Five Medicaid Long-Term Care Myths

November 17, 2016

Many people want to know how they would ever be able to afford long term care costs that can range anywhere from $50,000 to $120,000 per year. Few people can pay this from their regular income and retirement nest eggs can be quickly depleted. Long-term care insurance is very expensive and difficult for older people to get. Many people look to Medicaid to cover these costs but few people understand the complicated rules surrounding Medicaid eligibility. We will take a look at a few of the myths related to Medicaid.

Myth: Medicare and my supplemental health insurance will pay for nursing home care

Truth: Medicare will only pay for 20 days of full coverage and even then, only if you have spent at least three days in the hospital and then need skilled care. Then you can get an additional 80 days of partial coverage, for a total of 100 days. After 100 days, Medicare coverage stops and you are responsible for the full cost.

Myth: Medicaid will pay for all long-term care services

Truth: Unlike Medicare which is a federal program, Medicaid is a joint program by the Feds and the States. While the Medicaid minimum guidelines are established at the federal level, each State administers their own Medicaid plans and the benefits vary greatly from state to state. Some states will ONLY cover skilled nursing home care or home care for patients who would qualify for nursing home care. Other states may cover some additional services such as assisted living facilities, and in home services but many do not.

Myth: If I have to go to a nursing home, the government will take my money and my house

Truth: Medicaid is designed to be a safety net for people who can not afford to pay for long term care. It is expected that if you have assets, they will need to be “spent down” on your care before the government will start paying. So in order to qualify for Medicaid, your income and assets must below certain thresholds. If you have more than these thresholds, the government will not seize your property. You simply won’t qualify for benefits.

If there is a reasonable chance you will return home after getting nursing home care, the state will generally allow you to keep your home and still qualify for Medicaid. However, once a person receiving benefits passes away, the state can try to get the money back that that they paid in benefits from the person’s estate.

If a Medicaid recipient is married, it doesn’t necessarily mean they must spend ALL joint assets on long term care. The non-disabled spouse is allowed to keep half of the couple’s assets, up to a maximum of $119,220 in 2016. In addition, the non-disabled spouse, called the community spouse, can remain in the house, even if the value exceeds the $119,200 threshold. Disabled siblings or children would also be allowed to retain the house if they already lived there prior to the Medicaid recipient’s disability.

Myth: I can transfer money to my spouse or children to qualify for Medicaid

Truth: Medicaid will look back five years from the date of your application to see if you have transferred or gifted any assets to other people. If they find you have, they will disqualify you from receiving benefits for a period of time called a penalty period.

However, gifts to disabled children, including deaf children, are considered exempt transactions and are not subject to the penalty period.

Myth: If I qualify for Medicaid, I can choose any facility I want

Truth: Not all facilities accept Medicaid benefits so you may not have as many options as you would with private pay. In addition, many will limit the number of Medicaid beds in their facilities, although some states prohibit this. Medicaid will also not pay for a private room so if you wish to have a private room, you would have to pay out of pocket for that additional cost.

At Kramer Wealth Managers, we can help navigate the financial impact of long term care expenses and help you prepare for the unexpected. The Medicaid system is complex and should be navigated with the help of an experienced Elder Law Attorney (find one at www.nelf.org). For more information on Medicaid, go to www.medicaid.gov.

Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, it cannot be guaranteed and the accuracy of the information should be independently verified. The information is not intended as tax or legal advice and should not be relied upon as tax or legal advice. Federal tax laws are complex and subject to change. Neither FSC Securities Corporation, nor its registered representatives, provide tax or legal advice. As with all matters of a tax or legal nature, you should consult with your tax or legal counsel for advice.

Market Month: October 2016

The Markets (as of market close October 31, 2016)

Trading in the early part of October saw equities respond negatively to rumors of a pullback on stimulus measures by the European Central Bank, which ultimately proved to be unfounded. Each of the indexes listed here closed the first week of October below their respective September closing values, except for the Global Dow, which eked out a marginal gain. Markets continued their tailspin during the second week of October led by the Global Dow and Nasdaq, each of which lost close to 1.5%… Click here to read the rest of this market summary, Market Month: October 2016.

Options when Inheriting an IRA

November 2, 2016

Some assets, such as cash, are simple to pass on to heirs. Other assets, such as IRAs, have certain rules and conditions that change depending on the distribution method chosen and the relationship of the beneficiary.

There are two main categories of IRA beneficiary: spousal and non-spousal. Today, let’s review the choices for each.

Non-Spousal Options

Lump sum distribution: With a lump-sum distribution, all the assets in the deceased individual’s IRA are immediately dispersed to the beneficiary. The beneficiary is left with no further IRA assets and will be taxed on the full amount of the distribution. The amount of the full distribution is added to all of their other income for that year and will be taxed according to their federal and state tax bracket.

Transfer to an inherited IRA: With an inherited IRA, the beneficiary moves assets into a new account that allows them to take penalty-free distributions. The beneficiary must begin taking distributions called Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) based on their age and life expectancy. The IRS has a formula for calculating the amount. This allows the beneficiary to spread the tax liability out over their lifetime as they are only taxed on the amount they withdraw each year, and not on the remaining balance. An inherited IRA account must be established and distributions must start by December 31st of the year following the deceased owner’s date of death. If it is not established within this time frame, the account must be distributed fully within five years.

5-year rule: If RMD distributions have not been established by December 31st of the year following the date of death, then the entire account balance must be distributed by the fifth anniversary of the date of death. Discretionary withdrawals can be taken at any point within the first five years, but any balance remaining on the fifth anniversary will be distributed to the beneficiary and fully taxable.

No money can be added to an Inherited IRA or decedent’s IRA, nor can it be commingled with other IRAs owned by the beneficiary.

Spousal options

Spouses can choose from all the options above, but they also have one additional choice. They can treat the IRA as their own with a spousal transfer. This moves the inherited IRA assets over to the IRA of the spouse and it means that the penalties for early withdrawal will apply if the surviving spouse is under age 59½. They do not have to take RMDs until they reach 70½.

At Kramer Wealth Managers, we can help review all your options and determine which one makes the most tax- and income-efficient choice. Contact us today to get started.

While the tax or legal information provided is based on our understanding of current laws, this information is not intended as tax or legal advice. Federal tax laws are complex and subject to change. Neither FSC Securities Corporation nor its registered representatives, provide tax or legal advice. As with all matters of a tax or legal nature, you should consult with your tax or legal counsel for advice.

Quarterly Market Review: July – September 2016

The Markets (as of market close September 30, 2016)

The second quarter provided a bumpy ride for investors. Following the upheaval caused by the Brexit vote in June, July kicked off the third quarter by ending the month in favorable fashion, as each of the indexes listed here posted month-to-month gains, led by the Russell 2000 (5.90%) and the Nasdaq (6.60%). Stocks held their own for July, despite falling energy shares, as crude oil prices (WTI) sank from around $49 per barrel to under $42 by the close of July. As money moved into… Click here to read the rest of this market summary, Quarterly Market Review: July-September 2016.

Market Month: August 2016

The Markets (as of market close August 31, 2016)

With no Federal Open Market Committee meeting and little news to jar the markets, the lazy, hazy days of August seemed to lull investors into a state of lethargy. Trading was light and volatility, limited. Despite the fact that several of the indexes tracked here posted new highs during the month, weekly changes shifted… Click here to read the rest of this market summary, Market Month: August 2016.

The Tax Implications of Selling Your Primary Residence

September 2, 2016

Whenever you’re selling property or investments that have appreciated in value, taxes are a big consideration in the timing of the sale. Selling at the wrong time can lead to a higher tax bill, whereas waiting for the right time can ease your tax burden significantly. This is especially true when it comes to the sale of your primary residence.

Calculating the gain

The first step in determining the taxability of the sale of your home is to determine how much of the sale is capital gain. To determine this, you must subtract the cost of the house from the sales price. Keep in mind that the total cost of your house includes not only how much you originally paid for it but also costs for any additions or improvements, as well as some of the fees associated with its purchase and sale. In addition, some things can reduce the cost basis in your home such as deprecation if you used part of your home for business or rental purposes or reimbursements from homeowners insurance for repairing damage. Consult with a tax adviser to discuss what costs are included and which are not. Once the total cost basis is calculated, this amount is deducted from the sales proceeds to calculate the capital gain to report to the IRS.

Example:

$60,000 home purchase in 1965

$25,000 addition added in 2010

$85,000 cost basis

.

$400,000 Sales price in 2016

– $30,000 Selling costs including real estate commissions and some closing fees

$370,000 sale proceeds

.

$370,000 sales proceeds

– $85,000 cost basis

$285,000 capital gain

.

Note that if you inherited the property from someone after they died, your cost basis becomes the value of the property as of the decedent’s date of death. If you were given the property while someone was still alive, you take over the original cost basis of the person that gave it to you. See our blog “Gifting Away Tax Benefits” for more details.

Tax Exemption Up for Grabs

When you sell your primary residence you can actually qualify for significant tax exclusions. Each owner may be able to exclude as much as $250,000 in gains, which means joint owners may be able to exclude as much as $500,000 ($250,000 per person). In the example above, a single person would have only had to pay tax on $35,000 after the $250,000 exemption but a couple jointly owning the home would not have to pay any tax at all since they can exempt a total of $500,000.

Qualifying for the Tax Exemption

The IRS only allows these exclusions if you sell a home that you owned and lived in as a primary residence for at least two years out of the last five before the sale. This means you could still qualify for the exclusion if you sell the house within three years of moving out of it because you will have lived in it the first two years of the last five years.

If you have a disability and are unable to independently care for yourself, this requirement is shortened to 1 year out of the last 5.

At Kramer Wealth Managers, we know the importance of finding all the tax breaks you can take in order to preserve and grow your savings and stay on the right track to your WealthPath. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

While the tax or legal information provided is based on our understanding of current laws, this information is not intended as tax or legal advice and should not be relied upon as tax or legal advice. Federal tax laws are complex and subject to change. Neither FSC Securities Corporation, nor its registered representatives, provide tax or legal advice. As with all matters of a tax or legal nature, you should consult with your tax or legal counsel for advice.

Is Gold a Good Investment?

August 12, 2016

Gold is sometimes referred to as “The currency of fear” because it is often sold in late-night infomercials touted as a hedge against a future where your dollars or other investments are worthless. The truth is, while these “gold bugs” may tout gold as being a “safe” investment, historically gold has actually been quite volatile- sometimes fluctuating wildly within short periods of time. It has also been known to languish for long periods of time. That’s what makes this question difficult to answer; who knows what’s going to happen next?

Gold is a commodity whose value tends to surge when the economy is in a shaky spot. We saw this between 1978 and 1980 when the average price of gold surged from $193.40 to a peak of $850 per ounce in 1980. But after that, the Feds raised interest rates to curb inflation, and the price barely moved for two decades. It took 28 years, until 2008, for the price of gold to creep over $850 per ounce again. Then during the Great Recession of 2008, gold had a run again until September 2011, when it hit a high of $1921 per ounce. It dropped again for the next four years straight but has recently seen a slight uptick in value amidst the volatility experienced in the stock markets in the first part of 2016.

But looking at the current value of gold isn’t the best way to decide whether it has a place in your portfolio. Instead, you have to consider your personal timeline, objectives, risk tolerance, and tax bracket, to decide whether it’s the right commodity for you.

It is important to keep in mind that gold does not produce anything. It does not produce earnings or dividends or income of any kind. So if your objective is income, gold might not be the right investment for you. Even if you do end up making a profit off of it, gold is taxed as a collectible and not an investment. Capital gains on collectibles are taxed at 28% for long term and 35% for short term, rather than the 15% long term capital gains rates that most investors experience on other types of investments such as stocks and bonds.

At Kramer Wealth Managers, we look at all the various components of a portfolio when we’re helping you to design your WealthPath. We consider your timeline, your risk tolerance, the current market, and your personal retirement goals. Then, we help you develop the right mix of assets to realize your goals and prepare for the unexpected. Contact us today to schedule a meeting to discuss which kind of investments might be a good fit for your WealthPath.

Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss.

Market Month: July 2016

The Markets (as of market close July 29, 2016)

Following an initial downturn largely in response to June’s Brexit vote, equities rebounded during the month of July. The first full week of the month saw each of the indexes listed here improve over the prior week, led by the Nasdaq, which gained almost 2.0%. The Dow recouped just about all of the value lost right after the vote. Long-term bond yields, highlighted by 10-year Treasuries, continued to slide–falling 90 basis points from their year-end value. By the week ended July 15, money flowed from long-term bonds (10-year Treasuries yield increased by 18 basis points) into equities as the Dow posted… Click here to read the rest of this market summary, Market Month: July 2016.

Digital Assets and Your Estate

July 28, 2016

Defining Digital Assets

Digital assets can be loosely defined as any online or electronic records, art, images, emails, creations, files, accounts or subscriptions that are owned by an individual. These assets may be stored on a computer or other electronic device such as a smart phone, a thumb drive or in a cloud.

Considering Your Digital Estate

If you have any kind of online footprint or own any offline digital content, you have a digital estate. It’s just as important to create a legacy and/or estate plan for these digital assets as it is for your tangible assets. It is important that your estate planning documents, such as your Will and Power of Attorney document, specifically include digital assets to determine:

• What happens to your social media accounts upon death. Will they be maintained by a specific person, or would you prefer them to be deleted and closed? We’ve heard stories of parents wanting to access the photos stored on their deceased child’s Facebook or Instagram accounts but not being allowed to retrieve them. Or of spouses wanting to leave up the page of their deceased spouse as a memorial to that person.

• Who can access and manage your online accounts and subscriptions. Many people are now doing more and more banking online, including paperless statements. Imagine if your spouse passes away and you don’t have access to the login information for your bank and online bills. A digital estate plan will allow you to give an executor or heir access to online accounts that make estate management easier.

• Who will gain access to your purchased digital assets. Many people spend thousands of dollars a year on movies, programs and games that they download. While not all of these assets come with licenses that permit transfer, some do.

• Who will gain possession of your emails and other digital files. Every day a tremendous amount of personal information is shared via email and recorded on digital text files. It’s possible that you don’t want just anyone to have access to this information, which makes it vital to set up a digital estate plan spelling out who has control of its oversight.

Don’t assume that your Agent named in your Power of Attorney or the Executor of your Will automatically has access to your digital assets. Talk with an attorney about updating your documents to include digital assets or developing a digital estate plan to include a list of accounts, passwords, assets and other information.

Quarterly Market Review: April – June 2016

The Markets (as of market close June 30, 2016)

In the world of equities, the second quarter of the year was anything but dull. April saw the large-cap S&P 500 and Dow make marginal gains, with the small-cap Russell 2000 and the Global Dow leading the way for the month. The Fed left interest rates at their 0.25%-0.50% range, noting that economic growth had slowed since the beginning of the year. May ended up being another good month for equities as each of the indexes listed here posted positive monthly returns headed by the tech-heavy Nasdaq (3.62%) and small-cap Russell 2000 (2.12%). June started out with relatively lackluster returns for stocks as labor added only 38,000 new jobs and the Fed, once again, reiterated its reluctance to raise interest rates based on… Click here to read the rest of this market summary, Quarterly Market Review: April-June 2016.