What Assets Should Be Included in Your Trust?

One of the largest financial planning misconceptions people hold is that having a will ensures their property will transfer quickly to their heirs. The truth is, whether you have a will or not, your assets will go through the probate process when you die.

Probate can be a rather lengthy and costly process for your heirs. The procedure can extend from a couple of months for a simple estate, to a couple of years for a more complex estate. For most people, ensuring their property is preserved and passed on at the lowest possible cost is essential to a comprehensive estate plan.

Advantages of Revocable Living Trusts

A revocable living trust is an instrument created for the purpose of protecting your assets during your lifetime. It also creates an avenue to pass your assets with ease after your death. There are several benefits of creating a trust. The chief advantage is to avoid probate. Placing your important assets in a trust can offer you the peace of mind of knowing assets will be passed onto the beneficiary you designate, under the conditions you choose, and without first undergoing a drawn-out legal process. A trust can also provide you with some level of privacy as to the information shared about your estate. Another feature is that placing your assets in a trust will help protect them should you become incapacitated.

Can I Avoid Probate with a Trust?

It is important to note that there is no way to completely bypass probate. While your most important assets may be transferred as part of your trust, there are some assets that will not fund your trust for a variety of reasons. These other assets will still go through the probate process. Though setting up a trust can be costly and complex, it can make the inheritance process easier on your beneficiaries. To ensure your trust performs as it was intended, timely and proper funding is vital.

What Type of Assets Go into a Trust?

Many people assume that once they sign the trust documents at their attorney’s office, they are ready to roll. Setting up a trust, however, is only half of the solution. For a revocable living trust to take effect, it should be funded by transferring certain assets into the trust. Often people fund a living trust with real estate, financial accounts, life insurance, annuity certificates, personal property, business interests and other assets. The most notable types are outlined below:

Real Estate: Many people wonder whether it is a good idea to place their house in a trust. Considering that your home is potentially one of your largest assets, living trusts can be especially beneficial as they can transfer real estate quickly. Additionally, they help avoid the hassle of separate probate proceedings for land, commercial properties and homes that are owned out of state or held in different counties. Any property with a mortgage, however, would require refinancing into the name of the trust, and some lenders may be reluctant to do this.

Financial Accounts: There are several types of financial assets that can be owned by a trust, including:

  • Bonds and stock certificates
  • Shareholders stock from closely held corporations
  • Non-retirement brokerage and mutual fund accounts
  • Money market accounts, cash, checking and savings accounts
  • Annuities
  • Certificates of deposit (CD)
  • Safe deposit boxes

Funding your trust with bank and brokerage accounts generally requires new account paperwork in the name of the trust as well as signed authorization to retitle or transfer the asset. Likewise, physical bond and stock certificates require a change of ownership to be completed with the stock transfer agent or bond issuer. You may also wish to fund the trust with a checking or saving account, though it is important to carefully consider any implications if these accounts require regular withdrawals or activity. Additionally, while you may fund the trust with an annuity, these instruments already enjoy a preferential tax treatment, and transferring them may forfeit this benefit. With existing certificates of deposit, they are usually transferred to a trust by opening a new CD. When doing so, it is a good idea to see if your issuer will waive any penalties. Finally, safe deposit boxes may be issued to the trust, or ownership may be transferred for an existing box.

Life Insurance: Many people ask if it is a good idea to put life insurance in a trust. The benefits include protecting it from creditors and making it easier for your loved ones to access the money by avoiding probate. Naming the living trust as a beneficiary of your life insurance may come with some risks. If you are the trustee of your revocable living trust, all assets in the trust are considered your property. In this instance, life insurance proceeds are counted as part of your estate’s worth and could create a taxable situation should you reach the IRS threshold for taxable estates. In 2022, that amount is $12.06 million for an individual and $24.12 million for couples. Funding a trust with life insurance and annuity contracts generally requires a change of ownership form submitted to the contract issuer.

Valuable Personal Property: Personal items, such as jewelry, art, collectibles and furniture, including pianos or other important pieces, may be placed in a trust. Personal property without any legal certificate or title is commonly listed on an accompanying schedule that is kept with your trust documents. Those assets with certificates or legal title often require the owner to quitclaim their ownership interest to the trust.

Collectible Vehicles: Some cars retain their cash value for long periods of time and therefore may be worth transferring to your revocable living trust. It is worth considering the title transfers and taxes that may be imposed, so it is important to speak to a trusted financial adviser or lawyer before transferring such assets.

Can You Put a Business in a Living Trust?

There are a number of advantages of transferring your business interest into a revocable living trust. Benefits generally include providing relief to your family from carrying the burden of your business debts, as well as the potential to reduce the tax burden on your estate. Below are the effects of several types of business ownerships:

Sole Proprietorships: Transferring a small business during the probate process can present a challenge and may require your executor to keep the business running for months under court supervision. Often sole proprietors hold business assets in their own name, so transferring them to a trust would offer some protection for the family. For a sole proprietor, transfers to a trust behave generally the same as transferring any other type of personal assets you own, including your business name.

Partnerships: With partnerships, you may transfer your share in the partnership to a living trust. If you hold an ownership certificate, you will, however, need to have it modified to show the trust as the shareowner rather than yourself. It is important to note that some partnership agreements may prohibit transferring assets to living trusts, so you will want to consult a financial adviser or attorney.

Limited Liability Companies (LLC): Depending upon your operating agreement, LLC business owners often need approval from the majority of owners before they can transfer the interests in the company to their living trust. Once transferred, the voting ability remains with you, but your ownership share will fall to the trust.

What Assets Cannot Be Placed in a Trust?

There are a variety of assets that you cannot or should not place in a living trust. These include:

Retirement Accounts: Accounts such as a 401(k), IRA, 403(b) and certain qualified annuities should not be transferred into your living trust. Doing so would require a withdrawal and likely trigger income tax. In this instance, it is possible to name the trust as the primary or secondary beneficiary of the account, which would ensure the funds transfer to the trust upon your death.

Health Savings Accounts or Medical Savings Accounts:  Since these accounts already allow you to use the money tax-free for allowable medical expenses, they cannot be transferred to a living trust. Like retirement accounts, however, you can name the trust as the primary or secondary beneficiary.

Active Financial Accounts: It is not advisable to transfer accounts you use to actively pay your monthly bills unless you are the trustee and granted full control of the trust assets. For many people, it is simply easier to keep these accounts out of the trust.

Vehicles: Generally, everyday vehicles like cars, boats, trucks, motorcycles, airplanes or even mules or snowmobiles are not placed in a trust because they often do not go through probate, and unlike collectible vehicles, they are not appreciable assets. Additionally, many states impose a tax when the vehicles are retitled, and some do not allow vehicle owners to name a beneficiary after death.

A Word About Irrevocable Trusts

While the assets placed in an irrevocable trust are no longer vulnerable to creditors or subject to an estate tax, you forfeit ownership of the assets. Careful consideration should be made when using an irrevocable trust, and it is highly advised that you first consult your financial adviser or attorney.

While creating a living trust may be costly and require a lot of legwork to fund, there are many benefits to using it as an instrument to protect your assets. The flexibility these trusts offer helps to ensure that your assets are protected during your lifetime and pass easily to heirs after your death.

Estate laws vary from state to state. This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax adviser or lawyer.
Kris Maksimovich is a financial adviser located at Global Wealth Advisors 4400 State Hwy 121, Ste. 200, Lewisville, TX 75056. He offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Financial planning offered through Global Wealth Advisors are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. He can be reached at (972) 930-1238 or at [email protected]
© 2022 Global Wealth Advisors

President and Founder, Global Wealth Advisors

Kris Maksimovich, AIF®, CRPC®, CRC®, is president of Global Wealth Advisors in Lewisville, Texas. Since it was formed in 2008, GWA continues to expand with offices around the country. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Financial planning services offered through Global Wealth Advisors are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth.

Source: kiplinger.com

Final Estimated Tax Payment For 2021 Is Due This Week

If you’re required to make a fourth-quarter estimated tax payment for 2021 (e.g., you’re self-employed or don’t have taxes withheld from interest, dividends, or other sources of taxable income), you only have a few more days to send the proper amount to the IRS. Estimated taxes are paid in four equal installments — generally, one installment for each quarter of the year. The first payment for the 2021 tax year was due last April 15, the second payment was due on June 15, and the third was due September 15. The fourth and final estimated tax payment for 2021, which is for income earned from September 1 to December 31, is due on January 18, 2022.

Use Form 1040-ES to calculate and pay your estimated taxes. The various payment methods are described in the instructions for the form. If you owe at least $1,000 in tax for the year, you could be hit with a penalty if you don’t pay enough estimated tax throughout the year.

Also, unless you live in a state with no income tax, you might owe state estimated taxes, too. Check with the state tax agency where you live for state estimate tax payment deadlines.

For more information on 2021 estimated tax payments, see When Are 2021 Estimated Tax Payments Due?

Source: kiplinger.com

6 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Wealth Plan

It’s 2022 and we’ve made it through another year of the pandemic and a sea of uncertainty with tax laws and the economy. With every new year comes the inclination of many to start a list of New Year’s resolutions, and while most typically center around health and self-improvement,  perhaps it’s also important to make a resolution about your financial health. This is the ideal time to make sure your wealth plan is in order and ready to withstand whatever may come this year and beyond.

To help you with this important resolution, here are the top six things you can do to keep your plan current and healthy:  

1. Update your financial plan

Did you have any changes in your life last year that altered either your income inflow or expense outflow? Perhaps you got a new job, moved to a new home in another state, sold a business or made some great investments (or maybe some not so great investments).  Have your assumption and expectation horizons changed?  Perhaps you’re planning to retire earlier, or now feeling better about the economic outlook so that you’d like to make some adjustments to your portfolio and return assumptions.

A good and accurate financial plan should evolve along with you and, if needed, be adjusted annually.  

2. Update your will and confirm your fiduciary choices

The pandemic has caused many to evaluate their lives and relationships. Is your will up to date? Are your assets left to the people of your choice, and are they receiving those assets the right way?  Are they ready for the money and responsibilities now, or would they benefit from a longer-term trust? Are the people or institutions named to serve as your executor and trustee the best choices for your family right now?  Do you even know what your will says?

It’s hard to believe, but many clients who’ve created a will in years past can’t even recall what was drafted. And this includes successful individuals running major business operations. They can tell you everything about their business finances but aren’t certain what they’ve done with their estate planning documents.  If that sounds familiar, priorities should probably be realigned. 

3. Update your ancillary documents

Your other important legal documents include your power of attorney, health care proxy and living will. Again, the people in your lives may not be the same as they were a year ago. Sadly, many of our loved ones have experienced health issues and may no longer be able or willing to serve as your agent of choice.

Make sure those who you trust to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated are ready, willing and able to take on that responsibility should the need come. 

4. Ensure proper titling of assets

This one gets missed often. You may have a beautifully written will, and you may even know what it says, but are your assets titled consistently with your plan and in a way that will take advantage of available planning opportunities?  Are accounts held in your individual name or in joint name?  Is that right?  Should your assets be held in a trust or a family entity, such as a family limited partnership or LLC?

Consult with your wealth adviser to be sure you are making the most of your planning and tax-minimization opportunities.

5. Confirm beneficiary designations

For nonprobate assets, such as retirement accounts or life insurance, do you have the right beneficiaries named in the controlling documents?  If you had a new child or grandchild this year, is this new love of your life added as one of your beneficiaries?  Remember, these assets pass outside of your will, so while you may have updated your will, it doesn’t mean you’re finished with updating your entire plan.

6. Re-evaluate life insurance needs

The pandemic has showed us that no one is immortal.  Do you need life insurance?  If so, what is the proper amount of coverage?  If you have an existing policy, is it still sufficient and performing properly? Is that existing policy held in trust?  If so, is the trustee following all the necessary steps to administer that trust properly? Your advisers can help you evaluate the level of coverage you currently have and determine if it’s working in tandem with your overall plan.

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, failing to plan is planning to fail. As the world slowly recovers, it’s easy to begin to feel a sense of optimism again and to forget about taking care of your financial health. Make it your New Year’s resolution to review these top six important planning items so that you can feel confident you are starting off the year with a healthy and strong wealth plan.

Wilmington Trust is a registered service mark used in connection with various fiduciary and non-fiduciary services offered by certain subsidiaries of M&T Bank Corporation.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service or as a determination that any investment strategy is suitable for a specific investor. Investors should seek financial advice regarding the suitability of any investment strategy based on their objectives, financial situations, and particular needs. This article is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. If professional advice is needed, the services of a professional advisor should be sought.

Chief Wealth Strategist, Wilmington Trust

Alvina Lo is responsible for strategic wealth planning at Wilmington Trust, part of M&T Bank. Alvina’s prior experience includes roles at Citi Private Bank, Credit Suisse Private Wealth and as a practicing attorney at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLC. She holds a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Virginia and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is a published author, frequent lecturer and has been quoted in major outlets such as “The New York Times.”

Source: kiplinger.com

What’s the Standard Deduction for 2021 vs. 2022?

You have a choice between taking the standard deduction or claiming itemized deductions each year when filling out your federal income tax return. And, of course, you always want to pick whichever one helps you the most. For about 90% of all taxpayers, claiming the standard deduction is the way to go.

So how much is the standard deduction worth? It depends on your filing status, whether you’re 65 or older and/or blind, and whether another taxpayer can claim you as a dependent on their tax return. It’s also adjusted annually for inflation, so the 2021 standard deduction is larger than it was for 2020, and the 2022 amount is higher than the 2021 amount.

There are also some special rules and advantages that apply if you’re claiming the standard deduction. For instance, people claiming the standard deduction can also deduction up to $300 of cash donations to charity on their 2021 tax return (up to $600 for married couples). Itemizers can’t take this deduction. In addition, if you have a net qualified disaster loss, your standard deduction may be higher (see below). On the other hand, if you’re married but filing separate tax returns, you can’t take the standard deduction if your spouse itemizes deductions. You can’t claim it if you’re a dual-status alien, either.

2021 Standard Deduction Amounts

For the 2021 tax year, the standard deduction amounts are as follows:

Filing Status

2021 Standard Deduction

Single; Married Filing Separately

$12,550

Married Filing Jointly

$25,100

Head of Household

$18,800

Taxpayers who are at least 65 years old or blind can claim an additional 2021 standard deduction of $1,350 ($1,700 if using the single or head of household filing status). For anyone who is both 65 and blind, the additional deduction amount is doubled. Note that you’re considered to reach age 65 on the day before your 65th birthday. Also, if you weren’t totally blind as of the end of the tax year and want to claim the additional standard deduction, you must get a statement from your eye doctor certifying that:

  • You can’t see better than 20/200 in your better eye with glasses or contact lenses; or
  • Your field of vision is 20 degrees or less.

If your eye condition isn’t likely to improve beyond these conditions, you can get a statement certified by your eye doctor to this effect instead. (Keep any statements for your records.)

If you can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, your standard deduction for 2021 is limited to the greater of $1,100 or your earned income plus $350 (but the total can’t be more than the basic standard deduction for your filing status).

Returns for the 2021 tax year are generally due on April 18, 2022 (April 19 for residents of Maine and Massachusetts).

2022 Standard Deduction Amounts

Smart taxpayers are always looking ahead and planning for their next tax return. So, if you’re already thinking about the 2022 tax return that you’ll file next year, the 2022 standard deduction information is below.

Filing Status

2022 Standard Deduction

Single; Married Filing Separately

$12,950

Married Filing Jointly; Surviving Spouse

$25,900

Head of Household

$19,400

If you’re at least 65 years old or blind, you can claim an additional standard deduction of $1,400 in 2022 ($1,750 if you’re claiming the single or head of household filing status). As with the 2021 standard deduction, the additional deduction amount is doubled if you’re both 65 or older and blind.

If you can be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return, your 2022 standard deduction is limited to the greater of $1,150 or your earned income plus $400 (again, the total can’t be more than the basic standard deduction for your filing status).

Increased Standard Deduction for Certain Disaster Losses

If you have a net “qualified disaster loss,” you can claim a larger standard deduction. A qualified disaster loss is a casualty or theft loss of personal-use property that is attributable to:

  • A major disaster declared by the President in 2016;
  • Hurricane Harvey;
  • Tropical Storm Harvey;
  • Hurricane Irma;
  • Hurricane Maria;
  • California wildfires in 2017 and January 2018;
  • A major disaster declared by the President between January 1, 2018, and February 18, 2020, if the loss occurred before January 19, 2020; or
  • A major disaster declared by the President before February 26, 2021, if the loss occurred between December 28, 2019, and December 27, 2020, and continued no later than January 26, 2021 (not including losses attributable to a major disaster declared only by reason of COVID-19).

You need to complete IRS Form 4684 to see if you have a net qualified disaster loss. If so, enter the amount from Line 15 of Form 4684 on the dotted line next to Line 16 of Schedule A (Form 1040). Also write “Net Qualified Disaster Loss,” your standard deduction amount, and “Standard Deduction Claimed With Qualified Disaster Loss” on the dotted line (don’t worry – it’s a long line). Add the two amounts and enter the total on Line 16 of Schedule A and Line 12 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Don’t enter an amount on any other line of Schedule A.

Source: kiplinger.com

What Are the Capital Gains Tax Rates for 2021 vs. 2022?

The federal income tax rate that applies to gains from the sale of stocks, mutual funds or other capital assets depends on how long you held the asset and your taxable income. Gains from the sale of capital assets that you held for at least one year, which are considered long-term capital gains, are taxed at either a 0%, 15% or 20% rate.

However, which one of those long-term capital gains rates – 0%, 15% or 20% – applies to you depends on your taxable income. The higher your income, the higher the rate. If you’re working on your 2021 tax return, here are the capital gains taxable income thresholds for the 2021 tax year:

2021 Longer-Term Capital Gains Tax Rate Income Thresholds

Capital Gains
Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Single)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separate)

Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

0%

Up to $40,400

Up to $40,400

Up to $54,100

Up to $80,800

15%

$40,401 to $445,850

$40,401 to $250,800

$54,101 to $473,750

$80,801 to $501,600

20%

Over $445,850

Over $250,800

Over $473,750

Over $501,600

The income thresholds for the capital gains tax rates are adjusted each year for inflation. To see how the thresholds will change from 2021 to 2022, here are the figures for the 2022 tax year:

2022 Capital Gains Tax Rate Thresholds

Capital Gains
Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Single)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separate)

Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

0%

Up to $41,675

Up to $41,675

Up to $55,800

Up to $83,350

15%

$41,675 to $459,750

$41,675 to $258,600

$55,800 to $488,500

$83,350 to $517,200

20%

Over $459,750

Over $258,600

Over $488,500

Over $517,200

The tax rate on short-term capitals gains (i.e., from the sale of assets held for less than one year) is the same as the rate you pay on wages and other “ordinary” income. Those rates currently range from 10% to 37%, depending on your taxable income. To see what rate you’ll pay, see What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2021 vs. 2022?

Surtax on Net Investment Income

There’s an additional 3.8% surtax on net investment income (NII) that you might have to pay on top of the capital gains tax. (NII includes, among other things, taxable interest, dividends, gains, passive rents, annuities, and royalties.) You must pay the surtax if you’re a single or head-of-household taxpayer with modified adjusted gross income (AGI) over $200,000, a married couple filing a joint return with modified AGI over $250,000, or a married person filing a separate return with modified AGI over $125,000. Use Form 8960 to calculate the surtax.

Under the current version of the Build Back Better Act, which is being considered by Congress, the surtax would be expanded to cover NII derived in the ordinary course of a trade or business for joint filers with modified AGI over $500,000, single or head-of-household filers with modified AGI over $400,000, and married people filing a separate return with a modified AGI over $250,000. The proposed legislation would also clarify that the surtax doesn’t apply to wages on which Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes (i.e., FICA taxes) are already imposed. The Build Back Better Act was passed by the House in December, but it has stalled in the Senate.

Source: kiplinger.com

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2021 vs. 2022?

This is a unique time of the year for taxpayers. On the one hand, you’re getting ready to file your 2021 tax return (which is due April 18, 2022, for most taxpayers). But, on the other hand, you’re also looking ahead (or should be) and starting to think about how to handle your 2022 finances in a tax-efficient way. In either case, you need to be familiar with the federal income tax rates and tax brackets that apply (or will apply) to you.

The tax rates themselves didn’t change from 2021 to 2022. There are still seven tax rates in effect for the 2022 tax year: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. However, as they are every year, the 2022 tax brackets were adjusted to account for inflation. That means you could wind up in a different tax bracket when you file your 2022 return than the bracket you were in for 2021 – which also means you could be subject to a different tax rate on some of your 2022 income, too.

Both the 2021 and 2022 tax bracket ranges also differ depending on your filing status. For example, the 22% tax bracket for the 2021 tax year goes from $40,526 to $86,375 for single taxpayers, but it starts at $54,201 and ends at $86,350 for head-of-household filers. (For 2022, the 22% tax bracket for singles goes from $41,776 to $89,075, while the same rate applied to head-of-household filers with taxable income from $55,901 to $89,050.)

When you’re working on your 2021 tax return, here are the tax brackets you’ll need:

2021 Tax Brackets for Single Filers and Married Couples Filing Jointly

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Single)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

10%

Up to $9,950

Up to $19,900

12%

$9,951 to $40,525

$19,901 to $81,050

22%

$40,526 to $86,375

$81,051 to $172,750

24%

$86,376 to $164,925

$172,751 to $329,850

32%

$164,926 to $209,425

$329,851 to $418,850

35%

$209,426 to $523,600

$418,851 to $628,300

37%

Over $523,600

Over $628,300

2021 Tax Brackets for Married Couples Filing Separately and Head-of-Household Filers

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separately)

Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

10%

Up to $9,950

Up to $14,200

12%

$9,951 to $40,525

$14,201 to $54,200

22%

$40,526 to $86,375

$54,201 to $86,350

24%

$86,376 to $164,925

$86,351 to $164,900

32%

$164,926 to $209,425

$164,901 to $209,400

35%

$209,426 to $314,150

$209,401 to $523,600

37%

Over $314,150

Over $523,600

When you’re ready to focus on your 2022 taxes, you’ll want to use the following tax brackets:

2022 Tax Brackets for Single Filers and Married Couples Filing Jointly

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Single)

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)

10%

Up to $10,275

Up to $20,550

12%

$10,276 to $41,775

$20,551 to $83,550

22%

$41,776 to $89,075

$83,551 to $178,150

24%

$89,076 to $170,050

$178,151 to $340,100

32%

$170,051 to $215,950

$340,101 to $431,900

35%

$215,951 to $539,900

$431,901 to $647,850

37%

Over $539,900

Over $647,850

2022 Tax Brackets for Married Couples Filing Separately and Head-of-Household Filers

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separately)

Taxable Income
(Head of Household)

10%

Up to $10,275

Up to $14,650

12%

$10,276 to $41,775

$14,651 to $55,900

22%

$41,776 to $89,075

$55,901 to $89,050

24%

$89,076 to $170,050

$89,051 to $170,050

32%

$170,051 to $215,950

$170,051 to $215,950

35%

$215,951 to $323,925

$215,951 to $539,900

37%

Over $332,925

Over $539,900

How the Tax Brackets Work

Suppose you’re single and had $90,000 of taxable income in 2021. Since $90,000 is in the 24% bracket for singles, is your 2021 tax bill simply a flat 24% of $90,000 – or $21,600? No! Your tax is actually less than that amount. That’s because, using marginal tax rates, only a portion of your income is taxed at the 24% rate. The rest of it is taxed at the 10%, 12%, and 22% rates.

Here’s how it works. Again, assuming you’re single with $90,000 taxable income in 2021, the first $9,950 of your income is taxed at the 10% rate for $995 of tax. The next $30,575 of income (the amount from $9,951 to $40,525) is taxed at the 12% rate for an additional $3,669 of tax. After that, the next $45,850 of your income (from $40,526 to $86,375) is taxed at the 22% rate for $10,087 of tax. That leaves only $3,625 of your taxable income (the amount over $86,375) that is taxed at the 24% rate, which comes to an additional $870 of tax. When you add it all up, your total 2021 tax is only $15,621. (That’s $5,979 less than if a flat 24% rate was applied to the entire $90,000.)

Now, suppose you’re a millionaire (we can all dream, right?). If you’re single, only your 2021 income over $523,600 is taxed at the top rate (37%). The rest is taxed at lower rates as described above. So, for example, the tax on $1 million for a single person in 2021 is $334,072. That’s a lot of money, but it’s still $35,928 less than if the 37% rate were applied as a flat rate on the entire $1 million (which would result in a $370,000 tax bill).

The Marriage Penalty

The difference between bracket ranges sometimes creates a “marriage penalty.” This tax-law twist makes certain married couples filing a joint return pay more tax than they would if they were single (typically, where the spouses’ incomes are similar). The penalty is triggered when, for any given rate, the minimum taxable income for the joint filers’ tax bracket is less than twice the minimum amount for the single filers’ bracket.

Before the 2017 tax reform law, this happened in the four highest tax brackets. But now, as you can see in the tables above, only the top tax bracket contains the marriage penalty trap. As a result, only couples with a combined taxable income over $628,300 are at risk when filing their 2021 federal tax return. For 2022 returns, the marriage penalty is possible only for married couples with a combined taxable income above $647,850. (Note that the tax brackets for your state’s income tax could contain a marriage penalty.)

Source: kiplinger.com

Public Defender or Private Attorney: Which Should You Use?

“Mr. Beaver, should we hire a private attorney or insist that our son, ‘Tom,’ just ask for a public defender for his possession of a controlled substance charge? He was arrested with several other young men in a car that had illegal drugs in the passenger compartment. 

“We own an automotive and commercial truck parts delivery service.  Tom is 25, works as one of our drivers, and it is my hope that he will take over the business.

“My wife says that he needs to deal with this on his own, and as he can’t afford a private attorney, to ask for a public defender, but he yelled, ‘Public defenders are second-rate lawyers!’

“We succeeded in enabling him to have an entitled attitude, and this scares us. I know that you began your law career as a deputy district attorney, so, what’s your recommendation? Does it really make a difference if he uses a PD? Thanks, Terry.”

Bite the Bullet! The Consequences of a Drug Charge are Real

I ran this often-asked question by Denver-based criminal defense attorney Peter Lloyd Weber. His law practice concentrates on drug transportation and distribution.

“Where a family is facing the dilemma between teaching their kid a lesson and saving money — or biting the bullet and hiring a private attorney — there is really no choice as the collateral consequences of a drug conviction are so great,” he says.

“It can result in his being unable to obtain certain kinds of employment, licenses, may impact his credit rating, make it impossible to join the military, dramatically increase auto and homeowners insurance rates — in short, nothing good comes from a drug conviction.

“Especially where Tom’s parents expect him to take over their delivery business, a drug record is the last thing in the world they should risk.”

A Parade of Defendants Pleading Guilty

I recall as a deputy D.A. the parade of defendants represented by the Public Defender’s office or appointed counsel who, in my opinion based on what I saw, were induced to take plea deals on potentially defensible cases. And it wasn’t because these lawyers were lazy or incompetent.

Rather, it had to do with the economics of time. In fact, many articles have been written — –going back years — sympathetic to what faces these dedicated attorneys who want to help their clients. 

But when you are given a huge caseload and lack adequate time and resources, justice suffers.

Weber agrees.

“This does not mean that public defenders are bad lawyers, far from it,” he says, “But you’ve got to look at the reality of having a PD or appointed counsel as your defense attorney. It often comes down to getting what you pay for.

“Public defenders are government employees and generally, across the country, are significantly underpaid. In fact, some are so badly paid they would qualify for a PD!

“So, it is a perfect storm of the millions of people who can’t afford to hire an attorney for their criminal defense, given a PDs or equally low-paid appointed counsel — all of them juggling massive caseloads.

“Often these lawyers meet with their clients a few minutes before entering a plea. The results are negotiated pleas in almost all of their cases, due primarily to their huge caseload.

“It is common for PDs to plead their clients to years in jail with little more than a brief conversation beforehand. They simply do not have the time, energy and attention necessary to formulate a legal defense that could have prevented or minimized the impact of a conviction,” He maintains.

Advantages of Privately Retained Counsel

There are many advantages in hiring your own lawyer, and a main one is that clients can expect adequate time to be devoted to the case in addition to support staff, including private investigators — typically retired from law enforcement — and technical experts who are able to challenge evidence against their client.  These all cost money, but as Weber observes, “They level the playing field.”

On the nightly news, we see body cam police video. He asks, “Do you think that public defenders or appointed counsel have the time to watch what could be hours of video? Often they do not. A privately retained lawyer will take the time to examine all avenues that help the client.”

Flat Rate or Hourly?

“Stories of defense attorneys being paid thousands of dollars upfront and then just walking their client through a guilty plea are common and are so unfair,” he underscores.

“Don’t let fear interfere with your common sense about the cost of hiring a lawyer. We can only charge reasonable rates, and with that in mind, I recommend that clients strongly consider paying by the hour — on a time-based approach — instead of one large flat fee.”

And what does he like most about his job?

“What I do is more than a job; it is a calling. People phone me every day asking for help. I never charge for phone consultations. When someone contacts a criminal defense attorney, this could be one of the worst times in their lives, and they should be able to talk with a lawyer without worrying if they can pay for that time on the phone.”         

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield, Calif., and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to  (661) 323-7993 or e-mailed to [email protected] And be sure to visit www.dennisbeaver.com.

Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law.” Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift.” 

Source: kiplinger.com

The Problem with Today’s Hot Real Estate Investment Market

Jessica Schmidt (not her real name) is a qualified intermediary for a large national firm specializing in 1031 exchanges for investment real estate. Lately, she has been working 10-hour days, six days a week.

Some days she takes up to 50 calls a day from real estate investors seeking to cash in on a hot real estate market without paying large sums of tax on their highly appreciated real estate investment.

It’s a seller’s market, and most real estate investors can garner a quick sale on amounts they had previously only dreamed of.

Everything’s great, right? Not so fast.

A Seller’s Market Isn’t Exactly a Dream

Jessica usually spends 10-15 minutes with a caller explaining the rules and regulations of a 1031 exchange. She often refers callers to her website for educational videos on the 45-Day Rule, the 3 Property Rule, and the 180 Day Rule. These are all essential and specific requirements for an investor to take advantage of our tax code’s ability to defer taxes upon a property sale.

She explains that the seller must open an exchange “ticket” BEFORE the sale of their investment property closes. Then the seller has up to 45 days to identify a qualified replacement property.

And that’s where the situation gets sticky.

Problems Finding Replacement Properties

“The problem with the inventory in the marketplace is that there isn’t any,” the chief economist for a large national title company was quoted as saying at a recent economic forum.

Today, more often than not, hopeful 1031 exchange investors find themselves in quite the conundrum. According to Jessica, the high-ticket sale and the tax deferral via the 1031 exchange may be the easy part, but finding a suitable replacement property seems to be the biggest obstacle and a common dilemma.

A Potential Solution – DST, or Delaware Statutory Trust

With that in mind, Jessica has been increasingly offering her clients a different option to consider instead of a 1031 exchange: a DST, or Delaware Statutory Trust.

DSTs are passive real estate investments that qualify as replacement property for 1031 exchanges. DSTs invest in multifamily apartments, medical buildings, self-storage facilities, Amazon distribution centers, industrial warehouses, hotels and other vital real estate asset classes. The investments are passive in nature and generate regular monthly income to investors and the potential and opportunity for growth.

Many DSTs are syndicated with some debt, usually about 50% loan-to-value. However, the debt to investors is considered non-recourse, which means that an investor has no personal guarantee or personal liability for such debt. This could be very helpful, Jessica explains to her clients, because they all want to receive a full tax deferral, and the rules stipulate that in an exchange, the investor must reinvest the sale proceeds AND replace any debt.

DSTs have been around since 2004 when the IRS issued Ruling 2004-86, which made DSTs qualify for replacement in a 1031 exchange.

Must Be an Accredited Investor

DSTs are for “accredited” investors only, which means that an investor must have a net worth of at least $1 million apart from their primary residence or have an income of $200,000 for a single person or $300,000 for a married couple. And DSTs are offered as SEC-registered securities and therefore are obtained from broker-dealers or registered investment advisers. The advisers perform extensive due diligence on the real estate syndications and each specific DST-sponsored property.

Jessica concludes that DSTs could be a perfect solution for many of her clients and investors, especially those getting closer to retirement and maybe not wanting to actively manage real estate assets any longer. Between the tax savings, the passive nature of the investments, and the high-quality assets that are generally part of DSTs, many of her clients’ problems could be effectively solved using this important passive investment strategy.

Although DSTs are attracting billions of dollars of investment funds, most CPAs and real estate investors are still unaware of this important and viable solution that could potentially solve so many problems for so many real estate investors.

After explaining all this so many times in calls from clients the past several months, Jessica decided to come up with the following “Letterman” style Top 5 Benefits of DSTs for her clients:

5 Top Benefits of DSTs in a 1031 Exchange

1. Potential Better Overall Returns and Cash Flows

It depends upon the investor. Still, some investors find DSTs could offer a better risk-return profile than a property they might manage themselves.

2. Tax Planning and Preserved Step-Up in Basis

DSTs offer the same tax advantages of real estate that an investor would own and manage themselves. Depreciation and amortization are passed along to DST investors by their proportionate share. DSTs can be exchanged again in the future into another DST via a 1031 exchange.

3. Freedom

Passive investing allows older real estate owners the time and freedom to travel, pursue other endeavors, spend more time with family, and/or move to a location removed from their current real estate assets.

4.  As a Backup Strategy

In a competitive market, an investor may not be able to find a suitable replacement property for their 1031 exchange. DSTs might be a good backup option and could be named/identified in an exchange if only for that reason.

5. Capture Equity in a Hot Market

When markets are at all-time highs, investors may want to take their gains off the table and reinvest using the leverage inside a DST offering.

DST investments come with a risk common to real estate investing and are offered to accredited investors only and by private placement memorandum only. Therefore, a prudent investor would be best served by evaluating all details of each specific offering and the track record of the sponsor firm before investing in a DST offering.

Chief Investment Strategist, Provident Wealth Advisors

Daniel Goodwin is the Chief Investment Strategist and founder of Provident Wealth Advisors, Goodwin Financial Group and Provident1031.com, a division of Provident Wealth. Daniel holds a series 65 Securities license as well as a Texas Insurance license. Daniel is an Investment Advisor Representative and a fiduciary for the firms’ clients. Daniel has served families and small-business owners in his community for over 25 years.

Source: kiplinger.com

Tax Day 2022: When’s the Last Day to File Taxes?

Most Americans must file their federal tax returns for the 2021 tax year by April 18, 2022. Note that we say “most Americans.” Taxpayers in two states have until April 19 to submit their 1040s to the IRS. Victims of certain natural disaster also get more time to file, with varying dates depending on when the disaster hit.

In any case, if for some reason you can’t file your federal tax return on time, it’s relatively easy to get an automatic six-month extension to October 17, 2022, by filing Form 4868 or making an electronic tax payment. But you must act by the original due date for your return, whether that’s April 18, April 19, or some other date.

Keep in mind, however, that an extension to file doesn’t extend the time to pay your tax. If you don’t pay up by the original due date, you’ll owe interest on the unpaid tax. You could also be hit with additional penalties for filing and paying late.

Why Are Taxes Due April 18 Instead of April 15 This Year?

As most people know, Tax Day is usually on April 15, unless it falls on a weekend or holiday, in which case it’s pushed back to the next available business day. April 15 is on a Friday this year, so the weekend rule doesn’t apply. However, Emancipation Day is being observed in the District of Columbia on April 15. The holiday honors the end of slavery in Washington, D.C. Since April 15 is a legal holiday in D.C., the IRS can’t require tax returns be filed that day. The next business day is April 18 – so that becomes Tax Day in 2022 for most people.

Tax Filing Deadline for Maine and Massachusetts Residents

Residents of Maine and Massachusetts get an extra day – until April 19 – to file their federal income tax return. Why? Because Patriots’ Day, an official holiday in Maine and Massachusetts that commemorates Revolutionary War battles, falls on April 18 this year. So, for the same reason Tax Day is moved from April 15 to April 18 for most people (i.e., a local holiday), the IRS can’t set the tax filing and payment due date on April 18 for taxpayers in those two states. As a result, the deadline is shifted to the next business day for Maine and Massachusetts residents, which is April 19.

Natural Disaster Victims Get Tax Filing and Payment Extensions

If the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declares a disaster area following a natural disaster, the IRS usually jumps in with tax relief for the disaster victims in the form of tax filing and payment extensions. In the case of certain recent natural disasters, the April 18 (or April 19) tax filing and payment deadline has been extended for individuals and businesses residing or located in the disaster area.

So far, victims of the following natural disasters have been granted extensions that push back this year’s federal personal income tax filing and payment deadline:

Additional extensions may be announced later that impact this year’s tax return filing due date.

State Tax Return Due Dates

Don’t forget about your state tax return. Most states synch their income tax return deadline with the federal tax due date – but there are some states that have different deadlines. Check with the state tax agency where you live to find out when your state tax return is due.

Source: kiplinger.com

5 Mortgage REITs for Yield-Hungry Investors

In the search for rich dividend yields, mortgage REITs (mREITs) are in a class all their own. 

These are companies are structured as real estate investment trusts (REITs), but they own interest-bearing assets like mortgages and mortgage-backed securities rather than physical real estate.

One of the biggest reasons to own mortgage REITs is their exceptional yields, currently averaging around 8% to 9%, according to Nareit – the leading global producer on REIT investment research – more than four times the yield available on the S&P 500. These outsized yields are enticing, but investors should approach these stocks with caution and hold them only as one part of a larger, more diversified portfolio. 

One reason for this is their sensitivity to changes in interest rates. When interest rates rise, mortgage REIT earnings generally decline. The Federal Reserve is signaling plans for multiple rate hikes in 2022 that could create headwinds for these stocks.   

And increasing interest rates hurt mREITs because these businesses borrow money to fund their operations. Their borrowing costs rise with interest rates, but the interest payments they collect from mortgages remain the same, causing profit margins to compress. Some of this risk can be managed with hedging tools, but mortgage REITs can’t eliminate interest-rate risk altogether.  

Another caveat is that mortgage REITs frequently cut dividends when times are tough. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, 30 of this sector’s 40 companies either cut or suspended dividends. On the flip side, dividends were quickly restored in 2021, with 20 mREITs raising dividends.

We searched the mortgage REIT universe for stocks whose dividends appear safe this year.

Read on as we explore five of the best mREITs for 2022. A few of these REITs are reducing interest-rate risk via acquisitions or an unusual lending focus, while others have strong balance sheets or outstanding track records for raising dividends. And all of them offer exceptional yields for investors.

Data is as of Jan. 12. Dividend yields are calculated by annualizing the most recent payout and dividing by the share price. Stocks are listed in order of lowest to highest dividend yield.

1 of 5

Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital

green investing conceptgreen investing concept
  • Market value: $4.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.9%

Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital (HASI, $48.56) is a bit of an oddball for a mortgage REIT in that it specializes in clean energy and infrastructure rather than pure real estate. Specifically, the real estate investment trust invests in wind, solar, storage, energy efficiency and environmental remediation projects – making it not only one of the best mREITs, but also one of the best green energy stocks to own.

Its loan portfolio encompasses 260 projects and is valued at $3.2 billion. In addition to its own loans, Hannon Armstrong manages roughly $8 billion of other assets, mainly for public sector clients.   

This mREIT boasts a $3 billion pipeline and is ideally positioned to capture some portion of the spending from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that was passed by Congress in late 2021.  

Over the last three years, Hannon Armstrong has generated 7% annual earnings per share (EPS) gains and 1% yearly dividend growth. Over the next three years, HASI is targeting accelerated gains of 7% to 10% yearly earnings per share growth and 3% to 5% in dividend hikes. Future earnings growth should be enhanced by the firm’s prudent 1.6 times debt-to-equity ratio.

Hannon Armstrong produced exceptional September-quarter results, showing 45% year-over-year loan portfolio growth and a 14% increase in distributable earnings per share. 

Analysts expect earnings of $1.83 per share this year and $1.91 per share next year – more than enough to cover the REIT’s $1.40 per share annual dividend.

HASI is well-liked by Wall Street analysts, with five of the six that are tracking the stock calling it a Buy or Strong Buy. 

2 of 5

Starwood Property Trust

little red house surrounded by little white houseslittle red house surrounded by little white houses
  • Market value: $7.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 7.6%

Starwood Property Trust (STWD, $25.44) has a $21 billion loan portfolio, making it the largest mortgage REIT in the U.S. The company is affiliated with Starwood Capital Group, one of the world’s biggest private investment firms. 

STWD is considered a mortgage real estate investment trust, but it operates more like a hybrid by owning physical properties as well as mortgages and real estate securities. Its portfolio comprises 61% commercial loans, but the REIT also has sizable footholds in residential loans (11%), properties (12%) and infrastructure lending (9%), a relatively new focus for the company.

The mREIT benefits from access to the databases of Starwood Capital Group, which makes over $100 billion in real estate transactions annually and has a portfolio consisting of 96% floating-rate debt. This high percentage of floating-rate debt and unusually short loan durations – averaging just 3.3 years – minimizes Starwood’s risk from rising interest rates. 

STWD is also one of the nation’s largest servicers of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) loans; sizable, reliable loan servicing fees help mitigate risk if loan credit quality deteriorates.

Starwood Property Trust closed $3.8 billion of new loans during the September quarter and generated distributable earnings of 52 cents per share – up sequentially from June and slightly above analysts’ consensus estimate. After the September quarter closed, the mREIT booked a huge $1.1 billion gain on the sale of a 20% stake in an affordable housing real estate portfolio.   

The company has made 12 consecutive years of quarterly dividend payments, and unlike many other mortgage REITs, held its ground in 2020 by maintaining an unchanged dividend.

Of the seven Wall Street pros following STWD, one says it’s a Strong Buy, five call it a Buy and just one says Hold. Adding fuel to the bullish fire, CNBC analyst Jon Najarian recently tapped Starwood as one of his top stocks to watch, given its impressive 7.6% dividend yield.

3 of 5

Arbor Realty Trust

mortgage-backed securities conceptmortgage-backed securities concept
  • Market value: $2.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: 7.7%

Arbor Realty Trust (ABR, $18.70) stands out as one of the best mREITS given its six straight quarters of dividend hikes and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 18% for dividend growth over the past five years. 

What’s more, Arbor Realty Trust has delivered 10 straight years of dividend growth while maintaining the industry’s lowest dividend payout rate.

This mortgage REIT is able to steadily grow dividends thanks to the diversity of its operating platform, which generates income from agency and non-agency loans, physical real estate (including rentals) and servicing fees.

Agency loan originations and the servicing portfolio have grown at a 16% CAGR over five years. And during the first nine months of 2021, Arbor Realty Trust set a new record with balance sheet loan originations, coming in at $7.2 billion – 2.5 times its previous record. Loan volume rose 45% over its previous record to total $13.2 billion over the nine-month period.

While September EPS declined year-over-year due to a reduced contribution from equity affiliates, earnings for the first nine months of the year were up 164% from the year prior to $1.56 per share.

Arbor Realty Trust earns Buy ratings from two of the three Wall Street analysts following the stock, and Zacks Research recently named ABR one of its top income picks for 2022. 

Valued at only 10 times forward earnings – which is 15.4% below industry peers – ABR shares appear bargain-priced at the moment.   

4 of 5

MFA Financial

person looking for business loan on laptopperson looking for business loan on laptop
  • Market value: $2.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.2%

MFA Financial (MFA, $4.68) just closed an impactful acquisition that reduces its exposure to interest-rate changes and accelerates loan growth. This REIT was already hedging its bets by investing in both agency and non-agency mortgage securities. 

Agency securities are guaranteed by the U.S. government and tend to be safer, lower-yielding and more sensitive to interest rates than non-agency securities. By combining these in one portfolio, MFA Financial generates nice returns while reducing the impact of changes in interest rates and prepayments on the portfolio. 

Through the July acquisition of Lima One, MFA Financial becomes a major player in business purpose lending (BPL), an attractive niche comprised of fix-and-flip, construction, multi-family and single-family rental loans. 

An aging U.S. housing stock is creating demand for real estate renovations and causing BPL to soar. BPL loans are good quality and high-yielding, but difficult to source in the marketplace. With the purchase of Lima One, MFA Financial gains a $1.1 billion BPL loan-servicing portfolio and an established national franchise for originating these types of loans. 

Lima One’s impact was apparent in MFA Financial’s September-quarter results. The REIT originated $2.0 billion of loans, the highest quarterly total on record, and grew its portfolio by $1.5 billion after runoff. 

Net interest income increased 15% on a sequential basis, and gains recorded on the Lima One purchase contributed 10 cents to the mREIT’s earnings of 28 cents per share. MFA Financial also took advantage of the strong housing market to sell 151 properties, booking a $7.3 million gain on the sale. MFA’s book value – the difference between the total value of a company’s assets and its outstanding liabilities – rose 4% sequentially to $4.82 per share, a modest 3% premium to its current share price.

Raymond James analyst Stephen Laws upgraded MFA to Outperform from Market Perform – the equivalents of Buy and Hold, respectively – in December. He thinks the Lima One acquisition will accelerate loan growth and reduce the mortgage REIT’s borrowing costs.

MFA Financial has a 22-year track record of paying dividends. While payments were reduced in 2020, the REIT recently signaled improving prospects with a 10% dividend hike in late 2021.

5 of 5

Broadmark Realty Capital

real estate contract with keys and penreal estate contract with keys and pen
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.6%

Broadmark Realty Capital (BRMK, $9.77) is unusual for its zero-debt balance sheet, robust loan origination volume and sizable monthly dividends. This mortgage REIT provides short to mid-term loans for commercial construction and real estate development that are less interest-rate sensitive. As such, BRMK is a solid play on America’s housing boom.  

Lending activities focus on states with favorable demographics and lending laws. Plus, 60% of its business comes from repeat customers, ensuring low loan acquisition costs.

Broadmark Realty Capital achieved record loan origination volume of $337 million during the September quarter, roughly twice prior-year levels and up 68% sequentially. The overall portfolio grew to $1.5 billion. Broadmark Realty Capital also originated its first loans in Nevada and Minnesota, with expansion into additional states planned during the December quarter. 

Despite rising revenues and distributable EPS, Broadmark Realty’s results came in slightly below analyst estimates and its share price declined in reaction. However, this price slip may present an opportunity to pick up one of the best mREITs at a discount. At present, BRMK shares trade at just 12.7 times forward earnings and 1.1 times book value – the latter of which is a 15% discount to industry peers.

The mortgage REIT cut its dividend in 2020, but continued to make monthly payments to shareholders. And in 2021, it raised its dividend 17% in early 2021. While dividend payout currently exceeds 100% of fiscal 2021 earnings, analysts are forecasting a 17% rise in fiscal 2022, which would comfortably cover the current 84 cents per share annual dividend.     

Source: kiplinger.com