April, 2018 | Shah & Associates, P.C. Estate Planning & Business Law Blog
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Who’s Keeping an Eye on Your 401(K) Plan?

April 19, 2018

Filed under: Fiduciary Duties — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Have you ever wondered who is responsible for reviewing your 401(k) plan and ensuring that it is working for you? More than 54 million people across the United States rely on their 401(k) plan as their primary method to save for retirement, but many plan participants don’t know who’s responsible for managing it and how to use it the most effectively. 

Identifying who is responsible for your 401(k) plan can help give you greater clarity about working towards your retirement goals. A 401(k) plan, simply put, is a special purpose trust identified by your employer to help you save for retirement. This is overseen by one or more individuals known as plan trustees.

These plan trustees are legally responsible fiduciaries that must make sure that the 401(k) plan operates for the benefit of the plan participants and the participants’ beneficiaries. Furthermore, the plan trustees have to verify that your plan complies with the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which requires that every plan participant is treated fairly. A formal written document should be included with your 401(k) plan about how the plan does operate and the summary plan description can also be a valuable piece of information to review.

Bringing this information to your meetings with your financial planner or your estate planning attorney can help position you to better understand how this will protect your future.

 

Watch Out for Telephone Tax Scams This Year

April 18, 2018

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

The elderly are exposed to all different types of possible financial fraud, and unfortunately, tax scams are on the rise. Telephone tax scams have become extremely prominent in recent years and despite the fact that there have been featured in the news media and warnings from the federal government, it is tempting to want to deal with these tax situations sooner rather than later. Chances are though, however, that the IRS is not calling you directly. 

Some of the most common forms of these telephone tax scams right now, tell a person that they are going to be prosecuted if they do not make a payment immediately. Tax scams ate always on the rise nearing tax season, particularly any phone calls that threaten criminal prosecution, lawsuits or police arrest.

The IRS says to avoid giving any personally identifying information over the phone. More than likely when the IRS reaches out to a person who has a tax issue, this will be done in writing and will come on official IRS letterhead. Over the phone, people may threaten you and try to encourage you to give personal identifying details, such as your bank account, to make a payment. But this is not the IRS. Many of these criminals impersonate IRS agents and promise you a big refund if you give them private information.

According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, reports that were filed with that agency have led to more than $54 million in payments from victims to these phone scams. Being aware of these scams is one of the best ways to protect your assets from being decimated, now or in the future. If you have concerns about how to protect your assets appropriately, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer today.

Can I Amend My Existing Trust?

April 17, 2018

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

If you have a lot of changes to make to a trust document and you have a revocable living trust, you may be curious about the best way to amend it. Many people may be tempted to simply write their changes directly on the trust document and initial it. However, you need to sit down with your knowledgeable estate planning attorney and figure out whether or not this is true in your case. Since not every trust is amendable, you’ll first want to figure out whether you do have an amendable and revocable trust. avoid this trust mistake7You should not make changes directly to the trust document and initial them. You must use an amendment to a trust to reflect your changes. Amendments are relatively simple documents but they should be put together by your lawyer. These amendments acknowledge the ability to make changes, amend the trust and then provide that the remaining portion of the trust stays in full effect, despite the new amendment. If you’ve already amended the trust a few times, or if you have a significant amount of changes to incorporate on your trust, this can be very difficult for a trustee to follow. This can lead to confusion and conflict down the line, so make sure you talk through what is best in your case.

There are ways to amend an existing trust that essentially creates a brand new trust and this could come as a complete restatement. You’ll want to talk this over with your knowledgeable estate planning attorney to figure out what is truly best for you.

What You Should Know About Vetting a Financial Advisor

April 16, 2018

Filed under: Finances — Neel Shah @ 2:37 pm

So you’ve already got to the point where you recognize you could benefit from a conversation with an experienced financial advisor. Along with a CPA and an estate planning attorney, a financial advisor can become an important component of your team of trusted professionals. You’ll want to interview several different options for a financial advisor and look into their backgrounds and references from other clients before making a final decision. hire a lawyer and a financial pro for estate planning

The initial interview can help you clarify whether or not this person has served as a fiduciary before, their individual certifications, and the types of services they offer. You can also ask more about their specialties and areas of focus.

The advisor’s minimum investable asset requirement is something you should also ask about during the initial interview. Anyone will want to know exactly how they will be charged by a financial advisor, including how much you’ll pay for advisory services and fees associated with underlying holdings if this person manages your portfolio. Advisors charge by different models, including by the hour or as a percentage of assets under management.

You can verify that the appropriate planner has the CFP certification if this is important to you, and it is strongly recommended that you consider working with someone who has done the extra work to achieve this certification. Hiring an experienced financial advisor is just one piece of the puzzle. Make sure you identify a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer so that the documents and strategies you put together can all be reviewed in full and work with one another.

What You Need to Know About a Supplemental Special Needs Trust

April 12, 2018

Filed under: Special Needs — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

You already know as a parent of child with special needs that you need to look to the future with care. If you’re no longer able to around to help support a child with special needs, things in your child’s life could become very difficult. It’s natural to want to plan ahead, but you should know that the way you do this can have big ramifications for your future. Mistakes made could cost your loved one government benefits. plan ahead with a special needs trust

Planning ahead for a child with a disability is extremely important for any parent who finds themselves in a position of looking to the future. A carefully constructed trust known as a supplemental special needs trust can help your child not just now but well into the future. This can allow your child to receive necessary funds for his or her lifestyle, without jeopardizing critical government benefits like supplemental security income and Medicaid.

For friends and extended family, this is an additional way to help provide care if something happens to you and you are no longer able to support them. Families that are in a difficult financial situation may delay putting together a trust, thinking that if they have no money to contribute currently, that they don’t need to do so. However, a supplemental special needs trust could be made the beneficiary of your estate and your life insurance policy, ensuring that those assets are not transferred immediately to the child when you pass away, which could jeopardize his or her ability to receive those critical government benefits.

Estate planning and financial planning, particularly as it relates to special needs children is not expensive and can be carefully constructed with the help of an attorney.  

 

I’ve Got a Long-Term Care Policy. Should I Stop Paying or Keep It?

April 11, 2018

Filed under: Long Term Care — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

If you’ve had a long-term care policy for several decades and have continued to pay the premiums, this is an important component of being able to protect yourself against decimating your savings. However, many people who have long-term care policies have reported that these premiums have increased significantly in recent years. Do you have an LTC plan?

Some people are concerned about whether or not they should let the policy lapse or continue paying for it. The decision about whether or not to continue paying the premiums on your long-term policy can only be made after evaluating your individual financial situation. If you have significant assets but no long-term care policy, a sudden incapacitating event that sends you or your spouse to the nursing home, could completely eliminate all of your savings. With substantial assets you may not be able to get support for Medicaid, at least for a period of time after you’ve spent down your individual assets and wealth. A long-term care policy must be carefully considered as part of your vision.

While many companies used to offer long term care insurance, many of those smaller businesses ultimately closed up shop after becoming insolvent. Today there are only a few major insurance companies that offer long term care. The older long-term care policies will typically have better benefits than the newer ones, so allowing your long-term care policy to lapse could be a big mistake if you are not careful.  

Have You Talked to Your Adult Children About Your Retirement?

April 10, 2018

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

Many older people across the United States have not talked to their adult children about impending retirement plans, which can generate a lot of questions and confusion about what the future holds. A fidelity study conducted in 2016 identified that more than one-third of parents had never talked to their adult children about retiring because they felt that the conversation never came up. However, any detailed conversation about estate and financial planning, including conceptions about when retirement may occur, can give everyone greater peace of mind and confidence. 

Although some families still treat conversations about money, retirement, and finances as taboo, it is critical to ensure that your children give yolong term planning help with a lawyer u a chance to say what you need to say when the topic of finances comes up. It can be hard to gauge generational gaps in conversation and lack of clarity about estate planning and retirement planning strategies, but sitting down with a lawyer can help. Before adult children make suggestions, they should do their own research.

They should never come to the table without having an open mind about what their parents believe to be their own best interests. Many times, adult children may not be clear about what the parent intends to accomplish with his or her retirement planning or the assets held in place. Having a conversation about these issues, as well as any long-term care insurance policies is important.

Why Procrastinating Can Be a Huge Mistake for Your Estate Planning

April 9, 2018

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

Everyone has heard some type of nightmare tale about what has happened to a person’s assets when they weren’t properly included in an estate plan. Often it is the remaining family members left behind after a loved one passes away, left to cope with the problems associated with lack of estate planning or improper estate planning. 

Procrastination can generate a great deal more frustration, problems, and grief for your loved ones, all because you simply refused to sit down with an estate planning attorney. Procrastination can put your loved ones in a very difficult situation if something happens to you while you are still alive, such as becoming incapacitated and having no one appointed to make decisions on your behalf, as well as for the management of your assets if you were to suddenly pass away without an estate plan in place.

This empowers the state to make critical decisions about what happens to your remaining property and this can cause numerous different problems in the handling of your future. It is far better to consult with an estate planning attorney well in advance and hope that you don’t need the support provided by an incapacitation plan. However, if you are concerned about incapacitation, having these documents properly created, signed and stored can greatly increase your chances of comfort, knowing that someone else is appointed to step in and make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.

Why You Need a Succession Plan for A Franchise Business

April 5, 2018

Filed under: Business Succession Planning — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

An unplanned exit, whether it is due to incapacitation, death or something else, could generate significant consequences for a business. It is extremely important to have a succession plan in place for every type of business, but franchisees must have them as well. It is a win-win situation when a franchiser requires or suggests that a franchisee put a succession plan in place. 

The succession plan doesn’t have to require a great deal of complication, but it will simply outline what happens if the owner leaves by death or otherwise. A planned exit is extremely beneficial to the business because it can lead to minimal disruptions in the company if there is a sudden and unplanned exit. The succession plan may be coordinated along with an estate plan which considers transfers through sale or other means.

This disposition can happen by using buy/sell agreements, family partnerships, life insurance policies, will and trusts, and more. These issues must be coordinated with regard to any restrictions that could exist under a franchise agreement related to the disposition or the sale. Furthermore, the state laws in your individual location can have an important impact on the outcome of the sale.   

Planning Tips to Keep in Mind When Selling Your Business

April 4, 2018

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

If you currently own a business and are anticipating selling it in the future, you need to look back at your foundational documents including any buy/sell agreements to determine whether or not guidelines are already established. 

There are five crucial financial planning areas that you need to consider when planning to sell your business. First of all, you need to articulate your plans for the money, including whether you plan to make major purchases, your future retirement goals and to generate a new vision for your future.

You may also wish to accelerate college funding and charitable giving with college savings plans, or a donor-advised fund. Required cash reserves and estimated taxes should also be in the back of your mind. If you sell early in the year and the tax is not due until April 15th of the year following, you’ll still want to have a long-term game plan for what to do with your taxes.

Key man insurance or personal liability insurance should also be reviewed carefully when it comes time to pass on the business. Many of these policies are owned by the business entity and the business remains the primary beneficiary if the key man passes away. If you are the primary owner of the entity then you have the eligibility to change the beneficiary and the ownership on these policies, and this is a step that you should take as soon as possible to protect yourself.

What You Need to Know About Keeping Your Money in The Family

April 3, 2018

Filed under: Asset Protection — Neel Shah @ 9:15 am

Part of estate planning is ensuring that the inheritance you pass on goes where you want it to after your death. But how can you ensure that your assets are protected long after you’re gone? Do you hope to pass on as many assets as possible? Do you know whether or not your beneficiaries could be exposed to risks that could cost them all of the assets you’ve worked so hard to build? In an increasingly litigious environment, proper asset protection planning using tools like trusts is a must. 

People focus on avoiding probate and putting together a will during estate planning, but it turns out you may need more comprehensive strategies than that. If you died prematurely, became incapacitated, are involved in a rocky marriage that suddenly ends in divorce, or are sued in the next month, all of these are potential attacks on that inheritance you’ve worked so hard to build.

One opportunity to protect this is to use an appropriate trust. This means that there is a clear set of instructions inside the trust about when assets can be removed, such as for education and medical expenses. This can help to guard against the inheritance being squandered. Many people choose a trust because it gives an additional layer of control and peace of mind in the event that you were to become incapacitated or pass away suddenly. It is critical to have a plan in place to protect an inheritance from interference from outside threats, because unfortunately, many people minimize the likelihood of these outside threats.

Family Conflict a Key Issue for Estate Planning

April 2, 2018

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

There are many different estate planning challenges facing families, individuals and businesses today, but a new study reveals that family conflict tops the list of estate planning challenges. Although tax reform is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when it comes to looking ahead, it’s not the number one issue facing families at this current point in time. 

A TD Wealth survey of 109 different attendees of an institute on estate planning revealed that family conflict is the leading concern for estate planning today. In fact, 44% of planning professionals shared that the biggest threat to estate planning was family conflict, followed by tax reform and market volatility.

There are mixed reactions from numerous planning professionals about the new estate and tax rules. Although approximately half of planning professionals believe that the tax reforms will help their client, another third are not sure what the impact will be and others anticipate a negative aspect. However, many believe that problems associated with family conflict and family infighting are one of the leading reasons and issues that will affect families going forward. Lack of clarity about planning intentions and fall out including probate conflicts and administration may cause concerns after the fact. Having a comprehensive estate plan is the best way to avoid these issues.