Everything you need to know about estate administration

Estate administration covers the range of legal obligations and responsibilities that are part of the role of executor. In this blog, New Jersey estate planning attorneys take you through this role to demonstrate exactly what administering an estate is all about.

In order to do this, it’s important that the probate process is also understood. Probate is a legal process that certifies the validity of the deceased’s Last Will and Testament and appoints an executor to oversee the administration of the estate. Once this is done, the executor has to ensure that the required steps are taken in compliance with New Jersey state laws regarding creditors, taxation and the distribution of assets.

Administering estate taxes 

In New Jersey, there are three different types of tax that can be levied on an estate: Federal estate tax, New Jersey Inheritance Tax, and Federal/State income taxes. A federal estate tax will only be levied if the estate is very large – for this year, 2016, the estate has to exceed $5.45 million. The NJ state tax, however, affects estates worth in excess of $675,000. The state’s inheritance tax functions on a sliding scale based on who inherits – the closer someone is to the deceased (for example, a spouse or child), the less tax is owed.

Managing the estate’s assets 

The most common method of doing this is to first open a bank account for the estate and deposit any existing cash accounts and any cash owed to the estate into that account. This account will also be used to pay any debts owed by the estate, for example, outstanding taxes, and to pay any of the estate’s expenses. The administrator will also be in charge of:

  • Collecting the deceased’s assets, recording their details and storing them safely.
  • Having any assets appraised if necessary (for example, a property that needs to be sold)
  • Distributing assets as stipulated by the Last Will and Testament

Estate administration when there is no Last Will and Testament 

If the deceased dies intestate, the distribution of their assets is taken over by the State of New Jersey – even if the deceased had different wishes. This is why estate planning is so important.

The probate court will appoint an administrator of their own choosing, often the surviving spouse or child of the deceased, who will carry out the same duties and obligations that the executor of a Will would be responsible. The real difference occurs in the distribution of the deceased’s assets. These will be distributed according to the state’s system that places the surviving spouse, civil union partner or domestic partner with the highest priority, along with the children of the deceased. The next priority goes to grandchildren of the deceased if their parent’s are deceased, each receiving an equal share.

If there is no surviving spouse, civil union partner or domestic partner, then the surviving parents inherit, and if there are no surviving parents then siblings of the deceased will inherit an equal share.

The estate is considered to be escheat if there are no immediate surviving family members  (from grandparents and aunts and uncles to parents, siblings, children and grandchildren) and the assets of the deceased are then taken by the State of New Jersey.

Speak to an estate planning attorney today and finalize your essential documents 

Legal guidance can be of great assistance when you are administering an estate, especially if you have limited knowledge of this complex legal process. At Sedita, Campisano & Campisano, we can provide you with expert legal advice and personal guidance during this process. Not only can we assist you with speeding up this lengthy process, but also in saving you the maximum amount of costs possible.

Our attorneys can also assist you with all aspects of your estate plan, from drawing up your Last Will and Testament to Living Trusts, medical directives and Power of Attorney documents. For more information on setting up or changing an estate plan, please contact us at the law firm of Sedita, Campisano & Campisano, LLC in New Jersey today.

 

 

How estate planning can ensure that your pets are cared for

For most pet owners, the wellbeing and happiness of their animals is a priority – but how can you ensure that they are cared for in the event of your passing or incapacity? This is a serious concern for many clients and, fortunately, there is a solution, say New Jersey estate planning attorneys.

What is an animal care trust? 

Similar to a trust that you’d set up to provide for your family, an animal or pet trust is designed to do the same for your beloved animals. Since 2002, U.S. laws have been modified to include ways in which people can leave money in their estate to care for their animals. One of the primary reasons for these changes is due to the increasing amount of animals landing in shelters after their owners have passed away. This is a sad and unnecessary occurrence when owners had the means and wish to keep on caring for them.

Unlike a Last Will and Testament that has to go through probate (so the money won’t be available for a fair amount of time), trusts allow your appointed trustee (or trustees) to start providing for your pet immediately.

The main benefit of the trust, however, is that it is legally enforceable – unlike a Will. At any point during your pet’s lifetime, the courts will be able to set in and enforce your stipulations if the trustee is not living up to their obligations. This prevents people who inherit a pet through a Will from simply handing it in to a shelter after the probate process is complete. If you don’t have a trustee who is able to take your pet, you can also use the trust to ensure that it is provided for in a retirement home for pets – an increasingly popular option.

Pet trusts aren’t just for the wealthy 

While pet trusts do carry a cost, especially if you want your attorney or professional representative to administer the trust, they are generally within the budget of regular pet owners. Typically, animal trust clients are older and don’t necessarily have someone to take care of their animal in the event that they are no longer able. Other clients include people with multiple pets who incur considerable costs to care for – for example, horse owners.

Speak to an estate planning attorney about creating an animal trust today 

At Sedita, Campisano and Campisano in New Jersey, estate planning attorney Frank Campisano is ready to assist you with all your estate planning needs – whether you need to make a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or a pet trust, or to update your current documents.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes – whether your estate is big or small.

 

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