When the calendar turns to January, the clock is reset for many estate planning opportunities.
McManus & Associates Founding Principal and AV-rated Attorney John O. McManus recently shared his recommended estate planning checklist for January to maximize the value of your assets, cover your financial bases, take advantage of current exemption levels, and get a head start on deadlines.
Listen to the discussion and see an outline below:
1. Fund your children’s trusts so that the trusts can benefit from a full year of appreciation.
2. Make charitable gifts to your foundation so that it will also benefit from appreciation during the year.
3. Review the grants made by your foundation to confirm that they are qualified 501(c)(3) organizations; start researching new charities to expand your class of grantees (while still maintaining your donative intent).
4. Consider making gifts to 529 plans for your children and or between your grandchildren to take advantage of a full year of appreciation.
5. Meet with McManus & Associates or your accountant as soon as possible to provide critical financial information to begin your tax returns.
6. Make substantial gifts a part of your estate plan, thereby empowering your spouse before Congress reduces the gift tax exemption from $11 million.
7. Consider hiring your children and spouse or other family members for the family business and pay an amount that will fund a Roth IRA.
8. Perform an audit of your life insurance policies, including their cash values and performance, as well as their suitability and sufficiency of coverage.
9. Review your beneficiary designations (which will override any testamentary direction under your will) to make sure they coincide with your intentions (as provided in your will).
10. Review your medical coverage and plan choices; also, review your tax withholdings if you expect your income to change significantly.
11. Schedule a meeting with McManus & Associates to review your fiduciaries and agents named in your estate plan to determine their suitability and continued qualifications.
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.
Bankrate, which has more than 2.75 million readers, recently turned to McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus for advice on investments and IRAs. His thoughts are included in the publication’s feature slideshow, “Traditional or Roth IRA: Find out which IRA is better-suited for high-return investments.” From the slideshow:
Pay upfront, watch Roth explode later
Do you benefit from having an extra-long time horizon? Then going full throttle in the Roth IRA is apropos, says John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates in New York City.
“If you can take a long-term view, opt for a Roth IRA and take an aggressive approach with asset allocation and investing,” he says. “Roth IRAs buy you a lot more time to allow the market to recover, absent the mandatory distributions of traditional IRAs. Create a self-directed Roth IRA and pour significant capital in it to build horsepower. Then smartly pursue alternative investments to generate the biggest returns,” he says.
“Private equity and real estate are the 2 best areas where real leverage can be achieved with a Roth IRA. The idea is to pay your taxes up front, then really watch returns from your investments explode.”
Reporting for Next Avenue, which provides news and discussion of issues relevant to Americans over 50 including topics related to money and security, Richard Eisenbergwrites that the smartest moves you can make now are ones that ignore the what-ifs since no one knows how the tax rules will change.
His piece, “Year-End Tax Planning in the Age of the Fiscal Cliff,” provides 8 Year-End Tax Moves to Consider:
1. Rough out your 2012 taxes to see whether you’re likely to owe the IRS money or get a refund.
2. If you have a flexible spending account, or FSA, for health expenses at work, use every penny of it before January.
3. Load up on charitable contributions by Dec. 31 if you expect to itemize deductions on your 2012 return.
4. Try to put more money in your 401(k) plan before year’s end.
5. If you’re self-employed, look into opening a tax-deductible Solo 401(k) plan before Jan. 1.
6. Consider converting your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA if you’re confident your tax rate will rise after 2012.
7. See whether you’ll save on taxes by paying for some discretionary medical expenses this year.
8. Make year-end gifts to your children or grandchildren.
Eisenberg’s article also sources guidance from McManus & Associates’ founding attorney John O. McManus:
Next year, the estate tax exemption is scheduled to fall to $1 million and assets over that amount would be taxed at a 55 percent rate. President Barack Obama has proposed setting the estate tax exemption at $3.5 million and the estate tax rate at 45 percent. That’s more likely to happen than Congress extending the current estate tax rules, according to John O. McManus, an estate lawyer with McManus & Associates in New Providence, N.J.
But no one can say for sure what the outcome of the fiscal cliff negotiations will be. So estate planners recommend taking advantage of the estate and gift tax laws on the books this year. Making gifts to your kids or grandkids in December might not only save you taxes, it could help brighten their financial futures, too.