Estate Planning Articles
Some of these articles have been written by our law firm and other articles are written by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and compliments of our law firm. Any feedback or questions about the articles can be addressed by contacting our office.
Not long ago, women rarely took much interest in estate planning for several reasons. Today, however, the need for estate planning is even greater if you are a woman. Debunking some of the common myths surrounding the concept of women and estate planning is a good place to start.
Most estate plans can benefit from the addition of a Medicaid planning component that helps ensure eligibility for Medicaid to help cover the high cost of long-term care (LTC) in the future. One of the many tools in the Medicaid planning arsenal is compensation paid as part of a personal services contract.
Owning assets outside the United States raises a number of estate planning questions: Who gets your property when you pass away? What taxes are due? And how should your estate plan in the U.S. be tailored to ensure that all your property – here and abroad – is transferred as efficiently and effectively as possible?
Your home is likely your family’s most valuable asset, not only emotionally, but also financially. Read this article to learn how you can take advantage of the tax, estate planning, and asset protection benefits available to you as a homeowner.
Joint tenancy is a popular form of property ownership, primarily because when one owner dies, title to the property automatically re-vests in the surviving joint tenants. But using joint tenancy to avoid probate can create more problems than it solves.
Terri Schiavo spent over ten years in a persistent vegetative state following a heart attack. During that time, her husband and parents waged an emotionally and financially draining legal battle that made it all the way to the President’s desk. It all could have been avoided had Terri executed an advance directive prior to her collapse back in 1990.
Augulis Law Firm LLC — Probate FAQ
Because probate is required of almost every estate, there is a high likelihood that you will find yourself directly involved in the probate of an estate at some point during the course of your lifetime. This might happen because you are named as the Executor/Personal Representative in a Will or because you volunteer to be the Administrator when someone dies intestate (without a Will). You might also find yourself a beneficiary, heir, or creditor of an estate that is being probated. Even if you manage to avoid involvement in the probate of someone else’s estate, a basic knowledge of the probate process remains important so that you can understand the role it will play in the creation of your own estate plan. With that in mind, the New Jersey probate attorneys at the Augulis Law Firm LLC have created several frequently asked questions and answers relating to the probate process that you may find beneficial. If you have specific questions relating to the probate of your own estate, or that of a loved one, feel free to contact out office to schedule a consultation.
- What is probate? When a person dies, he or she leaves behind an estate that is made up of all assets owned by the decedent at the time of death. Ownership of those assets must eventually be transferred to the beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. Debts of the estate must also be paid. Probate is the legal process that ensures that all of that occurs in a timely and efficient manner.
- Is probate always required? Some type of probate is almost always required; however, formal probate may not be necessary. Like most states, the State of New Jersey offers an alternative to formal probate for small estates without complex assets. Filing a small estate affidavit, in lieu of formal probate, may be possible if the decedent’s estate qualifies.
- What is the difference between a “testate” and an “intestate” estate? If the decedent left behind a Last Will and Testament the estate is referred to as a “testate” estate. If the decedent failed to execute a Will prior to his/her death, the estate is known as an “intestate” estate. The primary difference between the two is found in how the estate assets are distributed. In a testate estate, the decedent’s Will determines how the estate’s probate assets are to be distributed. If the decedent dies intestate and is a resident of New Jersey, the New Jersey intestate succession laws dictate how the estate assets are distributed. Intestate succession laws, including those in New Jersey, usually require the estate assets to be distributed to close relatives only, such as a spouse or children if any survived the decedent and then parents and/or siblings if no spouse and/or children survived the decedent.
- Are all assets part of the probate process? Some assets bypass probate altogether, meaning they can be distributed to the intended beneficiaries shortly after the decedent’s death instead of having to wait until the end of the probate process. Examples of no-probate assets include:
- Assets held in a trust
- Certain types of jointly held property
- Life insurance proceeds
- Funds held in an account designated as “payable on death (POD)” or “transfer on death (TOD)”
- Certain funds held in retirement or pension accounts
- Who oversees the probate of an estate? If the decedent executed a Last Will and Testament prior to death, the person named as the Executor/Personal Representative of the Will is who will oversee the probate of the estate. If the decedent died intestate, or without a Will, any competent adult can volunteer to be the Administrator of the estate and oversee the probate process. If no one volunteers, the court will appoint someone, usually a local attorney, to be the Personal Representative (the generic name used to refer to an Executor or Administrator).
- What are the steps involved in the probate process? Although every estate is unique, there are some common steps required during the probate of the average estate, including:
- Identifying, locating, and valuing all estate assets.
- Opening the probate of the estate by filing a petition, along with an official death certificate, in the appropriate court.
- Notifying creditors of the estate that probate is underway.
- Identifying, locating, and notifying beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate that the estate is being probated.
- Reviewing and approving or denying creditor claims.
- Prioritizing and paying approved claims.
- Selling assets, if necessary, to pay creditors.
- Defending any challenges to the Will or litigating any claims made by creditors that were denied.
- Calculating any paying federal (and state, if applicable) gift and estate taxes
- Effectuating the legal transfer of the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate.
- How long does the probate process take? The amount of time it takes an estate to get through the probate process depends on several factors, including the type of probate required, the size, value and complexity of the estate, and the skill and efficiency of the Executor/Administrator. As a general rule, the larger and more valuable the estate, the longer it takes to probate. In addition, if someone challenges the validity of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, the ensuing Will contest will prolong the probate process as well.
- Do you need an attorney to help during probate? There is no legal requirement that an Executor/Personal Representative hire an attorney to help during the probate process; however, most do retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney because of the legal issues involved in probating an estate.
If you have additional questions about the probate of an estate in New Jersey, contact the experienced New Jersey probate attorneys at Augulis Law Firm, LLC by calling 908-222-8803 to schedule your appointment today.
Augulis Law Firm – Communities We Serve – Old Bridge Township, New Jersey
The estate plan you create today will impact you and your loved ones for many years to come. When properly drafted, that estate plan can provide protection for not just your estate assets, but for your family as well. The estate planning attorneys and staff at the Augulis Law Firm understand the importance of tailoring an estate plan to meet your needs and goals, not just now but for the future as well. We are committed to helping our friends and neighbors in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey with all of their estate planning needs.
The History of Old Bridge Township, New Jersey
The Native Americans known as the Lenni Lenape were the first inhabitants of the area now known as Old Bridge. Those who settled in Old Bridge were known as the Unami, or “people down the river.” Every summer, they migrated to the shore along the Raritan from their hunting grounds in the north. European settlors, however, were setting down stakes in the area as far back as the late 17th century. In fact, South Amboy Township was formed in 1864 At that time, it covered an area that now consists of the Townships of Monroe and Old Bridge, the Borough of Sayreville and the City of South Amboy. The Township covers 42 square miles that separated from South Amboy on March 2, 1869, and was originally called Madison Township. The name “Old Bridge” refers to the fact that the fact that the first bridge spanning the South River was built there, and as other bridges were built across the river the first one became known as “the Old Bridge.” Prior to that, it was known as South River Bridge.”
Initially, the township was made up of farms and the population grew slowly. In 1880, the population was 1,662 and in 1950 it had reached 7,365. Over the next decade, a building boom started and farms gave way to developments, and the population grew to 22,772 by 1960. The 1980 census cited 51,406 people. The township saw major changes with the extension of Route 18 to the shore.
Old Bridge Township, New Jersey Today
Located in Middlesex County, New Jersey, Old Bridge Township covers approximately 40 square miles and shares a border with New York City. As of the 2010 Census, just over 65,00 people called Old Bridge Township home. Old Bridge Township is considered a “bedroom suburb” of New York City given its location across the Raritan Bay from Staten Island. The township was named as a contender for the title of one of the best places to live in the United States by Money magazine in both 2005 and 2007. In 2016, SafeWise named Old Bridge Township as the sixth-safest city in America to raise a child and was the second-highest ranked of the 12 communities in New Jersey included on the list.
Augulis Law Firm in the Old Bridge Township, New Jersey Community
Your estate plan should accomplish much more than simply creating a roadmap to be used after you are gone to distribute your estate assets. At the Augulis Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping you create a personalized estate plan that focuses on your unique needs and goals. To accomplish this, we strive to create lifelong relationships with our Old Bridge Township, New Jersey clients so that we can monitor and revise your estate plan as needed throughout the course of your life.
When you create your first estate plan, it may be a relatively simple plan because your estate planning needs are simple. As you mature and move through the various stages of your life, however, that plan should be reviewed and revised as a matter of routine and when a life event warrants an immediate update. Your initial plan may focus entirely on ensuring that you don’t leave behind an intestate estate in the event of your death. If you marry and/or become a parent, your plan will need to be revised to ensure that your spouse and/or children are provided for in the vent that something happens to you. You may decide to create a trust to protect your minor child’s inheritance, for example. Incapacity planning will also become essential. Estate planning components such as probate avoidance, asset protection, and retirement planning will likely be added to your comprehensive plan at some point. When you start looking toward your “Golden Years,” you may wish to incorporate retirement planning and Medicaid planning into your estate plan. Finally, if you have specific wishes and/or beliefs about end of life medical care you will want to execute advanced directives to ensure that those wishes and beliefs are honored. The same applies to your wishes with regard to your own funeral and burial. By including funeral and burial planning in your estate plan, you can rest assured that your wishes will be honored after you are gone.Our hope at the Augulis Law Firm is that we can be there with you as you pass through the various phases of your life to help ensure that your estate plan protects you, your assets, and your loved ones.
If you have additional questions about New Jersey estate planning, contact the experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyers at Augulis Law Firm by calling 908-222-8803 to schedule your appointment today.
Augulis Law Firm, LLC – Communities We Serve – Franklin, New Jersey
Given the highly personal and important nature of estate planning, the prospect of selecting an attorney to assist you with the creation of your plan may seem intimidating. At the Augulis Law Firm, LLC in Warren, New Jersey we understand how important your estate plan is to you and how difficult it can be to trust someone to help you with the creation of that plan. We would be honored to work with you on the creation of your comprehensive estate plan to ensure that your plan protects and grows your assets while you are alive as well as ensuring that those assets continue to provide for loved ones when you are gone.
The History of Franklin, New Jersey
The borough now known as Franklin was originally settled in the 17th century. At that time, the village was known as Franklin Furnace in honor of Benjamin Franklin. The village was originally located and near iron mines and iron smelting operations located along the Wallkill River. In the beginning of the 19th century, zinc deposits located in the area became a source of economic growth. In fact, throughout the remainder of the century, many small companies mined zinc and iron in and around Franklin until all zinc mining efforts merged into the New Jersey Zinc Company in 1897. Zinc mining continued to be a driving force behind the growth of the area for decades to come as well as the reason for the area’s cultural diversity as immigrants from Russia, Britain, Hungary and Poland flocked to the area to work in the mines. The town’s population increased from 500 in 1897 to 3,000 by 1913. The Borough of Franklin was officially incorporated on March 18, 1913.
Franklin, New Jersey Today
Located in Sussex County, New Jersey, and covering approximately 4.6 square miles, Franklin is known the world over as the “Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World.” The borough is so named because it happens to be located over a rich ore body containing more than 150 minerals, many of them fluorescent and 25 of which are found nowhere else on earth. As of the 2010 Census, just over 5,000 residents call Franklin home. Residents and visitors to Franklin can enjoy amenities that include a beautiful pond recreation area, schools and parks in a rural setting with the added convenience of nearby commercial activities.
Augulis Law Firm, LLC in the Franklin, New Jersey Community
At the Augulis Law Firm, LLC, we understand how important your estate plan is to you and to those you love. With that in mind, we have devoted our practice to helping people just like you to create an estate plan that reflects their unique estate planning goals and objectives. Moreover, we aim to create an ongoing relationship with every client we serve in the Franklin, New Jersey community so that our clients feel comfortable discussing their sensitive and personal legal issues with us.
We understand that discussing your financial affairs and family dynamics with a stranger is never easy. By nurturing a lifelong partnership with our clients, we hope to make it easier to discuss even the most sensitive topics with us because the better we understand your needs and goals, the more we can do to ensure the creation of an estate plan that meets those needs and goals. Those needs and goals will change, however, over the course of your lifetime which should prompt corresponding changes to your estate plan. Starting out, a simple Last Will and Testament may be sufficient to meet your estate planning needs; however, events such as marriage and/or the birth of a child will call for changes to that simple plan. Incapacity planning, probate avoidance and asset protection strategies and tools may need to be incorporated you’re your estate plan. Looking to your “Golden Years” should also prompt the addition of Medicaid and retirement planning strategies. If you have deeply held beliefs about end of life medical treatment and burial rituals, you may also wish to execute an advanced directive as well as include funeral planning in your overall estate plan. Our hope at Augulis Law Firm, LLC is that we can be there with you throughout the various phases of your life to help ensure that your estate plan protects you, your assets, and your loved ones both now and in the future.
If you have additional questions about New Jersey estate planning, contact the experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyers at Augulis Law Firm, LLC by calling 908-222-8803 to schedule your appointment today.
Augulis Law Firm, LLC– New Jersey Medicaid Guide
You may be one of the many people who makes it through their entire working years without ever having a need to qualify for Medicaid benefits, only to find that you need to qualify as a senior. The high cost of long-term care (LTC), coupled with the fact that neither your basic health insurance plan nor Medicare will cover LTC expenses, means that over half of all seniors needing nursing home care must rely on Medicaid to help with the cost of that care. If you have never before participated in the Medicaid program, you may find the program complicated to understand and the system difficult to navigate. To help you get started, the Medicaid planning attorneys at Augulis Law Firm, LLC created the following New Jersey Medicaid Guide. If you have specific questions or concerns about eligibility guidelines, please feel free to contact our office for a consultation.
Medicaid Basics – Understanding the Difference between Medicaid and Medicare
People often confuse Medicaid and Medicare, or use the two interchangeably. Although both are federally sponsored healthcare programs, the similarities stop there. Medicare is an entitlement program, meaning you will automatically be enrolled when you reach retirement age if you paid into the program over the course of your working years. Your income and assets are not considered for the purpose of enrollment in Medicare. Medicaid, on the other hand, is a “need based” program, meaning you must demonstrate a financial need to qualify for enrollment. Although Medicaid is primarily funded by the federal government, it is administered by the individual states. As such, there are some differences in eligibility criteria and benefits offered to participants from one state to the next. For seniors, one of the most important differences between Medicare and Medicaid is that Medicare will not cover long-term care (LTC) expenses except in very limited circumstances for a short period of time. Medicaid, on the other hand, does help pay for nursing home, and other LTC, expenses for applicants who qualify.
New Jersey Medicaid Categories
Like most states, New Jersey offers several different categories of Medicaid. An applicant must fit into one of the categories to be considered for benefits. The categories include:
- Families with dependent children — Children age 18 and younger may be eligible for NJ FamilyCare/Medicaid if their family’s total income before taxes is at or below 350 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Parents may also be eligible if earned income is at or below 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
- Pregnant women – Pregnant women may receive coverage if the household income is at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Coverage is for the term of the pregnancy and for 60 days after the birth.
- People who are 65 years of age or older, blind, or permanently disabled — New Jersey Medicaid offers a number of programs for the elderly and disabled that provide help with healthcare costs both in the community and in a long-term care setting.
Medicaid for Seniors in New Jersey
New Jersey offers several programs for seniors living on a low income. If you are 65 or older and receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in New Jersey, you will automatically be eligible for Medicaid. If you do not receive SSI, but your income is at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, you may qualify for New Jersey Care, Special Medicaid Programs. Low income Medicare recipients may qualify for the Medicare Savings Program which helps pay the monthly Medicare premium, co-pays, and deductibles. Finally, if you need nursing home care, or care in an assisted living community or your own home, you may qualify for Long Term Services and Support, or LTSS, which provides services such as personal care, home-delivered meals, and care management.
If your income and/or resources are too high to qualify for regular Medicaid, the Medically Needy Program may still be an option. The Medically Needy Program includes a “spend down” provision that allows documented medical expense to be used to reduce monthly income in order to meet eligibility limits.
Additional information about the various programs for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD), as well as information on what counts as income and resources, is available in an online booklet found on the New Jersey Department of Human Services website.
Are You Eligible for New Jersey Medicaid?
The eligibility requirements for New Jersey Medicaid will depend on the specific category and program for which you are applying. Most programs, however, include both an income and a “countable resources” limit. You must also be a be a resident of New Jersey and be a U.S. Citizen or qualified alien. Note that most immigrants who arrived after August 22, 1996 are barred from Medicaid for five years, but could be eligible for NJ FamilyCare and certain programs for pregnant women.
Applying for Medicaid in New Jersey
If you are applying for any of the New Jersey Medicaid of the Aged programs, you may wish to look over the Income, Resources, and Documentation Checklist first to make sure you have everything ready. All Medicaid for the Aged programs use the same application which is include in a booklet found on Medicaid’s website. After you complete the application, it must be mailed in and it will be evaluated by an eligibility processor. If you need help completing the application, you can make an appointment at one of the county offices.
Why Is Medicaid Planning So Important?
Most Medicaid programs for seniors have a “countable resources” limit that is extremely low. If the value of your resources (assets) exceeds that limit you will not be eligible for Medicaid benefits. Moreover, Medicaid uses a five-year look-back rule that allows the program to review your finances for the five-year period prior to your application. Any asset transfers for less than fair market value may be disqualified and the value of the asset imputed back into your estate for the purpose of determining your eligibility for Medicaid. Because you cannot transfer assets for the five-year period leading up to your need to qualify for Medicaid, you need to plan ahead by including Medicaid planning in your estate plan early on.
If you have additional questions about New Jersey Medicaid, contact the experienced New Jersey Medicaid planning lawyers at Augulis Law Firm, LLC by calling 908-222-8803 to schedule your appointment today.