Category Archives: Individual and Medicare

Living Trusts: Fact vs. Fiction

Many myths surround these popular estate planning tools.
Living trusts are created with a clearly
defined objective: to avoid probate. Misconceptions about living trusts have
spread to the point where people think they can accomplish much more than they
really do. Here is a realistic assessment of living trusts.
If you fear probate, consider a living trust. If you worry about your will being contested or
your heirs fighting over your assets, a revocable living trust may be your best

You fund a revocable living trust with
all, or largely all, of your assets during your lifetime. The trust owns the
assets, yet you can still use these assets while you live. Once you die, the
revocable living trust becomes irrevocable and the trust assets are distributed
according to your wishes by designated successor trustees, exempt from probate.1,2,3

In addition to giving you more control and
privacy, a living trust may save your heirs time and money. An AARP survey
finds that it takes roughly 18 months to distribute the typical estate because
of probate. Settlement costs from probate may eat up as much as 5% of an
Living trusts do not reduce taxes. Assets within a living trust are fully taxable at the federal and (generally)
state level. Unless someone has drafted the trust to include tax-saving
provisions, it will offer no particular estate or income tax advantages to the
grantor or the beneficiaries.4
Living trusts lead to a lot of paperwork. As
the trust has to become the legal owner of your assets to be effective, the
title needs to be changed on those assets. That means filling out myriad forms and
revising others. Expenses may be incurred along the way.4

Living trusts do not relieve trustees of their duties. When a grantor of a living trust passes away,
the language in the trust document will not magically “do all the work” for the
successor trustee. While a successor trustee will usually not have to deal with
probate, other responsibilities remain. Titles will need to be changed and appraisals
may be necessary.5
A living trust is not necessarily inexpensive. A lawyer may charge you $1,500 or more to create
one. If you have significant assets
and fear a dispute over your will, it may be worth it.2,6

There are living trust solutions available
on the Internet, or via books or software. However, when cutting and pasting
boilerplate language and filling in some names here and there, what kinds of legal
and financial risks are you taking?6
While having a living trust drawn up with
the help of an attorney is certainly advisable, paying a fee is no guarantee of
competence; amending simple errors could cost you another $300-500.7
A living trust is not a will. You still need a will when you have a living trust.
In fact, you are probably going to need a “pour-over” will down the road, assuming
you will keep accumulating assets after the trust is drawn up. A pour-over will
place these stray assets into the trust.4

Additionally, you need a will if you want to make charitable bequests
or gifts to friends or relatives upon your passing. A living trust cannot carry
out these gifts on your behalf, nor can it name a guardian for any minor

A living trust is not a living will, either. A living trust does not
function as a health care directive or a power of attorney. These are separate
estate planning documents. While some families ask attorneys to create them concurrently
with a living trust, a living trust won’t stand in for them.8

While living trusts are highly touted and can be highly useful, that
does not mean every family should get one.

You may not need a living trust to begin with. If your financial life has been
largely free of “creditors and predators” and your estate isn’t complex, a
thoughtfully drafted, well-executed will could prove sufficient when the time
comes. For some middle-class families, a living trust can be like a fifth wheel
on a car, seeming to provide stability, but actually unnecessary.
After all, not all assets are subject to probate when someone passes
away: IRA, Keogh and pension plan savings, life insurance death benefits,
checking and savings accounts that have POD beneficiaries, Treasury bonds, and property
owned jointly with the right of
In terms of time, often there isn’t much difference between
distributing assets via probate and through a living trust. In terms of
savings, the filing and court fees that come with a probated will may not be
that onerous. While the fees may total a small percentage of the value of the
estate, the executor may decline a commission if he or she is a family member
and require only hourly legal advice.
A living trust isn’t the only type of trust out there. Some families opt for the testamentary
trust. Assets move into this basic, irrevocable trust as directed in a
grantor’s will. As the grantor’s will directs the assets, the estate still
proceeds through probate but more expediently than usual. Other families opt
for more complex and specialized trusts.2
As a reminder, this article is intended as an overview of living trusts, and not any
kind of legal advice. If you are considering a living trust or another kind of
estate planning vehicle, the best “first step” is to talk to an attorney before
you proceed further.

Reeve Conover can be reached at 877-423-9990 or


This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does
not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their
affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we
make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note –
investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future
results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other
professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage
the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed
as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of
avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor
recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or
service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and
are not illustrative of any particular investment.



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First Quarter 2013 Financial Update


Wall Street’s bulls figured stocks were ready for a breakout in 2013, and that is
exactly what happened in the first quarter. The Dow finished March at
14,578.54, its highest close ever. The S&P 500 ended the quarter with a
record close: 1,569.19. The S&P, Dow and Russell 2000 all gained 10% or
more in the opening three months of the year. Bullish sentiment was backed up
by impressive economic indicators – in real estate, in the manufacturing and
service sectors, in consumer spending and retail sales. New anxieties in Europe
and sluggish projections of global growth couldn’t halt the rally. The quarter
was flat-out spectacular for equities, from small caps to blue chips – in fact,
it was the Dow’s best first quarter since 1998.1

The Dow jumped nearly 2% on January 2 as President Obama signed a bill into law to
avert the “fiscal cliff” – the combination of tax hikes and expiration of
Bush-era tax cuts presumed to throw the economy into recession. While the
legislation raised estate taxes, hiked the top tax bracket to 39.6% and ended
the payroll tax holiday (resulting in a 2% reduction in take-home pay for each
working American), it did preserve the Bush-era cuts for the bulk of taxpayers
and extended numerous tax breaks and long-term jobless benefits.2
The unemployment rate – 7.8% at the end of 2012 – ticked up to 7.9% in January yet
fell to 7.7% in February. Still, hiring was picking up. Non-farm payrolls added
236,000 workers in February, capping off a three-month stretch in which the
employment ranks grew by an average of 191,000 jobs a month. From June-August
2012, the pace of hiring averaged only 135,000 jobs per month.3,4
Gasoline grew costlier – rising 35¢ in February alone – and that was a big influence in
Q1 gains in consumer spending and retail sales. As the Commerce Department
noted, personal spending rose 0.4% in January and 0.7% in February; personal
wages recovered from a 3.7% plunge in January to advance 1.1% in February.
(Household wages dropped in January partly because of a rush by corporations to
issue dividends in December, ahead of the assumed fiscal cliff.) Consumer
prices rose 1.6% in January, and 2.0% in February, according to the Bureau of
Labor Statistics. Even so, retail sales rose in both months – 0.2% in January,
1.1% in February. February’s gain was the largest in five months and brought
the annualized gain to 4.6%, more than twice the rate of inflation.5,6,7
Results from America’s two major consumer confidence polls varied notably. The
Conference Board’s monthly survey came in at 58.4 in January, 68.0 in February,
and 59.7 in March; the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey went
from 73.8 to 77.6 to 78.6 across the first three months of 2013.8,9
In late March, the Bureau of Economic Analysis made its last appraisal of Q4 GDP –
just +0.4%. The recent boost in consumer spending hints at improved growth for
Q1, as do the twin PMIs of the Institute for Supply Management. ISM’s
manufacturing index rose in each month of the quarter (it had contracted in
November), hitting a high of 54.2 in February, but then 51.3 in March; its
service sector PMI was at 56.0 in February, then 54.4 in March. In other
business indicators, overall hard goods orders recovered from a 3.8% dip in
January to increase 5.6% in February; producer prices rose 0.2% in January and
0.7% in February.10,11,12,13

As Congress and the White House could not arrive at a deal to postpone federal
spending cuts scheduled for March 1, the last month of the quarter saw the
start of a phase in which $85 billion would be trimmed from the budgets of
federal agencies this year. The Pentagon faced a 13% cut, while non-defense
programs stared at a 9% cut. Against expectations, Congress passed a stopgap
budget bill that would keep the federal government funded until October 1 six
days ahead of a deadline. As the quarter ended, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben
Bernanke reaffirmed that interest rates would remain at historic lows until the
economy showed more than “temporary improvement”. There would be no near-term
end for the Fed’s quantitative easing effort, though the amount of its monthly
bond purchases could vary in response to improvements in the unemployment rate.14,15,16


Like a campfire that had been inadequately doused, the financial crisis in Europe
flared up anew. Cyprus needed a bailout by March, so the European Central Bank
offered it €10 billion to rescue its banking system. The Cypriot parliament at
first rejected the plan (which would have taxed bank accounts up to 10%), then
accepted it with modifications. Adding to the drama, Italy’s February national
election resulted in a parliamentary stalemate which may not be resolved until
July; at the end of March, Italian bond yields were again rising dangerously. Eurozone
unemployment was 12.0% by the end of the quarter.17,18,19
China tried to ward off a real estate bubble during the quarter by levying a 20%
capital gains tax on home sales. Its central bank set a growth target of 7.5%
for 2013 and an inflation target of 3.5%. By March, Markit PMIs showed
expanding manufacturing sectors in the PRC (51.6), Taiwan (51.2),
South Korea (52.0), Vietnam (50.8), India (52.0) and Indonesia (51.3). Also notable: Japan’s
embrace of “Abenomics”, the stimulus-driven economic policy of prime minister
Shinzo Abe. Aimed at lifting Japan out of its current recession, it drove
Japanese stocks significantly higher and gave business sentiment a shot in the


The Nikkei 225 had another amazing quarter, rising 19.27%. Other Q1 performances in
the Asia Pacific region: Pakistan’s KSE 100, +6.17%; Australia’s ASX, +6.83%;
the PSE Composite in Manila, +17.80%; Hang Seng, -1.58%; Sensex, -3.04%;
Shanghai Composite, -1.43%. In the Americas, the Bovespa sank 7.55% on the
quarter while the TSX Composite rose 2.55%; Argentina’s MERVAL climbed 18.45%.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 gained 8.71% in Q1, the DAX 2.40% and the CAC 40 2.48%;
Ireland’s ISEQ topped all indices in the region with a 16.53% Q1 advance. The
MSCI Emerging Markets Index dropped 2.14% in Q1 2013; in contrast, the MSCI
World Index rose 7.18%.23,24


Metals prices were mixed on the COMEX for the first quarter. Gold fell 4.8%, copper
6.0%, and silver 6.3%; platinum advanced 2.1% and palladium rose 9.2%. The U.S.
Dollar Index gained 8.1%. U.S. crude futures rebounded 5.7% in the quarter,
while natural gas logged a 20.1% advance. Crop futures had it rough in Q1:
sugar lost 9.5%, coffee 4.6%, cocoa 3.0%, corn 0.4%, soybeans 1.0% and wheat


The sector was plainly on the way back. In March, the National Association of Realtors
noted that pace of existing home sales had improved 10.2% in the 12 months
ending in February, with the median price up 11.6%; pending
home sales
were up 5.0% across 12 months as well. The Census Bureau said
home sales had risen 12.3% in that same period, and it also reported much more
groundbreaking and considerably more projects in the pipeline: a 27.7% 12-month
gain in housing starts, a 33.8% annualized gain in building permits. The latest
edition of the S&P/ Case-Shiller Home Price Index (January) posted its
largest annual rise since 2006 (8.1%) with 19 of 20 cities showing gains.27,28,29,30
Broadly speaking, mortgages grew more expensive in the quarter. In Freddie Mac’s last
2012 Primary Mortgage Market Survey (December 27), the average interest rates for
mortgage varieties were as follows: 30-year FRMs, 3.35%; 15-year FRMs, 2.65%;
5/1-year ARMs, 2.70%; 1-year ARMs, 2.56%. In the March 28 PMMS, the rates
looked like this: 30-year FRMs, 3.57%; 15-year FRMs, 2.76%; 5/1-year ARMs,
2.68%; 1-year ARMs, 2.62%.31,32

CMS Releases Final 2014 MA Payment Rates

In a highly anticipated announcement, CMS revealed yesterday that they
were not moving forward with a proposed 2.3% cut in Medicare Advantage
reimbursement rates for the 2014 plan year. In addition to reversing
position on this highly controversial rate cut, CMS further announced
that they will actually be increasing the payment rate by 3.3% for the
coming year.

This reversal is great news to both consumers and insurance agents involved
with Medicare Advantage. Many health insurers had estimated that a cut
of that magnitude – coupled with other anticipated changes to the
Medicare Advantage program for 2014 – could have resulted in some
combination of massive premium increases, benefit reductions, or plan

As a result of yesterday’s news, it appears that the overall stability of
the Medicare Advantage market in 2014 will be greater than anticipated
following the CMS Advance Notice and Draft Call Letter issued in

One of the key items that may have led to this decision may have been the
way that Congress has handled the “Doc Fix” each year. Many news outlets
reported last week that there were ongoing discussions trying to
resolve how Medicare Advantage rates were being cut, while Congress was
perpetually refusing to cut the rates paid to doctors through Original

Health Insurers Warn on Premiums


Health insurers are privately warning brokers that
premiums for many individuals and small businesses could increase
sharply next year because of the health-care overhaul law, with the
nation’s biggest firm projecting that rates could more than double for
some consumers buying their own plans.
The projections, made in sessions with brokers and agents, provide
some of the most concrete evidence yet of how much insurance companies
might increase prices when major provisions of the law kick in next
year—a subject of rigorous debate.

The projected increases are at odds with what
the Obama Administration says consumers should be expecting overall in
terms of cost. The Department of Health and Human Services says that the
law will “make health-care coverage more affordable and accessible,”
pointing to a 2009 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that says
average individual premiums, on an apples-to-apples basis, would be

The gulf between the pricing talk from some insurers and the
government projections suggests how complicated the law’s effects will
be. Carriers will be filing proposed prices with regulators over the
next few months.
Part of the murkiness stems from the role of government subsidies.
Federal subsidies under the health law will help lower-income consumers
defray costs, but they are generally not included in insurers’ premium
projections. Many consumers will be getting more generous plans because
of new requirements in the law. The effects of the law will vary widely,
and insurers and other analysts agree that some consumers and small
businesses will likely see premiums go down.
Starting next year, the law will block insurers from refusing to sell
coverage or setting premiums based on people’s health histories, and
will reduce their ability to set rates based on age. That can raise
coverage prices for younger, healthier consumers, while reining them in
for older, sicker ones. The rules can also affect small businesses,
which sometimes pay premiums tied to employees’ health status and claims

The law’s 2014 effect on larger
companies is likely to be more limited. Many of the big changes coming
next year won’t touch them as directly as individual consumers and small
businesses, though some will have to grapple with the cost of covering
more workers or paying a penalty.
The possibility of higher premiums has become the latest focal point
of the political tussle over the health law, which marks its third
anniversary Saturday. Republican lawmakers have held hearings on the
issue, and six GOP members of the House Energy and Commerce committee
wrote last week to more than a dozen insurers asking them to turn over
internal analyses on the law’s impact on premiums and costs.
The insurance industry has also been talking publicly about big potential premium increases in lobbying for tweaks to the law.
The individual market includes about 15 million people, and around
18% of the roughly 149 million with employer coverage were at small
companies, according to 2011 figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The individual market is expected to grow to around 35 million people by
2016 as a result of the law.
In a private presentation to brokers late last month, UnitedHealth Group Inc.,
UNH -1.09% the nation’s largest carrier, said premiums for some consumers buying
their own plans could go up as much as 116%, and small-business rates as
much as 25% to 50%. The company said the estimates were driven in part
by growing medical costs not directly tied to the law. It also cited the
law’s requirements that health status not affect rates and that plans
include certain minimum benefits and limits to out-of-pocket charges,
among other things.

Jeff Alter, who leads UnitedHealth’s employer
and individual insurance business, said the numbers represented a
“high-end scenario,” not an average. “There are some scenarios in which a
member could see as much as a 116% increase or over,” he said, though
others, such as some older consumers, could see decreases. He said the
company dwelled on the possible increases because it was trying to
prepare brokers to speak with clients facing big jumps.
Other carriers have also projected steep rate increases during
private meetings and conversations with brokers. Brokers say they are
being told to prepare the marketplace for small-business and individual
rate increases as carriers get ready to file specific rate proposals and
plan designs with regulators.
Insurers are “not being shy that premiums are going to increase in
2014,” and are urging brokers to “brace our clients,” said John Lacy,
vice president of group benefits at Bouchard Insurance, a brokerage in
Clearwater, Fla. His firm has been hearing from carrier representatives
that individual premiums in Florida could go up 35% to 50%, on average,
and small-business rates around 30%, though it hopes to find strategies
to blunt the impact.
Aetna Inc.,  AET -0.66% in a presentation last fall to its national broker advisory council,
suggested rates on individual plans not being grandfathered under the
law could go up 55%, on average, and gave a figure of 29% for small
business rates. Both numbers included 10 percentage points tied to
medical-cost inflation, not the law. An Aetna spokesman said the numbers
are “still generally in line with what we’ve been estimating,” and
represented the average impact in a typical state.

An official with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina told a gathering of
brokers last week that individual premiums could go up by as much as 40%
to 50%, according to brokers who were present. A spokeswoman for the
insurer said “we don’t have final numbers” yet on premiums.
There has long been debate, even among insurance experts, over how
the law will affect premiums. Because the effect is likely to vary,
different measurements can arrive at different conclusions. The CBO
analysis cited by the administration determined that average premiums
for consumers who buy their own coverage would be 14% to 20% lower
because of the law—if the law didn’t change the types of plans they
But the CBO also suggested the law would lead to consumers buying
more expensive plans, largely because it requires coverage to include
certain benefits and limit charges such as deductibles. When this effect
was taken into account, the average premiums would go up 10% to 13%,
the agency said, though subsidies would ease the bite for most people.
The agency also said small-business policies were likely to cost within a
few percentage points of the amount they would have without the law.
Health and Human Services officials say competition among insurers,
as well as provisions to limit their financial risk from attracting
high-cost consumers, will exert downward pressure on premiums, and point
to the tax subsidies that will limit many consumers’ costs.
Subsidies will be available on a sliding scale for people with
incomes of up to four times the federal poverty level—currently $45,960
for a single person and $94,200 a year for a family of four. More than
half of the 35 million people expected to be in the individual market by
2016 are likely to qualify for credits. People whose incomes are around
the poverty level could see almost all of the cost of their insurance
subsidized, while people at the upper end will get only a small discount
toward their premiums.

Retirement Seen Through Your Eyes

After you leave work, what will your life look like?

How do you picture your future? If you are like many baby
boomers, your view of retirement is likely pragmatic compared to that of your
parents. That doesn’t mean you have to have a “plain vanilla” tomorrow. Even if
your retirement savings are not as great as you would prefer, you still have
great potential to design the life you want.

With that in mind, here are some things to think about.
What do you absolutely need to accomplish? If
you could only get four or five things done in retirement, what would they be?
Answering this question might lead you to compile a “short list” of life goals,
and while they may have nothing to do with money, the financial decisions you
make may be integral to achieving them. (This may be the most exciting aspect
of retirement planning.)

What would revitalize you? Some people retire
with no particular goals at all, and others retire burnt out. After weeks or
months of respite, ambition inevitably returns. They start to think about what
pursuits or adventures they could embark on to make these years special. Others
have known for decades what dreams they will follow … and yet, when the time
to follow them arrives, those dreams may unfold differently than anticipated
and may even be supplanted by new ones.

In retirement, time is really your most valuable asset. With more free time and opportunity for
reflection, you might find your old dreams giving way to new ones. You may find
yourself called to volunteer as never before, or motivated to work again but in
a new context.

Who should you share your time with? Here is another
profound choice you get to make in retirement. The quick answer to this
question for many retirees would be “family”. Today, we have nuclear families,
blended families, extended families; some people think of their friends or
their employees as family. You may define it as you wish and allocate more or
less of your time to your family as you wish (some people do want less family
time when they retire).

Regardless of how you define “family” or whether or not you want more “family time” in
retirement, you probably don’t want to spend your time around “dream stealers”.
They do exist. If you have a grand dream in mind for retirement, you may meet
people who try to thwart it and urge you not to pursue it. (Hopefully, they are
not in close proximity to you.) Reducing their psychological impact on your retirement
may increase your happiness.
How much will you spend? We can’t control all retirement expenses, but we can control some of
them. The thought of downsizing may have crossed your mind. While only about
10% of people older than 60 sell homes and move following retirement, it can potentially
bring you a substantial lump sum or lead to smaller mortgage payments. You
could also lose one or more cars (and the insurance that goes with them) and
live in a neighborhood with extensive, efficient public transit. Ditching land
lines and premium cable TV (or maybe all cable TV) can bring more savings.
Garage sales and donations can have financial benefits as well as helping you
get rid of clutter, with either cash or a federal tax deduction that may be as
great as 30-50% of your adjusted gross income provided you carefully itemize
and donate the goods to a 501(c)(3) non-profit.1

Could you leave a legacy? Many of us would like to give our kids or grandkids a good start in
life, or help charities or schools – but given the economic realities of
retiring today, there is no shame in putting your priorities first.

Consider a baby boomer couple with, for
example, $285,000 in retirement savings. If that couple follows the 4% rule,
the old maxim that you should withdraw about 4% of your retirement savings per
year, subsequently adjusted for inflation – then you are talking about $11,400
withdrawn to start. When you combine that $11,400 with Social Security and assorted
investment income, that couple isn’t exactly rich. Sustaining and enhancing
income becomes the priority, and legacy planning may have to take a backseat.
In Merrill Lynch’s 2012 Affluent Insights Survey, just 26% of households polled
(all with investable assets of $250,000 or more) felt assured that they could
leave their children an inheritance; not too surprising given what the economy
and the stock market have been through these past several years.2

How are you planning for retirement? This is the most important question of all. If you feel you need to prepare
more for the future or reexamine your existing plan in light of changes in your
life, then confer with a financial professional experienced in retirement


This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does
not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their
affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we
make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note –
investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future
results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other
professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage
the services of a competent professional. This information should not be
construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the
purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor
recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or
service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and
are not illustrative of any particular investment.


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Blog Archives

Reeve Conover is a Registered Representative. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/dealer member FINRA/SPIC. Cambridge and Conover Consulting are not affiliated. Licensed in SC, NC, NY, CT, NJ, and CA. - SIPC - Brokercheck