The Basics of Will and Trust Contests


When putting together your estate plan, it’s helpful to know how a will or trust can be contested after you pass away.

A trust or will contest refers to situations where a lawsuit is filed arguing the validity of your documents. If the will or trust is successfully contested, then that document is thrown out. This outcome can be disappointing and even catastrophic for the beneficiaries listed in the will or trust. will_contests-63730846

A will or trust contest can be filed by an individual with legal standing in a lawsuit. This means that the individual will somehow be personally impacted by the outcome of the case. Disadvantaged heirs and disinherited heirs are the most likely to contest a will or trust. Likewise, beneficiaries who were given a bigger share of assets in a previous trust or will are also likely to contest existing documents. Individuals with no standing in the suit are not eligible to challenge a will or trust, even if there is evidence supporting the claim that the document or documents are not valid.

There are four primary grounds on which someone can file a contest to a will or trust: allegations that the will wasn’t properly signed under state law, arguments that the person was forced into signing the will, claims that the document was procured by fraud, and arguments that the person signing the will did not have the necessary capacity to do so.

Make sure you’ve constructed a valid will to limit the opportunity for family disputes after you pass away. For more planning tips, drop us a note at

Do Millennials Need Estate Planning?

Many millennials assume that estate plan is for older and more established clients who have significant assets to protect. Even if you believe that your highest-earning years are still ahead of you, there are a few simple steps to take to form the foundation of the estate plan. It’s not only major assets that need protection and for a small amount of time you can have the confidence that what you do own is protected. Beneficiary_Designation_Form

  • Make sure that your beneficiary designations are updated. This is especially important as you get married or have children. Retirement accounts and group life insurance policies are a great place to start.
  • Consider supplemental life insurance. While an at-work policy may cover a year or so of your income, you can likely get an excellent deal on an affordable policy while you are young and healthy. Group life insurance doesn’t tend to be portable, either, so it’s a wise idea to have your own policy. Factor in mortgage costs, other household expenses, and any amount you want for children’s college savings.
  • It’s never too early to outline a will. Although you hope that it won’t be necessary in your younger years, it’s simply smart planning to provide a plan to help your beneficiaries in the event that something happens.
  • Put together a power of attorney and health care proxy. These estate planning tools are not specific to any age and outline what will happen to the management of your affairs if something happens to you. Put these together and review them on a yearly basis.

For basic or complex estate planning, it helps to have professionals at your side. Now is a great time to get your estate plan in order for 2015. Call us at 732-521-9455 for more details.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Passing away without a will is known as dying “intestate”. Your state laws will govern how your property is passed down, which usually gives your assets to your spouse and children. When you pass away and do not have a will, your estate enters the probate process through which it will be determined what happens to your assets. Although the probate process does provide a way of managing estates without wills, this is often not in the best interest of the party who has passed away or the beneficiaries.

Source: GenX
Source: GenX

A major reason for this is the loss of control and the very public nature of probate. When you put a will together, you’re able to craft a plan that reflects what you actually want to happen to your property and gives you the opportunity to exercise personal control. Without a will, the probate process can generate confusion and frustration for the loved ones who are already grieving your loss.

Wills can be customized based on the complexity of your estate. While all you might need is a simple will, a meeting with an estate planning attorney can also open to your eyes to other planning tools that aid in the process of minimizing taxes and maximizing the benefits that your loved ones will receive after you pass away. Other planning tools, like trusts, may be applicable in your situation. To learn more about putting together a will or a comprehensive estate plan, schedule a consultation today by emailing

4 Steps For A Family Business Succession Plan

While many business owners hope to keep the company in the family, it doesn’t always fall out that way. Make sure you know your family member’s intentions before approaching the planning process.  Knowing your intentions and the goals of your heirs can be extremely helpful for telling you what you need to consider in a succession plan. These four tips will help guide your choices if you and your heirs do plan to keep the business in the family. Family_Business_Succession_Planning

Step 1: Establish the Goals and the Process

As the business owner, you need to gauge family member interest in continuing to stay involved as well as current and future goals for the company. Once you know where various members stand, create your plan. Include governance process guidelines and dispute resolution methods in a written document. Once finished, be sure that the succession plan is communicated to stakeholders.

Step 2: Identify Key People

Determine the individuals who will be the owners and managers in the company when you are gone. It’s also important to consider which family members will have authority and whether other family members will be “non-acting” parties.

Step 3: Evaluate Business Owner Estate Planning Needs 

Discuss with your estate planning specialist what implications will occur when the business is transferred over to family members. What steps can you take to minimize delays of stock to spouses? Does your buy/sell agreement clearly specify next steps?

Step 4: Delve Into Transition Details 

Will the business be gifted or bequested to family members, or will it be available for an outright purchase? For purchasing, make sure that payment options are outlined clearly and that financing options, if necessary, have been provided.

Taking care of the family business requires thoughtful consideration and planning. For more help on a smooth transition, contact our offices at




Holiday Gifting Guide: The Gift Tax and Your Estate


With the end of the year and the holiday season approaching, both individuals and married couples are looking to maximize gifting opportunities while minimizing tax implications. Being knowledgeable about the gift tax annual lifetime exemption is important for structuring gifts that you may wish to pass on to others. Gift-Tax-Rules

Any individual can give up to $14,000 worth of assets every year under the annual exclusion. This means that you do not have to report that gift to the government for the purposes of taxes and these these payments can be spread out throughout the year, such as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. This enables married couples to pass on up to $28,000 annually without bumping the lifetime exemption of $5 million. Trying to pass on inheritances above this lifetime amount can come at a high price in terms of taxes without proper planning, which is why an annual estate and tax planning review session can be helpful for telling you where you’re at and how you can best prepare for the future.

When used properly, gifting can be a critical tool for eliminating or minimizing taxes. Taking advantage of the annual exclusion and the lifetime credit can allow you to pass on assets to beneficiaries without concerns over the tax implications. To discuss the details of gifting and how it can help reduce the size of your taxable estate, contact our office for a personalized consultation at




Small Business Year-End Tax Planning

According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses typically pay tax rates from between 13.3% (for sole proprietorships) up to 26.9% (for S corporations). Regardless of your tax rate, some last-minute steps may help maximize tax savings. Taking advantage of these planning tips now by consulting with a tax attorney can be extremely helpful next spring when it comes time to pay up.

Source: PA
Source: PA

One of the most helpful strategies is to defer income into next year while maximizing deductible expenses in this current tax year. This is an applicable approach for businesses that are pass-through entities like limited liability companies, partnerships, S corps, or sole proprietorships. Your share of the net income related to the business will be reported to the IRS and taxed at your individual rates. If you expect to be in the same or a lower tax bracket next year, take the approach of deferring income and maximizing deductions.

On the other hand, if you expect that your business will only continue to grow and bump you into a higher tax bracket, accelerate all possible income into the 2014 tax year and limit your deductible expenditures until 2015. The net effect here is to have more income taxed at your lower rate this year instead of your higher rate next year. For more tax planning tips, contact our office for a personalized consultation by emailing

Miller Trusts Now Approved In New Jersey


A much-awaited  change has now come to New Jersey. In the past, two programs related to elder care determined eligibility in New Jersey: the Medicaid Only program and the Medically Needy program.  While the Medically Needy program only provided payment for care in a nursing home, the Medicaid Only program pays for long-term care in an assisted living facility, at home, or any nursing home. The Medicaid Only program, however, has an income cap of 300% of federal benefit rates for SSI. The Medically Needy program, however, has no income cap.

Source: TotalCare
Source: TotalCare

As of December 1, however, the Medically Needy program  is being eliminated. The new program in New Jersey pays for long-term care at home, in an assisted living residence, or in a nursing home. although there is no income cap.  For this program, any applicant whose monthly income is higher than $2,163 must put income above that level into a trust known as a Miller Trust.

The biggest impact from this change allows many more people who were previously unable to qualify for long-term Medicaid in an assisted living residence or their home because their income exceeded the cap are now able to qualify for benefits. Miller Trusts can be complicated and you should consult with your New Jersey estate planning attorney for more details about your eligibility and the structure of the trust.

For more details about Miller Trusts, contact  our offices at 732 –521 – 9455.



How To Handle a Financial Windfall, Like Royalties

Certainly, experiencing a financial windfall can be a positive experience, especially during the holiday season. The downside of earning royalties or bonus money, however, is that you may not be clear about how these items are taxed. Advance planning can help you prepare for a sudden influx of money, whether you’re a musician or a property owner leasing your land for oil drilling. Royalties

For the most part, income like royalties from oil drilling rights or bonus payments are treated as taxable income by the US government. It’s important to realize how this money will be taxed, but also how it will influence your tax bracket. Since many people are not aware of the tax consequences of this money, they tend to make a common mistake in using that money to purchase new assets or to pay down debts. If you end up spending the majority of the windfall, you won’t have said enough aside for the taxes. Make sure you calculate taxes in first before spending the money.

There are numerous options to help you plan for a sudden windfall of money. Depending on the amount of money, you may even be considering legacy planning using limited partnerships, trusts, or family limited partnerships. If you have recently become involved in a royalty or bonus situation, you should consult with an experienced estate and tax planning attorney to talk about the short-term and long-term consequences.

To start with, your property values prior to royalties may not surpass estate planning limits when it comes to estate taxes. Over time, however, the value of the lease or the rights in oil drilling, for example, may expand past the estate planning exemption. If you own property in another state, it’s important to consult with an estate planning and tax planning specialist if this property will ultimately be used for oil drilling or similar pursuits. To learn more about royalties and their impact in terms of taxes, reach out to us at

Study Shows Higher Confidence About Retirement

According to new research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Americans who are approaching the retirement window are more confident than in recent years. The study, known as the Annual Retirement Confidence Survey, tracks how individuals feel about the amount of money they have saved for their post-working years. shutterstock_196414808

There are many different questions that tie retirement planning into estate planning. In fact, it can be very helpful to consult with tax and estate specialists in the period before you retire so that you are informed about your options. Early retirement planning is not just for your peace of mind, though. Discussing tax saving strategies can make all the difference between retiring comfortably and being concerned about finances later on.

One of the primary reasons that retirement planning is such a big concern for today’s workforce is because Americans are living longer. Maximizing savings and getting the most out of your assets is a crucial concern for individuals who are hoping to avoid tax surprises before and after retirement.

Women especially are getting more involved in the estate and tax planning process because they tend to live longer. Couples may want to discuss optimal planning strategies that protect the spouse who lives longer while protecting assets that are intended to be passed down to future generations.

It’s likely that you may have several accounts or strategies already lined up for retirement, but it may be in your best interest to walk through how these plans and savings work together and how you can get the most out of them as you approach retirement. For tax planning strategies for your needs, contact the attorneys at Shah & Associates today at



Can You Trusts and Estate Advice From a Non-Attorney?

Most people putting together a comprehensive estate plan may involve other professionals like a CPA, Financial Advisor or Insurance Professional, but you should always be cautious of anyone outside the realm of a certified individual to be giving you advice for your estate plan. Often, these can come in the form of people who are solely motivated to sell annuities and life insurance, and they may lead you to believe that they are experts in the law. shutterstock_95746741

There are two common ways that these individuals get you to buy in to the offer: it typically begins with a free lunch or dinner offer for “estate planning advice” and then follows with a high-pressure push asking for an in-house visit to discuss ideas with them further. These people will end up offering you some kind of Trust or legal document, but the person likely is not an attorney.

We are blessed to work with many holistic financial advisors & insurance professionals who incorporate sound life insurance and sensible annuities strategies, for sure. And there may even be legitimate people out there offering trusts, but it’s misleading to make you think that you’re working with an Attorney when you’re not. Anytime you meet with someone claiming to be an “expert” or “professional” ask to see their credentials. If they are offering estate planning advice and making you think he or she is an Attorney or has an “in-house” attorney who will “take care of everything cheap”, be wary & verify the details. A legitimate estate planning attorney likely has a list of credentials, details of which can be easily confirmed. For advice from a New Jersey estate planning firm with years of experience, contact our office today at

Key Tips for Out-of-State Retirement

A new report from Bankrate has reviewed the best state for retirees to head off to in their golden years, and Florida did not make the list! According to financial analysts, retirees need to consider far more than just sunny weather when factoring in long-term planning after their working years. The best retirement state, according to the report, is South Dakota, but other solid locations include Wyoming and Nevada.

Source: UCFW
Source: UCFW

Why are such out-of-the-box choices deemed so worthy? No state income tax is a primary reason that retirees should consider these locations (although this makes Florida an option, too!). When you’re moving to a new state, you’ll also want to know how that state taxes income and have your CPA look over whether itemized deductions you took in your previous state are disallowed in your new location.

Whenever you relocate, make sure your estate planning documents are in line with your new location and the state rules there. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that documents necessarily transfer between states.

Finally, if you don’t want to make a move but are still concerned about state income taxes in your present home, you can take advantage of the tax benefits offered by a DING or NING trust. These trusts, based out of Delaware and Nevada, accordingly, may allow you minimize your taxes without actually relocating to the more tax-friendly state.

Whether you’re new to New Jersey or New York or simply looking to get the most out of your tax planning, you need advice you can trust. Set up a consultation with our tax planning attorneys at

To Convert Or Not To Convert: Roth IRAs

Any decisions you make about converting your Roth IRA should be evaluated in light of taxes and your entire estate plan. You need to consider three primary concerns before electing to convert your Roth IRA.

Concern #1: Are You Getting the Most Out of Your IRA?

If you do some advance planning, a Roth conversion can benefit multiple generations, especially if you have a spouse. If  your spouse decides that he or she doesn’t need the assets inside the Roth because there are other forms of support, then the second spouse could disclaim receiving those benefits and hand it over to future generations. In this case, children or grandchildren would have the required distributions based on their life expectancy, allowing for a lot of tax-free growth.

Source: SaveUp
Source: SaveUp

Concern #2: Are You Going to Outlive Your Roth?

The primary reasons to consider a Roth conversion are to reduce the size of your taxable estate and to pass on assets tax-free. Although you can’t entirely predict longevity, you can make some estimations about your spending, your lifestyle, and your net worth. This can give you a clear picture of how you might spend down a Roth and what other assets would remain in your estate. It may be worth your time to wait for conversions until you’re no longer working and in a lower tax bracket, for example.

Concern #3: Are You Going To Gift it To Charity?

Since charities don’t have to cough up income taxes on received donations, a traditional IRA is a better gift to charity than a Roth. If you would like to maximize a gift to charity, opting to convert to a Roth could actually be the wrong move.

When you have specific estate planning concerns, you need guidance from professionals who understand the tax ramifications of your decisions. To walk through tax-saving strategies specific to your situation, contact us today at




Protecting Inherited Assets in Divorce

Divorce generates a lot of difficult questions about property division, but one of the most challenging questions you don’t want to have to consider is whether you may lose some of your inherited assets. Even though some states may not consider assets inherited by one party as jointly-owned marital property by both parties, you can take some preventive steps to protect these assets.


There are three key steps you can take to protect your inherited interests in light of divorce:


  • Keep copies of all documents related to the assets. Anything that shows the property was intended only for you, and not for you and your spouse, is important. If you have a letter from the person who passed the property on to you, add this to your copy arsenal. The more solid evidence you have that this property was intended for ownership by you alone, the better.
  • Don’t mix inherited money with accounts that are linked to your spouse as well. Park your inheritance in a separate investment or bank account. This helps to support the idea that the inherited money was not intended for the use of both spouses. Likewise, keep the titles in your name only, especially if you’ve been gifted an inheritance for the purchase of a specific item, like a home.
  • Consider a prenuptial agreement. If you want to help protect inherited assets like property, money, or businesses, a prenuptial agreement is one all-encompassing approach to shielding these assets. Make sure there is a clause specifically explaining that a spouse has no right to inherited assets in the event of a divorce.

Advance planning is the best approach to protecting inherited assets from becoming a target during your divorce. Contact our office for assistance at 732-521-9455 for more details.

Does Moving Influence Your Estate Plan?

In the midst of a crazy move, no one will blame you if you forget about the possible impact on your estate plan. Once you’ve settled and begun the long process of opening boxes and hunting for items that you are sure you have packed but have seemingly disappeared into a black hole, you’ll want to add “update estate planning” to your to do list.

Home For Sale Sign in Front of New House.
Source: Realty Times

If you’re relocating to another state, you definitely want to consider ensuring that your will is valid in a new state. If your new state has different estate tax laws, your estate plan from your old home may not be properly maximized. Finally, you’ll want to look into the community property laws of your new state, too.

If you’re relocating to another country, it becomes even trickier to determine the laws that you need to comply with. As you can see from just a few examples, moving can generate a lot of questions about your existing estate plan and it’s very likely that you’ll need to update documents. Do this under the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney who can review your situation to maximize asset protection and minimize taxes. Contact our planning specialists today at

Single Member LLC’s: Opening Exposure to Veil Piercing

A recent decision from the Wyoming Supreme Court highlights the dangers of having a single member LLC. Known as “veil piercing”, when an LLC is not properly protected, the parties to it can have their assets exposed to debt collectors and creditors.

Source: LH
Source: LH

Although the basic idea behind an LLC is protecting private assets from business debt collectors, more courts are generating cause for concern about exactly this reason because they, like the Wyoming Supreme Court, are finding just the opposite. This idea of limited liability is often a primary reason that an investor opts to choose the LLC format. Not wanting to expose his or her personal assets to risk is a critical reason that an investor takes that initial leap and confidently launched a business. No one would jump into the sometimes murky waters of business without calculating the cost of the investment in terms of potential profit and risks.

Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take under an experienced tax and planning attorney that will help limit the opportunities any creditors have to pierce the veil. Ensure that the legal requirements and all formalities are addressed by the LLC in addition to remaining compliant with the IRS. Avoid commingling of accounts where possible.

Asset protection planning and having multi-member LLCs is another wise option that can help to limit some of your personal exposure to risk in a business venture. Trusts, holding companies, and even retirement plans might also factor into your strategies. Contact our office today to learn more at


Key Questions When Putting Together the Powers Clause of a Will

A will typically has many different clauses within it that your attorney will walk you through during the drafting process. The most common clauses are an introduction, a debts section, taxes, tangible personal property, real estate, specific bequests, residuary, powers, the appointment of fiduciaries, signing, attestation, and other clauses. In this blog post, we’ll focus specifically on some key questions to consider for the powers clause. shutterstock_112255724

The first question to consider is whether the will should include independent executor details, which means that an executor is given operation powers outside Probate Court supervision. Including this in your will can allow things to move forward much more quickly, but it must be expressly outlined in the will in order to be valid.

With regard to executors and trustees, other important questions include:

  • Do these individuals have any liability limitations?
  • Are there any power limitations for their actions?
  • If there a business to be handled by the executor, is the executor able to continue operating it?
  • What are the benefits or disadvantages associated with naming a bank or similar institution as the executor?

Working with an experienced estate planning team is a crucial step to ensure that you have addressed all of these questions and crafted a will that is not only valid but works to carry out your own wishes. Contact our office for will development and review by emailing

Gun Trusts: A Basic for a Smooth Collection Transfer

While there are many resources out there to help you plan for the future of more typical assets, like stock and pond portfolios, it’s just as important to be clear about the best way to pass on the legacy of personal item collections, too. In the blog, we’ve previously talked about some ideas regarding management of an art collection, but what about guns? Gun

Passing down your collection of firearms can be tricky, but placing them inside a revocable living trust might be the best option for you. In this situation, the gun owner serves as the trustee. A revocable living trust can be a good choice for items that are federally-restricted, like silencers. Doing so can help to eliminate some of the paperwork associated with owning and transferring these kinds of assets. While these can accomplish the goal of reducing red tape, a revocable living trust is also growing in popularity as a way to handle the gun collection belonging to a deceased loved one.

Serving as the owner and trustee of your trust works while you are still alive, but it’s very prudent to establish a successor trustee who is also familiar with federal and state laws related to firearms in addition to some of the more care-specific concerns like storage. When done this way, you have the assurance that a knowledgeable individual is taking over the collectio management if something happens to you.

There are many different assets you might consider placing in a revocable trust- contact our planners at Shah & Associates to discuss your unique needs by reaching out via email to



Inflation Adjustments Impact 2015 Tax Benefits

Source: YSMM

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced inflation adjustments that will have an impact on more than 40 tax provisions. Some of the key impacts are worth noting for those who are engaged in the tax planning process. It’s critical to stay involved in your tax planning with reviews on at least a yearly basis simply because of the possible changes handed down from the federal level.

Although it’s a good guideline to always be in touch with strategies that could help maximize your assets and minimize taxes, check in with your tax planning specialist toward the end of the year so that your plans are structured appropriately for any incoming changes for the forthcoming tax year.

Here are some of the most relevant changes that could influence your planning tactics:

  • For decedents who pass away during 2015, their estate will have a basic exclusion amount set at $5,430,000, an increase from $5,340,000.
  • The annual gift exclusion remains the same, sitting at $14,000.
  • Non-U.S. citizen spouses can benefit from an adjustment in the exclusion from tax on a spousal gift, since that is up to $147,000 from $145,000.

There’s never been a better time to discuss your current planning strategies and have them evaluated to best meet your needs. For a comprehensive review of your tax-saving strategies or a discussion about how to get started, contact Shah & Associates at 732-521-9455.

End of Year Tax Question Roundup: Are Estate Planning Fees Deductible?

As we climb closer to the end of the year, many people are concerned with increasing tax deductible expenses. One of the common questions involves whether estate planning fees are deductible for income tax purposes. The short answer is that these can be deductible, but that it depends.


Estate planning fees are deductible if the purpose of the estate planning meets one of the following criteria:

  • The collection or production of income
  • Management, maintenance, or conservation of property that is held for the purpose of income production
  • Tax planning and tax advice


The above three bullet points are examples of miscellaneous itemized deductions but the fees associated with the estate planning are subjected to a 2% AGI (adjusted gross income) floor. Personal legal expenses, like legal costs to prepare a will, are not deductible. The same goes for basic powers of attorney and medical directives. If you’re putting together comprehensive plans with credit trusts to reduce estate taxes and revocable trusts to avoid probate, however, these can be tax deductible.

You’ll want to discuss the specifics about what portion of your estate planning fee is tax deductible, but doing so can help reduce what you owe in personal income taxes. Contact the professionals at Shah & Associates to get a jump start on your tax planning and earn that tax deduction by emailing us for an appointment at



Childless Couple? You Need Estate Planning, Too

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can skip out on essential estate planning just because you don’t have children. As a partner in a married couple, you still have two main concerns to address with estate planning: creating a power of attorney and determining how you want property transferred if something happens to you.

Source: Sodahead
Source: Sodahead

If something happens to you, you probably want your spouse or another individual to take over the responsibility of managing your affairs. Although these are difficult questions to ask, you need to be prepared for the event of incapacitation, and estate planning can help you address your affairs management.

If you don’t have a will or trust to handle what happens to your property, state law takes over. This can have the negative impact of passing on your wealth the way that state law wants and not the way you want. As an owner of assets, it’s likely that you have some input over what you’d like to happen to your assets, and that’s why it’s critical to figure out how the transfer of your property can happen. If there are not other family members who you would like to inherit the assets, it might be worthwhile to discuss your options, anyways.

It’s possible that you can help minimize the estate taxes faced by the remaining spouse, but you may want to look into giving over some of those assets to charity, too. Either way, put yourself in the driver’s seat on estate planning and be sure you have articulated your wishes.

There are multiple tools that may be relevant in the estate planning scenario of a couple without children. To learn more about structuring your future no matter what your circumstances, contact our office for a consultation at