4 common causes for estate litigation

Advice from NJ estate litigation lawyers

When someone passes away, their estate will be distributed as requested in their Last Will and Testament. Unfortunately, estate disputes are common, and grieving family members are left arguing and fighting with one another over money, assets, and more. We’ve all seen this cliché play out in movies, but when it happens in real life, it’s painful and adds stress to everyone involved. 

With that said, our team of NJ estate litigation lawyers have put together a list of four common causes for estate disputes. If you’re in need of legal guidance and representation during an estate distribution, we’re happy to discuss your options. 

Here are some common causes of estate litigation 

  • Disagreements over beneficiary designations. If someone has been designated as a beneficiary of a particular asset or a certain sum of money, it will be transferred to them upon the person’s passing. But sometimes, beneficiaries are disputed if the other parties involved believe there has been misconduct. If there were significant changes made to the decedent’s will near the end of their life, their state of mind may also be called into question. 
  • Disagreements over unequal distribution of property. The decedent’s home and any other real estate they own will be listed in their will, alongside a beneficiary. However, disagreements often arise when other parties involved learn that the decedent gave away one of their properties while still alive, or if the decedent’s competency is called into question in any way.
  • Compensation for services. Estate trustees are entitled to compensation for their work, but if they fail to execute the trust as directed or if the family have any doubts, they can call the compensation into question. This can be a tricky issue to navigate and we recommend seeking guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney on how to proceed.
  • Disagreements over executor duties. The executor is the person who oversees the administration of the decedent’s estate, who is chosen by the decedent. Disputes between an executor and the decedent’s family are quite common. Some of these issues include the executor taking too long to distribute the estate, exhibiting unsound judgment, not distributing the estate as the decedent intended or selling assets for less than market value without permission from the beneficiaries.

For more information about your rights during an estate litigation, or if you have any legal questions regarding a Last Will and Testament, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. Discover why we’ve become trusted estate litigation lawyers for so many residents in New Jersey.

Asset protection trusts : what you need to know 

Asset protection trust

An asset protection trust , also called an APT, is a special type of trust that people use when planning their estate. APTs protect an individual’s estate and assets from creditors, lawsuits, and other judgments made against their estate and this is done by severing all connections between you and your assets. When you create an APT, you legally transfer the ownership of your estate and your assets to a separate trust that is wholly controlled by a designated Trustee. In short, you’re no longer the legal owner of your own estate. 

Continue reading “Asset protection trusts : what you need to know “

Estate Planning: 5 Crucial Mistakes to Avoid Litigation

estate planning

With large amounts of money at stake, some otherwise good and kind people can exhibit behaviors that are based on want and greed. At SCC Legal, we’ve seen our share of horror shows in estate litigation cases over our many years handling all aspects of elder law. If there is no last Will or Testament, no proper estate plan in place when mom or dad passes, children or other family members may begin to fight over who deserves, or who controls what assets.

When siblings or other beneficiaries engage in clearly dishonest behavior, or refuse to be transparent during estate administration or guardianship proceedings, other beneficiaries may suspect they are being cheated. Sometimes these remaining children have moved far away and are finding it difficult to keep tabs on the distribution of assets here in New Jersey. In these cases, parties have little choice but to engage a qualified NJ elder law attorney to represent their interests, and protect their rights under the law. For many, it is a matter of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that is at risk, if they don’t do something legally, and do it quickly.

How to Minimize Infighting Over Your Estate and Assets

Even with a legal estate executor or administrator these cases can get ugly, ending up in a courtroom. That’s why it’s important to have a DETAILED estate plan in place, especially if you own valuable real estate, significant stock or collectable assets, or a business that needs to survive you. A well thought out estate plan coupled with an EFFECTIVE will, can help ensure your final wishes are met, your loved ones are cared for after your passing and avoids nasty litigation cases that could break up your family – if it is done correctly

With most things, it helps to know what not to do first. You’d be surprised to see how one simple mistake in your estate plan can end in a costly court battle. Here are five of the most common estate planning mistakes to avoid provided by the SCC Legal team in Fairfield, NJ. 

  1. Thinking you’re too young to create an estate plan. Estate planning should be thought of before passing away in order to give you ample time to create a plan you’re comfortable with. As soon as you start to live independently and gather assets, you should start planning your estate. This will ensure your property goes to the people most important to you, who need it most – not to those the state selects.
  2. Excluding the Advance Healthcare Directive. This is a legal document giving the person of your choosing the ability to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you be unable to. If you have strong feelings about whether you prefer to be kept alive (or not) in certain medical situations like a coma, this is a very important document to consider when creating your plan.
  3. Forgetting to add your business to your estate plan. For many people, their business is more than their livelihood – it’s their passion. However, it is often forgotten about when it comes to estate planning. Consider what would happen to your business if you passed away – who should it go to? Is there someone who can buy it? How will this affect your heirs?
  4. Taking a DIY approach to estate planning. In reality, the technical side of estate planning is very complex – it’s not as simple as leaving certain assets to certain people. The tax side, for example, needs to be managed very carefully in order to ensure the least amount of tax possible is levied on your estate. This will have a significant effect on the outcome of your estate and needs to be addressed by a professional who knows this system intimately and can give you solid advice.
  5. Choosing a problematic executor. This is the person who will be responsible for administering your estate and, as such, should not benefit from the distribution of your estate. It’s very important the chosen person knows you and your family well, supports your views and has the ability to perform their duties without any issues. An estate planning lawyer can help you decide who will fit this position, explain their duties and even help add a third party who can assist the executor, such as a bank trust department.

Avoid Estate Litigation by Using a NJ Estate Planning Attorney

As we mentioned above, estate litigations can destroy relationships between your surviving family members and rack up substantial legal and court costs. The best way to keep your heirs out of this type of situation after you pass away is to ensure you work with a reputable estate planning attorney to create a solid estate plan and last Will or Testament.

Frank Campisano is an estate planning attorney at Sedita, Campisano and Campisano (SCC Legal) in New Jersey, who brings an exceptional level of patience and compassion to this often emotional process. With many years of experience, he can assist you in developing a plan that addresses all your requirements, ensuring your hard work and assets go to the people you love, rather than to the government or other greedy family members. At SCC Legal, trust is the key – and we’ll give you all the time, advice and expertise you need to ensure your wishes are carried out. 

For more information about estate planning and litigation, or to book an appointment with Frank Campisano, please contact us today or visit our website at: https://www.scclegal.com/

What happens to my business when I die?

Small business owner

As a small business owner, you undoubtedly have a lot on your plate. There’s the day-to-day operations of running your business, managing your staff, budgeting, inventory, and much more. With your busy schedule it can be easy to forget about succession planning, but it’s an important question all business owners must ask themselves: What happens to my business when I die?

We often hear about the importance of planning for your personal estate, but small business owners must also have a plan in place for their businesses. Having a clear succession plan in place helps avoid confusion, litigation, and disputes when you are no longer here. Lawyers who specialize in small business law can help you create and secure a succession plan that ensures your business is run exactly the way you desire. 

How to find the right small business lawyer for you:

  • Ensure your lawyer specializes in succession planning. There are many types of small business lawyers: bankruptcy, compliance, trademark, copyright, litigation, and more. You want an attorney that specializes in helping people plan for what happens to their business after they pass away. It’s especially important if you own a large business with multiple locations and many employees.
  • Make a list of your company’s needs. Your industry, the size of your business, the number of staff, and the number of locations will all be factors in your succession plan, so we recommend working with a firm that has experience with companies that are similar to yours. It may be worth asking fellow owners in your industry if they have any recommendations. 
  • Come to the initial meeting with all your questions ready. The lawyer you meet with should be able to provide answers that are more than satisfactory. If the firm is experienced then they’ll be able to tell you exactly how they’ll help you, and what your options are. 

Make a plan with a New Jersey business lawyer 

We know it can be unpleasant to think about end-of-life issues, but you’ve worked so hard to get where you are and the legacy of your business should be treated like the valuable asset that it is. Whether you own a small, family-run business or a larger, franchised company, it’s crucial to make decisions about succession planning. 

For more information about succession planning, or if you have any estate planning questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. As both an elder law firm and small business firm, we are uniquely positioned to help you navigate the succession planning process. Discover why so many small business owners in New Jersey choose us as their trusted counsel. 

What are power of attorney duties in New Jersey?

Power of attorney

Power of attorney is a common legal phrase, and it means the authority to act on behalf of someone else. Power of attorney can cover medical decisions, financial decisions, and a range of other personal decisions that a person may be unable to make for themselves if they become incapacitated. 

While working with an attorney to create your estate plan, you’ll be asked to create a Power of Attorney document, which gives someone you trust the legal authority to act on your behalf. And while each state has different laws regarding the specific scope of duties, you can sometimes nominate different people to handle different aspects of your life, like medical and financial. 

In New Jersey, Power of Attorney duties include the following:

Durable Power of Attorney. This is most commonly used to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf, and it’s an important component of a comprehensive estate plan. If you become incapacitated due to illness or an accident, a Durable Power of Attorney dictates who will step in and make decisions about your healthcare. You can select one of your children, a trusted family friend, or a trusted medical professional to act on your behalf. 

General Power of Attorney. As the name suggests, General Power of Attorney gives the person you nominate the authority to act on your behalf in a wide range of situations including making decisions about your finances, legal decisions, your properties and other assets. 

General Power of Attorney is only valid if the person is lucid and deemed competent enough to give permission for their nominee to begin acting on their behalf. If the person becomes incapacitated, or is deemed incompetent as a result of physical or mental illness, the General Power of Attorney becomes invalid, and the Durable Power of Attorney is invoked. 

NJ estate planning with SCC Legal

Power of Attorney is something to be taken very seriously, and we recommend consulting with an estate planning attorney before deciding who will act on your behalf. It’s important to nominate people you trust. Not to mention, you may want to grant Power of Attorney to multiple people, meaning you want one person to make your healthcare decisions and a different person to make your financial decisions. 

For more information about how our team at SCC Legal can help you create a Power of Attorney document, please contact us today. We’re happy to provide professional guidance regarding Power of Attorney in New Jersey, and other related estate planning matters. 

What areas of life can an elder law attorney help with?

elder law attorney

When you hear the phrase “elder law attorney,” you probably only think of end-of-life matters, but elder law attorneys handle a wide variety of legal matters that you may not have assumed. Nearly all of us will require assistance from an attorney at some point in our lives, and having an experienced elder law attorney is important, especially as you get older and accumulate more assets. 

So what areas do elder law attorneys specialize in?

Estate planning. It doesn’t matter how many assets you own or how large your bank account is – everyone needs to have a comprehensive estate plan in place. Your estate plan should include instructions on how you want your assets to be distributed after you’re gone, who you would want to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if necessary, and other personal matters. This plan will alleviate stress of your loved ones and give them clear directions on what to do during a difficult time. 

Medicare planning and applications. Medicare is a vast, complex healthcare program for people 65 and older, and the application process has a reputation of being notoriously difficult. There are also financial requirements you must meet in order to be eligible for Medicare, and the criteria can be confusing to navigate without consulting an attorney. If you’re planning on applying for Medicare, we recommend hiring an elder law attorney to help.

Employment discrimination. Discrimination against older adults in the workforce isn’t talked about nearly enough. Not to mention, many people in this situation may feel they don’t have enough evidence to press charges. The Age Discrimination Act protects older people from being discriminated against at work or while looking for a job. If you or a loved one believe you’re being discriminated against because of your age, please speak with an elder law attorney as soon as possible. A reputable elder law attorney can help build your case in accordance with The Age Discrimination Act.  

Elder abuse or fraud. Older adults, especially those who require more hands-on care in their daily lives, are unfortunately more vulnerable and can be more easily taken advantage of. Many of us can’t fathom abusing or committing fraud against someone we love, but elder abuse and elder fraud cases are distressingly common, especially when large sums of money are involved. 

NJ estate planning you can trust 

Elder law attorneys can support you and your loved ones in a number of areas. Whether you’re in the beginning stages of estate planning, or you want to know how to best plan for Medicare eligibility, or you have questions about contesting a will, we recommend speaking with a reputable elder law attorney who can answer your questions and give you clear guidance. 

For more information about how our team at SCC Legal can help you with estate planning or another legal matter, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted elder law attorneys. 

Reasons to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning attorney

Estate planning is not something to take lightly. Many of us have it on our list of things we’ll eventually get around to, but we recommend speaking with an estate planning attorney soon and ensuring everything is in place. This is especially important for people with a lot of assets, own multiple businesses, and have large or blended families. A good estate planning attorney will help you put a plan in place that gives your loved ones clarity and peace of mind when you’re no longer here. 

Here’s why you need an estate planning attorney:

  • New Jersey laws will impact the way you plan your estate. Some state laws dictate who can be named executor, who can be given power of attorney, who can make medical decisions, and other important factors. A New Jersey elder law attorney will be able to explain all the laws that have an impact on your living will.
  • Hiring an attorney ensures your will is legally valid. While it may be tempting to fill out one of those quick, do-it-yourself internet forms, we strongly advise against this. You need a certified legal professional to ensure all of your estate planning documents cannot be contested.
  • Estate planning attorneys can easily organize complex business and family situations. Multiple marriages and blended families are the norm these days, and so is owning one or several businesses. These factors can sometimes make estate planning tricky however, so it’s best to consult an attorney who is experienced in dealing with all different types of life situations. 

NJ estate planning you can trust 

Instead of putting it off another year, why not contact a NJ estate planning attorney today and start organizing your estate? Being legally prepared for the end of your life makes things a little bit easier for your loved ones, and it mitigates family disputes that can easily turn ugly. Having a clear estate plan in place gives your loved ones the clarity they need to carry out your wishes, the way you intend them to. 

This past year has taught us that we must be prepared for the unexpected. If something happens to you and your family has no clear will in place, they’ll be left to figure it out on their own without knowing what you really wanted. 

For more information about how our team at SCC Legal can help you plan your estate, or if you have any other questions, please contact us today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted estate planning partners. 

The Duties of a Will Executor

Last Will and Testament document

It’s never too early to create an official will. Even though it’s not something most of us want to think about, it’s a necessary part of life. When drawing up your will you’ll also need to nominate an executor, which raises the question: what exactly does being an executor for a will include? 

Choosing a will executor

An executor is the person who carries out all of the instructions in your will when you’re no longer here. Think of your will as a map, and the executor is nominated to be the navigator. The person you choose to be your executor should obviously be someone you trust, but are there any other important factors to consider?

We recommend choosing someone who is adept at paperwork and managing legal issues, especially if you have a large or complicated estate. Your executor doesn’t necessarily need a legal background, but they need to be able to handle various legal obligations. Additionally, you can choose more than one executor if you feel it’s best to split the duties. 

People commonly named as executors include one child or multiple children, a niece, a nephew, an adult grandchild, or a close family friend. If you don’t have anyone in your life who you want to nominate as your executor, please speak with your attorney, so they can discuss other options with you. 

What is a will executor responsible for?

Depending on the contents of your will, your executor will be responsible for:

  • Registering your death
  • Organizing your funeral
  • Paying any inheritance tax
  • Having your estate valued by an appraiser
  • Applying for probate
  • Sorting out your finances and distributing your assets as you requested in your will
  • Following any other additional instructions in your will

You can see why it’s important to choose a responsible person you trust to be your executor, as this is a responsibility that should be taken very seriously. 

Planning for senior healthcare and more at SCC Legal 

Regardless of your age, we recommend planning for your senior years as soon as possible. An experienced elder law attorney can help you create a will, plan for your health care, provide assistance with Medicaid planning, and much more. Having a plan in place makes things a little bit easier on your loved ones when you’re no longer here, and it avoids what can become long, frustrating legal battles among family. 

For more information about how our team at SCC Legal can help you in all matters of elder law, including senior healthcare and Medicaid planning, please contact us today. Choosing an executor for your will is an important task and we are glad to offer our professional advice, every step of the way.

What are Your Sibling Rights in a Contested Will Probate?

Estate planning attorney

Although it’s an unfortunate reality, estate planning attorneys will attest to the fact that it’s common for siblings to fight over their parent’s will. When the last remaining parent passes away, it’s understandably a very sad and distressing time, and when a parent’s will becomes contested among siblings, it only adds to the stress and emotional strain. 

In our many years of representing siblings in estate disputes, we’ve found the following issues to be some of the most common:

  • One sibling seeks to direct a disproportionate amount of decedent assets to themselves. Hopefully your late parent left behind a will, which will instruct their attorney on how to distribute their assets. If they passed away without a will, all siblings must reach an agreement regarding asset distribution. 
  • Some siblings live far away, and find themselves unable to get straight information on the disposition of the estate. All siblings are entitled to complete transparency regarding their late parent’s estate, so if you find yourself unable to get information, contact an estate planning attorney as soon as possible. 
  • Siblings find that one of them has coerced the signing of legal documents by the decedent prior to their death. If there’s a question about the will’s validity, it deserves to be investigated before a final decision about the estate is made. If you suspect your late parent was coerced, your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation.
  • Siblings find that one of them has secretly transferred assets into their name prior to a parents death. While this may sound like something from a movie, it unfortunately happens more frequently than you might think. Especially when one sibling still lives close to the parent and the other siblings live far away. If this has happened then the will might be invalid, so please seek advice from an attorney. 
  • A sibling acting as executor is taking unreasonable amounts of expenses for said activity. If your parent’s will was clear and uncontested, there’s no reason that executing their estate should become a cumbersome, expensive activity.

Advice from a New Jersey elder law attorney 

We understand that losing your last remaining parent is a very difficult time. When their will is contested among your siblings, you need advice from an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide you and support you through this emotional experience. You also deserve to understand your rights and ensure your late parent’s will is executed in the exact way they wished it to be. 

For more information about how our elder law attorneys can help, or if you have any questions, please contact our team at SCC Legal today. Discover why so many people in New Jersey choose us as their trusted estate planning attorneys.

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