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Law Offices of Nancy M. Rice
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Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
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Cherry Hill NJ Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Why is a Roth IRA beneficial to estate planning?

Both traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs offer some benefits when it comes to taxes and estate planning, but a Roth IRA comes with one benefit the traditional retirement account doesn't. Both plans let you put money away for retirement while reducing your tax burden, and you can use them both to pass some assets on to heirs without going through probate.

The way you avoid probate through a retirement account is to designate a beneficiary specifically for that account. You do this by completing a beneficiary form with the institution that holds your account. In many cases, the institution has you complete the form as part of setting up the account, but if you don't remember doing so, you can double check to ensure you have a beneficiary designated. You can also make changes to your beneficiary designation as needed -- check with your financial institution for information on how, when and how often you can make such changes.

Can you avoid the probate process?

Probate processes can be time consuming and expensive, especially when a dispute arises about a will. Probate is also a matter of public record, which isn't something everyone wants -- you might want to keep some information about your assets and your heirs out of the record, and you can do that. While you can't always avoid probate completely -- your estate itself will likely undergo the process -- you can keep certain assets out of probate.

By placing certain assets in a revocable living trust, you could avoid many probate issues. You can use the trust to distribute assets to family members or others both during and after your lifetime, and you might even be able to put the bulk of your property in the trust for almost no reliance on the probate process. This can become a complex task that has to be handled perfectly to reduce the risks of problems, which is why working with an experienced estate lawyer is a good idea.

Don't assume anything about your heirs

Assumptions can be very dangerous when it comes to estate planning. You definitely want to have open lines of communication with your heirs. Talk about your plans, their desires, and what legal steps you're going to take to officially put everything in place. Talking it out in advance can help to avoid issues in the future.

One assumption that people often make is that leaving property to an heir is a gift, something they'll be happy to take on. However, assets may come with responsibilities. They may not actually want those responsibilities.

Understanding whether estate taxes are required

When someone passes away, the last thing you want to consider is the tax man. While it's not a pleasant task, someone has to handle the debts and liabilities of an estate, including any remaining tax burdens. That someone is usually the executor, and if you find yourself in that role, seeking legal assistance with the job can be a good idea. If you are, instead, the person planning for the estate, then an estate professional can help you do some work now to relieve your administrator of some future burden.

In either case, you should understand what tax requirements might apply to your estate. One requirement for any estate is that a final income tax filing be submitted. If a person had any income in their last or partial year of life, then an income tax return needs to be filed with all appropriate entities come April.

How does a trust end?

If you are in the process of creating an estate plan, you may wonder if a trust is right for you. With many types to consider, this could be the document that works best for you and your loved ones.

Of course, you can't move forward with this until you have answered all your questions. Here is one of the most important to address: When does a trust end?

What is a beneficiary silent trust?

A beneficiary silent trust is a type of trust that allows for the creator of the trust to dictate that the beneficiaries of the trust not be given notice of the trust's creation or the assets held within. There are many reasons why a trust creator may want to designate a trust as quiet or "silent," but for it to be legally recognized, the trust may need to have several specific features.

The creator should include or at least reference the specific statutory language within the body of the trust instrument that expresses clearly the desire to withhold certain information from beneficiaries. This will protect the trustee from accusations of bad faith. It may be particularly useful to include a letter from the creator of the trust expressing why it is in the best interests of the relevant beneficiaries for the trust to be kept silent to them.

Legal marriage means new estate law options for LGBT couples

The ruling that marriage is legal for same-sex couples opens a great many chapel doors for ecstatic brides and grooms, but it also opens a variety of legal doors that are worth considering. Whether you're planning to keep your relationship as is or you're opting to tie the knot, now's a good time to have a serious conversation about the future.

With legal marriage possible, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual couples might need to consider estate planning. In many cases, the same laws governing married different-sex couples in this area are now relevant for LGBT couples.

Does your estate executor have to live in the same state?

If you are a New Jersey resident working on your estate plan, you might wonder how limited your choice of executor is. The law doesn't put that many limitations on your choice, and it doesn't limit your executor to those who live in the state of New Jersey. This is not the same in every state -- some states require an executor who lives in the same state where the estate is to be probated.

If you choose someone who lives out of state to execute your estate, they do need to know a few things about the process. Someone who is already named as an executor of an estate and decides to move away from the state should also know about these things. First, a person outside of the state might be required to post a bond if they want to continue as an executor for an estate in New Jersey.

Even millennials should consider estate planning

For millennials, retirement might seem like a long way off, and worries about your estate are an even distant concern. While many younger individuals don't yet have assets or potential heirs to share them with, some do, and that makes estate planning an important consideration. Even if you haven't built up any wealth and aren't concerned with caring for beneficiaries, there are two estate planning documents everyone should consider having on file.

The first is a durable power of attorney. This document lets you appoint someone to handle certain financial matters for you if you are ever unable to do so. While many people associate POA powers with someone who has aged and is unable to continue handling his or her own affairs, this document can come in handy during temporary emergencies too.

Don't fall prey to one-size-fits all estate laws

What happens when someone dies without a will or other estate plan in place? Because many people don't take the time to deal with estate planning, this happens more often than you might think, so the courts can't spend time hearing arguments or evidence on what the person might have wanted. Instead, each state has a set of laws called intestacy laws to govern estate processes in the absence of a will or estate plan.

On the surface, this is a good thing. It means that something will happen with your estate should you pass away without a plan in place. Your estate won't just go to the state, either -- most state intestacy laws make provisions for heirs such as surviving spouses and children.