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Articles Posted in Estate Planning

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1221950_to_sign_a_contract_1.jpgUnder New Jersey estate planning law, a living will, which is legally called an advanced directive, allows a person to give instructions for what care she is to receive her health is extremis. A living will must be in writing, signed and dated before two adult witnesses who attest that the person signing the advanced directive is of sound mind, and is not under duress or undue influence. Alternatively, it may be signed, dated and acknowledged before a New Jersey notary public or a New Jersey attorney.

Under law New Jersey law, a living will becomes effective when it is provided to the physician who has determined that the patient does not have the capacity to make her own health care decision. If at any point the patient regains the ability to make her own health care decisions, the patient regains the legal authority to direct her own care.

The main purposes of the living will are to allow a person to give her instructions or her wishes for when she is unable to do so herself and to appoint an agent to make decisions when she is unable to make her own decisions. The living will may direct that certain life-sustaining treatments be withheld. If, for example, the patient has an incurable or irreversible, severe mental or severe physical condition; is in a state of permanent unconsciousness or profound dementia; is severely injured; and in any of these cases there is no reasonable expectation of recovering and regaining any meaningful quality of life, then the living will may direct that life-sustaining treatments be withheld. New Jersey law provides that the attending physician, if it is consistent with the terms of the advance directive, may issue a “Do Not Resuscitate” order.

There are two types of advanced directives: an instruction directive and a proxy directive. These can be combined into one document. A person can chose to execute both types or either one standing alone.
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POA123.JPGAttorneys often focus on the importance of an estate plan and having a will to minimize costs and conflicts when a person dies. But it is just as important to plan for problems that may occur during people’s lives if they are unable to manage their own affairs, particularly the serious problems that can occur as the result of illness or incapacity.

A durable power of attorney can be invaluable in such situations. A durable power of attorney authorizes one person to handle all non-medical matters for another. It can also be limited as desired by the principal (the person who is signing the power of attorney, the grantor of the power). It is a durable power of attorney because it remains in effect even if the grantor becomes incapacitated. The durable power of attorney can be revoked at any time as long as the grantor has not become incapacitated.

In the event a person becomes incapacitated, the agent appointed in the durable power of attorney can take care of their affairs. The durable power of attorney thus eliminates the need to apply to a court to declare a person incapacitated so that a guardian can be appointed. The application for guardianship is a costly, time consuming and emotionally draining experience. One simple document, the durable power of attorney, properly drafted and executed saves the principal and their loved ones from this difficult and expensive proceeding. It also ensures that the principal gets to chose who will act on her behalf if she becomes incapacitated, rather than having the existing laws and a court make that determination. It is also recommended that the principal designate a successor agent, someone who will take over as the agent if the first named agent is unwilling or unable to fulfill that role.
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B&O_RR_common_stock.jpgA self-cancelling installment note (“SCIN”) can be used to sell a business interest, stocks, real estate or other types of assets, usually to a family member of the current owner. This is a variation of an installment sale where the remaining payments are cancelled upon the death of the note holder.

When using a SCIN, the person selling assets essentially serves as a bank. They transfer title to the asset to the buyer in exchange for installment payments, including interest, (at regular intervals, i.e. monthly, quarterly or annually) over a specified time period. The SCIN will contain a provision that the unpaid balance of the note is cancelled upon the seller’s death. If the seller lives beyond the term of the note, the cancellation provision has no meaning and is just ignored, because the entire balance will have been paid. However, if the seller dies before the term has expired, the buyer’s obligation to make the installment payment ends at the seller’s death.

The main purposes of utilizing a SCIN to transfer assets are: 1) minimizing estate taxes – the unpaid balance is not includable in the seller’s gross estate; 2) avoiding gift taxes; and 3) prorating capital gains on the increase in value.

Estate taxes are saved because the title to the asset was transferred to the purchaser for value before the seller’s death. This includes all appreciation which accumulated since the seller took possession of the asset. Additionally, any appreciation in value after the sale will be excluded from the seller’s taxable estate.
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fishing.jpgThe irrevocable life insurance trust (“ILIT”) provides an accessible means of avoiding New Jersey and federal estate taxes on life insurance proceeds. The potential savings often outweigh the disadvantages of what you give up.

The New Jersey and federal “estate taxes” are taxes on the transfer of property at your death. Life insurance proceeds are among the types of property that are subject to estate tax. The taxable status of life insurance proceeds is determined by ownership of the policy and payment of the proceeds. If you own a life insurance policy, upon death, your estate will be fully subject to tax if: (1) The proceeds of the policy are payable directly or indirectly to your estate; or (2) if you, while alive, held any ownership rights in the policy, such as the right to change a beneficiary, surrender or cancel the policy or borrow against the policy.

If you leave life insurance proceeds to someone other than a spouse, such as a child, relative, or friend, the proceeds will be taxed as being part of your estate. On the other hand, if you leave life insurance proceeds to a spouse, the proceeds will not be part of your estate at your death, but the surviving spouse’s estate may be taxed. An ILIT can avoid taxes not just on your own estate, but also on the estate of your surviving spouse.

The ILIT itself would own the life insurance policy and is named as its beneficiary. Each year, you gift an amount sufficient to pay the policy premiums to the trust. Then, the trust pays the premiums. You can gift up to $13,000 per year to the trust, per beneficiary named in the trust, without incurring any gift tax liability. Upon your death, the insurance proceeds are paid into the trust. The ILIT is drafted to ensure that the insurance proceeds will not be taxed as part of your estate; however, the beneficiaries of the trust will be able to access the monies held by the trust for health, education, maintenance and support. Typically, the trust is drafted so that the surviving spouse also has a right to receive the income from the trust and perhaps even a limited right to invade principle. This will also protect the monies held in the trust from creditors of the beneficiaries, or in the event a beneficiary becomes divorced. On the death of the surviving spouse, the monies held in trust can either be paid outright to your children, or the trust can continue.
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A qualified personal residence trust (QPRT) offers an opportunity for homeowners to minimize or avoid federal and New Jersey estate taxes. A QPRT allows a homeowner to transfer ownership of a primary or vacation home to a “grantor trust,” while keeping the right to live there for a specified period of time. When that specified time ends, ownership passes outright to the homeowner’s children or whoever is named as the remainder beneficiaries.

When you transfer your home into a QPRT, you make a gift to the beneficiaries which is subject to gift tax. The value of that taxable gift is not the full fair market value of the home, as it would be with an outright transfer. The value is discounted. In the current real estate market values are quite low, adding to the benefit of the QPRT. The gift is also discounted to reflect that you have retained an interest (the right to live in the home for the specified term). Internal Revenue Service tables and current interest rates are used to determine the amount of the discount. The federal gift tax exemption is currently $5,120,000.00 and you can utilize a portion of that exemption and pay no gift tax. As New Jersey does not have a gift tax, you can transfer the home without incurring any New Jersey gift tax.
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The short answer is yes. Your will ensures that:
• your assets are given to those whom you want to receive them;
• you can control the way in the which your assets are distributed (for example, establishing a trust for the protection of a beneficiary, and designating the trustees);
• the guardians you choose will be entrusted with raising your children;
• your estate will be administered by someone you trust;
• your estate will not be reduced by the cost of an administration bond; and • estate taxes are minimized.

In your will, you choose who will receive your assets (beneficiaries) and what they will receive (bequests). If you do not have a will, your estate will pass through the laws of intestacy. Many people believe the laws of intestacy will align with their wishes for distribution of their estate. However, many times that is not the case. For example, if you are married, have no children, and do not have a will, people assume that the surviving spouse will inherit the entire estate. However, under New Jersey intestacy law , your surviving spouse is entitled to the first twenty five percent of your estate (not less than $50,000 nor more than $200,000) and seventy five percent of the remaining portion. The balance will go to your parents. So, for example, if you have a $1,000,000 estate your surviving spouse will receive a total of $800,000 and your parents would receive $200,000. In another example of unintended consequences in intestacy, if you have no living relatives and no will, your entire estate will be given to the State of New Jersey. There are many other scenarios under the laws of intestacy which would distribute your property in ways that you may not intend. Having a will ensures that your estate is distributed to people or charities that you have chosen.

Without a will, your assets are distributed under the laws of intestacy directly to the people designated by New Jersey law. In some circumstances, it may be wise to put the money in a trust for some of your beneficiaries so that you can direct when and for what purposes the money will be distributed. This is particularly useful if there are potential beneficiaries with special needs whose governmental benefits need to be protected.

A will designates your children’s guardians – a will is the only way to appoint guardians. This is an important choice. You should discuss this choice with the people you choose beforehand because you will be placing a great responsibility upon them.

You will also select executors and trustees. Executors are responsible for probating your will, paying expenses, and collecting and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. Trustees manage assets placed in trust for designated beneficiaries. By New Jersey law, if there is no will, or a will that does not waive the bond, fiduciaries (such as executors and trustees) must post a bond with the surrogate’s court. The cost of the bond varies with the value of the estate’s assets, and can become very costly. To ensure that your assets are not diminished by the bonding requirement, you can waive it in your will.
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An estate plan carries out a person’s wishes at the time of their death and appoints people to make decisions during life.

An estate plan commonly consists of three main documents:
• Last will and testament
• Durable power of attorney • Living will and health care proxy (medical power of attorney)

Last Will and Testament. The fundamental document is the last will and testament. The will takes effect upon death. The will must meet the formal requirements under New Jersey law in order to be effective in New Jersey
The will designates people and their roles:
• Beneficiaries – recipients of the decedent’s assets;
• Executors – the persons who will probate the Will, collect the estate assets
and distribute the estate assets to the beneficiaries;
• Trustees – the persons who will manage the assets placed in a Trust usually
for the benefit of either the surviving spouse or the children or both;
• Guardians – the persons who will care for minor children until they reach the
age of majority (which is age 18 in New Jersey).

Durable Power of Attorney. The power of attorney is in effect when a person is alive; it becomes effective when it is signed. When a power of attorney is “durable”, it remains in effect even if the person is incapacitated. The durable power of attorney authorizes the people selected to handle your financial matters. Common tasks include banking, including writing checks and paying bills, real estate, trading investments, communicating with social security, pension benefits departments, Medicaid/Medicare, and the IRS, hiring accountants, attorneys, and financial advisors, and any other related financial need.
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