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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Jersey Has Yet To Create An Estate Tax Return Form For People Dying In 2017

As many of you know, New Jersey recently revised its estate tax law.  Effective January 1, 2017, people who die in the year 2017 will have a New Jersey estate tax exemption of $2,000,000.  Since the law was enacted towards the end of 2016, the division of tax needs some time to prepare a new estate tax return form.

Unfortunately, if you are the executor or an administrator of an estate, and the estate is in excess of $2,000,000, you will not be able to file an estate tax return until the State of New Jersey provides guidance on the type of information they will need in order to issue Tax Waivers.  Inevitably, this will lead to a delay in getting access to funds.

If you are an executor trying to access funds from a financial institution, remember, the financial institution is required to release one-half of the funds.  We have heard a few horror stories recently about banks not doing this.  If this happens to you, please refer them to this notice from New Jersey. You will see in the section titled "Blanket waiver" that the bank may release 50% of the funds without a tax waiver.

Note, New Jersey has released Form L-8 and Form L-9 so that decedents who are leaving everything to Class A beneficiaries and charities and who have a taxable estate under $2,000,000 can access their accounts completely and apply for a tax waiver for any real estate owned.  (Thanks to the head of my estate administration department, Elizabeth Ketterson, for the reminder.)

This can be tricky when a decedent wants to give a token gift to a niece, nephew, godchild, step-grandchildren or friend.  Any bequest of more than $500 means that the Executor of the estate cannot use Form L-9 or L-8 to have more than 50% of the funds released as an inheritance tax will result and New Jersey will have an automatic lien on all New Jersey accounts and property.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Notification of the Death of a Loved One

New Jersey recently passed a new law that requires senior citizen housing developments to notify the next of kin in the event that a resident passes away in the development.  See http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/02/christie_signs_next-of-kin_notification_law_to_pre.html#incart_river_home

You would think that most organizations would have procedures in place for sort of thing, but it is actually a fairly common occurrence that families are not notified immediately when a loved one dies, goes to the hospital or is injured.  Accordingly, it is best for each family to make sure that if you are moving a loved one into a facility of any kind that you determine what policies and procedures the facility has in place to notify emergency contacts.

The facility should be able to recognize that when health emergencies take place, it is often important to notify a different one set of people and that if there is a death or other type of emergency, a different set of people should be notified.  Ideally, whatever facility or organization you work with can build a custom plan and contact tree that meets your needs.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why Titling Of Assets Is So Important In Second Marriages

I was talking to another estate planning recently and discussing how much of our work involves assisting clients who have blended families.  Blended families generally refers to clients who are married but at least one of the spouses has a child from a previous relationship.

In comparing stories and ways that we can assist clients, we discovered that the biggest hurdle that we face is with respect to titling of assets.  To understand the problem, you must realize that the following are examples of things generally trump whatever you put in your Will or Trust:

  1. Life insurance beneficiary designations;
  2. IRA/401k/403b and other retirement beneficiary designations;
  3. Annuity beneficiary designations;
  4. Owning real estate as husband and wife;
  5. Owning real estate with a survivorship clause;
  6. Owning real estate with a life estate;
  7. Having someone on your bank account as a Pay on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) beneficiary;
  8. Owning a bank account or brokerage account jointly with someone;
  9. Contractual agreements (such as a buy-sell agreement or divorce decree);
  10. Joint ownership of cars and other vehicles; and
  11. Joint ownership of bonds.

So, to put this another way, if you have two children from a previous relationship and are married to a new spouse, you may want 1/3 to go to each of your two children, and 1/3 to your spouse.  Well, even if you have a Will which says 1/3 goes to each person, this will not happen if some of your assets name a beneficiary or are in a joint account with someone.

Let's say in the example above Husband is the parent to 2 children and he owns the following:  A $400,000 house in New Jersey with Wife (who has no children), a $1,500,000 apartment in New York in just his name, a business worth $10,000,000 owned 70/30 with a partner, a 401k worth $3,000,000 naming his wife the beneficiary, a life insurance policy worth $1,000,000 naming his wife as a beneficiary, a brokerage account in his name worth $2,000,000 and a checking account with Wife worth $100,000.   Accordingly, the Husband has a net worth of $15,000,000.  (I'm only including $7M of the $10M business.)  It is Husband's desire to give $5M to each.

Without any additional planning and assuming that Husband and business partner have no agreement in place, a Will that leaves everything 1/3 to each child and Wife has the following consequences:

1)  The Wife would get the NJ house, the 401k, the life insurance, plus the joint checking account for a subtotal of $4,500,000.  Additionally, she would receive 1/3 of everything else (another $3,500,000) for a total of $8M.
2)  Each of the kids would receive $3,500,000 of assets - far less than what H intended.
3)  The business would be owned 23.33% by each of the children, 23.33% by the Wife and 30% by the business partner.

Unfortunately, however, life is usually even more complicated than this!  Frequently, there is a divorce agreement that might require that the life insurance be payable to the children.  Sometimes either the surviving spouse or the child is named as executor - and then the surviving spouse does not get along with the children.

Because these situations are so complex, they are very likely to result in estate litigation.  To minimize the costs of an expensive an hostile administration, it is very important to understand that title of assets frequently overrides what a Will or Trust might state and plan accordingly.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Opening of New York Law Firm Office

I am pleased to announce that we have officially opened an office in Manhattan.

While our main office is still located near Princeton, New Jersey, we will be happy to meet with clients by appointment at our New York location:

122 East 42nd Street
Suite 620
New York, NY 10168
Phone: 646-727-0399

The Law Office of Kevin A. Pollock LLC in midtown Manhattan, New York is located in walking distance from Grand Central Station in the historic Chanin Building at the corner Lexington Avenue.