What’s Better for Senior Couples – Marriage or Cohabitation?

When someone finds a partner when they’re both in their senior years, the choice between marriage and cohabitation is a more complex one. Individual and religious preferences aside, these two options carry serious financial and tax implications that should be considered. Here’s some insight from a leading elder law attorney in New Jersey.

The reality is that there are benefits and drawbacks to either choice – many seniors refuse to get married because they don’t want to affect the cost of their healthcare, compromise their Medicaid planning, reduce their retirement benefits, raise their taxes or have to redo their entire estate plans. Similarly, some seniors still choose marriage to take advantage of the tax breaks it offers as well as the benefits and protections. It really comes down to the importance of knowing how these choices affect your individual position to see what works best for both people in the relationship.

What to Consider When Weighing Up Cohabitation and Marriage as a Senior:

Housing: 

When you are cohabiting, living together means developing an agreement about housing, the associated costs, and each person’s rights. One person may agree to sell their home or rent it and move into the other’s property, which will have tax implications. When only one person’s name is on the deed, cohabiting partners have fewer rights, including legal rights if the property is sold after the partner passes or if the relationship dissolves. Here, married couples have more protection but will still need to sort out the implications of selling a property or purchasing a new asset.

Estate Planning: 

Senior couples tend to have far more complex estate plans than newlyweds in their 20s, which may include adult children and grandkids, wills and trusts, properties, investment portfolios, insurance, and 401ks. If you choose to cohabit, then your estate plan may only need minor changes depending on whether or not you want to sell an asset or you want to name your partner as a beneficiary in your Will. If you choose to marry, your estate plan will need to be extensively redone to determine your spouse’s rights and benefits from your estate, and to determine the impact of their debt if they have any. This should be done by an experienced elder law attorney who can talk you through the different tax and financial implications of your options to ensure that the estate plan is properly developed to protect the assets and people involved.

Medicaid Planning: 

It’s a good idea for seniors to commit to Medicaid planning in their retirement – this is a customized strategy based on your assets to ensure that Medicaid care can be accessed and penalties avoided. This strategy will remain largely unchanged if you choose to cohabit (although you should talk to your elder law attorney about it when they work on your estate plan), but may need extensive revision if you choose to marry. This is because your new spouse and the assets you gain in the marriage will be evaluated when you or your spouse applies for Medicaid.

Whether you decide on marriage or cohabitation is a personal choice, but it is important to know exactly how these choices will impact your estate plan and financial situation, which is where your elder law attorney can help. They can rework your documents and even introduce useful cohabitation contracts that will ensure that both parties are properly protected, giving you peace of mind with either choice.

Find Out How Marriage or Cohabitation Affects Your Finances and Rights – Speak to an Elder Law Attorney in New Jersey

Frank R. Campisano is a highly experienced and compassionate elder law attorney with considerable knowledge of Medicaid issues. In addition to planning ahead financially for Medicaid eligibility, he is also able to assist with applications, appeals, and other Medicaid issues. If you or a family member needs assistance with their Medicaid planning or protecting their assets effectively, don’t hesitate to get help today.

In addition, he can also help you to prepare additional estate planning documents, such as your Last Will and Testament, Healthcare Proxy, Power of Attorney documents, and trusts.

For a free consultation and Medicaid assistance, please contact us today and speak to Frank R. Campisano or visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

Am I Entitled to Part of My Biological Parent’s Estate?

It’s perfectly natural to wonder what your rights are to your deceased parent’s estate. Well, the reality is that there’s no straightforward answer – it changes from case to case. Here’s some insight into this emotional and complex issue from an estate planning attorney in New Jersey:

  • Did Your Parent Die Without a Last Will and Testament?

If your parent had a valid Last Will and Testament at the time of their death, then whatever is contained in that document is legally binding. This means that their assets pass to their heirs in accordance with the instructions contained in the Will, regardless of who is mentioned or who is not. In some cases, a Will can be contested and your estate planning attorney will be able to determine whether or not you have a case.

However, when a person dies intestate (in other words without a valid Will) then it is a completely different story. In these cases, beneficiaries of the estate are determined by the courts in accordance with state law. These laws will not take into account anything other than a valid Last Will and Testament, so it doesn’t matter if a person has spoken about their wishes or not. This is why it’s incredibly important to have a professionally-drafted Last Will and Testament.

In these cases, beneficiaries are designated from immediate family outwards. For example, if a parent dies leaving a spouse and children of that spouse, the spouse inherits 25% (no less than $50,000 and no more than $200,000, plus ½ the remaining balance) and the rest is split equally amongst the children. If someone dies without a spouse but has children, the assets are split equally amongst the children.

  • Assets That Pass Without a Will

In some cases, assets can pass directly to a child without regard to the Last Will and Testament. This is often the case with property, where a child is named on the deed of the property. In this case, the property belongs to the person named on the deed and this cannot be affected by a Will, as you can’t grant assets you do not own legally. The same is true of the named beneficiary on an insurance policy or 401k.

Again, this makes it very important to have a professional-drafted Will, as having conflicting legal documents can lead to confusion and infighting in what is usually a very emotional time. An estate planning attorney will not only ensure that everything is perfectly clear in your own estate plan, but will also assist you with understanding and representing you in a claim against a poorly-drafted Will.

Understand Your Rights – Speak to an Estate Planning Attorney in New Jersey

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 draft a business succession plan, a personal estate plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate. He can also assist in the event of Will disputes.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes – whether your needs are big or small. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/.

The Unintended Consequences of Dying Without a Will

Everyone knows it’s important to have a Last Will and Testament. But, that doesn’t stop many of us from putting it off. Unfortunately, with only 44% of Americans having a will, millions of Americans are at risk of dying intestate (a situation where you don’t get to decide who inherits your assets). Here are some insights into the consequences of dying with no valid Last Will and Testament, from a leading estate planning attorney in New Jersey.

  • You No Longer Have a Say in Your Own Property

Having a Last Will and Testament allows you to control who gets your assets after you die. You know your family’s needs better than anyone else, which means you have the best insight into how to support your family in the event of your death. You’ll also be able to decide where sentimental items or family heirlooms should go, and what charities should inherit from your estate.

When you die without a will, none of your wishes – even if you have made them very clear to your loved ones – will be carried out. Instead, the state will have total control over how your assets are divided up and who inherits. This follows a very standard process known as probate, where typically, the bulk of your estate will go to your wife and children. If you have no wife or kids, your assets will go to your parents. If your parents are no longer alive, your assets will go to siblings and other relatives in a similar sequence. If the state can’t find any of your relatives, they keep your assets, which is known as escheatment.

  • You Won’t Have a Say in Your Children’s Guardianship

For parents, this is one of the most important reasons to have a Last Will and Testament. In it, you can decide together who will have legal guardianship over your minor kids in the event of your death. If you don’t have a will, guardianship will be appointed by the court. While they will try to make the best decision they can, they simply don’t have the ability to know your wishes or your family as well as you do.

  • You Can’t Provide for Loved Ones Who aren’t Related by Blood or Marriage

You might want to donate part of your estate to a charity or school close to your heart. Or you may not believe in marriage but spend years with a loved one without signing a legal document. In the eyes of the court, only blood relatives and legal marriages really matter, which can mean that people and organizations close to your heart are left without support. This not only means that your wishes aren’t met, but it can also mean the start of emotional, expensive court battles that can even result in the break up of families.

Provide Security for Your Loved Ones – Speak to an Estate Planning Attorney in New Jersey

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 business succession plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes, regardless of whether your estate is big or small. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

What You Need to Know About Estate Planning After a Divorce

In the event of a divorce, it’s essential that you update your estate plan. When 2018 ended in a rush of divorces before the tax law changes that took place on 1st January, there are many divorced people who haven’t yet had the time to change their estate plan – or realized the importance of doing so. Here are some insights from your estate planning attorney in New Jersey.

  • Inform your estate planning attorney: Send a copy of your divorce agreement to your estate planning attorney for them to view. They need to know what obligations you have towards your former spouse as well as changes regarding any children and dependents.
  • Your Power of Attorney: If these documents name your former spouse as the person who will make financial decisions on your behalf if needed, then this clearly needs to be changed. A new Power of Attorney is best, naming a trusted advisor, relative or friend to take over this critical role.
  • Your Healthcare Proxy: Similarly, you may have to name a new healthcare proxy to make medical or healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. This is not a document that is only required for seniors – a car accident, workplace accident or health emergency can happen to anyone at any time of their lives, so it’s very important that someone other than your ex-spouse is trusted to make these decisions.
  • Revise your Last Will and Testament: A new Last Will and Testament will need to be drawn up to remove provisions for your ex-spouse or to remove them as an executor of the will or any trustee positions. This will ensure that they are unable to access any of your assets or trust in the event of your death.
  • Think of creating a trust for your minor children: If you pass away, the assets and money you leave to your children will be left under the control of their guardian until they reach the age of 18. While many people are comfortable naming their ex-spouse as legal guardian for their minor children, they are less comfortable with letting their children’s inheritance also fall under their ex-spouse’s control. A trust is a practical way of alleviating this issue, allowing you to appoint someone of your choosing to act as trustee and guardian for their inheritance. It also allows you to set out provisions for how this inheritance can be spent, for example, if you want it to fund your children’s education or if you want it to be portioned out over several years.

Get Peace of Mind from Your Estate Planning Attorney in NJ

Frank R. Campisano is an experienced estate planning attorney with a long history of service and loyalty to his New Jersey clients. In addition to assisting you with creating, storing or updating your Last Will and Testament, he can assist you with 529 plans, college savings strategies, developing trusts, healthcare proxies, Power of Attorney documentation and much more. 

For a free consultation, please contact us today and speak to Frank R. Campisano or visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

Estate Planning Tips for Couples with No Kids

Many couples are under the impression that if they don’t have any children, they don’t really need an estate plan. However, the reality is that everyone should have an estate plan – if you’re a legal adult and you own assets, no matter their value, an estate plan is vital. Here is some advice for drawing one up in this situation, from a leading estate planning attorney in New Jersey.

Won’t Everything Just Go to My Spouse Automatically?

Firstly, it’s important to address the main reason why couples with no kids don’t have estate plans – because the law says that, in the event of a spouse’s death, their assets go to the surviving spouse. It sounds simple, but the process is more complex – especially as telling someone what you want to happen isn’t legally binding. Your assets will still have to go through probate, which can take up to a year before your spouse can access them. This could leave them in a dire financial position, as it affects shared assets too. The process can be challenged by others who feel they have the right to inherit, which can delay the process even longer and mean that your assets go to people you wouldn’t want to inherit. It’s simpler, easier and better protection for your spouse if you have an estate plan. Here’s what to consider:

  • Medical and financial decisions: Estate plans are not just about death; they’re about protecting you in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself. Healthcare directives and financial Power of Attorney documents will map out your financial and medical care decisions in detail. This prevents stress on your spouse and family who may be unsure of what you would want under these circumstances and prevent challenges to your care and finances.
  • Inheritance: Most couples want their spouse to inherit in the event of their death, but there are often additional considerations. What would you want to happen if both of you passed on? What if your spouse passed on years later or remarried and you want family heirlooms to go to back to your family rather than passing to theirs? What if you’d like to provide for a family member as well? Or if you’d like to make a gift to a charitable organization close to your heart?

Comprehensive Estate Planning Assistance for Every Situation

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 business succession plan, a personal estate plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes – whether your needs are big or small. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

Estate Planning – More Than Minimizing Tax Exposure

While it’s true that a lot of the focus of estate planning is one the considerable benefits it has on reducing the taxation on your estate and assets, this isn’t the sole point of having an estate plan. Tax planning is just one part of estate planning, it’s about having answers to important questions and having control of your assets in the event of your death. Here are some insights into why this is so important, from your estate planning attorney in New Jersey.

Asked Yourself These Questions? You Need Estate Planning in NJ

It’s normal to ask yourself questions about the future relating to yourself and your loved ones, including:

  • What do I really own?
  • How can I make the most of the assets I own?
  • Who will get these assets if/when I die?
  • What happens if I get disabled?
  • How will I pay for my and/or my spouses’ retirement needs or long-term care as a senior?
  • How can I take the best possible care of my loved ones even if I die?

These are really the fundamental concerns that most of us have – and estate planning will give you these answers. It’s not about how much you own or whether or not you have kids – it’s about peace of mind for yourself. Estate planning even looks at who you’d like to have control of your health and financial decisions if something happens and you can’t do it for yourself, whether it’s due to a traumatic accident, illness or old age – so your wellbeing is a priority too.

The tax measures that come into play are simply there to ensure that you get the most tax breaks that you are qualified for – and that the highest percentage of your assets goes to your loved ones to care for them in the event of your death.

Estate Planning is for Everyone – Start Tay and Meet with Your Estate Planning Attorney in New Jersey

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 business succession plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes – whether your business is big or small. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

4 Essential Components of an Estate Plan

When we hear the phrase “estate plan”, it’s easy to think of complex, convoluted legal strategies that only apply to the wealthy – but it’s not. In reality, it’s a set of legal documents that ensure that your wishes are met, whatever they are. Here’s a guide to the basic components, from an estate planning attorney in New Jersey.

  1. A Last Will and Testament: This document can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be – it’s all about you, after all. Using a Will, you can have your own say as to who inherits items, assets or funds from you in the event of your death – without one, the State will decide for you. This is a great way to leave sentimental items to loved ones, to provide for your dependents or even support a charity close to your heart.
  2. Durable Power of Attorney: This is a legal document that appoints a person of your choosing to make decisions on your behalf when you can’t do so for yourself. Without one, the State will appoint a person on your behalf to make these decisions. These documents cover significant decisions that can have a very real impact on your life, including making any type of financial or legal choice on your behalf.
  3. Medical Power of Attorney: This works similarly to a durable power of attorney, except that it applies to medical and healthcare decisions. Most people use this document to ensure that their wishes are protected if they become incapacitated by old age, a health condition or even an accident. For example, many people don’t want advanced lifesaving measures in the event that they are gravely ill or terminal, or if they are in a vegetative state.
  4. A Trust: There are many different types of trusts and your estate planning attorney can help you create the one that’s right for you. Essentially, it’s a legal entity that will own whatever assets you place into it, but you have a high level of control over how these assets can be used and who can benefit from them. There are plenty of advantages to trusts – they are utilized during your lifetime as well as after you pass, you have a lot more control over how your assets are used, and they can bypass the probate process. This protects your assets from taxation and allows the trust to be used to support your loved ones immediately, rather than having to wait months until they are granted their inheritance.

Get All Your Questions Answered – Speak to a NJ Estate Planning Specialist

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 business succession plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate.

Contact us today and let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes – whether your needs are big or small. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

Important Financial Mistakes to Avoid – Tips for Every Age

Medicaid Application

Financial planning can feel like a minefield – it’s so complex that it’s easy to make a mistake that costs you. Here are some tips from your estate planning attorney in New Jersey to help you stay on the right path.

  • Not having an emergency fund or savings: Saving money isn’t easy, but it is essential if we want to build our wealth and reach those financial dreams that we all have. Instead of thinking about it as depriving ourselves of some of our earnings, look at it as paying yourself first. Having an emergency fund will help absorb the impact of financial expenses without knocking goals off-track.
  • Not having a budget: Very few people know exactly how much they’re earning and how much they’re spending, which means it’s easy to waste money or get into financial difficulty. Having a budget is key to staying out of debt or reducing debt and is a great way to sport opportunities where you can save for something special.
  • Not planning for retirement: When we’re young, it seems like retirement is a lifetime away. The trust is that the earlier retirement planning starts, the easier it will be when you get there. Starting your retirement plan when you’re young makes it less of a burden and more of a reward when you reach it and means that your Medicaid planning is more effective too.
  • Not having an estate plan: Estate plans aren’t just for the wealthy, they’re for everyone. If you have assets and responsibilities, or even causes close to your heart, then you need an estate plan. This should include a Last Will and Testament (to ensure your hard-earned assets go to the people you want to benefit), Medical Directive (to establish your medical treatment preferences), and Power of Attorney (to ensure your financial wellbeing is taken care of if something happens).

Keep Your Legacy Alive – Effective Strategies from Your Estate Planning Attorney in NJ 

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 business succession plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Medical Directive, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate.

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. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

 

 

What is a 529 Plan and Should it be Part of Your Estate Planning Strategy?

There are many savings options available that can be used as part of your estate plan, and a 529 plan is one of these options. Here are some insights from your estate planning attorney in New Jersey.

What is a 529 Plan?

This is a college savings plan that is exempt from federal taxes. Introduced in 1996, they are designed to help taxpayers to save more effectively for college expenses. Anyone over the age of 18 can open a 529 plan, whether it’s to save for your child or grandchild’s education, or for your own.

There are two types of 529 plan – a prepaid tuition plan and a college savings investment plan. The one plan is locked to current tuition costs, while the investment plan allows your savings to be invested in widely-held mutual funds to be managed by an investment firm, giving your money the best chance to grow and cover the optimal amount of college costs.

Federal and State Policies on 529 Plans

Each state has its own policies regarding these plans, but they are all subject to federal policies regardless of where you opened the plan or how your account is managed. This means that the account can only be held by one person and can only benefit one person (the beneficiary can be a different person to the account holder). There are no income restrictions on who can own or pay into a 529 plan, and they are not subject to gift taxation.

There are no federal income tax benefits for contributing to a 529 plan, but the benefit comes in the form of the growth of your investment, which is tax-deferred. You also won’t pay state or federal taxes on money that is withdrawn from the account to be used for qualified college expenses.

What if My Child Does Not Go to College or Require the Funds?

If your beneficiary is unable to go to college, chooses not to go or wins a full ride through a scholarship program, what happens to the money in a 529 plan? In these situations, you have a few options. Firstly, you can change the beneficiary of the plan to someone who does need it or hold onto the plan until you have a grandchild. Secondly, you can combine your plan with another plan once a year, giving another child greater coverage of their college expenses. Thirdly, you can use it for non-educational purposes. This last option does mean that you’ll have to pay income tax on the money the investment earned (not the full amount) along with a 10% penalty.

NJ Estate Planning Helps Put Education Savings First 

Frank R. Campisano is an experienced estate planning attorney with a long history of service and loyalty to his New Jersey clients. In addition to assisting you with creating, storing or updating your Last Will and Testament, he can assist you with 529 plans, college savings strategies, developing trusts, healthcare proxies, Power of Attorney documentation and much more.

For a free consultation, please contact us today and speak to Frank R. Campisano or visit our website at http://www.scclegal.com/

Incentive Trusts – Giving You Greater Control Over Your Estate

If you want to have the advantages of a trust but greater control over the assets within it, an incentive trust may be the right tool for your estate plan. Here is a quick guide to how these trusts work and the different benefits they offer, from an estate planning attorney in New Jersey.

What is an Incentive Trust? 

This is a legally binding trust where the trustee holds and manages the assets granted to the trust by the grantor. Unlike other trusts, the trustee must adhere to specific requirements and meet certain conditions that the grantor sets out in the formation of the trust in order to receive funds.

These trusts are therefore useful as a means of the grantor to provide funds for a specific purpose for a trustee. For example, a grandparent may want to leave an inheritance to a grandchild but not want them to become reliant on the funds for their living. The trust can then be set up to only provide funds when the grandchild has achieved a certain level of education.

Another good use of this type of trust is to ensure that your children or grandchildren are ready to handle their inheritance before they receive it. This can mean portioning it out at different stages of their life according to their age or life events (graduation, marriage, first child) and specifying different uses for it (buying a property, funding education or healthcare, or even funding their retirement).

Passing on Family Values and Responsibility, Not Ruling from the Grave 

Because an incentive trust gives the grantor very specific control over the distribution of the trust’s assets, it can be used to rule from the grave – which is understandable but not advisable. After all, it is difficult to know or understand the personal challenges and economic conditions facing the generations that come after us.

However, if done with careful thought and input from trusted advisors, these trusts can support your heirs rather than control them. By aligning your conditions with your values and allowing trustees to develop their own sense of financial responsibility, your heirs can be guided to their own success.

Develop an Estate Plan that Supports and Cares for Loved Ones with Your Estate planning attorney in New Jersey 

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 business succession plan, a personal estate plan, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, a Living trust or to minimize inheritance tax on your estate.

Let us deliver expert estate planning advice to take care of all your wishes – whether your needs are big or small. For more information, contact us today.

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