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BANKING & FINANCE An Anton Media Group Special March 15 - 21, 2017

Tax Tips

• Estate Planning • Closing Costs •What’s A Fiduciary?

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In providing wealth management services to clients, we offer both investment advisory and brokerage services, which are separate and distinct and differ in material ways. For information, including the different laws and contracts that govern, visit ubs.com/workingwithus. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and Certified finanCial Planner™ in the U.S. Neither UBS Financial Services Inc. nor any of its employees provides legal or tax advice. You should consult with your personal legal or tax advisor regarding your personal circumstances. UBS Financial Services Inc. is a subsidiary of UBS AG. © UBS 2017. All rights reserved. UBS Financial Services Inc. is a subsidiary of UBS AG. Member FINRA/SIPC. AD_31.00_8.75x2.675_0306_PalP


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Six Simple Steps To Safeguard Private Information The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and the State’s Division of Consumer Protection are encouraging New Yorkers to take proactive security measures to avoid being victimized by identity thieves. “Be mindful of those who can access your personal information, and provide it only to those you know and trust,” said Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion. “Now that the income tax filing season is underway, scammers are eager to steal personal information, including social security numbers, to file bogus claims for tax refunds.” “Scammers are particularly active during tax season, when sensitive personal information is shared, making filers vulnerable to identity theft,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “We urge everyone filing taxes to take these helpful steps to keep their information protected. The Division of Consumer Protection stands ready to fight against cybercrime and ensure that New Yorkers’ information and hard-earned money is not at risk.” The Tax Department urged New Yorkers to follow these simple steps to thwart identity thieves:

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Protect personal information, including social security numbers, birth dates and driver license numbers. Shred documents containing sensitive data before discarding. File your tax return as early as possible. The earlier you file your tax return, the less likely your information can be used by an identity thief to file a fraudulent claim for a tax refund. Don’t be fooled by aggressive phone scams. Remember, the NYS Tax Department and the IRS will always send you a letter before contacting you by phone or email and will never threaten you.

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Don’t get hooked by a phishing scheme. Taxpayers may receive emails with authentic-looking government logos that offer assistance in settling fake tax issues. The NYS Tax Department and IRS will never request personal

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Use a secure online connection. Ninety-two percent of New York taxpayers file electronically. Never file your taxes while connected to public Wi-Fi networks, which are far less secure than those in your home or office. Also, never walk away from your computer screen when your private information is visible.

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ESTATE PLANNING

Protecting Assets: What Seniors And Their Loved Ones Need To Know

BY JENNIFER B. CONA, ESQ.

sPECIALSECTIONS@ANTONMEDIAGROUP.COM

Many people believe their longterm health care costs will be paid for by Medicare. Others believe their private health insurance will cover such costs. Generally, neither is the case. So how does the average senior meet the looming costs of long-term health care without exhausting all assets? Many families engage in asset protection planning by setting up trusts in advance of a health care crisis. In order to protect assets for Medicaid eligibility purposes, a living trust must be irrevocable. The senior cannot have access to the principal of the trust but can maintain the right to receive income generated by the trust assets (dividends, interest, etc.). Almost any type of asset may be held in a trust, such as cash, title to the home, bank accounts, CDs, stocks, brokerage accounts, mutual funds and annuities. Once five years pass (the current “look-back” period), the assets held in the trust are protected with respect to Medicaid. The senior will not be obligated to spend down those assets on the cost of care. Instead, the assets will pass to the senior’s heirs and beneficiaries. Many seniors start by protecting their home, often the family’s largest asset. Once the irrevocable trust is executed, a new deed to the property is signed naming the trust as the new owner. The trust will typically contain terms so that the senior will keep all current real estate tax exemptions, such as STAR and Veteran’s exemptions. In addition, the beneficiaries will get certain tax advantages when they inherit the home. And the senior’s hands are not tied; the house can be sold and the trust will then hold the cash or a new house can be purchased within the trust. The only difference is that the trustee must attend the closing with the seniors—a small detail to protect a valuable asset. So what happens when a loved one needs immediate nursing home care and has not planned ahead to protect assets? Will the family have to spend down all of their loved one’s money? Luckily, no. The family can still save approximately one-half of the assets. It is still possible to protect one-half of an individual’s assets, even if s/he is already in a nursing home, by using a promissory note. It works as follows: the nursing home resident transfers all

of his/her funds (less the permissible resource allowance, currently $14,850 for 2017) to an individual/family member. The person receiving the funds signs a note promising to pay back approximately one-half of the monies transferred (the loaned assets), plus interest, to the nursing home resident on a monthly basis. The monthly amount to be paid back to the resident is calculated using the nursing home daily rate less the resident’s income. Upon payment of the monthly amount to the resident, the resident writes a check for the same amount to the nursing home. The note repayment amount covers payment to the nursing home during the penalty period (number of months) incurred by the transfer of the other one-half of the assets (the gifted assets). The loan payments are calculated to end at the same time that the penalty period on the gifted assets ends, thereby making the nursing home resident Medicaid eligible on that date. The family member will keep one-half of the assets (the gifted assets) free and clear. The following example will help illustrate: Mrs. Winston has $230,000 in assets. She transfers $220,000 to her daughter, $110,000 of which is a gift and $110,000 of which is a loan. Winston’s daughter signs a promissory note for the loan of $110,000 stating that she will repay the loan at the rate of $11,000

per month. The penalty period based on the gifted assets of $110,000 will run for 10 months (calculated by dividing the amount gifted by the regional rate in the county where the nursing home is located). The $110,000 loan will be repaid to Winston over the 10-month period at $11,000 per month, which Winston will use to pay the nursing home during that period of time, along with her other monthly income (Social Security, pension). After 10 months, the loan will be re-paid, the gifted money will be protected and Winston will be eligible for Medicaid benefits.

The promissory note rules are very stringent and clients often run afoul of the specific requirements. It is absolutely necessary that the family work with an elder law attorney to implement such a plan. It is never too early to plan and establishing an asset protection trust can be a great first step. While planning in advance is always recommended, families can take comfort in the fact that not all will be lost. Jennifer B. Cona, Esq., is a managing partner at Genser Dubow Genser & Cona in Melville (www.genserlaw.com).

Published by Anton Media Group KARL V. ANTON, JR. Publisher, 1984–2000 ANGELA SUSAN ANTON Editor and Publisher FRANK A. VIRGA President SHARI EGNASKO Executive Assistant STEVE MOSCO Senior Managing Editor CHRISTY HINKO Managing Editor, Special Sections KAREN MENGEL Director of Production ALEX NUÑEZ Art Director IRIS PICONE Director of Operations JOY DIDONATO Director of Circulation ADVERTISING SALES

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Nine Common Filing Errors To Avoid The IRS encourages taxpayers to file an accurate tax return. If a taxpayer makes an error on their return, it will likely take longer for the IRS to process it. This could delay a refund. Avoid many common errors by filing electronically. IRS e-file is the most accurate way to file a tax return. All taxpayers can use IRS Free File at no cost.

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Here are nine common errors to avoid when preparing a tax return: 1. Missing or Inaccurate Social Security Numbers. Be sure to enter each SSN on a tax return exactly as printed on the Social Security card. 2. Misspelled Names. Spell all names listed on a tax return exactly as listed on that individual’s Social Security card. 3. Filing Status Errors. Some people claim the wrong filing status, such as Head of Household instead of Single. The Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help taxpayers choose the correct status. E-file software also helps prevent mistakes. 4. Math Mistakes. Math errors are common. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex items. Transactions like figuring the taxable portion of a pension, IRA distribution or Social Security benefits are more difficult and result in more errors. Taxpayers should always double check their math. Better yet, tax preparation software does it automatically, so file electronically. 5. Errors in Figuring Tax Credits or Deductions. Filers can make mistakes figuring their Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, the standard deduction and other items. Taxpayers need to follow the instructions carefully. For example, if a taxpayer is age 65 or older, or blind, they should be sure to claim the correct, higher standard deduction. The IRS Interactive Tax Assistant can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible

for tax credits or deductions. 6. Incorrect Bank Account Numbers. The IRS strongly urges all taxpayers who have a refund due to choose direct deposit. It’s easy and convenient. Be careful to use the right routing and account numbers on the tax return. The fastest and safest way to get a refund is to combine e-file with direct deposit. 7. Forms Not Signed. An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check—it’s not valid. Both spouses must sign a joint return. Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically. Sign an e-filed tax return digitally before sending it to the IRS. 8. Electronic Filing PIN Errors. When e-filing, the taxpayer signs and validates the tax return electronically with a prior-year Self-Select Personal Identification Number. If they do not have or know their PIN, they should enter the Adjusted Gross Income from their 2015 tax return originally filed with the IRS. Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Do not use the AGI amount from an amended return or a return that the IRS corrected. 9. Filing with an expired ITIN. A tax return filed with an expired Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) will be processed and treated as timely filed, but will be processed without any exemptions or credits claimed. Taxpayers will receive a notice from the IRS explaining that an ITIN must be current before any refund is paid. Once the ITIN is renewed, exemptions and credits are processed and any allowed refund paid. ITIN expiration and renewal information is available on IRS.gov. —Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)


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Prepare Your Budget For Closing Costs When Buying A Home BY NATHANIEL SILLIN

specialsections@antonmediagroup.com

Imagine the frustration that would follow if you spent hours planning and narrowing in on a dream home only to find out that you can’t afford it when push comes to shove. Starting with a price range can help you make the most of your search, but you’ll need to account for closing costs to create a realistic budget. A catch-all for the fees and services that result from the sale of a home, closing costs are generally about 2 to 5 percent of the home’s value when you’re making a purchase. In other words, you could pay about $4,000 to $10,000 on a $200,000 home.

Estimating your closing costs Your closing costs and fees vary, depending on where you’re buying, how much you put down, who helps you with the home-buying process, the type of home you’re buying and the type of loan you’re taking out. You can estimate the closing costs of homes you’re interested in by using one of the many closing cost calculators online. Also, ask your real estate agent to help you estimate the closing costs of homes in different neighborhoods.

A few of the fees you could encounter when closing on a home While costs can vary and state laws dictate differences in the closing process, here are a few typical services or fees: • Inspections. You likely want to hire an inspector to make sure the home doesn’t need any major repairs and there aren’t any wood-eating pest (such as termite) infestations. Many lenders require you get these inspections, but even when they don’t it’s usually a good idea. • Attorney fees. You could have to pay attorneys to help prepare and review documents for the closing. • Survey. Some states require you to hire a surveyor to verify the size of the lot. • Homeowners insurance. You may need to pay several months’ worth of homeowners insurance premiums up front. • Origination fee. Mortgage lenders, banks or brokers often charge about 1 percent of your loan’s value. • Property taxes. Several months’ worth of property tax payments could be due at the closing. You might see advertisements for “no-closingcost” mortgages. While these offers can be enticing, you’ll generally pay a higher interest rate on the loan or the closing costs will be wrapped into the mortgage. It might be a good option if you’re planning on moving within the next few years. Otherwise, you’ll likely wind up paying more in interest over the lifetime of the loan than you would have on the closing costs.

Try to do your own calculations to determine if a no-cost closing makes sense based on your estimated closing costs, increase in monthly payments and how long you plan on staying in the home.

You’ll know approximately how much you have to pay before the closing Mortgage lenders have three business days from when you submit a loan application to give you a loan estimate. The standardized document shows your estimated interest rate, monthly payments, taxes, insurance and closing costs. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has an interactive example of a standard loan estimate form (www.consumerfinance.gov/owning-a-home/ loan-estimate) with explanations and definitions of terms. On the second page, there’ll be a list of closing costs, including a breakdown of which services you may be able to negotiate. You shop mortgage lenders, compare the loan estimate you receive and then continue the process with the lender that gives you the best estimated terms. Three business days before your scheduled closing, the lender you choose must give you a five-page closing disclosure form with the finalized terms.

Carefully look over the closing disclosure and ask your real estate agent, loan officer or attorney questions. If you don’t agree with the new terms of the deal, it’s not too late to back out. If you’re happy with the terms and the closing goes smoothly you’ll be a homeowner soon. Bottom line: Estimating your closing costs, and budgeting accordingly, can help ensure you’re looking for homes within your price range. That’s important because you want to be able to move quickly when you find a home you love. However, don’t move so fast that you miss out on savings opportunities. Shopping mortgage lenders and service providers could help you minimize your closing costs. Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs.


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BANKING & FINANCE • MARCH 15 - 21, 2017 ADVERTORIAL

How To Select Your Financial Advisor media accounts and industry databases like Finra.org. It’s also important to consider what firm the advisor is affiliated with. Do they have years or decades of experience working with clients like you? Are they financially sound and reputable? Understand how the advisor approaches financial planning. Steer clear from someone who offers a cookie-cutter approach to financial planning. Instead, look for an advisor who offers a disciplined, comprehensive and customizable approach. A good advisor should offer a tailored plan based on your goals — whether it’s building cash reserves, protecting your income against death or disability or creating a balanced portfolio. You and your advisor should have compatible expectations about your relationship. Before agreeing to work with a professional, understand what his or her relationship with clients looks like. How often do they meet with clients like you? What would they expect from you at each meeting? How accessible are they between meetings? Make sure that the person you select is willing to work with you the way you want to interact with an advisor.

You should have a clear understanding of what you’re paying for. Advisors should provide information and materials to help you evaluate the benefits, risks and costs of the investments and services they offer, as well as the full range of options for the services you will be provided and account types you may select. If anything is unclear, make sure to ask questions. Financial advisors should know how to tap into the expertise of others. A smart advisor knows when it’s time to gather input from other experts, such as tax and legal professionals. Find an advisor who is willing to use a team approach to help you reach your goals. Once you choose an advisor you can team up to start customizing a financial plan that fits your unique needs. Selecting an advisor and creating a financial plan does take some time and effort, especially if working with a financial professional is new

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to you. Once you take action to achieve your goals, however, you’ll likely discover how life’s challenges can be better managed with the security of having a financial plan. Philip P. Andriola, JD, is a Private Wealth Advisor and Chief Executive Officer with Andriola, Goldberg & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. He offers fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 18 years. To contact him, ameripriseadvisors.com/philip.p.andriola, 401 Franklin Avenue, Suite 101, Garden City, NY 11530, (516) 345-2600 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. and its affiliates do not offer tax or legal advice. Consult your tax adviser or attorney regarding your specific situation. Investment advisory products and services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., a registered investment adviser.

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Speaking from experience, the relationship between a financial advisor and his or her clients is incredibly important. Whether you rely on your advisor to help with retirement planning, saving for college, or meeting other goals, this individual will help determine how you approach some of life’s biggest financial decisions. That’s why it’s critical to ensure you’re working with the right person. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing an advisor. Find someone who cares about your goals for the future. Your financial advisor should ask questions about your hopes, dreams and concerns. Find someone who not only discusses important financial topics, but also listens and understands your needs. The individual should help you feel at ease and communicate clearly. Select an advisor and a firm with a solid reputation. As you interview advisors, ask for references and specific examples that show how they helped clients like you reach their goals or weather difficult financial times. Also, check the advisor’s educational background and note any professional designations or industry accolades they have earned. You may find this information and more on their personal website, social

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The One Question Every Investor Should Ask:

Is My Financial Advisor A Fiduciary? BY MIKE DESEPOLI

with putting their clients’ best interest ahead of their own. For instance, faced with two identical products but with different fees, an adviser under the fiduciary standard would be compelled to recommend the lower cost option to the client, even if it meant fewer dollars in his or her own pocket. Unfortunately many investors can’t distinguish among advisors who is a fiduciary, and who isn’t. Studies have shown that individual investors don’t know who is a fiduciary or what a fiduciary actually is. So here are a few questions to help you sort through the rubble:

specialsections@antonmediagroup.com

Financial advisors will have a new regulation to deal with starting in April, and it’s the biggest change the financial advice industry has seen since the great recession. It’s called the “Fiduciary Rule”, and it will have a significant impact on how financial advice is delivered. It is important that investors understand what this change is, and why it’s important. Introduced by the previous administration, the fiduciary rule will require financial advisors to put the client’s needs before their own. Yes, you read that right. Until the rule officially goes into effect, your financial advisor may not have your best interest in mind. As the law currently stands, there are two standards that advisors are held to, the suitability standard and the fiduciary standard. The suitability standard gives advisers the most wiggle room. It simply requires that recommendations must fit clients’

investing objectives, time horizon and experience. You can satisfy the suitability standard by recommending the least suitable of the options, as long as it falls within the general suitability test of that client. The suitability standard invites conflicts of interest pertaining to compensation, which can vary greatly from one product to another.

It also doesn’t require advisors to disclose conflicts of interest. So what that means is often the products that are being recommended are best for the broker, and have higher costs for the investor. It is estimated that non-fiduciary advice costs Americans approximately $17 billion each year. The other standard of care, the fiduciary standard, tasks advisors

How often do you monitor my investments?

Investors don’t ask this question often, because most investors assume the advisor keeps a close eye on their portfolio. A common reason for using an advisor is insufficient time to self-manage. Hopefully, you are not paying an annual fee for an advisor to put your money into passive index funds and not monitor

Cont’d on next page

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Cont’d from previous page their performance. If your advisor is not analyzing your portfolio at least quarterly, you may want to discuss the services offered for the annual fee you pay.

What is your investment philosophy?

Paying careful attention to the advisor’s answer can offer insight into the business model. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, all advisors should have a disciplined and repeatable investment approach. Markets fluctuate, and strategies that may have been in favor last year might perform terribly the next year. An advisor who chases performance and lacks an underlying process often generates poor returns. If they are pitching a new “hot” fund every time you meet, they may not have your best interest in mind.

How much am I really paying?

Disclosure requirements have improved since the financial crisis, but “hidden” fees remain. Often, when selecting a financial advisor, clients base their decision on the advertised fee. In some cases, there may be no fee referenced at all. Is the advisor working for free? If the fee seems too low, that may also be concerning. The advisor may be

receiving ongoing service fees from the investment they are recommending. This undisclosed compensation is a big conflict of interest. Beware, as these fees can become a significant cost over time, compared to the explicit fees of a fiduciary advisor. A typical fee-based advisor has a tiered structure based on account size that is disclosed to a client

up front. Selecting an advisor with a reasonable fee is important, but what you get for that fee is equally relevant. If one advisor is a fiduciary and the other is only held to the suitability standard, the difference in fees may not paint the full picture. Investing in an advisor who has your best interests at heart could pay handsomely over time.

When it comes to choosing a financial advisor, take nothing for granted. Know what you are paying for, and what services you are entitled to. Remember, a misguided broker focused on his or her next commission could cause you financial ruin. Mike Desepoli, AIF, is the vice president of Heritage Financial Advisory Group

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Banking & Finance 03 15 2017  

Banking & Finance is a special advertising supplement of Anton Media Group. In this edition, we focus on tax tips, estate planning, closing...