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Famous People Who Failed to Plan Properly

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of taking the time to plan your estate. Nevertheless, it’s surprising how many American adults haven’t done so. You might think that those who are rich and famous would be way ahead of the curve when it comes to planning their estates properly, considering the resources and lawyers presumably available to them. Yet there are plenty of celebrities and people of note who died with inadequate (or nonexistent) estate plans.

Most recently

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died in 2018, leaving behind a score of wonderful music and countless memories. But it appears Ms. Franklin died without a will or estate plan in place. Her four sons filed documents in the Oakland County (Michigan) Probate Court listing themselves as interested parties, while Ms. Franklin’s niece asked the court to appoint her as personal representative of the estate.

All of this information is available to the public. Her estate will be distributed according to the laws of her state of residence (Michigan). In addition, creditors will have a chance to make claims against her estate and may get paid before any of her heirs. And if she owned property in more than one state (according to public records, she did), then probate will likely have to be opened in each state where she owned property (called ancillary probate). The settling of her estate could drag on for years at a potentially high financial cost.

A few years ago

Prince Rogers Nelson, who was better known as Prince, died in 2016. He was 57 years old and still making incredible music and entertaining millions of fans throughout the world. The first filing in the Probate Court for Carver County, Minnesota, was by a woman claiming to be the sister of Prince, asking the court to appoint a special administrator because there was no will or other testamentary documents. As of November 2018, there have been hundreds of court filings from prospective heirs, creditors, and other “interested parties.” There will be no private administration of Prince’s estate, as the entire ongoing proceeding is open and available to anyone for scrutiny.

A long time ago

Here are some other notable personalities who died many years ago without planning their estates.

Pablo Picasso died in 1973 at the ripe old age of 91, apparently leaving no will or other testamentary instructions. He left behind nearly 45,000 works of art, rights and licensing deals, real estate, and other assets. The division of his estate assets took six years and included seven heirs. The settlement among his nearest relatives cost an estimated $30 million in legal fees and other related costs.

The administration of the estate of Howard Hughes made headlines for several years following his death in 1976. Along the way, bogus wills were offered; people claiming to be his wives came forward, as did countless alleged relatives. Three states — Nevada, California, and Texas — claimed to be responsible for the distribution of his estate. Ultimately, by 1983, his estimated $2.5 billion estate was split among some 22 “relatives” and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s greatest presidents, was also a lawyer. Yet when he met his untimely and tragic death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth in 1865, he died intestate — without a will or other testamentary documents. On the day of his death, Lincoln’s son, Robert, asked Supreme Court Justice David Davis to assist in handling his father’s financial affairs. Davis ultimately was appointed as the administrator of Lincoln’s estate. It took more than two years to settle his estate, which was divided between his surviving widow and two sons.

Key Retirement and Tax Numbers for 2019

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces cost-of-living adjustments that affect contribution limits for retirement plans and various tax deduction, exclusion, exemption, and threshold amounts. Here are a few of the key adjustments for 2019.

Employer retirement plans

  • Employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans can defer up to $19,000 in compensation in 2019 (up from $18,500 in 2018); employees age 50 and older can defer up to an additional $6,000 in 2019 (the same as in 2018).
  • Employees participating in a SIMPLE retirement plan can defer up to $13,000 in 2019 (up from $12,500 in 2018), and employees age 50 and older can defer up to an additional $3,000 in 2019 (the same as in 2018).

IRAs

The combined annual limit on contributions to traditional and Roth IRAs increased to $6,000 in 2019 (up from $5,500 in 2018), with individuals age 50 and older able to contribute an additional $1,000. For individuals who are covered by a workplace retirement plan, the deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for the following modified adjusted gross income (AGI) ranges:

Note : The 2019 phaseout range is $193,000 – $203,000 (up from $189,000 – $199,000 in 2018) when the individual making the IRA contribution is not covered by a workplace retirement plan but is filing jointly with a spouse who is covered.

The modified AGI phaseout ranges for individuals to make contributions to a Roth IRA are:

Estate and gift tax

  • The annual gift tax exclusion for 2019 is $15,000, the same as in 2018.
  • The gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount for 2019 is $11,400,000, up from $11,180,000 in 2018.

Kiddie tax

Under the kiddie tax rules, unearned income above $2,200 in 2019 (up from $2,100 in 2018) is taxed using the trust and estate income tax brackets. The kiddie tax rules apply to: (1) those under age 18, (2) those age 18 whose earned income doesn’t exceed one-half of their support, and (3) those ages 19 to 23 who are full-time students and whose earned income doesn’t exceed one-half of their support.

Standard deduction

Note : The additional standard deduction amount for the blind or aged (age 65 or older) in 2019 is $1,650 (up from $1,600 in 2018) for single/HOH or $1,300 (the same as in 2018) for all other filing statuses. Special rules apply if you can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.

Alternative minimum tax (AMT)

Hybrid Funds: Balanced, Lifestyle, or Target?

Holding a mix of stocks and bonds is fundamental to building a portfolio that can pursue growth while potentially remaining more stable than a stock-only portfolio during market downturns. Many investors approach this goal by owning a mix of individual securities, a mix of funds, or both. However, some hybrid funds try to follow the same strategy in a single investment.

Although the goal of these funds is simplicity, they are not as simple as they may appear, and different types of hybrid funds have very different objectives.

Balanced funds

Balanced funds typically strive for a specific asset mix — for example, 60% stocks and 40% bonds — but the balance might vary within limits spelled out in the prospectus. Theoretically, the stocks in the fund provide the potential for gains while the bonds may help reduce the effects of market volatility.

Generally, balanced funds have three objectives: conserve principal, provide income, and pursue long-term growth. Of course, there is no guarantee that a fund will meet its objectives. If you are investing in a balanced fund or considering whether to do so, you should understand the fund’s asset mix, objectives, and rebalancing guidelines as the asset mix changes due to market performance. Rebalancing is typically necessary to keep a balanced fund on track, but could create a taxable event for investors.

Lifestyle funds

Lifestyle funds, also called target-risk funds, include a mix of assets designed to maintain a consistent level of risk. These funds may be labeled with terms such as conservative, moderate, or aggressive. Because the targeted risk level remains consistent over time, you may want to shift assets from one lifestyle fund to another as you approach retirement or retire. A conservative lifestyle fund might be an appropriate holding throughout retirement.

Target-date funds

Target-date funds contain a mix of assets selected for a specific time horizon. The target date, usually included in the fund’s name, is the approximate date when an investor would withdraw money for retirement or another purpose, such as paying for college. An investor expecting to retire in 2035, for example, might choose a 2035 fund. As the target date approaches, the fund typically shifts toward a more conservative asset allocation to help conserve the value it may have accumulated. This transition is driven by a formula called the glide path, which determines how the asset mix will change over time. The glide path may end at the target date or continue to shift assets beyond the target date.

Funds with the same target date may vary not only in their glide path but also in the underlying asset allocation, investment holdings, turnover rate, fees, and fund performance. Variation tends to be greater as funds near their target date. If you own a target-date fund and are nearing the target date, be sure you understand the asset mix and whether the glide path extends beyond the target date.

All in one?

Traditional balanced funds typically contain a mix of individual securities. Although these funds may be an appropriate core holding for a diversified portfolio, they are generally not intended to be an investor’s only holding. However, some balanced funds and most lifestyle and target-date funds include a mix of other funds. These “funds of funds” are often intended to offer an all-in-one portfolio investment. You may still want to hold other investments, but keep in mind that investing outside of an all-in-one fund may change your overall asset allocation. Asset allocation and diversification are widely accepted methods to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

Additional considerations

The principal value of a target-date fund is not guaranteed before, on, or after the target date. There is no guarantee that you will be prepared for retirement on the target date or that any fund will meet its stated goals. The return and principal value of all funds fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

Women: Are you planning for retirement with one hand tied behind your back?

Women can face unique challenges when planning for retirement. Let’s take a look at three of them.

First, women frequently step out of the workforce in their 20s, 30s, or 40s to care for children — a time when their job might just be kicking into high (or higher) gear.

It’s a noble cause, of course. But consider this: A long break from the workforce can result in several financial losses beyond the immediate loss of a salary.

In the near term, it can mean an interruption in saving for retirement and the loss of any employer match, the loss of other employee benefits like health or disability insurance, and the postponement of student loan payments. In the mid term, it may mean a stagnant salary down the road due to difficulties re-entering the workforce and/or a loss of promotion opportunities. And in the long term, it may mean potentially lower Social Security retirement benefits because your benefit is based on the number of years you’ve worked and the amount you’ve earned. (Generally, you need about 10 years of work, or 40 credits, to qualify for your own Social Security retirement benefits.)

Second, women generally earn less over the course of their lifetimes. Sometimes this can be explained by family caregiving responsibilities, occupational segregation, educational attainment, or part-time schedules. But that’s not the whole story. A stubborn gender pay gap has women earning, on average, about 82% of what men earn for comparable full-time jobs, although the gap has narrowed to 89% for women ages 25 to 34.1 In any event, earning less over the course of one’s lifetime often means lower overall savings, retirement plan balances, and Social Security benefits.

Third, statistically, women live longer than men.2 This means women will generally need to stretch their retirement savings and benefits over a longer period of time.

1) Pew Research Center, The Narrowing, But Persistent, Gender Gap in Pay, April 2018
2) NCHS Data Brief, Number 293, December 2017

How can I tell if a crowdsourcing campaign is a scam?

Crowdsourcing can be an effective way to raise funds for a variety of causes, but it’s also a great opportunity for scam artists to take advantage of your goodwill. Before you donate to a crowdsourcing campaign, help protect yourself from being scammed by following these tips.

Check the campaign creator’s credibility. If you don’t personally know the campaign creator, it might be worth your time to review his or her social media profiles. This should be easy to do, since most crowdsourcing platforms link social media accounts to campaigns. When you visit a profile, look for red flags. Does the profile seem new? Does the campaign creator have friends or followers listed on the profile? Does the campaign creator have just one social media account? Does the profile seem active or old/unused? Answering “yes” to any of these questions should cause you to question the legitimacy of a crowdsourcing campaign.

Research the crowdsourcing platform. Many different crowdsourcing platforms exist, from the well established to the startups with no track record. Review a platform’s terms and policies before you donate to one of its crowdsourcing campaigns. Find out how long it’s been in business and whether it evaluates or checks out campaign creators. Determine whether the platform will refund money or take responsibility for a crowdsourcing campaign scam. Remember to look for the secure lock symbol and the letters https: in the address bar of your Internet browser — this indicates that you’re navigating to a legitimate web address.

Consider the timing of the campaign. Be wary of campaigns that are created after national disasters. It’s unfortunate, but scam artists often exploit tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity. In the case of disaster relief, bear in mind that it’s probably safer to donate money to established nonprofit organizations with proven track records than to a crowdsourcing campaign.

If you’ve been defrauded or suspect fraudulent activity, report your experience to the crowdsourcing platform. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

 

IRS Circular 230 disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matter addressed herein.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019