5 Loving Things To Do For The Ones You Love

5 Loving Things To Do For The Ones You Love

It’s a new year, which means a new chance to do what you’ve been putting off until the time is right. That time is now. Here are 5 of the most loving things you can do for the people you love in the New Year because, at some point, you will become sick or die. And while we don’t like to think about it, the best way not to need to think about it is to plan well.  Then, you can put it out of your mind and live your life as if every day is your last.

The Five Most Loving Things You Can Do For The People You Love In The New Year:

1. Make a Plan. Having a will, a trust, a power of attorney, a health care directive, and, if you have kids, a Children’s Protection Plan is vitally important so you don’t leave your family in a mess and having to deal with an expensive court process overseen by a judge who doesn’t know (or really care) about you or your family. Without a plan in place, you are planning to fail! Don’t do that to your loved ones.

2. Write a letter or record a CD. Pass on what really matters to your family — your values, insights, stories, and experience — in written or recorded form so they can return to you long after you are gone. There are many ways you can save special memories for those you will leave behind one day.

3. Pay for and plan your funeral. Cremated or buried? Ashes or body where? Yes or no to a viewing? Make these decisions now and let your loved ones know, in writing, so they don’t have to worry and wonder. And have the payment arrangements for your funeral expenses handled so they don’t have to scramble and pay for the arrangements at a time when they are overwhelmed with grief.

4. Plan to pay no taxes. Will there be taxes on your estate, and if so, how will your heirs pay them? Meet with your personal and trusted attorney to be sure there are no surprises with estate taxes or other costs, especially if there’s insurance involved. You don’t have to be rich to think about this.

5. Get organized. Let loved ones know where they can find your legal documents, other important paperwork, and the key to your safe deposit box. Be sure to include all of your password information to access online accounts, including email, Facebook, and other regularly accessed computer programs.

Now is the Time to Act

Tax-Saving Strategies For 2022

Although the end of the year can be hectic, it’s also the deadline for you and your family to implement several key tax-savings strategies. By taking action now, you may be able to reduce your tax bill due in April significantly. But you must do this before the end of the year, so act fast.

While there are dozens of potential tax breaks you may qualify for, here are 4 of the leading moves you can make to save big on your 2022 tax return.

1. Maximize retirement account contributions

By maximizing your contributions to tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, you can save for retirement and reduce your taxable income for 2022.

In 2022, you can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA, up to $20,500 to a 401(k) if you’re under 50, and up to $7,000 to an IRA and $27,000 to a 401(k) for those 50 and older. If you don’t have the cash available to fund the maximum amount, contribute at least any amount that your employer will match since that’s basically free money, and you lose it if you don’t use it.

That said, the ability to deduct your traditional IRA contributions from your taxes comes with certain limitations. These limitations are based on factors such as whether or not you or your spouse are covered by a retirement plan at work and your adjusted gross income (AGI), so make sure you know how your family is affected by these limits when taking deductions. On the other hand, Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible since they are made after taxes are taken out, but withdrawals from a Roth in retirement are tax-free.

Additionally, consider maxing out your Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions. Contributions to HSAs for 2022 are capped at $3,650 for individuals and $7,300 for families, with an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 allowed for those aged 55 and older.

You have until December 31st, 2022, to contribute to a 401(k) plan and until April 18th, 2023, to contribute to an IRA or HSA for the 2022 tax year.

2. Defer income if you’ll make less next year

If you’re expecting to make significantly more income this year than in 2023, try to defer as much income into next year as possible. However, this strategy only makes sense if you’ll be in the same or a lower tax bracket next year.

On the other hand, if you think you’ll be in a higher tax bracket in 2023, you may want to do the opposite and accelerate income into 2022 to take advantage of a lower tax bracket.

3. Use “loss harvesting” to offset capital gains

With the stock and crypto markets down this year, it can be the ideal time to use a strategy called “loss harvesting.” This means selling taxable investment assets (such as stocks, mutual funds, and bonds) at a loss to offset any capital gains you may have realized earlier in the year. Capital losses offset capital gains dollar for dollar.

If your losses exceed your gains, you can write off up to $3,000 of collective losses against other income. Any losses in excess of $3,000 can be carried over into the following year. In fact, you can carry over such losses year after year over your lifetime.

Note that the loss harvesting strategy does not apply to tax-advantaged accounts, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and 529 plans. Additionally, the IRS “wash-sale” rule prohibits using this tax write-off for buying a “substantially identical” asset within a 30-day window before or after the sale that generated the loss.

Always consult your CPA or financial advisor before employing loss harvesting to ensure it doesn’t backfire on you.

4. Watch your required minimum distributions (RMDs)—or ensure your parents are watching theirs—if you or they are over age 72

If you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, including a 401(k), 403(b), traditional IRA, SEP IRA, or SIMPLE IRA, you must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) by April 1st of the year that follows

the year you turn 72. After that, annual withdrawals must be made by December 31st each year to avoid a severe penalty.

If you fail to take the proper RMD, you may face a 50% excise tax on the amount you should have withdrawn based on your age, life expectancy, and account balance at the beginning of the year. That said, if you do make a mistake, you may be able to avoid the penalty by requesting a waiver from the IRS. You can request a waiver if your failure to take the RMD is due to a reasonable error and you take steps to make the required distribution. To request a waiver, submit Form 5329 to the IRS with a statement explaining the error and the steps you are taking to correct it.

Note that in 2022 the IRS updated its uniform lifetime table to calculate RMDs to account for longer life expectancies. As a result, your RMDs for this year may be slightly lower compared to previous years. To determine your RMD, refer to the IRS RMD worksheet or use an RMD calculator.

Maximize Your 2022 Tax Saving

There you have just four year-end tax-saving strategies that could save your family thousands of dollars on your 2022 tax bill. But DO IT NOW, as the end of the year will be here before you know it.

‘Tis the Season

Beware of Holiday Scammers

‘Tis the season for fall leaves, first snowfalls, hot apple cider, and holiday cheer. For most of us, the holidays are full of giving, getting, and goodwill. 

But we must also realize that the holidays are the time of year when scammers are out in droves. Unfortunately, not only is the number of scammers multiplying each year, but scammers have also become more and more adept at creating new scams to rip you off both in person and online. 

Thousands of people become victims of holiday scams each year. The numbers are staggering. Consumers lost $770 Million to scams that originated on social media in 2021. Non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $337 million, and credit card fraud accounted for another $173 million in losses. That is a large chunk of change! Not only is it the hard-earned money you can lose, but scammers can rob you of your identity and personal information and ruin your festive mood.

When shopping online this holiday season—or any time of year—always be aware of deals that seem too good to be true. Do your part to avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim! 

Tips to Avoid Holiday Scams

Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself—and your wallet.

PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL INFO. It’s easy to hit a button and “Buy” from anyone anywhere on your phone or laptop. However, be sure you’re not sharing personal or credit card information over public Wi-Fi. Only “BUY” when you are on a secure network.

DON’T CLICK. Don’t click on just any links or attachments in emails, websites, or social media. Phishing scams and similar crimes offer a link to click on whereby you give up some personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. You may unknowingly download malware to your device with just a few link clicks. 

GIFT CARDS. Yes, gift cards are a convenient holiday gift, but they also open the door to several scams. Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. If someone asks you to pay them with a gift card, that’s a scam. Gift cards are popular with scammers because they’re easy for people to find and buy. They also have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options. They’re more like cash: once a scammer has the gift card number and the PIN, they have your money. 

If you are going to use gift cards, stick to stores you know and trust. Avoid buying from online auction sites because the cards may be fake or stolen. 

Check out your gift card before you buy it. To ensure your gift card is protected, avoid the rack and ask for one directly from the counter. Make sure the protective stickers are on the card and that they do not appear to have been tampered with. Also, check that the PIN on the back isn’t showing. Get a different card if you spot a problem. And always keep your receipt with the card’s ID number on it, as that will allow you to file a report if your gift card goes missing.  

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE DEALS. There may appear to be deals galore over the holidays, and many are on social media – but not all of them are legitimate. Carefully read reviews, look for security credentials on websites, and research unfamiliar retailers before you take advantage of a deal or discount. If it is too good to be true, it probably is. 

BEWARE OF PORCH PIRATES. When you’re expecting packages over the holidays, shippers will often provide us with updates on the status of our orders. Knowing this, scammers will send phishing emails pretending to be from companies like FedEx and UPS to lure us to phony web pages and get us to share personal information. So, look closely at delivery notifications and email updates before you click on links or input information. And remember, UPS and FedEx won’t ask for personal information via email.

DON’T RESPOND TO REQUESTS FOR UPDATES. Be especially wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own and call the company.

ROBOCALLS. The robocall scams continue. I’ve had two calls this year that appeared to be from a utility company. Lucky for me, the caller didn’t realize that I was going to interrogate him more aggressively before he was going to get information from me. Those calls appeared legit on my phone, and identified the call as the phone number for the utility company. Otherwise, I would never have picked up the calls in the first place. The caller attempted to tell me a past-due utility bill had been overlooked. I started asking very detailed questions to which the utility company would have the answers. I did report the calls to the utility company, and they enlightened me to the fact that scammers can now disguise their call and have it appear that it is the actual telephone number of the company itself. 

The bottom line is don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number. Scammers often use this time of year to call and solicit donations for fake charities. Don’t ever agree to donate to a charity or buy anything over the phone without first looking into the organization.

 As we move into the holiday season, remember that we can all be targeted by unscrupulous persons. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to be AWARE of the newest scams out there and verify the identity of the person or organization to be sure they are legit. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, pause, think, and hang up if any red flags arise. 

How To Save Big Money On Your 2022 Taxes

When you first realize that your most significant personal and business expense—bar none—is taxes, it can come as quite a shock. Seeing so much of your hard-earned money wind up in the government’s hands can feel like a shakedown. That said, spending a relatively small amount of time and effort strategically reducing your taxes can pay major dividends.

Some people resist implementing creative tax strategies because they’re worried it will get them in trouble with the IRS. However, as long as you do things correctly, there’s absolutely nothing illegal or risky about strategizing to pay the least amount of taxes possible.

On the other hand, it is illegal to evade taxes. As the late Martin Ginsburg, Georgetown Law professor and husband of the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said, “Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered.” In other words, you want to be smart when it comes to saving on your taxes but not greedy.

As the end of 2022 approaches, we’re entering the most critical time of the year for tax strategy, and this two-part series outlines how you can get fat without getting slaughtered.

PREPARE YOUR FOUNDATION

To save big on your 2022 taxes, your first step should be either building or rekindling your relationship with your team of financial professionals. These individuals will support you in establishing the foundation for developing and implementing your tax-saving strategies. At the very least, this team should include your Business lawyer, your bookkeeper/financial manager, and your tax advisor. They each have an essential role in your success.

If your bookkeeper’s job is more about data entry than financial management, you should look for someone new—or quickly get your current staff trained and up to speed. An effective bookkeeper will manage your books on a week-to-week basis (if not daily, depending on your business). Note I said “week-to-week,” not just month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter.

Your bookkeeper’s primary responsibilities should include daily/weekly cash-flow management, monthly review of reports and categorization of expenses, and quarterly updates of your forecast and projections. Again, if your bookkeeper isn’t providing these types of services for you, your business is missing an essential part of its financial foundation. 

Outside of your bookkeeper, your tax advisor is the person who files your taxes. Ideally, you should meet with your tax advisor AT LEAST twice a year. We encourage you to meet once in May/June (after tax season) and once when approaching the year’s end in October/November. If you haven’t done that, DO IT NOW!

The purpose of the May/June meeting is a general catch-up and mid-year review that lets your tax advisor know what you’re financially on track to do for the year. Then, your advisor can consider the most effective tax strategies based on that information.

When you meet again (NOW) in October/November, that is when you’ll really get down to business. This meeting is when you’ll project cash flow through the end of the year and get a tax estimate using different assumptions, both with and without tax-saving strategies.

If your tax advisor cannot provide this level of service and is merely a tax filer, it’s time to get a new advisor. Your tax advisor should communicate with your business attorney to ensure that your financial strategies are supported with the legal tools and systems necessary to tie it all together and ensure it works properly.

PUTTING YOUR STRATEGIES INTO PLAY

Next week, we’ll discuss how to develop and implement creative tax strategies that will enable you to keep more of your money in your hands rather than the government’s.

5 Ways to Ensure Your LLC is Doing What It Is Meant to Do

Many business owners operate their business as a limited liability company (LLC) due to the personal liability protection an LLC allows. Owners of rental properties also use LLC entities to protect their assets. Why? Because they are smart and because LLCs are not required to adhere to the burdensome formalities and administrative hassles required of corporations.

However, whether you are a full-fledged business or in the business of protecting real estate or other assets, make sure you do it right. Unfortunately, many LLC owners fail to abide by basic operational guidelines and therefore put their assets in DANGER. If you want to maintain an LLC’s personal liability protection, be sure to adhere to the basic operational details.

What Happens If You Don’t Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s?

If you fail to do the basics in operating your LLC, a court can remove the personal liability protection barrier that shields your personal assets WITH A STROKE OF THE PEN! They call is “piercing the veil!” Once the veil is pierced, you and ALL your assets become vulnerable as you are personally liable.

So, what is a savvy owner to do? By implementing and adhering to the following best practices, you can help ensure your company stays in compliance and that your personal assets have the maximum protection possible.

1. Create an Operating Agreement

I hear from LLC owners that an Operating Agreement is not legally required in Colorado. Although that is technically true, it does not mean that it is a smart practice not to have an Operating Agreement. Just because the law does not “require” something doesn’t mean it is not vital or important. Having an Operating Agreement in place provides the essential legal guidelines and framework for how your company will be run and clearly establishes your business as a legal entity separate and apart from you as a person. 

You will be glad you have an Operating Agreement with the protection it provides when your creditors, the IRS, or other people that want a piece of your pie, come calling. We can help you create a robust operating agreement that suits the specific needs and circumstances of your particular business.

2. Conduct All Business in The Company’s Name

All business should be conducted in the company’s name. Your company name is the complete business name, including the limited-liability abbreviation (LLC). And do not forget that you never, ever, ever, ever sign a legal agreement in your name. Every legal agreement and every financial transaction should be signed in the name of your LLC. All business material, including business cards, correspondence, invoices, advertising, websites, and social media, should also use the LLC to identify your company. Otherwise, someone can claim that they didn’t know he was dealing with an LLC, sue you, and seek to get into your personal assets.

3. Keep Your Company Banking Separate. Never Mix Personal and Business Funds

As part of setting up an LLC, we obtain an employer identification number (EIN) for you so that you may set up a bank account in the LLC’s name. Your business account should be used for ALL company transactions, including major and everyday purchases. And, it goes without saying that ALL payments to the business should always be made to the company account. Company funds should never be used to pay your personal bills. Commingling personal and business assets are one of the main reasons courts “pierce the veil” of an LLC’s liability protection. For this reason, keeping your company’s finances separate from your own is a top priority. 

4. File Regular Reports With The State

Nearly all states require LLCs to file regular reports annually. In Colorado, the annual report is filed with the Colorado Secretary of State and keeps that governing agency apprised of key information and changes to your company’s status. As a business owner, you must ensure that your company’s information is up to date.

5. Hold Regular Member Meetings & Keep Minutes

This is another area where business owners fail, as they have “heard” that LLCs don’t need to have meetings or document what is occurring. While it is true that there may not be a specific law or legal requirement that LLCs hold meetings and keep minutes, these are important for several reasons.

In addition to protecting your personal assets from liability, holding regular meetings with accurate minutes provides strong evidence that your LLC is real and observes the formalities necessary to be treated as a legal entity separate and apart from you personally.

Combined with your operating agreement, regular reports to the state, and diligent separation of personal and business finances, such meetings offer extra protection if creditors ever seek to pierce your corporate veil. Holding regular meetings and keeping detailed minutes makes good business sense, especially for multi-member LLCs. For instance, regular meetings facilitate consensus among members when making major decisions, keep members informed of business actions, and provide a forum to plan for your company’s future.

Meeting minutes also provide a clear record of member discussions, votes, and decisions, which can help reduce member disputes and conflict. Plus, keeping detailed minutes provides solid documentation of your company’s operations should the IRS or courts ever request such records.

We’ve Got Your Back

As your lawyer, we are here to support and assist you with setting up your LLC and teaching you how best to adhere to the necessary formalities. Protection from liability is what we do, whether that be through creating an LLC or a trust. Our brightest clients have both. Do you know why? It is to ensure the maximum level of liability protection is in place. Contact us today to learn more.

It’s The Most Magical Time Of The Year… Camp CoCo!

Camp CoCo

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

There is a coolness in the air today, which is a sign that fall is on the way. I will welcome the fall season this year, given the challenge we have endured through the past hot, hot summer months.

I hope your summertime was great. Mine has been a summer filled with wonder. For the first several months, the wonder came from you, the clients I serve. I feel blessed to meet and work with such special people. What I get to do every day is life-giving because of you all. To have that as the backdrop for Camp CoCo, which happens in August every summer, prepares me for the joy of being with grandchildren.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the key to happiness is to be fully present in each and every moment. So my estate planning advice for you as we move into fall is to make memories with those you love now! Let me share what making memories looked like for me this summer and how simple that can be.

Every August, I spend one-on-one quality time with my children and grandchildren at Camp CoCo. It is fast, fun, and full of delight. Most everyone knows me as Cris Carter, but my loved ones call me CoCo- hence Camp CoCo. CoCo was the name I chose 12 years ago with the birth of my first grandchild. I can’t believe it has been 12 years, but that is another story for another time.

Camp CoCo has become a family tradition where I get first-class time with my three grandchildren in Colorado. If you have seen me this summer, you know my face lights up when I think or talk about Camp CoCo. It is a challenging time as I find fun, stimulating, wholesome activities for the “grands” who are now twelve, ten, and eight and live in Texas. The days at Camp CoCo are some of the best days of my life, bar none.

The highlights of the 2022 Camp CoCo event included a couple of nights at the Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs, a trip to the newly rebuilt Flying W Ranch also in Colorado Springs, the Larimer County Rodeo, a melodrama titled “To be ORE not to be” at Gold Hill, Colorado, just outside of Boulder and a stay in Winter Park Colorado. And, yes, after Camp CoCo is over, I need a lot of R & R!

From the perspective of the “grands,” they gave the highest score this year to celebrating old-time Colorado tradition at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs. The Flying W is a working mountain cattle ranch that has provided family education and entertainment in the foothills of Colorado Springs, Colorado, since 1953. I lived in Colorado Springs in 2012 when the Waldo Canyon Fire destroyed the Flying W and was delighted that they were able to rebuild and reopen in 2020. That was also the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is quite a testimony to the grit and resilience of the Flying W Ranch family that visitors can enjoy the nostalgia of the old west once again.

The Flying W is open daily from May to October and features western-style living. With its humble beginnings as a mountain cattle ranch in 1947, the Flying W Ranch is a living symbol of western heritage and has many opportunities for adults and children alike. I suggest you arrive early so you can fully enjoy the fun activities, including:

  • Hands-on with the Ranch animals, including oxen, miniature horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, chickens, and turkeys
  • A hayride on the Percheron horses
  • Riding the train through Christmas Rock Train Tunnel
  • Watching the native Indian Sweetwater Plains Dancers around the open campfire
  • Watching Navajo rug weavers and silversmiths
  • Viewing a horseshoeing demonstration
  • Ranges where you can test your skills at axe throwing and archery

Here is a short video to glimpse the fun and beauty of the Flying W Ranch.

The Ranch is open until October 3, 2022, and will have special Christmas shows in December 2022. I highly recommend visiting the ranch sooner than later with your loved ones. You’ve undoubtedly heard the key to happiness is to be fully present in each and every moment. So as my estate planning advice as we move into fall, I say make those memories with those you love now!