Articles Tagged with “estate planning”

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hand-229777__340-300x215The last acts of an Executor of an estate are often making final distributions to the beneficiaries of the estate.  But beware, in New Jersey, before making distributions, an Executor should require each beneficiary to provide a properly executed refunding bond and release.

Under New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 3B:23-24,  the executor or personal representative of an estate is required to take a refunding bond upon making a distribution pursuant to a dececendent’s Last Will and Testament.  The same statue also requires that the refunding bond be filed with the surrogate who probated the decedent’s Will.

After all the estate assets have been collected, all debts of the estate have been paid, and a determination as to what each beneficiary is entitled to receive has been made, the executor or personal representative of the estate must prepare, or have the attorney representing the estate prepare, a refunding bond and release for each beneficiary which states, among other things, what the beneficiary will be receiving as their distribution from the estate.

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This is called dying intestate and if you die without a Last Will and Testament as a resident of the the State of New Jersey your estate will be distributed according to the New Jersey laws of intestacyhand-229777__180   Since there is no will to probate, your nearest living relative who is willing to do so will need to be appointed as administrator of your estate by the surrogate’s court.

However, not all of your assets will be distributed through the process of estate administration.  There are many assets which, through contract law, pass automatically to a designated beneficiary.  Examples of assets that pass automatically are:

  • Real estate owned with another person as joint tenants
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Thumbnail image for hello-my-name-is-1428915-m.jpgIndividuals are permitted to change their names as long as they have a permissible reason to do so. Obviously, a name change will not be approved if the purpose or effect of the change is fraudulent, such as avoiding creditors or criminal proceedings. The court can also deny an application for a name change if the reason for the change is “frivolous.”

In order to change your name in New Jersey, you must prepare and file a complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey. You must certify that the information contained in the complaint is true to the best of your knowledge. The complaint must include: the reason for the name change, your current name, your marital status, that you are not attempting to avoid creditors or criminal prosecution, your citizenship status, the place and date of your birth, and your parents’ names. There is a $200 filing fee which must be paid when the complaint is filed with the court.

After the complaint to change your name and related documents are filed with the Superior Court of New Jersey, the judge will issue an order with a hearing date. You must appear before the judge and ask for your name to be changed. In the order issued by the judge, you will be required to publish the hearing date in a newspaper and present an affidavit of publication to the court. Then, if you properly complied with the notice requirements and the judge is satisfied with the reason for your request, the information you provided and that you are not seeking a name change for a fraudulent purpose, the judge will issue a final judgment changing your name.

If you have pending criminal charges against you, you may still seek a name change. However, you must first notify the prosecutor by sending a copy of the verified complaint and order fixing the date of hearing by certified mail to either the prosecutor of the county where the matter is pending, or to the director of criminal justice in Trenton if the charges were brought against you by the office of the New Jersey attorney general.
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stock-photo-6126140-bank-sign-on-building.jpgIt is a fairly common practice for people to open joint bank accounts. Often joint accounts are held by spouses, and the funds do actually belong to both individuals. However, sometimes these accounts are opened for the convenience of allowing a child or to access funds and write checks to pay bills, or as a way to have ownership of the funds pass to the surviving joint account holder upon death. While this is an effective and simple way to give someone else control of your assets of have the funds pass to another upon death, there are problems associated with joint accounts which should be considered before opening a joint account.

1) The joint account holder has unfettered access to the funds in the account. There is no oversight over the way the funds are used. Both joint account holders can utilize the funds for any reason; there is no need for permission – either account holder can withdraw of any portion or all of the money in the account for any purpose.

2) A joint bank account is at risk from legal actions by the creditors of either account holder. If the joint account holder has a judgment entered against her, all the funds in the joint bank account can be attached and used to pay the judgment. For example, a one account holder gets divorced and his spouse claims a right to some of the funds in the account, then the account holder who deposited the funds in the joint account would need to go to court to prove that the money does not belong to the divorcing account holder. Another example is if the other joint account holder is sued, loses and does not pay the resulting judgment.

3) Upon the death of either account holder, the money would indeed pass to the surviving joint account holder. However, the money remains subject to estate and inheritance taxes. If the individual who passes is not the individual who contributed the funds to the account, the account would nonetheless be taxed as part of the deceased account holder’s estate. In other words, the survivor would have to pay inheritance tax even if she deposited the funds in the first place. Depending on the amount of assets in the account, the relationship between the two joint account holders, and the value of the decedent’s total estate, this can result in a significant death tax burden which could have been avoided.
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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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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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