I am pleased to announce that John Ritter has joined Garden State Trust Company as a Senior Vice President and Trust Officer. John has been working in the trust and wealth management industry for the past thirty years in the South Jersey marketplace. I have personally known John since he first joined The Farmers and Merchants National Bank, Bridgeton, NJ in 1988.

John has extensive knowledge of trust administration, portfolio management and retirement planning. Many of John’s clients have been with him for decades which is a testament to his commitment to maintaining a close personal relationship with clients through good and bad times. John will be headquartered in our Cherry Hill office.

March marks the end of the first quarter and the start of spring. It’s a great time to take stock of goals and plans for 2018!

Ira J. Brower, Founder
Recently we added to our website under our Resources/Learning tab a booklet “Keeping Our Seniors Safe – Watch Your Wallet” . Financial exploitation of our senior population is a serious and growing problem. We are doing our part to fight back, being alert to the protection of our seniors and raising awareness of this issue.
In January the IRS released new withholding tables, based upon the changes for 2018 from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). On February 28 the IRS released an online tool for calculating proper withholding after TCJA. The tool may be found at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator . The Service called using this tool a "paycheck checkup."

Using the tool should be a useful exercise for every taxpayer. Those who are especially affected include:
   • two-income families;
   • persons with two or more jobs, or who work only part of the year;
   • those who have itemized deductions in recent years;
   • those who claim child tax credits

Taxpayers with high incomes and more complex tax returns will have to wait for Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, expected to be available later this spring.   

To use the online tool, one needs to have recent paystubs, and it will be helpful as well to have one’s latest tax return. Using the calculator does not give any information to the IRS, as nothing will be saved from a session of usage. No sensitive information, such as Social Security Numbers, will be needed to use the tool. The IRS is concerned that tax scammers may try to take advantage of the new tool, so taxpayers should pay no attention to e-mails that claim to be linked in any way to the withholding tool.

If the online exercise suggests that the withholding needs to be changed, a completed Form W-4 will need to be filed with the employer.

According to the IRS, the average refund check is now over $2,800. Some taxpayers may want to reduce their withholding simply to ease their cash flow through the year.   

(March 2018)
© 2018 M.A. Co. All rights reserved.
There has been quite a bit of publicity about companies sharing with workers the benefits of the corporate tax cut enacted last December, in the form of bonuses and additional retirement plan contributions. As it turns out, many are sharing the newfound wealth with shareholders also. More than a fifth of the companies in the S&P 500 boosted their dividends in the first two months of this year, and the average increase has been 14%. More good news: No one in the S&P 500 has cut a dividend yet this year.
This news goes hand in hand with the fact that the companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased earnings by 10.5% in the fourth quarter, and that 74% of the reporting companies in the S&P 500 beat analysts’ expectations for their earnings in that period.

Even so, rising interest rates may cut into the appeal of stocks. Since 2009 the dividend yield on the S&P 500 has been well in excess of the yield on the two-year Treasury bond. Those bond yields were below 0.5% until 2015, but they have since climbed to over 2.27% in February. At that level, the income from the bond beats the dividends from the stocks.

Most market observers don’t anticipate a major rotation from stocks to bonds until Treasury interest rates reach 3% or so—but that could happen later this year. The Fed already has indicated that additional interest rate increases are in the cards.
(March 2018)
© 2018 M.A. Co. All rights reserved.
Planning your estate takes a considerable amount of time and effort.

First, you must inventory what you own and decide how to divide your assets among your loved ones.

Then you meet with your advisers—attorney, accountant, trust officer, insurance agent—to formalize your plans.

Because you are conscientious, you review your estate plan regularly, keeping up with changes in family circumstances, your personal finances and the tax laws. When it becomes necessary, you revise your plans. Everything dotted to the “i” and crossed to the “t.”

Or so you believe.

But despite your clear intentions and your careful planning, your family could still wind up spending a great deal of time and money trying to see that your wishes are carried out—unless you take two simple, but very important, steps.

The first step is to provide for the safekeeping of your will

 Should you keep the original at home? There is always the possibility that it might be unintentionally destroyed or thrown away with other papers by mistake.

Put it in your safe deposit box? There may be some legal proceedings involved in opening the box after your death that could make immediate access difficult.

What about your attorney’s office? If he or she is a single practitioner, there are risks: The attorney could die or move away.

A law firm may be willing to hold your will, but you must remember to retrieve it if you end the relationship and go elsewhere.

If you name a trust institution to serve as an executor, you can deposit the original copy with the institution, keeping unsigned copies with your attorney and in your personal records for future reference.

The second step

Create a document locator, a detailed list that gives your family access to all the information they will need to see that your estate plan is carried out. The locator should include the names, addresses and phone numbers of all the important financial players in your life. You also will want to include information about your debts. Credit card issuers and card numbers and mortgage, auto and other loans should be noted as well.

Be sure to specify the location of your will and other important documents (tax returns, Social Security information, business agreements . . . estate deeds). Note where your safe deposit box is and who has access to it. Provide an inventory of its contents.

Give directions as to where you keep investment records, with names and addresses of all the financial institutions with which you have savings, checking or investment accounts.

This kind of information should be particularly detailed. You should spell out the type of investment that you hold, the account numbers, the names on the account, and the dates on which the accounts were opened. Specify where you keep the account statements, passbooks and securities certificates.

The document locator is also the place to indicate who has spare keys to the house or car and to give other information of that kind. Be sure to remind your survivors to call your employer so that the benefits department can get the proper paperwork started.

You also may want to attach a letter to the document locator specifying your wishes as to funeral and burial arrangements.

Be sure that you have made multiple copies of your document locator. A copy should be given to your executor and appropriate family members. You may want to keep one in your safe deposit box as well.

Finally, remember to update the document locator once a year to ensure its accuracy.

© 2018 M.A. Co. All rights reserved.
Any developments occurring after January 1, 2018, are not reflected in this article.
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Because of the rapidly changing nature of tax, legal or accounting rules and our reliance on outside sources, Garden State Trust Company makes no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein nor do we take responsibility for any decision made or action taken by you in reliance upon information provided here or at other sites to which we link. ©2017. All rights reserved.