Randi Newbery, Estate Planning Lawyer, Livingston, New Jersey (Essex County), (973) 992-5034  
A Wealth of Experience, a Record of Results

New Jersey Residents: Do You Need a Will?

Everyone in New Jersey who is mentally competent and age 18 or over should have a Will, and there are many good reasons why this is true. If you don't have a valid Will, the State of New Jersey decides what happens to your money, your possessions, your minor children (if any), and your real estate. Creating a valid Will is the best way to be sure that your children will be taken care of by the personal guardian you choose or that your spouse or adult children are properly protected. A valid Will is also the only way to be sure that your probate assets will be passed on to the people or institutions of your choice, in the proportions that you choose. In addition, not having a Will is going to cost your estate money, and in many cases, this could be a lot of money. So there will be less for whomever the state decides will receive your assets.

Do You Need to Name an Executor?

Only if you have a Last Will and Testament can you name the person that you want to have to oversee the distribution of your estate assets and the payment of your debts. It's a good idea to pick a successor Executor, too. In your Will, you get to spell out the powers that your Executor will have. Did you really work hard all these years so your loved ones would have to go to court in order to inherit the fruits of your labor? Are you fine with the State of New Jersey deciding who will be the guardian of your children, or distributing your property and possessions according to its own statutes? Probably not!

Last Will and Testament: How to Get Started

Your estate includes everything you own, your house and any other real property, any business interests that you may have, your bank accounts, investments, IRAs and retirement benefits, insurance policies, cars, art, jewelry, furs, and all your personal belongings. Whether your estate is large or small, making an inventory of all of your property is the place to start. While many people do experience some discomfort just thinking about making a Will, once done, they feel relieved because they can be sure that their wishes will be followed. Essex County, New Jersey estate planning attorney Randi Newbery says, "You don't make a Will for today alone. You make a Will for your family, for their future."

New Jersey Estates Are Subject to Two Taxes

In addition to any applicable federal taxes, estates in New Jersey are subject to the New Jersey Inheritance Tax, which is a tax on the transfer of property, and the New Jersey Estate Tax, which is a tax based on the value of the estate. The amount of inheritance tax liability varies from being fully exempt to up to 16 percent, depending on the relationship between the beneficiary and the decedent and the amount inherited. On estates and gifts that exceed $675,000, New Jersey also imposes an estate tax. The amount of estate tax liability is a sliding scale based on the value of the estate. An experienced New Jersey estate planning and administration attorney can suggest many strategies for minimizing the tax liability of your estate, and assist with probate and filing of all required tax returns in a timely manner.

Minimizing the Effects of New Jersey Estate Taxes

Depending on the size of your estate, there may be New Jersey or other state estate taxes and possibly federal estate taxes, too. The amount of tax, both federal and state, can vary as the laws change. Experienced estate planning attorneys can use a variety of strategies, depending on your situation and your needs and preferences, to minimize the tax effect on your beneficiaries. Revocable and irrevocable trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, qualified personal residence trusts, disclaimer trusts, testamentary trusts, family trusts, foundations, and living trusts are a few of the tools that may benefit your family and save on estate taxes or help your family to avoid the probate process. Your attorney should be able to explain in clear and understandable language how a device works. She should give you options to help you make the best decision for your situation. You should never feel pushed to use any particular approach or device. A good estate planning lawyer wants to help you preserve as much as possible of your hard earned assets. She will work with you and any members of your family who you wish to involve, and will give you the time you need to make a decision.

How Often Should a Will Be Updated?

Every situation may evolve and change, so it is a good idea to review your Will every three or four years. Is there a new child or a grandchild in the family? Has a loved one named in your Will died before you? Has there been a substantial change in your assets? If so, you may have more options for maximizing your tax planning strategies. Have you changed your mind about anything that is in your Will, from beneficiaries to executors? The more up to date and specific your Will is, the more likely that your intentions will be carried out. In addition, tax laws change over time and may offer additional or different tax savings strategies.

An Experienced New Jersey Estate Planning Lawyer

Based in Essex County, New Jersey, Randi Newbery is a savvy estate planning lawyer with more than 25 years of experience. She has a reputation for delivering the highest level of advice and counsel, and enjoys getting to know each of her clients. Her goal is to learn as much as possible each client's objectives, and any special concerns they may have to better assist in planning and asset preservation. Randi is known for truly responsive, personal service. In addition to her law degree from Rutgers University, Randi has an L.L.M. from New York University in the area of taxation. Randi Newbery says, "The Last Will and Testament is the cornerstone of the estate plan. Most often, clients who do not already have a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive see the value of having all three documents prepared in advance."