April, 2020 | Shah & Associates, P.C. Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog
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Your Estate Plan Probably Needs a Trust

April 28, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 1:35 pm

Some people assume that unless your estate size is substantial, that you can skip out on enhanced protections provided by something, such as a trust.

You might even assume that it’s not necessary to hire an attorney to create a will for you. However, a knowledgeable lawyer will take the big picture look at all of the issues in your estate plan including those you have not considered and provide you with a step by step roadmap that minimizes the potential of exposure to will contests and other lawsuits.

Your attorney can also help connect the dots between your situation and the strategies available to you, such as the benefits of creating a trust. Creating a trust enables a grantor or the person developing this trust to have more control over what their heirs do with money and assets and the manner in which the heirs receive this information. This can be especially important if you have younger heirs and you are concerned about their ability to effectively receive and manage these assets.

A trust can include specific rules designed at your discretion so that the heirs don’t, for example, receive all of the inheritance at once or they receive it after completing their college education, for example.

Additionally, by creating a trust you can also transfer property without exposing your assets to public record or going through probate court. If you don’t yet have a trust as a component of your estate plan, schedule a consultation with a lawyer today.       

How Long Would It Take for My Estate to Be Settled?

April 27, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 1:14 pm

If you have done the necessary planning to ensure that your estate has been discussed with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer, this is the first phase in protecting your desires and giving your loved ones an opportunity to receive the benefits you intended when you pass away. A common question either as a beneficiary to an estate or as you plan your own estate, is how long it can take for an estate to be settled.

Get help from a NJ probate lawyer

One year is a good rule of thumb for an estate to be settled. It can take a long time to dig through all of the details, to clean out the house or apartment, to file a final tax return, to liquidate any investments, pay off bills and even sell real estate. When everything has been held in trust and there is nothing in probate, it can go a lot faster. The process can also take longer if there are other complications, such as a need to sell real estate.

There can also be issues associated with anyone who files a challenge on the existing status of the will. Set up a consultation with our estate planning attorneys today to discuss how to make your estate easier to handle for your loved ones so that you have the peace of mind that comes with putting all of your estate plans in order.       

While it might seem like this process is a long ways off, you don’t want your loved ones dealing with the consequences of your lack of planning. Set up time to speak with an attorney who can help you structure your estate plan the right way.

Do You Have a Plan for Social Security Benefits with Your Estate?

April 22, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 12:35 pm

Benefits provided by social security are often one component of an overall estate plan that can also easily slip through the cracks. It is essential to have a financial power of attorney to ensure that there is another person to step in and take care of your finances if you become unable to do so as a result of illness or injury.

A financial power of attorney is a crucial component of your estate plan and since part of managing your overall finances is to manage your social security benefits, it is important to realize that the social security administration doesn’t recognize power of attorneys. In fact, you may need to contact the social security administration in advance as part of your estate plan to name a designation of a representative payee.

This program was created under a 2018 law that allows a person to name one or more other individuals responsible for managing the applicant’s social security benefits. The SSA then must work with the named individuals or individual. You can rank up to three people as advanced designees and list them in order of priority.

A person who is already getting Social Security benefits at their age can also name an advanced designee at any time and someone who is just beginning to claim benefits from the Social Security Administration can also name the designee during the claiming process.

You can do this on the Social Security website or by contacting the social security administration over phone to get further support. Using the website is currently in your best interests as many different government agencies are being contacted by many people at once and there are long wait and hold times on the phone. Schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer today to discuss benefits including Social Security that might affect your future planning.

These Two Cornerstones are the First Step Towards Making Your Estate Plan

April 21, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 1:17 pm

Today, estate planning attorneys are being contacted at record numbers to get assistance in putting together power of attorney documents or wills in the midst of the pandemic. If you are in a situation in which you feel compelled to quickly pull together your estate plan, it’s important to partner with a knowledgeable professional in the form of an estate planning lawyer. Certain suggestions can help you accomplish your goals more effectively than others. 

One of the most important things you can do is to schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer. An estate planning lawyer will have the necessary experience in understanding your state’s laws to be able to craft a legally valid document that takes into account the state and federal issues as well as your unique concerns when you approach your own estate plan.

There are many different questions that need to be answered and it is in your best interests to make sure that an attorney has helped you craft and review these documents to verify that they meet necessary rules and regulations.

Be wary of attempting to pull together a general estate plan or general estate plan documents, such as a will, on your own. While there are many online planning tools that can help give you the information to jumpstart this process, these should not be relied on as your only resource.

The second thing you can do to pull together your estate plan quickly is to create a valid will. It’s important that this document is created under the state laws of the area in which you reside. Some people believe that this can be a challenge with stay at home restrictions but you can contact your estate planning attorney to learn more about what you need to know and how you can jumpstart the process so that you do not miss out on the important opportunity to get your estate plan in line.

Scheduling a phone or Zoom consultation with your estate planning lawyer today is the necessary first step to give you peace of mind and to ensure that you are on track to create these documents that could become critically important now or in the future.

What Is Long Term Care Insurance? Do You Really Need It for Your Estate Plan?

April 20, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 2:36 pm

Many older Americans have been thinking about the concept of long-term care insurance recently and with good reason. Chances are good that you’ll become injured or sick at some point during your retirement and require extra support to pay for your medical bills.

This is a service that can be especially valuable to long term care insurance policy holders. In the past, many of these policies were sold with one single premium, meaning a lump sum payment of up to $50,000 or $100,000 per individual. However, long term care insurance companies have evolved significantly to allow annual payments for this important protection. 

Since research shows that it’s approximately a 50% chance that a 65-year-old American will require some form of long-term care insurance in the future, you could be personally responsible for paying up to $140,000 if you don’t have this all-important long-term care insurance.

However, the vast majority of US seniors have put off purchasing long term care insurance because they think they don’t need it or that it’s too expensive. Only 7.2 million people in the United States currently have long term care insurance.

Those who choose to skip it are taking a big risk in doing so. Do you have a plan for what will happen to your money if you were to suddenly need LTC? Would it harm the savings plan you have in place with your spouse? Then you need Medicaid planning. 

It’s also important to remember that someone who faces challenges with long term care insurance might not only encounter these challenges in the concept of their retirement years. A person can sustain an injury that requires long term care rehabilitation at other ages in their life, such as a bicyclist who is struck in an accident and seriously hurt. Long term care insurance should form an important component of your personal estate planning responsibility.

Life Insurance: Is it Part of Your Estate Plan?

April 15, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 1:25 pm

As part of an estate plan, your knowledgeable attorney might recommend different tools to help you accomplish your individual goals and allow for the streamlined transfer of assets to your loved ones. This can mean using something such as life insurance to help support other asset transfers within your overall estate plan.

There are three primary types of life insurance you might consider in this process: group, whole and term. Group insurance is most frequently offered as part of an employee benefits package and therefore, this is extremely convenient.

The challenge, however, is that this kind of insurance will not follow you during a career change and you’ll also want to determine whether the amount of the set policy is really enough to support your family in the event that you pass away.

Whole life insurance is much more expensive because it covers an individual for their entire lifetime while also offering an added benefit in the form of cash value that increases over time. It’s a good idea to have an advisor or insurance agent help you with this process since purchasing whole life can be expensive and confusing. The final kind of insurance that is most popular for people who are thinking about it in the context in their estate plan is term life insurance.

Term life insurance is the most affordable option and it is seen as renting insurance since you get the policy for a period of 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. This enables you to protect your income during your primary working years, for example.       

What Belongs Inside My Personal Will?

April 12, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 1:00 am

When there is no will for your estate plan, this puts your family members in a very difficult situation, because it becomes the responsibility of the New Jersey courts to decide what happens to your property. This is referred to as dying intestate and the settlement process that follows might not generate the results that you had intended for your survivors.

Essential Facets of Your Personal Will

There are four primary aspects that should be incorporated in your will. These include naming guardians for any minor children, instructions for when and how beneficiaries are entitled to receive assets, the names of beneficiaries who will inherit assets, and the designation of the person who will carry out the provisions of the will.

For assets that do not allow beneficiary naming, such as real estate or certain bank accounts, the will is an ideal place to determine who will get these and name any special instructions. Some assets allow for beneficiary naming and a direct transfer of the asset outside of the will. These usually avoid the probate process and include investment accounts, IRAs, and life insurance policies.

This can help to maximize what you leave behind to beneficiaries since these can typically avoid certain taxes and fees. Set up a time to speak with your estate planning lawyer today to learn more if you need more information about how to evaluate all the assets you own that belong inside your will.

Do You Really Need A Planner for an Estate?

April 8, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 12:42 pm

Whether you are thinking about your investments and your retirement or how your estate plan answers many of your most common goals, you need assistance from an expert in the world of financial planning.

But finding the right person to assist you in addition to finding a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to help you think about how all these pieces connect can be complicated. You need to understand that there are new options available to you in terms of identifying financial professionals or estate planning professionals.

It’s a good idea at the outset of a relationship to understand how you might pay for this advice. Some planners even offer subscriptions with prices that are based on your income or your individual situation. This means that you can benefit from getting one on one access to the professional while not having to pay extensive fees. This gives you some form of regular access to the professional as well.

In addition to having an estate planning attorney to help guide you through many of the most common concerns that you might have as you near retirement age, it is a good idea to engage with other professionals who can assist you in developing a comprehensive plan.

For example, you might need the services of a CPA or a financial planner. Together these professionals can outline a plan that will protect you and your loved ones while keeping your personal goals top of mind.       

What Is a Healthcare Proxy?

April 6, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 12:57 am

NJ-healthcare-proxy

A healthcare proxy is a term you might have heard of in relation to comprehensive estate planning. The term proxy refers to another person acting on your behalf. With regard to healthcare proxies, this person is equipped to express your individual wishes on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Depending on where you live and where you execute this document, this might also be referred to as a durable medical power of attorney or your appointment of a healthcare agent. 

Of course, you know your personal healthcare wishes best, but if you were injured in an accident or otherwise unable to speak up for yourself, you need someone else to express your concerns.

Some people think that a healthcare proxy is only used if the patient in question is terminally ill. This is not the case. Your proxy is actually able to make decisions on your behalf any time that you are incapacitated and unable to communicate due to a temporary or permanent injury or illness.

There could be a natural fear that someone else is making decisions for you when you might be in a compromised state, but not enough of a serious medical condition to be totally unable to speak for yourself. A doctor might need to certify that you meet the grounds to be classified as incapacitated before your proxy is able to make decisions for you.

Remember that whoever you name in the role of proxy could potentially have access to your medical records depending on the permissions you allow. Make sure that the person you appoint knows about your personal religious beliefs, healthcare provider opinions and preferred institutions, medical treatment preferences, and personal feelings regarding illness and healthcare treatment.

Before you find yourself in a difficult situation with a loved one, make sure they’ve named someone as a healthcare proxy to speak for them. Assigning your own healthcare proxy is important, too!

Can New Jersey Residents Still Benefit from Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts?

April 1, 2020

Filed under: Estate Planning — Laura Pennington @ 4:09 pm

Irrevocable life insurance trusts have long been a popular estate planning tool in a variety of different circumstances to help achieve client goals efficiently and effectively. These were often used to shield life insurance proceeds from the estate tax in New Jersey by making the ILIT the beneficiary and owner of a life insurance policy, which therefore removed the proceeds from the individual’s overall estate.

In 2018, however, New Jersey repealed the New Jersey estate tax and now that the federal estate tax exemption is over $11 million per person today, many estate and trust attorneys have decreased their need and use with ILITs.

However, there are several different benefits to consider with these estate planning tools. Scheduling a consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can be a first step towards recognizing how these can be helpful for your individual situation. An irrevocable life insurance trust gives you more control over your insurance policies and the money that is paid out from them. There are three primary components to an insurance trust.

The grantor is the person who creates the trust, the trustee is the person who manages it and the trust beneficiaries are the people who receive the assets after you pass away. An insurance trust means that the trust owns the policy and therefore, the trustee that you appoint in this role has to follow the instructions placed in your trust, giving you even more control over the proceeds. To learn more about how life insurance factors into the bigger conversation about your estate, schedule a consultation with an experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyer today.