There is a certain type of person that is ready, willing, and able to give you advice on just about any topic. Some of them are more discerning than others, but it is always important to consider the source of the information you are receiving, especially when it involves something as important as planning your estate.
Sometimes people hear a bit of misinformation and it gets passed along the line until an urban myths of sorts eventually develops, and this kind of thing exists in the realm of estate planning. For example you may hear someone say that the state of New Jersey will assume ownership of all of your assets if you pass away without a will. Dying without recording your wishes is called “intestacy,” and the truth of the matter is that if you die intestate your assets will pass to your next of kin according to legally recognized laws of descent. This is not to say that you shouldn’t execute the appropriate estate planning documents, but it just demonstrates the type of bad information that circulates.
Another way that erroneous information gets passed around is when people with a casual interest in estate planning continually quote an outdated fact. For example, as the laws stood throughout 2010 the estate tax rate was going to revert back to the 55% that we saw in 2001, and the exclusion was set to return to the $1 million that was in place in 2002 once the year ended. So you’ll see articles citing these figures on the Internet even today.
But the fact is that we have a $5 million exclusion and a 35% estate tax rate due to the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 that was signed into law the middle of December. So spreading around old information is another way that bad estate planning advice is given.
The only way to be sure that you are getting truly accurate information and sound legal advice is to arrange for a consultation with an experienced, licensed estate planning attorney whose practice is dedicated to this particular legal specialty.
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