J. Jeffrey Press, P.A.
Call our office for a consultation | 973-323-2654

New Jersey Estate Planning and Probate Law Blog

You do not need to handle estate litigation matters alone

Last week this blog discussed will contests and what steps a person in New Jersey must take to contest a will. Will contests are a common type of estate litigation. However, estate litigation can cover a wide variety of issues that people might face when it comes to carrying one out an estate plan after a person's death.

For example, a person's heirs could accuse the executor of the deceased's estate of breaching their fiduciary duty, for example, by stealing estate assets. Another cause of estate litigation is fraudulent real estate transfers. And, not all estate litigation is pursued after a person's death. There could be disputes over who should be the guardian of an incapacitated person or who should be named the executor of a person's estate.

What steps must you take when challenging a will?

Whether it is in a sudden fatal car crash, at the end of a lengthy illness or simply due to old age, the death of a loved one is never easy. Some people in Parsippany may have executed a will during their lifetime. However, what if after the person's death an heir does not believe the will should be followed?

It is possible to contest a will, but it is not always easy. The will is considered to be the "last voice" of the deceased person, who can no longer speak for himself. In general, there are three steps a person wishing to contest a will must follow.

Don't forget about collectibles when estate planning

Whether it is artwork, stamps, jewelry, coins, antiques or more, many people in Parsippany enjoy collecting things. Some people collect many of these items over the course of their lifetime, resulting in a large collection that has not just sentimental value, but financial value as well. Therefore, they may want to think about how they will pass these collections on to their heirs through estate planning.

A person might leave a collection to an heir or donate it to a charitable institution. There are tax laws that apply to such distributions, so our readers will want to focus on creating an estate plan to pass a collection down to a loved one.

Can you include a pet in your estate plan?

When people in Parsippany think of their heirs and beneficiaries, they may think of their spouses, children, grandchildren and other loved ones. Therefore, they may execute a will or trust to ensure their loved ones are provided for upon their death. However, what about the other important members of their families -- their pets? A person's dog, cat or other pet also needs to be provided for after its owner dies. Fortunately, there are steps a person can take to ensure their animal companions are taken care of if they outlive their owners.

One option is for the pet owner to execute a revocable living trust. While a person cannot directly leave money to the pet itself, in this document, a person can include language that will let the trustee use the trust funds to pay for the pet's care. This document can also include provisions regarding who the pet owner wants to take care of their pet if their pet outlives them. In a revocable living trust, a person can also leave money to the person chosen to care for the pet that is earmarked for the pet's care. Keep in mind that if a person decides to go this route, they may want discuss the matter with the person they've selected to care for their pet, to ensure that person is willing and able to do so.

There are advantages and disadvantages to revocable trusts

People in Parsippany have many choices when it comes to estate planning. They can choose who they want to make health care and financial decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated. They can dictate what end-of-life medical care they want. Finally, they can dictate what they want done with their property after they pass away. With regards to this last point, many people choose to execute a trust that determines how their assets are distributed to their chosen beneficiaries.

When a person executes a trust, they can choose for that trust to be irrevocable or revocable. An irrevocable trust, once formed, cannot be changed even if the owner of the trust later wishes to do so. However, with a revocable trust the grantor can alter it or even revoke it if he or she wishes to do so during his or her lifetime. Once the grantor passes away, a revocable trust becomes irrevocable.

When will the federal gift tax apply?

Many people in New Jersey have spent a lifetime accumulating a large nest egg. So, as they grow older, they may wish to start thinking about who they want to hand their assets down to. While some people will choose to execute a will or trust to accomplish this goal, others will choose to give gifts to loved ones while they are still alive. However, it is important to recognize when the federal gift tax will apply.

The gift tax is imposed by the federal government when a person gives another person a gift over a certain value. For tax purposes, a gift is something that the recipient receives without having paid the entire value of the gift. It is the giver that incurs the gift tax.

There may be ways to bypass the probate process in New Jersey

Sometimes people in New Jersey pass away without having created a will, meaning they died "intestate." This might be because they passed away unexpectedly, or they simply put off the process of creating a will until it was too late. Others in New Jersey may have executed a will, but do not have any other documents in their estate plan that will pass on their assets to their chosen heirs. When a person in New Jersey dies intestate or when they only have a will, their estate will be probated.

Probate can be a long and costly process. If a person doesn't have a will, state law dictates who inherits the deceased person's property. This means that property may end up in the hands of someone who would not be of the deceased's choosing. However, there are ways a person can bypass the probate process.

What might the future of estate litigation look like?

As many residents of Northern New Jersey may unfortunately know, losing a loved one is never easy. Matters can be made worse, however, if the deceased's heirs are fighting over the terms or validity of the decedent's will or trust. Also, issues could arise with regards to how the executor of the estate is carrying out his or her duties. All of this can lead to estate litigation. And, as laws and society change, the picture of what estate litigation looks like may also change.

First, it is possible that there may be an uptick in estate litigation due to a growing population, wherein more people die each year. Also, there has been an increase in the amount of money being inherited. With more money at stake comes more disagreements between heirs. In addition, the laws surrounding estate planning have been changing in recent years, opening the door for more types of clashes between heirs.

Helping people execute the trust that is right for them

Many residents of Parsippany may think that trusts are not for them. They may think only millionaires need such documents. However, even those of more modest means can still find a trust to be useful.

For example, through a living trust a person can retain control over their property while they are alive, and then their property will be distributed to the trust beneficiaries after the person dies. Trusts, unlike wills, are not subject to the probate process. They are also kept private, meaning a person's financial information will not be accessible to the public after their death.

When having a will isn't enough for your estate plan

Many Parsippany residents may have already gone through the process of drafting a will. After doing so, they may consider their estate planning duties to be complete and will take no further action. However, what they may not realize is that a will is just one component of a well-rounded estate plan.

For example, a will does not come into play until after the testator dies. However, what if a person becomes mentally or physically incapacitated while still alive? They may no longer be able make decisions on their own or express their wishes. Fortunately, there are estate planning documents one can execute during their lifetime in anticipation of just such a situation.

J. Jeffrey Press, P.A.
8 Wood Hollow Road
Plaza Level - Suite 2A
Parsippany, NJ 07054

Phone: 973-323-2654
Fax: 973-288-2070
Map & Directions