Articles for December 2015

TOD or Living Trust?

A look at two basic methods for shielding assets from probate.

How do you keep assets out of probate? If that estate planning question is on your mind, you should know that there are two basic ways to accomplish that objective.

One, you could create a revocable living trust. You can serve as its trustee, and you can fund it by retitling certain accounts and assets into the name of the trust. A properly written and properly implemented revocable living trust allows you to have complete control over those retitled assets during your lifetime. At your death, the trust becomes irrevocable and the assets within it can pass to your heirs without being probated (but they will be counted in your taxable estate). In most states, assets within a revocable living trust transfer privately, i.e., the trust documents do not have to be publicly filed.1

If that sounds like too much bother, an even simpler way exists. Transfer-on-death (TOD) arrangements may be used to pass certain assets to designated beneficiaries. A beneficiary form states who will directly inherit the asset at your death. Under a TOD arrangement, you keep full control of the asset during your lifetime and pay taxes on any income the asset generates as you own it outright. TOD arrangements require minimal paperwork to establish.2

This is not an either/or decision; you can use both of these estate planning moves in pursuit of the same goal. The question becomes: which assets should transfer via a TOD arrangement versus a trust?

Many investment accounts can be made TOD accounts. Originally, that was not the case – for decades, only bank accounts and certain types of savings bonds could pass to beneficiaries through TOD arrangements. When the Uniform Transfer on Death Security Registration Act became law in the 1980s, the variety of assets that could be transferred through TOD language grew to include certificates of deposit and securities and brokerage accounts.2

Many investment & retirement savings accounts are TOD to begin with. Take IRAs and workplace retirement plans, for example. In the case of those assets, the beneficiary form legally precedes any bequest made in a will.3

The beauty of the TOD arrangement is that the beneficiary form establishes the simplest imaginable path for the asset as it transfers from one owner to another. The risk is that the instruction in the beneficiary form will contradict something you have stated in your will.

One common situation: a parent states in a will that her kids will receive equal percentages of her assets, but due to TOD language, the assets go to the kids not by equal percentage but by account, with the result that the heirs have slightly or even greatly unequal percentages of family wealth. Will they elect to redistribute the assets they have inherited this way, in fairness to one another? Perhaps, and perhaps not.

Placing valuable property items into a living trust makes sense. Real estate, ownership shares, precious metals, pricy collectibles such as fine art, classic cars, antiques, and rare stamps and coins – these are all worthy candidates for inclusion in a living trust. If your net worth happens to run well into the millions, these assets may constitute the bulk of it, and a trust offers a degree of protection for such assets that TOD language cannot. A trust also allows you to name a successor trustee, which TOD language cannot do for you.2

A “pour-over” will usually complements a revocable living trust. As your net worth will presumably keep growing after the trust is implemented, a “pour-over” will may be used to allow your executor to “pour over” assets not already in the trust at your death into the trust. That will mean added privacy for those assets in most states – but the downside is that these “poured-over” assets will be subject to probate.1

Of course, you can add and subtract from the original contents of a revocable living trust as you wish during your lifetime – you can remove assets retitled into it when it was originally created and retitle them again in your name, you can “pour in” new assets, and you can sell or give away specific assets in the trust.4

Is it ever wise to name a trust as the beneficiary of a retirement account? Under three circumstances, it might be worth doing. If you worry about your heirs rapidly spending down your IRA assets, for example, naming a trust as the IRA beneficiary more or less forces them to abide by a stretch IRA strategy. Are there “predators and creditors” who want some of your net worth? That is another reason to consider this move. If you want to leave your retirement account assets to someone who is currently a minor, this idea may be worthwhile as well.4

How complex should your estate planning be? A conversation with a trusted legal or financial professional may help you answer that question, and illuminate whether simple TOD language or a trust is right to keep certain assets away from probate.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com 

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – individual.troweprice.com/public/Retail/Planning-&-Research/Estate-Planning/Considering-a-Trust/Revocable-Living-Trust [11/10/15]

2 – fdcpa.com/Tax/0807TaxNewsEstatePlanning.htm [11/10/15]

3 – forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2014/01/03/how-to-leave-your-ira-to-those-you-love/ [1/3/14]

4 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/avoid-probate-book/chapter7-7.html [11/9/15]

Why It Might Be Time for the Fed to Raise Rates

In doing so, the central bank would cast a vote of confidence in the economy.

Provided by Mike Moffitt

Will the Federal Reserve make a move in December? As our central bank has avoided tightening U.S. monetary policy for nine years, an end-of-year interest rate hike might seem more possible than probable. Call it a strong possibility, if nothing else – after the November 18 release of the October Fed policy meeting minutes, trading in Fed funds futures indicated that investors saw a 68% chance of a December rate hike. In late October, they saw only a 38% chance of that happening.1

The October Fed meeting minutes sent a strong signal. They noted that “most” Federal Open Market Committee members thought that conditions for a rate increase “could well be met by the time of the next meeting,” with another passage stating that “it may well become appropriate to initiate the normalization process” at that time.2

Investors want some certainty when it comes to monetary policy. The S&P 500 advanced 1.6% on November 18, carried by gains in financial shares (banks would benefit greatly from higher interest rates). It was the biggest one-day rally U.S. equities had seen in a month. After the FOMC elected to refrain from raising rates in both September and October, the question became “when?” To many market observers, the October FOMC meeting minutes seem to provide an answer.1

The next jobs report could be a major influence. In October, the economy added 271,000 new jobs with 2.5% annualized wage growth and unemployment falling to 5.0%. If the next Labor Department employment report shows hiring well above the 200,000 level in November, the Fed could interpret that as a clear green light.2

The Fed would be going against the grain by raising rates in December. The People’s Bank of China has lowered its benchmark interest rate six times since October 2014. The European Central Bank, which has launched a major monetary stimulus, has reduced its key interest rate to 0.05%. Some analysts believe it could hit zero. The ECB’s deposit rate is currently at -0.2%.3,4

Even so, investors might appreciate a decisive Fed move. The markets need to have confidence in the Fed, and as CNBC Fast Money panelist Guy Adami recently noted, a hawkish move might be followed by a long dovish interval – the FOMC could raise the federal funds rate in December, then leave it alone until late 2016. That could amount to a best-case scenario for Wall Street.5

Besides placating the market, are there other notable reasons to raise rates? Adami’s Fast Money colleague, Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff, begged to differ. On the same broadcast, he shared his opinion that the Fed is standing pat because it feels the economy is not yet strong enough to handle a rate hike. “This is a bubble … not a recovery,” he commented, adding that Wall Street remains in love with easing and “easy money.”5

These points of view aside, many analysts, journalists and market participants see a December rate move (and the tightening that would presumably follow it) as a net positive. As Cuttone & Co. senior vice president Keith Bliss told the Wall Street Journal, “I think it’s a relief for the market that in the opinion of the Fed policy makers the economy is not falling apart.”1  

One thing is certain – the federal funds rate will eventually rise from its current historic low, perhaps very soon, as what should be the first step a tightening cycle. In light of this eventuality, you might want to review your investments and your financial strategy.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com.

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – tinyurl.com/nexyes9 [11/18/15]

2 – foxbusiness.com/economy-policy/2015/11/18/federal-reserve-minutes/ [11/18/15]

3 – reuters.com/article/2015/10/23/us-china-economy-policy-idUSKCN0SH18W20151023 [10/23/15]

4 – usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/11/18/as-us-prepares-to-hike-rates-europe-could-reap-benefits [11/18/15]

5 – thestreet.com/story/13301410/1/with-latest-fomc-statement-released-will-or-won-t-the-fed-raise-rates.html [11/19/15]