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How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney Who is Right For You

March 6, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 4:13 pm

Putting your estate plan together and getting important questions answered is not something that should be underestimated. Selecting the professional that is right for your needs is important because you’re likely to form a long-term relationship with such an individual.

Whether it’s simply good planning sense or the rash of celebrity estate planning faux pas stories in the news, more people are thinking about their estates. Planning ahead goes far beyond putting together a will for most because it involves strategies designed to maximize the value of assets while minimizing the impact of taxes. shutterstock_191735909

You should have a level of comfort with your estate planning professional but also ease in communication. This individual should be able to help answer your questions but also conduct a review of your needs and suggest tactics and strategies specifically aligned with you. Even though estate planning is known for being complex, it can be very helpful to work with somebody who is committed to providing you with an understanding of value for each type of estate planning tool put to work for you.

Finally, an estate planning relationship should not be a one-time conversation. It should involve annual reviews, a team that provides you with the most relevant news information related to your planning, and a team that is there to answer questions for you in the long run. When hiring an estate planning attorney, look for somebody you can trust that is interested in building this long-term relationship with you. Let us help you- contact us at

Why People Often Avoid Estate Planning

March 5, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 4:01 pm

Most people recognize the value of doing it, but it’s either so difficult to work into their frame of mind or it’s something that seems so far off that estate planning tends to get skipped over.

As a bottom line, most people don’t want to think about dying. It’s a sobering topic, and it’s also one that generates a lot of questions you may not be sure you know how to answer. There are four primary reasons that people avoid estate planning:

  • They don’t want to think about death. Although most people want to avoid the topic of death, wouldn’t you rather address it while you’re healthy and competent? It’s much easier to plan ahead this way.
  • They don’t have time. Many estate planning mistakes or confusing court cases could have been avoided with planning ahead. Most people are busy, but you’d be surprised at how little time you actually need to invest in order to develop an estate plan.
  • Some assume they don’t have an estate worth worrying about. You can have an “estate” if you own just about anything, and not putting this on paper can make it difficult for your loved ones to figure out your intentions after you pass away.
  • Some people don’t understand it. They may assume that estate planning is all about using complex tools like trusts, but estate planning is designed to meet you where you are at, not make things more difficult than they need to be. Regardless of your needs, it’s an important process.shutterstock_171944918

Skip the excuses and set up a meeting today to settle your estate planning concerns while you are already thinking about. We can help you- request your meeting today at

Planning to Pass the Business to the Next Generation? You Need Succession Planning

March 4, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 3:47 pm

There’s no doubt that it can be a real challenge for business owners to talk about succession planning. For some, it’s because their drive and entrepreneurial vision contributed so much to the success of the enterprise. For others, it’s because they can’t imagine taking a step back from the business. And for others, it has to do with not being sure what the future holds in terms of the business. All of these are understandable reasons for putting off the succession planning conversation, but they don’t diminish the true value of thinking ahead. shutterstock_185053982

Succession planning is not just answering the “who” question- it’s about answering the “how”, too. There are several different tools that can be used to help with the process of succession planning, such as a buy-sell agreement and life insurance. If you aim to be passing on the business to another generation, you need to have a conversation with your business succession planning professional to talk about the most effective way to do this. Keeping stakeholders involved and informed can be crucial for success.

If you think that the business is going to end with you, or that you might want to sell it, these are equally important concerns that may lead you into a series of estate planning questions specifically for you. The reality is that even if you’re not sure of the direction you’re going to go, setting up a meeting can help you work through these difficult issues and determine an effective route for moving forward. Send us a message to set up your meeting today at

IRS Activates New Regulations for Tangible Property

March 3, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 3:46 pm

It’s tax time again, and trustees and executors involved in portfolios with real estate as well as businesses holding property should be aware of the new regulations linked to tangible property. Although these new regulations are complicated, they can be an important tool for reducing 2014 tax liability with the right planning.

These tangible property regulations, frequently referred to as “repair” regulations, were finalized in September 2013 and were made active for all tax years after January 1, 2014. One of the reasons for the revised regulations is that in the past, taxpayers had to content with IRS codes and Tax Court decisions that often seemed opposed to one another. The new guidelines aim to line up the IRS guidelines with recent decisions from the courtroom to provide clarity for taxpayers. Digital Online Tax Payment Policy Office Concept

The basics of the changes have to do with when real estate owners or businesses spending money to improve, repair, or acquire tangible property. These expenses can be deducted as ordinary and necessary or capitalized and depreciated over time. Especially when it comes to rental real estate, the decision made on how to deduct the expense can have important implications. The most important change in the new regulations has to do with the fact that tangible property regulations require taxpayers to apply them as if they had been in effect from inception, requiring review of general ledgers and depreciation schedules. After analysis, this means either a one-time reduction of taxable income for 2014 or a taxable income increase spread out over four years.

To learn more about the specifics of planning for your taxes this year and beyond, contact our offices for a consultation or a review. Send us a message at if you have questions.

What’s the Difference Between Elder Law and Estate Planning?

March 2, 2015

Filed under: Elder Law,Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 4:46 pm

Even though there are often situations where these two practices blend into one another, talking about estate planning and elder law does not always mean exactly the same thing. One key way to look at what makes these two kinds of practice unique is to consider the critical questions that each aims to answer:

  • What happens if I die?
  • What happens if I live?

Invariably, both elder law and estate planning in some ways address both life and death. Increasingly, estate planning tools help individuals capitalize on plans while they are still alive. Estate planning, however, has a much sharper focus on what happens when you die, especially when it comes to the transfer of your assets. A lot of the questions addressed in elder law, however, have to do with helping people plan for the future within their own life. As longevity is a major concern for today’s elderly, planning in advance for aging and long-term care are just as important as factoring in estate planning. shutterstock_196636610

Estate planning and elder law work together. Imagine it this way: what benefit is putting so much effort into planning for the transfer of your assets on death when you pass away if all of those assets are put in jeopardy by one major health event? Elder law works to protect those assets and get you thinking about these concerns early on so that you can meet your estate planning goals. Send us an email today at to learn more.

Separating Personal Creditors From Business Creditors: Business Asset Protection Tips

February 27, 2015

Filed under: Asset Protection,Business Planning — Neel Shah @ 3:06 pm

As a business owner, you should recognize that it’s essential to separate personal creditors from business creditors. While a personal creditor refers to a debt that you personally are responsible for, a business debt refers to creditors trying to come after your “business entity”. Assets put inside the business entity may be vulnerable to business creditors, but they should be protected from personal creditors. boardroom

Many small business owners make the assumption that assets inside a business entity are safe from liability issues. This is a mistake, and that’s why it’s so important to separate business from personal creditors. Avoid commingling of any funds and stay in line with all business entity formalities to ensure that you have protected yourself as much as possible. Reducing the pool of assets available to creditors is the most important goal of separating your personal from your business debts.

To do this, you need to select the proper business entity from the outset. Many business owners select the LLC or the corporation in order to achieve the superior protection afforded by these kinds of entities as compared with a partnership or sole proprietorship. Limited liability protection for owners is provided under both of these structures, but it’s important that you work with an experienced business asset protection attorney to make sure you’re meeting your goals appropriately. Asset protection planning for the business owner is a long-term process.

Tips for Safely Spending Down Medicaid

February 26, 2015

Filed under: Medicaid — Neel Shah @ 3:02 pm

It’s not uncommon to discover that you have too many assets when you are first trying to qualify for Medicaid. In fact, as an increasing number of adults are helping aging parents, this is actually one of the biggest challenges in terms of preparing for long term care. In order to meet qualification guidelines, the applicant must have insufficient assets on their own.

First off, make sure you work with an experienced elder law firm so that you are aware what assets should be “spent down” and which ones don’t have to be counted to begin with. Household goods, some prepaid burial and funeral expenses, the home, personal effects, and others may qualify as “non-countable” personal assets and shouldn’t be spent down. An experienced elder law firm can tell you what assets should be spent and which ones should be left alone. sdf

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of qualifying for Medicaid:

  • Payments related to non-countable assets may allow you to help improve your home, for example, which spending money that could count against you in terms of Medicaid. If your home is exempt, you may be able to make plumbing repairs that would be considered “allowable”.
  • Funeral and burial expenses may be “pre-paid”, thus taking care of an important need ahead of time. Work directly with your estate planning specialist and elder law professionals to determine your state’s limits.

Details are crucial in Medicaid qualification, so you should reach out for help as soon as possible to ensure that you are following guidelines. Contact our offices today at to learn more about Medicaid and other elder law issues.


Estate Planning Parent Fears: Passing On Assets Without Spoiling Children

February 25, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning,Estate Planning for Children — Neel Shah @ 3:53 pm

This is an issue that many of our clients express during their first meetings with us. Parents with wealth are concerned about leaving just enough to their children to allow the children to succeed without leaving too much so that the heirs would become “spoiled”.

When it comes to setting children up for success without making them too spoiled, parents can do a lot to install traits and virtues that promote behavior the opposite of spoiled. These virtues include generosity, thriftiness, patience, curiosity, perspective, and perseverance. How can parents promote this from birth? According to financial columnist Ron Lieber, who developed this list, parents can select balanced vacation options, reduce materialism on a daily basis, provide allowances that are not based on chores, and have clear conversations about money with children from an early age. shutterstock_113853856

It’s not just about selecting the right estate planning tools, but determining what tools will work in combination with the example set forth for children. The first stage of doing this involves putting in the time and the effort to think about this fear of having spoiled children and what can be done to avoid it. The second stage is in developing clear statements about goals and values for the children. Once you have accomplished this, it’s time to put together an action plan that lays out how these goals can be achieved.

Working together with establishing goals and confronting fears, estate planning can be an empowering process that puts parents in the right perspective to think about their legacy.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you


New Jersey: Cheap Gas, Costly Death Taxes

February 24, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 4:47 pm

New Jersey residents are quick to point out their cheap gas prices, but the state is also known as being one of the “worst states to die” because of its double-whammy on death: the estate tax and the inheritance tax. Since the state is so expensive in taxing both the estate and the heir, estate planners often work with clients to create specific strategies to protect as much wealth as possible. It also leads some older individuals to consider skipping town altogether in search of warmer climes and lower taxes.  shutterstock_143566018

New Jersey lawmakers are currently contemplating whether a gas tax could help pay for some rail and road projects that the state desperately needs, leading some to question whether it’s time to trade in the higher death taxes in exchange for a gas tax either on wholesale refinery purchases or at the pump.

Chris Christie hasn’t revealed his final plans yet, but he has a major challenge in trying to figure out how to fund the otherwise nearly drained Transportation Trust Fund.

The typical first thought regarding death taxes is that they only influence the wealthy, but that’s simply not true- New Jersey has quite low thresholds that deliver the problem directly to the middle class.  Since the estate tax is levied on bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, real estate, and investments. The state gets the estate taxes on these items if the estate is valued at more than $675,000 and the assets are not left to a spouse.

To learn more about planning strategies for maximizing your estate in New Jersey, contact our office at


New Facebook Feature Allows for “Legacy” Planning

February 23, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 5:15 pm

Facebook has become a hotspot for all kinds of users, but one of the challenges presented to the company was how to handle what happens to an account after someone passed away. Without password access, there was no way for loved ones to login and either eliminate the account or figure out another way to deal with it.

Now, users can choose who will manage their account after they pass away. Users can now choose a person who will serve as their legacy contact, giving that person privileges to post on their account after they pass away, update the profile picture and cover photo, and respond to friend requests. Users may also select to have their account deleted after they pass away. facebook-front_179_3177486a

Interested in taking the next step? Look for the options under “security settings”. Users in the U.S. are eligible to do this, but the other person has to be a Facebook user. This highlights the importance of thinking about not just your social media accounts but all of your other “digital assets”. If you have other online accounts, will anyone have access to them after you pass away? Have you stored the passwords somewhere safe? There are many reasons you may wish to have someone manage your Facebook account after you pass away, but you should also think more broadly about what other online accounts could become “locked” or otherwise inaccessible should your loved ones want to get in. To talk through the basics of estate planning in a digital age, contact our offices at


Estate Planning for Intellectual Property, Part Two

February 20, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

If you checked out yesterday’s post and think that you may have a copyright or patent, or that a loved one does, it’s important to protect such an asset with estate planning. There are two complex facets involved in estate planning for intellectual property, and both can be explored with the questions:

  • What is the value?
  • How should it be transferred to someone else?


Valuing intellectual property is not easy, so you should connect with a professional who has specific experience doing this process. Once you’ve arrived at a value, you may be considering transferring the asset to one of several beneficiaries, such as:

  • Family members
  • Charities
  • Colleagues
  • Other individuals

Whether you decide to give the value over lifetime gifts or bequests after your death, you need to be informed about the tax consequences, your own income needs, and what type of person is in the best position to reap the benefits of your IP and monitor your rights closely. If you need access to the intellectual property to support you, for example, you will want to hold onto it until you are ready to retire or until you no longer have a need for that income.

If you have intellectual property, it’s just as important to protect it during your life as it is to plan for who will receive the benefits from it in the future. Start planning early. Set up an appointment today at

Estate Planning for Intellectual Property: Part One

February 19, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

Do you own a copyright, patent, or some other form of intellectual property? These assets might not be tangible, but they certainly can be valuable. In this first post, we’ll discuss the basics behind patents and copyrights. There are four primary categories of intellectual property that may be involved in your estate plan:

  • Trademarks
  • Trade secrets
  • Copyrights
  • Patents

Trademarks and trade secrets are common terms for business owners and entrepreneurs. However, copyrights and patents are also useful and are governed by federal laws geared to promote creative and scientific endeavors by awarding exclusive rights to someone during a particular time period.

The two most common kinds of patents are design and utility patents. A design patent can be awarded for a new, ornamental, and original design for an article of manufacture. Utility patents are given to those who “discover” or “invent” a useful and new process, manufacture, composition of matter, or machine.

Patents protection inventions that are useful, nonobvious, and novel. Current laws protect inventions for 20 years from the patent application filing date for utility patents and 15 years for design patents. Copyrights, however, protect an original expression of ideas, typically found in paintings, sculptures, films, sound recordings, or written work. Copyright protection is more immediate than patents, since the protection begins after the work is in a fixed medium.

Do you already own a copyright or patent or believe that a loved one does? Tune in tomorrow for specific tips on estate planning for these valuable commodities. Reach out to us at shutterstock_135839123

The High Cost of Alzheimer’s

February 18, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

Around the world, there are more than 15 million people caring for someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s. While many of these individuals are aware of the physical and emotional toll this can take on family members and other caregivers, the financial repercussions are also big. canstockphoto20536709

According to a survey by, 25 percent of people providing care to someone with Alzheimer’s spend more than $4,000 monthly on that care. Among these caregivers, 40 percent give more than 30 hours each week in unpaid care services for their lived one. Among those with Alzheimer’s living at home, more than half were being cared for by a caregiver, a family member, or a combination of both. Nearly two-thirds of caregivers say that the afflicted loved one had no financial plans for their care before diagnosis.

Given the high costs of healthcare and long-term care, and the devastating realities of living with Alzheimer’s, it’s important to be aware of any and all planning opportunities. Whether you’re in the midst of a crisis or whether you want to plan ahead for a parent’s future or even your own, you need to be informed about your options. An elder law specialist can help walk you through the basis, whether your loved one needs help right away or whether you are concerned about the long-term future. Don’t hesitate to do your research and learn more today so that you can protect your future. Reach out to us at to start your planning today.

Malcolm Butler Gets MVP Truck… and the Tax Consequences

February 17, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

A Chevrolet truck presented to Tom Brady for recognition as the New England Patriot’s MVP during the Super Bowl will instead pass to his teammate, Malcolm Butler. If Brady had received the truck and decided to pass it on to Butler as a gift, the vehicle valued at $35,000 may have created a taxable income event for Brady. If Brady has already exceeded his lifetime gift giving under the tax code, he, too, would have been in the midst of a taxable event.malcolm butler

Butler will be responsible for paying the income taxes linked to receiving the vehicle instead. The idea was spurred when Brady told a Boston radio station shortly after the Super Bowl that he’d like to give the vehicle to Butler, a rookie player who helped the Patriots earn their big win with his interception of Russell Wilson’s goal-line pass.

It’s important to understand that even with the best of intentions in gift-giving, if you’re not familiar with gift taxes and other tax consequences, you may face an unpleasant surprise. Do your planning in advance by talking about big gift transactions with an experienced attorney so that you are well-informed about your responsibilities and rights. Contact us today at

Whitney Houston’s Estate in Question

February 16, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:02 am

The sole heir to Whitney Houston’s estate, Bobbi Kristina Brown, has been in a medically-induced coma since the end of January. The $20 million worth of assets inside the estate is now in question, especially since recent reports indicate her family intends to remove Bobbi from life support. The estate includes all of the royalties linked to Whitney’s image, likeness, and music.

If Bobbi does pass away, the next in line is Cissy Houston and her two sons. Bobbi already inherited $2 million when she turned 20, with another 15 percent to be passed to her at age 25 and the remaining amount to be given to her at age 30.canstockphoto1319725

A lesson learned from this estate is that a revocable living trust can be a valuable tool for shielding private business from public eyes. The fact that so much of this is being reported by the media gives the involved individuals practically no confidentiality or privacy. Using a revocable living trust may have been a better option if they wished to keep Houston’s estate details in the family.

Another option would have been to use dynasty trust to hold the assets inside them forever rather than using the incremental ages release that Houston’s estate employed. If you’re concerned about passing on major assets to children with some control over the process and protecting your privacy, it’s important to engage with an estate planning professional as soon as possible.

Mork from Ork – RIP; Obama’s foot down on Tax ‘Step Up'; ‘SUCCESS’ion Planning and Medicaid Mistakes (This Week’s Blog Summary)

February 13, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 12:01 pm


Hear Neel Shah, Managing Attorney of the Law Firm of Shah & Associates, P.C. describe the highlights of this weekly Blog Posts. For the full post, visit:

Visit us at

Call us to request a copy of the Newsletter: 732-521-9455

What Are the Responsibilities of A Successor Trustee?

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

When a trustee becomes incapacitated or passes away, a successor trustee takes their place. In addition to managing the duties held by the previous trustee, the successor must also demonstrate proof of a certificate of trust or affidavit regarding their power over the trust. canstockphoto0955949

The successor trustee may carry on a range of responsibilities related to the trust, such as:

  • Keeping records of income received
  • Maintaining records of expenses paid out
  • Opening bank accounts, if necessary
  • Filing fiduciary tax returns
  • Obtaining a tax identification number from the IRS if the successor trustee is taking over after the trustee/grantor of a revocable living trust
  • Locating and protecting trust assets
  • Acting prudently and impartially
  • Creating/providing account reports to beneficiaries, if the trust requires it
  • Ensuring compliance with laws and trust terms
  • Protecting the confidentiality of trust terms

Selecting a successor trustee may increase the chances that a transition between one trustee and another runs more smoothly. Choose someone you feel confident in handling the above-listed responsibilities. Individuals who are aware of the benefits of the trust and who are skilled with organization may be more likely to succeed. Both the original trustee and the successor trustee should be aware of the value of what they provide to trust management and administration.

To structure your trust properly, you should work directly with an estate planning attorney. This promotes compliance with state and federal laws and the opportunity to maximize your trust benefits with attention to detail- contact us today at to review your trust documents.

Why is Succession Planning a “Must” For Business Owners?

February 12, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

In the wake of the last recession and an increase in competition throughout many markets, businesses can do a lot for themselves by planning ahead with regard to succession. In many cases, doing this can help to mitigate the risks associated with an unclear future. canstockphoto0409389

For family-owned businesses, one of the stages of their lifecycle has to do with succession planning and to what extent, if any, children or other family members are interested and included. Recent research reveals that up to nearly one-quarter of all family businesses don’t have a succession plan already in place. Nearly half of senior business owners expressed concern in the same survey about passing on control to the next generation. This dynamic can only generate problems, one of which is known as “sticky baton syndrome”. This refers to situations where an older generation passes on management responsibilities in theory but doesn’t really let them go in practice. This means that the successors don’t get necessary experience to take over confidently when the older generation exits the business entirely. This can interrupt the flow of business or challenge its existence altogether.

Succession planning is a process that should be approached with careful thought. Communicate with a business succession planning specialist today to learn what tactics might work best for your family-owned company. To get more details about your business, reach out to us at

Medicaid Qualification Mistakes: Spending Down Errors

February 11, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

When your loved one is preparing to enter a nursing home, you may do some research on your own or even consult with a financial planner regarding spending down assets. In order to qualify for Medicaid, many older couples in this situation start figuring out the most appropriate way to spend down assets. If you skip over the details, however, you might end up making two of the most common mistakes in spending down, which are spending down exempt assets and continuing to spend down after the qualification point. shutterstock_196493090

Some items are exempted from being counted towards your asset amounts in Medicaid, but if you aren’t clear on the state laws governing this, you might make the mistake of liquidating those that would have been exempted anyways. Pulling funds from an exempted asset may be unnecessary and could jeopardize the couple’s future financially. Don’t spend down without know what’s exempt and non-exempt. Check with a professional to determine which of your assets are protected.

The second big mistake couples make is continuing to spend down their resources past the point of qualification. Don’t rely on information that comes from a source other than your elder law specialist- misinformation can be very misleading and costly. Determining qualification is a complex calculation that factors in shelter costs, assets, incomes, nursing home expenses, and other details. It should only be handled by an expert who can provide the best possible guidance regarding the qualification point. Don’t let the elder law complexities overwhelm you- schedule an appointment with an elder law specialist by contacting Shah & Associates at 732-521-9455.

Obama Suggests Ending “Step Up” For Capital Gains Tax

February 10, 2015

Filed under: Estate Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

During the State of the Union address, Obama suggested a proposal to end the “step-up” provision for capital gains taxes. Although this would require the approval of Congress, there are major ramifications for estate planning if this were ever implemented. This kind of proposal would eradicate a big tax benefit linked to inheritances. Structure of taxation

While the current system allows for a step-up in basis for those assets passed on to others, Obama’s suggestion was to tax the capital gains for the decedent instead. In short, this would make it more complicated to protect assets from taxes. Insight from attorneys in the estate planning arena would become even more important for asset protection purposes. Although it’s just a suggestion at this time, the possible red tape and research required for this to work seems overwhelming. Just one illustration of the problems that would unfold has to do with tracing the original cost associated with every piece of property, stock, and valuable.

Bear in mind that if accepted, Obama’s plan does have some benefits in place for married couples. Couples would be eligible to pass on investment assets up to $200,000 without having to worry about capitals gains tax. If the couple wishes to pass on a home to one of their children, up to $500,000 can pass before triggering a capital gains taxable event. Even with these provisions to help, however, the step-up elimination would increase the financial burden felt by heirs.

Proposals regarding and changes to tax laws are complex. If you need help understanding the possible impact for your planning, contact an estate planning expert today at

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