Thursday, December 02, 2021

As we embark on a new year, Esta Smith Luber thinks it’s the ideal time to look ahead and plan for the future. A longtime Teaneck resident and seasoned estate-planning attorney, Esta recently announced the opening of a boutique law practice offering top quality estate-planning services with a personal touch.

While many people think of estate planning as a necessary tool only for the wealthy, Esta maintains that having a well-planned and thoroughly considered estate plan is important for all families. For young families, a will is critical for appointing guardians to care for minor children in the tragic event of the parents’ death. For families with modest estates, parents will want to make sure that hard-earned assets can be protected and equitably shared between children and grandchildren. People with more sizable estates may want to incorporate tax planning to create a legacy and maximize the transfer of wealth for future generations. Trusts are a valuable tool that may be used for estates of any size, to protect inheritances for children who may have special needs, experience marital problems, have creditor issues, or for tax-planning purposes. In addition, a comprehensive estate plan will include the preparation of powers of attorney and health care proxies to ensure that financial and medical needs are taken care of in the event that someone becomes incapacitated. Living wills are critical for providing guidance on end-of-life care.

Esta graduated from Barnard College, earned her law degree from Harvard Law School and received her LL.M. (Master of Laws) in Taxation from New York University School of Law. She began her career practicing tax law in a large New York law firm, but after moving to Teaneck and starting a family, chose to work closer to home. She joined the Hackensack law firm of Ferro Labella & Weiss LLC, where she practiced estate planning, doing work that enabled her to work closely with families on personal matters that intimately impacted their lives. After 14 years practicing with the firm, Esta decided to start a new journey doing the work she loves in a more personal setting with the opening of her own boutique estate-planning practice.

According to Esta, many people don’t believe they need an estate plan in place while they are young and healthy. However, unfortunately, as is seen too often, life is fragile and unpredictable. Having a well-conceived estate plan in place affords a person the opportunity to exercise some control in the event of circumstances or tragedies over which they otherwise have no control.

“By providing clear instructions and guidance about your wishes for your legacy, and by designating the people you would like to handle matters and make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself, you have the ability to spare your family the time, stress, aggravation and potential for family conflict that often follows when a family is left to pick up the pieces without guidance when a loved one becomes ill or after the death of a loved one,” Esta said.

Esta maintains that the investment in a proper estate plan will pay off in the long run. “By implementing some basic techniques and strategies or even just understanding certain applicable laws and requirements, people can save thousands of dollars in taxes, administrative fees and potentially even court costs that may have to be incurred if a person dies without a will or with a will that has been poorly written or improperly executed.”

Esta believes that in choosing an estate-planning attorney, it is important to look for someone with strong technical knowledge and legal skills, but she emphasizes that it’s the more personal qualities that can make the process easier and less painstaking. It’s that personal aspect of the job that appeals to her most, as she finds it gratifying to be able to guide clients through making difficult and agonizing decisions with compassion and empathy, and always with discretion and the highest level of confidentiality. Esta recognizes that the needs and concerns of each family are different, and gives each family the time and personal attention necessary to create a plan that addresses that family’s particular needs, always with the goal of maintaining family cohesiveness.

While a well-prepared estate plan will contemplate certain changes in life circumstances and plan for certain contingencies, Esta recommends reviewing one’s estate plan periodically to make sure it still makes sense over time. For example, an estate plan should be reviewed in the event of major life changes or changes in circumstances, such as the death or divorce of a loved one, a change in financial status, or any time there are significant changes in the applicable tax laws (like the tax proposals currently under discussion in Congress). In the absence of any of these factors, one should plan to review his or her estate plan not less often than every five years.

As a member of the Young Israel of Teaneck, Esta is keenly sensitive to the specific concerns and sensibilities shared by many within the Orthodox community. Whether it is the importance of charitable giving and philosophies about gifting within families, or issues relating to how to incorporate halachic guidelines regarding inheritance and end-of-life decisions, Esta can offer a level of support and direction that is unique to someone within the frum community.

Esta encourages people to be organized about the future and promises that it is far better to have a plan that eliminates uncertainty and minimizes the potential for conflict in order to create a positive legacy for those you love.

Esta lives in Teaneck with her husband and four children. She is an active community member who has served on the board of trustees of Yeshivat Noam for many years and is currently a member of the board of trustees at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School. For more information or to reach Esta, please call 551-222-3912 or email [email protected].

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