Most retirement plans leave high earners confused when it comes to tax planning and contribution limits. As a contingency fee attorney, you have an opportunity that is not available to most taxpayers. Attorney fee deferrals are a flexible, tax-advantaged solution for substantially increasing your existing retirement portfolio.
Deferred Income Tax Liability
If you take your contingency fees up front in cash, then you’ll be liable for income taxes on the entire lump sum. A banner year could bump you up to a higher tax bracket.
Attorney fee structures provide periodic payments, thus spreading out your fees and corresponding tax liability over time. Structured attorney fees grow tax-deferred, with a 1099-MISC issued only for funds received within a given year.
The proactive planning nature of attorney fee structures keeps more fees in your pocket, offering a simpler solution for deferring fees in much larger amounts and even better, without the administrative headaches of setting up a 401(k) or a defined benefit plan.
Distributions on Your Schedule
Unlike IRAs and 401(k)s, attorney fee deferrals do not have a required minimum distribution, nor do they have an age restriction for when you begin receiving payments. Instead, you have the power to design a payment schedule that works best for your personal circumstances. You may receive monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual distributions, or even a series of future lump sums.
Unlimited Savings Potential While Stabilizing the Firm’s Income
One of the greatest financial hurdles contingency fee attorneys face is unpredictable income. Case volume ebbs and flows, and with that, so do anticipated contingency fees. With that in mind, structuring your attorney fees can provide you with a dependable, fixed future income. Being able to secure a predictable income can take care of routine expenses such as fixed overhead or funding for lengthy cases. Best of all, it provides peace of mind that a steady flow of cash will be available – regardless of market conditions.
Attorney Fee Deferral Options
You have several options for structuring your fees, including structured settlement annuities, market-based structured settlements, and U.S. Treasury Bonds:
- Structured settlement annuities offer a guaranteed1 rate of return and no overhead fees, allowing them to remain competitive with traditional bank investments. Backed by highly-rated life insurance companies, fixed annuities are a secure choice for fee deferrals. Additionally, fixed index annuities can now be used within a structured settlement to provide additional upside market-based performance based upon an index like the S&P 500.
- Market-based structured settlements provide an even greater opportunity for growth. Rather than placing the contingency fees into an annuity, the funds are directed into an investment account on a pre-tax basis. Market-based structured settlements can be managed by a professional fund manager or the attorney’s financial advisor.
- Treasury Funded Structured Settlements™ (TFSS) utilizes U.S. Treasury Bonds as the underlying investment. TFSS payments are held in a trust, with the attorney listed as the trustee. The bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, making them a safe, reliable addition to an attorney’s retirement portfolio.
Contact Kimberly Overby for Attorney Contingency Fee Deferrals
Sage Settlement Consulting provides the most innovative attorney fee deferral solutions. Contact me today to create a flexible, tax-advantaged plan for your contingency fees.
1 Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying abilities of the issuing insurance company.
It’s no secret that a successful legal career doesn’t necessarily equal a predictable paycheck. Case volume ebbs and flows, offering little certainty. Plaintiff attorneys with an eye on the future are wise to explore investment options that deliver regular income with minimal effort. Fortunately, solutions exist that fit the bill without taking time away from your practice.
Attorney Fee Deferrals: Your Financial Weapon of Choice
Plaintiff attorneys have a leg up on their defense counterparts when it comes to investment options. Fee deferrals allow placement of an attorney’s contingency fees in a financial vehicle that spreads payments out over time. Payment streams can begin immediately or in the future (depending on the product), allowing you to create a predictable source of income to supplement your current cash flow or to support future expenses, such as college tuition or retirement. If you have an existing deferred comp plan, attorney fee deferrals are an excellent funding tool.
You may find additional benefits when it comes time to file your taxes:
- Since payments will be spread out over time, you may be able to remain in your current tax bracket, rather than moving up to the next bracket. Less taxes = more fees in your pocket.
- By deferring your payments as a part of your retirement nest egg, you may be able to take advantage of a lower effective tax rate in retirement.
- Your CPA can help you to determine if deferred fees will help reduce your AMT liability.
For several years, structured attorney fees using fixed annuities have been the deferral investment of choice. The plan design is flexible and there is no income cap, nor any annual or lifetime contribution limits. With no overhead or management fees, the guaranteed1 rate of return is comparable with many traditional investments. Payments are fixed and guaranteed, allowing you to set this stream of income on autopilot and pay taxes only on the income received within each tax year.
Fee Structure Plus®
Attorneys seeking additional growth potential may want to explore Fee Structure Plus® (FSP) as an alternative. FSP uses a low-cost platform to invest your fees in market-based portfolios. In addition to providing many of the same benefits as fixed annuities, FSP accounts can be managed by your financial advisor as a part of your comprehensive financial portfolio. You can defer unlimited amounts of contingency fee income, with taxes payable only in the years in which you receive your FSP payments.
Alternative Options for Attorney Fee Deferrals
In addition to fixed annuities and Fee Structure Plus®, there are other attractive options that employ a variety of underlying investments including Vanguard Funds, U.S. Treasury Bonds, and fixed indexed annuities. The varied investments offer a broad range of solutions to diversify your portfolio and maximize your wealth management and tax planning efforts.
Contact Sage Settlement Consulting Today
Deferred fees provide you with a stress-free source of long-term, tax-advantaged income. To learn more, contact Kimberly Overby today.
When a child is traumatically injured in an accident or is the recipient of a financial windfall resulting from a settlement involving a parent, the unknowns of the child’s financial future can compound an already emotional transition. Fortunately, there are settlement solutions available to help ensure that the child’s financial future is protected.
Implications of Settling with Cash
There are many reasons why accepting a lump sum cash settlement is not in the best interest of a minor child (and in fact, some states will not allow cash settlements for minors):
Fast Depletion of Funds: An injury settlement is often the largest sum of cash a family has ever handled at one time. Compounding medical bills, education expenses, lending money to friends and family, and emotional spending are all common pitfalls that can quickly eat up settlement proceeds, especially if the family is inexperienced at managing large amounts of cash.
Ineligibility for College Financial Aid: A lump sum cash settlement could render the child ineligible for financial aid. Even if the family intends to use the money to cover the costs of caring for the injured child, college financial aid offices typically consider those funds when offering financial assistance.
Loss of Government Benefits Eligibility: Most states use income and asset tests in determining one’s eligibility for needs-based government benefits (e.g., SSI, Medicaid, CHIP, etc.). If the child or the child’s parents accept a lump-sum cash settlement, the family will almost certainly lose access to important needs-based benefits.
A Better Approach: Proactive Planning
There are a few different options for handling a minor’s settlement that will help avoid many of the negative consequences associated with a lump sum cash payment:
Option 1: Defer Payment Until After College
With private college tuition averaging over $30,000 a year before room and board, a four-year degree can easily top out at over $100,000. By placing settlement proceeds in a structured settlement and arranging to have the first payment deferred until after college, the child may be able to obtain eligibility for financial aid assistance. The deferred payments will be valuable to a young adult regardless of his/her chosen personal or professional path.
Option 2: Utilize a Minor’s Trust
Minors with more extensive medical needs may benefit from a minor’s trust. There are state-specific (and in many jurisdictions, county-specific) guidelines that must be followed to gain court approval. A minor’s trust is managed by a trustee, who is often a close loved one (i.e., a parent, grandparent, or guardian), but in some cases, could be a court-mandated professional or bonded trustee.
If funds for the minor child are not needed immediately, the trust does not necessarily need to distribute payments during the minor’s youth; instead, the trust can be set up to begin distributing funds when the minor reaches the age of majority in his/her state. To determine the most appropriate approach, families will want to consider medical needs, anticipated financial needs (whether there will be a loss of earnings or a large future purchase), and the minor’s ability to handle funds at the age of majority. Structured settlement annuities can be used to fund a minor’s trust, providing an added layer of protection while also maximizing the proceeds. When selecting this option, consideration must be made for the amount of funds going into the trust vs. the bonding and court fees for the time the trust is in existence.
Additional Options for Minors
Depending on the jurisdiction and the discretion of the judge, options for settlement may also include a guardianship account or a court registry account. In an effort to maximize and preserve the settlement proceeds, families are encouraged to explore the possibility of a structured settlement annuity or a combination of a structured settlement and a minor’s trust.
For more information regarding your next case involving a minor, contact Kimberly Overby at Sage Settlement Consulting today. Our experienced settlement consultants will help create a stable financial future for your minor clients.
Volatile Markets are No Match for this Financial Option
Trade wars? Historic tariffs? With uncertainty as to which direction the markets are heading, investors are considering the best strategies to protect their portfolios. Injured claimants are particularly vulnerable, especially those whose quality of life depends on a steady income. Fortunately, there is a solution that offers protection from market volatility while providing a source of stable, long-term income: structured settlements.
Steady Gains, Lasting Peace of Mind
Both the term and the rate of return for a structured settlement annuity are locked in, and payments are guaranteed1, so when the market drops—even in a recession—the structured settlement payments remain unaffected. Structured settlement annuities are issued by highly-rated life insurance companies, making them one of the safest, most attractive financial vehicles available.
With no overhead fees, structured settlement annuities often yield returns competitive with traditional investments. Certain life companies also offer a rider that provides additional growth potential based on the S&P 500—without any market loss.
Claimants who can incur a degree of market-related risk may want to consider combining a structured settlement annuity with a market-based structured settlement program. Such an approach creates a truly balanced settlement solution.
Your Client Needs a Solid Plan
Claimants have a one-time opportunity to structure their settlements. The decision must be made before settlement, and the settlement agreement must include the proper language. Your settlement consultant can walk your client through the various settlement options, helping to establish realistic expectations and to ensure that a proper plan is in place to preserve the settlement proceeds.
You Need a Plan, Too
Many of the nation’s leading attorneys leverage the benefits of structured attorney fees to defer taxes on their contingency fees. As with structured settlements for claimants, attorney fee structures provide guaranteed, fixed income to create a predictable source of income immune to market volatility.
Take Control of Your Financial Future: Contact Us Today
None of us can control the economy, but we can mitigate some of its negative implications. Contact Kimberly Overby today to protect your clients and your practice.