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Can I Protect My Business Against Divorce?

December 18, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 8:00 am

Many business owners have put in a lot of hours and lost a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the process of building their business. That’s why it can be so difficult when a spouse decides on a divorce, possibly putting business assets in jeopardy. According to the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, as many as 40 to 50 percent of first time marriages end in divorce, so you should carefully consider how your business might be impacted from a marital split.  Cakeinside2

This can be especially difficult when the company starts relatively small but grows over time, giving the spouse a stake in the growth and development of that company. Some of the best ways to include planning for your business in the event of a possible future divorce include:

  • Keeping records for business and family very separate.
  • Consider whether paying yourself a good salary in the short term and using the excess to fund your own retirement is a good option. Banking on selling the business and taking a lower salary in the short term can be dangerous if you find yourself strapped for cash and your retirement dreams washed away because of a divorce.
  • Consider what other assets you’d be willing to give up. You may want to fight for 100 percent ownership of the business interest, but you may need to negotiate by giving up other things.
  • Buy-sell agreements, insurance, and trusts are all tools that can be used to held shield the business from unexpected changes in your personal life.

Discuss specifics with a New Jersey business and estate planning attorney by contacting


Tax Facts: Retirement Benefits

December 17, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 8:00 am

When it comes to retirement accounts, it may feel like you have more questions than answers, even if you have had your retirement account for a long period of time. Assets that are held in qualified plans and IRAs have no current income tax liability, but the distribution of assets in those plans to participate or participant beneficiaries in future tax years can generate income tax liability at typical income tax rates. where-will-your-retirement-money-come-from

There are tax penalties if you attempt to request a distribution from an account before you have actually retired. The IRS actually imposes a tax penalty for funds that are withdrawn too soon and those that were not drawn out soon enough. For example, if you attempt to tap assets before reaching age 59 1/2, you’ll be responsible for paying both the ordinary income tax on the amount as well as a 10% tax penalty on those early distributions (although there are some limited exceptions to this. You may also be responsible for paying state income tax in some locations, too. You should always consult with your tax specialist before making a decision to tap into those assets.

As with all accounts, it’s important to know how you plan to use them in your own lifetime but also how future generations or a beneficiary is intended to use those accounts. Regardless of your age, it’s wise to add an account beneficiary. To talk about how to incorporate retirement accounts into your estate plan, give us a call at  732-521-9455.

Joan Rivers’ Public Estate: A Reason To Consider Planning Privately

December 16, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 8:00 am

The weather certainly full of numerous stories about the ill planning or mistakes made by celebrities when it comes to their states. But there’s another lesson to take away from these experiences as well, and the estate of Joan Rivers is just the latest example.  4373772-0-3

The media has already picked up stories about the contents of the will, highlighting the very public nature that estate planning can be when careful steps are not taken to ensure privacy. For example, court documents released this last week indicate that the comedian was worth more than $150 million and that her daughter Melissa was given all tangible property. Other beneficiaries in the will included a niece, nephew, and a grandson, amounts were also left to her publicist and personal assistants as well as some funds being distributed to charity.

While many individuals, celebrity or not, may not feel that their estate is worth hiding,  for others it’s simply a matter of privacy and confidentiality. Joan Rivers is just the latest celebrity whose estate has served as a spectacle for all to see, a process which could have been avoided with proper estate planning. If privacy is important to you or the beneficiaries in your will, think carefully about how they may be impacted by probate and consider discussing strategies for long-term planning with our specialists. Let us know how we can help at


Do I Really Need a Health Directive?

December 15, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 8:00 am

Having a health directive can serve an important in your life. Failing to have a health directive structured in advance can generate unanswered medical questions and confusion among family members.AdvanceDirective

The purpose of these kinds of documents is to allow you to share your preferences about medical treatment in extreme situations where you are unable to communicate. One such example is if you become incapacitated at the end of life, and your health directive can stipulate your preferences about what you wish to happen at the state and time. Putting these preferences in a clear legal document ensures that your preferences are known by others in the event that something happens to you.

This can cut out the problems of a physician having to obtain a consensus about your next steps in medical treatment from your family members. Not every family member may agree with your wishes, but you will want to eliminate the possibility of circumstances were family members are arguing with one another about how you should be cared for. Designating a healthcare proxy in your health directive can specify the individual whose direction is to be followed in such situations. If you want to prevent your family members from having to make hard decisions on issues about which they may not agree, outline your wishes in a healthcare directive.


What Can’t A Will Do?

December 12, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 1:23 pm

Whether you are new to the realm of estate planning or whether your will has been in place for many years, it’s worth a review of the things that a will cannot do. A will can help outline how certain property will be treated at your death, providing guidelines for the transfer of that property to your heirs. This is very helpful for the purpose of clarity and reducing the opportunity for heirs to argue with one another. will

There are some things that a will cannot do, however. A will is not able to govern property transfer for non-probate assets. Where there are assets like real estate with rights of survivorship, for example, the rights to those assets will pass on to the surviving owner. The same goes for other assets with clear beneficiary designations. An insurance policy will pass on the proceeds to the named beneficiary, for example, and an IRA will also provide benefits to the individual named on the policy.

A will is a great basic planning tool, but you need to conduct a comprehensive review of all the assets that may be included in your estate. This is good for your own knowledge as well as gaining insight about strategies to help maximize the benefits received by heirs as well as minimizing the tax implications of your decision. Contact us today to learn more:



The Basics of Will and Trust Contests

December 11, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 5:25 pm


When putting together your estate plan, it’s helpful to know how a will or trust can be contested after you pass away.

A trust or will contest refers to situations where a lawsuit is filed arguing the validity of your documents. If the will or trust is successfully contested, then that document is thrown out. This outcome can be disappointing and even catastrophic for the beneficiaries listed in the will or trust. will_contests-63730846

A will or trust contest can be filed by an individual with legal standing in a lawsuit. This means that the individual will somehow be personally impacted by the outcome of the case. Disadvantaged heirs and disinherited heirs are the most likely to contest a will or trust. Likewise, beneficiaries who were given a bigger share of assets in a previous trust or will are also likely to contest existing documents. Individuals with no standing in the suit are not eligible to challenge a will or trust, even if there is evidence supporting the claim that the document or documents are not valid.

There are four primary grounds on which someone can file a contest to a will or trust: allegations that the will wasn’t properly signed under state law, arguments that the person was forced into signing the will, claims that the document was procured by fraud, and arguments that the person signing the will did not have the necessary capacity to do so.

Make sure you’ve constructed a valid will to limit the opportunity for family disputes after you pass away. For more planning tips, drop us a note at

Do Millennials Need Estate Planning?

December 10, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 12:58 pm

Many millennials assume that estate plan is for older and more established clients who have significant assets to protect. Even if you believe that your highest-earning years are still ahead of you, there are a few simple steps to take to form the foundation of the estate plan. It’s not only major assets that need protection and for a small amount of time you can have the confidence that what you do own is protected. Beneficiary_Designation_Form

  • Make sure that your beneficiary designations are updated. This is especially important as you get married or have children. Retirement accounts and group life insurance policies are a great place to start.
  • Consider supplemental life insurance. While an at-work policy may cover a year or so of your income, you can likely get an excellent deal on an affordable policy while you are young and healthy. Group life insurance doesn’t tend to be portable, either, so it’s a wise idea to have your own policy. Factor in mortgage costs, other household expenses, and any amount you want for children’s college savings.
  • It’s never too early to outline a will. Although you hope that it won’t be necessary in your younger years, it’s simply smart planning to provide a plan to help your beneficiaries in the event that something happens.
  • Put together a power of attorney and health care proxy. These estate planning tools are not specific to any age and outline what will happen to the management of your affairs if something happens to you. Put these together and review them on a yearly basis.

For basic or complex estate planning, it helps to have professionals at your side. Now is a great time to get your estate plan in order for 2015. Call us at 732-521-9455 for more details.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

December 8, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 2:15 pm

Passing away without a will is known as dying “intestate”. Your state laws will govern how your property is passed down, which usually gives your assets to your spouse and children. When you pass away and do not have a will, your estate enters the probate process through which it will be determined what happens to your assets. Although the probate process does provide a way of managing estates without wills, this is often not in the best interest of the party who has passed away or the beneficiaries.

Source: GenX

Source: GenX

A major reason for this is the loss of control and the very public nature of probate. When you put a will together, you’re able to craft a plan that reflects what you actually want to happen to your property and gives you the opportunity to exercise personal control. Without a will, the probate process can generate confusion and frustration for the loved ones who are already grieving your loss.

Wills can be customized based on the complexity of your estate. While all you might need is a simple will, a meeting with an estate planning attorney can also open to your eyes to other planning tools that aid in the process of minimizing taxes and maximizing the benefits that your loved ones will receive after you pass away. Other planning tools, like trusts, may be applicable in your situation. To learn more about putting together a will or a comprehensive estate plan, schedule a consultation today by emailing

4 Steps For A Family Business Succession Plan

December 5, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 8:00 am

While many business owners hope to keep the company in the family, it doesn’t always fall out that way. Make sure you know your family member’s intentions before approaching the planning process.  Knowing your intentions and the goals of your heirs can be extremely helpful for telling you what you need to consider in a succession plan. These four tips will help guide your choices if you and your heirs do plan to keep the business in the family. Family_Business_Succession_Planning

Step 1: Establish the Goals and the Process

As the business owner, you need to gauge family member interest in continuing to stay involved as well as current and future goals for the company. Once you know where various members stand, create your plan. Include governance process guidelines and dispute resolution methods in a written document. Once finished, be sure that the succession plan is communicated to stakeholders.

Step 2: Identify Key People

Determine the individuals who will be the owners and managers in the company when you are gone. It’s also important to consider which family members will have authority and whether other family members will be “non-acting” parties.

Step 3: Evaluate Business Owner Estate Planning Needs 

Discuss with your estate planning specialist what implications will occur when the business is transferred over to family members. What steps can you take to minimize delays of stock to spouses? Does your buy/sell agreement clearly specify next steps?

Step 4: Delve Into Transition Details 

Will the business be gifted or bequested to family members, or will it be available for an outright purchase? For purchasing, make sure that payment options are outlined clearly and that financing options, if necessary, have been provided.

Taking care of the family business requires thoughtful consideration and planning. For more help on a smooth transition, contact our offices at




Holiday Gifting Guide: The Gift Tax and Your Estate

December 4, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 8:00 am


With the end of the year and the holiday season approaching, both individuals and married couples are looking to maximize gifting opportunities while minimizing tax implications. Being knowledgeable about the gift tax annual lifetime exemption is important for structuring gifts that you may wish to pass on to others. Gift-Tax-Rules

Any individual can give up to $14,000 worth of assets every year under the annual exclusion. This means that you do not have to report that gift to the government for the purposes of taxes and these these payments can be spread out throughout the year, such as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. This enables married couples to pass on up to $28,000 annually without bumping the lifetime exemption of $5 million. Trying to pass on inheritances above this lifetime amount can come at a high price in terms of taxes without proper planning, which is why an annual estate and tax planning review session can be helpful for telling you where you’re at and how you can best prepare for the future.

When used properly, gifting can be a critical tool for eliminating or minimizing taxes. Taking advantage of the annual exclusion and the lifetime credit can allow you to pass on assets to beneficiaries without concerns over the tax implications. To discuss the details of gifting and how it can help reduce the size of your taxable estate, contact our office for a personalized consultation at




Small Business Year-End Tax Planning

December 3, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 5:47 pm

According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses typically pay tax rates from between 13.3% (for sole proprietorships) up to 26.9% (for S corporations). Regardless of your tax rate, some last-minute steps may help maximize tax savings. Taking advantage of these planning tips now by consulting with a tax attorney can be extremely helpful next spring when it comes time to pay up.

Source: PA

Source: PA

One of the most helpful strategies is to defer income into next year while maximizing deductible expenses in this current tax year. This is an applicable approach for businesses that are pass-through entities like limited liability companies, partnerships, S corps, or sole proprietorships. Your share of the net income related to the business will be reported to the IRS and taxed at your individual rates. If you expect to be in the same or a lower tax bracket next year, take the approach of deferring income and maximizing deductions.

On the other hand, if you expect that your business will only continue to grow and bump you into a higher tax bracket, accelerate all possible income into the 2014 tax year and limit your deductible expenditures until 2015. The net effect here is to have more income taxed at your lower rate this year instead of your higher rate next year. For more tax planning tips, contact our office for a personalized consultation by emailing

Miller Trusts Now Approved In New Jersey

December 2, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 5:03 pm


A much-awaited  change has now come to New Jersey. In the past, two programs related to elder care determined eligibility in New Jersey: the Medicaid Only program and the Medically Needy program.  While the Medically Needy program only provided payment for care in a nursing home, the Medicaid Only program pays for long-term care in an assisted living facility, at home, or any nursing home. The Medicaid Only program, however, has an income cap of 300% of federal benefit rates for SSI. The Medically Needy program, however, has no income cap.

Source: TotalCare

Source: TotalCare

As of December 1, however, the Medically Needy program  is being eliminated. The new program in New Jersey pays for long-term care at home, in an assisted living residence, or in a nursing home. although there is no income cap.  For this program, any applicant whose monthly income is higher than $2,163 must put income above that level into a trust known as a Miller Trust.

The biggest impact from this change allows many more people who were previously unable to qualify for long-term Medicaid in an assisted living residence or their home because their income exceeded the cap are now able to qualify for benefits. Miller Trusts can be complicated and you should consult with your New Jersey estate planning attorney for more details about your eligibility and the structure of the trust.

For more details about Miller Trusts, contact  our offices at 732 –521 – 9455.



How To Handle a Financial Windfall, Like Royalties

December 1, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 6:38 pm

Certainly, experiencing a financial windfall can be a positive experience, especially during the holiday season. The downside of earning royalties or bonus money, however, is that you may not be clear about how these items are taxed. Advance planning can help you prepare for a sudden influx of money, whether you’re a musician or a property owner leasing your land for oil drilling. Royalties

For the most part, income like royalties from oil drilling rights or bonus payments are treated as taxable income by the US government. It’s important to realize how this money will be taxed, but also how it will influence your tax bracket. Since many people are not aware of the tax consequences of this money, they tend to make a common mistake in using that money to purchase new assets or to pay down debts. If you end up spending the majority of the windfall, you won’t have said enough aside for the taxes. Make sure you calculate taxes in first before spending the money.

There are numerous options to help you plan for a sudden windfall of money. Depending on the amount of money, you may even be considering legacy planning using limited partnerships, trusts, or family limited partnerships. If you have recently become involved in a royalty or bonus situation, you should consult with an experienced estate and tax planning attorney to talk about the short-term and long-term consequences.

To start with, your property values prior to royalties may not surpass estate planning limits when it comes to estate taxes. Over time, however, the value of the lease or the rights in oil drilling, for example, may expand past the estate planning exemption. If you own property in another state, it’s important to consult with an estate planning and tax planning specialist if this property will ultimately be used for oil drilling or similar pursuits. To learn more about royalties and their impact in terms of taxes, reach out to us at

Study Shows Higher Confidence About Retirement

November 28, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 5:47 pm

According to new research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Americans who are approaching the retirement window are more confident than in recent years. The study, known as the Annual Retirement Confidence Survey, tracks how individuals feel about the amount of money they have saved for their post-working years. shutterstock_196414808

There are many different questions that tie retirement planning into estate planning. In fact, it can be very helpful to consult with tax and estate specialists in the period before you retire so that you are informed about your options. Early retirement planning is not just for your peace of mind, though. Discussing tax saving strategies can make all the difference between retiring comfortably and being concerned about finances later on.

One of the primary reasons that retirement planning is such a big concern for today’s workforce is because Americans are living longer. Maximizing savings and getting the most out of your assets is a crucial concern for individuals who are hoping to avoid tax surprises before and after retirement.

Women especially are getting more involved in the estate and tax planning process because they tend to live longer. Couples may want to discuss optimal planning strategies that protect the spouse who lives longer while protecting assets that are intended to be passed down to future generations.

It’s likely that you may have several accounts or strategies already lined up for retirement, but it may be in your best interest to walk through how these plans and savings work together and how you can get the most out of them as you approach retirement. For tax planning strategies for your needs, contact the attorneys at Shah & Associates today at



Thanksgiving Message from Neel Shah, Managing Attorney

November 26, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — admin @ 2:11 pm

We have so much for which to be thankful this year.  Managing attorney Neel Shah recorded this quick video with his wife, Pinky Shah of NJ Mortgage LLC to express our gratitude To our family at home and our families in the office.

Can You Trusts and Estate Advice From a Non-Attorney?

November 25, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 4:54 pm

Most people putting together a comprehensive estate plan may involve other professionals like a CPA, Financial Advisor or Insurance Professional, but you should always be cautious of anyone outside the realm of a certified individual to be giving you advice for your estate plan. Often, these can come in the form of people who are solely motivated to sell annuities and life insurance, and they may lead you to believe that they are experts in the law. shutterstock_95746741

There are two common ways that these individuals get you to buy in to the offer: it typically begins with a free lunch or dinner offer for “estate planning advice” and then follows with a high-pressure push asking for an in-house visit to discuss ideas with them further. These people will end up offering you some kind of Trust or legal document, but the person likely is not an attorney.

We are blessed to work with many holistic financial advisors & insurance professionals who incorporate sound life insurance and sensible annuities strategies, for sure. And there may even be legitimate people out there offering trusts, but it’s misleading to make you think that you’re working with an Attorney when you’re not. Anytime you meet with someone claiming to be an “expert” or “professional” ask to see their credentials. If they are offering estate planning advice and making you think he or she is an Attorney or has an “in-house” attorney who will “take care of everything cheap”, be wary & verify the details. A legitimate estate planning attorney likely has a list of credentials, details of which can be easily confirmed. For advice from a New Jersey estate planning firm with years of experience, contact our office today at

Key Tips for Out-of-State Retirement

November 24, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 1:12 pm

A new report from Bankrate has reviewed the best state for retirees to head off to in their golden years, and Florida did not make the list! According to financial analysts, retirees need to consider far more than just sunny weather when factoring in long-term planning after their working years. The best retirement state, according to the report, is South Dakota, but other solid locations include Wyoming and Nevada.

Source: UCFW

Source: UCFW

Why are such out-of-the-box choices deemed so worthy? No state income tax is a primary reason that retirees should consider these locations (although this makes Florida an option, too!). When you’re moving to a new state, you’ll also want to know how that state taxes income and have your CPA look over whether itemized deductions you took in your previous state are disallowed in your new location.

Whenever you relocate, make sure your estate planning documents are in line with your new location and the state rules there. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that documents necessarily transfer between states.

Finally, if you don’t want to make a move but are still concerned about state income taxes in your present home, you can take advantage of the tax benefits offered by a DING or NING trust. These trusts, based out of Delaware and Nevada, accordingly, may allow you minimize your taxes without actually relocating to the more tax-friendly state.

Whether you’re new to New Jersey or New York or simply looking to get the most out of your tax planning, you need advice you can trust. Set up a consultation with our tax planning attorneys at

To Convert Or Not To Convert: Roth IRAs

November 20, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 1:37 pm

Any decisions you make about converting your Roth IRA should be evaluated in light of taxes and your entire estate plan. You need to consider three primary concerns before electing to convert your Roth IRA.

Concern #1: Are You Getting the Most Out of Your IRA?

If you do some advance planning, a Roth conversion can benefit multiple generations, especially if you have a spouse. If  your spouse decides that he or she doesn’t need the assets inside the Roth because there are other forms of support, then the second spouse could disclaim receiving those benefits and hand it over to future generations. In this case, children or grandchildren would have the required distributions based on their life expectancy, allowing for a lot of tax-free growth.

Source: SaveUp

Source: SaveUp

Concern #2: Are You Going to Outlive Your Roth?

The primary reasons to consider a Roth conversion are to reduce the size of your taxable estate and to pass on assets tax-free. Although you can’t entirely predict longevity, you can make some estimations about your spending, your lifestyle, and your net worth. This can give you a clear picture of how you might spend down a Roth and what other assets would remain in your estate. It may be worth your time to wait for conversions until you’re no longer working and in a lower tax bracket, for example.

Concern #3: Are You Going To Gift it To Charity?

Since charities don’t have to cough up income taxes on received donations, a traditional IRA is a better gift to charity than a Roth. If you would like to maximize a gift to charity, opting to convert to a Roth could actually be the wrong move.

When you have specific estate planning concerns, you need guidance from professionals who understand the tax ramifications of your decisions. To walk through tax-saving strategies specific to your situation, contact us today at




Protecting Inherited Assets in Divorce

November 19, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 9:24 pm

Divorce generates a lot of difficult questions about property division, but one of the most challenging questions you don’t want to have to consider is whether you may lose some of your inherited assets. Even though some states may not consider assets inherited by one party as jointly-owned marital property by both parties, you can take some preventive steps to protect these assets.



There are three key steps you can take to protect your inherited interests in light of divorce:


  • Keep copies of all documents related to the assets. Anything that shows the property was intended only for you, and not for you and your spouse, is important. If you have a letter from the person who passed the property on to you, add this to your copy arsenal. The more solid evidence you have that this property was intended for ownership by you alone, the better.
  • Don’t mix inherited money with accounts that are linked to your spouse as well. Park your inheritance in a separate investment or bank account. This helps to support the idea that the inherited money was not intended for the use of both spouses. Likewise, keep the titles in your name only, especially if you’ve been gifted an inheritance for the purchase of a specific item, like a home.
  • Consider a prenuptial agreement. If you want to help protect inherited assets like property, money, or businesses, a prenuptial agreement is one all-encompassing approach to shielding these assets. Make sure there is a clause specifically explaining that a spouse has no right to inherited assets in the event of a divorce.

Advance planning is the best approach to protecting inherited assets from becoming a target during your divorce. Contact our office for assistance at 732-521-9455 for more details.

Does Moving Influence Your Estate Plan?

November 18, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 3:47 pm

In the midst of a crazy move, no one will blame you if you forget about the possible impact on your estate plan. Once you’ve settled and begun the long process of opening boxes and hunting for items that you are sure you have packed but have seemingly disappeared into a black hole, you’ll want to add “update estate planning” to your to do list.

Home For Sale Sign in Front of New House.

Source: Realty Times

If you’re relocating to another state, you definitely want to consider ensuring that your will is valid in a new state. If your new state has different estate tax laws, your estate plan from your old home may not be properly maximized. Finally, you’ll want to look into the community property laws of your new state, too.

If you’re relocating to another country, it becomes even trickier to determine the laws that you need to comply with. As you can see from just a few examples, moving can generate a lot of questions about your existing estate plan and it’s very likely that you’ll need to update documents. Do this under the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney who can review your situation to maximize asset protection and minimize taxes. Contact our planning specialists today at

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