Time is flying by in 2021, and is that really such a bad thing? If you’re a small business owner, you know that the past year-and-a-half has been difficult. Though there are government programs that have helped keep small businesses afloat, things are not completely back to normal.
Luckily, there are various legal ways you can protect your business assets, even in these troubled times. Use this guide as a reflection tool. It’s almost mid-year—how are things looking for your business? What steps have you taken to protect what you have built?
What the Surveys Are Saying
Bill.com conducted a survey of small business owners, asking them about their forecast for 2021. The survey found that, while a majority of SBOs are optimistic, they are also making changes in how they run their businesses. 75% are introducing new products and methods of conducting business as we enter the second year of COVID-19.
New innovation is a necessity for an SBO. However, it is, obviously, not the only necessity. Estate plans are a must-have. In the next section, we’ll discuss several key components of small business estate planning.
Estate Planning for Your Small Business
If you’re a small business owner, you probably have a million things to focus on each day. It’s imperative to carve out time in your schedule, however busy, to create an estate plan. Around one-third of small business owners have no estate plan (Fundera), which means they have no written-down plan for succession.
A will and power of attorney are two basic must-have documents for any SBO. A will states how you want your business to be distributed (succeeded, liquidated, sold, etc.) after you die. A power of attorney will handle financial and business transactions, such as paying bills, handling insurance claims, and such, if you are unable to do so yourself.
This is where it is especially important to hire an attorney, as tax laws are always in flux. Estate planning attorneys might be able to help minimize estate taxes, which are an issue for estates exceeding a certain amount of money (currently, $11.18 million). Other tax considerations include withdrawal of 401(K)s, IRAs, and/or other retirement accounts.
Buy-sell agreements are optional and really only apply to businesses that have multiple owners. Buy-sell agreements are legal documents that specify who can purchase an owner’s share of the business. BSAs also specify the conditions and price of the sale. This document lays out what should happen if one of the owners dies, retires, or becomes disabled.
Insurance is one of the most vital tools an SBO can possess. While business insurance is obvious, life and disability are two other insurance policies you should think about. Life insurance coverage will provide your family (or another named beneficiary, like your business) with income when you die. The insurance can also guarantee income to your business, keeping the company operating when you are gone.
Disability insurance will provide coverage in the event of a short- or long-term disability. Again, it will give your business much-needed cash flow. You can purchase these policies with your family and/or business as the beneficiary.
Succession planning specifies exactly how you, your company, and family will prepare for the ownership transition. Succession plans are written documents that lay out what will happen to your company when you die. They include much of the same information as business plans, just with an added section on succession. You’ll want to keep the succession plan document and will consistent with one another, so as to prevent expensive litigation or court battles down the line.
Family-owned businesses often face a host of issues that other small businesses don’t. For example, one child of a business owner might want to take over the business, while the other doesn’t. There also might be concerns about keeping family business assets within the bloodline. An estate planning attorney, as well as a financial advisor, will be able to help you find legal pathways to structuring your business estate plan in the way that best fits you and your family.
Updating the Plan
You’ll want to update your estate plan regularly. When you experience major life or business changes, or when tax laws (both federal and state) change, you’ll want to take another look at your documents.
This guide isn’t the be-all, end-all of protecting your business, but it should hopefully give you a chance to reflect on what you have done and have yet to do for your company. Contact an estate planning attorney to learn more and visit our website for details on how we can help.
Mother’s Day has been around since the early 1900s, and we’ve cherished it for over a century. In 1907, a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, and announced her intention to create Mother’s Day as a way for all maternal figures to be celebrated for all they do for their children.
It didn’t take long before Mother’s Day became a full-fledged holiday, and, every year, we celebrate it with flowers, brunches, and spa days. But, what if the gift for this holiday was a little different?
Though you shouldn’t skimp on all the usual Mother’s Day presents, consider setting up an estate planning meeting for your mom. This gift might seem a little unorthodox, but it will have long-term benefits that will last for years to come.
How Estate Planning Can Help Moms
Estate planning has several key elements. Though there are a million and one documents and legal tools that can go into an estate plan, this article will cover the basics. If your mom needs any of these key documents, contacting an estate planning attorney will be the perfect gift this season.
Last Will & Testament
When you think of estate planning, the idea of a “last will and testament” is probably what you picture. Last wills and testaments date back thousands of years, and they are still an important aspect of estate planning to this day.
The will outlines what you want to happen to your assets after you pass away. Though a bit morbid for a Mother’s Day gift, it’s far less dreary than dying without a will (AKA, dying “intestate”). In that case, the state takes over your assets in the probate process. The state’s division of assets focuses on creditor repayment, which is likely far different from what your mom would want to have happen to her most prized possessions.
Drawing up a will is not difficult, but it’s best to have an attorney do it, as there are a lot of minor technicalities that an untrained eye can overlook. Wills also do not have to be updated constantly. The rule of thumb is to check them every three to five years or after a major life event.
Living Will & Healthcare Power of Attorney
A living will is also called an advanced medical directive. It outlines what you want doctors and nurses to do or not do if you are seriously ill and incapable of communicating your wishes yourself. A living will often relates to personal decisions about life support and life-sustaining medical intervention.
A healthcare power of attorney, by contrast, is a trusted individual that you appoint to manage your healthcare affairs if you’re unable to do so yourself. This healthcare POA signs a legal document swearing to act in your best interests if you need someone to make your healthcare decisions for you.
So, why are these legal tools important? Being sick or incapacitated means you are experiencing one of the most vulnerable points of your life. Having a healthcare directive and power of attorney ensure that you (or your mom) are well-taken-care-of, even in such a diminished state.
Financial Power of Attorney
Similar to a healthcare power of attorney, a financial power of attorney is a trusted individual who signs a legal document swearing to act in your best interests. This financial POA exercises his or her decision-making powers as they pertain to your finances. Should you become seriously ill, the financial POA handles investment decisions, bill-paying, and other major and minor financial matters.
If your mom attends an estate planning session, it’s likely that the document pertaining to the financial POA will be created at the same time as the last will and testament. It is especially important to nominate a financial POA if there are a lot of financial assets or specifications regarding the estate.
Last but certainly not least is a trust. A trust is a legal document that transfers legal title of property to a trustee, who holds it for the benefit of a third-party beneficiary. Trusts do not have to go through probate court, and you can set restrictions and guidelines for how you want beneficiaries and trustees to manage your assets.
A trust is an especially good idea for those with sizable insurance policies, large estates, and/or a lot of kids. If these characteristics apply to your mom, talk to an estate planning attorney about setting up this legal entity.
We want to protect the ones we love and, of course, our moms are no exception. Estate planning is a long-term gift with long-term benefits. Consider setting up a meeting for your mother this holiday and visit our website to learn more about our services.
Florida does a lot of things differently, and legal affairs are no exception. One area in which Florida differs from other states is probate. Probate court is the legal mechanism by which a judge distributes the assets of an estate after the estate’s owner has died. The judge might distribute these according to an authenticated will, or, if the owner dies intestate, probate court can distribute the assets as it sees fit, keeping in mind the goal of repaying creditors.
The text governing Florida probate is contained in Chapters 731-735 of the Florida Statutes. Florida Probate Rules, Parts I and II, contain the rules for Florida Probate Court. In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of the Floridian probate process.
The Types of Probate Administration
When talking about Florida probate court, there are two main types of administration to know: Formal and Summary. Formal administration is the court-supervised, traditional form of probate that begins with a petition to open and an appointment of what Florida calls a “PR” or “Personal Representative.” In other states, the PR is known as an “executor” or “administrator.” This type of administration is required when the estate owner has been deceased for two years or less, and the probate estate’s value is above $75,000.
Small administration, by contrast, occurs, when the decedent has been dead for over two years, and the estate’s value is under $75,000. Any beneficiary or person the decedent has named a PR can act as the petitioner for summary administration, filling out a form to get the process going.
There is a third type of administration in Florida, but it is not common, nor is it widely applicable. This administration is known as a “Disposition of Personal Property without Administration.” The DPPA releases the assets of the deceased to the individual who paid the deceased’s final medical bills and/or for the deceased’s funeral. Again, the circumstances in which a DPAA applies are very limited.
What Counts as Probate Assets?
The most common types of probate assets include bank or investment accounts owned solely by the decedent (meaning that there are no other names on the account[s]) and life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts, or annuity contracts that are payable to the decedents estate. Real estate that has been titled in the decedent’s name also counts as probate assets. This list isn’t exhaustive, but those three are the most common probate assets the court sees.
Examples of non-probate assets include trust property, beneficiary designations, joint property owned with rights of survivorship or through tenancy in the entirety, and life estate deeds. These items do not require probate court to distribute them.
Why is Probate Necessary?
If the decedent dies intestate (without a will), probate is required to transfer ownership of the decedent’s assets. It is also required to complete the financial affairs of the decedent even after they die. If the procedures are followed correctly, creditors will be paid off during the process, and beneficiaries will be given the assets they are owed.
Overview of the Process
To start, a petition to open proceedings must be followed by the circuit court clerk. Filing occurs in the county where the decedent lived when they died. The court will charge a filing fee. The filing fee varies depending on the county, but you should expect to pay $200-$500.
Every case is different, but the process will usually include establishing the validity of a last will and testament. A valid will in Florida must be in writing, signed by the testator (the name for the person writing the will), and the testator’s signature must be in the presence of two (2) witnesses. Then, the two witnesses have to sign in the testator’s presence, as well as the presence of each other. When the testator dies, the will must be “proven.” You prove a will by presenting evidence to the court that the will was executed properly. Some wills are self-proving, which is allowed under §732.503 of the Florida Statutes.
After the will is proven, letters of administration will appoint a PR. The decedent’s assets will be gathered and listed, and outstanding debts will be paid. After the debts are repaid, the remainder of the assets will be distributed to the heirs at law or beneficiaries, depending on the situation.
Contact an estate planning attorney to learn more about this court-supervised process, including ways around it. There are financial tools at your disposal that allow for the transfer of assets before death, so your family doesn’t have to go through the Florida probate process.
Everyone’s financial situation is different, so it can be a little difficult to determine exactly how your financial situation will be affected by the tax changes in place for 2021. However, what is important is knowing what these changes are, as there’s a good chance you might end up with more money in your pocket at the end of the day.Changes range from deadline adjustments to increases in income tax brackets and deductions. A lot has changed, and it’s important to be aware of changes to not only maximize your savings, but also reduce mistakes. No one likes to have the IRS contact them about fixing paperwork. As always, you can contact a tax attorney if you need assistance.
Big Changes to Note
COVID has caused some pretty big changes, including this main one: the tax deadline has moved. The IRS extended the federal tax return deadline to May 17, 2021. Another big change revolves around the standard deduction, which increased to $12,400 for singles and $24,800 for couples filing jointly. Income tax brackets have also gotten an increase, thanks to inflation.
Below are some other changes of which to be aware.
Standard Deduction Changes
When you’re doing your taxes, you have the option to take itemized or standard deductions. These deductions lower your taxable income. The former is more of a pain that the latter, but, if itemized deductions save you more money, then the hassle is worth it.
Note that the standard deduction has changed. If you’re single, it has changed from $12,200 to $12,400. Married filing jointly has changed from $24,400 to $24,800. Married filing separately has changed from $12,200 to $12,400, and head of household has changed from $18,350 to $18,650. Other deductions, including charitable, medical, business, EITC, and child tax credit, have seen changes as well.
Changes to Other Deductions
The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security) Act is responsible for many of the changes below.
With the CARES Act, you can deduct up to 100% of your AGI (Adjusted Gross Income), in qualified charitable donations if you itemize deductions. If you take the standard, you can write off up to $300 of donations made in cash.
Medical bills are nothing new, but the pandemic made them even more prominent, as costly COVID-19 hospital visits put many Americans into the red. You can deduct medical expenses over 7.5% of your AGI, if you’re itemizing your deductions. So, if you make $150,000 per year, you can deduct out-of-pocket medical costs above $11,250.
Self-employed workers know that they can claim a lot of deductions on their tax returns, such as home offices and travel expenses. However, if you were working remotely, you are not able to claim this home office tax deduction. It is only reserved for those who are self-employed.
The Earned Income Tax Credit helps out people earning up to $56,844 during the tax year. 20% of taxpayers don’t file for the EITC, which is crazy, as it can save you a lot of money. Make sure to file for the EITC if you earn up to that $56,844 mark.
Child Tax Credit
Families can claim a tax credit of a maximum of $2,000 per qualified child. The income limits for claiming the credit are $200,000 for singles and $400,000 for married parents. The credit is refundable, which means families can get up to $1,400 for each kid as a refund. The American Rescue Plan will change this number in 2021, increasing the child credit to $3,000-$3,600 depending on how old the kid is.
COVID: What’s Taxable?
Plans like the CARES Act provided a lot of aid for Americans struggling to pay bills. However, which of this aid is taxable, and which is not?
If you received any of the three stimulus checks sent out, you’ll be happy to know that that money is not taxable income. It’s treated the same way as a refundable tax credit. Consider it an advance on your refund.
Paycheck Protection Program loans are designed to be forgiven, as long as you used them on business expenses. Money from the PPP loans that you used to pay off your expenses can be deducted from AGI. But, make sure you fill out your Small Business Administration loan forgiveness application. Otherwise, you won’t be off the hook to repay the PPP loan.
The first $10,200 of unemployment benefits are tax-free, as long as your household income is under $150,000. This means that you might owe less than you originally thought on your taxes. If you have unemployment benefits of over $10,200, you have to report any excess as taxable income. For example, if you got $11,000 in unemployment benefits, you must declare that $800.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does hit on some of the biggest changes for the upcoming tax season. Our recommendation is that you contact a tax attorney or other tax professional to make sure you’re doing your taxes correctly and maximizing your savings.
Stay informed and read more useful facts on our website.
April is Stress Awareness Month (ironic, considering that both April Fool’s Day and Tax Day fall during April). Stress can have an enormously negative effect on your body, causing problems ranging from high blood pressure to depression. Financial problems are one of the main causes of stress.
In 2019, before COVID-19, 70% of Americans said that they were in financial trouble. It stands to reason that that number has only increased since the pandemic hit, causing financial hardship for millions of Americans and their families. Financial stress ranges from debt repayment, high costs of living, and lack of emergency savings to overall poor financial health. In this article, we’ll discuss possible ways to reduce financial stress.
What Happens When You Die?
When you die, your assets will be distributed, whether to your creditors or to family and loved ones. If you don’t want your estate to go through the hassle of probate court, considering setting up trusts as a way to avoid that process. Whichever financial vehicle you choose, you should make sure that it is comprehensive, providing both a way to distribute your assets to your loved ones and satisfy debts with creditors.
If you die intestate, which means you have no estate plan, your estate will go to probate court, and a judge will pay off creditors and give your family what is left at the end of the repayment process. Probate likely will add a lot of stress to your family, as the entire ordeal is quite unpleasant. To avoid that potential source of stress, contact an attorney to set up a comprehensive estate plan.
Protecting Your Business from Creditors
No one is immune to a lawsuit, no matter how careful someone thinks they are America is a litigious society, and millions of lawsuits are filed every year. Asset protection for business owners is something that every single business owner, from a huge corporation to a small mom-and-pop shop, needs.
Consider changing the structure of your business to a corporation to protect yourself from personal liability. Assets receivable financing, trusts, and insurance are other ways to safeguard your company against creditors. Insurance is especially vital if you are a doctor, lawyer, or other professional. Check with an attorney to make sure you’re doing as much as you can to protect yourself within your state’s particular laws.
Fixing Tax Issues
A huge source of stress for Americans is running afoul of the IRS. IRS penalties range from fines to imprisonment, and it’s fair to say that the U.S. has a healthy fear of the Internal Revenue Service. However, all is not lost if you owe back taxes or make a mistake.
If you owe back taxes, still make sure that you file your tax return by the deadline. Immediately contact the IRS to discuss payment options. The IRS will respond far better to someone who is reaching out proactively than to someone trying to hide from them. Whatever your issue, call 800-829-1040 to speak with a representative. You will likely find that the IRS is far more flexible than their fearsome reputation. The worst thing you can do is try to ignore or avoid the situation.
Dealing with Ill Family Members
A sick or elderly family member puts a huge strain on family members, especially if that family member is unwilling or unable to take charge of their financing. If you’re in that position, try to convince them to at least set up a power of attorney. This power of attorney will oversee financial and/or healthcare decisions if the elderly or ill person is too incapacitated to handle these decisions themselves.
Another important financial document for a sick or elderly family member is a healthcare directive, which will communicate end-of-life wishes to the doctors and nurses in charge of their care. Even if the patient cannot voice their wishes themselves, the healthcare directive will act in their stead.
This list is by no means exhaustive. We all lead different lives, and our sources of financial stress vary from person to person. Hopefully, this article at least covers some of your financial health stressors. As always, you can contact an attorney to learn more about protecting your financial well-being.
Visit our website to find out more, stay informed and reduce stress when you know how to take charge of your financial future.
Corporate law is a complicated field, and there is a lot to know about this sector of law. If you’re considering forming a corporation, you will definitely need to hire an attorney. It’s not advisable to try to go through the process yourself, as there are so many technicalities. You want to do it correctly the first time to avoid excess hassle and cost.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the benefits (and drawbacks) of forming a corporation. We’ll go through the basic steps of forming a corporation, providing an overview of what the process will look like. It might seem confusing, but corporate formation could have excellent advantages for your business.
Benefits to Forming a Corporation
The main reason that people form corporations is to limit their liability. If you own a sole proprietorship or a partnership, you (and your partner[s]) are on the hook for the business’ debts and liabilities. In many cases, creditors will go after your personal assets when collecting on business debts.
Personal asset attacks are almost always not an option for creditors if you have a corporation. Advantages include personal liability protection, easier access to capital, and business security and continuity.
Drawbacks to Forming a Corporation
As with anything, there are drawbacks, even in the face of the aforementioned benefits. Disadvantages to corporate formation include how time consuming the process is. There are also rigid formalities and protocols to follow, and corporations are subject to what’s known as “double taxation.”
“Double taxation” occurs when the corporation’s profits are taxed, and then the profits are taxed to the shareholders after being distributed as dividends. There is no tax deduction when distributing dividends to shareholders, nor can shareholder deduct any of the corporation’s losses from their taxable income.
The IRS Definition
The Internal Revenue Service describes corporate formation as a process by which prospective shareholders exchange property or money (or both) in exchange for capital stock in a corporation. The corporation takes the same deductions as a sole proprietorship when calculating its taxable income, but it can also take special deductions.
Corporate Formation: A Step-by-Step
Though by no means exhaustive, and every single step has sub-steps of which to be aware, this step-by-step corporate formation guide is an overview of the process, giving you some idea of what to expect. In general, you will have to follow the steps below.
First, you should hire a transactional lawyer. This lawyer will walk you through the process of forming a company. Laws vary by state, and they are always changing, so hiring an experienced attorney will get your formation process off to a great start.
Second, you must appoint a registered against. This individual can be a person or a company—called a registered corporate agent—and he, she, or it will accept the service of process on behalf of the corporation. If your corporation is party to a lawsuit, the agent will get the mail. The agent should file the articles of incorporation. After these articles are filed, you can move on to the next step.
Third, you must create the corporation’s bylaws and appoint the corporation’s directors. The bylaws are rules and regulations your corporation must follow. These laws lay out the responsibility of shareholders, officers, and directors, and ensure there is no confusion or blanks left missing. In some cases, banks might want to see your bylaws before giving you a loan or letting you open a corporate account.
Fourth, it’s time to issue stock. Shareholders are entitled to stock when they contribute cash, property, and/or services to the business. They have an ownership interest. Shares are classified as securities, which usually fall under state and federal law pertaining to them.
Fifth, you should file anything else that’s necessary with your secretary of state. An attorney will help you clean up loose ends and get in documents before the deadline. Annual reports are an example of required documents you must submit in Florida.
Sixth and finally, you should apply for an EIN (employer identification number), which is sort of like a Social Security number for your corporation. You’ll use your EIN when you file corporate taxes and apply for bank accounts. Filing usually takes a month, though you can apply online and get an EIN almost immediately. You should file any other necessary IRS forms at this point, too.
Once again, you should hire an attorney to complete this process. An attorney will also be able to advise you on whether the process is right for your business, considering your industry, financial situation, tax liabilities, and other pertinent information.
Visit WFP’s website to find out more about corporate formation.
Have you ever wondered where the phrase “Luck of the Irish” comes from? Historians have revealed that the phrase isn’t as old as some may think—it’s not as old as St. Patrick’s Day itself, a holiday first recorded in 1601. “Luck of the Irish” dates back to the 1850s, when gold and silver mining was in its heyday. Some of the most successful, famous miners were Irish or Irish-American. The Irish ability to find gold led to the use of “Luck of the Irish.”
In law, we believe there’s no such thing as luck, only strong preparation and careful planning. Take your luck into your own hands through careful asset protection.
What is Bad Luck?
Obviously, there is no legal definition of “bad luck,” and we doubt attempting to come up with one would hold weight in court. However, there are certainly some negative events that might lead you to feel blighted. We’ll cover ways to prepare for these unlucky times, including death, sickness, and accidents and lawsuits, below.
There’s no way to prevent death, but you might have thought about what will happen to your assets after you die. There might be important things that you own that you want to keep in the family (and out of probate court).
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament will not get you out of probate court—it still has to pass through the court process—but it is often peoples’ starting point when they think about how to structure their affairs after they die. A last will and testament is a final document arranging your asset division.
In Florida, for a last will and testament to be valid, it must meet several requirements. These include:
(1) The will must be in writing.
(2) The person making the will (known as the testator) must sign it.
(3) The testator’s signature must be at the bottom of the will.
(4) The testator must sign the will while in the presence of two witnesses.
(5) The two witnesses must sign the will in the presence of each other and the testator.
As with anything in law, there are a million sub-rules for each of those five categories, which is why it is important for you to hire an attorney. The attorney will make sure the will is compliant with the law, avoiding any problems in court when it comes time to validate the will.
A trust is a three-party relationship. You, the donor, transfer assets and/or property into a trust. The trust is controlled by the trustee until you give the trustee permission to hand over the assets to a third party, the beneficiary. The beneficiary is the final person you intend to receive the assets. A trust is a way to avoid probate court.
If it’s not death that’s considered the unluckiest of ailments, sickness is certainly a strong contender. And, if you’ve been alive in the past year, you know that sickness is everywhere. More than ever, it’s important to have safeguards set up in the case of illness. Examples of these safeguards include a healthcare directive and power of attorney.
A healthcare directive is a set of instructions for the doctors and nurses taking care of you if you are sick. You might have specific wishes for your care, and you will want to communicate these wishes, no matter how sick you are. A directive lays out these instructions in advance, protecting you even if you’re too incapacitated to tell the doctors and nurses what you want.
Power(s) of Attorney
A power of attorney is a trusted person that you place in charge of your financial and/or healthcare affairs in the event that you’re too sick to take care of yourself. This person will act as your agent, making decisions about your finances and healthcare until you recover.
Accidents and Lawsuits
Lawsuits can be the Grim Reaper for your personal assets. Personal asset protection is a way to place assets out of reach of creditors.
Personal Asset Protection
One common example of personal asset protection is the creation of an irrevocable trust. You place your assets into this trust, and they will be shielded from creditors and controlled by a trustee. You will not be able to remove the assets from the trust, but they will be safe from lawsuits and kept for your family.
Another common way to protect your personal assets is to purchase an umbrella policy. This “just in case” insurance policy provides more coverage than your regular auto or home policy in the event of personal injury (for example, if you are in a car accident or someone is injured on your property). Umbrella policies cost extra, but they will give you peace of mind, which is priceless.
As you can see, the way to have the “Luck of the Irish” is to simply be prepared. Bad things happen, and the best offense is a good defense. Contact an attorney for more information on boosting your own “luck” through careful estate planning.
Visit our website to get even more details on how to take cover.
When it comes to you and your family, anything financial is personal. “Personal Asset Protection” might be a term with which you’re not familiar, but it’s incredibly important. You’ve worked hard for your assets—your home, business, personal items, vehicle, and more—and the idea that these prized possessions could become fodder for a lawsuit is appalling.
In this article, we’ll give you an overview of Personal Asset Protection. As always, you’ll want to talk to a lawyer for more information if this sounds like something that interests you.
Why Do I Need This?
You might be wondering why you need Personal Asset Protection. You might feel like you’re not at risk for a lawsuit. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly true, as America is a very litigious society, and over forty million lawsuits are filed a year. Even simple things like fender benders or someone falling on your property can lead to a court case. And, if you’re slapped with a bill, you will want to make sure that your personal assets cannot be taken by creditors.
Though Personal Asset Protection has sometimes had a shady past (think of billionaires hiding their fortunes in offshore tax havens), there are legitimate, legal ways to keep your assets safe. Listed below are some of these means of protection.
Asset Protection Trusts
Several states allow Asset Protection Trusts, and they don’t require you to be a member of the state to buy one. These APTs are irrevocable, which means that, when you transfer assets into the trust, this transfer is permanent. The trust owns the assets and the trustee manages them. You won’t be able to take them out when the storm blows over, but the APT will protect your assets. APTs offer some of the strongest protection against lawsuits and creditors, as well as any other judgment against your estate.
Accounts Receivable Financing
Business owners might find that accounts receivable financing (ARF) comes in handy in warding off lawsuit damage. ARF helps avoid cash flow issues (such as those caused by a lawsuit). This financing is a type of arrangement in which a business receives financial capital related to its accounts receivable. Usually, this looks like a company receiving a loan on its outstanding invoices, but these ARF agreements can be structured as asset sales as well. ARF is a powerful tool for not only asset protection, but also growth.
Note that ARFs do have their downsides. They can be more expensive than traditional lenders’ funding, especially if your business’s credit rating is less than ideal. You might even end up losing money if your ARF is structured as an asset sale.
Family Limited Partnerships
Family limited partnerships (FLPs) are used for moving wealth between generations. Assets that you transfer into the FLP are transferred in exchange for shares in the FLP. The partnership owns the assets, so they are protected from lawsuits. But, you control the assets through the FLP. There won’t be a market for the partnership shares you receive, which means that their value will be less than that of the asset you exchanged for the shares.
A possible way you can protect your assets is by stripping their equity. Pull the equity from unprotectable assets and put them into assets that your state will protect. Real estate serves as a good example for this. Let’s say you own an apartment building, and you’re concerned about a lawsuit. If you take out a loan against the apartment building’s equity, you could put those funds into a protected asset like an annuity.
Possible Other Means of Protection
Below are a few other suggestions for Personal Asset Protection, including:
- Retirement Plans. You might be able to put more money into your retirement plan (assuming it’s employer-sponsored). That could provide protection from creditors.
- Spousal Transfer. You also can transfer important assets to your spouse’s name, but, obviously, this will go south if the two of your divorce.
- Insurance. Purchasing an umbrella insurance policy will grant you protection from personal injury claims above the usual coverage that your auto/home policies offer.
- Don’t Mix Assets. Avoid mixing personal and business assets. If your company is sued, separate assets could help avoid risk of personal loss and vice versa.
There is a lot to cover when it comes to Personal Asset Protection. Contact a lawyer for more details on how to keep your hard-earned assets safe in the event of a lawsuit.
Visit our website to learn more about Personal Asset Protection.
Well, we’re almost at April 15th again. “Tax Day” has been an unavoidable
“holiday” on the American calendar since 1861, when the Revenue Act of
1861 instituted federal income tax to help fund the Civil War. Though that Act was struck down, it got the ball rolling for what would become Tax Day. Though the date has changed over time, the purpose hasn’t.
If you’ve filed your taxes already, good for you. If you haven’t, consider this your wake-up call to get going. As you can see, tax law has been changing since the Civil War. Though some years don’t bring new changes, others do, and 2020-2021 is absolutely a “new change” year, mainly thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Changes to Deductions
There have been a lot of changes to the standard deductions. For 2020, single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, and head of householder filers are all going to see their standard deductions increase. Single filers can take a $12,400 deduction, MFJ a $24,800 deduction, MFS a $12,400 deduction, and HOH an $18,650 deduction. These are all increases of $200-$400 dollars.
Thanks to the CARES Act, which was legislation instituted to help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus, you can deduct up to 100% of your AGI in charitable donations if you itemize deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can write off $300 cash in charitable giving.
You can deduct medical expenses that are above 7.5% of your AGI if you are taking the itemized deduction.
Self-employed individuals can take a bunch of deductions, including one for home office and travel expenses. But, note: if you were working remotely, like millions of workers, you won’t be able to claim a home office deduction because you don’t count as self-employed.
This Earned Income Tax Credit applies to workers who earned up to $56,844 during 2020. Depending on your filing status, income, and if you have kids, you’ll be able to save a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. Only 20% of taxpayers actually claim this credit, which is crazy, because it really can save you money.
Families can claim up to $2,000 in tax credits per qualifying kid. This refundable credit means you can get up to $1,400 per kid as a tax credit. Depending on your situation, there might be other, small-print deductions you can (legally) squeeze in as well.
Stimulus Checks, PPP, and Unemployment Benefits
Did you get a stimulus check? Congrats! That is not taxable income. It is considered the same as a tax credit, for IRS purposes.
Payment Protection Program loans helped small businesses stay afloat. With the PPP, as long as these loans were used for business expenses, they were forgiven. Expenses paid with PPP loans can, in fact, be deducted from your income, but you have to apply for loan forgiveness to the SBA. If you don’t apply, you won’t be off the hook.
The good news ends here, as you will need to pay income taxes on your unemployment benefits. If you chose to not have taxes withheld from the benefits, you’ll have to pay quarterly estimated tax. Or, you’ll have to pay it all on Tax Day.
529 Plans and ESAs
Education was up in the air the past year, and money you took out of an education savings account of 529 plan might have been refunded by your college. If you got a refund, you have to put the money back in the account or use it to pay educational expenses. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay income tax on it and a penalty for withdrawal.
However, there are some new ways to use the ESA/529 for educational expenses. You can use your 529 to pay off fees, books, supplies, and even student loan debt.
Changes to Retirement Plans
What the CARES Act Did
The CARES Act permitted people to tak
e up to $100K out of their IRAs and 401(k)s until the end of 2020, with no early withdrawal penalty. Though this is a bad idea—penalty or no penalty—a lot of people did it. Though there was no penalty, you still have to pay income tax on whatever you withdrew.
Traditional IRA Holders
Traditional IRA holders know that they have to take money out of their account when they reach a certain age, and these withdrawals are known as RMDs. The SECURE Act pushed back that “certain age” from 70 ½ to 72. The CARES Act went further and permitted seniors to skip RMDs with no penalty.
The SECURE Act’s Effects
Another thing the SECURE Act did for Traditional IRA holders was allow them to continue putting money in their account past 70 ½ years old. Note that you still have to pay taxes on the money when you withdraw it.
April 15, 2021. That is the date that you have to have your information in. If you make a mistake, don’t panic, as the IRS will try to work with you to correct the error. However, don’t be afraid to hire a tax professional or tax lawyer to help you get your taxes done properly the first time.
Visit our website and learn about all of our services and how we can help you secure your assets.
Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, chocolate, and roses. Named after Saint
Valentine, Valentine’s Day has been around since the year 496 A.D, but it wasn’t until the 1300s and 1400s that the holiday became associated with courtly love. In the 1700s, the trend of greeting cards, flowers, and confectionery as gifts began. Though it’s not a public holiday in America, Valentine’s Day is still one of the most-celebrated, grossing more than $20 billion in spending a year.
Though love is beautiful, it is also blinding. And don’t feel bad about it either, because you can’t help it. Medical Daily reported on research studies that took brain scans of people “in love,” and researchers found that, though being in love activated some regions of the brain that had been dormant, there was another effect. When researchers showed test subjects pictures of their significant other and recorded their brain activity on an MRI, the MRI showed that the frontal cortex shut down upon seeing their beloved. The frontal cortex is the part of the brain that is essential for judgment.
Concerning news aside, you can take steps, right now, to ensure that you’re not blinded by love. We’ll talk about these legal tools, which will pick up the slack when your frontal cortex takes a vacation.
To Whom Does This Article Apply?
This article will serve as a guide for people who are in the process of getting a divorce (or thinking about a divorce). Your frontal cortex took a vacation, but it has hopefully woken up again, and, now, you need to know how to protect your assets from your ex-beloved.
Hire a Lawyer
Step one, get a lawyer. Every state’s laws differ on what is and isn’t marital property, and every state’s laws differ on the deadlines and processes required to get a divorce. You want to know what you’re walking into, and you can’t do that if you don’t know the law, which is complex, confusing, and ever-changing. Get a lawyer, and don’t try to go it alone.
Identify What’s Yours
Something the lawyer can help you with is identifying what is and isn’t yours. Before you proceed with anything, you must know how much money you have and where it is. What’s in your name? Your property can include assets, mortgages, bank accounts, and more. A judge will care a lot more about a detailed financial record than he or she will about a picture of your spouse having dinner with someone else.
Get Everything in Writing
Courts might not be as shocked and awed at proof of your spouse cheating, but, again, what they really want to see is proof of assets. Be careful to have everything in writing, especially financial statements, documents relating to your home and business, and pretty much anything that could come up in the asset division.
Don’t rely solely on electronic copies, either. Senior V.P. of Investments at Raymond James, Shelly Church, warns that it’s not unheard of for a vindictive spouse to change passwords on joint accounts, locking you out. Fire up the printer and get moving.
Secure Liquid Assets
According to Church, the aforementioned financial guru, it’s also not unheard of for a spouse to take out all the money from your account and leave you penniless. If the two of you have a joint account, set up an account in your name and move your portion of the assets to it. Do not wipe out the account.
In addition to being a not nice thing to do, wiping out the account will make you look really bad in the eyes of the court. It will backfire on you down the road. Just move enough assets to cover your bills and living expenses until lawyers and the court get involved.
Possibly a Financial Adviser
If you can afford it, it will help to have a financial adviser in your corner, especially if you’re not good with money. Jacqueline Newman, a NYC divorce lawyer at one of the top firms in the city, said that “non-financially-savvy” spouses need to go to a financial adviser who will “understand” and “connect” with you. That way, you’re not getting taken advantage of because of your lack of knowledge.
What You Want vs. What You Need
At the end of the day, lawyers try to reach the best settlement they can for their client. You’ll hear a lot of, “Can you live with this?” and “Can you deal with this?” from your lawyer. Settlements will not be perfect, but if you have what you need, you should accept that you won’t get everything you want. Your lawyer will get as close as he or she can, but there will have to be compromises on your end, no matter how much you hate your ex-spouse.
This guide isn’t the be-all, end-all. Divorce is a tough time, but you’re going to feel even worse if you don’t get your financial situation squared away. The emotional process will take time, but the clock is ticking when it comes to defending your finances and future.
Care for your assets? Get more details from our website.