New Jersey Estate Planning

S2016tatistics show that New Year’s resolutions are maintained continuously by most Americans for only one or two weeks. Here are 5 resolutions that you can keep and that will help protect you and your family:

  1. Make sure that my family knows what I want if I become ill or incapacitated and provide them the tools to get things done for me.
  2. Give a trusted person the authority to take care of my health and my financial affairs should I become incapacitated.
  3. Make sure that my assets (the things I own) will be distributed the way I want by the person I have chosen to handle my affairs.
  4. Make sure that I have arranged my affairs to minimize taxes, and have helped provide a secure financial future for my spouse, children and other heirs.
  5. Make sure that I have anticipated long term care expenses, so I can preserve assets for myself and my heirs.

You can accomplish these resolutions by putting together a proper estate and long term care plan.  An estate and long term care plan prepared by a knowledgeable estate planning attorney will address these resolutions through the proper use of Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives, and proper beneficiary designations, and life and long term care insurance.

To make 2016 the year you keep your resolutions – call  experienced Estate Planning Attorney, Elga A Goodman today at 973-841-5111 to assist you in creating an estate plan that will implement your 5 New Year’s resolutions.

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that for 2016 the estate and gift tax exemption limit increases to $5.45 million per person, 34660340_s an increase from $5.43 million per person.  A qualifying married couple can now gift during life or at death up to $10.9 million without incurring federal estate or gift taxes.   These changes do not impact the New Jersey estate tax exemption which continues at $675,000 per person.

For a full review of the IRS changes, See Ashlea Ebeling, IRS Announces 2016 Estate And Gift Tax Limits: The $10.9 Million Tax Break, Forbes, October 22, 2015.

Getting Legal Help

Experienced Estate Planning Attorney, Elga A. Goodman, can help you with all your estate planning needs.  Contact us today at 973-841-5111.

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A general durable power of attorney is an important estate planning and elder law planning tool.   A power of attorney allows the attorney-in-fact, also6291331_s power of attorney referred to as the agent, to manage the legal and financial affairs of the principal (the person making the power of attorney designation).  The agent’s authority comes from state law and from the power of attorney document that describes the agent’s duties and powers.  Typically the agent would be able to pay the principal’s bills, take care of banking, manage investments, pay insurance premiums, make claims for benefits under health insurance or other programs, collect money owed to the principal and apply for government or other benefits.  The principal can customize the power of attorney document to meet his or her specific needs.

One power that can prove particularly helpful for estate planning and elder law planning is the agent’s ability to create a trust for the benefit of the principal.   However, this power is not automatically included in a general durable power of attorney.  If the principal wants the agent to have the power to create a trust, the power must be expressly stated in the power of attorney document.

A recent appellate court case from Kentucky illustrates this point.  In Dishman v. Dougherty, a case involving a very complex set of facts, the wife as the agent under a power of attorney created a trust for her husband.  In that case, the court held that

“in order for an attorney-in-fact to create a trust pursuant to a POA (power of attorney), this authority must be expressly provided for in the instrument if it contains a specific provision related to trusts.”

The court found that the instrument in question only permitted the agent to “[c]onvey any real or personal property to the Trustee of any trust agreement between me and said Trustee and entered into either before or after the date of this instrument[.]”   That language, which is the usual language included in many power of attorney documents, only allows the agent  to convey property into a trust but does not permit the agent to create a new trust.  In Dishman v. Dougherty the court held that the trust created by the wife was void from inception.

If you are creating a power of attorney you should consider whether to give your agent the power to create trusts, and what other specific powers, if any, should be included in the document.

Getting Legal Help

The power of attorney is an important planning tool.  If you need help preparing a power of attorney or if you are the agent under the power of attorney and need guidance in your role as the agent contact experienced Estate Planning and Probate Attorney, Elga A Goodman. Contact us today at 973-841-5111.

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last-willBeing designated by a friend or a loved one as the Executor of his or her estate is an honor, but with that designation comes many responsibilities and legal risks.

The Executor’s work begins after the death of the testator (the person who made the Will).  The Executor is responsible for “settling” the estate which means that the Executor must:

  •  identify, gather and value all of the decedent’s assets;
  •  pay the decedent’s debts and expenses, including all federal and state taxes; and
  •  distribute to the correct beneficiaries whatever assets remain after all debts and expenses have been paid, in accordance with the terms of the Will.

While this short list makes the Executor’s job seem simple, the reality is that there are many difficult tasks involved in the process and the Executor, as a fiduciary, can be held personally liable for breaching his or her duties in administering the estate.

Before accepting the appointment as Executor you should educate yourself as to the responsibilities and carefully access whether you are able to perform the tasks required.   The Executor may hire professionals such as accountants, attorneys, appraisers and others to assist in the administration of the estate.

The article The other side of a will: Serving as executor to an estate by Shelly Schwartz, CNBC, October 3, 2015 provides a helpful discussion.

Getting Legal Help

Experienced Estate Planning and Probate Attorney, Elga A Goodman, can assist you in your role as an Executor. Contact us today at 973-841-5111.

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Estate Planning – Questions About Tangible Personal Property

October 21, 2014

Preparing a Will enables you to direct how and to whom your estate will be distributed once you’re gone.  Your estate is comprised of your  intangible personal property (including cash, IRA’s, 401Ks, bank accounts, insurance policies, etc.), real estate, and  “tangible personal property.”  Many times people wish to be very specific regarding how their tangible personal […]

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Estate Planning: Telling your Children What You’re Planning and Why

October 7, 2014

A critical part of estate planning involves identifying your beneficiaries, and specifying what they will inherit.  Parents (particularly those who are widowed or divorced) often designate their children as beneficiaries.  However, problems may arise among the kids depending on how those assets are divided.  Examples abound, but here are just a few: You have three […]

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If You Do Not Want Your Executor to Receive a Commission, Put It In Writing!

August 1, 2014

Unfortunately, when a loved one dies, arguments may arise among the heirs to the estate (also known as the beneficiaries).  One potential area of dispute may involve a commission due the Executor for serving in that capacity.  The following is a brief overview of the Executor’s role, and an example of the type of problem that may […]

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Executor, Trustee, and Testamentary Guardian – What’s the Difference?

July 8, 2014

Legal documents can be difficult to understand, containing unfamiliar words.  In the case of Wills, certain key terms frequently cause confusion –  specifically,  Executor, Trustee, and Testamentary Guardian.   We hope the following discussion will help clarify these three very different terms. 1. The Executor Many of us have accumulated assets over the years (for example, […]

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Taking the Law Into Your Own Hands Can Prove Costly

April 29, 2014

We’ve all heard the adage, “You get what you pay for.”  When it comes to getting “do it yourself” legal material off of the internet vs. seeing an attorney, this may certainly apply.  The following is a cautionary tale that highlights potential problems that may arise. Ms. Ann Adrich, living in Florida, decided to draft […]

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Living Trusts – Truths and Myths

April 12, 2014

Many of us accumulate assets over the course of our lives – assets such as a home, a business, stocks and bonds, jewelry, cars, and assorted other personal items of greater or lesser value.  Taken together, these assets form an estate.  And, for many of us, estate planning becomes part of our “to do” list.  This […]

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