Legendary singer, Aretha Franklin succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 76 on August 16, 2018, and she was accorded funeral rites reserved for music royalty. At once humble and a diva, the Queen of Soul, who famously demanded respect, sadly died without a will.
Among the most prized tax deductions to get trimmed by the Tax Cut And Jobs Act was the monthly mortgage interest. Should you pay off your mortgage, if your mortgage interest deduction is gone? The answer more often now is "Yes," providing you can afford to retire the debt. If you can't afford that now, aim to do it as soon you can.
Medical expenses can run up your expenses a lot. For that reason, the new tax law gives people a break by sweetening the long-time tax deduction for health care, at least for a couple of years.
This is a good time to consider converting a traditional individual retirement account into a Roth IRA. Tax rates are low but unlikely to stay that way. Here's a long-term strategy that takes advantage of the current tax policy and economic fundamentals - a tax-efficient retirement investment and avoids a new twist in the Tax Cut And Jobs Act that penalizes widows.
Although a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, out of respect for your time, here are 290 words about this chart of U.S. stock market performance over an amazing decade.
The new tax law doubles what you can leave loved ones' tax free when you die and that's really bad for your alma mater. Tax breaks for donations to your alma mater may no longer make the grade with you. Here's why:
Under the new tax law, business owners are entitled to deduct 20% of "qualified business income." The test for qualifying for a tax break on 20% of business income is defined in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and summarized here along with a simple illustration.
If you're a pre-retiree, your returns on fixed income investments may be much lower than your parents' portfolio.
If you spend your professional life giving financial advice, you learn to appreciate every day.
Planning makes you immortal. It ensures the next generation will be just fine. This is something you may not learn or even understand until your 60s or 70s. If you're lucky, you come to hold a baby with dreams for the best things that could happen in the future.
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Foreign Intrigue In Estate Planning
Are you married to someone who isn't a U.S. citizen? If you are, special estate planning considerations may come into play.
Whether your spouse is a citizen or not, you can use the same basic estate planning documents without any reservations. You can create a will bequeathing assets to your spouse, name him or her as a beneficiary of retirement accounts, and designate your spouse as the agent under a power of attorney. No problems there.
But things get trickier when your spouse inherits assets. Normally, property transferred from one spouse to another, during your lifetimes or when one of you dies, is completely exempt from gift or estate tax thanks to an unlimited marital deduction. But that doesn't apply to non-citizen spouses.
Instead, you can make use of a $5.49 million unified gift and estate tax exemption that covers transfers to any beneficiaries, including a non-citizen spouse.
In addition, you can give a non-citizen spouse as much as $149,000 (in 2017; the amount is indexed for inflation) in gifts during your lifetimes.
Other ways to avoid being subject to the rules for non-citizen spouses may include:
1. Have your spouse become a U.S. citizen. This can be an obvious solution. It allows your spouse to qualify for the unlimited marital deduction by the time your federal estate tax return is due. That's generally nine months after death, but the IRS may grant a six-month extension.
Because it takes time to obtain citizenship—there is a waiting period before you can even apply—it's important to start sooner than later.
2. Rely on a QDOT trust. With a qualified domestic trust (QDOT), you can leave property to the trust, rather than directly to your spouse. Then your spouse can receive income from the QDOT that is exempt from estate tax.
But there are a couple of extra wrinkles. If your non-citizen spouse withdraws principal from the QDOT, it will be taxed like a distribution from your taxable estate, which can increase estate tax liability. There are also limitations on investments made by QDOTs. In some cases, it could make sense to complement a QDOT with other kinds of transfers to your spouse. Finally, a QDOT can be structured to end if your spouse becomes a U.S. citizen.
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