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5 Financial Things to Review Annually

A lot can change in one year. To help ensure that your financial documents and plans stay in sync with what’s going on in your life, it’s a good idea to review the following documents at least once a year.

1. Estate Planning Documents 

To help ensure that your property and money ends up where you want it, look over your will, trusts, and other estate planning documents at least once a year to see if there is anything you’d like changed.

For example, you may want to make a change if you’re recently married or divorced, added a new child to the family, received an inheritance, or experienced any number of other major life events. Or you may simply want to make a change because you’ve changed your mind about some part of your estate plan. Be sure to review the people you selected to manage your finances and health care if you ever become incapacitated. Are you still satisfied with your choices?

We can update your documents for you, as well as review them to see if adjustments are needed due to any changes in the tax laws.

2. Life Insurance Policies 

Things can change quickly in life, and the life insurance coverage that was sufficient to protect your family five or ten years ago may not be enough in your current financial situation. To help ensure that your life insurance coverage keeps pace with changes in your life (marriages, new children, new home, new business, pay increases, etc.), it’s a good idea to review your coverage at least once a year.

3. Beneficiary Designations 

Reviewing your beneficiary designations annually and when major life events (marriages, births, deaths, etc.) occur is just as important. Accounts and life insurance policies will generally inherit those assets regardless of any instructions to the contrary in your will. Assets that you may have named a beneficiary for include checking and savings accounts, annuities, medical and health savings accounts, life insurance policies, real estate deeds, and vehicle registrations.

4. Credit Reports

Not checking your credit report regularly may cost you. Errors that creep into your credit report and that are not caught may result in you being denied credit or paying higher interest rates than necessary or new credit cards or loans. It could also keep you from you from getting a new job, and cost you more for your car insurance.

To protect yourself, check your credit reports for errors at least once a year and before applying for a new loan or job. And while you are looking for errors, also look for signs of potential fraud such as accounts you did not open. You are entitled to a free credit report once every twelve months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can order your free reports online at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.

5. Social Security Statement 

Even if you are a long time away from retirement, it is important to review your Social Security Statement annually to make sure that your earnings for the prior year have been accurately recorded. That is because your earnings record determines the amount of your monthly Social Security benefit in retirement. If there are any earnings missing from your record, you may receive lower benefits in retirement than you deserve. You can review your statement online at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

 

This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article to learn how to get this $500 session at no charge. 

Call us at (813) 902-3189.

Seniors and Student Loans

Seniors and Student Loans

The number of older Americans with student loan debt – either theirs or someone else’s — is growing. Sadly, learning how to deal with this debt is now a fact of life for many seniors heading into retirement.

According to by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the number of older borrowers increased by at least 20 percent between 2012 and 2017. Some of these borrowers were borrowing for themselves, but the majority was borrowing for others. The study found that 73 percent of student loan borrowers age 60 and older borrowed for a child’s or grandchild’s education.

Before you co-sign a student loan for a child or grandchild, you need to understand your obligations.

The co-signer not only vouches for the loan recipient’s ability to pay back the loan, but is also personally responsible for repaying the loan if the recipient cannot pay. Because of this, you need to carefully consider the risk before taking on this responsibility. In some circumstances, it is possible to obtain a co-signer release from a loan after the loan recipient has made a few on-time payments. If you are a co-signer on a loan that has not defaulted, check with the lender about getting a release. You can also ask the lender for payment information to make sure the borrower is keeping up with the payments.

If the borrower defaulted and you are obliged to pay the loan back or you are the borrower yourself, you will need to manage your finances. Having to pay back student loan debt can lead to working longer, fewer retirement savings, delayed health care, and credit issues, among other things. If you are struggling to make payments, you can request a new repayment plan that has lower monthly payments. With a federal student loan, you have the option to make payments based on your income. To request an “income-driven repayment plan,” go to: https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/index.action.

Defaulting on a student loan may affect your Social Security benefits.

If you have a private student loan, a debt collector cannot garnish your Social Security benefits to pay back the loan. In the case of federal student loans, the government can take 15 percent of your Social Security check as long as the remaining balance doesn’t drop below $750. There is no statute of limitations on student loan debt, so it doesn’t matter how long ago the debt occurred. If you do default on a federal loan, contact the U.S. Department of Education right away to see if you can arrange a new repayment plan.

What Happens After You Die?

If you die still owing debt on a federal student loan, the debt will be discharged and your spouse or other heirs will not have to repay the loan. If you have a private student loan, whether your spouse or estate will be liable to pay back the debt will depend on the individual loan. You should check with your lender to find out the discharge policies. Depending on the loan, the lender may try to collect from the estate or any co-signers. In a community property state (where all assets acquired during a marriage are considered owned by both spouses equally), the spouse may be liable for the debt (some community property states have exceptions for student loan debt).

For tips from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help navigate problems with student loans, click here.

This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Planning Session. Mention this article to learn how to get this $500 session at no charge. 

Call us at (813) 902-3189.