Jeffrey R. Saunders, P.C./Saunders Financial, LLC COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan

In accordance with Executive Order 2020-59, Jeffrey R. Saunders, P.C./Saunders Financial, LLC (“Company”) institutes this COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan (“Plan”) which is on file and available for members and clients.

Jeffrey R. Saunders is hereby designated as the person responsible for implementing, monitoring, and reporting on COVID-19 control strategies, including training members as to workplace infection control practices and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Company is continually monitoring guidance from local, state, and federal health officials and implementing workplace and Plan modifications where appropriate.

1.   Prevention Efforts and Workplace Controls

a.   Cleanliness and Social Distancing

Members of Jeffrey R. Saunders, P.C./Saunders Financial, LLC will whenever feasible, perform their essential duties remotely.
Company provides members with, at a minimum, non-medical grade face coverings.

In addition, Company is instituting the following cleanliness measures:

• Performing routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of workspaces;
• Requesting that the landlord disinfect all common areas frequently and regularly; and
• Where available, providing hand sanitizer.

Members will minimize COVID-19 exposure by:

• Frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
• Utilizing hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable;
• Avoiding touching their face with unwashed hands;
• Avoiding handshakes or other physical contact;
• Avoiding all contact with sick people;
• Practicing respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes;
• Seeking medical attention and/or following medical advice if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; and
• Complying with self-isolation or quarantine orders.

b.   Supplemental Measures Upon Notification of COVID-19 Diagnosis and/or Symptoms

A member with a COVID-19 diagnosis or who displays symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will self-isolate for at least 14 days and until symptoms are resolved.

c.   Member’s Self-Monitoring

Members will not report to the office work site if they:

• Display COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, new loss of smell or taste, and/or gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, whether or not accompanied by a formal COVID-19 diagnosis;
• In the last 14 days, have had close contact with and/or live with any person having a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis; and
• Who, in the last 14 days, have had close contact with and/or live with any person displaying COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, new loss of smell or taste, and/or gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Such members may only resume in-person work upon meeting all return-to-work requirements, defined below.

d.   Return-to-Work Requirements

Members who were themselves diagnosed with COVID-19 may only return to work upon confirmation of the cessation of symptoms and contagiousness, proof of which may be acquired via the test-based strategy or the non-test-based strategy.

The test-based strategy is preferred but relies upon the availability of testing supplies and laboratory capacity. Under this strategy, members may discontinue isolation and return to work upon achieving the following conditions:

• Resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications;
• Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
• Negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized molecular assay for COVID-19 from two consecutive nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

Under the non-test-based strategy, members may discontinue isolation and return to work upon achieving the following conditions:

• At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications;
• Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
• At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Members who came into close contact with, or live with, an individual with a confirmed diagnosis or symptoms may return to work after either 14 days have passed since the last close contact with the diagnosed/symptomatic individual, or the diagnosed/symptomatic individual receives a negative COVID-19 test.

2.   Conduct of Office Meetings

When working on-site at the physical office, Company abides by the recommended social distancing and other safety measures and establishes the following:

• All meetings will be limited to six persons maximum;
• Everyone is required to maintain physical distance no less than six feet apart; and,
• Everyone is required to wear a non-medical grade face covering.

3.   Plan Updates and Expiration

This Plan responds to the COVID-19 outbreak. As this pandemic progresses, Company will update this Plan and its corresponding processes.

This Plan will expire upon conclusion of its need, as determined by Company and in accordance with guidance from local, state, and federal health officials.

FDIC/NCUA Insurance for Revocable Living Trust Accounts at Banks and Credit Unions

FDIC/NCUA Insurance for Revocable Living Trust Accounts at Banks and Credit Unions

Created after the 1929 market crash, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures bank deposit accounts like checking, savings, and CDs in case of bank failure. The basic insurance amount is currently $250,000 per customer account. If a bank becomes insolvent, the FDIC steps in and pays on insured accounts up to the account limit set forth above.

What FDIC insurance does cover:

  • All types of savings, checking, money market and CD deposits.
  • Cashiers checks and certified checks.

What FDIC insurance does not cover:

  • Investment accounts like stock, bond or mutual funds.
  • Annuities
  • Life insurance
  • Safe deposit boxes.
  • Credit unions. BUT NOTE: Credit unions have separate but similar insurance coverage though the National Credit Union Association and thus have NCUA insurance with the same limits as FDIC insured accounts.
  • Robberies and thefts. Banks and credit unions have separate “blanket bond” insurance to cover things like robbery, embezzlement, fire or flood.

People who have large amounts of cash in bank or credit union accounts sometimes become concerned if the amount they have on deposit is greater than the $250,000 insurance limit. Utilizing a living trust-based estate plan can substantially increase FDIC or NCUA insurance coverage.

When a revocable living trust is named as either the owner or the pay on death (POD) beneficiary of a checking, savings or CD account at an FDIC or NCUA insured institution, then calculating the amount of insurance coverage is determined by the number of beneficiaries the trust creator(s) named in the trust. If the trust creator(s) named 5 or fewer beneficiaries, then the insurance coverage is determined by multiplying $250,000 times the number of beneficiaries named. So, for example, if Bill and Mary Jones have a joint revocable living trust that names their 3 children as beneficiaries, any FDIC or NCUA insured account that is either owned by that trust or names that trust as the POD beneficiary has 3 x $250,000= $750,000 of FDIC or NCUA coverage.

If the trust names 6 or more beneficiaries, then the insurance amount might be calculated differently. If all the beneficiaries are entitled to an equal share, then the same calculation applies: Multiply the number of beneficiaries by $250,000. However, if the shares are not equal, the insurance is the greater of either (1) the sum each beneficiary’s interest up to $250,000 for each beneficiary, or (2) at least $1,250,000.

Utilizing a revocable living trust for estate planning purposes not only avoids probate but can also have the advantage of maximizing your bank account or credit union account protection in case of financial institution insolvency.

How Does the SECURE Act Affect Your Retirement

How the SECURE Act Affects Your Retirement

The SECURE Act stands for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019. It was signed into law on December 20, 2019 by President Trump. The intended goal of the act is to increase access to tax-advantaged accounts and prevent older Americans from outliving their assets.

As traditional defined benefit pensions leave the workplace and are replaced by defined contribution plans such as 401ks, employees are increasingly required to plan for and fund their own retirement. Unfortunately, many people at or near retirement have not saved enough to supplement their Social Security benefit so they can maintain an adequate retirement lifestyle. According to a recent Vanguard study, the median 401k balance for those age 65 or older is less than $60,000.  The SECURE Act encourages employers who formerly found the establishment of a 401k for their employees to be too burdensome to revisit the idea.

Here are some things the SECURE Act does:

  •  Makes it easier for small businesses to enroll employees in automatic contribution arrangements by increasing the contribution limit from 10% to 15% after the first year of plan participation.
  • Provides a $500 annual tax credit for employers who create 401ks or SIMPLE IRAs with automatic plan enrollment.
  • Encourages retirement plan sponsors to include annuities in plan options by reducing liability on insurers.
  • Pushes back the age for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 70 1/2 to 72 for those who are not 70 1/2 by December 31, 2019.
  • Allows the use of 529 college savings plans for qualified student loan repayments (up to $10,000 annually).
  • Removes the age limit of 70 1/2 to contribute to an IRA. Now anyone at any age to contribute to an IRA as long as they have earned income.

One significant down side of the SECURE Act is the removal of stretch IRAs, which allowed non-spouse beneficiaries inheriting an IRA or 401k to stretch out taxable distributions over their lifetime. The act now requires full payout from the inherited IRA within 10 years of the death of the original owner.  This change amounts to a tax increase and it is estimated the rule with bring in an additional $15.7 billion in tax revenue. NOTE: Beneficiaries who inherited IRAs from account holders who died on or before December 31, 2019 are subject to the old rules and can still stretch out the IRA distributions over their lifetime.

The broad changes found in the SECURE Act should be the impetus for a review of your estate and financial plan. Anyone who has utilized sophisticated IRA “conduit” trusts to provide supervision over IRA distributions to beneficiaries must now revisit the effectiveness of that type of planning and explore options, including the switch to an IRA “accumulation” trust.

Caution Required in Naming Beneficiaries on Tax-Deferred Retirement Accounts

Caution Required in Naming Beneficiaries on Tax-Deferred Retirement Accounts

March 27, 2019

Millions of Americans save for retirement by contributing pre-tax income into tax-deferred accounts such as IRAs, 401ks, TSAs and 403bs.  Systematic contributions to a tax-deferred retirement account over a career can result in a substantial pre-tax balance at the time of retirement.

Eventually, money in tax-deferred retirement accounts must be withdrawn and taxed.  Typically, a required minimum annual withdrawal begins when the account owner reaches age 70 1/2 and continues until death.  If an account balance remains at the account owner’s death then that account balance passes to those persons and/or entities named as beneficiaries by the account owner.  The potential then exists for those beneficiaries to continue a substantial portion of tax deferral over many more years, commonly called a “stretch out” of the taxable distributions.

Beneficiaries must be designated very carefully on tax-deferred accounts so that the stretch out of taxable distributions is not compromised.  An improper or incomplete beneficiary selection can accelerate taxable distributions from the account thereby severely reducing the potential account value over the lifetime of the beneficiary.

The ability to stretch out taxable distributions over many years is only allowed for what the IRS calls “designated beneficiaries.”  Most individuals satisfy the requirements to be considered “designated beneficiaries” but trusts and other entities may not satisfy the requirements.

Before naming a trust or entity such as a charity as a beneficiary on your tax-deferred retirement plan it is strongly advised that you meet with an estate planning attorney to review such a selection and to make sure you are not jeopardizing the tax-deferred benefits you worked so hard to achieve.

VA Establishes Asset Limits and Transfer Penalties for Needs-Based Benefits that Take Effect October 18, 2018

October 1, 2018

VA Establishes Asset Limits and Transfer Penalties for Needs-Based Benefits that Take Effect October 18, 2018

Some very important Veterans benefits such as Aid and Attendance are needs-based. For years there has been some ambiguity in terms of the specifics on establishing sufficient need for eligibility. In an effort to provide clarity, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has finalized new rules that establish an asset limit, a look-back period, and asset transfer penalties for claimants applying for VA needs-based benefits. This is a change from current regulations, which do not contain a prohibition on transferring assets prior to applying for benefits.

In order to qualify for benefits under the new VA regulations, an applicant for needs-based benefits must have a net worth equal to or less than the prevailing maximum community spouse resource allowance (CSRA) for Medicaid ($123,600 in 2018). Net worth includes the applicant’s assets and income. For example, if an applicant’s assets total $110,000 and annual income is $16,000, the applicant’s net worth is $126,000. The net worth limit will be increased every year by the same percentage that Social Security is increased. The veteran’s primary residence (even if the veteran lives in a nursing home) and the veteran’s personal effects are not considered assets under the new regulations.  However, if the veteran’s residence is sold, the proceeds are considered assets unless a new residence is purchased within the same calendar year.

The VA has also established a 36-month look-back period and a penalty period of up to five years for those who transfer assets for less than market value to qualify for a VA pension. The look-back period means the 36-month period immediately before the date on which the VA receives either an original pension claim or a new pension claim after a period of non-entitlement. There are some exceptions, including transfers to a trust for a child who is not able to self-support.

The penalty period will be calculated based on the total assets transferred during the look-back period if those assets would have put the applicant over the net worth limit.

Any penalty period would begin the first day of the month that follows the last asset transfer, and the divisor would be the applicable maximum annual pension rate for a veteran in need of aid and attendance with one dependent that is in effect as of the date of the pension claim. The penalty period cannot exceed five years, a change from the 10-year maximum in the proposed regulations.

The VA also clarified what it considers to be a deductible medical expense for all of its needs-based benefits. Medical expenses are defined as payments for items or services that are medically necessary; that improve a disabled individual’s functioning; or that prevent, slow, or ease an individual’s functional decline. Examples of medical expenses include: care by a health care provider, medications and medical equipment, adaptive equipment, transportation expenses, health insurance premiums, products to help quit smoking, and institutional forms of care.

These new rules take effect October 18, 2018

Life After Your Death? Here’s Why You Should Have a Trust

Life After Your Death? Here’s Why You Should Have a Trust

By Elizabeth Olson

  • March 22, 2018

Trusts have often been thought of as vehicles for wealthy people to dispose of their businesses, art work and other high-value items. But estate planners like Gerard F. Joyce Jr. of Fiduciary Trust Company International, the private wealth division of Franklin Templeton Investments, say certain types of trusts can be useful for those who are not ultrawealthy.

One of those is a revocable trust, which can be changed in a person’s lifetime. “It is the workhorse of modern estate planning,” said Mr. Joyce, who is also a lawyer. “A properly funded revocable trust can avoid the need for a public probate court proceeding after death that can take time and keep money from being immediately available.”

And “a trust makes sure that bills are paid during the person’s lifetime even when the person is incapacitated,” he said.

The number of people who may lack the capacity to control their own affairs is growing because people are living longer and the number of individuals who have dementia or Alzheimer’s is rising, added Stacy K. Mullaney, chief fiduciary officer of Fiduciary Trust Company, a Boston-based wealth management company that shares a similar name but is an independent entity.

“We are seeing more situations where people need this assistance,” said Ms. Mullaney. Currently, 5.5 million Americans are estimated to have Alzheimer’s, and the disease is the fifth-leading cause of death for adults aged 65 and over, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“If assets that have been titled in one name are retitled in the name of the trust, the bills keep being paid without interruption in the person’s lifetime,” said Ms. Mullaney, who is also a lawyer.

And that can apply to any situation where financial support is given to family members, she added.

“Many grandparents, for example, pay for the college education of their grandchildren, but an incapacity can interrupt that. A trust would make sure that the tuition is paid.”

Unlike an irrevocable trust, where assets are dispersed with a greater permanency, a revocable trust can be altered during the holder’s lifetime if he or she decides to handle their assets differently. If a person’s financial situation changes, or realizes he or she has simply made a mistake, the individual can close the trust and void the arrangement.

The trust “really does almost everything a will does, but it is more of a private document, and it is not subject to outsider review or approval,” Mr. Joyce said. A will, he noted, can need approval from a court, and changes typically involve additional court scrutiny. Each state has its own laws and rules.

There can be catches to trusts, however. The trust is controlled by the person who sets it up, and often the person will choose one or more co-trustees to help manage the trust. That choice is where things can get tricky.

Choosing a trustee is not just about someone you trust. Knowing how to invest is a key skill for a trustee, estate planners agree.

“Probably the most important decision in picking a trustee is the ability to invest over the long term,” Mr. Joyce said. “It’s common to have a surviving spouse or a child, but it needs to be someone with the time and inclination to do that well.”

While irrevocable trusts are often used for tax planning, Ms. Mullaney said, “revocable trusts are really about life planning.”

A version of this article appears in print on March 25, 2018, on Page F2 of the New York edition with the headline: The Benefits of a Trust.

Big Bang Executive Producer Reflects on the Value of DFA Investment Approach

Big Bang Executive Producer Reflects on the Value of DFA Investment Approach

Dave Goetsch, Executive Producer of  The Big Bang Theory, reflects on his investment experience in the recent market downturn and contrasts his new perspective with memories of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

In February 2009, the stock market was down around 50% from its high, and everyone seemed to feel like the sky was falling. I was familiar with this state of panic because my relationship to the financial markets was that I didn’t trust them.

They were always going up and down in ways no one could predict, and I couldn’t trust those folks who said that they could anticipate what was going to happen. So when the market went down, I went down with it—sinking into a depression, knowing there was nothing I could do.

What a difference nine years make. I haven’t changed because the stock market rebounded. I changed because I learned that there was a different way to think about investing. I was right not to trust those people who thought they could predict what was going to happen in the markets, but I was wrong in thinking that there was nothing to do. I’ve learned that I can have a great investment experience if I just accept a few simple truths.

I have to understand the uncertainty of the market. The stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, has returned about 10% per year over the last 90 years,1 but there are very few individual years in which it has ever actually returned that amount. In fact, how many of those 90 years do you think the S&P 500 was up more than 20% or down more than 20% for that year? The answer is 40. Astounding, right? I wish somebody had explained that to me decades ago. Then I would have known to look at stock market returns in terms of decades—not years, months, days, or hours. I would understand that so many of those articles and cable news pieces are just noise, designed to keep an audience obsessed and unsettled.

I haven’t changed because the stock market rebounded. I changed because I learned that there was a different way to think about investing.

In order to be a long-term investor, you have to have a long time horizon. This can be hard to remember when you’re being assaulted by noise, but if you can stay strong, the results are stunning. By results, I don’t mean the investment returns, which hopefully are good. The return I’m talking about is how I feel every day. I worry less—not just about the future, but also about the present. Of course, I know that there are no guarantees when it comes to investing, but I feel like I’m going to be okay. I have a plan.

There’s no way I could’ve done this without a financial advisor. I needed someone who could not just talk me through what my asset allocation should be, but also help me work through how I felt about investing and what exactly I could do to change my perspective.

I was a mess nine years ago. Now, my outlook is totally different. The markets haven’t changed; they still go up and down. The difference is, I don’t anymore.

1. S&P data © 2018 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved.
Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment; therefore, their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.
Investing risks include loss of principal and fluctuating value. There is no guarantee an investing strategy will be successful.
Dimensional Fund Advisors LP pays Dave Goetsch for consulting services. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP does not endorse, recommend, or guarantee the services of any advisor. The experience of the author may not be representative of the experiences of other individuals. All expressions of opinion are those of the author and are subject to change. This content is distributed for informational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.
Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Advisory Services offered through Saunders Financial, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. We cannot accept trade orders or other investment account transaction requests by voicemail, fax or email. Trade orders or account transaction requests, important letters or documents, emails, or fax messages regarding your investments must be confirmed or conveyed by speaking directly to your investment advisor representative.
Broadridge Investo Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.
To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.
These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2017.