Never before has the term, “Happy New Year” rung with such a profound sense of hope and relief. Throughout 2020, we navigated the countless challenges and transitions that COVID-19 forced upon us. Even alongside a tumultuous and anxious landscape, we’ve gained precious insights into our daily lives and habits. We’ve come to terms with the fragility of our sense of control, and—perhaps most importantly—where our true priorities lie.
The Power of Places and Faces
For so many of us, our inherent need for human connection was revealed. We all utilize the subtleties of a smile and the warmth of a welcome handshake to build trust and reliance. Even brick and mortar buildings can provide the kind of legitimacy and stability one needs to make and complete difficult decisions. Without such interpersonal interactions, isolation can have a severe impact on our mental health. Most of our documents need multiple witnesses and notarizing. This is just one of the
reasons why we decided to keep our offices open safely. Our aim to provide guidance and expertise on some of the most significant decisions our clients could make in life are our number one priorities.
A Boom for Zoom
When the practice of social distancing removed us from our offices and other public spaces, technology tried quickly to fill the gap. In a matter of days, people of all backgrounds and abilities acclimated to online platforms and ordered deliveries. In many ways, this shift was rewarding as we have seen an increase in independence for seniors and an increased interest in lectures and online learning. Industries have utterly transformed in response to the pandemic, in some cases irrevocably and in others, fantastically and quite successfully. From retail operations moving to curbside shopping and pickup, to hospitals and healthcare providers transitioning to telehealth in order to continue access to preventative care and other services, there is much to learn and reap from these inventive methods. Even so, a backdrop of struggle and collapse accompanied 2020, as childcare bottlenecks forced some parents out of the workforce. The painful limits of remote learning, and the overwhelm hospitals and healthcare workers faced were part of our daily lives. We have yet to see just how far-reaching the effects of COVID-19 will be on our society and our economy.
Preparation is the Antidote to the Unknown
Unfortunately, we can’t talk about a new year without talking about the budget deficit. We anticipate an aggressive regulatory environment for addressing the growing imbalance between tax receipts and expenditures. What has been ongoing for quite some time now has rapidly accelerated in the last year. Ultimately, someone will have to pay the piper. Whether that comes in the form of higher taxes in the short term, a reduction in entitlement spending, or a kicking of the can even further down the road via refinancing, the debt needs to be repaid. Tax increases are highly likely to happen, and this is where we can help you. Though we do not yet know what future policies will look like, the more we explore creative tax savings scenarios and prepare for longevity and higher costs, the closer we will be to the optimal strategy when new policies are enacted. So, do not be scared, but do prepare. Let us help you manage the unknown and make smart decisions as we forge ahead into a brave new world, together.
January 18, 2021
The quality of your retirement can be impacted by state-level taxes, such as income, sales and property taxes. Taxes tend to lead to inflation, meaning the cost of living trends higher in high tax states. Your spending power will thus be greater in states with low state taxes. Retiring in a state with high taxes, such as California where income taxes alone range up to 13%, means paying a large chunk of your retirement income to the state, diminishing your spending power. Consider how you plan to spend during retirement; do you prefer to make your home a vacation destination for others, or do you want to be the one travelling? If the latter, putting down roots in a small home in a state with low taxes may give you the financial freedom you want to see the country or the world.
Still another factor to consider is the taxes payable upon death, commonly called estate taxes or inheritance taxes. An estate tax is based on the value of the decedent’s gross estate (all the real and personal property the decedent owned); whereas an inheritance tax is based on the relationship between the decedent and the beneficiary. The chart on the right identifies the states with a state-level death tax. Estate taxes are highest in Washington, which currently has a 20% estate tax on estates over $11.2 million. Other tough tax jurisdictions include Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Oregon and Hawaii. Retirees who have family in these states may benefit from maintaining a primary residence in a low tax state, with a second home in the higher tax state.
Six states have an inheritance tax: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, Nebraska and Iowa. Although bequests to spouses are exempt from inheritance tax, bequests to children, siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, or close friends may bear a high tax. Crossing the border to a state without an inheritance tax can save your loved ones hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, a niece who inherits from an aunt who passes away in New Jersey with a $5 million estate will pay approximately $750,000 to the State of New Jersey; however, if the same aunt died a New York resident, there would be no inheritance tax liability.
Another way to take advantage of tax-friendly jurisdictions is by establishing a trust in that state. In New Hampshire, trusts are exempt from state-level income, sales and estate taxes. Consider again a woman living in New York or New Jersey with a $7 million estate. If she were to transfer her investments to a New Hampshire trust, her niece could inherit from the trust without having to pay estate or inheritance tax. Often people find that the tax savings they enjoy by establishing a New Hampshire trust more than pay for the costs and fees associated with setting up and maintaining the trust. Each individual’s circumstances are different. Working with your investment advisor and accountant, our attorneys can create a custom estate plan that will maximize your spending power in retirement and help you navigate your own retirement map.
January 18, 2021