Protecting Your Assets in 2019 with our NJ Estate Planning Firm

NJ estate planning

The typical mental image associated with estate planning may be an elderly person creating a will towards the end of their life. While estate planning is a process to help people prepare for end-of-life issues, it is much more than just creating a will. Estate planning is a concern for people of all ages who have assets to protect and/or family members and loved ones to care for. If you are looking for ways to protect your assets in 2019, our NJ estate planning team can help you get started.

What is included in an estate plan?

Every estate plan is personalized to the individual’s needs. Your plan will look different depending on your goals, your finances and your family situation. An estate plan can include information about medical care, who can make medical and financial decisions on your behalf and what your funeral and burial preferences are. It can ensure the protection of your assets during your lifetime and facilitate the transfer of assets to loved ones after you have passed away. An estate plan can help you establish a legal precedent for your financial, medical, and personal decisions during your lifetime and at the end of your life. Our team at Veitengruber Law will sit down with you to create a personalized plan to suit your needs.

Why do I need an estate plan?

If you do not have an estate plan, some of the most important decisions of your life will no longer be under your control. Unexpected life events that may potentially cause you to become disabled, sick, or seriously injured could cost you the assets you’ve worked so hard for. Because it is impossible to foresee if and/or when you may become sick or unable to take care of yourself and your assets, it is crucial to establish an estate plan as soon as possible. In addition to this, some tools that help you during estate planning may take time to become legally effective. If you do not take the time to plan now, it could cost you or your loved ones later.

The goals of an estate plan are multiple and varied depending on your needs. Typically, an estate plan determines what happens to your assets, helps you protect your loved ones, and gives you the ultimate control over your legacy. With an estate plan solidly in place, you get the peace of mind that you will not be leaving behind unfinished business and your loved ones are not burdened with making big decisions on your behalf. Instead of the legal system and individual family members making decisions about your assets, you will have the final say. You can determine what your legacy will be.

It is also important to note that estate plans should be updated regularly to reflect any significant changes in your life. A divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, or any changes to your family will need to be reflected in your estate plan across any planning tools you have in place. As your assets grow and you have more responsibilities, you may need to use different tools to ensure an easier process for you and your loved ones. We can help you keep your estate plan organized and up-to-date.

What are some key tools for my estate plan?

There are many different estate planning tools you can use to establish your goals. A last will and testament is one of the more well-known tools used to provide inheritance instructions. What a lot of people don’t realize about a will, is that in most cases your assets will have to go through a probate process, which includes costly probate proceedings, your assets going on public record, and a potentially lengthy legal process. This is to say that not every tool for estate planning is right for everyone.

There are many different tools you can use to set up your estate plan. Some of these tools include establishing a trust, inter vivos gifting, a living will, advanced directives, power of attorney, life insurance, or even incorporating a business. Creating an estate plan involves knowing which tools to use and how to use them correctly. At Veitengruber Law, we can provide you with expert legal advice on optimally utilizing these tools to your advantage.

Estate planning is a complex process with a number of potential elements involved. One error could cost your family and loved ones their inheritance. Our team has years of experience with New Jersey estate planning. We can help you establish a plan individualized to fit your specific needs and continue to work with you to modify that plan if your circumstances change. With Veitengruber Law’s specialized estate planning, you can sleep easy knowing that your legacy and the future of your loved ones has been adequately planned for.

*Photo by CreditScoreGeek.com

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A Guide to the NJ Probate Process

NJ probate

The passing of a loved one brings on waves of grief, joy, sadness, and more emotions that we usually can’t even put into words. The last thing that we want to do is think about our own or a loved one’s mortality. At some point, it’s necessary to prepare for what will happen after you die; it will save everyone a load of stress and headache. Part of that preparation is writing a will and having a plan for your estate, valuables, and other assets.

Immediately after a resident of New Jersey passes away, the probate process begins. The probate process gives authority to the New Jersey probate court to distribute assets and belongings that remain. An individual is appointed by the court to take charge of the estate, itemize assets and financial accounts, pay off all remaining debt, and discern whether or not the existing will is valid. Once these tasks are checked off of the to-do list, the court will continue on by allocating inheritance to the correct heirs.

“Assets” is a general term used to refer to an individual’s possessions. The probate process does differentiate between types of property by defining them as “probate assets” and “nonprobate assets.” Property only falls into the “probate assets” category if the individual had possessions in solely their own name. Nonprobate assets, on the other hand, can typically be allotted to their new owners without probate. Common nonprobate assets can include:

·        Possessions of the deceased individual that they owned in conjunction with someone else, which are then automatically passed on to the living co-owner.

·        Assets that the deceased individual appointed to an heir outside of the will, such as a 401k or IRAs that have been named to a beneficiary.

·        Proceeds from life insurance (paid according to the terms in the contracts) or pension benefits that can be allocated to a designated beneficiary.

·        Assets that are contained in a revocable living trust.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to plan for one’s own mortality, especially if an individual dies at a young age or unexpectedly. In the situation where an individual passes without a will, the probate process takes over. Sometimes, surviving family members can utilize a simplified version of New Jersey’s probate process. Both less expensive and quicker, the streamlined version is possible if these requirements are met.

Simplified Small Estate Probate

·        The total value of all assets remaining does not surpass $20,000.

·        The surviving spouse, family member, or beneficiary is entitled to the inheritance without probate.

·        A surviving spouse or family member does not exist and the value doesn’t top $10,000.

·        With permission of the other heirs, one heir can submit an affidavit to the court in order to obtain all assets.

Regular Probate

The surrogate’s court in the county in which the deceased individual resided is responsible for carrying out the process. Ideally, the whole procedure should take less than a year. In as few as 10 days following the individual’s passing, the executor can request to be designated as the official executor of the estate. To do this, you’ll have to show a copy of the will and an authorized copy of the death certificate. If your loved one does not have a will, the court will name an administrator. According to New Jersey law, the surviving spouse or domestic partner is given the first choice of being appointed administrator.

In terms of handling estate assets, the administrator will consolidate all existing cash accounts and money that has come into the estate, such as compensations or refunds. These leftover funds are applied to any expenses for the estate.

If possible, it’s best to attempt to streamline the probate process. This saves both your time and any of the beneficiaries’ time. The cost is another point to consider, especially if loved ones are forced to resort to their own financial accounts to pay for funeral expenses. For more information on the probate process or to contact a professional to guide you, contact our office today.

Planning Ahead Eases Death Anxiety, Say “Death-Positive” Activists

nj estate planning

For most people, the thought of death can be frightening. No one likes to think about what will eventually come at the end of their life, but it is a fact that we have to face. Life on Earth does not go on forever. Knowing that, it’s crucial to plan ahead at least a minimal amount, especially when it comes to financial matters. Not only will you be assured that money and assets will go where you’d like them to, but your family will be thankful for your initiative as well.

For the big events of life, we make lists and try to be as prepared as possible. College. Weddings. Babies. Jobs. Retirement. The end of life should be no different. Of course, we have those things like skydiving, going on a cruise, swimming with a dolphin, and visiting Italy on our bucket list, also known as things to do before we die. Just like these things compose one of life’s most important lists, so does writing a will, appointing a power of attorney (POA), and considering options for long-term care.

Innumerable, weighty decisions have to be made within just hours of a loved one’s death. With the already existent burden of anxiety and grief, a family doesn’t want to have to think about making all of these decisions after a loved one passes. In addition to financial matters, a family also needs to plan the funeral. Though we don’t want to think about it, making burial arrangements before death exemplifies concern and care for your family members. Over and over again, family members have shown gratitude and confirm the relief and comfort when a family member has pre-arrangements.

Any decision that has to be made after a person passes has the potential to cause disputes between family members. Some family members are going to feel that they have a stronger say in the decision-making process, while others will argue their point of view. Unfortunately, you won’t be there to give them your opinion. Again, by making arrangements before you pass, you eliminate the potential for many issues, before they arise.

There are a few clear-cut steps you can take to side-step some of the issues mentioned above.

1.      Power of Attorney (POA). The first and most crucial decision that you need to make is to appoint a reliable POA. It’s key that this individual is trustworthy, financially intelligent, and is someone that knows you well. When you are sick or unable to do so yourself, this person will deposit checks, take care of bills, and any other financial matters. In the United States today, people are living longer, which means that there’s a higher chance that more individuals will be living with chronic diseases as they age. Some of these diseases can impair a person to the point that they cannot take care of their money. That’s the point where a POA steps in; an individual that can take over for someone in order to ensure the highest quality of life for as long as possible.

2.      Write a will. Since estates worth up to $3.9 million are tax exempt, a will is usually sufficient estate planning for most individuals. A trust is can be produced to cut down on estate taxes and circumvent probate, but taxes aren’t as much of a concern in the current day. Also, the procedures are simpler, so probate is not as common either. Usually a will and a steadfast POA will get the job done.

3.      Living will. Since you’ve already appointed a POA, this step only involves writing a living will, or an advanced-care directive. Your POA will implement your wishes at the end stages of life. Again, when you name a POA, it needs to be someone you completely trust. If you don’t create a living will, your loved ones may run into some horrific problems. If a person is brain dead, a family needs to decide whether or not the individual should be kept on life support. If you’ve already delineated this in a living will, there will be no questions about it.

In addition to these 3 major points, as well as the funeral arrangements, there are a few other minor choices you’ll want to contemplate. Consider the option of donating organs when you pass. Also, look into life insurance if your partner or kids will need financial support without you. Finally, consider long-term care. If possible, it’s best to stay out of nursing homes, as they are incredibly expensive, but if it is a necessary possibility, then you should give it some serious thought.

The most important concept: start planning sooner instead of later (the way we should approach all aspects of life). None of the above steps will happen without conversations with children, spouses, and maybe even your own parents. It’s a tough topic to broach, but it’s absolutely necessary. A few early and simple conversations can save a lot of headache, broken relationships, and hurt feelings in the future, as well as ease your own anxiety about death.

How Does Inheritance Income Affect NJ Bankruptcy Rulings?

NJ bankruptcy

When preparing to file for NJ bankruptcy, it is very important to take a full and detailed account of all of your assets. This does not just include current assets, but future assets as well, e.g. any potential inheritances. Knowing how your inheritance income affects bankruptcy filings in New Jersey is important to understanding your rights while filing for bankruptcy.

You may have advanced notice of an inheritance if you are aware of your inclusion as a beneficiary in a will. Otherwise, an inheritance could come as a surprise. You could be included in a will without your prior knowledge or you could receive the inheritance through normal operation of law in the event that there was no will at the time of death. Regardless of how you came to receive the inheritance, it is important to understand if the inheritance income is part of your bankruptcy estate or not so you can make sound financial decisions.

Typically, after bankruptcy is declared, all assets and liabilities become part of the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy estate is then administered by a bankruptcy trustee. There are four ways to file for bankruptcy in NJ, but most bankruptcy claims fall under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Under Chapter 7, the trustee is responsible for determining which assets the debtor can liquidate (sell) to pay their creditors. Under Chapter 13, the debtor is not required to give up personal property in order to pay off debts. Instead, the debtor will be required to make monthly payments that will be split between all of their creditors. How much a debtor pays under the Chapter 13 payment plan will depend on the amount of non-exempt interest in real and personal property.

That being said, there are certain exemptions when it comes to whether or not an inheritance will be included in the bankruptcy estate. Debtors are entitled by law to exempt a certain amount of property from their bankruptcy filing. Under Chapter 7, a debtor is entitled to keep some specified property from being liquidated to pay creditors. Under Chapter 13, a certain amount of the debtors’ assets can be exempt from inclusion in determining a payment plan. There are different exemption amounts depending on the type of asset in question. Congress periodically makes changes to these amounts to account for changes in inflation so it is important to keep up with these changes. While there is no separate exemption for inheritances, debtors can include any inheritance income under their designated “wildcard exemption” (11 U.S.C. §522(d)(5)).

Is your inheritance eligible to be included in your bankruptcy estate?

All assets owned at the time of filing are part of the bankruptcy estate. Pursuant to NJ bankruptcy laws, property of the estate includes “all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case.” The timing of when an inheritance becomes part of a bankruptcy estate is crucial to understand and varies depending on what kind of bankruptcy the debtor is filing.

Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an inheritance is considered part of the bankruptcy estate if the debtor becomes entitled to the asset within 180 days of the date bankruptcy was filed. This is to include property which the debtor becomes entitled to acquire by inheritance. The 180 days starts the day bankruptcy is filed and ends with the date of death. The time frame in which the debtor receives the inheritance does not matter. The date of death is legally considered the date on which the inheritance enters into the debtor’s possession and therefore enters into the bankruptcy estate. This is to deter preemptive bankruptcy filings where the debtor intends to rush a bankruptcy claim in order to avoid having the inheritance affected.

Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, any inheritance received after the bankruptcy filing date but before the case is closed or dismissed is considered property of the bankruptcy estate, regardless of the time it takes to close a case. Under Chapter 13, there are specific legal statutes designed to expand what is considered bankruptcy estate property in order to include inheritance that is acquired beyond the 180-day limitation observed under Chapter 7. Any inheritance acquired during the entirety of the bankruptcy case will be subject to the terms of the repayment plan.

It is essential in any bankruptcy case to determine which assets are protected and to acquire adequate pre-filing planning and analysis for your specific bankruptcy case. Whether you need to eliminate your debt in its entirety under Chapter 7 or you need to reorganize your payments to creditors under Chapter 13, the qualified and experienced attorneys at Veitengruber Law are here to help. If you are unsure of your rights, please call us for a consultation.

Why Beneficiary Designation Forms are so Important

Let’s imagine a quick scenario: Bob is a newlywed who starts a new job with great benefits. During the hiring process, he signs up for the life insurance policy offered through his company. As a beneficiary for this policy, he designates his spouse, Amy. Time passes, Amy and Bob get a divorce, and Bob gets remarried to Lisa. Years go by and eventually Bob dies, leaving behind his life insurance. When Lisa goes to collect on Bob’s life insurance policy, the insurance company informs her that she is not the beneficiary of his policy. Instead, the money will go to his first wife, Amy. Despite his divorce, Bob never went back to change his beneficiary designation forms. This is unfortunately a common legal issue for people who have been divorced, separated, or remarried.

These beneficiary designation forms are typically included in the paperwork you fill out the first week at a new job. As a new employee, you will have the option to fill out designation forms for your potential retirement assets, including 401(k) or IRA, your life insurance policy, and other benefits. Contrary to popular belief, these beneficiary designation forms legally override any existing will or trust, regardless of which document is most recent. It is easy to forget about beneficiary designation forms while going through the ups and downs of life. Years can pass, and despite many changes in your personal life, you may never think to go back and updated these documents. This is a huge mistake, especially because it is so easily resolved.

We at Veitengruber Law want to stress the importance of changing these documents whenever your circumstances call for it. Some states even have laws protecting insurance policy holders and their loved ones from these oversights, but the legal importance placed on beneficiary designation forms can lead to problems even in these instances. In Minnesota, for example, there is a revocation-on-divorce statue currently under review in the Supreme Court and the fate of cases affected by this statue hangs in the balance. Regardless of the laws in your state, be proactive and protect yourself and your loved ones by ensuring your assets are designated correctly.

Veitengruber Law recommends doing a periodic self-audit to assess your preparedness in these events. Do you have a 401(k), IRA, or other retirement assets? Do you have a life insurance policy? Who is listed as the beneficiary for these assets? If you find that you do have some changes to make in who is designated as the beneficiary on these forms, don’t wait to change them. Life can change abruptly and unexpectedly, so make sure you are prepared today for whatever comes tomorrow.

The last thing you want is for your loved ones to become entrenched in a legal battle after you are gone. For most of us, our loved ones are at the forefront of our thoughts as we plan for the future. If you have retirement benefits or a life insurance policy, make sure you are including updated beneficiary designation forms in your plans for the future.

Making Sure Your Loved One’s Final Wishes are Respected

At some point in our lives, we all come to the end of the last chapter – the place at which life ends. Sometimes this chapter is short and sweet and for others, the process can be drawn out and more difficult. Often, at that time, many people simply want to keep their loved ones close and help them uphold their dignity. As the caregiver, it’s your job to make sure this happens. Your goal is to honor their dignity while also respecting their final wishes.

If your loved one’s death was sudden, you may not have been given the chance to discuss their wishes before he or she passed. Without this knowledge, it can be difficult to know exactly what he or she would want, but it’s important make your best judgement for each decision that you face. On the other hand, you may have had the opportunity to talk with your loved one if his or her death was not unexpected. This facilitates decision-making when it comes to final wishes.

There is research that has shown that many seniors lack the necessary tools to ensure that their wishes are going to be upheld and carried out by caregivers or family members. It’s possible that this is due to the fact that people avoid the topic of death. Individuals are more likely to think about this when a family member is ill, but in the case of a stroke, heart attack, or other deadly event, it will be too late. Sometimes, decisions are made for that person that go against what the individual actually would have wanted if he or she would have had a say.

There are two ways in which you can be sure that your final wishes will be respected. First, gather the correct legal documents. Second, don’t hesitate to communicate your desires to family members and others close to you.

The two important documents that are necessary for every individual include a living will and a power of attorney for healthcare. A will, sometimes called an estate plan or last will and testament, usually refers to information that delineates your loved one’s final wishes in regards to his or her assets. Typically, an estate plan will detail what assets go to each family member or friend.

A living will is a type of an advance directive in which an individual specifies what actions are to be taken or not taken in the event that they are incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for themselves.  A medical power of attorney is the most significant document that any person should have in place. This document authorizes an individual (an agent) to make decisions on behalf of someone who is incapacitated. If an individual is forced to make important decisions regarding their care, but is unable to due to a medical issue, he or she will want a trustworthy family member or friend that can uphold their wishes and quality of life in that situation. It’s not a good idea to store these documents in a secret or conspicuous location. Communication with your spouse and other loved ones is key in this process.

So many different names for these documents exist in each state, making it ever more important to have a bit of background information on these end-of-life processes. Because a regular power of attorney cannot be used in medical decisions, it’s necessary to designate a medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy. When and only when an individual is unable to make his or her own medical decisions, a proxy can then step in.

Although it’s a difficult planning process, thinking ahead and making important decisions concerning these crucial situations while you’re healthy can ensure your wishes are carried out. The decisions about these documents clarify your wishes to your family, close friends and health care providers.

Broaching the subject of Estate Planning with your Parents

When you were a kid, your parents dreaded having the “talk” with you, you know, that talk. Now that you’re an adult, it’s time to have an even more important talk with your parents. Bringing up the topic of death can be uncomfortable for both parents and children, but when it comes to handling financial matters, the sooner the conversation takes place, the better. Not only is talking about the prospect of your parents’ deaths dreadful, but it can be just as awkward to talk about their money and where it will go when they pass.

Starting the conversation

Though it may not be obvious, there are various financial and personal benefits to having sensitive conversations with your parents about the future. Ideally, it’s helpful to have this kind of conversation before your parent(s) require help with managing their money. Remember that this discussion is about your parents and their money. Chances are, they want you to be involved in some way, so make sure to listen carefully in order to understand their desires and needs. You may have a few suggestions for them. Bring them up when the timing is appropriate, but know ahead of time that they may not take your suggestions. One of your main goals should be ensure that your parents will be properly taken care of as they age.

With an open dialogue, you and your family will have a sense of empowerment, knowing that you have discussed and began planning for the future. By discussing these matters together, you will be forming a way in which your family legacy and values can be continued through generations. Initiating this conversation early will be beneficial if by the unfortunate chance one of your family members was to become ill or incapacitated before expected. Finally, you, your parents, and your children will develop a stable plan that will bring a sense of comfort and resolve.

How do you bring up the topic of money and death? In reality, there is no easy answer, since this is difficult for even the most open families.

  • Find a comfortable environment during a calm(er) time. This would not be a subject to broach during a disagreement or crisis; make sure everyone is emotionally stable before you start the conversation.
  • Be open and sincere about your plans. Make sure your family knows that you have good intentions about developing a plan that will guarantee care for them in the future. Be transparent, accept constructive criticism with grace, and offer any suggestions that may be helpful.
  • Emphasize the significance of the conversation for all individuals involved. Show your family an example of another family and estate that was not handled properly and as a result caused hurt feelings, confusion, and a financial mess because family members did not have this conversation.

Topics of Discussion

A few important things that you need to know include:

  • Where to find your parents’ will
  • If they have a power of attorney and who it is
  • Whether any health care plans or trusts are set up.

Also, find out if they have a life insurance policy or other assets, and how you can gain access to that when necessary. Make sure you gather or know the location of the passwords to their bank or online accounts and have a list of their debts. If your parents are retired, find out information regarding their pensions, IRA withdrawals, Social Security, and how they’re supporting their retirement.

If by chance, your parents are unable to manage their own finances, you need to seek out a power of attorney. A power of attorney will legally help you manage financial transactions. For example, if your parents need to enter a nursing home, but need to sell their home in order to afford care, a power of attorney will assist in this process.

Finally, there is a possibility that your parents will not have any of their financial matters sorted out and will have no idea as to how to deal with major financial decisions regarding their future. In this case, it may be best to meet with an estate planning lawyer.

Sorting through finances and developing a plan for the future is intimidating for both parents and children, but it’s a crucial step in the process of aging. It will be comforting to know that your parents are in a stable financial state and have all financial matters sorted out. When you feel the timing is appropriate, reach out to your parents and initiate the conversation.

NJ Estate Planning for the Very Wealthy

NJ estate planning

Though every person should take the initiative of proper estate planning, it is even more essential that the very wealthy do so. Many wealthy individuals have their financial lives buttoned-up, but have forgotten about planning for the future of their estates. The vital step that is most commonly skipped over is developing a plan that protects that accumulated wealth. Without a plan, the individual and family members are at risk for losing a significant sum of money.

Simply stated, estate planning entails arranging for assets, such as property and other valuables, to be properly distributed to heirs when faced with death or incapacity. This process also usually includes coming up with a plan to decrease estate taxes when assets are bestowed to heirs.

Though estate planning does involve a will, it can also mean establishing trust funds that can easily be transferred to heirs as well as naming a power of attorney who can manage all financial affairs if and when the individual is unable to do so anymore due to physical or mental reasons. Transferring assets before death is extremely helpful in avoiding family disputes and randomly disappearing assets. Also not uncommon as age increases, is dementia. Along with the possibility of dementia comes the potential for manipulation or exploitation of the individual by family members, friends, and other loved ones. Distributing the wealth before this point makes life easier for all parties involved.

Estate planning entails three main areas:

  • Distributing assets to the desired heirs
  • Ensuring that beneficiaries are not left with extreme taxes
  • Naming people that are responsible for making financial and medical decisions.

The first crucial task is creating a will and identifying someone who will be responsible for making sure all parts of the will are carried out according to your wishes. Next, you will most likely want to set up trust funds. A trust fund can legally determine to whom and at what point your assets are bequeathed to heirs. Trust funds also decrease the amount of taxes that beneficiaries will be required to pay and they eliminate having to go through the probate court process.

Beneficiaries should also be established for any life-insurance policies as well as for individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and other retirement plans, like a 401K. If you set up any of these accounts earlier in your life, it’s important to review the beneficiaries named, especially if you’ve gone through a divorce or other significant life change.

Another important step to consider is sitting down with your family and close friends to share with them your intentions for your assets, and what will be bequeathed to each person. After a person passes, there is potential for dispute about the decision(s) made, and this usually results from a lack of communication. Explain your decisions to family members and share your reasons for setting up your estate the way you did. This will decrease the likelihood of division between yourself and family members.

One final piece of advice is to consult with a person who is experienced in the field of estate planning. Different states require different documents and other formalities, and a professional will likely know the specifics for their state. Your estate planning attorney should also be up-to-date on changes in laws or new laws that have recently been passed.

 

Dying Without a Will in NJ: Who is an Heir?

dying without a will in nj

Dying without a will in NJ doesn’t mean that the state has the rights to all of the decedent’s assets. This is an unfortunate misconception, possibly because of the term given to passing away without a will: “dying intestate.”

Normally, when someone dies, an estate executor has been named in their estate planning documentation (Last Will and Testament). The executor is the person responsible for making sure all of the decedent’s assets are properly distributed as directed in their will.

However, dying without a will means that no executor has been named. So, who is going to take care of everything? It can be easy to hit the panic button when you realize that someone close to you has died without a will in place. Luckily, there are established rules for when this happens.

When no executor or executrix has been named, the New Jersey Surrogate’s Court then has the burden of selecting someone to act as such. This person is chosen from a list of the decedent’s “heirs.” Sometimes, it can be confusing and even upsetting trying to figure out if you may be an heir to someone’s estate. Since it is a big responsibility, this act is left up to the court.

An heir to a New Jersey estate is usually, but not always, a person from this list:

Surviving spouse

Surviving civil union partner

Adult child of the decedent

Adult grandchild of the decedent

Parent of the deceased

Adult sibling

Adult niece or nephew

Typically, the NJ court will select a person from the above list of heirs to act as the estate administrator. An estate administrator is able to act in the same way as a named executor or executrix would have acted. They will be charged with the responsibility of acting fairly and legally while deciding how the deceased’s property should be handled.

The heir selected as estate administrator must be sure to repay any of the decedent’s creditors from estate assets before distributing property to anyone else. If you have been selected as a New Jersey estate administrator, it is a good idea to work closely with an estate attorney so that you can avoid making critical mistakes during this time.

As estate administrator, you must be familiar with the New Jersey estate laws that dictate how an intestate decedent’s estate can be handled. The last thing you want is to discover that you’ve made a costly error and that you will be responsible for repaying it personally.

New Jersey heirs and appointed administrators can seek counsel from an experienced estate planning attorney near you to ensure that you are abreast of all of the laws that relate to dying without a will in your state.

 

Selling a NJ Property When the Owner has Passed Away

If you have recently experienced the loss of a parent, grandparent, or other close relative – first and foremost you have our sincere condolences. Making big decisions at a time like this can be difficult, as it can often be challenging to even manage regular, everyday life choices while grieving. It’s so unfortunate, then, that when a person close to us dies, we are often the one(s) charged with making very important and sometimes complex decisions regarding their estate.

It goes without saying that selling someone’s home is a lot easier when they’re alive as compared to after they’ve passed away. However, it’s not impossible, and there are a lot of resources for those who need to sell a home of a deceased owner in New Jersey.

To wit: New Jersey estate laws state that a deceased homeowner’s property can only be liquidated (sold) after the decedent’s will has been filed in Surrogate’s Court. Once a NJ will is filed, an executor will be named. To read more about what a New Jersey executor’s duties are, you can visit our blog post on that very topic.

In relation to selling the deceased’s real property, the estate executor (or executrix/female executor) must obtain Letters Testamentary from the Surrogate’s Court. To translate that legalese for you: this is a document that formally allows the estate executor to begin the process of selling the decedent’s home.

What if my parent died and didn’t leave a will?

When a NJ homeowner dies without a will, that means no executor has been named. While this may initially feel disastrous (as many things will in the aftermath of the death of a loved one), the simple recourse is that an heir to the estate simply requests to become the estate administrator. The legal form to request in this situation is called Letters of Administration.

Once there is an established executor or administrator, the sale of the home can move forward. The executor or administrator will be the only person qualified to sign any documents relating to the sale of the property (deed, real estate contract). This person will be signing “on behalf” of the decedent’s estate.

How can I get the New Jersey estate tax lien removed?

In New Jersey, estate taxes and inheritance taxes will be due upon the sale of the home of someone who has passed away. When the executor or administrator moves to sell the home, these taxes will appear as a “cloud” on a title report, which can give buyers pause. In order to ease the minds of potential buyers, the executor/administrator must apply for a NJ tax waiver. The good news is that this will ultimately release the lien. The bad news is that it can take awhile to receive the waiver.

Do I have to wait to sell my mother’s home until the NJ tax lien is removed from the title?

This is a common question asked by estate executors in NJ, and luckily it is one with the answer you’re probably looking for. You do NOT have to wait until the lien is removed to sell the home. Because NJ real estate transactions require “clear title” in order to progress, the executor or administrator can deposit enough money into an escrow account to be held until the taxes are paid. This act gives buyers peace of mind and will allow the sale of the home to move forward.

Can I sell my deceased parent’s home on my own?

Because of the relatively complex legal process involved in selling the home of a decedent in New Jersey, it is a good idea to work with a NJ estate planning attorney to ensure that you dot all of your I’s and cross all of your T’s.