Bandaid%20piggy%20bank.jpgBills aimed at helping Americans save more for retirement by automatically deducting three percent of their wages and depositing it in an IRA were recently introduced in Congress by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman and Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal.
The Automatic IRA Act would require employers with 10 or more employees to participate if they do not already offer a 401 (k) or other retirement savings plan to employees. According to reports on the legislation, employees would not be required to participate but would have to opt out of the program. The default account would be a Roth IRA, but employees could choose to contribute instead to a traditional IRA. The employer would be allowed to choose a provider for all employees, or allow each employee to choose his or her own IRA provider.
The default investment for the Automatic IRA will be a new type of Treasury Retirement Bond specially created for use with the Automatic IRA, the R-Bond. Individuals can override this choice at any time.
If passed, the Automatic IRA Act would provide employers with a $250 tax credit for each of the first two years of operation to offset implementation administrative costs. Employers that are exempt from the Act include businesses in operation less than two years, government and church employers.

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constitution.jpg There have been recent discussions and rumors that Congress will retroactively impose an estate tax in 2010. The windfall inheritances and distributions among the wealthy are just a few reasons why Congress would go back and enforce an estate tax.

But the constitutionality of this action will surely be litigated upon. Also, there are new capital gain exemptions, up to $1.3 million from the carryover basis rule and $3 million for spouses who inherit.

This “carryover basis” rule says that in determining gains you use what you paid for an asset as your cost basis rather than the market value of the asset at the time of the grantor’s death.

This treatment will result in higher capital gains (assuming the asset appreciates in value) and higher income taxes. But applying the exemptions should ease some of this burden.

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beach%20house.jpgEveryone approaching retirement age has likely asked themselves, “If I could retire anywhere I wanted, where would I go?” This often leads to visions of grand beach homes or ski chalets, but realistically, what are the factors that will likely determine where you will live when you retire?
Money. It’s one thing to live a life of luxury and quite another to pay for it. Where you may want to live and where you can afford to live may be two different things.
Work. Are you going to fully retire, or “semi” retire? Studies show that many Boomers will both need and want to work at least part-time during their retirement, so will need to live where there are jobs available for their skill sets.
Budget. How good are you at living on a budget? And how different will that budget likely be if you move to a new place? The cost of living in a small town in Kansas is a lot different than a Florida beach resort community. Income and real estate taxes can vary greatly from state to state.
Healthcare. Access to quality healthcare should be part of your decision-making process when it comes to choosing a place to retire, especially if you currently have any health problems that dictate proximity to specialists or a hospital.
If you need to know more than you do right now about retirement planning, contact a Florida estate planning attorney.

Joy.jpgWhile you may already be mentally and emotionally ready to retire, how can you tell if you are financially ready?
Guaranteed source of income. Are you already fully vested in your 401(k) or pension? Have you reached the age when you can begin making withdrawals? Before you can retire, you need to have a guaranteed source of income that is predictable.
Liquidity. Do you have a ready source of cash to take care of all your expenses as soon as you retire? If you need to sell stock or other assets to produce income for living expenses, you are probably not ready to retire.
Distribution strategy. Do you have a retirement distribution strategy in place that will provide you with enough income every year to cover your bills? If your retirement investments are still experiencing wide fluctuations, now is probably not the best time to retire.
Health insurance. If you are planning to retire before the age of 65, are you able to afford health insurance until Medicare kicks in?
Contingency planning. Have you done contingency planning so that some unforeseen circumstance like a major health problem doesn’t derail your retirement plan? Some experts suggest doing a “best case” and “worst case” retirement budget to determine if you would be able to survive a large complication.
Gut check. The longer you work, the better off you will be in retirement. Working longer gives you more time to save and less time to spend. However, if continuing to work is harming you emotionally or physically, the trade-off might not be worth it.
A Florida estate planning attorney can also help you determine the best time for you to retire by explaining all the options available to you.

College.jpgIf you are the parent of an 18-year-old who may be off to college shortly, you should be aware that not only is your child leaving, but they are also taking many of your prior legal rights with them.
Once your child turns 18, he or she is considered an adult in the eyes of the law, and you are no longer able to access medical, bank or school records without permission. For your own peace of mind, here are some things you can do to ensure you have the right to access these records, especially in case of emergency:
1. Have your child sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form and make sure each of you has a hard copy. Make an electronic file as well in case you need to email it.
2. Make sure you are listed as the In Case of Emergency (ICE) contact on your chlid’s cell phone.
3. If your of-age child is incapacitated, who will make healthcare decisions for him or her? Discuss options with your estate planning attorney, who may recommend a health care power of attorney designation or health care directive.
4. Check out DocuBank.com, which stores all your child’s emergency medical information and directives online for immediate access by medical personnel anywhere in the world. Your child carries a card (similar to an insurance card) that lists allergies, conditions and emergency contact information.

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ny-yankee-logo.jpgThe will of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, made public a few weeks ago by the New York Post, provides insight into how estate planning tools were utilized to minimize the impact of estate taxes on Steinbrenner’s estimated $1.1 billion estate.
Of course, none of us knows when or plans to die in a year where there are currently no estate taxes. But contingency planning for the “what ifs” is what ensures as many as your assets as possible pass on to your beneficiaries.
Steinbrenner’s will placed an undisclosed amount of his assets into a trust for his widow, Joan. It also provided his attorney and trustee with the power to decide exactly when that trust will pay federal estate taxes – either this year, or after Mrs. Steinbrenner dies.
The trustee has nine months in which to make that decision, and another six months on top of that to make the move permanent. The decision likely rides on whether or not the estate tax is enacted retroactively for 2010. If 2010 goes down in history as the year of no estate tax, then Steinbrenner’s estate wins big – to the tune of around $500 million. If the estate tax is enacted retroactively, the trustee may elect to defer payment until Mrs. Steinbrenner goes, at which time there may be a more favorable rate.
The benefit for now is time – to see how things play out in Congress and to have some breathing room to make the right decision for the Steinbrenner heirs. That is what savvy estate planning is all about.

Will.jpgFor the first time in history, a comprehensive database of wills has been made available online at Ancestry.co.uk, the British version of the genealogical website Ancestry.com.
The National Probate Calendar is a summary of all the wills in England and Wales from 1861 to 1941 and provides information on over six million estates, including the name of the deceased, when and where they died, the name of their executor and, in many cases, details on specific bequests.
What has captured the most attention is, of course, the notable names who passed on during that time period, and the value of their estates. For example:
Karl Marx carried his anti-capitalism beliefs to the grave, leaving an estate worth only $390 ($36,000 today).
Charles Dickens died with an estate worth $125,000 ($11 million today).
Charles Darwin left his heirs in good shape, with an estate of $230,000 ($20 million today).
Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, died in 1931 with almost $100,000 (about $4.7 million today).
Over 18,000 people in The National Probate Calendar died in the U.S., and the database contains the wills of several well-known American family members, including John Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, who perished on the Titanic.
You can leave your own place in history – and make things a lot easier on your family – if you have a will. For more information about creating a will, contact our Jacksonville estate planning law firm.

Every parent has at one time or another expressed amazement by how quickly children seen to grow. One day you are helping them tie their tiny shoes and the next day you are tripping over their size 12 Air Jordans.
And just as you make sure that once they outgrow their clothing they have new clothes that fit, so should you ensure that your estate planning fits them as they mature.
When children are young, there are estate planning instruments to protect them should something happen to you: guardianships to ensure that minor children and their assets are protected, life insurance and trusts to provide for their care and so on.
As your children reach their teens, it may be important for you to set up education trusts, and as they reach their 20s you will likely need to add asset protection plans to keep their inheritance safe from divorce, creditors or other risks.
And as your family grows, you should revisit your estate plans with an estate planning attorney to be sure each child or new family member is represented as you wish in your will and other financial documentation.
Having children means having a plan for their future; keeping your estate plan up to date will ensure you’ve planned for that future, and not for the past.

INGSAHE4445.jpgIdentifying the individuals who will carry out your wishes once you are gone or disabled is an important part of estate planning.  There are several different roles to fill, including:

Executor – this is the person who takes charge of all your assets and ensures they are distributed in accordance with your wishes as spelled out in your will.  Some people choose a responsible family member to fill this role, while others may prefer a professional.

Guardian – this is the person who is designated to care for your minor children in case you and your spouse die before they come of legal age.  While this is usually a family member, careful consideration needs to be given to a guardian’s financial and emotional capabilities as well as their willingness to care for your chlld(ren).  Sometimes, two guardians are appointed – one to look after the children and one to manage the children’s financial assets.

Durable Power of Attorney – this is the person who would make financial decisions for you if you become disabled or otherwise unable to manage your financial affairs.

Power of Attorney for Healthcare – this is the person who would make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.

If you need help with ensuring your wishes are respected after you’re gone, contact our Jacksonville Florida estate planning law firm.

If you die in Florida without a will (the terminology is “dying intestate”), all your assets will be divided among your immediate family (spouse and children).

If you are married without any children, your entire estate will go to your spouse.

If you are married with at least one child, the first $60,000 of your estate (above and beyond any homestead entitlements) plus 50 percent of the remainder of your estate will go to your spouse.   The rest will be divided among your children.

If you have no spouse or children, your assets will pass to your parents.  If your parents are no longer living, your estate will go to your siblings.

If you have no family whatsoever, your assets will go to the state.

Anyone who is over the age of 18 and of sound mind can execute a valid will, which must be in writing and signed in front of witnesses who are not named in the will as a beneficiary.

However, to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you intend them, you should consult with a Florida estate planning attorney, who can help you prepare a will as well as advise you about the many estate planning tools available to help you protect your assets and your heirs.

If you need more information on a Family Limited Partnership or other asset protection vehicles, contact our Jacksonville Florida estate planning law firm.