Top 5 Benefits Annuities Can Bring Except The Lifetime Income

If field goals were suddenly worth four points and touchdowns were worth five, football coaches would change their strategies. This type of scoring change has occurred in the estate planning field, but many people keep using their old playbooks.

Recent income and estate tax updates have adjusted how the planning game should be played. If your estate plan was drafted before they came into effect, reconsidering how you structure your estate could save you tens of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.

The Changing Rules

To understand these rule changes, we should rewind to the year 2000. The federal estate tax only applied to estates exceeding $675,000 and was charged at rates up to 55 percent. Long-term capital gains were taxed at 20 percent. Since then, the amount that can pass free of estate tax has drifted higher, to $5.43 million in 2015, and the top estate tax rate has dropped to 40 percent. On the other hand, the top ordinary income tax rate of 39.6 percent when coupled with the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income tax is now higher than the federal estate tax rate.

Although the top capital gains tax rate of 23.8 percent (when including the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income tax), remains less than the estate tax rate, these changes in tax rate differentials can significantly modify the best financial moves in planning an estate. While estate tax used to be the dangerous player to guard, now income taxes can be an equal or greater opponent.

Besides the tax rate changes, the biggest development that most people’s estate plans don’t address is a relatively new rule known as the portability election. Before the rule was enacted in 2011, if a spouse died without using his or her full exemption, the unused exemption was lost. This was a primary reason so many estate plans created a trust upon the first spouse’s death. Portability allows the unused portion of one spouse’s $5.43 million personal exemption to carry over to the survivor. A married couple now effectively has a joint exemption worth twice the individual exemption, which they can use in whatever way provides the best tax benefit. Portability is only available if an estate tax return is filed timely for the first spouse who dies.

From a federal tax standpoint, if a married couple expects the first spouse to die with less than $5.43 million of assets, relying on portability is a viable strategy for minimizing taxes and maximizing wealth going to the couple’s heirs. Estate planning for families with less than $10.86 million in assets is now much more about ensuring that property is distributed in accordance with the couple’s wishes and with the degree of control that they wish to maintain than it is about saving taxes. However, state estate taxes can complicate the picture because they may apply to smaller estates.

Below are a number of plays that families who will be subject to the estate tax should consider to optimize their taxes in today’s environment. Although many of the techniques are familiar, the way they are being used has changed.

The New Estate Planning Plays

Empowering Your Plan’s “Quarterback”

A successful quarterback has a solid group of coaches providing him with guidance, but is also allowed to think on his feet. Similarly, the quarterback of an estate, the executor or a trustee, needs to be given a framework in which to make his or her decisions but also flexibility regarding which play to run. Today’s estate planning documents should acknowledge that the rules or the individual’s situation may change between the time documents are signed and the death or other event that brings them into effect. Flexibility can be accomplished by expressly providing executors and trustees with the authority to make certain tax elections and the right to disclaim assets, which may allow the fiduciaries to settle the estate in a more tax-efficient manner. Empowering an executor has its risks, but building a solid support team of advisers will help ensure he or she takes the necessary steps to properly administer the estate.

Maximize the Value of Your Basis Adjustment

It’s a common misconception that lifetime gifts automatically reduce your estate tax liability. Since the two transfer tax systems are unified, lifetime gifts actually just reduce the amount that can pass tax-free at death. Lifetime gifts accomplish marginal wealth transfer only when a taxpayer makes a gift and that gift appreciates outside of the donor’s estate. In the past, people generally wanted to make gifts as early as possible, but that is no longer always the most effective strategy due to income tax benefits of bequeathing assets.

One big difference between lifetime giving and transfers upon death is the way in which capital gains are calculated when the recipient sells the assets. With gifts of appreciated assets, recipients are taxed on the difference between the transferor’s cost basis, typically the amount the donor paid for the asset, and the sales price. The cost basis of inherited assets is adjusted to the fair market value of the assets on the date of the owner’s death (or, in a few cases, six months later).

When choosing which assets to give to heirs, it is especially important to make lifetime gifts of assets with very low appreciation and to hold onto highly appreciated assets until death. If a beneficiary inherits an asset that had $100,000 of appreciation at the donor’s death, the basis adjustment can save $23,800 in federal income taxes compared to if the beneficiary had received the same property as a lifetime gift. Unfortunately, the basis adjustment upon death works both ways. If the bequeathed asset had lost $100,000 between the time it was purchased and the owner’s death, the recipient’s cost basis would be reduced to the current fair market value of the property. Therefore, it is advantageous to realize any capital losses before death if possible.

Holding onto appreciated assets until death is appealing for income tax purposes, but might not be advisable if the asset is a concentrated position or no longer fits with your overall portfolio objectives. For these types of assets, it’s worth analyzing whether the capital gains tax cost is worth incurring right away or if you should pursue another strategy, such as hedging, donating the asset to charity or contributing the property to an exchange fund.

Choosing not to fund a credit shelter trust upon the first spouse’s death is a perfect example of maximizing the value of the basis adjustment. These trusts were typically funded upon the first spouse’s death to ensure that none of the first spouse’s exemption went to waste. Since the portability rules allow the surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s unused exemption amount, it is no longer essential to fund a credit shelter trust. Instead, allowing all of the assets to pass to the surviving spouse directly allows you to capture a step-up in basis for assets upon the first spouse’s death, and then another after that of the second spouse. Depending on the amount of appreciation and the time between the two spouses’ deaths, the savings can be substantial.

Annual Gifting

Making annual gifts is a traditional strategy that remains attractive today. In addition to the $10.86 million that a couple can give away during their lifetime or at death, there are also some “freebie” situations where gifts don’t count towards this total. You can make gifts up to the annual exclusion amount, currently $14,000, to an unlimited number of individuals, and you can double this amount by electing to gift split on a gift tax return or by having your spouse make separate gifts to the same recipients.

Transferring $14,000 may not seem like a meaningful estate tax planning strategy for someone with more than $11 million, but the numbers can add up quickly. For example, if a married couple has three married adult children, each of whom has two children of their own, the couple could transfer $336,000 to these relatives each year using just their annual exemptions. If the recipients invest these funds, the future appreciation also accrues outside of the donors’ estates, and the income may be taxed at lower rates.

Contributing the annual exclusion gifts to 529 Plan education savings accounts for the six grandchildren can accelerate the gifting process and increase the income tax benefits. A special election allows you to front-load five years’ worth of annual exclusion gifts into a 529 Plan, which would currently allow $840,000 in total gifts to the six grandchildren. In this scenario, the grandparents would not be allowed to make any tax-free gifts to the grandchildren during the following four tax years. Since assets in a 529 Plan grow tax-deferred and withdrawals for qualified educational expenses are tax-free, you can realize substantial income tax savings here. If you assume the only growth in the accounts is 4 percent capital gains, which are realized each year, that results in about $8,000 in annual income federal tax savings per year, assuming the donor is in the top tax bracket.

You can also pay a student’s tuition directly to the college or university, since these payments are exempt from gift tax. This exception applies to medical expenses and health insurance premiums as well, as long as payments are made directly to the provider.

Given that annual exclusion gifts don’t impact the $5.43 million lifetime exemption, I recommend making these gifts early and often, but remember to give away cash or assets that have very little realized appreciation. The earlier you make a gift, the more time the assets have to appreciate and pay income to the recipient.

Lifetime Charitable Giving

Earlier I mentioned that you want to avoid giving away appreciated securities during your lifetime. The exception to that rule is a gift to charity. By donating appreciated securities that you have held for more than one year, you can get a charitable deduction for the market value of the security and also avoid paying the capital gains tax you would incur if you were to sell the asset.

If you know you have charitable intentions, it is more effective to donate appreciated securities earlier in life, rather than at death, since doing so removes future appreciation of the assets from your estate.

Using Trusts to Increase the Effectiveness of Transfers

Lifetime transfers to standard irrevocable trusts are no longer as appealing as they used to be, now that the estate tax rate is closer to the capital gains rate. Assets transferred to irrevocable trusts during the grantor’s lifetime typically do not receive a basis step-up upon the grantor’s death. Therefore, determining whether it is more appealing to make lifetime transfers or bequests in a specific circumstance requires making assumptions and analyzing probable outcomes.

Nonetheless, funding certain trusts in conjunction with other planning techniques can increase the planning’s effectiveness. An intentionally defective grantor trust (IDGT) is one of the most appealing types of trusts for wealth transfer purposes, because the donor is treated as owner of the trust assets for income tax purposes but not for estate and gift tax purposes. A defective grantor trust is a disregarded entity for tax purposes, so any income that the trust earns is taxable to the grantor. By paying the tax on trust income, the grantor effectively transfers additional wealth to the beneficiary.

Another popular strategy is for a grantor to make a low interest rate loan to a defective grantor trust. The trust then invests the funds. So long as the trust’s portfolio outperforms the interest rate charged on the loan, the excess growth is shifted to the trust with no transfer tax consequence.

One of the common ways to cause a trust to be intentionally defective is for the trust document to allow the grantor to retain the power to substitute assets held by the trust for other assets. Assuming a trust has this provision, it is very powerful to routinely swap highly appreciated assets held by the trust that would not be eligible for a basis step-up with assets of equal value held by the grantor that have little to no appreciation, such as cash.

Rather than funding a credit shelter trust upon the first spouse’s death, a surviving spouse might choose to receive all of the assets outright and then immediately fund an IDGT that includes the power to substitute assets. The trust’s income would be taxed to the surviving spouse, allowing for additional wealth transfer, and the grantor could use the swapping power to minimize the income tax cost of the lost basis adjustment.

Any transfer technique, such as a grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT), that allows a donor to transfer assets without generating a gift is also valuable, since it helps preserve the lifetime exemption amount as long as possible, thus maximizing the assets that can benefit from adjusted basis.

Finally, trusts can be useful for keeping assets out of your estate that never should have been included in it. For example, wealthy individuals should generally purchase life insurance through an irrevocable trust, rather than directly in the insured individual’s name. Life insurance owned by decedents is includible in their taxable estates. By creating a trust funded through annual exclusion gifts and having the trust purchase the policy, you can ensure that the estate tax does not take 40 percent of the policy’s proceeds.

Top 6 Advantages Of Student Loans

Student loan has become a ‘necessary evil’ for most of the students, which help them to complete their education. In the present social and economic scenario, the education is a costly affair, of which financial expenses cannot be managed without a financial aid in the form of a scholarship or educational loan. Scholarship is reserved for exceptional students and educational loans will be the only resort for an average student to pursue his student loan. The student loan has the advantage of several relaxations in the terms and conditions than a standard loan. However it is essential that the student loan amount including the prescribed interest have to be repaid. The top 5 ways to help the repayment of the student loans are comprehended from the testimonials of the students, who are successful in student loan repayment.

It is a fact the student loan repayment will not be practically easy in the beginning years of ‘struggle of existence’. The student will get a grace period of 6 months to 9 months for the start of the loan repayment after the course completion, which varies according to the nature of the loan. But in the entry level jobs, it will be pretty hard to find the amount for the loan repayment. Proper financial management is the only possible solution to handle the crisis successfully. But it may not be easy to restrict the expenses in the early days, even though you are aware about the student loan and other liabilities. A budgeting will certainly help you to plan the situation well and it can be a winning strategy, if you have the necessary will power to act accordingly.

The negotiation with your debtors can be the next step. You can contact them directly to avail any adjustments in the repayment schedule or can switch on to a more convenient repayment plan. The repayment period has to be selected according to your capability to spare for the monthly installments. The lenders benefits and offers can be another helping hand to pay off the student loans. Now most of the lenders have put forwarded certain benefits and incentives for the loan repayments. The utilization of the relaxations in the interest rates and total debt is certainly advantageous to pay off the student debts.

If you have multiple debts, the best strategy is to consolidate the different loans to a single consolidation loan. Now, Federal consolidation loan is available, which will help to consolidate all federal loans, with certain pronounced advantages in the rates and terms of the loans. However, it will not consolidate the private loans. You have to seek any of the private consolidation loans to mange the private loans. If the multiple debts cannot be consolidated, then you have to pay off the loan with the higher interest rate. The regular follow up of such a strategy will certainly help to pay off the student loan easily.

In case of defaults in the repayment of the student loan, the rehabilitation programs of the lenders can be utilized as the way, which help to pay the student loan. In brief student loans can be compared to the common saying “slow and steady wins the race”. If you are able to start the repayment during the study using money from the vacation jobs or part time jobs, it will certainly help to pay the student loan early. Also, keep in mind that the extended repayment schedule is not advised in all cases as it will levy more money as interest. Hence a planned and intelligent strategy will be the best way to pay the student loan easily.

Does Social Media Help In Getting An Auto Loan?

Looking for Loan Management Software (LMS)? Here are three things to focus on when selecting one for your business:

1. How much are you willing to pay?

2. Why does your business need a Loan Management Software?

3. What features does your business require in a Loan Management Software?

To help you answer these questions, here is our guide on how to choose the right Loan Management Software for your business.

What is Loan Management Software?

As its name suggests, Loan Management Software was originally designed to help lenders build and maintain relationships with new and existing customers who have borrowed cash. Today, however, Loan Management Software has evolved from a simple contact management system into a robust tool that lets you manage leads, customers, sales, marketing, call centres, scoring, under-writing, payment processing, reconciliation, accounting, backend processing and other types of transactional and operational data, all in one easily accessible solution.

It can also integrate data from other areas of your business without any additional work. A Loan Management software gives lenders and their sales teams all the tools necessary to grow your business in a central hub with the least amount of work possible.

How much does a Loan Management Software cost?

The cost of LMS varies greatly. LMS Providers typically use a transaction-based pricing model, which can depend on a variety of factors, such as the number of active loans and the payment processed.

For the most part, you can expect to pay on a per-transaction, per-month basis or one-time cost depending on the model. You may also come across providers that charge a flat monthly fee but require larger packages or extra fees for support & maintenance. Pricing can range from $1 per transaction per month to hundreds of dollars per month, depending on your business’ unique needs.

Don’t have a budget for LMS software? Or maybe you’re not sure that LMS software is right for your business, but would like to see what it has offer? One option is to schedule a demo of a few LMS Solutions in the market or try a free trial if offered by any of the vendors.

Do you need Loan Management Software?

LMS can make your life as a lender much easier, while also helping your agents and managers get the job done in a more efficient and streamlined way.

If the following statements apply to you, your business needs Loan Management Software:

1. You need a robust Contact management.

At its core, contact management part of the LMS is all about keeping information from various sources organized. If you’re looking for a better way to store and manage customer information, LMS is the best solution for your business. It acts as an entire database for all types of insights on customers, including contact information, loan applications, loan and transaction histories, how customers browse your website, ways and times they’ve applied a loan with your company, demographics, interests, personal preferences and more. You can then use this information to segment customers for marketing purposes or to easily search for customers who fit specific criteria.

2. You’re looking for an automated way to boost sales.

LMS doesn’t just keep your contacts organized – it also offers a bevy of tools to help you boost sales and execute more effective marketing campaigns. These include:

Lead Generation. Find new customers by automatically taking-in leads from various sources like social media, website visitors, lead providers, inbound calls, newsletter sign-ups and more.

Email Marketing. Automatically build email lists, launch email marketing campaigns and measure performance. Loan Management Software can also send email reminders to customers and prospects to drive sales – for instance, by reminding them of abandoned loan applications, suggesting loan products or promotions that they may be interested in and other ways to make up for missed sales opportunities.

3. You’re looking for an automated way to funnel your leads

A robust LMS doesn’t allow you to work on leads, thereby wasting your precious time. It integrates a configurable under-writing engine that does the first level of filtering your quality leads.

Under-writing. Qualify and filter leads automatically with pre-defined set of rules or criteria (Under-writing), so that, you only have to spend of quality leads when they are sent to Credit Bureaus for Scoring.

Scoring. From a lenders perspective, just qualifying leads is not enough to accept the leads because every lead is associated with a certain cost. The leads need to be scored for various criteria before they are accepted. There are various Credit Bureaus in the market that allows the leads to be scored and sometimes, the leads should pass through multiple Bureaus’ Verifications before they are accepted. A good LMS should allow such integrations of multiple Credit Bureaus to score leads and sometimes with an option to define order in which they should pass through each Credit Bureaus

Verification. Now that, we have the quality leads that need to be verified. Only at this point that, your Agents start calling the leads and go through various verification steps of Loan Application. A flexible Loan Management Software lets you define the verification process, call queue, agent allocation to different type of leads, auto originate loans for good leads etc. Any lead that passes this verification is ready for approval upon the customer signing the Electronic Loan Agreement.

4. You’re looking to streamline the Loan Approval Process

Loan Agreement. The Electronic Loan Agreement binds the customers with the lender. Any lender’s choice would be to have multiple loan agreements for different loan types or products and the ability to add or truncate rules based on the lending rules of each state.

E-sign. Any lead that passes this verification is ready for approval upon the customer signing the Electronic Loan Agreement, which is called E-Sign. A good Loan Management Software either has an inbuilt E-Sign mechanism or allows to integrate with E-Sign Services like DocuSign or HelloSign. In-built mechanism obviously reduces the cost while integration allows you to use the service of your choice for E-Sign Process.

Loan Approval. The moment customer signs the E-Sign Document, the Loan Application sent to the Agent’s Manager for Approval. In case of a good lead, if an auto-origination process is defined in the Loan Management Software, the Loan Application is automatically approved and is ready to be funded. Other Loan Applications are approved by the Agent’s Manager and on approval and goes for funding.

5. You’re looking to automate payment processing

Payment Processing. Once the loan is approved, it will be ready for funding. The funding can happen immediately or at the end of each day. An efficient Loan Management Software should be capable of defining when and how the funding should happen every. Usually, the payments are processed through ACH Providers. The Loan Management Software can integrate one or multiple ACH providers based on lender specifics.

Return Processing. Receiving returns from the bank or payment processors and updating them in the LMS can be quite a tedious task. The returned transaction must be charged with an NSF Fee or a Late Fee, which has to be notified to the customer. The LMS you choose should have the ability to automatically process this information.

Collection. Collections are a part of any lending portfolio. Non-performing loans may be handed over to collection agencies by the lenders. This follows a set of rules that varies based on the state and lender. The LMS you choose should have the means to accommodate the rules and should be flexible enough to change at any point of time.

Choosing the right Loan Management Software

Ready to invest in Loan Management software? There are many different types available, so choosing the right one is the key to making it work for your lending business. Here’s what a lender need to ask a potential LMS Provider

1. Is it built for your market and loan types?
2. How easy is it to use? Can I easily train employees?
3. How customizable is the software?
4. What features are available to help me with sales, marketing and other aspects of my business?
5. How easy is it to integrate with third-party providers I already use?
6. What limitations are there to using the software?
7. What engagement models and costing options available? Are there any setup or additional fees? What if I need to expand my portfolio?
8. What type of security features does it have to protect my business’s and customers’ data? What happens if there is an outage? How is my data backed up in the cloud, and can I access it immediately?
9. If I need help, what type of customer service do you offer? Can I reach you any time, or is there a long turnaround period?