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Do you need a Durable Power of Attorney?

By Estate Planning, Powers of Attorney, Wills

Do you need a Durable Power of Attorney?


I think most people probably do. By having a Durable Power of Attorney, you give a loved one the ability to make financial decisions for you and take care of your finances if you become incapacitated or if you can’t do it. So I think most married couples or long-term partners should have them and name each other as their agent at the least. I think most people should probably have their kids, if they have them, as backups as long as the kids are adults, and you trust them.

What do we mean when we say durable? Durable means that the power of attorney is effective even if you have lost your capacity. Ordinarily, when you give someone a power of attorney, it’s for a specific thing or a specific time. A lot of people do that to close real estate transactions if they can’t be there at the closing date. That kind of Power of Attorney would lapse if you become incapacitated. A Durable one, however, stays in effect even if you do lose your capacity.

The reason we use Durable powers is that we’re planning for advanced age, or some sort of accident. And we need it to be effective, even if, if you don’t have capacity.

The Power of Attorney could either be springing or not. Some people like the idea of springing because that would only happen should you have the need for it, so somebody couldn’t take action right now. The problem with that is that if it is springing, you only give that power if you lack capacity. But you’d have to go in front of a court, and that the agent would have to go and show that you are incapacitated. And no one really wants to deal with that. I mean, I wouldn’t want to stand up in court and have someone prove that I no longer have capacity.

And then the other thing is that there’s some risk associated with it, right? Like you’re giving this person, your agent, the power to make these decisions for you. And, you know, we only give them to people that we love and trust. But even with that, once in a while, somebody does something bad. Now, if your agent acts against you know, you can go after them civilly, you can sue them. You can ask a local district attorney to press charges if they commit a criminal act. But usually, when people go against or use these documents for ill, they don’t buy a CD with them. They do something bad, like cover up gambling addiction or drug addiction. So you really do need to limit it to people that you love and trust.

What is the inheritance tax in Pennsylvania?

By Estate Planning, inheritance tax, Taxes

What is the inheritance tax in Pennsylvania?


Well, that depends.

It actually depends on the relationship between the person receiving the money or property and the person who died, otherwise known as the decedent. 

So if you leave everything to your spouse, there’s no tax on that. If a minor child leaves everything to a parent, there’s no tax on that, and there’s no tax on any money going to charities exempt organizations, or the government, if anybody does that. 

If you leave it to a lineal descendant, it’s 4.5%. Lineal descendants are kids, grandkids, parents or grandparents.

For siblings it’s 12%, and for everybody else its 15%.

So you inherit money. Does that mean you are writing a check? Typically no. When the person who is the decedent dies, the executor completes the inheritance tax return and has to specify how much went to the different classes of beneficiaries, and then the taxes figured out and usually sent in from the estate. So ordinarily, no you don’t. You’re not going to pay inheritance tax when you receive something. There’s no income tax on that money, either.

Don’t Wait Until it’s Too Late for Your Estate Planning

By Estate Planning, Wills

Don’t Wait Until it’s Too Late for Your Estate Planning

Estate planning is a critical component of financial planning that many people leave until it’s too late. While this is perfectly understandable—after all, most of us don’t really enjoy sitting around thinking about our own mortality—it’s also extremely unfortunate. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to do it. And estate planning isn’t just about securing your legacy or carrying your wishes forward. It’s also, frankly, about saving your family a pile of misery. They’re already going to be (hopefully) mourning your loss. Don’t burden them with the expensive, difficult, and sometimes years-long labor of sorting out your estate on top of their grief. 

Even for high-net-worth individuals, estate planning can be fairly straightforward. But no matter how simple your wishes (or your assets), you do need to bring in outside help. Obviously, for people with large families, complex bequests, or multiple significant assets, the process gets more complicated. That’s no excuse to procrastinate.

To draw up the necessary legal documents, you need to see a lawyer. Only a lawyer can draw up legal documents. Don’t trust any non-lawyer who says they can provide them for you. Your financial planner might ask to review these documents for you—this is fairly common. However, if they are not lawyers, they don’t necessarily know what they should be looking for other than to see that you have the documents in place. Of course, you may not be able to tell that either. Most good lawyers who do not practice estate planning law will not even write wills for themselves! 

Some people advocate using computer software to write your estate planning documents. There is cheap legal software out there that seems pretty good and is fairly easy to use. Should you use it? I would advise against it. How do you know that the law hasn’t changed since the software was written? How do you know that your situation fits exactly into those incorporated within the software? The software will guide you down a single path by asking you specific questions as you fill out forms. What if there is something outside that narrow path that would make you really, really happy? You’ll never know, because your needs are outside the program’s scope. 

Every so often you see some statistic about the number of adults walking around without a will. I have seen estimates ranging from 40–70%. Don’t be one of them! The amount it will cost to finalize your will depends a great deal on the complexity of your assets and wishes. For a single individual with simple requests and a fairly small estate, the amount will probably start around $500-$1,000. Wills for larger estates or involving more complicated bequests might cost up to a few thousand dollars. But keep in mind this is ideally a one-time, (relatively) small investment, and it will save your family a tremendous amount of trouble—and money—in the long run.

Life, Liberty, and Tax-Advantaged Opportunities #munis #529s #RothIRA #IRA #HSA

By Taxes

Americans are passionate about taxes. In recent years, Americans have spent more on taxes than on food, clothing, and housing combined.1 The Tax Foundation estimates Americans will pay $3.4 trillion to the federal government and $1.8 trillion to state and local governments in 2019.2

Selecting investment vehicles that emphasize tax-advantaged opportunities could help reduce the amount of taxes you owe. There are tax-free and tax-advantaged options available. Here are a few to consider:

Municipal bonds, also known as munis, help provide funding for schools, hospitals, utilities, and other projects. The interest is free of federal income tax. Some bonds may pay interest that also is exempt from state income tax. Generally, this is true if you reside in the state issuing the bond.3

At first glance, munis may seem less attractive than corporate bonds or Treasuries because municipal bonds generally offer lower yields than taxable bonds of similar maturity and quality. For instance, a muni yielding 3.3 percent may not be as enticing as a taxable bond yielding 4.8 percent, until you take taxes into account.4

Imagine: an investor in the 35 percent tax bracket has a choice between investing in a federally tax-free municipal bond yielding 3.3 percent or a taxable bond yielding 4.8 percent. Which will provide more income after taxes?4

In this example, the tax-free bond provides more income. Because the investor is in a higher tax bracket, he is able to benefit from owing no federal taxes on the muni bond. As a result, the lower yielding bond delivers more income to the investor than the taxable bond.5

In this case, the investor would need to find a taxable bond of the same maturity and quality yielding 5.08 percent to earn as much income as a muni bond would deliver.*5

Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are tax-advantaged accounts. Owners pay taxes on contributions made to Roth IRAs but the account earnings grow tax-free, and every penny earned can be withdrawn tax-free, as long as certain conditions are met.**6

When investors start saving early, Roth IRAs have the potential to offer substantial tax-free income later in life. If a 27-year-old saved $100 a month until full retirement age (67), and earned 6 percent a year on average, the account would be worth more than $198,000 ($48,000 saved and $150,000 in earnings). All of it could be withdrawn tax-free.6

Another Roth IRA advantage is investors don’t have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a Roth IRA at age 70½. As long as an owner has held an account for five or more years, the beneficiary who inherits the Roth can take tax-free distributions, too. (Beneficiaries are subject to RMDs.)6

Roth retirement plan contributions are an option in some workplace retirement plans. Talk with your company’s human resources group to find out whether Roth contributions are allowed. Contributions to Roth plan accounts are made with after-tax dollars, but any earnings grow tax-free and distributions are tax-free, just as they are for Roth IRAs. An important difference is RMDs must be taken from Roth plan accounts at age 70½.7

Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, offer Americans a way to save for current and future healthcare expenses in tax-advantaged accounts. You can open an HSA as long as you participate in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). It’s a choice worth considering because HSAs have a triple tax advantage:8

HSA contributions are tax-deductible, interest and earnings in the account grow tax-free, and distributions are tax-free when taken for qualifying medical costs.

HSAs are different than Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). You own the HSA and, if you don’t spend the money in the account, you keep it until you need it. The account is yours, even when you change employers. Employers own FSAs and unspent funds are often forfeited at year-end.8

Fidelity estimated the average 65-year-old couple, retiring in 2019, would need about $285,000 for medical expenses during retirement, excluding long-term care. The estimate assumes the couple does not have employer-provided retiree healthcare coverage and does qualify for Medicare.9

529 College Savings Plans are a tax-advantage way to save for education. States and educational institutions sponsor 529 plans. Some offer prepaid tuition plans and others offer education savings plans. Contributions are considered to be gifts for tax purposes, so a couple could contribute up to $30,000 for each child each year.10, 11

Anyone can open and contribute to a 529 College Savings Plan, including parents, grandparents, or friends. Contributions are not federally tax deductible, but earnings grow tax-free and withdrawals used to pay qualified school expenses are tax-free.12

Account holders can withdraw up to $10,000 in tuition expenses for private, public, or religious elementary and secondary schools per year, per beneficiary.12

In addition to the options described here, there are many investment strategies and opportunities that deliver tax advantages to investors. If one of your goals is to pay as little as possible in taxes, there are a variety of ways to do it. Give us a call to see how we can help.

* Tax equivalent yields are found by dividing the tax-free yield by 1 minus tax bracket. In this case 3.3 percent / 1-35 percent = 5.08 percent.5

** As long as you have owned the Roth account for five years and you’re age 59½ or older, you can take distributions anytime you want without owing federal taxes.6














Where There’s a Will, There’s a Plan

By Estate Planning, Food for thought, Wills

Throughout history, people have made inheritance choices that are inexplicable to others. In 1926, Harry Houdini left his magical equipment to his brother, his pulled-from-the-hat rabbits to the children of friends, and a series of random words to his wife. The words were a code that would let her know when he was in touch from the afterlife.1

In 1968, Quaker State Refining Corporation heir Eleanor Ritchey left $4.5 million to her dogs. She had 150 of them. The will was contested and, by the time it settled, the value of the estate had increased to $14 million. The 73 surviving dogs received $9 million.2

Radio and television funnyman Jack Benny set aside a significant sum of money so that his wife would receive one long-stemmed red rose every day for the rest of her life.3

In a similar vein, in 1970, Janis Joplin bequeathed $2,500 “so my friends can get blasted after I’m gone.” Today, the amount would be equal to more than $16,000.4

Don’t follow Prince’s example

End-of-life planning can be complicated and a little scary. That may be why so many people don’t do it. After musician Prince Rogers Nelson died without a will in 2016, Gallup conducted a poll and found the majority of Americans don’t have wills. Gallup reported:5

• 32 percent of Americans age 65 and older don’t have a will
• 86 percent of Americans age 30 or younger don’t have a will
• 45 percent of Americans with income of $75,000 or more don’t have a will
• 39 percent of Americans with post-graduate education don’t have a will

Not everyone has an estate like Prince, but we can all learn from the unenviable state of his estate. In 2018, The Washington Post reported:6

“This month, the six heirs filed a heavily redacted motion challenging a potential ‘entertainment transaction’ they claim would be ‘an embarrassment to Prince’s legacy.’ And three half siblings have filed a petition questioning the estate administrator’s high legal fees, noting concern that ‘at the end…there will be little, if anything left to pass on to the Heirs.’ Draining the estate is also a fear for former colleagues who yearn to see Prince’s quiet dedication to philanthropy continued.”

Have a will and a plan

Clearly, procrastinating about writing a will or securing an estate plan is not unusual. There is a downside to procrastination, though. The momentary relief it provides often is overwhelmed by negative feelings, as well as heightened anxiety and stress.7

If you ever wake in the middle of the night troubled about what will happen to your children if something happens to you, or concerned your ex may be the beneficiary named on your 401(k) plan, or worried your spouse will be able to keep the house when you’re gone, it’s time to put a plan in place.

There are a number of reasons why people avoid estate planning, writes elder law attorney Stuart Furman in the Senior Living Blog. They include:8

• Estate planning isn’t easy. It requires thoughtful decisions about who should receive what and why.
• People don’t want to pay a financial planner or an attorney to draft and execute an estate plan, even if the plan will save money in taxes and legal costs over time.
• People fear giving too much authority to others, such as adult children who could make poor decisions about a parent’s care.
• People avoid discussions about death. No one likes to look potential mental incapacity or mortality in the face.

One way to get past some of these obstacles is to work with a trusted financial advisor who can coach you through the process. An advisor can help with many aspects of planning to make sure the plan you want is the one put into place. A good advisor can:

• Ask questions that will help clarify your thinking about how to divide your estate
• Recommend options that help meet the goals you set for your estate
• Facilitate meetings to communicate the plan to your family and other heirs
• Coordinate with your attorney, accountant, or any other advisors to put your plan in place
• Review the plan and make recommendations required over time

Even if you don’t wake up in the middle of the night, it’s a good idea to have a will so any assets left behind go to the people or organizations you choose – and not to legal fees, taxes, and heirs chosen by a probate judge.9

If you would like to learn more about the estate planning process or have a will and estate plan that have not been updated recently, get in touch. We’re happy to help.


Do you Have a Plan for your Digital Assets? You should.

By Estate Planning, Food for thought

Digital Assets

Digital assets – are they covered in your current Will?

According to various surveys more than half of all American adults don’t even have a Will. So by default, most people haven’t planned for their digital assets.

If you have a Will, you need it to specify that your executor can control your digital assets. It means accessing, managing, storing and retrieving them.

We usually think of digital assets in terms of email and social media accounts. Those are important, but it also pertains to cryptocurrency.

If you have any Cryptocurrency, (think Bitcoin or Ethereum, or any of the many others), you need someone to be able to access those accounts when you die. You need your Executor to be able to do that, or you could just lose those investments, and that would be terrible. Also, your Executor needs to be able to access your other digital assets and those might include other types of currencies.

Again, make sure that you have a Will in the first place, and that when you have a Will, you give your Executor power over your digital assets so they can do what they need to. Everything is digital these days, you can’t die without it.

My name is Mike Garry, and my company is Yardley Wealth Management. We are a fiduciary, fee-only financial planning, and wealth management firm in Newtown, Pennsylvania. (That’s in Bucks County). Our law firm is Yardley Estate Planning, LLC and is in the same place. We only do Estate Planning work and I am licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

If you’d like to talk about this or anything else, please reach out: 267-573-1019, [email protected] or @michaeljgarry

Click on the hyperlinks for the: Yardley Wealth Management and Yardley Estate Planning YouTube channels.

For our other written content:

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2019 Estate and Gift Tax Update

By Estate Planning, Food for thought

2019 Estate and Gift Tax Update

For 2019, the Federal Estate and Gift Tax exemption amount has been raised to $11,400,000, from $11,200,000 due to an inflation adjustment.

This is the amount each person can pass before owing any federal estate taxes. If you are married, you and your spouse can each claim the exemption for a total of $22,800,000. It means that very few people need fear the estate tax.

In 2018, of the many millions of people who died, there were about 1,890 taxable estates according to the Tax Policy Center.

By comparison, in 2013 the exemption amount was $5,000,000 per person and there were about 4,687 taxable estates.

In the year 2000 the estate exemption was only $675,000 and there were about 52,000 taxable estates that year.


Do You Know What a QCD is? Should You?

By Estate Planning

Do you know what a QCD is? It’s a Qualified Charitable Distribution.

It is taking your Required Minimum Distribution from your IRA if you’re over 70 1/2 and having the money sent directly to a charity or charities of your choice.

When you do that, you don’t get taxed on that money coming out because it’s a charitable distribution. It does not increase your adjusted gross income like a regular IRA distribution would.

You have to be 70 1/2 and the money has to go directly from your IRA to the charity, so the custodian of your account has to send it via the instructions you make to the custodian on its form.

It’s a little complicated. You can’t go above your RMD for it. You need to use it for your RMD. The limit is $100,000 per person per year and it’s not per IRA. So, if you have multiple IRAs you could do some from different IRAs. Finally, it can only come from an IRA or an inherited IRA, not a 401K or a 403B.

Again, QCD, Qualified Charitable Distribution may come in handy this year now that there are higher amounts of standard deductions on taxes and it’s a little bit harder to itemize or less likely that people would itemize. If you make a QCD it will reduce your taxes even if you don’t itemize because it never counts as income in the first place.

Mike Garry, Yardley Wealth Management. We are a fiduciary, fee-only financial planning, and wealth management firm in Newtown, Pennsylvania. That’s in Bucks County. If you’d like to talk about this or anything else, please reach out: 267-573-1019, [email protected] or @michaeljgarry

Should I use Software for my Estate Planning Needs?

By Estate Planning, Food for thought, Wills

Something that we’ve seen in the last couple of months that I’d like to point out, is that we’ve had three different set of married clients come in, having had done their prior Wills using software. They all used different packages, but they used software.

While it’s tempting to do that because the price tag is pretty cheap (I think they paid like fifty or seventy-five dollars each) and it’s tempting to do it in a pinch, I would be cautious. The software doesn’t know your entire situation within the context of the estate planning landscape and it doesn’t know the practical realities of the decisions you are making.

A lot of the decisions that clients need to make, it’s hard for clients to know what the repercussions are when they are going through the workflow of the software program.

I’m not bashing software, because we actually use software to create and draft our documents. We also have over 20 years of practical experience, so we know what will happen with the different choices clients make. We can talk to clients and guide them as they make some difficult decisions and let them know things that they’re not thinking about, the practical realities of administering their Wills or dealing with their advanced directives or any of the other documents. I’m not bashing software, but I’d be wary about using it for documents like these.

Don’t Die Without a Will

By Estate Planning, Wills

The other night I was out, and I heard people talking about the fact that, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin died without a Will; and they thought that that meant that her money went to the state. It does not.

I think that the problem is that the term for it is really an unusual term. What happens if you die without a Will is that your stuff goes by intestate succession. So each state lays out its own rules for how your stuff would be divided if you died without a Will, and it typically goes to family members like spouses and children and parents.

It’s a little bit different in the different states, but it doesn’t go to the state. Even though it doesn’t, you should still have a Will, because what if you don’t want your spouse, your kids, or your parents or whoever to get your stuff?

You need to take the time to figure out and settle your affairs. You need to figure out what you want to happen and make it happen. Don’t be like the Queen of Soul and countless other celebrities, that didn’t plan; it’s really a shame.