The years really fly by. I can’t tell you how many times some one has come in to meet with me who signed a Will 25 years before and never updated it. When major changes occur in your life, it’s important to see your lawyer for a “check up” to make sure that your old Plan is still a good Plan for you. Here are samples of situations I have encountered, which required an updated Last Will and Testament and updated beneficiary designations on assets such as life insurance or tax-deferred accounts:
You want to leave money to your grandchildren as “something special,” even though the rest of your estate will go to your children (their parents).
You have a Will from the 1990’s that left the “credit shelter amount” locked up in a trust for your surviving spouse to minimize estate tax in the estate of the 2nd spouse to die, yet now, there is no NJ estate tax and no federal estate tax for almost everyone
On October 14th, Governor Christie signed a tax package into law which does away with the New Jersey estate tax and certain income taxes in exchange for a 23 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax so that the roads and bridges can be repaired. There’s still no estate tax on any assets that pass at death to your spouse. At the present time, the estate tax exclusion is only $675,000, so many couples have estate plans in which this amount is transferred at death into a ‘credit shelter trust” for the surviving spouse so that it will pass to the heirs free of estate tax when the second spouse dies. About 99 % of NJ estates have to pay estate tax. As of January 1, 2017, $ 2 million can pass to your other heirs free of estate tax. The estate tax will be totally repealed as of January 1, 2018. With the new law, this # will likely drop to less than 15% in 2017 (based on the 2014 tables from the Office of Legislative Services cited by Forbes Magazine).
So do you need a Will? Certainly. Without a Will, the law determines who inherits your estate. On the other hand, if you want to distinguish among your next of kin and leave unequal amounts, you need to sign a document such as a Will. If you don’t want a certain person to inherit their share outright — because of pending divorce, or debtor-creditor problems, or disability or youth — you need to consider writing a trust into your Will to receive their share. Oftentimes, a person who is on disability benefits like SSI or Medicaid inherits assets because their parent didn’t plan things carefully. They are then at risk of losing their benefits because they’ve got access to resources. Court proceedings are often required, to establish a Special Needs Trust and direct the inheritance into the trust.
With estate taxation disappearing as an issue for most people, it’s important to turn your attention to how you’d like your estate to be managed over the long-term for the greatest benefit of your heirs. Has it been years since you looked at your old Will? …………….
Call us for updated estate and trust planning … 732-382-6070