Wedding bells and legal advice – How getting married affects estate planning in New Jersey

Getting married is an exciting event where two people and their families are brought together. This change in legal status also has important effects on each spouse’s Last Will and Testament and estate planning:

  • Your Last Will and Testament: After marriage, most people change the focus of their will to ensure that their spouse and current or future children are properly protected. This can include setting up protective trusts, guardians for your children and other provisions to care for your dependents should one or both of you pass away. It’s important that these provisions are included in your will, as many of them cannot be formed after your death.
  • Your Living Will: This focuses on ensuring that your preferred end-of-life decisions are clear-cut for your family and dependents and that your wishes are fully carried out.
  • Power of Attorney: It’s important that a responsible person is selected to handle your financial and legal affairs if you or your spouse is unable to do so. This ensures that matters do not unnecessarily involve complex court proceedings and that your affairs are carried out in the best interests of you and your family.

Taxes and marriage – How to make the most of your estate planning process (H2)

New Jersey, unlike many other states, has it’s own estate tax – making the potential tax burden on married couples that much more significant. In 2014, you will qualify for the state tax if the gross value of your estate is more than $675,000, while you will qualify for the federal tax if this gross value is more than $5,340,000. Because this gross value includes property, life insurance, IRA’s, bank accounts, investments and more, it’s easy to find yourself exceeding the state exemption amount and paying around 10% of the estate value in tax.

However, most spouses are more interested in leaving as much of their estate as possible to their surviving spouse to ensure that he or she as well as any dependents are cared for. One of the most effective solutions for this issue is to develop an estate plan that includes a trust in each spouse’s Last Will and Testament. This allows the surviving spouse to become the primary beneficiary of the trust and, if the trust documentation allows it, the trustee of the trust as well. These trusts, also known as A/B trusts, by-pass trusts or credit shelters, allow the surviving spouse to access the entire estate without paying New Jersey or federal estate tax and, in turn, pass that trust down to dependents.

As you can see, estate planning is very different for married couples than individuals as the focus falls primarily on caring and protecting your loved ones. For more information on estate planning or to book an appointment at Sedita, Campisano & Campisano, LLC, please contact us today.

New baby on the way? Here’s how to modify your Estate Plan for junior.

If you have a baby on the way, probably the last thing on your mind is, “Oh my gosh!  I need to revise my estate plan!”.

But if you have significant assets and especially if you have multiple children, creating a clear path for getting your assets passed on is not something you want to wait to do.  Modifying your estate plan may be the last thing on your mind as you prepare for the new addition to your family, but as you look into the eyes of your beautiful baby, don’t forget that caring for and protecting your children, is a job that starts now, and never ends.

Estate planning for New Jersey, is similar to most other states in that a few things can happen if your new baby isn’t part of your plan when you pass.

  1. A long, protracted probate process where the state tries to determine the rights of the minor child in the absence of compelling documentation.  This process will eat up your inheritance in terms of legal fees, court costs, and can take months and years to settle.
  2. Potential acrimony between your descendants.  By “forgetting” to include a child in your estate plan, you create the breeding ground for ugly fights over money and assets.
  3. Care of the minor child upon your untimely demise may not be clear and may cause them to become a ward of the state, at least temporarily.

What Parts of my estate plan should be updated for Junior?

Having a baby affects not only your estate plan but many other potential aspects of your personal and professional life.  Here are just a few basics

(1) know your breastfeeding rights (for jury duty and employment)
(2) put a will or trust in place with a guardianship clause
(3) put a guardianship agreement in place
(4)  put an Advance Health Care Directive in place
(5) store your Baby’s Records in a safe place (birth certificate, social security card, and immunization records)
(6) set up your bank account to pay on death to your child’s guardian
(7) check that your Life insurance policy beneficiary is child’s guardian
(8) know your FMLA rights (Federal Medical Leave Act)

Done properly this documentation appoints a guardian to care for your minor children and details the complete distribution of your assets in the event anything should happen to you.

Can I do this estate planning myself?

Whether you already have some estate documents or need new advice and counsel on your plan, a good elder law attorney can help you insure your affairs are in order.

Note that Frank Campisano in addition to being an experienced elder law attorney, also has an extensive background in NJ employment law. Issues around estate planning and FMLA are no stranger to Frank and the team at SCC Legal.

Whether you would like to discuss some ideas for estate planning for your new baby, or how having to care for minor children affects your rights as an employee or employer, Frank Campisano is uniquely qualified to help you.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us today or visit our website at scclegal.com   Discover why so many people rely on us for estate planning in New Jersey.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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