inheritance

Emotionally Charged Money: Inheritance

Image: money from heaven

Image: money from heavenYou may be one of the many Baby Boomers or  Gen-Xers who have received an inheritance or will in the future. Studies predict that the wealth transfer from the “Greatest Generation” to their heirs will total in the trillions. If you are or will be a beneficiary, it pays to prepare yourself, as no money is more emotionally charged than inherited money.

There can be several reasons why emotional thinking can outweigh rational thoughts when it comes to inheritance. If you received it from your parents, you may recall how hard they worked for it. Your dad toiled at the office and your mom took care of the home and kids. You remember how they rarely relaxed or took a vacation, because they wanted to create a good life for you and not be a burden to you in their old age.  You may feel unworthy of their largesse.

Or, an inheritance can create a rift between you and your friends or family who aren’t as fortunate. You may feel guilty about your new change in financial status. You may also feel shame about how other people, in general, have so much less than you.

My clients who have received inheritances talk about feeling anxious, relieved, worried, happy, sad, guilty, and elated. These are natural reactions and to be expected. Problems arise when emotions dictate how you spend, invest, and save the funds.

Tips for Managing an Inheritance

Take a moment to absorb some of these ideas to prepare yourself and handle this potentially life-changing event:

  • Talk to a trusted professional about your feelings about the inheritance. Process them as much as possible before taking any action.
  • Make a list of things/experiences you want to buy and be careful not to overspend.
  • Create a plan for charitable giving and learn about giving vehicles such as donor-advised funds.
  • Carefully way out the pros and cons of lending family or friends money.
  • Develop a plan for investing the funds so as to earn a good return.
  • Do some financial planning. This windfall may be just what you needed to fund your retirement.
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Why You Need A Financial Plan

There are a few times a year when the volume of calls to my office from people seeking financial advice goes way up. One of them is in January when New Year’s resolutions are top of mind and another is the 30 or so days leading up to the tax deadline in mid-April.The “January effect” arises from a wish to get a fresh start on financial planning; the “tax effect”  has to do with figuring out how to pay less to Uncle Sam.

But most people would be better off if they didn’t wait for a deadline or time of year to take a hard look at their finances. Financial planning can be compared to being proactive about your health – we’re way better off maintaining a healthy lifestyle than waiting for a medical crisis to change our habits! Same goes for your finances. Making smart financial choices early and often will ensure a strong financial future.

For sure, meeting with a financial advisor isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It’s hard to talk about money especially if you feel “clueless” (not my word, but a word many women use to describe their financial savvy) or embarrassed about some of the financial decisions you’ve made in the past. But a good advisor doesn’t care about any of those things; they want to objectively help you make good financial decisions going forward.

When I ask a potential client why they contacted me, here are some of the most common answers:

  • I want to retire early and do something different with my life. Can I afford to do this and how soon can I do it?
  • I am retiring in 5 years and I have no idea if I’m on track.
  • I want to buy a house and I need to know how much to save and what I need to do to qualify for a loan.
  • I am afraid to invest my money in the stock market because I don’t trust it, but I’m not earning any return on my money in the bank, what should I do?
  • My father (or mother) just passed away and left me some money. I want to make sure that I make the right decisions with this money and need help and a plan.
  • I want to send my kids to private schools but they are expensive. I want to know if I can afford it and save for other goals like retirement.
  • I’m single and I don’t want to rely on anyone else for my financial health, I want a plan to reach my goals.
  • I’m going through a divorce and I worried about my financial future.I need help figuring it out.
  • I make a great salary but I spend too much. I want help to set up a budget, reign in my spending and start saving and investing more.
  • My spouse/partner passed away and I’ve never managed the finances alone. I need someone I can trust to help me.

Some of these situations are like a medical crisis – “oh my gosh…I’m retiring in 5 years and I haven’t saved enough money!”, others are unexpected, such as a divorce. But all share one thing in common: all situations will be less stressful and better managed with financial education and a plan.

Photo by Teerapun/freedigitalphotos.net

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 7, 2014 and has been updated and refreshed.

Related articles:

Do You Need A Financial Advisor?   Investopedia
Six Important Steps to Hiring a Financial Advisor  Forbes

 

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Clearing up the confusion over the Gift Tax Law, updated for 2018

There are many confusing tax laws, but the one that seems to generate the most misunderstanding is the gift tax law.

Many are aware that gifts can be made up to $15,000 in 2018, (this amount is periodically adjusted for inflation) with no tax consequences – but beyond that it’s fuzzy. A client asked me if she would have to pay tax on a $100,000 gift her parents were planning to give her to buy a house. The answer is no.

Here’s the low-down on the gift tax law:

1. Anyone can make gifts of up to $15,000 (in 2018) to as many people as they choose without any tax implications. This gift is called an “annual exclusion gift”- meaning the gift is tax-free for the giver and the receiver.

In each following year,  the donor can start all over again giving gifts up to the annual exclusion amount to as many people as they choose. The gift can be either cash or goods. The gift does not have to be to a family member, it can be to anyone the giver chooses. In addition, married couples can each give $15,000 a year, so your grandchild could receive $30,000 from you and your spouse in a given year.

2. If a donor exceeds the annual exclusion ($15,000 in 2018) to any one person, that is also a tax-free event – unless the gifts go over the generous lifetime estate and gift tax exemption of $11.18 million per person.  A minor annoyance:  Form 709 – United States Gift Tax Return – must be filed with that year’s tax return. But NO tax is due.

3. The recipient of said gifts (of any amount) does not pay tax on the money ever, at all.

If a gift tax return (Form 709) is required, it will be due on April 15 of the year following the year in which the gift was made.

Let’s step back and define what a gift is for IRS purposes:  It’s something that is given and nothing is received in return. It is complete as a gift. Loans are not gifts.

What are some of the reasons people give gifts?

  1. They are generous and kind.
  2. They want to help a loved one with expenses such as a down payment on a house,
    education costs, or a vacation.
  3. They are very wealthy and want to reduce the size of their estate and therefore, estate taxes.
  4. They know they won’t spend all their money during their lifetime and want to
    share it with their loved ones before they die.

Examples:

1. You and your spouse decide to give $15,000 each to your four grown children for Christmas. The total gift amount is $120,000. No tax is due and no gift return is filed.

2. The Brown’s gives $200,000 to their daughter Sally, to assist in the purchase of her first home. A gift tax return (Form 709)  for $170,000 ($200,000 –  $15,000 x 2) would be filed with that year’s tax return.  In subsequent years, any gifts the Browns’ give over the exclusion amount will be added to the $170,000.

How the estate and gift tax are tied together:

Let’s say the Brown’s, over their lifetime, gift $1,000,000 in gifts over the annual exclusion amount. When they die, the $1,000,000 will be subtracted from their lifetime estate and gift tax exemption – $11.8 x 2 =  $22.36 million – $1 million  = $21.36 million or $10.68 million each.

It’s obvious that very few but the most wealthy will exceed the estate and gift tax exemption, and in consequence few people pay estate or gift tax. This wasn’t always so. The basic exclusion amount (or applicable exclusion amount in years prior to 2011)  was $1,500,000 (2004-2005), $2,000,000 (2006-2008), $3,500,000 (2009), $5,000,000 (2010-2011), $5,120,000 (2012), $5,250,000 (2013), $5,340,000 (2014), $5,430,000 (2015), $5,450,000 (2016), and $5,490,000 (2017).

Spousal gifts and portability

Spouses fall under different rules when it comes to gifting and estate or gift tax. The unlimited marital deduction allows you to gift any amount of money or property to your spouse without incurring either the federal gift tax or a state gift tax if you live in a state that imposes one.

In addition, in 2013, Congress passed the American Tax Relief Act of 2012 (“ATRA”). One of the key provisions of ATRA is to make permanent the portability of the applicable exclusion amount between spouses, which was enacted by Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.

Portability allows the first spouse to die to transfer his/her unused estate tax applicable exclusion amount to the surviving spouse, who can then use it for his/her gift or estate tax purposes. The key is to be sure to file an estate tax return at the first spouse’s death to elect portability.

Gifts made directly for education or medical expenses qualify for exclusion.

Payments that you make on someone’s behalf for qualified tuition or medical expenses do not count towards the annual limit for gift tax purposes. This means that you can pay for a child’s tuition in the amount of let’s say $20,000 and if it is paid directly to the institution, you can still give that child $15,000 that year.

However, your payment(s) must be made directly to a qualifying educational organization or medical care provider in order to qualify for the exclusion.

In the case of 529 contributions, these gifts are considered part of the annual gift exclusion.  So you can give $15,000 a year to a 529 plan (or you can also give 5 years in one year or $70,000 and use up 5 years of the exclusion amount).  Note, these contributions are not made directly to an institution.

Do you want to manage your money (and life!) better?

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