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Robert F. Morris is a member of the Trusts & Estates Group of Stark & Stark. Mr. Morris’ practice focuses on the areas of estate planning, wills, trusts, and probate. Mr. Morris has substantial experience in drafting sophisticated estate planning documents including complex wills, insurance trusts, personal residence trusts, and grantor trusts.

Living in the time of COVID-19 has heightened everyone’s anxiety. With all of the uncertainties in life, implementing estate planning documents that provide for you and your family can afford some level of relief. Estate planning documents allow you to designate agents to assist with your affairs, while providing structure to assist loved ones as they navigate through turbulent situations. Working with an attorney can help to address questions you will have about your estate plan and will offer personal guidance through this process.

Continue Reading Now is a Good Time to Make Your Estate Plan

The federal tax treatment of IRAs, ROTH IRAs, 401(k)s, and 403(b)s has been the subject of countless books, articles, seminars, and commentary. But, there is precious little regarding the New Jersey state income taxation of these accounts, which is often vastly different. Understanding New Jersey taxation rules is important, not only for distributions made to the account owner during lifetime, but also as part of the owner’s overall estate plan.

Continue Reading Don’t Forget New Jersey Taxation of IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) contains significant changes to the 2020 required minimum distribution rules applicable to IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and other similar Qualified Retirement Plans (collectively “QRPs”).

The CARES Act waives required minimum distributions from IRAs and QRPs for calendar year 2020. This change can result in income tax savings for owners of traditional IRAs and QRPs that are affected by this change.


Continue Reading 2020 Required Minimum Distributions from Retirement Accounts Have Been Waived

A common problem in many estates is the executor’s failure to promptly settle an estate or make distributions to the beneficiaries. Delays in settling an estate can have many causes, including inattention by an executor, failure to take action where required, and mismanagement. In some cases, the delays are a sign of more serious problems, such as self-dealing or an intent to deprive the beneficiaries of their inheritance.

If you are a beneficiary of an estate, you have a right to compel the executor to settle an estate and make distributions to you.


Continue Reading The Executor Won’t Distribute an Estate – What Can I Do?

Although there is near universal acceptance of the importance of gifting, the manner in which gifts are made can have a major impact for your beneficiaries. This is particularly true if the recipient is under 21 years of age, and it can be an acute issue if the recipient is a minor under the age of 18.

Outright gifts to children and grandchildren have their own drawbacks, including limited control over the gifts made, exposure to creditors, divorce, and other issues involving the beneficiary. For these reasons, trust options should be considered to afford greater protection and structure for your beneficiaries.


Continue Reading Trust Protection for Gifts to Children and Grandchildren

The recent decline in asset values may make gifting a more attractive estate planning technique for many individuals, particularly if you are considering gifts of stock or other non-cash assets. Gifting of assets to a trust for your children and grandchildren can be an important part of an estate plan, and one that should not be overlooked. The reduced value of many non-cash assets allows more of these assets to be placed into a trust without exceeding the annual gift tax exclusion amount or the Federal Gift Tax Exemption. If these assets later appreciate in value, the subsequent increases will further enhance the value of the gift to the beneficiaries.

Continue Reading Is Now a Good Time to Make a Gift?

A do-it-yourself estate plan can lead to a number of unintended consequences as demonstrated by a 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 (her brother) was designated as the alternate beneficiary.

Continue Reading Unintended Consequences of a Do-It-Yourself Estate Plan

A valuable feature of an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a Qualified Retirement Plan (401k, 403b, etc.)(QRP) is the ability to invest without incurring contemporaneous taxes on the investments held in the account. This benefit is available to both the original owner of the account and to designated beneficiaries who inherit the account after the owner’s death. For this reason and others, it is very important to name appropriate beneficiaries for an IRA or a QRP account.

Continue Reading Hidden Risks and Costs of Naming Minors as Direct Beneficiaries of an IRA or Qualified Retirement Plan

Recently, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act) was enacted into law. The SECURE Act makes significant changes to the administration of Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”) and Qualified Retirement Plan (401k, 403b, etc.)(“QRP”), and was effective on January 1, 2020. For many people, an IRA or QRP is one of their most valuable assets. Because these assets result from hard work to create and maintain the account, owners should be aware of the changes found in the SECURE Act and how they may affect the owner’s estate plan.

Continue Reading Major Changes are Impacting IRAs and QRPs – How is your Estate Plan Affected?

On Friday, September 30, 2016, New Jersey lawmakers held a press conference announcing significant changes affecting the New Jersey Estate Tax. The video and transcript of the conference can be accessed by clicking here.

The New Jersey Estate Tax applies to the estates of New Jersey residents and currently has an exemption of only $675,000. Under the proposal, the New Jersey Estate Tax exemption will be increased to $2.0 million per person on January 1, 2017; and effective January 1, 2018, the New Jersey Estate Tax will be eliminated entirely.


Continue Reading New Jersey Estate Tax Repeal