information from Being Misused due to the Equifax Data Breach

If you are one of the 143 million American consumers whose names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers and other personal identifying information was exposed in the data breach at Equifax, which stretched from mid-May through July of this year, here are seven immediate steps to stop the hackers from further victimizing you:

1.    Determine whether your information may have been exposed. Using a secure computer and an encrypted network connection, go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Doing so will reveal whether you are among those affected by the breach.

2.    Sign up for a year of free credit monitoring from TrustedID Premier, which will be offered by the above site after completing step one. All U.S. consumers – whether their information was obtained or not – can enroll. The deadline is November 21, 2017.

3.    Systematically review your existing bank, credit card and insurance accounts for fraudulent transactions. If any unrecognized charges appear, contact your bank, credit card company or insurance provider immediately to report the issue.

4.    Visit annualcreditreport.com to check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for free. If you see any accounts or activity that you don’t recognize, identify theft could be the culprit, and you should go to IdentityTheft.gov to learn more about what to do.

5.    Consider placing a security freeze or a credit freeze on your report, which locks down your credit. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this “lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.” Note: Scammers can still make changes to your existing accounts, despite a security freeze.

6.    Alternatively, consider creating a fraud alert to flag creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft, and they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you. Creditors will still be able to get a copy of your credit report as long as they take steps to verify your identity. This may prevent a scammer from opening new accounts in your name, but this alert is not likely to stop abuse of your existing accounts.

7.    File your taxes as soon as possible to avoid tax identity theft, which is when someone uses your Social Security number to steal your tax refund or to get a job. Being proactive and filing first (before a fraudster) eliminates this vulnerability.

For additional guidance related to management of your wealth, visit www.mcmanuslegal.com or call 908-898-0100.

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McManus Weighs in on Self-Directed IRAs for NerdWallet

Andrea Coombes, whose stories on retirement, investing, taxes and other topics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, San Francisco Chronicle and other outlets, recently wrote an article on an investing strategy for the bold-hearted. Her piece, “Self-Directed IRAs: An Option for Expert Investors,” sheds light on the benefits and risks of self-directed IRAs.

Coombes spoke with McManus & Associated Founding Principal John O. McManus for his take. From the story:

The two main reasons investors take on the risks of self-directed IRAs are higher expected returns and the opportunity for diversification.

“If you understand investments, particularly in certain segments, you can take advantage of higher yields and maybe less volatility,” says John O. McManus, who has invested in real estate and other assets through a self-directed IRA for about 15 years. McManus founded the estate-planning firm McManus & Associates in New York and New Providence, New Jersey.

His self-directed IRA also lets McManus invest in companies that aren’t publicly traded, which “a mutual fund will not allow you to do,” he says. But, he warns, “This is not a game for the unsophisticated.”

Head over to NerdWallet to learn more about the advantages and drawbacks of self-directed IRAs. For guidance on your overall wealth management strategy, contact McManus & Associates at 908-898-0100.

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McManus & Associates Named Boutique Firm of the Year Finalist for Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners Awards

McManus & Associates, a top-rated estate planning law firm celebrating 25 years of success, today announced that it has been named a Boutique Firm of the Year Finalist by the international Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) for the organization’s 2017/18 Private Client Awards. STEP is a prestigious, invitation-only worldwide organization of estate planners who advise international families on their global interests.

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Conference Call: 10 Ways to Prevent Affluenza

Affluenza: “An Ounce of Prevention Is Better than a Pound of Cure”

According to American author Mignon McLaughlin, “There are a handful of people whom money won’t spoil….” Do you think your children are among them? From over 25 years working with wealthy families, we’ve learned that older generations must be intentional to guard against the development of affluenza in children of all ages. As with lottery winners and athletes who often squander significant sums of cash, children who see an influx of assets may mishandle what they have been given without proper preparation.

The term “affluenza”, also known as sudden wealth syndrome, is a portmanteau of the words “affluence” and “influenza.” It is typically characterized by a lack of motivation or a sense of entitlement among those who have inherited large amounts of money.

During a conference call with clients, McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus recently shared his thoughts on the 10 preventative measures against affluenza below.

LISTEN HERE for details: “10 Ways to Prevent Affluenza”

    1. Discipline Reality Check
    2. Better to Give than Receive
    3. Money Can’t Buy Happiness
    4. Patience Is a Virtue
    5. Knowledge Is Power
    6. No Substitute for Hard Work
    7. Word to the Wise
    8. Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail
    9. Know when to Say No
    10. Preparation Is the Key to Success

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McManus Helps Uncover HSA Pitfalls for MarketWatch Column

Andrea Coombes, Ways & Means columnist for MarketWatch, recently took on the task of identifying “hidden pitfalls” of Health Savings Accounts, which are medical savings accounts with tax advantages. For her piece, she spoke with John O. McManus to learn what happens to HSAs when the accountholder passes away.

The fourth item on Coombes’ list of 10 pitfalls:

Your entire HSA account becomes taxable when you die, unless you’ve named your spouse as beneficiary, in which case your account becomes your spouse’s HSA. So, from an estate planning perspective, what’s the best way to handle these accounts, assuming you’re older and have a hefty sum stashed? “Our view is postpone withdrawals from accounts that are compounding tax-free,” John O. McManus, founder of McManus & Associates, a trusts and estates law firm in New York and New Providence, N.J. Once you’re over 65, you can withdraw money without the 20% penalty faced by those under 65. (If you spend on non-medical costs, you’ll owe income tax, which is the same as withdrawing from a traditional IRA, but health accounts don’t have required minimum distributions, so you have more control.) Letting the money grow is valuable, McManus says, given that people are living into their 90s and nursing-home costs can run “$100,000 just for living quarters and medical assistance.” If you bequeath the account to a non-spouse beneficiary, he or she will owe income tax on its fair market value.

To read Coombes’ full column, “10 hidden pitfalls of health savings accounts,” click here. For guidance on utilization of investment and savings vehicles as part of your estate plan, give McManus & Associates a call at 908-898-0100.

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McManus Pens Expert Article for Thomson Reuters Practical Tax Strategies

INTRA-FAMILY LOANS

GIVING THE GIFT OF A LOAN

Intra-family loans can provide tax benefits to both lenders and borrowers if properly structured.

JOHN O. McMANUS

JOHN O. McMANUS is a top AV-rated estate planning attorney and the founding principal of TriState Area-based McManus & Associates (www.mcmanuslegal.com).

When it comes to wealth management, sometimes the gray area is the sweet spot. There are often legitimate opportunities for growing and preserving assets beyond the welldefined, black-and-white tax rules. Identifying these legal loopholes can greatly benefit a client and his or her loved ones, without breaking any laws.

Gifting as a loan, or intra-family loans, is an estate planning technique which, under rules set forth in the Code, allows a significant amount of money to be transferred to a family member with a customized repayment plan—sans the gift tax implications. Also, there are no concrete limitations on the family members who can be borrowers or the trusts for their benefit. With carefully structured lending— through a promissory note, for example—the borrower is able to take advantage of interest rates below those charged by commercial lenders, as the government allows relatives to pay a very low, “safe harbor” interest rate. In a parent-child relationship, the child then pays back the loan over time.

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McManus Featured in Financial Advisor magazine’s “Fidgety About Tax Reform? Here Are 10 Things Estate Planners Can Do Now”

Karen DeMasters of Financial Advisor magazine recently spoke with John O. McManus for a slideshow article that offers “tips for what estate planners can do while the world waits for ‘U.S. tax reform’ to take shape.” The feature, titled “Fidgety About Tax Reform? Here Are 10 Things Estate Planners Can Do Now,” starts by flipping a common adage on its head – from the piece:

The only thing certain used to be death and taxes, but now the taxes are coming into question.

President Donald Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress are expected to revamp taxes and maybe change gift and estate tax rules, but no one knows what that will entail or when it might happen

According to McManus:

There is much uncertainty about particular aspects of the Republican tax proposal—including a replacement tax on the wealthy—and there is already concern about the likely impermanence of any new legislation. These factors highlight the importance of flexibility in preparing an estate plan and proceeding with wealth transfers suited to the current political and economic circumstances.

Even if tax legislation passes, it’s likely that the rules of the game will continue to change, perhaps frequently, going forward. It’s essential to stay in the know regarding the potential impact of new laws, in addition to tools currently available to protect your wealth.

As pointed out by DeMasters, “McManus says the following strategies are good for the long or short term, and most can be used advantageously by mass affluent as well as the ultra-wealthy.”

  1. Annual Exclusion Gifts
  2. Lifetime Exemption Gifts
  3. Short-Term And Mid-Term Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs)
  4. Estate Freeze Installment Sales
  5. Family Limited Partnerships
  6. Upstream Gifting
  7. Community Property Trusts
  8. Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs)
  9. Drafting Flexibility in Core Planning Documents
  10. Philanthropic Planning

Check out the full article for more details on McManus’ list of “10 Must-Do Estate Planning Strategies” that advisors can use while waiting for decisive legislative action. 

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Trusts & Estates (WealthManagement.com) Publishes Byline by John O. McManus

Ten Estate Planning Strategies While Waiting for Tax Reform

How to proceed until Congress takes action.

John McManus | May 12, 2017

The election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency and Republican control of both houses of Congress make estate tax reform extremely probable in the next two years. However, given the new administration’s other proclaimed priorities, including the repeal of Obamacare, minimization of illegal immigration, increases in defense spending and infrastructure improvements, there are likely several months before Congress turns its attention to a tax system overhaul.

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Conference Call: 10 “Must Do” Estate Planning Strategies While We Wait for Congress to Act

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency and Republican control of both houses of Congress make estate tax reform extremely likely in the next two years.  However, given the incoming administration’s other proclaimed priorities, including the repeal of Obamacare, minimization of illegal immigration, increases in defense spending and infrastructure improvements, there are already questions about the feasibility of adopting all of the proposed tax initiatives. Furthermore, there is much uncertainty about particular aspects of the Republican tax proposal (including a replacement tax on the wealthy), and there is already concern about the likely impermanence of any new legislation. These factors highlight the importance of flexibility in preparing an estate plan and proceeding with wealth transfers suited to the current political and economic circumstances.

In a recent conference call with clients, McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus highlighted the current appealing strategies and opportunities available as part of an estate plan. Click below to hear him discuss the following list:

LISTEN HERE for details: “10 ‘Must Do’ Estate Planning Strategies While We Wait for Congress to Act”

  1. Annual exclusion gifts
  2. Lifetime exemption gifts
  3. Short-term and mid-term Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs)
  4. Estate Freeze Installment Sales
  5. Family Limited Partnerships
  6. Upstream Gifting
  7. Community Property Trusts
  8. Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRT)
  9. Drafting Flexibility in Core Planning Documents
  10. Philanthropic Planning
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McManus Interviewed for Wall Street Journal’s “Watching Your Wealth” Podcast

In the Wall Street Journal’s newest “Watching Your Wealth” podcast, Veronica Dagher interviews McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus on red flags that warn you your adult kids are using you for your money and/or are trying to get a bigger share of your estate. In the episode, Veronica does a “fun estate planning quiz” with John, as well, and asks him to share the best and worst estate planning advice he’s ever heard, what an estate can and can’t buy, and what he would do with $1M after tax if he inherited it.

Click here to listen to the quick, 11-minute episode: http://bit.ly/2pckWFo

To set up a time to discuss the family dynamics impacting your estate plan with the McManus & Associates team, give us a call at 908-898-0100.

Are Your Adult Children Using You For Your Money?

McManus & Associates’ John McManus discusses the red flags your children may be taking advantage of you financially and how to better communicate with them about money.

11 min: LISTEN

 

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