Top Beneficiary Mistakes: Part Two

Jan 28,2015

The bad news is that there are enough beneficiary mistakes to warrant two blog posts. The good news is that all of these are preventable with just a little planning. Let’s take a look at some of the other common errors you might be making with beneficiaries and what you should do instead.

Mistake #4: Not Naming a Contingent Beneficiary

Remember how the post yesterday talked about not updating your beneficiaries enough? This is particularly problematic if you never name a contingent beneficiary and the original beneficiary has passed away or not updated. If you’re not sure whether you named it, contact the company in charge of your account. Get the paperwork if you need to add one. BLOG_02042014

Mistake #5 Forgetting to Remove Your Former Spouse

In some states, a divorce does not automatically remove a spouse from a product like a retirement account, qualified plan, or life insurance. As soon as you have obtained a divorce, it’s a good time to update your documents appropriately. Don’t forget to add a primary and a contingent beneficiary..

Mistake #6: Naming a Minor Child as a Life Insurance Beneficiary

This has good intentions, but a life insurance company won’t payout to a minor. This usually means that a court proceeding has to be initiated to establish a conservator or a custodian, ultimately delaying access of the funds for the child in question. Not to mention – it may not be a good idea for an 18 year-old to receive a large cash inheritance anyway.

Skip these mistakes and prevent mistakes in the future by conducting an annual review of all your estate planning documents. Get started today by contacting us at or 732-521-9455.

Top Beneficiary Mistakes: Part One

Jan 27,2015

Too often, the process of naming a beneficiary gets overlooked as the “easy part” of estate planning, but this also means that many mistakes can lead to problems down the line. Here is part one of the most common mistakes made in the process of naming a beneficiary. Tune in tomorrow for another post on the same topic! Beneficiary_Designation_Form

Mistake #1 : Not Reviewing Them Often Enough

Naming a beneficiary is not a “one and done” process. Don’t make the mistake of skipping an annual review. You might find out that now-estranged or deceased individuals are on your beneficiary designation. You may also discover that your needs have changed and a new beneficiary needs to be included.

Mistake #2: Failing to Plan for Special Needs

Even if you have the best of intentions, it’s possible to miss out on planning that is aligned with those who have special needs. Naming an individual with special needs on a life insurance policy might seem like a good idea, but it could actually disqualify the beneficiary from other government benefits. Make sure you do your homework before making this mistake.

Mistake #3: Naming an Individual As a Business-Owned Policy Beneficiary

It’s quite common for a business to get life insurance on key employees or owners, but naming a family member or members as the beneficiary to the policy is not wise. The proceeds can be considered taxable income to the beneficiary either as dividends or ordinary income. The beneficiary on policies of this type should always be the business, not an individual.

Thinking it’s time for a beneficiary review? Set up a meeting today to walk through all your policies and documents and ensure they have the correct details inside. Schedule an appointment through

What to Do When Your Elderly Parents Move in With You

Jan 22,2015

More and more, elderly parents are moving in with their grown children. With the increasing costs of nursing homes, this makes financial sense for many people. But what should you and your parents do to prepare for such a dramatic move?

English: My parents.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Issues that must be considered range from the financial to the emotional, according to an article on

The first thing to consider is the financial details. If the adult children who are taking in their parents have siblings, they should work something out so that the other siblings (those not taking in the parents) contribute something towards the costs of rooming and boarding the parents.

Costs can mount up. Besides food, one may need to do renovations or hire a home care aide.

Consider having your parents sign a contract under which they pay their children for taking them in. Maybe the parents can contribute to the remodeling or gift their own house to their children. There may be tax consequences to these actions to consider.

To avoid or reduce resentment and guilt down, family members should discuss everything out in the open at the outset. An elder law attorney can help work these things out.

Once the decision has been made, one should consider making the home senior-friendly. This may involve putting on an addition to the home, installation of  grab bars in the bathrooms, installation of ramps or conversion of a room on the first floor into a bedroom if necessary.

You may also be able to take a tax deduction by claiming your parents as dependants.

And make sure to seek out support from organizations such as local agencies that work on aging issues.

Using Communication To Make Estate Planning Easier

Jan 19,2015

Estate planning is a valuable exercise at just about any stage of life, but an often-overlooked aspect of planning has to do with communicating the results to those impacted in the future. Failing to communicate your plans reduces the chances of having family members with difficult questions or unresolved conflicts down the road. Even families with strong communicating skills may falter when it comes to estate planning, because it’s difficult to discuss mortality and finances alone, much less together.


If you’re stuck about how to bring up the subject, try doing a practice round first. Trying to anticipate potential questions might make you feel less in the hot seat when the conversation rolls around. A comfortable environment can go a long way towards putting family members at ease. Everyone who is involved in the conversation should be treated like a partner and should be given the opportunity to both speak and listen actively.

Working with an adviser in advance can also help you work through possible questions and answers regarding your selected estate plan. You may even want to have your adviser explain tricky concepts to family members, if necessary.  Get started today by reaching out to us at


Living Trusts: The Importance of Proper Funding

Jan 19,2015

If you have decided to use a trust to pass on your assets, this can be an exciting decision that gives you peace of mind about the firmness of your plans. If you don’t ensure that the trust is properly funded, however, it’s unlikely that your trust is going to carry out the plans that you intended.

If you already have assets inside the trust, make sure that you set up reminders to continuously review your materials and always have unfunded or new assets titled into the trust’s name. Don’t ever assume that these changes have been made, since the ownership of verification falls squarely on your shoulders. Keep copies of documents that confirm your changes so that you are always clear on what’s been taken care of already. If values have also changed, ensure that is updated as well.


If an asset that you used to own has now passed onto someone else through a sale or closure, make sure it’s removed from your funding portfolio. This makes it easier on your family members in the future and the trust executor so that they are not searching for assets that are no longer present. To review your funding in your living trusts, get in touch with us through email at or over the phone 732-521-9455.

Planning Checklist for A Money Conversation With an Aging Parent

Jan 15,2015

Even in the tightest of families, talking about money can make anyone nervous. If you’ve got an aging parent, though, it’s a wise idea to schedule a time to sit down and discuss critical issues with your loved one. asdasd

Come prepared with a list of what you’d like to discuss. This can help keep you on track and make sure that you accomplish everything during one session. You’ll possibly want to make copies of any relevant documents, too, so bring a folder along to keep everything organized. Here are some of the documents or items you may wish to discuss during your meeting:

  • List of important contacts (preferred doctor, attorney, financial advisor, etc)
  • Insurance details
  • Medical history/records
  • Security and access information location for banks and other accounts
  • Plans for pets
  • Letters to you or other loved ones
  • Planned funeral arrangements or wishes
  • Real estate
  • List of debts
  • Any business ownership information
  • Retirement/investment documents
  • Location of personal property

It’s not always easy to have these discussions, but being prepared can give you a lot of peace of mind. To talk more complex planning needs for you or your loved ones, contact us today for an appointment at

Is a Roth IRA the “Cadillac” of Assets to Leave for Heirs?

Jan 15,2015

If you’re looking down the road to retirement, you may be wondering which of your accounts you should tap into first, and which you should leave possibly set aside to pass on to beneficiaries. Those individuals with traditional retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, Roth IRAs, and a 401k may feel overwhelmed by the options, but it all depends on your estate planning goals.



For the most part, Roth IRAs seem to be good accounts to leave behind for others. Since the distributions can be taken out tax-free and can be stretched over the course of a lifetime, the majority of the original investment can continue growing tax free during that same period. Since the federal estate tax exemption for a married couple is more than $10 million, Roth IRAs may be more likely to be free of estate taxes and income taxes. For that reason, it could be worth your time to convert other traditional retirement accounts into a Roth for the ultimate benefit or heirs.

Doing so, however, requires understanding that you’re probably going to have to leave that money alone for at least ten years, so don’t make a decision without careful consideration of your own cash flow situation. If you convert and begin taking income out, the potential growth for that IRA is halted. To learn more about estate planning strategies that leave a legacy behind for family, call us at 732-521-9455.

Auld Lang Syne: Talk Estate Planning This New Year

Jan 07,2015

While it is not the first item on everyone’s resolution list, the New Year is a great time to discuss your estate plan with your family. As a recent article explains, the benefits of having the estate planning discussion far outweigh the problems that may otherwise arise out of the desire to avoid a sometimes awkward or difficult conversation.feat5

First, discussing estate planning provides your family with a sense of empowerment because it allows your family members to take control of your family’s collective future. Without this element of control, many aspects of your estate plan are inevitably left to chance.

Additionally, through discussing estate planning, you can pass on your family values. For example, discussing charitable giving is a great way to talk about the causes you are passionate about. Additionally, you can discuss the stories behind sentimental objects and why you are distributing them as you have selected.

Finally, discussing your estate plan with your family helps to prepare the family, should you become incapacitated. Your family will be better able to carry out your wishes and tend to your affairs if they know what your plan for incapacity is and how you would like them to implement it.

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