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New Jersey Estate Planning and Probate Law Blog

What happens to a person's debts after their death?

Many people in Parsippany carry some type of debt these days. Debt can take many forms: a home loan, an auto loan, credit card debt or student loan debt, to name a few. Most people will do what they can to pay off their debts during their lifetime. However, sometimes this simply doesn't happen and a person passes away before all their debts are paid off. When this happens, will the debtor's survivors be obligated to make good on the debts owed?

In general, any debts a person still owes after their death will be repaid via that person's estate. This is true even in the absence of a will. This means that, in most circumstances, when a person dies their survivors will not have to repay their loved one's debts. However, there are exceptions.

When might having a blended family lead to estate litigation?

As divorce in New Jersey and across the nation has become more commonplace, so do "blended" families. While a second marriage can bring much joy, sometimes having a blended family can become problematic. This can be the case when a parent dies, leaving behind a spouse, stepchildren and children from the parent's first marriage. Situations like this can lead to bitter feelings when it comes to a party's inheritance and could even lead to estate litigation.

For example, sometimes a person's second marriage doesn't last very long before the person dies. This means that any changes to an estate plan, along with changes as to who is a beneficiary, are still relatively new, especially if the person made these changes in their dying days. In these situations, the person's children from a first marriage may be at odds with the surviving stepparent, each believing they are due more from the person's estate.

New federal estate tax law may affect estate plans

Sometimes, the law changes in a way that might affect a person's estate plan. For example, back in December of last year, Congress passed tax legislation in a way that warrants a review of one's estate plan. With this in mind, there are certain questions a person may want to ask a professional, so they can determine how the new federal estate tax law affects them.

A person may want to ask how the new estate tax will affect them. The estate tax is levied by the government when a person passes away, meaning that once the government takes its share the value of one's estate is diminished. However, there are exemptions to this tax. It used to be that the estate tax only kicked in for estates valued at $5.6 million. However, with the new tax law, that amount has been raised to $11.2 million.

What are the duties of an executor in estate administration?

Whether appointed in a person's will or appointed by the court, being the executor of a person's estate in New Jersey after that person dies is certainly an honor, but it is also a big responsibility. It can be a confusing time, especially if one has never served as the executor of an estate before, so it can help for an executor to carry out their duties with the assistance of an attorney experienced in estate administration and probate.

In general, it is the executor's duty to make sure that the assets in the decedent's will are properly distributed to the decedent's heirs and that the decedent's debts are paid. Specifically, there are a number of steps that must be taken to accomplish these duties.

Make executing a trust part of your New Year's resolution

As 2017 comes to a close and 2018 is almost here, many people in New Jersey are making New Year's resolutions. Some people may be aiming to get into shape, save more money or kick a bad habit, like smoking. However, a resolution that many might not initially think of, but is very important in the long-run, is executing an estate plan.

Having an estate plan is important because it puts a person in control -- in control of where their assets will go when they die and in control of who will take care of their medical and financial affairs if they become incapacitated. If a person does not have an estate plan, it is the state who will be making these important decisions, and they may not be to a person's liking.

Helping those who are contesting wills in New Jersey

Losing a loved one is understandably an emotional time. Sometimes, disagreements that were kept quiet while a person was alive rise up once that person passes away, especially when it comes to who should inherit what, or how a loved one's estate is being administered.

In New Jersey, there are a number of grounds upon which a person can contest a will. A person could claim their loved one changed the will because they were subjected to the undue influence of the person who was taking care of them or who was otherwise in a position of trust. A person could also argue that their loved one only altered the will because of fraud or misrepresentation on the part of an heir. Wills must be executed with certain legal formalities, so one could argue that these formalities were not met. Finally, a person could argue that their loved one did not have the testamentary capacity to create the will in the first place.

What is legacy planning all about?

There aren't many people who are excited to think about what will happen to their assets and their memory after they die. This is a depressing topic for most people, but a new buzzword is helping make this estate planning process more attractive to a broader audience.

"Legacy planning" is beginning to take the place of estate planning for many Parsippany residents. Some may think that leaving a legacy is a bit braggadocio. But, legacy planning actually involves a person creating their best life and then preserving that life work for future generations. A legacy plan should empower heirs to become their best selves as well. A legacy plan also allows future generations to be intentional in carrying out a person's wishes with their assets after they die. And, a legacy plan is for everyone, not just for those who are famous or accomplished important things. Everyone has a legacy to leave behind, but they are built while a person is still alive. Having a plan in place can be a good way for a person to stay on track and feel like they have a purpose.

Digital assets and estate planning

Almost every New Jersey resident has some sort of digital asset. It's almost impossible to avoid having a social media account, online bank account, music library or other online accounts. There was a recent New Jersey law regarding digital assets that went into effect.

This past September, Governor Chris Christie signed into the law the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. This act allows New Jersey residents to manage their digital assets much as they do their financial assets. A digital asset is defined as an account, document, information or record that is accessed by an electronic device. These can include email accounts, social media accounts, video sharing accounts, online purchasing accounts, gambling accounts and digital media.

Estate planning mistakes to avoid

Many New Jersey residents recognize the value of creating an estate plan. An estate plan is a way to preserve a family's assets for future generations and create and maintain a family's legacy. But, when completing an estate plan, there are certain mistakes a person should keep in mind to avoid.

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