Flexible Spending Accounts: Use Them, Don’t Lose Them
ADAM M. LEVINE, CPA, CFP®
Health care FSAs allow participants to set aside pretax funds (up to $3,050 in 2023) to pay for qualified health care expenses. Essentially, these plans allow you to deduct these expenses even if you do not itemize. There is a catch, though: An FSA is a “use it or lose it” proposition. Funds remaining in the account at the end of the year are forfeited.
To provide employees with some relief from possible forfeiture after year end, IRS rules allow health care FSAs to either 1) permit employees to carry over up to $610 in 2023 to the following year; or 2) give employees a 2½-month grace period to spend leftover funds. However, employers are not required to offer these options, so be sure to check the terms of your FSA plan.
Spending FSA dollars
If you are at risk of losing FSA funds, try to spend them well before the deadline. You may be surprised by the wide range of covered expenses, which now include over-the-counter medications. Stocking up on these items can be a great way to use your FSA funds. Other qualified expenses that people may not know about include various items such as DNA kits and ancestry services, massagers and heating pads, orthopedic shoe inserts and certain skincare products.
It pays to review a list of FSA-eligible items for ideas on how to use your account balance before time runs out. You may find many items that you regularly buy on the list, such as contact lenses. It may also be possible for the FSA to reimburse you for expenses you already incurred earlier in the year.
If you have a FSA plan, it is important to understand how the funds will be spent throughout the year so that when the deadline hits, no one is forfeiting any funds.
Common Mistakes When it Comes to Estate Planning
TANYA GIERUT, CPA
Wealth management and estate planning go hand in hand. A well-designed estate plan can help ensure that you share your hard-earned wealth according to your wishes and protect it from creditors and tax liability. As you develop your plan, or review an existing one, be aware of these common mistakes.
Not Funding Your Revocable Trust
A revocable trust is a common tool used in many estate plans. A revocable, or “living” trust, changes the title of how your assets are held. Instead of your home or investments being owned in your individual name, it is retitled and is now owned by your revocable trust. A revocable trust is not necessarily used for future tax savings, but instead it avoids probate, ensures privacy and carries on your wishes after you are gone.
A common mistake with a revocable trust is that people spend the time and money creating a trust with an attorney, but they do not follow through and transfer all their assets over to their trust. You should send a copy of your trust to your financial advisor or CPA so they can help review your tax documents to ensure financial accounts have been transferred over.
Related Read: Is Your Revocable Trust Fully Funded?
Not Reviewing and Updating Your Estate Plan
The tax laws are constantly changing and it is important to check in with your attorney and financial advisor to make sure your estate plan documents are up to date with current tax law for both federal and state changes.
Major life events significantly impact your future estate planning goals. Marriage, divorce, children, grandchildren and death not only alter our day-to-day life, but also our future goals and plans. It is important to understand what to adjust for if one of these major life events occurs, whether it be updating your 401(k) beneficiary designation form, amending your trust document or retitling your current assets.
Your estate plan should also address contingency plans for beneficiaries. What would happen to your assets if one of your beneficiary predeceased you? You want to make sure you address these issues according to your preferences rather than having state law choose for you. For example, if you have two children and one dies before you – do you want your assets to be distributed per capita (“by the head”) so 100% goes to the surviving child, or do you want your assets to be distributed per stirpes (“by the branch”) so the 50% share goes to your grandchildren of the deceased child?
As time goes on, our preferences and lifestyle changes. If you created your estate plan in your early thirties, by the time you are in your sixties and seventies and looking towards retirement, your plans and outlook may have changed. It is important to review your plan to see if your old plan fits your new lifestyle.
Related Read: Who are Your Beneficiaries?
Failing to Track Your Assets
In today’s digital world, you may not be receiving paper statements of life insurance, 401(k) statements or even bank accounts. It is essential to have a list of your assets in a secure location that someone else knows about in the event you become incapacitated and can no longer communicate with a loved one the details of all your accounts and assets. This will also help if you choose to fund a revocable trust and need to retitle your assets or make any changes due to a major life event as mentioned above.
These common pitfalls are just a few of the many challenges that individuals face when working on their estate plan. Working with a trusted advisor and attorney can help alleviate these struggles and help you carry out your wishes with ease.