Speaking About Important Subjects

In my view the value that attorneys bring to their clients is to connect complex rules and laws to the client's situation and goals.  This needs to be done in such a way that the client is partnering with the attorney to evaluate their own situation, brainstorm and critically analyze possible solutions, and work together in developing and carrying out a plan of action.  This is true for both business situations and personal planning.  The key in my mind to partnering with a client is effective commuication of those same complex rules and laws in a way that they become relvant and actionable to the client.

I am often asked to develop seminars and speeches about various area of tax law, estate planning and business planning (as an aside - if you have a group looking for a speaker, feel free to reach out to me). As the subjects I talk about are, let's face it, pretty dry and even downright depressing (death, taxes, old age - not on the top 10 fun list), I have worked very hard over the years to develop ways of presenting this information that is actually engaging and relevant for the audience.  Something must be clicking as I was recently asked to be a speaker on "The Art of Public Speaking" by the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.  In preparing for that talk, I developed the 5 Don'ts and 3 Do's of Public Speaking that I wanted to share.

Why am I sharing these public speaking tips?  We are fortunate that our readers ask some great questions about how the law effects them, and our readers are clearly vested in learning more. Perhaps these tips will help you connect another person with how they can be empowered in their own planning. 

5 Reasons Why Speakers Miss Their Marks


  1. Time Management –  a/k/a “The Never Ending Speech
    • Instead - Respect the audience by respecting their time
      • Ask how long you have, with or without questions?
      • Tell audience when ending and meet your goal (use a watch!)
      • Practice and time yourself
  2. Reading a speech – a/k/a “The Monotone Droid
    • Instead – Have a conversation about material you know cold
      • Get main points on a single sheet of paper to glance at
      • Talk the speech to yourself, early and often
  3. PowerPoint Overload – a/k/a “The Read and Flip
    • Instead – Let the audience learn with their ears, not with their eyes
      • The audience can read anytime, they are there to listen
      • If you must, use the 10/6 Rule – Max 10 slides, 6 bullets, no sentences
      • PowerPoint is the skeleton, you are the dressing
  4. Body Language – a/k/a “The Stiff
    • Instead – Be as dynamic and interesting as your material
      • Move, shift focus, take up space on stage
      • Stand beside the podium
      • Fake it until you make it
  5. Stories – a/k/a “The Bore
    • Instead – Use stories to illustrate and tie in key points
      • Short, to the point, a key practical points or real life example
      • Cut any story if it’s about you instead of giving value to audience

3 Keys to a Successful Presentation – the ABC’s of Public Speaking:


Audience –

  • Know your audience
  • It’s about the audience
  • Engage the audience - tend the fire by adding and moving energy

Breathe –

  • Before you begin
  • Create pauses and change tempo
  • Before answering questions

Confidence –

  • Prepare, par down and practice material so you’re having a conversation
  • The 2% rule - If you know 2% more, you appear a genius
  • Remember the context – the audience either volunteered to be there or you want to persuade them to your point of view


Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Days to Launch - The Wealthy and Wise Community - Get us your Questions Now

Help with QuestionsThe Wealthy and Wise Community will be launching in 10 days!  Here you will find videos. podcasts, and articles aimed at educating the middle-class millionaire about how to make good critical decisions about protecting and building their wealth.

I am so excited to be working with Laura Mattia as a Co-Host of The Wealthy and Wise, and grateful to Grey Sky Films for their production work and support.  

This community is being created for YOU - a person who wants to know more about law and investment and to make better decisions to meet their goals.  In order to give you that information, we need to know what your questions are.  What topics here interest you most? What questions do you have about investing that you never got a solid answer on?  There is a lot of noise out there (do this, don't do that, shouting and yelling about everything) and our goal is to cut through it with real, targeted information.

How can you help?  Leave a comment here - or send an email to questions@thewealthyandwise.com - about what you would like to know.

And look for the official launch day!


Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New Jersey to Become a Better Place to Die? Estate Tax Exemption Rate on the Rise

Tax BurdenIf you follow this blog, you know that New Jersey is the most expensive state to die in.  In an effort aimed at changing that distinction, Governor Christie in his budget proposal has recommended increasing the New Jersey Estate Tax Exemption Amount from $675,000 per person to $1 million per person.  

The New Jersey Estate Tax Exemption Amount is the amount that you can leave to any person upon your death, other than a spouse or charity, without paying any New Jersey estate taxes. (there are no estate taxes on assets passing to spouses and charity). For a married couple, with a properly drafted estate plan, they can effectively shield $2 million from the New Jersey estate tax under the proposed plan. At present, they can effectively shield $1,350,000 from the New Jersey estate tax. The real value difference between a $675,000 exemption amount and a $1 million exemption amount is $33,200.

For an estate planning attorney such as myself, the question is what is this law change going to look like? There have been lots of Wills created in the past 10 years since New Jersey instituted its own estate tax. Will those need to be modified to incorporate a change in the New Jersey estate tax exemption amount? Will the tax rates stay the same? In modifying the estate tax rate, will the Legislature also be dealing with issues about incongruities in the current application of the estate tax, particularly with reference to certain elections for assets passing to spouses where for many people there is effectively no federal estate tax given the $5 million exemption amount. Don't get me wrong, paying less taxes is always a good thing. My hope is that in developing a scheme to reduce the tax burden on New Jersey's residents, it will be done in thoughtful manner that will make the estate tax an appropriate tax plan for its purposes.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Money in Your Pocket - It's Real Estate Tax Appeal Season until April 1

Money HouseWant more money this year?  You may be entitled to a reduction in your property taxes due to a decrease in value in your property from general economic conditions.  Key points:

  1. You MUST file by April 1 

  2. You will need your real estate tax bill, and recent sales of comparable properties (try www.zillow.com)  

Got questions or need help? You can reach out to Steve Loeb, Esq. in our Tax Department.  I have added below some information about real estate tax appeals that Steve recently sent to our clients.

New Jersey mandates that an individual pay taxes based upon the fair market value of the property, not necessarily the assessed value.

The New Jersey laws governing tax appeals are found at N.J.S.A. 54:3 et. seq. and N.J.S.A. 54:4 et. seq. and N.J.A.C. 18:12A et. seq.

Property Taxes are the result of the local budget process and it may not necessarily be appealed, but the property tax assessment may be. A taxpayer considering an appeal should understand that he or she must prove that his or her assessed value is unreasonable compared to a market value standard.

According to New Jersey law, the current assessment set is assumed to be correct. The ability to overcome this presumption of correctness to obtain an assessment change is based upon fair market value.

In essence, an assessment is an opinion of value by a licensed professional. For an assessed value to be considered excessive or discriminatory, it must be proved that the assessment does not fairly represent one of two standards:

1. True Market Value Standards
2. Common Level Range Standard

In 1973, the New Jersey legislator adopted a formula known as Chapter 123 to test the fairness of an assessment. Once the tax board determines a property’s true market value during an appeal, they are required to compare true market value to the assessed value. If the ratio of assessed value to true value exceeds the average ratio by 15% the assessment is reduced to the common level.

In this time where assessments may be not in line with current market value standards, if you should have any questions or need assistance in filing a real estate tax appeal, please feel free to contact Steve Loeb, Esq. in our Tax Department.

Image: scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It's an Honor to be Nominated - But I need your help!

 LexisNexis Estate Practice & Elder Law Blogs 2011

It truly is an honor just to be nominated. I just received an e-mail that New Jersey Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog has been nominated for the LexisNexis Top 25 Estate, Probate, and Elder Law Blog 2011. Wow!

"Each year, LexisNexis honors a select group of blogs that set the online standard for a given industry. I’m pleased to notify you that NJ Elder Law & Estate Planning is one of the nominated candidates for the LexisNexis Top 25 Estate, Probate, and Elder Law Blogs of 2011, featured on the LexisNexis Estate Practice & Elder Law Community. " 

Thank you LexisNexis for the nomination - I blog because I'm passionate about what it is that I do and how we are able to help empower clients and consumers with the knowledge to make good decisions about their estate plans, tax law and elder law issues. Having said that, it's a wonderful feeling to have such a prestigious organization follow and syndicate our posts.

But, this is only the nomination. To make the list I need your help.  

To support our nomination, please comment on the announcement post at this link to the LexisNexis Estate Planning and Elder Law Community.  Or - just click the picture at the top 

To vote, you will need to log on and/or create a free Communities account.  If you like this blog, you will really enjoy the terrific posts on similar topics by attorneys around the country that are syndicated in the LexisNexis communities.  Here are the rules:

Each comment is counted as a vote toward the supported blog. To submit a comment, visitors need to log on to their free Communities account. If you haven’t previously registered, you can do so on the LexisNexis Estate Practice & Elder Law Community for free. The comment box is at the very bottom of the page. The comment period for nominations ends on March 31, 2011. On April 1, we will post the Top 25 Estate, Probate and Elder Law Blogs of 2011 based on votes received. Thereafter, our community will vote on the Top Blog through a Zoomerang survey. I anticipate the final announcement to be made on or before April 15.

 Thank you in advance for your support!