I have co-authored this blog with Steven L. Friedman, Esq., a colleague of mine at Stark & Stark. While holiday parties and shopping fill your schedule, consider setting aside time to evaluate year-end tax planning. This is the season for giving, and if giving does not factor into your current tax strategy, it could be… Continue Reading
Stark & Stark Shareholder, Steve Friedman, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Trusts & Estates Department, was interviewed by New Jersey Public Television’s NJTV News to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the New Jersey Medicaid Qualified Income Trust. Until now, individuals with income above the Medicaid Cap ($2,163 in 2014) were only eligible for Medicaid… Continue Reading
Many key Estate and Gift Tax exemptions and exclusions are indexed for inflation by the IRS. The IRS recently released Rev. Proc. 2014-61 which provides for the following modifications for these key exemptions and exclusions: Unified Credit for Estate Tax: $5,430,000 for decedents dying in 2015 Annual Exclusion Gifts: $14,000 Annual Exclusion Gifts for Non-Citizen… Continue Reading
It is not uncommon for Wills to contain “No Contest Clauses” which provide for a beneficiary being disinherited from the Estate should they challenge the Will or any provisions thereof. These Clauses are not new and have been utilized by scriveners of Wills for many years. In the context of a Will Contest, whether this… Continue Reading
Like many of you who may be reading this blog, I have experienced the trauma of having a child diagnosed within the Autism Spectrum. This blog is not limited to those who have children within the Autism Spectrum, as the advice I am providing is also applicable to other types of diagnoses which might render your child a special needs child.
Undue influence claims are more likely in families suffering from internal conflict, or where family members are excluded. Unfortunately, the proliferation of do-it-yourself estate planning and access to beneficiary designations has made it even easier to deprive others of their inheritance. If you are the victim of inheritance fraud you have rights and need to take immediate action to protect your inheritance.
A do-it-yourself estate plan can lead to a number of unintended consequences as demonstrated by a recent Florida Supreme Court case, Aldrich v. Basile. In this case, Ms. Ann Aldrich wrote her own Will on a pre-printed legal form. Ms. Aldrich specifically listed each item of her property in her Will, including the account numbers for her financial accounts. The Will left each item of property to Ms. Aldrich’s sister, Mary Jane Eaton; and if Ms. Eaton did not survive, then Mr. James Aldrich was designated as the alternate beneficiary.
One of the unfortunate aspects of estate administration is addressing problems caused by out-of-date or incomplete estate plans. Wills, Trusts and other documents need to be reviewed on a regular basis to address changes in family structure or applicable tax laws. News coverage on the Last Will and Testament of actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, has… Continue Reading
At some point in our lives, many of us are chosen to serve as a Power of Attorney for an elderly or an incapacitated person who may need assistance with their day to day affairs, whether due to infirmity, immobility, or issues with their mental capacity. Prior to taking actions utilizing the Power of Attorney, it is a good idea for an individual to have ground work laid out to properly memorialize any actions taken while utilizing the Power of Attorney to avoid potential future legal action. As a litigator who works extensively in probate litigation, I have seen many instances where a lawsuit is filed due to alleged abuses of a Power of Attorney. As such, below are some simple rules to follow when utilizing a Power of Attorney.
Just because a Will may be unfair to different members of a family its lack of perceived fairness does not invalidate the Will in the absence of additional evidence. It is well settled that if the testator has the capacity to execute a Will, then in that event, it is not the duty of the Court to rewrite the Will, but instead, to enforce it in its current format. The test of capacity to execute a Will is quite a low standard. In general, the testator need only understand the property which he possesses and which he wishes to dispose of and the individuals to whom he wishes to bequeath this property. Provided the testator meets this simple two pronged test, and the distribution is not the subject of an outside influence which is unlawful in nature, then the bequest will stand. This might be despite the fact that the decedent’s bequest may be extremely unfair to other potential heirs of the Estate.