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What is an Income Trust?

Income trusts are a type of company that has been structured to pass through all earnings to shareholders. A trust is a legal entity, that seeks to use assets in the best interest of beneficiaries. Some pooled investments are categorized as trusts, and they pass all income (and the tax implications) on to investors. Examples include a real estate investment trust (REIT), a royalty trust, a utility trust, or a business investment trust (also known as a master limited partnership, or MLP). Mutual funds can also fall into this category, but they are not necessarily designed just for income. Continue reading...

How Much Does it Cost to Prepare a Trust?

The cost of setting up a trust varies depending on the type of trust and its complexity, but generally speaking a trust will cost between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Basic trusts can typically be setup using online tools and guides from trusted sources, whereas complex trusts often require the help of an estate planning attorney and a tax attorney. There is also the matter of paying the trustees an annual fee for oversight of the trust, and there may be annual expenses associated with keeping the trust up to date with changes to the law and/or your estate plan. Continue reading...

What is a Revocable Trust?

A Revocable Trust is also known as a Living Trust, and it is an estate planning vehicle that allows you to determine how your assets are dispersed to heirs or other entities. While you are alive, you can modify the trust without restriction. When setting up a Revocable Trust, you generally name a Trustee (the person that will care for the assets in the trust and oversee distribution) and define the terms and conditions of the Trust. It is also possible to name yourself the Trustee in a Revocable Trust while you’re alive, but you should also name a contingent Trustee in the event of your death. Continue reading...

What is an Irrevocable Trust?

An Irrevocable Trust is one in which the grantor (the person who creates and funds the trust) cannot modify the trust once created. An irrevocable trust can only be modified or terminated if the beneficiary of the trust authorizes such changes. An Irrevocable Trust allows you to name a Trustee (the person that will handle your assets and will oversee their distribution to your heirs in the event of your incapacitation or death) and define the terms and conditions of the Trust while you’re alive. You can name yourself as the Trustee so you can manage your assets while you’re capable of doing so, and name a secondary Trustee to take over when you’re not. Continue reading...

What Qualifies You as a "Trader," and How Do You Report Income and Expenses?

If you buy and sell securities, you may qualify for tax status as a ‘trader,’ which importantly may qualify you for certain business tax breaks. The rules governing this status can be confusing, however, making it difficult to determine whether you qualify as a trader, investor, or dealer. Let’s take a closer look at the qualifications for traders as defined by the IRS, as well as how to report income and expenses if qualified. Continue reading...

Do I Need a Trust?

Whether or not you need a trust depends on several factors, some of which include: your level of assets, the complexity of your estate planning goals, the control you wish to exercise over your assets after your death, your need for creditor protection, amongst others. Trusts have many features that make them an attractive option for wealthy people – it allows them to avoid taxes in some cases, avoid probate court for heirs, and the ability transfer control of your assets to someone you trust (your selected trustee). It also affords the ability to have the assets span multiple generations, if managed properly. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

A primary difference between a will and a trust is that a will goes into effect once you die, but a trust goes into effect when you create it. Beyond that, a will is a more basic estate planning document/tool that determines how your assets should be divided upon your death. On the other hand, a trust goes further in controlling how the assets are distributed. It may stipulate when, how, and to whom the assets will be distributed, and those distributions may not happen immediately but rather over a long stretch of time. Continue reading...

What is a Living Trust?

A living trust describes a trust designed to transfer assets to beneficiaries upon the death of the owner/grantor, which is established during the life of the grantor. They can take several forms, but most common ones are categorized as either revocable or irrevocable. Living trusts have a similar effect to a Last Will and Testament, both being legal documents that stipulate how the decedent would like property to be divided amongst beneficiaries upon the death of the owner or grantor of the trust. Continue reading...

What is an Accountant’s Opinion?

An Accountant’s Opinion, also called an Auditor’s Opinion, is a formal document signed by a certified accountant after a review of a company’s books. Companies may be required to have an audit from an independent and unbiased third-party accountant, perhaps annually before a report to shareholders or the submission of financial documents to regulatory bodies or lending institutions. At the conclusion of a review or audit, the auditor issues an Accountant’s Opinion (or Auditor’s Opinion) letter. The two outcomes that are most common: Qualified or Unqualified. Continue reading...

What is Form 706 GS (D): Generation Skipping Transfer Tax Return for Distributions?

IRS Link to Form — Found Here Form 706 is the Estate Tax return, and it has a section concerning Generation-Skipping Transfers. 706 GS (D), specifically, is the form which 706: GS (D-1) is the corresponding form if the transfer is associated with a trust, which is filed by the trustee. The Generation-Skipping Tax attempts to prevent an estate from transferring too many assets directly to grandchildren instead of children for the purpose of shielding heirs from estate taxes. The form for reporting Generation Skipping Transfers is 706 GS (D), where 706 is the Estate Tax Return filing. Continue reading...

What is an A-B Trust?

An A-B Trust is a plan which actually creates two trusts at the death of the first spouse, and is a strategy intended to avoid as much estate tax risk as possible. Each spouse has an estate tax exclusion amount of $5.45 Million, and laws have made unused exclusion amounts fully portable to the surviving spouse, but for our purposes here, most of the exemption will be used up. So a Bypass Trust will be created which uses some amount of the exclusion, and will take that money out of the estate of the surviving spouse. The spouse can still get some income from this trust and have some discretion and control of the principal amount, but cannot use the principal for themselves. Continue reading...

Do I Need Professional Help to Prepare a Trust?

In most cases, you should consult a tax professional and/or an estate planning attorney for help in setting up a trust. If you’re setting up a trust in the first place, it is likely because you have estate planning needs – which also means you have a level of assets that requires estate planning. Preparing a trust on your own runs the risk of setting it up incorrectly, which can lend itself to legal risks such as challenges from heirs and/or creditors. Continue reading...

How Can I Establish a SIMPLE IRA?

A SIMPLE IRA must be established by an employer with fewer than 100 employees. An employer can establish a SIMPLE IRA if they have no more than 100 employees who earned $5,000 or more during the preceding calendar year. The employer cannot have any other type of qualified retirement plan going while a SIMPLE IRA is in effect. SIMPLEs should be established between Jan 1 and October 1 of the first year of the plan, unless the business started after that. Plans can be set up relatively quickly and can even use automatic enrollment if employees are given the ability to opt-out. Continue reading...

What is a Living Will? (in-depth)

A living will is sometimes called an advance directive or a medical directive, and it specifies a person’s wishes regarding life-prolonging medical procedures and other end-of-life issues. If a person is in a coma, for instance, it is intended to provide instructions for their care, including whether or not to use oxygen or “feeding tubes” to keep them alive. This might require a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) waiver of some kind, which tells medical staff not to intervene if the person is dying. The living will is different than the “will” that most people are familiar with, which is a Last Will and Testament, stipulating the person’s wishes for their estate after he or she has died. Continue reading...

How can I invest in hedge funds?

Fund managers are allowed to accept up to 35 non-accredited investors, but for the most part you will either need to satisfy the “accredited investor” requirement of the SEC to invest directly in a hedge fund. Otherwise, there are now hedge fund indexes and ETFs that track and mimic hedge fund strategies that are accessible to everyone. You should know now that the minimum initial investment requirement to participate in a hedge fund can be quite large, such as upwards of $1 million. Continue reading...

What are My Self-Employed 401(k) Investment Options?

As with other retirement plans, this will mostly depend on the options available to you through your custodian. Solo 401(k)s will have an array of asset exposure available to you, but it may come only in the form of mutual funds. This is not unlike many larger 401(k)s. The way these plans are bundled as simple and straightforward products, without so many bells and whistles that they will attract the attention of the IRS, may cause them to be slightly more plain vanilla than the options available in some 401(k)s. Continue reading...

What is the minimum investment in a typical hedge fund?

Hedge funds can require initial investments that are quite large. This may be somewhere between $250,000 to $10,000,000. They will generally only accept Accredited Investors, meaning high net worth individuals that pass SEC standards which exempt the fund from some reporting and disclosure requirements. While the minimum investment varies, most Hedge Funds will accept only so-called accredited investors. Continue reading...

How Does Social Security Work?

Social Security uses mandatory payroll taxes to grow trust funds that are used to pay income to retirees and other qualifying persons. Any surplus that is collected in a given year and not paid out is used to purchase Treasury Bonds, which pay a guaranteed rate of interest to the trusts and allows the government to use this surplus money in the meantime. When you receive your paycheck, you’ll see a deduction for FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), which is a “combined payroll tax” for both Social Security and Medicare. Continue reading...

Should I Trust an Article Such as “Five Best Ways To Invest For Income?”

Yes and no. Avoid putting too much faith in “best” lists, but realize that at least three of these are probably going to irrefutable and fundamentally sound bits of advice, and probably delivered in a timely manner. Generally speaking, there is no such thing as the “best ways” to invest. However, such articles can help you to land on some timely strategies that you may not have acted on without prompting. Continue reading...

What is a Lump-Sum Distribution from a 401(k)?

Lump sum distributions are when the entire balance of an account is paid out at once. After you retire, you can elect to receive your money in a lump sum. Of course, you will end up paying income taxes on the entire distributed amount that year. There is also what’s called the mandatory 20% withholding, which requires custodians to withhold 20% from retirement plan distributions if they are not part of a trustee-to-trustee transfer (such as funding an IRA). Continue reading...