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Do You Really Need Help with Your Financial and Estate Planning?

January 16, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

There’s a strong chance that you don’t have the knowledge, patience, interest or time to deal with complicated financial matters. This is one of the biggest reasons why people end up pushing these important financial and estate planning considerations off your plate and into the wings. But it can be a big mistake to ignore financial and estate planning opportunities altogether. If you need assistance, it’s important to remember that you can get help. 

There’s no harm in seeking the services of experienced financial planners and estate planners. Make sure that any individual that you’re contemplating bringing into your personal life is thoroughly vetted. This means that they should come with reviews from other people who’ve had the opportunity to work with them and that they are willing to sit down with you during an initial consultation during which time they shouldn’t be focused on trying to sell you anything.

This person should be committed to understanding your individual perspective and primary concerns so as to create a plan going forward with you. The initial meeting is an important one for your consultation because it gives you a perspective of how this person chooses to work with clients and is your chance to ask questions about your next steps.

Impacts of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act Now Beginning to Affect Estate Planning

January 15, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Many people might have overlooked the long-term implications of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This 2017 act, however, has marked a real change from previous estate tax planning towards lifetime planning.

Businessman Hand with usd dollar money

There are major opportunities to mitigate estate tax liabilities by gifting wealth and assets outright to beneficiaries or giving them to a trust for the benefit of future generations. This is due to the increase in exemption amounts or GST gift and federal estate taxes. 

These gifting opportunities present an annual chance to consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer about what is recommended in your case and how to use these strategies in what appears to be an ever-changing estate and tax planning environment. You deserve to have the input and advice provided by an attorney who remains competent and knowledgeable about all current issues in the estate planning realm.

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to reconnect with your estate planning lawyer and to discuss how changes in your estate planning can have positive impacts not just for you in the short term, but also for your loved ones and beneficiaries over the course of a long run. An estate planning lawyer is there to advise you as plans and goals change over the course of your life and to keep your estate plan updated and in line with those needs.     

Why You Need to Manage Your Money with Logic

January 14, 2019

Filed under: Baby Boomer Generation — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

It’s easy to get emotional about money, especially if you have spent much of your life working towards establishing and accomplishing financial goals. As your goals change through the various phases of your financial life, you will shift from accumulating assets to figuring out how to protect them and to distribute these to your loved ones if and when something happens to you.

Managing your money with logic is easier said than done because there’s no doubt that you’ll have some emotional connection to the financial aspect of your life. Unfortunately, headlines from the news can make it nerve wracking to approach financial management with logic rather than emotion.

Focus instead on your individual goals about how much you’ll need to live comfortably in retirement as well as pay down your debts. Projecting your retirement income based on Social Security and your current savings can give you an update about when you need to make adjustments and retool your plans for the future.

Figure out how much you need to invest and save to meet your goals and then focus on execution. Keeping your focus on the most important issues for your individual needs can help you to avoid being distracted by scary news stories and predictions about what might happen in the financial markets. You are better off partnering with a team of experienced financial and estate planning professionals who will work hard to keep you advised of what you need to know and when and how you need to make adjustments based on shifts in the law or other aspects of life. Regardless of your overall financial planning goals, you need to have a team of people who is familiar with your individual needs.     

Should I Put My Home in A Child’s Name?

January 10, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 pm

Planning ahead for your future retirement and estate planning goals might lead you to question whose name is listed on the deeds to homes.

Classic white interior witn chair mirrors and open door

Sometimes it can be the right decision to put your home into your children’s names, but this can also create grounds for family conflict and problems if you have multiple children.

One major reason to think carefully about putting your home in your children’s name is the potential for you to need Medicaid in the future. You could face a five year look back if you have a need for Medicaid for any time in the near future.

When you attempt to get support through the Medicaid program, assets that you gave away to your loved ones during the preceding five years could still be classified as yours, making it difficult for you to qualify for Medicaid.

If your children wait to inherit the house, you will pass along possible financial issues for them, including a new cost basis valued at the time of your death. If they were to choose to sell the property shortly after that, they would have no taxable profit.

Other issues can emerge if you pass on the title to your home, since your property could become involved in their problems if there is a financial claim, divorce settlement, or lien placed on the property, since they would own a share of your home. A lawyer who specializes in estate planning can give you more specific advice about whether or not putting your home in your children’s names makes sense.     

What Is the Value of a Relationship Between a Beneficiary and a Trustee?

January 9, 2019

Filed under: Trusts — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Selecting someone to serve as a trustee over this popular estate planning strategy is important because this individual might have regular and ongoing contact with your beneficiaries and loved ones. trustee-beneficiary-NJ

As a result of this direct contact and the need to have open minds of communication between beneficiaries and trustees, it’s a good idea to appoint someone who is familiar with all the roles that they must play in serving as a trustee.

If your beneficiaries are likely to be dependent to some degree on the trustee for support, it is even more important that you select someone that everyone is comfortable with.

Most people will have someone in their family who possesses the skills to be an effective trustee. The more dependent the beneficiary will be on the trust, however, the more independent that trustee should be.

A trustee and beneficiary’s relationship is forever altered if there are problems in the disbursement of funds or disagreements over the relationship in terms of the trust. This relationship can be forever altered and not always for the better if you select someone who is not independent from the trust itself. This can lead to difficult family conflicts and even possible litigation and is a leading reason why you might want to choose an independent party to serve as your trustee.


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What Role Does the Principal Play in Establishing A Power of Attorney?

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:12 am

A power of attorney document enables someone else to make decisions on your behalf when he or she is installed as the agent. If you sign a power of attorney, you are called the principal.

In many instances, an appropriately drafted durable power of attorney can avoid having to go through additional court procedures such as a conservatorship or guardianship and will instead empower the financial agents that you select while still of sound mind to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so. This is your primary role in establishing a power of attorney, but you must also think about whether or not you want this power of attorney to be only for specific actions or to occur after a specific event, like you becoming incapacitated.

3D illustration of “LEGAL ASSET” title on legal document

The agent of your power of attorney is also referred to as the attorney in fact. Without an appropriately executed power of attorney, if you were to become mentally disabled and unable to make your own decisions, your loved ones would have to go through the additional court process and payment of obtaining a probate court-supervised conservatorship to have an individual handle your financial and property affairs.

While no one wants to think about the possibility of not being able to make their own decisions, it could be a big mistake to avoid planning for this altogether because your loved ones would be the ones who end up paying the price. Schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer to discuss to find out how a power of attorney can help you.     

How Important Is It If Your Estate Planning Be Followed to the Letter?

January 8, 2019

Filed under: Trustees — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Do you have specific wishes or rules you’d like to place about inherited wealth? An independent and professional trustee might be the right choice as you select and fund your trust. trustee-lawyer-NJ

A professional trustee who is familiar with all of the requirements of him or her can deliver consistent, unbiased and prudent administration of trust assets across multiple generations. An independent professional trustee is far more likely to respect and apply strict application of your trust terms.

There are many different reasons for this but a professional trustee will have internal and external audits and management oversight and written policies and procedures to guide his or her performance in this role. All too often, professional trustees are only sought out after a family has self-destructed due to a previous trustee who didn’t work out.

While a professional trustee might not be able to help to prevent all possible disagreements, the probability of family conflict and problems between beneficiaries and trustees can be dramatically reduced by selecting an independent trustee. The professional trustee must be engaged and have the capacity to work closely with the family to fulfill the many duties and respect the terms of the trust.


Does the Law Require Certain People to Serve as Your Trustee?

January 7, 2019

Filed under: Living trust — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

The laws are generally not very strict about who can serve in the important role of a trustee or administrator of your established trust. However, some careful thought and consideration should go into this process. The legal requirements for a person to serve as a trustee require that he or she be over 18 years of age, is capable of managing their own affairs, and are legally competent.

As a factor in selecting your own trustee, the primary consideration should be choosing a person who is trustworthy. The trustee has a responsibility to act in the best interests of the beneficiary.

While your trustee does not have to have specific financial or legal expertise, you must be sure that this person has relatively good judgment and understands the terms of the trust. Federal benefit program knowledge should also be a factor to look for when selecting a person who will help to administer a special needs trust.

Furthermore, you must be aware of the possibility that a trustee might have to manage the trust for a long period of time. This means your selection of trustee should be a person who will likely be around for quite a while and has the time and ability to devote to trustee duties.

This individual has to be of sound mind and body. An independent trustee might be a better selection for you because this is an institution or individual who has no direct interest in the trust.

Common examples of independent trustees include investment bankers, professional trustees, a bank or a trust company, an investment advisor, a lawyer or an accountant. This individual will be independent but will also likely have the benefit of being familiar with trust administration.


How to Handle an Estate Plan Update If a Trustee or Executor Becomes Inappropriate

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Two key individuals might be installed as part of the management of your estate plan either during life or after you pass away. These are known as your executor and your trustee. These are individuals who implement your plan after it has been articulated in estate planning documents. Both of these individuals often determine the overall success of your estate plan or the trust. trustee-planning-NJ

Unfortunately, not enough people give careful consideration to these appointments. Even if you care for and made these appointments, the death of one of these individuals or changing circumstances for either person might call for an update to your estate planning.

Are those individuals originally appointed in your estate plan as an executor or trustee still comfortable, able and willing to perform these jobs as you wish for them to be carried out? Is another person a better choice because your estate plan has changed? Or has someone moved away, passed away or aged?

Determining who is the best choice as a trustee or an executor requires thinking about who should serve in these roles today. If you believe that it’s time to update your estate plan, only do so with the help and guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning lawyer. You could otherwise expose yourself to unnecessary mistakes and problems.


Do I Really Need an Independent Professional Trustee?

January 4, 2019

Filed under: Trustees — Neel Shah @ 11:19 am

So you’ve already made the decision to use a trust as an estate planning strategy to shield assets from potential creditors or predators, to add a layer of privacy to the management of your estate plan and to exercise some level of control over how assets in your estate are passed on. estate-planning-NJ

This is an important first step in the process but you might also need to give a careful evaluation to who you choose to serve as the trustee. While a family member might have the necessary skills to step into this role, a family member is not always the right choice.

Typically speaking, an independent professional trustee is much likely to follow the terms of your trust to the letter. This is because they will have internal and external audits, management oversight and written procedures and policies outlined by you. Professional trustees also have tended to serve in these roles before and are familiar with what is required of them as well as the lines they cannot cross in performing their role.

An independent professional trustee can minimize the possibility for conflict when they are not immediately related to anyone who is receiving benefits or assets inside the trust. A professional trustee will also understand that any monies left inside the trust do not belong to the trustee and should be comfortable in working in a close capacity with your loved ones to manage the disbursements of funds and handle communication professionally.


Can You Ever Revoke a Power of Attorney?

January 3, 2019

Filed under: Power of Attorney — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Establishing a power of attorney enables another individual to make decisions on your behalf. Depending on the specifics of your unique concerns, a power of attorney can be tailored to particular situations, such as when you become incapacitated or can exist from the moment that it is signed.

Revoking a power of attorney raises unique legal questions. Many people who have established a power of attorney might be curious about whether or not they can set up a power of attorney and ultimately take it back in the future, particularly if they no longer trust the individual who is established as the agent or if that person no longer wants to serve. NJ-poa-lawyer

A power of attorney document can be revoked if the principal executes a written document identifying the power of attorney and requesting that it be revoked. The attorney in fact or agent who has been established with the power of attorney also must receive actual knowledge about the revocation. Until he or she gets that actual knowledge, the revocation does not become effective.

Sending the revocation letter via certified mail with return receipt requested is strongly recommended and it is a good idea to follow up and ask whether or not a power of attorney revocation has been received by the agent. This information is important for carrying out the full revocation of a power of attorney and verifying that you are eligible to establish a new power of attorney as soon as possible.


Three Steps to Optimal Business Succession

January 1, 2019

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

You need to have three clear phases to the business succession planning process to ensure that you have considered all aspects and are as prepared as possible to pass your business on to a future generation.NJ-business-succession-lawyer

Phase One: Creating A Clear Vision

Setting up measurable goals within your succession plan and aligning them with company values are important. This can have critical implications for the success of your company now and going into the future. Make sure that you are preserving not just the financial health of the company, but also its reputation and principles. These determine the many different issues in your own life including estate and tax planning strategies, financial issues, retirement and transition concerns. Make sure that you use a strong team of advisors who is familiar with business succession planning to accomplish these goals. After all of the data about the current state of your business and where you’d like it to go have been assembled, you can begin to create a strategy.

Phase Two: Building Your Management Team

Tapping into the talent already existing within your business goes beyond simply thinking about whether you should pass on the business to a child.

Many businesses do no survive with family succession plans especially if you have not talked to your child about taking ownership of the business because he or she might not be interested in the manner that you expect. Building a senior team that helps you to manage all the critical areas of your business will empower this next level to take over the company by working in a supervisory rule first. Your business succession plan should have methods to guarantee that valued employees will stay on their position upon your death, disability or retirement. An employment agreement can clarify this.

Phase Three: Put Together Your Estate Plan

Any succession plan is not complete without an estate plan. One of the primary concerns might be how to treat all of your children equally in the succession process, particularly if you have non-business assets. Make sure that you talk through your choices and consider using tools such as a shareholder agreement or buy/sell agreement with any other business owners.


What Are Your Goals for Creating an Estate Plan?

December 27, 2018

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

A conversation with an experienced estate planning lawyer will be much easier when you have your goals in mind before attending the meeting. Different people approach estate planning with their own individual goals and the more time you can take to reflect on these, the easier it will be to craft strategies and tactics in line with your unique concerns. estate-planning-legacy

Some of the most common reasons for creating an estate planning include:

  • To ensure that the family business you have worked so hard to build remains operational, functional and successful after a death or a sudden departure.
  • To protect wealth using tools like asset protection planning.
  • To determine the path of distribution for assets after a death occurs.
  • To ensure that pets are financially provided for if something were to unexpectedly happen to an owner.
  • To ensure that minor children have a guardian established to take over responsibilities of parents if the parents pass away prior to the child growing up.
  • To outline a plan that protects the government benefits of a child with special needs while also providing for his or her care.
  • To provide for incapacity or sudden disability by outlining who is able to make decisions and manage the affairs of the incapacitated person.
  • To outline goals and strategies for charitable giving.
  • To reduce or avoid estate taxes for those with significant wealth.
  • To enhance control over what happens when a person receives an inheritance, such as ensuring that the money is used for a specific person like going to college or is passed on in a manner that allows that person to be financially successful.

Schedule a consultation today with an experienced estate planning lawyer.


Life Insurance Should Be Included as Part of Your Estate Plan

December 26, 2018

Filed under: Life Insurance — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Life insurance can be a powerful planning tool when used in conjunction with the remainder of your estate plan. Having an estate plan put together with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer is helpful for outlining what you intend to accomplish in the future. 

However, you should also engage other professionals, such as a CPA or financial planner to ensure that all of your plans are working together. Having a life insurance policy is the cornerstone of good financial protection. You probably assume that you don’t need life insurance until you have a family that you provide form and even then, sometimes life insurance does not come up on a person’s radar. However, there are four main reasons you want to consider purchasing a life insurance policy in conjunction with sitting down with an estate planning attorney to discuss your goals. These life milestones include;

  • Being part of a blended family, which has complicated family dynamics. You could use this to provide for your new spouse, allowing your children to inherit other assets.
  • You just started your own family and may need to replace income, pay for the child’s education, or pay for mortgage and car payments.
  • Your estate is large enough to have estate tax liabilities. You could have state or federal estate taxes associated with your estate when you pass away. Life insurance can allow you to fund this liability or can be used to generate liquidity reserves that can be accessed to pay initial taxes and expenses once you pass away.

Regardless of how you choose to use your life insurance policy, you should discuss your options directly with an estate planning lawyer.


Trusts as An Estate Planning Strategy Are More Important Than Ever

December 24, 2018

Filed under: Trusts — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

So many changes in the estate and the gift tax rules mean that it’s more important than ever to contemplate estate planning strategies. Trusts matter now more than ever because these are much more than tax planning vehicles for the estate planning purposes.

Many people continue to struggle with the problem of determining how much is enough and how much is too much when passing on assets to your grandchildren or children. 

Although few families are subject to the federal estate tax, leaving assets inside a trust enables a beneficiary to reap the advantages of a family’s success without the high potential for adverse effects such as spending the money too quickly. You can also provide significant protections for your beneficiaries by putting assets inside a trust. This includes protection from creditors, protection from a spouse who seeks a divorce in the future and protecting a beneficiary from being exploited financially.

Even if no tax planning is needed, trusts can be used to further your goals and to address your individual concerns about inherited wealth. Scheduling a consultation directly with an experienced estate planning attorney is your first opportunity to talk through using a trust as an estate planning vehicle.

Your trust is a powerful tool for you and your loved ones, but only if it’s created and funded properly. You need time set aside to speak to a lawyer you can trust about how to craft the right trust for you.

Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney

December 19, 2018

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

In a sit-down conversation with an estate planning lawyer, you will want to have a sense of confidence and comfort in this person who will help steer you through the estate planning process. NJ-estate-lawyer

An estate planning lawyer serves in numerous different roles and may have different practice areas to assist you with all of the various estate, elder law and long-term planning needs for yourself as well as your business. Some of the common services provided by an estate planning attorney include:

  • Asset protection planning.
  • Business succession planning.
  • Estate planning assistance.
  • Medicaid knowledge and application preparation.
  • Elder law concerns.
  • Drafting of critical documents like power of attorney or a last will.
  • Explanation of strategies, such as trusts to protect assets inside your estate and pass them on to beneficiaries.

There are several questions you should ask an estate planning attorney during your initial conversation. You are not obligated to work with an estate planning lawyer until you have signed a contract with him or her. Make sure that you consider these questions and ask them during your interview.

  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What percentage of your practice is dedicated to estate planning and elder law concerns?
  • How frequently do you communicate with your clients?
  • Do you host any seminars, workshops, or other educational opportunities for me to learn more about estate planning?
  • How do you prefer to communicate with your clients?
  • Why did you choose to practice area of estate planning and elder law?
  • Will I be working with you directly or another person on your team?

These are all important questions to consider because not all attorneys choose to operate their law firm in the same manner or have the same experience, knowledge and passion for estate planning or elder law. Since this individual will be so personally involved in the development of plans for your present as well as your future, these questions can help you narrow down who to work with as an estate planning lawyer.


Don’t Leave Your Loved Ones Grappling with Lack of Information

December 18, 2018

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Untangling all of the aspects of your estate can be daunting for you but it can be even worse for your loved ones. You may pass away without leaving your executor or your family members with an updated and complete list of where all your materials are and how they can be accessed. 

Think about all of the assets and pieces of property you have accumulated over the course of a lifetime. If you have not clearly planned and articulated where these will go after you pass away, you’ll leave this mess for your loved ones to determine. Your bank account, mutual fund holdings, and brokerage accounts, as just a couple of examples, are associated with many different usernames and passwords and sometimes these require answers to security questions that your loved ones might not know.

Since not all of your holdings will be available electronically, you will need to plan for how an executor can access these materials. Some possessions are completely digital, like your social media accounts or the online place where you store all of your photos. However, if you don’t have passwords or a succession plan for these items to be passed on, you could be setting yourself up for failure and make things harder on your loved ones.

They might never be able to access these accounts at all since each of these individual companies have their own rules about how these assets can be passed to someone else, if at all.

You need the support of an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning lawyer to walk you through each aspect of the estate planning process and to counsel you about what to expect so that you can avoid these mistakes.

Starting a master list of all the different places where you have an account and adding to it as these jump into your mind over the course of a couple weeks can make it easier to have access to all of these. Many people don’t realize how many accounts and assets they have until they go through the process of creating a master list.


Will the State Take Your Belongings If You Don’t Have an Estate Plan?

December 17, 2018

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Unfortunately, plenty of people have not carried out the process of putting together an estate plan, assuming that they don’t need one or following some misconceptions about what truly happens to their belongings if they fail to plan. NJ-estate-planning-lawyer

It is a big misconception to think that the state takes over your assets if you pass away without an estate plan. If you fail to leave a plan, the state follows the intestate policy of distributing your property to your traceable relatives. The only time that a state truly acquires a decedent’s property is when no traceable blood relative could be identified. This means that you have no cousins, siblings or anyone else.

If you fail to engage in estate planning, a far more likely prospect for what will happen to your belongings is that you will leave behind a mess for your loved ones and one that could be easily avoided by scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer.

An estate planning lawyer can assist you with pulling all of the necessary information together in your key documents and ensuring that you have considered all aspects of the estate planning process.

While the state might not necessarily take your belongings, you probably want to have a say in how your belongings are distributed and the best way to do this is by connecting directly with an estate planning lawyer who can assist you with using tools like trusts, wills and other strategies to protect your assets for the rest of your life and your loved ones in the future.

Use Tax Planning to Reduce What You Owe

December 12, 2018

Filed under: Taxes — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

As we approach the end of the year, it’s a good opportunity to engage in the process of tax planning by speaking with your accountant and other retirement planning professionals. 

Tax planning can be instrumental in helping to reduce the total amount of money that you owe on your taxes. The prospect of reviewing your income taxes can be overwhelming for many, and this is especially true after the overhauled tax law that came into being towards the end of last year.

Now is an appropriate time to verify that you have considered all possible aspects of updating your financial and tax plan. First of all, review your withholding decision and update your W-4 if needed.

You can use line six on your W-4 to state an extra amount that you would like withheld from your account before year end. You can submit an updated W-4 in the future if you want to take that extra withholding out in the future.

You can use a calculator on the IRS website to identify where and whether or not your withholding decision has been appropriate based on your individual and family circumstance. Furthermore, discuss the estimates of your 2018 and 2019 income tax situation to avoid unwelcome bills from the IRS about balances that are due. Maximizing contributions to your available retirement plans is a common strategy used before the end of the year.

Additional contributions can be made for those people age 50 years or older and taxpayers can always explore their flexible spending account and figure out how to use these funds before the end of the year occurs. The new tax law doubled the standard deduction with more than 90% of tax payers now claiming that standard deduction, it will be important to discuss the tax planning options and how this affects you with your accountant and estate planning professional.

Yes, Your 18-Year-Old Needs Estate Planning

December 11, 2018

Filed under: Planning for Minors — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

As a parent, it can be hard enough to look ahead to the future and consider that your child could be moving out of the house to go to college, join the military or take on a new job. But part of the estate planning process does consider when your child reaches the age of 18, since he or she will be officially a legal adult at that point in time. teen-estate-planning

This means that 18 is also the recommended age for the creation of an estate plan with basic documents like advanced directives and a power of attorney. Since your child will be named as a legal adult at age 18, as a parent you are no longer equipped to make decisions on behalf of your child unless your child has granted you that ability.

Using tools like a health care proxy which can enable you to make medical decisions on behalf of your loved one or a power of attorney to assist with financial and legal decisions in the event that your teenager becomes incapacitated, are both important.

Unfortunately, everyone is at risk of accidents, diseases and sudden illnesses that could rob even a teenager of mental and physical health. If your teenage son or daughter does not have a healthcare proxy or a power of attorney, you could be at risk of having to go through the additional frustration and expense of a guardianship proceeding to enable a judge to appoint a legal guardian to make decisions on behalf of your teenager.

These guardianship proceedings are also frequently invasive to privacy and can be one additional hurdle that you don’t wish to go through after dealing with the process of your teenage son or daughter suffering through an accident or serious illness. For this reason, you need to contemplate the prospect of estate planning that can be done with the help of an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer.

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