Skilled Help Creating a Last Will and Testament
Are you considering creating a New Jersey or New York last will and testament? There are many things to think about when deciding how to distribute your assets. An experienced will attorney can help you make concrete decisions that protect your assets, provide for your family and give you peace of mind.
Get A Personalized Estate Plan From an Experienced Will Preparation Lawyer
Since 1975, the Ridgewood attorneys at The Manna Helmy Law Group have provided comprehensive elder law and estate planning advice to clients throughout New Jersey and New York. We understand the ins and outs of will preparation and can help you create a will that effectively meets your financial goals.
The founder of our law firm, attorney Michael A. Manna, is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College, where he obtained his accounting degree. He has worked in the tax department of the CPA firm KPMG (one of the ten largest CPA firms in the world). Not only is he a leader in the elder law and estate planning fields, but he also has a strong understanding of income tax, federal estate tax and capital gains tax. This experience allows him to help clients prepare wills that minimize tax liability and protect assets.
Probate, Capital Gains and Death Taxes
Many people believe that they should strip a person — or themselves — of all of their assets when they are dying in order to avoid federal estate taxes, New York estate taxes and/or New Jersey estate and/or inheritance taxes. Many times, this is not the proper course of action to take. In fact:
- Probate in New Jersey is a trivial matter, often involving a quick trip to the surrogate’s office in the county seat where the decedent was a resident. The average probate cost is around $200. The probate process should be nothing to be afraid of. The average person can probate a will in New Jersey without an attorney.
- On death, under most circumstances, capital gains go away because appreciated assets get a step up in basis. In order to get a step up in basis, your loved one must own the asset at the time of his or her death or it must be in a special type of living trust. This could save tens of thousands of dollars in capital gains taxes when theses assets are subsequently sold.
Instead of stripping a dying client of his or her assets, we may intentionally load them up with assets. We do this because:
- When a person dies with an asset that he or she has owned for many years, the cost basis (the original cost in the property) changes to the current value of the property at the time of death. This is called a “step up in cost basis”. This can save tens of thousands of dollars in capital gains taxes when the asset is sold. For example, if you own land that you purchased in the 1940s, the cost basis of that land would be the amount of the purchase price that you paid in 1940. If you sold the land at its current value, the difference between your original cost in 1940 and the sale price would be a capital gain and subject to capital gains tax and state income tax. If, however, you died owning the property, the cost basis would change to the market value of that property on the date of death. If your loved ones subsequently sold it for that amount, there would be no capital gain and, therefore, no capital gains tax or state income tax to pay, resulting in a tax savings that could approach tens of thousands of dollars.
- If you give assets away during your lifetime, Medicaid will penalize you for making that gift. The skill is to know when and how to give away your assets so that you can minimize Medicaid penalties and at the same time save taxes. We will help you evaluate all of these factors and lead you to the best decision.
Do You Need a Will?
Many people may tell you that dying without a will means that your family will lose your assets. This is not true. Both New Jersey and New York have a law called the law of intestate succession. This law would leave your assets to your relatives upon your death, but not necessarily in the proportions or to the persons you may want.
Having a will can eliminate this problem and save money. First, it is significantly more expensive to probate an estate without a will. Second, you can specify who will receive your assets on your death. And third, your will can be designed to minimize estate taxes.
What does a will do?
A will is a legal document that lets the court and your loved ones know how to handle your assets. In your will, you can name your beneficiaries and state which piece of property you want them to inherit. If you have minor children, you can also use a will to make a decision about where they should live and who should take care of them if you die.
Do I need a will if I have limited assets?
It is always a good idea to have a will, even if you do not have a particularly large estate. It can prevent family in-fighting, avoid probate and ensure that people handle your assets according to your wishes.
What is the difference between a will and a trust?
Trusts are financial arrangements in which you leave certain assets in the care of a trustee to be managed for a beneficiary. You use a will to leave directions regarding the administration of your assets and care of minor children, should you pass away.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die intestate – or without a will – your family faces a challenging and prolonged legal process. A probate court will determine how to handle your assets. It will use the inheritance laws of New Jersey or New York, depending on where you live, to distribute your assets and repay your debts. However, there is no guarantee that the court will administer your estate in the manner you would have preferred.
Can someone challenge my will after I die?
There are only a few circumstances in which someone can challenge a will. These include:
- They believe you did not have the mental capacity to create a will.
- They suspect undue influence on you when you created the will.
- The will does not have proper witnesses.
- You leave multiple conflicting wills.
When creating an estate plan, it is crucial that you work with a lawyer to ensure that your will is legally sound and will prevent or stand up against any challenges.
Why is it important for parents to have a will?
Life is uncertain. No one can guarantee that we will see tomorrow. If you pass away without a will, there is no guarantee that your assets will pass fully to your children. You should also leave instructions in a will for your child’s living arrangements in case the day comes when you are not there to care for them.
To Create a Last Will and Testament, Contact Our Bergen County Attorneys
We can help you craft an estate plan that is designed to fit your unique needs and wishes. Contact our Ridgewood will preparation lawyers online or call 201-345-3018 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your situation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey and New York.