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PrimeGlobal member firm Berkowitz Pollack Brant discusses estate planning during the Coronavirus crisis. 

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having a profound impact on people and businesses across the globe. Lives have been lost, businesses are facing the potential of mounting losses, and an uncertain economic future is roiling the global equity markets. Through this time, families must also assess the impact of the virus on their estates and the strategies they rely on to protect wealth, maintain tax efficiency and preserve future asset appreciation for generations to come.


Qualifying individuals younger than 59 ½ may withdraw up to $100,000 from their retirement plans during 2020, without incurring the 10 percent early-withdrawal penalty that would otherwise apply or the 20 percent federal withholding tax. The IRS will treat these distributions as taxable income to account owners over a three-year period unless owners elect-out of this option. Taxpayers also have the choice to avoid income recognition when they repay these distributions to their company’s 401(k) or to an IRA within three years.

These hardship distributions are available to individuals who receive a coronavirus diagnosis or have a spouse or dependent diagnosed with coronavirus, or any retirement savers who experience financial hardship due to the economic fallout from the virus. This includes individuals who are quarantined, furloughed, laid off, working reduced hours, and those unable to work due to lack of child-care, business closings or other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.


Taxpayers eligible for COVID-19-related retirement plan early distributions also have the option to borrow from their qualified contribution plans up to $100,000 or 100 percent of their vested account balance, whichever is less. Borrowers have up to five years to repay these loans, which must be taken by Sept. 22, 2020. If a plan participant has an existing retirement plan loan with any payments due from March 27 through Dec. 31, 2020, they may delay that payment for no more than one year.


Individuals age 70 ½ or older who are typically required to take annual minimum distributions from their IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and government 457(b) plans, may forgo those RMDs in 2020. With this waiver, retirees may keep money in their retirement accounts, which may have suffered from the recent market volatility, thus allowing those investments to recover and continue to grow. The CARES Act also eases the administrative burden by allowing employees to self-certify that they are qualified individuals.


 While employers may adopt these COVID-19 relief provisions immediately, the CARES Act fives them until the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2022, to amend their plan documents. Retirement plan sponsors and participants wishing to take advantage of this relief should work with their professional accountants and financial advisors to ensure their actions meet regulatory compliance.

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Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs

The advisors and accountants of Berkowitz Pollack Brant have provided comprehensive tax planning and compliance, forensic and litigation support audit services and business consulting to entrepreneurs, companies and individuals for nearly four decades. Our strength is establishing inter-disciplinary teams comprised of CPAs, finance and valuation professionals, senior tax professionals, technical audit specialists, information technology resources, and financial and estate planning experts. The firm has earned a reputation for integrity, collaboration and technical skill.

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