Coronavirus Stimulus Allows Retirees to Tap Funds Early, With Little or No Penalties

Coronavirus Stimulus Allows Retirees to Tap Funds Early With Little or No Penalties: For a limited time, Americans will now be able to withdraw money from tax-deferred accounts without penalties, under the Coronavirus Stimulus law. Rules on taking loans from 401(k)s will also be loosened up, and some retirees will be able to avoid Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) that otherwise would have been costly, says the article “Coronavirus stimulus lets struggling Americans tap retirement accounts early” from the Los Angeles Times.

In some cases, these changes reflect what has been done for retirement savers in previous disasters. However, for the most part, these are more intense than in other events. The chief government affairs officer of the American Retirement Association, Will Hansen, says that we are now in uncharted territory as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The numbers of people filing for unemployment make it likely that many people will be tapping their retirement accounts.

One provision in the bill would allow investors of any age to take as much as $100,000 from their retirement accounts without any early withdrawal penalties. If the money is put back in the account within three years, there won’t be any taxes due. If the money is not put back, taxes can be paid over the course of three years. The law says that the money must be a “coronavirus-related distribution,” but the rules are loose.

People who test positive for the virus, along with anyone who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of the pandemic, including being unable to find work or childcare, are permitted to make these withdrawals.

The bill also makes it easier to borrow money from 401(k) accounts, raising the limit on these loans from $50,000 to $100,000. The payment dates for any loans due in 2020 are extended for a year.

Retirees in their early 70s were previously required to start taking money out of tax-deferred accounts and start paying taxes on those distributions. The bill also waives these rules.

U.S. individual retirement accounts held nearly $20 trillion in assets at the end of 2019. While those amounts have certainly dropped due to market volatility, Americans still hold a lot of money in retirement accounts.

However, pre- and post-retirees need to think carefully about withdrawing large sums of money now. For pre-retirees, this should only be a last resort. Some professionals think the 401(k)-loan amount is too high and that people will jump to take out too much money, which will never find its way back.

According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report from 2019, Americans ages 25-55 take approximately $69 billion a year from their retirement accounts. Once the money is gone, it’s not able to earn future tax-deferred returns.

Reference: Los Angeles Times (March 27, 2020) “Coronavirus stimulus lets struggling Americans tap retirement accounts early”

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Coping With COVID-19: Managing Stress & Anxiety

Managing Stress & Anxiety: It’s hard to escape news updates about coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The constant headlines may make some people anxious. In particular, older adults, people with chronic health conditions, and caregivers are likely to be at higher risk for increased stress and anxiety, since they face a higher risk of illness if they contract the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here’s what stress during an infectious disease outbreak can look like:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

You may not be able to control the virus, but you can help control your emotional reaction to it. Here are some smart strategies from the CDC to help you manage your anxiety:

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including on social media. Hearing about the pandemic over and over can be upsetting.

Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Here’s a free guide on how to meditate from Mindful magazine.

Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Read this helpful CDC guide about how to create a nutritious diet plan.

Exercise regularly. For older adults, the CDC recommends aiming for 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. Do walk outside on nice days but avoid crowded places and make sure to maintain a six-foot distance between you and others. Wash your hands when you get home.

Get plenty of sleep. Following these simple sleep tips can help you relax into a good night’s sleep.

Relax by doing activities you enjoy. Try crossword or jigsaw puzzles, get outside and garden if you can, cook healthy meals and freeze some for later, and seek out TV shows to watch that give you pleasure. Explore your library’s online offerings.

Connect with others. You may not be able to socialize in person for a while, but many older adults are turning to video chat options such as FaceTime visits on their smartphone, Skype calls, and Zoom calls. These virtual visits are the next best thing to spending time in person with friends and family.

Find virtual support. If you already have issues with your mental health or substance use, you may find it even harder to cope right now. Many in-person groups are holding online meetings to provide each other with mutual support:

If your stress reactions are interfering with your life for 2 weeks in a row or longer, call your healthcare provider.

If you or someone you love is feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression, or anxiety, or if you feel you want to harm yourself or others, call:

  • 911
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517).

Stay Empowered, Stay Informed

https://www.healthinaging.org/blog/coping-with-covid-19-managing-stress-and-anxiety/

Where’s My Coronavirus Relief Payment? Well, It Depends.

Where’s My Coronavirus Relief Payment? Well, It Depends: The centerpiece of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law March 27, 2020, is its one-time $1,200 payments to millions of eligible individuals. When can you expect your payment and how much will it be? The answer to the first question has been changing on an almost daily basis, but finally seems to have come into focus.  Here’s the latest word.

How Much Will You Receive, If Anything?

Under the bill, one-time checks in the amount of $1,200 will go to individuals ($2,400 for couples who filed joint taxes) who earned less than $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers) on their most recent tax returns, which is either the person’s 2018 or 2019 returns, depending on if they have already filed for this year. Individuals earning up to $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers) will receive smaller relief checks. Families are entitled to an additional $500 per child under age 17 in the household. The bill also increases weekly unemployment payments by $600 per week for four months.

When Can You Expect the Money?

Those people for whom the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has direct deposit information will receive their relief money quickest. The first wave of direct deposits went out on April 11, starting with low- and middle-income earners. How long it takes for the funds to hit your account depends on how long it takes your bank to process direct deposits.

What If the IRS Doesn’t Have Direct Deposit Information for You?

The IRS has direct deposit information for only a minority of relief payment recipients. Those who don’t have deposit information on file have two options: they can wait for their paper check to arrive – which could take a long time – or they can enter their direct deposit information using a new portal the IRS just set up.

Those who don’t provide their bank information to the IRS can expect to receive paper checks, which may take up to 20 weeks to arrive. In other words, some needing quick financial relief may not get their money until September. The IRS is expected to begin issuing paper checks on April 20, with about 5 million checks mailed per week, although the checks may be further delayed because the Treasury Department has ordered that President Trump’s name appear on them. Checks will be prioritized to reach low-income earners first.

If you filed a tax return, your check will be issued automatically to the address the IRS has on file for you and you don’t have to do anything to get it. If you haven’t filed a tax return this year, you should do so as soon as possible so you can receive any relief payment coming to you.

What About Those Who Don’t File Tax Returns?

Initially, the IRS declared that it would have to have a tax return on file for anyone receiving a relief payment.  Many low-income people, however, do not file tax returns because they simultaneously earn too little and lack sufficient employment history to be eligible for a refund. This population includes some of the most vulnerable to the coronavirus — the elderly and people with disabilities. It is estimated that more than 15 million Social Security beneficiaries did not file tax returns last year.

After protests from AARP, lawmakers, seniors, and other advocacy groups, the IRS reversed course and said that Social Security retirement and disability recipients, some veterans, and many others who don’t file tax returns would automatically receive their checks using information the IRS gleans from Form 1099.  However, that still left plenty of people who don’t receive 1099s – including recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and veterans disability compensation — out to dry because they don’t receive 1099 forms. A few days later, the IRS announced its new non-filers portal, where recipients can enter pertinent information to receive their checks.

According a Social Security Administration notice issued on April 10, “people who receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability insurance benefits and who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and who have qualifying children under age 17 should now go to the IRS’s webpage to enter their information instead of waiting for their automatic $1,200 Economic Impact Payment.  By taking proactive steps to enter information on the IRS website about them and their qualifying children, they will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment.  If Social Security beneficiaries in this group do not provide their information to the IRS soon, they will have to wait to receive their $500 per qualifying child.”

What About Those Who Lack Internet Access?

Not everyone, especially low-income people, has access to a computer and the Internet, and so won’t be able to fill out the form on the IRS portal. The IRS has not yet announced a solution for these people.

You Can Check Your Relief Payment’s Status

On April 17, the IRS plans to launch a “Get My Payment” Web tool where relief payment recipients will be able to check the status of their payment and when it is expected to arrive via direct deposit or mail. If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and didn’t sign up to receive a refund via direct deposit (or didn’t receive a refund at all), you’ll be able to provide your bank information to the IRS using this Web tool, in addition to the non-filers portal the agency previously set up.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

How Does the Coronavirus Relief Bill Affect Seniors?

How Does the Coronavirus Relief Bill Affect Seniors? The $2 trillion economic relief package that Congress passed to help Americans deal with the devastating financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic contains some provisions that affect seniors. In addition to authorizing direct payments to most Americans, including seniors, the law also changes required retirement plan distributions for this year and includes two Medicare-related provisions.

Signed into law on March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides a one-time direct payment of $1,200 to individuals earning less than $75,000 per year ($150,000 for couples who file jointly), including Social Security beneficiaries. Payments are based on either 2018 or 2019 tax returns. The IRS has issued guidance, stating that anyone who did not file a 2018 tax return will need to file a simple tax return in order to receive the payment. After getting complaints that the requirement to file a tax return would be burdensome on seniors, the IRS announced that it would automatically send Social Security beneficiaries their stimulus check without their having to file a tax return. Social Security beneficiaries who receive direct deposit will get their checks directly in their bank accounts. The IRS will mail other beneficiaries a check, which may take longer than the direct deposit.

The CARES Act also affects retirement plans. Recognizing that the stock market crash has depleted many retirement plan accounts, the Act waives the requirement that individuals over a certain age take required minimum distributions from their non-Roth IRAs and 401(k)s in 2020. This includes any 2019 distributions that would otherwise have to be taken in 2020. Required minimum distributions for this year would be based on the value of the account at the end of 2019, when the account likely had more money in it. Waiving required minimum distributions will allow retirees to retain more of their savings.

In addition, the CARES Act allows individuals adversely affected by the pandemic to make hardship withdrawals of up to $100,000 from retirement plans this year without paying the 10 percent penalty that individuals under age 59 ½ are usually required to pay. Individuals who use this option will still have to pay income taxes on the withdrawals, although the tax burden can be spread out over three years.  The dollar limit on loans from retirement plans is also increased until the end of the year.

Finally, the Act includes a couple of small but potentially important provisions for Medicare beneficiaries.  While the Centers for Disease Control has been advising people to have a three-month’s supply of needed medications on hand during the coronavirus crisis, many Medicare Part D plans limit the amount beneficiaries may order.  The CARES Act requires that during the crisis Part D plans must lift these restrictions.  Also, when a vaccine against COVID-19 is finally developed, it will be available to Medicare beneficiaries as part of Medicare, not Part D, and there will be no cost to beneficiaries.

For more information about what is in the CARES Act, click here and chere.

For information from the IRS about coronavirus tax relief, click here.

For an IRS warning about scams related to the relief payments, click here.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Medicare is Expanding Telehealth Services During Coronavirus Pandemic

Medicare is Expanding Telehealth Services During Coronavirus Pandemic: As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government is broadly expanding coverage of Medicare telehealth services to beneficiaries and relaxing HIPAA enforcement. This will give doctors the ability to provide more services to patients remotely.

Medicare covers telehealth services that include office visits, psychotherapy, and consultations provided by an eligible provider who isn’t at your location using an interactive two-way telecommunications system (like real-time audio and video). Normally, these services are available only in rural areas, under certain conditions, and only if you’re located at one of these places:

  • A doctor’s office
  • A hospital
  • A critical access hospital (CAH)
  • A rural health clinic
  • A federally qualified health center
  • A hospital-based dialysis facility
  • A skilled nursing facility
  • A community mental health center

Under the new expansion, Medicare will now pay for office, hospital, and other visits provided via telehealth in the patient’s home. Doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers will all be able to offer a variety of telehealth services to their patients, including evaluation and management visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings. In addition, relaxed HIPAA enforcement (the law governing patient privacy) means doctors may use technologies like Skype and Facetime to talk to patients as well as using the phone.

In addition to Medicare’s expansion, states are also allowing doctors to provide telehealth services to Medicaid beneficiaries. For example, New York will now cover telephone-based evaluations when an in-person visit is not medically recommended. Many other states are following suit.

This expansion of telehealth services will allow older adults who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 to stay home and still get medical advice. If you need to see a medical provider during this health emergency, check to see whether they are employing telehealth services. To use telehealth services, you need to verbally consent and your doctor must document that consent in your medical record. For information from AARP on what you might expect during a virtual doctor’s visit, click here.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Staying Connected to Family in a Nursing Home When Visits are Banned

Staying Connected to Family in a Nursing Home When Visits are Banned: The spread of the coronavirus to nursing home residents has caused the federal government to direct nursing homes to restrict visitor access. While the move helps the residents stay healthy, it can also lead to social isolation and depression. Families are having to find new ways to stay in touch.

Nursing homes have been hit hard by the coronavirus. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington near Seattle was one of the first clusters of coronavirus in the United States and is one of the deadliest, with at least 35 deaths associated with the facility. In response, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance to all nursing homes, restricting all visitors, except for compassionate care in end-of-life situations; restricting all volunteers and nonessential personnel; and cancelling all group activities and communal dining. While these actions are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, they can leave families worried and upset and residents feeling isolated and confused.

Families are taking varying tacks to keep in contact with their loved ones, many of whom don’t fully understand why their family is no longer visiting. Nursing homes are also helping to facilitate contact. Some options for keeping in touch, include the following:

  • Phone calls. Phone calls are still an option to be able to talk to your loved one.
  • Window visits. Families who are able to visit their loved one’s window can use that to have in-person visits. You can hold up signs and blow kisses. Talking on a cell phone or typing messages on it and holding them up to the window may be a way to have a conversation.
  • Facetime and Skype. Many nursing homes are facilitating video calls with families using platforms like Facetime or Skype. Some nursing homes have purchased additional iPads, while others have staff members going between rooms with a dedicated iPad to help residents make calls.
  • Cards and letters. Sending cards and letters to your loved ones is another way to show them that you are thinking of them. Some nursing homes have also set up Facebook pages, where people can send messages to residents.

In this unprecedented time, families will need to get creative to stay in touch with their loved ones. For more articles about how families and nursing homes around the country are coping with the new restrictions, click herehere, and here.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Coronavirus: Here’s how to apply for unemployment in Florida

Coronavirus: Here’s how to apply for unemployment in Florida: With the Coronavirus pandemic ongoing, many people have found themselves without a job or enough income to pay for their needs.

So, how do you apply for unemployment?

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, you must have the following information before you can file:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license or state ID number
  • Your employment for the last 18 months, including for each employer:
  • Name, address and phone number
  • First and last day of work
  • Gross earnings (before taxes are taken out) during the listed dates
  • The reason for separation
  • FEIN (this is found on any W2 or 1099 tax forms you have received)
  • If you don’t have the FEIN, you can use employer details off of a recent pay stub
  • Claims filed without correctly reporting employers may experience delays. It is important to list the correct employment information when filing your claim. If you fail to do so, your benefits may be delayed while the missing employment information is obtained.

The United States Department of Labor says anyone who meets the following criteria is eligible:

  • An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work.
  • An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
  • An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.

In order to file a claimclick here or call 800-204-2418.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

https://www.wftv.com/news/local/coronavirus-heres-how-apply-unemployment-florida/F2KPKJFYLVFWNGCKLZKG5NZMIQ/

C19 UPDATE: Emergency Estate Planning Decisions to Make Right Now

C19 UPDATE: Emergency Estate Planning Decisions to Make Right Now:  Though it may be hard not to panic when the grocery store shelves are empty, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 keeps rising, and we see sobering statistics across the globe … we will not overcome this challenge with a panicked response.

Nonetheless, there are certain things we all need to be doing right now – and your public health officials are the best resource on how to stay personally safe and help prevent the virus from spreading.

When it comes to the seriousness of this outbreak, however, there also are some critical estate planning decisions you should make – or review – right now.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who will make medical decisions for me should I become severely ill and unable to make these decisions myself?
  2. Who will make my financial decisions in that same situation — for example, who will be authorized to sign my income tax return, write checks or pay my bills online?
  3. Who is authorized to take care of my minor children in the event of my severe illness? What decisions are they authorized to make? How will they absorb the financial burden?
  4. If the unthinkable happens – what arrangements have I made for the care of my minor children, any family members with special needs, my pets or other vulnerable loved ones?
  5. How will my business continue if I were to become seriously ill and unable to work, even remotely … or in the event of my death?

These are the most personal decisions to make right now to protect yourself and your loved ones during this emergency. Now is also a good time to ask yourself if you have plans in place for the smooth transfer of your assets and preservation of your legacy.

We are ready to help walk you through these decisions, understand the ramifications of your choices, and memorialize your plans in binding legal documents. We are currently offering no-contact initial conferences remotely if you prefer. Book a call now and let us help you make the right choices for yourself and your loved ones.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the highest level of legal services in the areas of Last Will and Testaments, Living Trust, Irrevocable Trusts, Estate Planning, Probate, Asset Protection, and complete Business Planning. If you or someone you know needs information on Florida estate planning, please contact us today at 239-449-8191 to schedule your free consultation.

Free Virtual Estate Planning Workshop