Estate Plan Checklist

power of a will, wills, trusts, estate planning, union and hunterdon counties new jersey

After weeks, months, or maybe even years of procrastinating, you’re finally ready to set up your estate plan. Remember, the sooner you create your estate plan, the sooner you will have peace of mind that your family is taken care of should something happen to you.

Many people who decide to create an estate plan say, I just want a simple plan, nothing fancy. The truth of the matter is that your estate, assets and family members greatly determine the complexity of your estate plan. So while you may want a simple plan that requires very little of your time to set up, the circumstances of your estate and life may dictate otherwise.

Of course you can always make your life easier by running through the following estate plan checklist:

  1. Determine the goal of your estate plan — So, you’ve decided you need an estate plan. Why? What is the ultimate goal of having an estate plan in place? Are you a philanthropist who wants to see your wealth enjoyed by the less fortunate? Maybe you want to leave everything you have to your spouse. Or perhaps your intention is to preserve your legacy for many generations after you’re gone.
  2. Retain an estate planning lawyer — Unless you practice law, you probably don’t know much about estate planning, wills, trusts, healthcare directives and other estate planning mechanisms. When hiring a lawyer, make sure you choose someone who practices estate planning law in your state. And no, don’t attempt to move forward on your own without an estate planning lawyer — this is your legacy after all.
  3. Identify your assets — Prior to setting up an estate plan, you need to be able to identify all assets and property you own. Depending on your financial situation, compiling such a list may require more than a Sunday afternoon.
  4. Identify your executor — If you had to choose one person in your life to handle all your affairs after your death, who would it be? The person you name as your executor must be a trustworthy and competent individual who will ensure the wishes of your last will and testament are carried out.

Now that you’ve successfully gone through this checklist, it’s time to draft your estate plan. To begin the process, make an appointment with your estate planning lawyer as soon as possible. For more information on estate planning in NJ and NY, Contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com, or call 908-236-6457.

Have You Seen Prince’s Will?

Prince (Rogers Nelson) died last week (April 21, 2016). There have been endless articles about the music legend, ranging from his love of religion to how his eccentricities made him a global music phenomenon.

As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I was a Prince fan. He was such an odd character, and his music was so different, that it is hard not to feel a sense of loss from his passing.

But that’s the fan perspective. From the estate planning perspective, things are about to get very interesting. Prince’s younger sister, Tyka Nelson, said in a court filing on Tuesday (April 26, 2016), that Prince died without a Will. Ms. Nelson asked the court to appoint the St. Paul-based Bremer Bank temporary authorization over Prince’s affairs, calling the situation “an emergency.”

I personally have a hard time believing that Prince died without some Will or Trust. Prince was known to be a savvy businessperson, and the thought of his leaving his estate to the whims of Minnesota intestate law are unthinkable.

In 2015, Prince’s estate made $55 million. He owned properties in Minnesota estimated to be worth $27 million. Moreover, Prince has a massive collection of songs that he never released. Most estimates have Prince’s estate valued over $100 million, but those are early estimates. It could be worth MUCH more.

Who is going to handle all of this? Who is going to sift through all of Prince’s unreleased songs and decide which ones to release? Who is going to manage the royalties from his current songs on the radio? Who is going to manage the upkeep of his properties? How could he not have planned for this eventuality?

Under Minnesota intestate law (i.e., the default estate laws for Minnesota when there is no Will), all of Prince’s assets would be divided between his sister and his half-siblings, assuming he was not married and had no children. That’s a huge windfall for people who might not be used to vast sums of wealth, and a situation that is ripe for conflicts and lawsuits. I’ve seen people fight over $50,000 as much as they do over $500 million. And they will fight, assuming there was no plan in place for them. Prince should have created trusts for his family to protect them from themselves.

This same principle holds true for those who live in New Jersey and New York. Start asking yourself: do you have up-to-date estate documents? What will happen to your assets when you’re gone? What will happen to your intellectual property after you’re gone? Will your children inherit a windfall because you have no trusts in place to protect them from themselves?

Prince died at 57. He was young. I can’t believe he didn’t have a Will or Trust. But if the rumors and court papers are true, we could be in for a long fight ahead. Stay tuned.

If you have any estate planning questions, please feel free to call us at (908) 236-6457, or contact alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

N.Y. Estate Tax

N.Y.-Estate-Tax

The estate tax rate in the state of New York is between 5 and 16 percent depending on the value of your estate. If you are the administrator of an estate in New York, you should be aware that you must file your estate tax within nine months of the decedent’s death. You must file a New York State estate tax if the amount of the federal gross estate, combined with any includible gifts, exceeds the basic exclusion amount applicable at the date of death.

Currently, the exemption limit in New York for the estate tax is $3,125,000. Recent legislature signed by Gov. Cuomo on April 1, 2014, however, will increase the exemption amount each year until it reaches the federal limit.

The exemption schedule is as follows:

  • Deaths as of April 1, 2014 and before April 1, 2015 = $2,062,500.
  • Deaths as of April 1, 2015 and before April 1, 2016 = $3,125,000.
  • Deaths as of April 1, 2016 and before April 1, 2017 = $4,187,500.
  • Deaths as of April 1, 2017 and before January 1, 2019 = $5,250,000.

By January 1, 2019, the state exemption limit is expected to reach the federal limit, which is projected to be $5.9 million.

NY taxes the entire estate!

You read that right. While most states tax the amount over the exemption limit, New York taxes the entire value of the estate. In New York, if the estate is valued at $3.75 million, the entire $3.75 million is taxed — not the $650,000, which is the amount over the exemption limit. Even the federal government only taxes the amount over the exemption limit.

Marital deductions

Any property you bequeath to your spouse is exempt from both federal and state taxes, regardless of the amount. Depending on the total value of your assets, you can gift property to your spouse to reduce the value of your estate to below the exemption limit. However, there are various legal and financial reasons you should never leave all your assets to your spouse.

When it comes to estate planning, the larger the estate, the more complicated the issues. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal system. Whether you would like to set up your own estate plan or need help with the NY probate process, a skilled lawyer can help. To discuss your estate planning matter today, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com, or call 908-236-6457.

By at .