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

New Jersey Estate Planning and Probate Law Blog

Don't make these mistakes with your revocable trust

Many people in New Jersey wishing to avoid probate may have taken the step of executing a revocable trust. Doing so means that the assets in the trust will not go through the lengthy and expensive probate process. Moreover, trusts are not made public, which may also make them attractive to many. However, it is important to avoid these estate planning mistakes that could render one's trust ineffective.

First, after the trust is executed, it is important to actually fund it. Assets in the trust must be titled in the trust's name, or else they will not be included in the trust. One option to consider is a "pour over" will that, when the grantor dies, will transfer any remaining property into the revocable trust. This way, they will be distributed per the grantor's wishes without having to go through probate.

Music legend Aretha Franklin dies without an estate plan

The music legend and "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16 of pancreatic cancer. While this is certainly a blow to music fans in New Jersey and worldwide, it is also blow to her loved ones left behind, in part because Franklin did not have an estate plan at the time of her death.

Because Franklin did not have a will or trust, her estate must be probated. This is a public process. Per state laws of intestate succession, her four sons will receive the proceeds of her estate and will share them equally. This is because if a person has no will or trust and does not have a surviving spouse at the time of his or her death, his or her estate will be shared between his or her children in equal portions.

When can a person's estate bypass administration in New Jersey?

When a loved one dies and was married at the time of his or her death, his or her surviving spouse will be dealing with a lot emotionally. What the surviving spouse may be unprepared for is the time and expense administering the deceased's estate will take. However, if the value of the deceased's estate is small enough and if other elements are met, it may be possible to bypass administration of the estate (probate).

Under New Jersey Statutes ยง3B:10-3, if a person dies intestate (without a will or trust) and the value of his or her real property and personal assets does not exceed $50,000 then the deceased's surviving spouse or domestic partner may receive the assets of the estate without having to go through administration.

Choosing who will fulfill the roles specified in your estate plan

Most people in New Jersey will agree that contemplating their death is anything but pleasant. Nevertheless, by executing an estate plan, you can address the inevitable by dictating who will inherit your assets and what kind of end-of-life care you prefer. However, there are important aspects of estate planning that could have a major impact on how your estate plan will be handled when the time comes.

When executing an estate plan, you must make decisions giving other people the right to act on your behalf, either during your lifetime or upon your death. For example, an agent will need to be selected to make health care decisions on your behalf in an advance medical directive or power of attorney. If you have a trust, you will need to select one or more trustees to administer the trust after you pass on. And, the person responsible for seeing that your will is followed upon your death through probate is known as an executor.

Celebrity death exemplifies benefits of estate planning

Foodies and travelers alike in New Jersey may have been saddened to hear of the death of celebrity television personality, Anthony Bourdain, who rose to fame through his food and travel shows. Sometimes, when we hear of a celebrity death, we also find out that the celebrity lacked a proper estate plan, often leading to disputes and litigation. However, Bourdain did leave an estate plan that highlights what was important to him.

First, Bourdain's estate plan made provisions for his daughter, who will inherit most of his estate, which is worth more than $1 million. In addition, as Bourdain traveled extensively through his work, he earned a significant amount of frequent flyer miles. His estranged wife will inherit these miles, with direction to do with them what she thinks Bourdain would have wanted.

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.

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