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April 2013 Archives

Area man convicted of fraudulently deceiving elderly woman

In April, a 43-year-old Matawan resident appeared in court to plead guilty to numerous charges, including several counts of attempted impersonation and theft by deception. The charges arose out of the man's impersonation of an 87-year-old woman's nephew. He then used his relationship with the woman to steal close to $1 million and her family home. The victim suffered from dementia and terminal cancer at the time of the acts. The arrest followed a five-month investigation by Adult Protective Services and the Prosecutor's Office. The County was looking into reports of suspicious estate planning, real estate and financial transactions in which the man had participated. The man admitted to preparing a will for the woman, naming himself as the sole beneficiary of her estate. He also prepared a deed transferring the woman's home to himself in exchange for $1. The home was built in 1925. The value of the property was not disclosed.

Can someone file for bankruptcy and keep assets held in trust?

When New Jersey residents consider filing for bankruptcy, one of the things they should evaluate before filing is whether or not they have any trusts. This is important because some trusts can be used to pay creditors during a bankruptcy. Therefore, even if someone has gone through estate planning to set aside money for his or her heirs, this money may be up for grabs if he or she files for bankruptcy.There are two main types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust is one in which the person who has created the trust still is in control of the funds, even if they are set aside for another individual. Irrevocable trusts are no longer under the financial control of the individuals who created them, and the only person who has rights to the funds in the trust is the person or persons the trust was designated for. Therefore, if someone is filing for bankruptcy, he or she would want to set up an irrevocable trust so that the funds he or she has set aside for someone else are protected.

Trust decisions get tougher with tax changes

New Jersey residents who want to set up trusts for their descendants face a myriad of new laws and regulations that may affect how they plan for trust dispositions. Estate planning is not becoming a simpler process; rather, with the changes brought about by the so-called "fiscal cliff" deal as well as the new Medicare tax on passive income, it is becoming more complex.Many strategies that worked in the past, such as investing in IRAs and irrevocable trusts to shelter income for future generations, may no longer be the best approach. Today, a "spray" trust or a "decanting" option, designed to assist the heirs or the trust's creator respectively, may be a better approach than sealing off assets.

Probate can be quick and easy

Many people are terrified by the thought of making a will or going through a probate process for a will for which they are named executor. However, New Jersey probate does not have to be a difficult process, especially when the person making a will uses proper planning and matches the right type of estate plan to the size and scope of the estate in question.Probate simply means the way the court verifies a last will and testament. It is the job of the probate court to ensure that the bills that the deceased person owed are paid, that the deceased person's property is distributed as he or she intended and that all other details of the person's estate are handled. A personal representative, known as the executor if male or executrix if female, is appointed to see that the person's wishes are carried out.

Post-fiscal cliff estate planning involves tax questions

Estate planning experts have been watching the developments over budget and taxation policy in view of the recent "fiscal cliff" issue. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 has provided some clarity on estate planning issues, but those concerned with wills, trusts and other estate factors will need to be aware of changes that may affect the way estates are structured. Estate planning was in limbo for some experts while Congress was working out the estate tax exemption, portability and other issues related to inheritance. Current law now makes the $5 million estate tax exclusion permanent and allows surviving spouses to use any portion of a partner's unused estate tax exemption as well.

Digital assets can enrich inheritance

Digital assets, such as accounts on Internet websites, should be included when making estate plans, according to experts. Estate planning in New Jersey and elsewhere often includes information about bank accounts and life insurance policies, but many people forget to include digital assets that could benefit heirs or bring tax consequences to those who inherit. For example, the decedent might have online accounts to which no one has access. Without logins or passwords, it is difficult for estate representatives to access important information. However, it is important that family members or executors have access to these online records in order to recover assets, pay bills and even access photos and other items of sentimental value to the family. 

Don't put off estate planning

Some residents of New Jersey may feel that estate planning is not necessary because they do not have complicated finances or all of their assets are held jointly with their spouse. However, estate planning only needs to be as complicated as someone's finances are, so those with basic planning needs will only need basic documents. Estate planning is important because not only does it distribute people's property after their passing, but it also can be used to put directives in place for someone's care while they are still alive. If someone is not able to care for themselves when they are older, a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy can ensure that individuals are taken care of in the manner they prefer. These documents can also determine who will be in charge of making choices if someone is not able to do so themselves.

GOP governors look for way to expand Medicaid

New Jersey governor and ones from other states have thrown their support behind the governors of Ohio and Arkansas as they attempt to expand Medicaid against the will of conservative legislators in their states. By using a new market-centric approach, they hope to insure the poorer residents of their states. According to the federal government, however, these states have to provide evidence demonstrating that the costs beneficiaries experience with private insurance won't surpass those they would have to pay under Medicaid. If successful, these changes may create 17 million new eligible beneficiaries. The federal government has given Ohio and Arkansas implicit approval to test out programs, and it may provide them with federal money to purchase private insurance for poor individuals. The insurance will be sourced from the Affordable Care Act's healthcare exchanges. While the government will pay these enrollees' costs for three years, the states will eventually be responsible for a portion as well. For those individuals currently wondering if they'll qualify for Medicaid, however, the fact that state legislatures still have to approve these changes means that their situations may not change much.