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Newlywed Estate Planning

August 6, 2014

Filed under: Beneficiaries,Blended Families,Divorce,Estate Planning — Tags: , , , — Neel Shah @ 3:41 am

While there is a great deal to celebrate getting ready for your wedding, don’t neglect this excellent opportunity to delve into your estate planning as well. Unfortunately, as you may already know, accidents can happen at any time. Of course we all hope that nothing impacts your new family and celebrations, but it is critical that you discuss your plans with your new spouse and outline your plans early. Remember that it will be much easier to update them later on once you have decided on the proper documents, but that you should never neglect putting your plan together entirely.

Newlywed Estate Planning

Photo Credit: gogirlfinance.com

You can begin with small steps, like changing your account beneficiaries. This is one of the easiest things to do in your overall estate plan, but there are big ramifications if you’re adding on your new spouse. Do it early. Make sure you update your life insurance, IRA, and 401k accounts, including any others that may have beneficiaries listed in the event that something happens to you.

Your next step should be to look over any wills that both of you have and to ensure that each individual has a solid will reflecting his or her current wishes. Powers of attorney and medical directives are also crucial for new spouses who may be updating their information from the past to reflect their new marriage. For more ideas about transitioning your estate planning to married life, contact us through email at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

Supreme Court Decision: Inherited IRA NOT Protected

July 31, 2014

Filed under: Asset Protection,Beneficiaries,IRA,Retirement Planning — Tags: , , , — Neel Shah @ 3:32 pm

A recent decision from the Supreme Court means there’s no better time than now to review your estate plans and ensure that you have identified the best possible solution for passing down assets to another generation. This new ruling states that inherited IRA funds DO NOT QUALIFY under the category of “retirement funds” under bankruptcy exemption guidelines. Previously, these kinds of funds might have been considered “bulletproof” from creditors, but this new ruling means it could be time to re-evaluate how you’re transferring your assets down to children and other beneficiaries. Is a Standalone Retirement Trust or IRA Trust right for me?

Supreme Court Decision Inherited IRA NOT Protected
(Photo Credit: baltimoretimes-online.com)

According to the Supreme Court, the members of which conducted reviews of the Bankruptcy Code to get more specifics on the situation, inherited IRAs should not count as retirement funds because the individual inheriting the assets cannot contribute to the funds or invest more money into them. Since the IRA also requires that the accountholder draw money from the account, the Supreme Court argued that this would “undermine the purpose of the Bankruptcy Code”.

Each client wishing to establish plans for the future transfer of assets to beneficiaries has their own concerns and situations, which is why it’s so critical that you work with a team of experienced planning attorneys to meet your goals and increase the chances that those assets will be protected and meaningful for the beneficiary. To review trusts and other options for asset transfer, email info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455

It’s not all about the cash: Passing on Wealth and Wisdom

May 30, 2014

Filed under: Beneficiaries — Tags: , , , — Neel Shah @ 1:14 pm

It might feel overwhelming to put together your estate plan, but it’s a good tool for you as well as your children. Taking care of your needs early on can encourage children to plan for the long term and to consider their own estate plans. One of the biggest hurdles with regard to estate planning, in fact, is that there’s a general stigma when it comes to talking about money. Simply setting aside some time for the conversation is a valuable process.

Its not all about the cash Passing on Wealth and Wisdom
(Photo Credit: danielharkavy.com)

Many people that estate planning is simply for the management of their assets after they pass away, but that’s simply not true: it plays just as vital a role during your life, too. If you become incapacitated, a comprehensive estate plan will lay out your wishes clearly for your family members and other stakeholders. It’s also a tool that can be used to reduce risk and minimize taxes while protecting wealth- all of which are just as valuable while you are living.

One mistake to avoid in thinking about your estate planning is in seeing your wealth only for what it can do for the next generation in a positive light. Sometimes, there’s another impact that’s often forgotten- what your assets do to them when it comes to unintended consequences. Taxes can take a big hit on the assets if plans are put into place in advance, and gifts may even cause arguments between family members. Not every child, for example, will react the same way to learning that Mom or Dad has left a gift behind.

Estate planning is just as much about your mindset and passing on your wisdom as it is your wealth. To help create a living legacy that makes the most sense for your family, call us at 732-521-9455 or reach us through email at info@lawesq.net .

Special Planning for Second Marriages: Lessons Learned From Casey Kasem

May 27, 2014

Filed under: Blended Families,Family Limited Partnerships — Tags: , , , — Neel Shah @ 12:29 pm

The recent news hoopla over Casey Kasem illustrates an important lesson for planning your own estate: things may change when you throw a second marriage into the mix, calling for a re-evaluation of your plans. There are many things that should be addressed in estate planning where a second marriage has occurred. Doing so will help prevent problems and lay the groundwork for plans that actually carry out your wishes rather than spark legal battles among family members.

Special Planning for Second Marriages Lessons Learned From Casey Kasem
(Photo Credit: mediaconfidential.blogspot.com)

Medical directives, powers of attorney, and even decisions about burial planning should all be considered in your estate plan if you are involved in a second or third marriage. This avoids conflict between family members that can make the grieving process even more difficult.

When it comes to passing down assets, this is especially complex in a second marriage. Who should get the money? Should it be split between children? Does it go to the first wife in one lump sum and the remainder is split among the children? There’s a lot of tension that can arise if you don’t think about the answers to these questions well in advance. Conflicts tend to crop up especially when a non-parent spouse is receiving assets that children feel entitled to in one sense or another. The more clarity there is in your planning, the better. Once you’ve met with an estate planning professional, it’s important that you in some sense communicate what you have outlined to family member stakeholders. To learn more about estate planning techniques for second and third marriages, email us at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455

Your IRA: Top Tips For Passing Down Your IRA To Children

May 22, 2014

Filed under: IRA — Tags: , , , , — Neel Shah @ 1:20 pm

Those who have spent a good amount of time contributing to their IRA might have questions when it’s time to decide beneficiaries. For example, is it best to stretch out the payouts over a lifetime to make the most of tax benefits or to withdraw the entire amount?

Your IRA Top Tips For Passing Down Your IRA To Children
(Photo Credit: beginnersinvest.about.com)

In many cases, an immediate emptying of the account is not in the best interest of the beneficiary, and it’s also something that parents may want to help their children avoid. Often, it’s difficult to suddenly manage a large sum of money, making Mom and Dad’s IRA benefits run out long before expected. Since many parents want to guard against this where possible, it’s important to note that two different strategies can help to stall an immediate withdrawal of all assets on the death of a parent.

One option is to name a trust as the IRA beneficiary, giving a trustee the power to distribute assets, but you must work with an experienced estate planner who knows how to craft a document that qualifies under IRS rules. Another option to consider is setting up the IRA as a trust account, giving trustee powers to the IRA provider, which is known as a “trusteed IRA”. This option, however, does have some downsides: higher fees and requirements for minimum balances are two of those disadvantages.

Options exist to help you plan for your future and to help beneficiaries receive assets in a somewhat-structured manner. To learn more about these planning tools, call us at 732-521-9455 to get started.

Banking on an inheritance? Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!

May 14, 2014

Filed under: Beneficiaries,Distribution of Assets,Inheritance — Tags: , , — Neel Shah @ 9:47 pm

New research from the Insured Retirement Institute shows that although nearly two-thirds of older individuals considered leaving an inheritance behind important in the past, those numbers have shifted out of beneficiary favor. According to their report, less than half of baby boomers today believe it’s critical to leave behind an inheritance.

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(Photo Credit: greekweddingtraditions.com)

So, what’s behind this big shift in attitude? Many older individuals and couples want to see that you are capable of handling an inheritance first, taking the following factors into consideration:

  • A pattern of good financial decision-making skills. This doesn’t mean you’re mistake free on your credit report. Parents just want to see improvement and a pattern of it to verify that you’re responsible enough to handle a lump sum inheritance.
  • Understanding of your own financial missteps and accomplishments. Once again, it’s not about being perfect. Some older parents thinking about an inheritance left behind want to know that you’ve made your mistakes, learned from them, and moved on. It’s a sign that you’re growing in terms of financial independence and understanding. If you have a pattern of racking up debt and then struggling to pay it off, however, that’s not a good sign.
  • Debt awareness. Are you making student loan payments? That’s okay, because it was an investment in your future. Credit card debts and big car loans, however, show that you might not be familiar with the right kind of debt- or the right way to pay it off. Both are red flags for parents.
  • Educate yourself. No need for a post-graduate degree here, but certainly some financial education on your own through books, planning, and even videos can be really helpful. Find out your weak spots and work to improve them on your own. This shows ambition and desire, both of which parents love to see.

There’s never been a better time to get started. To discuss your plans for asset protection, tax minimization, and your estate, email info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

EZ Legal Services: Shortcut or Risk?

April 21, 2014

Filed under: Legacy Planning — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 6:10 pm

Despite the marketing that’s attempting to penetrate just about everywhere these days, there’s a lesson to be learned from online programs that make estate planning seem so easy. And the lesson isn’t that you can save money and time by putting it together yourself. Up front, you may very well save some money and time. Just don’t be surprised when those “plans” don’t hold up in court. Just ask the family of Ann Aldrich.

stables.com
(Photo Credit: staples.com)

Aldrich used one of these easy programs to put her will together back in 2004. In the will, neither of her two nieces were actually mentioned. Jump to the present and both those nieces were able to capitalize on their aunt’s poor planning. The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the nieces because the will was missing the important residuary clause, allowing all money acquired by the aunt after 2004 to be distributed through intestacy (the same laws that govern property distribution for those who pass away without a will at all).

Aldrich’s will included statements leaving everything to her sister and then her brother. Since the sister died first, the brother argued that he was entitled to everything. Since the “oh so easy” legal form only accounted for listed items, nieces were able to argue their rights to assets not specifically outlined in the will. Although Aldrich’s intentions appear rather clear, her documentation was missing something that an estate planning attorney would have picked up at first glance. Unfortunately, this meant that her wishes were not carried out as she planned. This situation was entirely preventable with a little bit of planning. If you’d like to ensure that your estate planning documents carry out your wishes clearly, set up a consultation by calling 732-521-9455 or emailing info@lawesq.net

Showdown: Wills vs Trusts

April 15, 2014

Filed under: Trusts,Wills — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 4:13 pm

Depending on who you talk to, your estate planning specialist might recommend wills over trusts or trusts over wills. Let’s walk through some of the differences between these two planning tools to see if one might be a better fit for your needs.

Showdown Wills vs Trusts
(Photo Credit: blogs.dallasobserver.com)

If you are planning to use a will as your primary tool, bear in mind that your assets must first go through the probate process in order to be eventually received by your beneficiaries. Some states have lengthy and cumbersome probate processes, meaning that it could take your beneficiaries a while to actually receive the assets. Probate is also very public, meaning that details about your financial situation will be shared in a less-private forum. If you’re concerned about this, a trust might be a better option.

In comparison, trusts tend to pass by the court system for the majority of the administrative process. Since these are privacy documents, there’s less public scrutiny into your finances or your plans, and some clients prefer this confidential approach. Unlike wills, which become active on your death, a trust can be rendered effective immediately. Additionally, trusts can also be used for incapacity planning, adding another layer to their usefulness.

Both wills and trusts can do tax planning for credit shelter trusts. The bottom line is that it depends on your needs. If you are not concerned about the red tape of the probate process, there are still advantages (especially regarding privacy) for the establishment of a trust. We work with clients to create a customized plan for you since we recognize that each client is unique. To talk more about the kinds of trusts we can help you establish or to begin generation of your will, contact us today at 732-521-9455 or through e-mail at info@lawesq.net

The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: Success Tips For Passing The Family Business On To Children

April 10, 2014

Filed under: Family Business — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 1:15 pm

Owning and operating your own business is an exciting venture, but it can present you with challenges when you are unwilling or unable to continue managing the business. If you are considering passing the company on to your children or grandchildren, make sure you put some time into the planning process so that the transition is as smooth as possible.

Darlingonlinemarketing.com
(Photo Credit: Darlingonlinemarketing.com)

Start Early

The best recommendation for succession planning is to start five years in advance of when you might need an exit strategy. Many people make the mistake of assuming that they will only need to consider this need later in life. With rising numbers of people impacted by a disability, succession planning is something you should consider early. Getting the planning done well in advance gives you room to alter your plan if needed. Throughout this process, keep your family members engaged in the conversation so that relevant individuals understand their role.

Consider Options

While you have many options as a business owner, you should consider the talent of your children and grandchildren in order to decide how they might fit into the bigger picture. It’s critical that you are realistic about this decision. While it’s important for whoever takes over for you to have the passion and interest in running the business, you should also evaluate business skill and potential in making your decision. If you have several children, it may not be feasible for them to each own an equal portion of the company. In this circumstance, you should plan to transfer the whole business to a child who wants to follow you as the owner. Other assets can then be transferred to other children. This may be the most effective move for your business and future family harmony, too.

Plan For Existing Employees

Unless you are the sole person managing a company, it’s likely you have a team behind you. Make sure you have considered what will happen to these employees after you go as well. Will then be incorporated into the transition phase? Are there key employees who could help your children understand the big picture and smaller operational issues as well? Remember that in the event of a major disruption in a company such as the departure of a longtime leader, key employees may not want to stay. Having a conversation with them about your succession plans, as well as providing incentives for them to stay, may be in your best interest. Keeping valuable and knowledgeable employees on the team after you leave will make the transition easier for all and is less likely to cause financial issues for your business.

Train and Document

Once you have decided the best approach for your planning, train those individuals that will play a role at the time of your departure. Keep them clued in to vital issues. Remember that it’s much easier to update your succession planning once it has been documented. Working with an experience estate planning attorney will give you confidence and peace of mind about your decision.

Risky Do-It-Yourself: Wills

April 9, 2014

Filed under: Wills — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 2:39 pm

Software or online programs to help you plan your estate are popping up everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they are the best choice for your needs. Many of these programs lead you to believe that generating your will is easier than it truly is. Heirs might find out too late that your self-created will doesn’t really match up with your state laws or even your own intent.

rightscale.com
  (Photo Credit: rightscale.com)

When it comes to estate planning, intent is everything. Too often, the wishes of an individual don’t come across clearly in self-generated wills. Many modern court cases have focused on the determination of the testator’s intent, but judges are hesitant to cross certain lines to clear up confusion. As a result, your heirs may discover that your wishes aren’t carried out as you planned at all. Simply put, doing your will on your own can have big consequences.

Consider the Estate of George Zeevering. Last fall, a Pennsylvania appellate court was evaluating an unclear DIY will. Since the testator had not worked with a lawyer to generate the document, which was incomplete, it was difficult to determine the true intentions of Mr. Zeevering. In one aspect of the case, property had already been titled in the names of a son and a decedent as joint tenants. Mr. Zeevering stated that “the failure of this will to provide any distribution” to his daughters was done on purpose.

The case got sticky when the residuary and residuary estate totaled over $200,000 after debt payments were made. There was no provision within the DIY will for what should happen to those assets. In the end, the court determined that when a will doesn’t provide for the disposal of an entire estate and fails to include a residuary clause, the residuary estate must be divided under intestacy laws.

This case is but one example of where estate planning on your own can go wrong. Although it may not have been Mr. Zeevering’s intention to distribute the remainder of his estate under intestacy laws, that’s what happened. Despite his wishes, the law overrides an incomplete or improper will. While online and computer programs argue that wills and estate planning documents are easily done on your own, that minimizes the true complexity of document generation and estate laws.

Estate planning can be very complicated for an individual but it’s easily done under the guidance of an estate planning attorney. An added benefit of using a legal professional “in the know” is that he or she is clued into state and federal laws about estate planning, which always have the potential to change. An estate planning attorney is an excellent resource for all your questions as well as giving you the peace of mind that your estate will be carried out in the manner you wish. Cutting corners with a do it yourself tool is your choice, but do so at your own risk. If you want the assurance of totality and legality, contact an estate planning professional today.