Key Documents for Avoiding Estate Planning Mistakes

There are always a handful of documents you should include in your estate plan to accomplish the most effective goals for you. This is true whether you have a complicated estate with a lot of assets or whether you need some simple tools to accomplish your basic goals. Remember that estate planning is about more than figuring what will happen to your property after you pass away. You also need a clear plan to protect yourself while you’re still alive, including documents that enable others to make decisions on your behalf if something happens to you. 

Some of the most important documents you should have in your arsenal include:

  • Durable power of attorney
  • Basic will
  • Advanced medical directives
  • Letter of instruction
  • Living trust

Before you start looking online for a template, however, be aware that these generic forms often fail to capture the unique aspects of your life and may not even be legally valid for your state. Finding a lawyer and scheduling an initial consultation is strongly recommended in the event that you need insight from an experienced attorney. This gives you more peace of mind that your documents are accurate and in line with your life and needs.

Avoid These 10 Estate Planning Mistakes

Did you know there are a lot of mistakes you can make in your estate planning process? Thankfully, many of them can be avoided successfully if you work with an experienced estate planning lawyer as soon as you intend to get started.

These mistakes can end up costing you and your beneficiaries a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration. Read on to learn more.

  • A do it yourself will or trust
  • Not having a will at all
  • Not coordinating beneficiary designations with your will
  • Not coordinating retirement account designations with the will
  • Improperly using a lifetime trust
  • Giving gifts outright to minors
  • Trying to do it all on your own
  • Failing to update your documents where necessary
  • Owning your own life insurance
  • Not including flexibility in your plan

Your experienced lawyer can help you figure out your next steps if you’re ready for estate planning.

Why You Should Plan for Your Pets

The estate planning process can be as complex or as simple as you need, but one fact remains: make sure you don’t overlook something. Missing a planning opportunity can create many problems down the road, including those for your pets.

One of the aspects of estate planning often covered is that doing comprehensive planning protects your loved ones because you minimize confusion and help your beneficiaries get access to their assets quickly. However, your will and basic estate planning does not cover your pets unless you specifically share your intention to do this with your estate planning lawyer.

A pet trust is one of the most effective ways to address the needs of your pets. In addition to sharing your intentions with your lawyer and talking with anyone who you would like to step in and care for your pets if something happens to you, a pet trust can financially provide for the needs of your fur children. While no one expects to suddenly suffer from a disability or to be killed in an accident, this situation can be traumatic enough as is for your pets. Ensuring that you have a plan in place to have them provided for is important; it can help to minimize the challenges they experience after something happens to you.

A pet trust is even more important for an older pet or a pet with existing health concerns. Setting aside the time and money to address these needs is critical for your pet’s future. Reach out to a New Jersey estate planning lawyer today to talk options.

A Customized Estate Plan Should Always be Handled by a Lawyer

If you are thinking ahead about your estate planning goals, it’s tempting to address your needs by filling out a form you found online.

A template will or other documents are not always legally binding and they may be a very poor fit for anyone who has special concerns or needs. In the event that your will is unclear or not in line with relevant state laws, your estate could become more complicated than you intended.

Here are some common situations that warrant the insight of an experienced lawyer:

  • Caring for a child with special needs
  • Wanting to give particular pieces of property to one beneficiary or another
  • Wanting to exclude someone from your will or other estate matters
  • Wanting to ensure that property is passed on with some element of control (such as through a trust)
  • Getting remarried or divorced and needing to update your plan or adjust to include past beneficiaries
  • Advanced planning strategies to assist with your estate or tax needs

As you can see, there are numerous situations that make it a good choice to set up a meeting with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Talking to a lawyer will help you identify the right strategies for you and your family now and well into the future.

Preparing for Your First Meeting with an Estate Planning Lawyer

Before your first meeting with an estate planning attorney, it’s a good idea to think about whether you already have any documents from years ago or what assets you have that you want to pass on to others. Depending on your individual needs, your estate plan can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Thankfully, an estate planning lawyer can help you figure out your next steps.

Putting together an inventory of your assets is one way to start the process before your meeting with your estate planning lawyer. An experienced attorney will likely start off the meeting by asking you some questions in order to determine what you need. From there, you’ll develop a strategy and a plan to accomplish your estate planning goals.

Make copies of all your existing estate planning documents, your asset inventory, and the names of anyone who you want to include in your will. Your lawyer will help walk you through putting together documents to protect you during your lifetime as well as what will happen to your assets after you pass away.

Being organized is the most important step to be prepared for your first meeting with an estate planning lawyer. If you’re ready to talk options, set up a meeting with a NJ estate planning lawyer.

Benefits of Advanced Medicaid Planning

Having a loved one experience a health event that may prompt more intensive care presents a lot of unique challenges for all family members. It can be a confusing and frustrating time with limited decision-making options. Given the rules regarding the Medicaid look-back period, it can be difficult to maximize asset protection and get the most out of planning ahead for Medicaid. 

The reality is that for many families, the first time they consider Medicaid planning is during a time when it’s too late to make advanced planning strategies work. No one wants to think about health deterioration for a loved one or themselves, however, doing so can help to ensure that someone does not have to spend down their own assets in significantly prior to qualifying for Medicaid.

Meeting with an attorney years before considering Medicaid has a lot of benefits. It allows you to consider how you’ll handle your assets now and increases the chances that you’ll be able to pass on assets to loved ones while also having some peace of mind about your own health needs. If you’re nearing retirement age, now is a good time to have an initial consultation about advanced Medicaid planning. This is because you’ll have more options and be able to have greater flexibility with your choices.

New Study Says Half of Americans Think Estate Planning Not for Them

A new study from Wealth Counsel reveals that half of Americans believe estate planning is not for them and that it’s only for the extremely wealthy. These individuals assume they don’t have enough assets in order to reap any benefits from the estate planning process. Only 46 percent of people in the U.S. think that a trust would be a necessary component in their estate plans. Often, a trust is a key component in estate planning as it adds more control and privacy to any estate, regardless of size. 

This is combined with the fact that more than one-third of people in the country admit to not even having a will. Of those, 37 percent say that they have not had the conversation about their estate planning with family members due to the perception of lack of assets. Nearly another 30 percent of those respondents believe that there’s no real benefit in putting together an estate plan at all.


The reality is that people of all income and asset brackets can benefit from estate planning. Whether it’s basic tools like a will that help to clarify things for loved ones after you pass away or documents that ensure your financial matters or healthcare wishes are taken care of if you become incapacitated  are worthwhile endeavors.

If you have questions about how estate planning can help you, contact an experienced lawyer today to learn more.

Remarrying? Update Those Planning Docs!

There’s a strong chance that your wedding checklist does not include a trip to your estate planning lawyer, but there’s a good reason it should: remarriage shifts the family dynamics and your new documents should reflect this new makeup. Many individuals in the U.S. are facing the prospect of a second or third marriage.

In fact, according to a Pew Research Center report, 40 percent of marriages in 2013 alone were remarriages for one or both spouses. The stats for failing to create or update an estate plan are even more problematic. As much as 63 percent of the U.S. population doesn’t even have a will, and nearly ten percent have an outdated one. NJ estate planning lawyer

This combination of outdated or nonexistent documents and a new marriage can present a conundrum. If something happens to you, the old valid documents will still hold, even if they give power of attorney or property over to a former spouse.

If you’re getting married, there are plenty of things to celebrate, but don’t let your planning opportunities go out the window. It’s a critical time to update your documents and ensure that you have everything in line for your new family dynamics and individual needs. Contact a New Jersey estate planning lawyer to learn more.


Guarding Against Incapacity: Documents You Need

It’s Estate Planning Awareness Week and a good opportunity to remember that estate planning is about more than what happens when you pass away. It’s also about what happens during your lifetime. Should you become suddenly incapacitated, would you have someone to step in and help with your affairs? 

Two key documents are worth considering in this process. When you plan properly, you can help to protect your assets and estate while you’re still alive. The first document to consider is a durable power of attorney. This allows someone else to manage your affairs if you were to become unable to do so as a result of a disability or other issue. This person can pay bills for you, direct investments, or file taxes when you are unable to do it.

The other document you should keep in your arsenal is an advanced medical directive. This means someone else can make medical decisions on your behalf. You can talk more with your New Jersey estate planning lawyer about how these work and how to choose someone to serve in this role.

Shah & Associates Named 10 Best for Client Satisfaction


As a dedicated estate planning and asset protection planning law firm in NJ, we frequently credit our clients with the longstanding reputation we have earned in the area. We know that your planning needs are important to you and it’s always been our goal as a firm to meet and exceed your expectations. Whether we’ve just met you or have been working with you for years, it’s our mission to serve you personally and help to suggest strategies and tactics most aligned with your individual needs.


That’s why we are so thrilled to have been named as one of the 10 Best in the Estate Planning Division by the American Institute of Legal Counsel. While the long relationships we have with our clients, the referrals to others, and the thanks we receive from clients like you are our favorite part of business, being awarded from an outside party also carries its own excitement. We hope to continue to serve you and your families with the same compassion and vigor we’ve come to be known for since founding this office.


It’s truly a privilege to get to work with all of our wonderful clients in New Jersey and we hope to continue to be part of your estate planning process for many years to come. Thank you for making what we do so enjoyable!

Protect Your Digital Assets

You have probably spent a fair amount of time accumulating things in your life. A home, a vehicle, books, music, photos, family collections and heirlooms and even antiques. When you put together your estate plan, you’ll articulate a plan for all these items.

It’s just as important, however, to have a plan for your digital assets. If you’re backing all your photos up to the cloud, for example, would your loved ones be able to access those precious pictures? According to a statistics company, there are nearly 2 billion users on Facebook alone. Amazon has 310 million users. Online accounts, digital assets, and profiles are becoming increasingly popular, but it’s a common oversight to forget about planning for these. 

Thankfully, working with an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you determine how to protect all of the assets in your life, digital or not. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about all the valuable things you own. It might not be easy to remember these, but there is sentimental value attached to online accounts. Likewise, you may have specific issues about how you want these accounts handled after you pass away. With your estate planning attorney, you can accomplish all of your goals.



Estate Planning and Thoughtful Parenting

One of the most common reason for someone to set up a meeting with an estate planning attorney is due to the birth of a new child. This should not, however, be the last time you set aside time to meet with a lawyer. Active parenting involves helping your children achieve their goals, but you should also be thinking about how your own planning opportunities can address your child’s needs.

Aside from wills, which allow you to stipulate what happens to your property and to name a guardian for your minor children, you may also want to consider using a trust, which empowers you to have some control over the distribution of property. You may also gain some privacy benefits from using a trust.

You need a formal plan to help address your long-term goals and this can be an important part of thoughtful parenting. As a new parent, it can be challenging to think about the future in which you may not be around, but doing this planning now can help avoid problems down the road. In an ideal world, you will not need to worry about the guardian named for your child. However, it can give you a lot of peace of mind knowing that someone has been tapped to play a critical role in your child’s life just in case.

Contact your experienced estate planning attorney in NJif you have questions about how the process works and how you can benefit.

How Many Years Has it Been Since You Updated Your Estate Plan?

Was the last time you took a look at your estate plan when your kids were born? Perhaps when you got your first mortgage and began to accumulate the assets which would ultimately become a part of your estate.

By now, though, those children may be adults. If it’s been quite some time, those children may even have children of their own. It’s especially important to update your comprehensive estate plan if the only document inside yours presently is a basic will. 

As life evolves, your estate plan may get more complex. You may need to determine different strategies to help with your overall goals and as your intended beneficiaries change. Often, it’s these older documents from decades ago that may raise questions about validity in court.

Estate planning doesn’t have to be difficult. Instead, you can benefit from an annual meeting with your estate planning lawyer to walk through whether your plans are still helping you meet your intended goals. Your lawyer can help you evaluate current plans and suggest new strategies for accomplishing your wishes.

Set up a meeting today to learn more about why you need to update your plan and to ensure that you have something that works for you for years to come.

How Divorce Affects Your Estate Planning

If you’ve previously used one estate planning attorney for both you and your spouse, it may be a new opportunity to shop around and identify the appropriate New Jersey estate planning lawyer to help you after getting divorced. There are many different ways that a divorce can change your landscape and it is imperative to work with an attorney who understands how divorce can change your estate planning goals.

There are also benefits to speaking with a financial professional as well since all property divided associated with a divorce is a non-taxable event even though the cost basis of the holding does carry over. There are also unique concerns associated with retirement assets and how these can be incorporated into your estate planning goals. Updating all of your beneficiary information and documentation that previously listed your spouse as a power of attorney agent, for example, is strongly recommended.

Speaking with a lawyer immediately after your divorce is final is strongly recommended but you may also benefit from speaking with someone in the months leading up to your final divorce decree. Understanding the many different ways that divorce can impact your life can ensure that your new documents and plans are in line with your different life arrangements after ending your marriage.


3 Key Frequently Forgotten Estate Planning Benefits

There are three major benefits to getting your estate planning done in a timely manner that are not often talked about. Read on to learn more. 

Achieving Your Goals

A living trust gives you some flexibility to accomplish your goals and have some say over how the situation unfolds. A living trust, for example, allows you to include clauses about condition under which a person can receive access to assets. You might allow that someone gets assets after they complete their education.

Take Advantage of Best Decision Opportunities

It is a lawyer’s duty to walk the client through all the available options and determine the most appropriate strategy for you. One size does not fit all in terms of estate planning and your lawyer can help recommend what’s best for you.

Focusing on Growth

The best strategy for ensuring that your property is managed by capable individuals is to use a trust and select the right person to serve in the role of trustee. With your living trust, you can select someone to determine management tips in the event that you are unavailable.

If you’re ready to start the process of getting the maximum benefits from estate planning, contact a New Jersey lawyer today.

Tips for Helping an Elderly Loved One with Fading Mental Competency Prepare Their Estate Planning

Both estate planners and financial advisors work with a broad range of clients. Elderly and aging clients, however, can present unique challenges in the event that mental competency is an issue. One of the greatest challenges for individuals in this situation is in having loved ones contest the validity of a will or other estate planning documents after the loved one has passed away as a result of this reduced mental competency.

There are three critical questions that need to be answered when putting together an estate plan for someone who has competency issues. These include:

  • Do clients generally know what their assets are?
  • Do the clients easily recognize the names of close family members?
  • Is the client capable of creating a plan to distribute those assets?

Meeting these three basic criteria for competency can still be challenging as a family member trying to help a loved one put together his or her estate planning. Partnering with an experienced New Jersey estate planning attorney who is knowledgeable about these issues and can help advise you and answer questions throughout the process is strongly recommended. While it is ideal to have estate planning documents put together before someone’s mental competency or cognitive disorders affect them severely, speaking with an attorneyis always recommended.


New Jersey State Estate Tax May Soon Disappear

According to a recent compromise with Chris Christie and New Jersey Governments, the New Jersey estate tax will likely soon be repealed by 2017. Many professionals across the state helping individuals with estate and financial planning believe that this is a long overdue change and that New Jersey is actually behind the times by keeping the state estate tax.

Remember that putting together your estate planning is about more than just considering tax implications. You should also consider legacy planning, long term care issues, and critical documents that help protect you while you’re alive as well as provide instructions for passing things on to your beneficiaries after you pass away. To accomplish all of these goals it is necessary to have a strong relationship with an existing New Jersey estate planning attorney. An estate planning attorney will keep you abreast of any changes in the law so that you can adjust your estate planning documents as needed.

As life changes, you will also need to revise these documents and consider how various life events will impact the current plans you have structured. Do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced New Jersey estate planning attorney today.