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Thomas N. Torzewski, LLC

Morristown Estate Litigation Blog

Estate planning when one's heir is an opioid addict

For New Jersey residents who are planning their estates, figuring out how assets should be passed on to heirs can be a difficult thing, especially if one's heir is an opioid addict. Will this person use his or her inheritance responsibly? Is passing assets on to an opioid addict even the best decision? The opioid crisis in America is at an all time high and those going through the estate planning process may want to know what options they have to ensure that their assets are fully protected, even from their heirs' shortcomings.

So, what are the options when estate planning for an heir with an opioid problem? There are a few, actually, the first being disinheritance. It is possible to leave an opioid addict out of one's estate plan completely if one believes that he or she is undeserving or feels that he or she will not be responsible enough to handle any inheritance handed him or her. This can cause hard feelings, but it is an option.

When estate planning, don't forget this person

When drawing up an estate plan, many people think about their loved ones and where they want their assets to go. They concern themselves with making sure everything is clear and concise, so as to help prevent any conflicts among family members. They are so concerned about making sure everyone else is okay and taken care of that they sometimes forget about themselves. When estate planning, New Jersey residents should not forget that they deserve legal protections too. This is not something that is just meant for one's loved ones.

What kind of personal protections can be included in an estate plan? There are many, most have to do with health care and finances. When it comes to health care, it is impossible to predict the future, and it is very possible for one to become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for him or herself. If that happens, who will take on that responsibility? By having an advance directive in place, it is possible to assign a person to this important role and provide detailed instructions for what one does and does not want done.

Estate planning for estate and inheritance taxes is a must

Estate and inheritance taxes can be a killer. They can leave beneficiaries with far less than what is intended for them. However, New Jersey residents can reduce the tax burdens of their heirs with proper estate planning.

When someone dies, both the state and federal government may come calling to collect taxes. Currently, 2017 federal laws allow the Internal Revenue Service to collect taxes on estates valued at over $5.49 million. That is a pretty significant chunk of change and will not apply in every case.  The state of New Jersey, on the other hand, collects taxes on estates valued at $2 million and above. So more estates may be subject to state taxes, which range from 0.8 to 16 percent. 

Estate planning and mental capacity

The aging process can bring numerous health problems, including conditions that can affect cognitive ability. When the ability to process information and make appropriate decisions declines, this can impact the validity of various estate-planning steps.

Part of ensuring an effective estate plan rather than a vortex of conflict and litigation is paying close attention to the testator's mental state. Ideally, an estate plan should be thought out and put in place well in advance of when it is likely to be needed.

New Jersey estate litigation: Billions awarded in Max Hopper case

Max Hopper was an American Airlines executive who pioneered the company's reservation system. When he died unexpectedly in 2010, he left behind an estate worth over $19 million. Unfortunately, he did not have a will in place, so a bank was put in charge of managing the assets. His surviving family members have since pursued an estate litigation case due to the estate being mismanaged. New Jersey residents who believe that their loved one's estates are not being administered appropriately may do the same.

According to a recent report, the family of Mr. Hopper claims that JPMorgan Bank & Co. took years to distribute assets, allowed stock options to expire and did not meet all of their financial deadlines. The bank is said to have used over $3 million in funds from the estate to fight this case in court.

New Jersey estate planning: Trust types

While there are several different types of trusts available to New Jersey residents, there are only two that fit the needs of most people. These are revocable and irrevocable trusts. What's the difference? Which should one choose when going through the estate planning process?

A revocable trust is one that can be changed as often as one sees fit. The assets placed in the trust still belong to the creator of the trust, not the trust itself, until death or incapacitation strikes. As this is the case, assets may still be subject to death taxes.

Estate litigation or mediation -- which will work for me?

Your loved one died, and now you have the difficult task of closing out his or her estate. In doing so, you may find that unexpected claims are filed against the estate, or problems with the will or trust documents may exist. In New Jersey and elsewhere, there are two ways to resolve problems with an estate: mediation or estate litigation. Which will work best for you?

Not everyone wants to fight things out in court. That is okay. For such individuals, mediation may be an excellent choice. In fact, in most cases, mediation is tried first, as it can save time and money.

Estate litigation and the misappropriation of assets

You lost a loved one. While going through the process of closing out his or her estate, you find that the executor is not handling the assets appropriately. Those in New Jersey who believe that misappropriation of assets is occurring can turn to estate litigation to resolve the matter.

What exactly is the misappropriation of assets? This simply means that the executor of the estate is essentially stealing assets in order to benefit him or herself. Beneficiaries who believe this is happening do not have to sit by and let it happen.

Estate litigation: The battle over Prince's estate continues

Once again, the battle over the handling of Prince's estate has made the news. In New Jersey or elsewhere, when a loved one dies without a will, there are bound to be issues when it comes to administering the estate. Estate litigation is sometimes the only way to resolve conflicts that arise. Litigation certainly seems to be the theme in the Prince estate matter.

According to a recent report, the executor of Prince's estate moved several recordings from the musician's home vault to a secure storage facility in another state. Two of the individuals named as heirs to the late singer's estate disagreed with the move and have vowed to take legal action if the recordings are not returned. The executor, however, claims to have full power over such decisions and is refusing to budge.

Did your father choose a trustworthy executor for his estate?

Much to your surprise, your late father chose his younger brother as the executor of his estate. You do not know Uncle Ned well; he is a life-long bachelor and likes to travel. Your dad used to say that Ned “was good at spending money.”

You are therefore a bit nervous. You wonder if Ned understands his job as executor and will be diligent in protecting the assets of your father’s trust so that proper distributions can be made to you and your sisters.