What Are Your Goals for Creating an Estate Plan?

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

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

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

Schedule a consultation today with an experienced estate planning lawyer.


Life Insurance Should Be Included as Part of Your Estate Plan

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

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

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

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


Trusts as An Estate Planning Strategy Are More Important Than Ever

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Use Tax Planning to Reduce What You Owe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, Your 18-Year-Old Needs Estate Planning

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

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

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

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

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

IRS Announces New Gift Tax for 2019 Estate Tax Limits

The IRS recently announced their 2019 details about gift tax and estate tax limits. The official limits for 2019 increased the individual estate and gift tax exemption to $11.4 million per person up from $11.18 million in 2018.

This means that you are eligible to pass on up to $11.4 million to beneficiaries and heirs without paying any federal, estate or gift tax. This also means that a married couple can pass on as much as $22.8 million with appropriate shielding strategies recommended by an estate planning attorney. The annual gift exclusion will stay the same at $15,000. 

These numbers represent numerous planning opportunities for the wealthy and even if you don’t currently have a taxable estate, you’ll still need an estate plan. Scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate attorney is important because the affluent must still continue to plan around the estate tax.

Advanced strategies might be required for someone who is unfamiliar with the estate tax laws or who has recently come into a large amount of money. In all of these situations, a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney can make a big difference.

What is the Role of a Will Executor in NJ?

Are you trying to decide who to appoint as your will executor in New Jersey? This important decision could have ripple effects for your entire family, and deciding who to instill in this role is well worth taking some time.

Your NJ estate planning lawyer can help you determine the role that a will executor will have in the management of your estate. probate-NJ

The tasks that must be carried out by an executor are important and include:

  • Collecting and managing all assets, including liquid and illiquid ones
  • Filing appropriate tax returns for the estate
  • Pay taxes and debts
  • Distributing any remaining assets as directed by the deceased

The executor is key in probating the will. This is the process by which the will is admitted to court. The determination by the court that the will is legal is important because it empowers the executor to move on with his or her duties.

The executor also takes legal title for estate assets, and this means that an accounting might be required. Running a business, managing a securities portfolio, or liquidating assets are all steps that might be taken by an executor depending on the complexity of the estate itself.

It’s recommended that you choose someone who is familiar and comfortable with financial and tax matters since this is a key task carried out by the executor. Taxes typically have to be paid in advance of other debts, but getting the assistance of a probate lawyer is helpful in ensuring that each step taken by the executor is the proper one for the situation at hand.


What Is Bunching of Charitable Contributions?

Since the new tax laws in place doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for single tax payers and $24,000 for those married filing jointly, this means that you need to understand how this affects your itemized deduction planning.

There are changes that repeal or limit many itemized deductions, such that in 2018, 90% of taxpayers will be using the standard deduction. For anyone who is contemplating the standard deduction rather than itemizing, consider putting all of your charitable contributions across alternate years if this will enable you to itemize in a future year but take the standard deduction one year. 

One other avenue to pursue if you wish to consider this option is to contribute to a donor advised fund, making distributions to that charitable organization over the course of time.

This is most appropriate if you do not want to give the money to charity all at one time. Annual exclusion gifts should also be considered as end of year options.

For those who want to minimize their exposure to estate taxes, remember that you can gift up to $15,000 to an unlimited number of people every single year without decreasing your lifetime estate tax exclusion or paying gift tax.

If you spread this out over the course of multiple years, such as you would with your charitable contributions, now is a good time to talk to an experienced estate planning lawyer about how this will affect your future planning and needs.

The support of an estate planning attorney can help you to stay on top of all necessary estate planning changes and tax law updates that might affect you and your loved ones. Appropriate tax planning should always be done in conjunction with the support of an accountant and an estate planning professional.


Do Beneficiary Designations Really Matter After Your Second Marriage?

Your estate planning documents certainly need to be updated after you get married for a second or third time, but have you overlooked this common mistake of failing to update your beneficiary designations. 

Beneficiary designations outline how the property will pass to people on items such as your life insurance policy, your IRA and certain brokerage accounts. If you do not know this information or have not updated it in a long time, there’s a good chance that your previous spouse or another person who is no longer relevant or alive is the person named as your beneficiary. No matter what you have listed in your will, the information included on these beneficiary designations supersedes that.

This means that if you have painstakingly detailed what you hope to happen to these property items when you pass away, the beneficiary designations filed with the company, regardless of how old they are or irrelevant, will still be followed to the letter by the company. This is why you need to protect yourself by regularly updating your beneficiary designations.

It’s also a good idea to consider contingency beneficiaries. Contingency beneficiaries are those who are entitled to receive the assets inside these products if the original beneficiary passes away. Most people forget about the facts that someone who is listed as their beneficiary, even a child, might pass away before them and make the difficult situation of no one receiving these benefits or further confusion and problems. Schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer if you are ready to talk about your options with regard to effective primary and contingent beneficiary estate planning and how to regularly evaluate and remind yourself about updating the beneficiary designation forms.